Something has been happening in HI USA hostel kitchens across the country. From San Francisco to Richmond, Virginia, travelers and community members have been coming together to learn about different cultures by preparing and eating delicious food. Through Cooking as a Second Language, one of HI USA’s growing signature programs, our hostels are using food to help break down barriers and educate people about each other.
“Eating is the most practiced form of culture, no matter what culture you’re in” says Brooke Matherly, the General Manager at HI Richmond, where Cooking as a Second Language was started. “The program really highlights that you don’t need any other point of connection to eat with someone.” '
Started in conjunction with the Richmond Public Library, Cooking as a Second Language has grown into one of the most popular activities at this and many other hostels that have hosted in their cities. Local chefs serve as instructors, leading sessions in which guests prepare a traditional meal from the chef’s home country. For these chefs, it’s an opportunity to share a piece of themselves.
“For a lot of people, it feels nice to share in a situation where they’re not looked at as a curiosity, because people want to learn and experience, not just ogle,” Brooke says.
As for the hostel guests and community members who join in, they get to learn how to make foods they may not have even known existed, like authentic lumpia from the Philippines or a hearty Pakistani curry, but they also learn new ways of thinking about food. Some participants have even gotten to learn about their neighbors and their countries of origin.
“People became more cognizant of immigration in the area, and that they’re not disconnected from someone who might have lived here for two years. It highlights the sameness and the fact that you’re all neighbors,” adds Brooke. It’s these experiences that have made the program such a success in Richmond, and beyond.
Take a look at some highlights of Cooking as a Second Language sessions across the country, and keep an eye out for the program at a hostel near you.
Making Chinese food at HI Richmond.
A satisfied group after making and enjoying Eritrean food at HI New York City.
Learning how to make Filipino lumpia at HI Sacramento.
More traditional Filipino food at HI Chicago.
Learning about Indian cuisine at HI San Francisco Downtown.
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Find Out More About HI USA Programs
HI USA is dedicated to creating a more tolerant world by offering a number of programs at our hostels around the country. From walking tours and group dinners that help travelers make friends from all over the world, to events and travel scholarships to inspire local communities.