A (Virtual) Community Table
It’s easy to get overwhelmed, especially these days. Inboxes have been flooded with emails offering support, assistance, and advice on navigating these unprecedented times. But shortly after the vast majority of the WPI campus went remote, an email from Rame Hanna, Director of Diversity and Inclusive Excellence, arrived in inboxes with an unexpected and beautifully simple idea: a WPI cookbook.
“This is a very heavy time,” Hanna says. “Much of our communication has been very serious, but it’s also important to remember the necessity of self-care and community, especially in times of self-isolation. Food is such a great way to share culture with others, and giving people the chance to connect through food despite distance is something we think is very powerful.”
Spearheaded by Hanna and Christelle Hayles, Diversity and Inclusion Specialist, the cookbook is taking shape as a digital collection of recipes contributed by members of the WPI family. Recipes will be distributed in the near future, possibly even as a printed book. But the cookbook isn’t just a way for the WPI community to connect and share recipes with each other. “We also wanted to spread a little joy,” Hayles says.
And spread joy they have—the WPI community has embraced the idea of a cookbook with open arms (and appetites) by having submitted dozens of recipes and even calling for livestream step-by-step instruction videos. Hanna and Hayles are thrilled by the overwhelmingly positive reception.
“To not only see folks wanting to engage, but being excited to help move the idea forward and share their own recipes, it’s been really wonderful,” Hanna says.
Building Connections Through Food
While they both have at-home comfort snacks of choice—Hayles is enjoying her favorite brand of crackers (“I can’t stop eating them. It’s kind of a problem,” she says with a laugh), while Hanna is partial to a Winter Dream tea blend paired with mini Cadbury eggs (“I’ve had a thousand of them,” they joke)—the cookbook takes things a step further, with faculty and staff submitting recipes for everything from appetizers and lunchtime favorites to sweets and desserts.
“It’s critical in times like this to spread joy as best we can, and cooking is one of the best ways we can do that,” Hayles says. “It’s showing an intimate part of ourselves, our histories, and our cultures—and that’s a wonderful way to build connection, especially virtually. It’s not easy, but it’s important.”
Many have shared recipes for long-held family favorites, offering an additional way to connect with others in tough times—something Hanna experienced when contacting their parents for recipe ideas: “It was a great chance to check in with them, talk about our culture and recipes, and just chat.”
Having the chance to reconnect with family is a great bonus, but Hayles adds that at its heart, the cookbook offers something everyone could use these days: “On the most basic level, it’s a nice break. It’s a chance to step away from the computer, think about that sandwich you really like, and make the decision to share it. I think that in itself is something valuable.”
Recipes are currently being added to a digital (and potentially physical) cookbook for distribution in the near future, and submissions are being accepted through April 24. WPI community members may also join the Facebook group to share their recipes, and hashtag their creations on social media with #HerdAtHome and #CookingWithWPI.
Whether you’re interested in contributing a recipe or planning your next favorite meal, Hanna and Hayles hope these efforts will help people share authentically with each other and will serve as a reminder of not just the WPI community’s culinary expertise, but its resiliency, support, and camaraderie. “We’re all working through this together,” Hayles says, “and we will get through it.”
-By Allison Racicot
Share Your Creations!
Interested in submitting your own pièce de résistance to the cookbook? You’ve got options—check out the announcement for more information and a link to the submission form. Recipes can also be added to the Cooking with WPI Facebook page. Bon appétit!