A wise woman once said, “Give someone a warm meal and they’ll feel at home. And if it happens to be Indian food, late-night breakfast or a piping hot latte, extra brownie points for you.”
OK, so maybe I said that—and maybe it isn’t true in every situation—but food is an important aspect of culture and society, and (at least in my life) it helps people feel welcomed and more at home when they find themselves in a new place.
When I first moved to Houston to attend UH in 2013, I was a stranger in a strange world, and while meeting new people wasn’t something I found especially difficult, there were times where I felt totally out of place in my new atmosphere.
But thankfully, I found some common points with my fellow Coogs that first year: I lived in Cougar Village I, I was the proud owner of the “unlimited” dining hall meal pass and I spent all of my extra Cougar Cash on coffee.
As the first semester wore on, I discovered that sharing a meal swipe or late night trip to Dot’s Coffee Shop were some of the best times to get to know people. That year, I made some of my best friends over a stack of pancakes or a bowl of cereal from the dining halls—some days were better than others, food-wise.
The experiences of moving to a new city and starting over with a new group of friends were made better through opportunities to discover new restaurants and favorite coffee shops together—most of which I still frequent today. Before moving to Houston, my food palate was more limited; little did I know how much I would enjoy the Phoenicia Market downtown or Frenchy’s Chicken, which is only a block away from campus.
Food is a key component to immersing yourself in any culture, and when the opportunity to expand your taste buds arises, I often find that you are also expanding your worldview.
On campus alone, UH boasts serving several types of cuisine from around the world, including Indian, Chinese, Vietnamese and Mexican. Take a short walk off campus and you’ll find a plethora of food experiences like Doshi House, This is It and Ray’s BBQ Shack. And if you’re feeling adventurous, take a drive around Montrose and explore the various Mediterranean, Greek, Japanese and Spanish restaurants that pepper the area.
Still not satisfied? Head out to Chinatown to experience the world of international cuisine in an area of Houston that holds so many restaurants you won’t be able to visit them all. That’s a challenge.
Houston is the metaphorical fondue pot of melded cuisine and culture, and its food allows you to taste the differences and individuality that makes the city such an exciting, tantalizing place.
Food welcomed me into the world of Houston and UH, and it gave me the chance to foster new friendships and relationships over something people all tend to love. In this issue of Cooglife, I hope you are able to taste the differences that make up our community, and realize the gift it is to be able to connect over something so simple, yet so complex.
Whether it’s a cup of coffee from your favorite café or a bowl of pho from the best bahn mi shop, food does, indeed, welcome us into new—often unforgettable—experiences.