Spicing Up Hindi Class: A Culinary Journey through Lemon Rice and Chole

Indian Cooking Class Pictures
Pictures from cooking class

Recently, Kusum Ji’s Hindi students got the opportunity to participate in a cooking class, in which we learned to make lemon rice and chole. But of course, we derived much more than just culinary skills from cooking class. Experiences like this are pertinent to understanding the larger cultural context that surrounds a language.

Cooking class is always a fan favorite, and this semester was no exception. Priya Amresh joined us this time to direct the lemon rice operation. She is also Duke University Hindu Chaplain. The kitchen is always a flurry of chaos and excitement as everyone works to create the dish – some are chopping vegetables, some are squeezing lemons, some are pouring and mixing… and some are just standing around drinking chai (an equally important role). Watching the lemon rice come together was charming and satisfying.

Once the food was finished, we gathered around one long table to eat. This was absolutely the best part of the class; it had a cozy family-style dinner feel to it and gave everyone a chance to appreciate each other’s hard work. Most of us live far from home and don’t really have the ability to cook here on campus, so I think everyone enjoys the homecooked vibe of the food, as well as the opportunity to cook. Of course, the food was fantastic, especially Priya Ji’s lemon rice. It was very flavorful, but the lemon wasn’t overpowering. It was such a nice reprieve from the WU food I get every single day.

An important aspect of cooking class is the opportunity to speak Hindi in a less formal setting. There’s a lot more chit-chatting than there is in a normal class, which for many students is the most comfortable way to practice. At least, I really appreciate the informal Hindi conversations because it’s far less pressure than in a regular class – the whole class isn’t listening to me and I’m not being graded. My speaking abilities are actually far better when I’m just talking to someone one-on-one because I’m not so stressed.

Mostly, I think we just like cooking class because it’s fun. We get to hang out and goof off a little while also getting to eat amazing food. But its importance to our learning can not be overstated; it truly allows us to more closely connect with the culture, as opposed to just hearing or reading about it. Just a simple cooking class can aid the learning of a language in so many ways.

This workshop was supported and funded by Asian and Middle Eastern Studies.