Go-to meals for host families
Sharing your culture with your international students at meal times is an easy way to welcome them into your home – and it doesn’t have to break the bank.
To help you make the most out of hosting a student, we’ve rustled up some recipe ideas and fun ways to make your evening meals memorable for the whole table.
Sharing really is caring
Think about the dishes that you enjoy making for your family, friends and loved ones – these meals are the perfect way to introduce your homestay student to your home. If you usually tuck into lasagna on a Friday night or use Grandma’s secret dressing on your salads, don’t change your habits! If you and your family enjoy certain dishes enough to eat them regularly then the chances are, your student may enjoy them just as much as you do.
If holidays are on the horizon or meals form part of any of your traditions, don’t forget to extend the invite to your house guests. In the US, for example, your annual Thanksgiving dinner can be a new and exciting experience for those who’ve never enjoyed the holiday before. In the UK, a traditional Sunday roast can be a very memorable – and comforting – experience.
Likewise, think about your country’s native dishes. Food can be a great way to share your culture with new visitors. In the UK, take your international guest out for fish and chips by the seaside. Part of what attracted students to choose to stay with a host family was the rich opportunity for cultural exchange and to experience normal, daily life in their new town – some very simple input from you can vastly enrich their whole experience.
This is a chance to learn about your guest’s culture too
Don’t forget that the cultural exchange can go two ways! Take the time to ask your student about their favorite meals from home. Some of these you may be able to include in your weekly routine, or your student could teach you how he or she would whip something up in their own kitchen. This simple gesture offers them a great opportunity to show off both their culinary skills and reciprocate your generosity by sharing a little of their home culture with you too.
Top tip: If these dishes involve ingredients you don’t see in your local grocery store often, you may have to visit an international supermarket: take your student with you on the trip, they may find treats they’re keen to share with you and keeping in touch with their culture can help to keep homesickness at bay. Involving them in the nightly ritual of dining together can make all the difference when it comes to making your international student feel at home.
Be smart when it comes to planning your cooking
Simple carbohydrate components like pasta, noodles, rice or potato are often cheap to buy and are an easy way to add bulk to your meals. With a classic jacket potato, cooking them in the oven is effortless and you can then let each diner choose from a range of simple toppings (like baked beans, cheese or tuna mayonnaise) so that even the fussiest of eaters can find something they like.
Ensuring you’re packing meals with protein can help keep everyone’s stomachs satisfied for longer. Dishes featuring eggs, cheese, fish and meats, or a variety of beans, legumes or nuts if your guest is a vegetarian, helps ensure bellies are full and bodies stay healthy. There is nothing wrong with very simple meals either; a simple omelette is filling and can help keep costs down.
Sharing meals or make-your-own dishes like fajitas or tacos are a win-win as well. Not only are they easy for you to prepare, but they also encourage everyone to get stuck in and involved in actually making their dish, saving you time and adding to the sense of community around the table.
There are plenty of meals which can be made in large batches without breaking the bank. Mince-based meals like a simple spaghetti bolognese or a chili con carne are often very easy dishes to whip up in large quantities; if you make double the volume required, you’ll have enough to pop in the freezer.