Tastes of home: Loyola community shares the food that warms their hearts

Madeline Taliancich, Managing Editor for Digital

Biting into a gooey piece of king cake while rushing to catch the streetcar before a parade, sucking the meat out of a crawfish tail at UPB’s annual crawfish boil, cooling off with a juicy snowball after a long, hot day on campus: food experiences like these etch themselves into your memory after a few years on Loyola’s campus.

Despite the diverse dishes New Orleans has to offer, many Loyola students and professors miss the tastes of their hometowns. They miss the flavors that mix with the memories of family and friends, of enjoying a bite of their favorite snack after school or watching their parents cook dinner time and time again.

Here are just a few of the dishes that help transport our Loyola community back home:

Asta Balakauskas, theatre arts junior
Mango sticky rice and steak fried egg rice

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

Balakauskas, who hails from Bangkok, Thailand, said the food that reminds her of home has sentimental value, particularly the dish she calls steak fried egg rice. This fried rice dish is made with minced pieces of steak and egg, and she said it was something she grew up eating.

Her mom would make it for her growing up and then, as she got older, Balakauskas joined in on the prep work.

The dessert, mango sticky rice, also reminds her of home. Rice is a food that makes Balakauskas feel at home even when she’s halfway across the world.

“Rice is the one thing that can get me through anything. We eat rice a lot here. I virtually cannot live without rice,” she said.

Besides keeping her connected to home, she said food simply makes her feel great.

“When in doubt, I eat,” she said.

Nerea Rambozzi, advertising junior
Spanish tortilla

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

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

When Rambozzi thinks of the Spanish tortilla, she is reminded of family as well as enjoying the dish with friends in Vigo’s city center. She even made the dish for Loyola’s country fair in fall 2021 to share a little bit of home with the Loyola community.

“Everyone loved it,” she said.

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

“It makes me feel happy. It makes me feel full when I finish,” 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 child, she still considers the Windy City her home. A big part of her love for Chicago centers around her love of some of Chicago’s staple foods.

“We got some food that you can’t find down in Texas,” she said, particularly her favorite fried chicken restaurant, Harold’s Chicken. Hudson has tried Harold’s Chicken in other cities, but said nothing compares to the original in Chicago.

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

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

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

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

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

Samer Yacaman said the varieties of foods in Honduras are vast, but that 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 in Yacaman’s house.

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

Yacaman said pastelitos, small pastries with sweet or savory filling, also remind him of his time with his friends as well as different school events in which they were served. He said he associates fried green plantain chips 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’s thinking of the foods he loves, Yacaman said his heart – and stomach – are reminded of home.

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

Simone Rambotti, assistant professor of sociology
Pastas and eggplant parmigiana

After living in the United States for almost 12 years, Simone Rambotti said he’s still a little bit prejudiced against American Italian restaurants. This Rome, Italy native thinks nobody does Italian food quite like the Italians.

“I never readjusted to the point that I think that the US is 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 back home is at Alfredo e Ada in the center of the city, a restaurant owned by one of his dear friends. Rambotti said the restaurant is small, so small in fact that he and his wife often dine at the same table as complete strangers.

“(Alfredo e Ada) puts together a lot of things, a beautiful area, food that looks like the food you’d eat at home,” he said. “Serendipitous encounters with other people.” He said he loves the restaurant’s eggplant parmigiana and lasagna made with gricia, a sauce made of black pepper, pecorino romano cheese, and cured pork meat.

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

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