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Baklava and Croquettes
At the "Dinner Time" cookery competition at the University of Siegen, students and refugees cooked for each other and noticed, at the latest, during dessert that their cultural differences are often rather small.
“You shouldn’t talk with your mouth full”. Who has not heard this sentence at times already? And usually it is advantageous to take it to heart. But if you only have three courses and a digestive to get to know each other, this becomes a challenge, as was the case at the "Dinner Time" cooking event. Similar to the TV example "The Perfect Dinner", four candidates compete with each other and try to convince the others of their culinary skill. However, the competition idea is not the most important aspect of this event. Instead of a monetary prize, each participant receives at the end a cookbook with the recipes of their evening together, for the winners there are also kitchen utensils. "Dinner Time" is more about getting to know each other, to exchange ideas and to have fun with each other, especially with people from other cultures. This is why the STARTING department of the University of Siegen has initiated this new series of events.
Fadi, Denise, Shideh and Christian are sitting together in a Siegen penthouse although they have never met before "Dinner Time". The main course is already finished, a bottle of white wine is opened and Fadi tells how he perceives the German language. He came as a refugee from Syria about a year ago and is in the middle of his training to become a nurse, afterwards he wants to study medical informatics. "At the word 'bringen', for example, you never know what the other wants until the sentence comes to an end," explains Fadi. "Ich bringe dich … weg? Um?” (I'll take you away ...? I’ll kill you?) The native speakers in the round laugh. Christian, who is studying teacher education, is impressed by how well Fadi speaks German: "I worked already with children who were learning German as a second language, and their skills were not so highly developed." Shideh is also fluent, but more reserved. Two years ago, she came from Iran to Germany to become a business engineer. "My sister had been studying in Cologne for some time, otherwise I would not have dared to move here," she admits.
When dessert is served, it is clear that the cultural differences are sometimes not so great. No sooner is the chocolate nut cake on the table, with vanilla pudding and raspberries artfully draped, when mobile phones are pulled to photograph the food. The cake does not only look good, but obviously also tastes wonderful to the guests, which in turn makes host Christian glad. However, he should not be too confident of victory, because Fadi is already announcing with a full mouth, what he, as the last contender in the round, intends to cook: besides grilled zucchini, he has a few other specialties in petto from his homeland, e.g. baklava, but he is also proud of his homemade, genuine German potato croquettes.
With so much commitment, it is not surprising that a victory of the refugees is imminent. "They really pushed themselves and, of course, they also wanted to present their own cultures and food," says Christian Gerhus, who is responsible for the project "Refugees help Refugees". He wanted to bring people from different cultures together. Then, his employee Shideh Azizi had the idea to organize joint cooking meetings. "This way, fugitives have the opportunity to meet new people and improve their knowledge of German," she explains. The series of events has started this summer semester, at first with two groups, but it could be extended during the winter semester.
"DinnerTime is simply a great way to get to know people or learn about other cultures," says Denise, who is taking the master programs Entrepreneurship and SME Management. "It's also a casual way to get into conversation," Fadi agrees. All four are convinced that they will get together and cook again after the competition is over. Even after the points have been awarded and the winner is determined, none of them will have the feeling to have lost.
By Mattis May