No matter where you’re from, one of the most comforting experiences when moving to a new country is finding those “tastes of home”. Eating familiar dishes, catching wafts of bubbling spices, nibbling on treats you grew up with – literally, the taste of home. Therefore, the thought that these delights might not be available in a new land is naturally cause for concern.
Luckily, for any students choosing to study in Canada there’s no need to worry! To begin with, Canada is a country which prides itself on its multiculturalism – welcoming and embracing newcomers from around the globe. Of course, newcomers arrive with their traditional cuisines. Even on university campuses, it’s common to find selections of foreign foods, including such Asian delights as curries, noodles, sushi or stir fries – all mainstay menu items at campuses across the country.
Take Ontario’s University of Guelph, for example. Consistently ranked as home to Canada’s number one university food services, Guelph takes great care to ensure that students – both Canadian and international – always have a wide variety of options to choose from.
One of the many different eateries on campus (including sit-down meal halls, small restaurants, coffee joints and fast-food counters) is the main residence dining hall, Creelman Market Place. Based on a “Marché” or marketplace concept, Creelman includes a number of different, smaller restaurants within the larger unit. In this one building alone, students have access to a huge variety of home-style cooking, including a pasta bar, bakery, stone pizza oven, salad bar, and an ever-changing ‘exhibition counter’ – meals from any of which can be purchased either individually or as part of a yearlong meal plan. And as chef Vijay Nair explains, Creelman also caters to all special needs students.
“Besides Nature’s Best,” he says, “a counter which exclusively carries vegetarian and vegan options, we also have kosher meals on offer, we cater to gluten-free diets, and to anybody with special requests. We also have salt- free diets available, and carry halal meats for anybody who requests for that.”
And speaking of special requests, Vijay says that international students in particular have had a lot of say when it comes to influencing the menus.
“We have tried, based on the feedback from the students, to include a lot of ethnic menus and ethnic food in all our offerings. For example, we have a big South Asian community, so we have added a lot of stir-fries and noodles and fried rice and so on, as well as vegetarian counters. We also carry a lot of Indian food. I am from India, and some of the other cooks are also from India, so we do have an extensive selection of very traditional and pretty common Indian foods that the students can relate to from back home.”
Using top quality ingredients – much of which is obtained from local farmers – Vijay says the university strives “to put the best food out because at the end of the day, we are here to serve our students. That’s what it’s all about.”
The students, meanwhile, seem to appreciate the effort.
“The food is really good,” attests second year Guelph student, Tirth Vaishnav. Originally from India, Tirth is a strict vegetarian – but at Guelph, he says this is never an issue. “Last year, when I lived on campus, I never had a problem with the food, because there was always at least one vegetarian option everywhere.”
“Wherever on campus you are, you’re never too far away from a cafeteria. I think that’s a very good thing. And some are even open until late at night, so if you want a late night snack while you’re studying, you can go grab one. It’s just good. Very good.”
But its not just university campuses that offer international newcomers a taste of home – it’s also the towns and cities hosting them.
Consider Victoria, British Columbia, for example, home to the well-known University of Victoria, or ‘UVic’. Besides boasting its very own China Town district (dating back to the mid-nineteenth century, it is the second oldest China Town in North America), Victoria also hosts a myriad other Asian restaurants and food markets.
From traditional Chinese fare to Indian food, sushi bars, Thai eateries, Vietnamese restaurants and a chain of South East Asian ‘Noodle Box’ shops, the city is a veritable smorgasbord of Asian delicacies.
Many Victorians (both new and old) are also huge fans of the dozens of vegetarian-friendly eateries located throughout the city. These include the strictly vegetarian and/or vegan Lotus Pond, Green Cuisine, Sarah’s Place, and Vshoen Boutique (all of which can be looked up at www.thevictoriavegan.com/venues), as well as many other establishments and food stores which offer special fare for non-carnivores. So whether you’re hoping to eat out or self cater, there’s no lack of veggie-friendly options to tempt your taste buds and keep things ever new and interesting.
Still worried you’ll miss out on some of the best tastes from home? Then consider packing some of your favourite sealed snacks, spices and/or cooking ingredients when you make the move. Also, why not bring some recipes? Besides allowing you to eat your own home favourites, cooking traditional meals is a great way to share your culture with new friends in Canada.
– DRWEN KIDD
• To find out more about applying for Canadian universities as an international student and for more information on your academic career in Canada, visit www.canada123.org.
• ARWEN KIDD currently serves as Communications Director for the Canadian University Application Centre and its parent organization, Higher-Edge. A Canadian university graduate herself, Arwen has spent most of the past five years working and travelling overseas. Among her credits are various documentary film and photo journalism projects in Eastern Europe, Australia and West Africa. Arwen is currently based in Liberia.
Posted: Oct 6, 2011