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Repast Past

Soy and Sumac

By Solmaz Amirnazmi

When I walked into my dorm room for the first time, what struck me was that my roommate—whom I had not yet met—had the same fashion-forward plaid bed sheets that I had. Was this a sign? I took it to be one. Flash-forward 14 years, and this same roommate was standing by my side as my maid of honor on the most important day of my life. We had been, as they say, "through thick and thin together" both on the Farm and beyond.

Geography might not have predicted this. I have Persian roots. Lucy Joo was an adorable, intelligent, witty Korean-American—quieter, more cautious and less animated than I. We were different on the exterior, but both of us embraced our own cultural ties and relished being able to share them with others.

Although both my parents were adventurous eaters—for many a celebration we'd head to our hometown's Japanese restaurant—I had never been introduced to Korean food. Lucy and a mutual friend could not believe I had never known Korean barbecue and took me to a place where we would cook at the table ourselves.

To start, we were brought small plates of appetizers, including kimchi. I was warned that might be too spicy for me. I took one bite and remember not only finding it to be incredibly delicious, but also being annoyed that 18 years had flown by before this part of my palate was awakened. I dove enthusiastically into the subsequent barbecue of meats and vegetables, impressed by the rich and flavorful marinades combining soy sauce, garlic, ginger and other ingredients. Again, I remember thinking, "Why am I only learning about this now?!"

I made sure to return the favor. This turned into a ritual where one week we would enjoy Korean food and the following week, Persian food. We created an unofficial club called KPASA, the Korean Persian American Students Association. We even had T-shirts made—and I still wear mine whenever I need a taste of nostalgia.


Solmaz Amirnazmi, '00, is a physician whose website about wellness and healthy eating is alliswellthateatswell.com.

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