A Familiar Taste in an Unfamiliar Environment

By Ariadna Sandoval

Yesterday I spent the whole afternoon remaking my grandmother's Peruvian hot chocolate recipe. I had brought two bars of pure Peruvian chocolate in the hope that I could try and bring some of my heritage with me to college.


Since I had no kitchen in my dorm (a fact that caught me by surprise the first day of college), I asked a good friend of mine if I could use his. I began by melting the chocolate and later added all the ingredients.


2 cups of milk

2 bars of pure dark chocolate

½ Orange peel

3 scoops of sugar

1 teaspoon of vanilla extract

Cinnamon and clove to taste


The recipe was also supposed to carry condensed milk and Peruvian limes, but the limited selection of the campus StarMarket could not satisfy my demands.


As the individual ingredients slowly started to resemble my familiar hot chocolate, I was greeted by the magical smell of the drink. After two hours of stirring the mixture and checking the taste, I poured the first cup to my friend and awaited his opinion.


"Oh my god," he said. It seemed the magical spell of the chocolate had limited his expressive abilities as those words were the only ones he uttered before diving back into the chocolate.


Then it was my turn.


The drink didn't taste exactly like my grandmother's. Not only were some ingredients missing, but my impatient hands were unable to compete with the experienced and magical touch of my grandmother.


But the drink was enough.


Enough for me to get back some of those familiar memories. Enough for me to believe for a second, I was back in my Peruvian house surrounded by my family.


In this unfamiliar environment, the familiar taste of hot chocolate was just what I needed.


And as I was talking to my friend, he told me he usually does a similar thing. Every two weeks, he remakes his family's traditional mac and cheese because it reminds him of his mother's recipe.


As college forces many students to abandon the safe environment of their home and venture into an unprecedented post-pandemic environment, many choose to fight their homesickness with food.


I asked my Russian roommate what she usually does when she misses home, and she told me that besides calling her mom every night, she has Russian sweets stacked up in her drawers.


"A bite of that sweet is a bite from home," she said.


As it turns out, for college students, food is not only part of de-stressing emotional eating sessions at three in the morning, but it also allows us to create a sense of home. It helps us bring the familiar to the unfamiliar.