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Culinary culture stories with a crunchy twist

September brought together a perfect partnership between the Idaho Office for Refugees (IOR), Global Gardens, Welcoming America, Idaho Museum of International Diaspora (IMID), and IOR Refugee Speakers Bureau to offer the local community a fun virtual way of learning how to cook cultural cuisines from the participants’ own kitchens in real time. The partnership resulted in the launch of the Cross-Culinary Kits & Classes – a program of the IOR. At the same time, the IMID kicked off its Culinary Circle of Cultures program equipped with its own YouTube channel.

On September 19 during Welcoming Week, the inaugural virtual cooking class of the combined programs – a sold out event – featured Lao egg rolls. IMID's founder and executive director (and cooking instructor), Palina Louangketh – a former refugee from Laos, took the participants through the cultural culinary adventure in her kitchen as the participants joined in live from their kitchens. For Louangketh, connecting the community to culture involved: laptop, iPhone, Zoom capability, ingredients to make Lao egg rolls, and yes – her human journey story as a former refugee from Laos through the lens of her Lao heritage tied to food. Equally important, the support of special moderators / facilitators from the IOR – Kara Fink, Tara Wolfson, and Salome Mwangi – and the spirit of let's do this together! from the engaged participants made this September's sold out cooking course a huge success. A fun evening with the community ended with the echoing sounds of “crunch” as everyone took their first bite into their homemade crispy freshly fried Lao egg rolls.

September’s Cross-Culinary Kit & Class featuring Lao egg rolls was sold out in a matter of days. Registration for October’s class – featuring Syrian kefta and Arabic salad by chef, Shadi Ismail – recently opened but sold out immediately. Note: Although October's course is sold out, visit the IOR to learn more. You may find information on a second course offering later in the month.

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