Upon first walking into Brodhead dining hall, the typical aromas that fill most college dining halls were nowhere to be found. Instead of the classic pizza, hamburger and french fry smell, the room was filled with the scent of curry and various other spices.
Lehigh Dining hosted an East African Safari-themed meal during the normal dining hours of 4:30 p.m. to 7 p.m. in Brodhead House on Tuesday.
The menu consisted of a variety of different flavors. The soup was a vegan curried lentil soup. The main entrée was an African chicken stew; pilau, which is spiced rice; sukuma wiki, better known as sautéed greens; and stewed tomatoes. The vegetarian option was a vegetable samosa with yogurt sauce. Finally, for dessert, they served fresh sliced watermelon; kashata, which is similar to peanut Brittle; and daube de banane, which is plantains stewed in coconut milk and vanilla.
The dinning hall still had deli sandwiches made to order, along with veggie burgers, turkey burgers, grilled cheese and hamburgers at the grill.
Yashira Hernandez, ’16, said she tried the vegan curried lentil soup, pilau, daube de banan, and the chicken stew — which was her favorite.
“I was excited to taste some of these different foods,”Hernandez said. “I like to try a little of everything when I go places.”
Alisha Allebach, a dietitian intern from Cedar Crest College studying to be a registered dietitian, coordinated this themed meal as a final marketing promotion project for her internship at Lehigh. She chose the East Africa theme because she spent her summer volunteering in Tanzania. She selected the foods based off her experience and what she ate during her time there.
“Most of the meals in Africa are plant-based, made from fresh fruits and vegetables, due to the fact that most homes grow the majority of the foods their families eat,” Allebach said. “The lack of electricity and refrigeration also play a big part in the variety of foods they eat. There are very few processed, packaged options available, so they mostly eat rice, beans and other foods that keep well in the heat.”
While Americans typically snack on packaged foods such as granola bars, Allebach said she witnessed kids in Africa climb palm trees to get a coconut to eat for a snack.
Allebach said that when planning the recipes she followed the Sodexo company rules and Americanized the food a bit. However, the food still was relatively authentic. To add to the authenticity, the dining hall was adorned in animal print materials with African music playing in the background.
Nat Jenkins, ’17, said he planned on trying a variety of dishes because they looked tasty and he was intrigued.
Each dish had a label stating what the dish was, as well as nutritional facts, which is a new feature in all of the dinning halls. These nutritional facts stated the serving size, calories per serving, saturated fat, protein and sodium count.
This recent feature is due to students requesting this information, said Carrie Gerencher, a registered dietitian and licensed dietitian/dnutritionist on-campus with Sodexo Dining Services. She aided Allebach in the East African Safari meal planning.
Gerencher said she thought most students would be very receptive to trying the food because many students had inquired about it. Originally, they were going to serve a fish stew because fish is commonly eaten in Africa, but they decided to change it to chicken because they thought students would be more receptive to eating chicken.
“I like to try different foods, not necessarily this, but it interested me,” Alex Keller, ’17, said. “The samosa was actually pretty good, but a little spicy.”
Brodhead doesn’t typically host as many themed meals as Rathbone and Lower Court do.
“Brodhead is a mostly captive audience,” Gerencher said. Most of the people who eat at Brodhead dining hall are students living in the residence hall.
Joseph Kornafel, executive chef of Lehigh dining, said students who don’t live in Brodhead have the ability to gain swipe access to get into the dining hall. Students can email [email protected] and provide a reason as to why they wish to gain access to the Brodhead dining hall. The email should also include the student’s residence hall and the subject line should say the student’s name, his or her LIN number and “access request to Dine at Brodhead House.”
Gerencher said she hopes students who came to the meal enjoyed trying new foods because it is easier to do so when you don’t live with your parents.
“It’s good for students to experience new foods,” she said. “Don’t be afraid to try anything.