Community Cooks: At Emory, East meets West with pandemic cookbook



Christine Ristaino and Hong Li have undertaken a unique pandemic-related learning and cooking project with their Emory University students.

Ristaino, who is Italian-American, is a senior lecturer in Italian studies. Li is a professor of pedagogy in Chinese studies. And, “Pandemic Noodles: Emory East Meets West: A Pandemic Cookbook From Students in Quarantine” compares Italy and China through noodles.



The related website includes recipes for more than 40 noodle dishes, researched, tested and written by the students, along with reflections, poems and stories.

The roots of “Pandemic Noodles” go back to the spring of 2016, when Ristaino and Li teamed up for a course that had the teachers and students visiting Chinese and Italian restaurants in Atlanta to gather recipes and create “noodle narratives.”

That evolved into distance-learning classes that had students exploring restaurants and noodles in many other parts of the world.

This year, though, with the pandemic limiting travel and dining out, the focus switched to cooking noodles at home.

“It turned out to be that as the class evolved, we have continued to have new discoveries,” Li said. “By doing the cooking, and making it public on our website, our students get to reflect on their own experiences during the pandemic, and what food means for them. Even a simple dish could have long history and play an important role in a specific culture or community.”

“Often they talk to their families about a recipe that they love, and they find out the history of the dish,” Ristaino said. “And often they cook the dish with family members, so it brings them together, and its really quite beautiful.

“We have so many student voices from many different countries, cultures, and backgrounds. During the pandemic, food is definitely a unifying force. Any time people cook for each other they cross a barrier, and get to know each other on a deeper level.”




From Emory student Ahanu Banerjee of Atlanta

Pasta all’aglio e olio originated in Naples, and typically is made with spaghetti. I like to make it with linguine. It is especially convenient for the quarantine, because it calls for few ingredients, it’s forgiving, and quick to throw together. This recipe can be made vegan by omitting the cheese.

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