Studying is a surefire way to induce late-night munchies. But if you’re going to ditch the books in favor of a midnight snack, food found in the Woodhead Lounge can make the experience a little more enlightening than what you’ll find most nights in Usdan.
As part of efforts to share different traditions and histories with the larger student body, late night food events are some of Wesleyan’s student groups’ most popular means of raising money and serving up culture.
Pangea, a student organization comprised of Asian international students and led by Kah Wei Yoong ’14 and Xian Hui Ang ’15, recently held a joint event in Usdan with the Wesleyan men’s football team. Students of all nationalities learned the fundamentals of American football and how to make East Asian foods, such as sushi hand rolls and Vietnamese spring rolls.
Hosting such large-scale events and cooking for crowds require a lot of effort on the part of the group members. Monica Iwasaki ’15, who is from Japan and took on the role of teaching students how to make sushi rolls, explained that the late nights take a lot of money and coordination.
“We also had international food two weeks ago in Exley, and [there were] seven cultural groups selling different foods,” Iwasaki said. “We got a lot of money from the international students office, so we were able to have lots of food.”
Yoong said that gathering the ingredients to make East Asian cuisine required special consideration.
“We got a lot of ingredients from A Dong supermarket in West Hartford,” she said. “We had a lot of students bring back souvenirs and ingredients over breaks from their countries.”
PINOY, the Filipino Students Association, held its Ang Sarap late night on April 27 in Exley’s Woodhead Lobby.
“Ang Sarap means something like, ‘Damn, this is good,’’’ said Marianna Ilagan ’15, who cooked rice and adobo, a Filipino meat stew, for the event. “We always have adobo because that’s what everyone seems to know in our culture in terms of cuisine. We did that the first time, and ever since the first time we kind of repeat the menu with some changes.”
Like Pangea, PINOY purchases many of its supplies from A Dong supermarket in Hartford.
“It’s this magical little Asian supermarket that every Asian cultural group goes to,” Ilagan said. “That’s all you need. It’s one of the only ones in Connecticut, and it has really good prices.”
Because of the size of the event, which can draw over one hundred students to Exley’s Woodhead Lounge each semester, Ilagan said that planning and preparation presents many challenges.
“We always underestimate the adobo even though this is the third time, and we overestimate dessert and noodles and stuff,” Ilagan said. “In all the late nights I’ve participated in or helped out with, not just Filipino late night, we always aim for around one hundred-ish of a dish. That seems to be the standard.”
As the late night proceeded, however, the adobo quickly ran out.
“Too many people are ordering it!” Ilagan exclaimed as she uncovered another tray of chicken and rice.
The group also makes efforts to accommodate students with dietary restrictions.
“It’s always tricky, because you never know [how] the Wesleyan community will react to your ethnic cuisine,” Ilagan said. “We tried to stick with safer options. This time we tried making vegetarian adobo, which we’ve never tried before. Filipino food wasn’t meant to be vegetarian, so as a vegetarian in the Philippines, it’s a struggle. So we tried to alter it without betraying the heart of the cuisine.”
Late night food events aren’t limited to international groups, however. Often, late nights are organized for domestic causes. ServeUP, a campus volunteer group, held its first New Orleans-themed late night in February to raise money for a service trip to the city over spring break.
Stacy Uchendu ’17, who was in charge of cooking jambalaya for the event, described ServeUP as an InterVarsity Christian fellowship program. Students from different schools travel to places hit by natural disasters, such as New Orleans in the wake of Hurricane Katrina, to do community service work.
“It was really stressful,” Uchendu said. “Making jambalaya for maybe five people is fine, but making it for about 150-plus is a lot.”
Despite being the group’s first venture into late night, and with a team of only three people, Uchendu felt the event went smoothly.
Chukwuemeka Uwakaneme ’16, who cooked jambalaya and helped sell food at the NOLA late night, said it was a cooperative effort. It was a financial success, too; the group ultimately raised enough to send 18 Wesleyan students on the trip.
“I feel like because it was such a success this year, we can get the word out more,” Uchendu said.