Anyone within sniffing distance of the Bio-Information Center on Creighton University’s campus at lunchtime on July 5 got a delightful whiff of the East, courtesy of the University’s visiting Chinese contingent.
Students from Hebei Medical University provided a culinary tour of China, complete with handmade dumplings and a refreshing gulp of coconut milk for about 40 people during the third of five cultural presentations during the third annual China Summer Program.
The program has brought more than 30 students and faculty members in occupational therapy and physical therapy from five Chinese universities to Creighton’s School of Pharmacy and Health Professions for an educational and immersion experience in the United States.
Thus far, Creighton has been treated to an enlightening presentation on the Chinese Zodiac, highlighting the Year of the Monkey, and a look at traditional Chinese approaches to rehabilitation including acupuncture and massage. The July 5 foray into different cuisines around China, took attendees to five regions with distinct flavors, and also helped put the idea of Chinese food into a wider context.
While many around the world are familiar with the spices of Sichuan and the richness of Cantonese, the Hebei students also introduced flavors from Shandong and Jiangsu provinces, the former noted for its seafood and the latter for its artistry in presentation.
The Chinese students also admitted to some gastronomic misgivings of their own upon arriving in Omaha.
“When we came to Omaha, we also experienced a little food shock,” said Haoming Wang, an Hebei student who helped lead the presentation. “You would probably feel the same if you came to China. But we’d like to share some of the gustatory experiences that might help.”
Food in China, Wang explained, reaches into a person’s soul and, in the preparation of some foods, like noodles — which have been made for millennia in China — and tea, there are ornate rituals which make consuming these delights a spiritual experience. There’s also a celebratory purpose to some foods.
The dumplings the Hebei students made are typically crafted to mark the return of spring and are called jiao zi, which can be translated as the beginning and end of time, denoting the transitory season of spring as renewed life blooms.