The Loyola community shares the food that warms their hearts

Biting into a piece of gooey royal cake while rushing to catch the tram before a parade, sucking the meat off a crayfish tail at UPB’s annual crawfish boil, cooling off with a scoop of Juicy snow after a long, hot day on campus: Culinary experiences like these etch into your memory after a few years on the Loyola campus.

Despite the diversity of food New Orleans has to offer, many Loyola students and faculty miss the flavors of their hometown. They miss the flavors that mingle with memories of family and friends, enjoying a bite of their favorite after-school snack, or watching their parents cook dinner over and over again.

Here are some of the dishes that help bring our Loyola community home:

Asta Balakauskas, junior theater arts
Mango Sticky Rice and Steak Fried Egg Rice

“When you grow up eating constantly, it sticks with you,” Asta Balakauskas said.

Balakauskas, from Bangkok, Thailand, said food that reminds her of home has sentimental value, especially the dish she calls fried egg rice. This fried rice dish is made with chunks of chopped steak and eggs, and she said it was something she grew up eating.

Her mother used to do it for her growing up, and then, as she got older, Balakauskas joined in the prep work.

The dessert, mango sticky rice, also reminds him of home. Rice is a food that makes Balakauskas feel at home even when she is on the other side of the world.

“Rice is the only thing that can get me through anything. We eat a lot of rice here. I can hardly live without rice,” she said.

Besides keeping her connected at home, she said food just makes her feel good.

“When in doubt, I eat,” she said.

Nerea Rambozzi, junior publicist
Spanish tortilla

The Spanish tortilla reminds Nerea Rambozzi of her childhood in Vigo, Spain. This dish, consisting of eggs, onions and potatoes with the occasional addition of cheese or chorizo, holds a special place in its heart.

“It’s something I’ve been eating since I was a kid. My grandmother used to make it for us at least once a week,” she said.

When Rambozzi thinks of the Spanish tortilla, it reminds him of family and enjoys the dish with friends in downtown Vigo. She even made the dish for the Loyola Country Fair in the fall of 2021 to share a bit of home with the Loyola community.

“Everyone loved it,” she said.

The Spanish tortilla helps remind Rambozzi of home, but also makes her feel good.

” That makes me happy. It makes me feel full when I’m done,” she said. “It’s just nice.”

Piper Hudson, popular and commercial music junior
Harold’s Chicken and Pizza Puffs

Although Piper Hudson moved from Chicago to Houston, TX when she was a child, she still calls the Windy City her home. Much of her love for Chicago revolves around her love for some of Chicago’s staple foods.

“We have dishes you can’t find in Texas,” she said, especially her favorite fried chicken restaurant, Harold’s Chicken. Hudson has tried Harold’s Chicken in other cities, but said nothing comparable to the original in Chicago.

“I grew up with this food. This food is part of my identity,” she said.

Hudson said Chicago pizza is a big deal, but one of her favorite foods is puff pizza, something she described as “a hot pocket deep-fried but better. Much better.”

Hudson said Chicago food makes her feel nostalgic and never fails to remind her of her family. Food is bonding material for the Hudsons, she said. In fact, whenever she returns to Chicago for a visit, she said her family always comes together with food.

“I miss my home. I miss its food. I can’t wait to get back there and stuff my face with it all,” she said.

Samer Yacaman, junior finance and international trade
Pastelitos and fried green plantain chips

Samer Yacaman said the varieties of food in Honduras are vast, but he thinks of pastelitos and fried green plantain chips when thinking of his hometown, San Pedro Sula.

Both foods are staples not only throughout Honduras, but also in Yacaman’s home.

“Some of the best (pastelitos) I’ve had, they’re home cooked. My dad cooks them,” he said.

Yacaman said the pastelitos, small sweet or savory filled pastries, also remind him of his time with his friends as well as the various school events at which they were served. He said he associates the fried green plantain fries with trips to the beach and visits to Lake Yojoa, enjoying a plate of fried fish alongside the dish after a long day near the water.

When he thinks about the foods he likes, Yacaman said his heart — and his stomach — remind him of home.

“They definitely make me hungry,” he said. “They make me feel a little warmth in my heart.”

Simone Rambotti, lecturer in sociology
Pasta and eggplant parmigiana

After living in the United States for nearly 12 years, Simone Rambotti said he still had a bit of a bias against American Italian restaurants. This native of Rome, Italy thinks no one does Italian food like the Italians.

“I never readjusted to the point where I thought the United States was my home,” he said.

Rambotti loves the varieties of pizza and pasta in Rome and all the little things in between. One of his favorite ways to dine at home is at Alfredo e Ada in the center of town, a restaurant owned by one of his dear friends. Rambotti said the restaurant was small, so small in fact that he and his wife often dined at the same table as complete strangers.

“(Alfredo e Ada) brings together a lot of things, a beautiful region, food that resembles the food you would eat at home,” he said. “Chance encounters with other people.” He said he loves the restaurant’s eggplant parmigiana and lasagna made with gricia, a sauce made with black pepper, pecorino romano cheese and cold cuts.

Although he hasn’t found a perfect approximation of his Italian favorites in the United States, he said thinking about Rome’s food makes him happy.

“My wife says food is my love language,” he said.

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