Sitting in entrance of a plate of salad, popcorn and cranberry juice, a rendition of inexperienced, pink and white Italian flag, Thando Khumalo ’23 introduced her creation to her friends through Zoom as a part of the Italian division’s Italian flag meals problem. The meal, which received the problem, was a part of the “Tavola Italiana,” or Italian Desk, an Italian-language dinner hosted by the Italian Division each Tuesday night.
The desk has been a staple of the Italian division for years, connecting college students to one another and the language by way of an Italian cultural staple: meals.
Khumalo’s participation within the Italian desk started throughout her first yr at Bowdoin previous to the COVID-19 pandemic, when the language desk was solely in-person and met in a facet room of Thorne Eating Corridor. When the Faculty moved on-line final March, the Italian Desk moved with it.
The shift to a web-based format was spearheaded by current Bowdoin graduate and Italian Instructing Fellow Acadia Mezzofanti ’20. Mezzofanti was confronted with the problem of constructing the Zoom dinners as compelling as their in-person counterparts whereas additionally sustaining their conversational and lightweight environment.
“For Zoom, it has been slightly little bit of an effort,” mentioned Mezzofanti in a Zoom interview with the Orient. “It’s really easy in case you’re already going to the eating corridor to simply take a couple of steps and go into the opposite room, however whenever you’re not having dinner, what would compel college students to need to be there?”
The weekly desk gatherings are primarily meant to enhance college students’ conversational abilities. It operates at a higher-level of Italian, however college students of any proficiency are inspired to attend.
“I’d say that it’s helped my conversational Italian rather a lot,” mentioned Khumalo in a Zoom interview with the Orient.
To encourage college students finding out Italian to come back to the weekly language dinners, Mezzofanti has arrange interactive baking challenges and occasions in tandem with the weekly dinners. College students share the Italian meals they’ve made to commemorate occasions in Italian historical past or dishes of cultural significance. A notable current was a cake made by sophomores Lucas DiCerbo ’23 and Lorenzo Hess ’23 commemorating the loss of life of Dante Alighieri, writer of “The Divine Comedy,” and “Inferno.”
“I wasn’t actually anticipating a lot, particularly of school college students,” Mezzofanti mentioned. “However [the students] stunned me.”
Baking and meals challenges, just like the one Khumalo and different college students take part in on an almost weekly foundation, supply these finding out Italian the power to study the language and join with tradition in a non-traditional means. College students have responded positively to the efforts made by the division.
“I believe that [the cooking challenges] are enjoyable,” mentioned Khumalo. “They don’t stress me out in any respect and so they’re elective so it’s only a enjoyable little factor to do.”
Along with the baking challenges, the division additionally does reside cooking recipes throughout the dinners. Allison Cooper, assistant professor of romance languages and literatures and cinema research and one of many organizers of the weekly dinners, wished the scholars to study the language
“Italy has a tradition that actually values coming collectively over meals,” Cooper mentioned in a Zoom interview with the Orient. “The concept is to sort of carve out a time within the actually frenetic tempo of the pandemic … the place it’s not about class or about something different than simply celebrating being along with a plate of one thing fascinating to eat in entrance of you.”
The recipes that college students can observe together with run the gamut of Italian delicacies, starting from pasta dishes to high quality desserts. Wherever from three to eight college students attend the conferences every week and take part within the baking challenges.
Above all, the Italian division mentioned that it desires to create a pleasant surroundings the place college students really feel a robust sense of group and connection to the language. Cooper has gone as far as to let college students decide up the desserts she’s made throughout the Zoom dinners from her entrance porch so college students on campus really feel extra linked throughout the pandemic.
“I could make one thing after which present it on the Italian desk and invite college students to come back by on the sidewalk in entrance of my home and have a chunk to take with them,” mentioned Cooper. “That simply feels actually good to me as a result of it’s a small type of connection.”