International Experience at the Dining Hall

Food mirrors culture, especially at Groton. Here, food makes up a large part of the Groton experience: students often look forward to meals as a way to spend time away from the rigorous academics and to catch up with peers. But Groton’s culture is predominantly American. Thus, the food may not always adhere to everyone’s taste. In an effort to include students of all cultures, the dining hall serves international cuisines. For example, it often serves East Asian food, nicknamed “Fasian” for “fake Asian,” Indian food, or “Findian,” and Mexican food.

When the dining hall serves “Fasian” cuisine, they often combine Chinese, Korean, and Japanese food into an Asian fusion. The result is a strange blend of three very different cuisines that is neither Chinese, nor Korean, nor Japanese. Sophia Wu ’21 and Emily Li ’21, both from China, said that the food is “Americanized”; in other words, it has been changed to fit American taste buds. Jane Park ’21, an international student from Korea, “appreciates [the dining hall’s] effort” but agrees that the food is not authentic, sometimes to the point of becoming completely unrecognizable. For example, the dining hall labelled a dish “Korean short ribs,” yet Jane felt that the dish was unlike anything actually served in Korea. 

Students of South Asian heritage agree. Neha Agarwal ’20 commented that the Indian food served in the Dining Hall is “not entirely authentic,” a sentiment echoed by Maya Varkey ‘22. Samarth Agrawal ‘21 added that even though the food tastes good, “it’s not at all what Indian food is like.”

Unsurprisingly, despite the dining hall’s best intentions, the food does not make most international students feel at home. What the food lacks in authenticity, however, it makes up for in effort; Sophia says that their attempt to include all students is admirable. Both Neha and Maya say that they appreciate the effort the dining hall puts into the food, as it encourages diversity in showcasing the different cultures on the Circle. 

Moreover, just because the food isn’t authentic doesn’t mean that it doesn’t taste good. Though Fran Saldivar ‘19 considers the Mexican food to actually be “Tex-Mex,” she also states that it is “one of [her] favorite meals at Groton.” Maya agrees, saying that the quality of food is usually good, and Neha loves the dining hall samosas.

According to Executive Chef Ed Wetterwald, the Dining Hall serves international food for numerous reasons: it varies the students’ diets, there is a substantial international community, and it educates the student body. By researching the ingredients and flavors, the Dining Hall tries to stay as close to the original dish as possible, but it is very difficult to replicate its flavors exactly. Each dish must be made in large batches to accommodate our entire community, and international ingredients may not be widely available in Groton. 

In order to improve authenticity, the Dining Hall might consider asking for suggestions from the international community, as the Dining Hall is already open to student submissions. Fran, for example, suggests serving pineapples with tacos or having yellow corn tortillas rather than flour tortillas.

        The international community recognizes and appreciates the Dining Hall’s efforts to include students from all places. Even though its international cuisine doesn’t make all of them feel at home, or stays completely true to the country of origin, it demonstrates the Dining Hall’s commitment to inclusion. After all, if food reflects culture, then the food in the Dining Hall must also reflect Groton’s diversity.