Fideo Seco, a simple dish of noodles, tomatoes, and broth, reminds Luis Sanchez of long summer days spent with friends and family in Mexico City. Another favorite dish, Arroz Mexicano (jasmine rice and tomatoes), conjures memories of learning to cook with his mom and uncle, and of making impromptu meals with his first friends at Northeastern.
“It’s like a time capsule of memories that I take out or add to whenever I cook it,” says Sanchez, a 2020 graduate of D’Amore-McKim School of Business.
To share meals and memories like these, Sanchez organized a potluck dinner series and corresponding cookbooks at Northeastern’s Latin American Student Organization, or LASO.
He grew up deeply embedded in Mexican culture—raised in Mexico City by his Mexican father and American mother. But as a freshman and then a sophomore at Northeastern, he’d explored other interests and veered away from his Latinx heritage. A third-year co-op position far from home, at General Electric’s Cleveland, Ohio offices, made Sanchez feel even more disconnected from his Mexican identity.
So when Sanchez returned to Boston in 2019, he joined LASO, which brings together Northeastern students of Latinx backgrounds. As he got to know other members, he was reminded how distinctive the people, politics, and cultures of Latinx populations are. He wanted to find a way to celebrate these differences—“something fun, celebratory, and inclusive, where we could learn from each other and see what’s cool about each other’s cultures.”
As a fan of TV cooking shows, he had an idea: food. He asked LASO members to submit a favorite recipe, explain the story behind it, and cook the dish for a potluck dinner. The results were delicious and meaningful: students gathered around a large table, enjoying flavorful food and sharing stories about their families.
For LASO potlucks held in September 2019 and January 2020, students cooked recipes ranging from ceviche to flautas, tamales, and flan. They reminisced about their childhoods and times spent cooking with siblings, parents, and grandparents. Sanchez captured photos, recipes, and personal stories in digital cookbooks he designed and distributed to the group.
For example, one student wrote: “Almost every Saturday morning for as long as I can remember, I would wake up and find my mother stirring hot, boiling mole inside a large cazo over a small grill in our backyard. She was always cooking for others and it was a way for her to make money for our family. Besides being delicious, her mole is very special to me because it signifies all of her hard work and sacrifices.”
Sanchez graduated in May, but LASO plans to resume the potlucks when the COVID-19 pandemic eases and group gatherings are safe again, current LASO president Eliezer Meraz says. Sanchez says he’s glad future students will benefit from the same sense of community and cultural enrichment that he did.
“It’s just been great to share our stories. It’s been a great way to connect,” he says.