Sharing Pakistani Traditions at the Social Kitchen
The Social Kitchen in the Student Center hosted a traditional Pakistani dinner on January 14 with Ayesha Attique as a special guest.
By Paige Colby '25
Even though the Dining Hall does not have regular hours during Field Work Term, Bennington College students still have the opportunity to share meals together in the Social Kitchen.
Located in the Student Center, the Social Kitchen is used for faculty member Yoko Inoue’s Social Kitchen 2.0: Collective Wellness, Engagement, and Inclusion and Social Kitchen 2.0 Lab: Culinary Space/Kitchen Practicum courses when offered during academic terms. However, once Field Work Term starts, Student Life and other administrative offices host a community meal twice a week at lunchtime for students still on campus; this is also in collaboration with the Slow-Cooked Movement II, a student organization under Inoue’s supervision.
On January 14, students were invited by co-leaders Abraar Arpon '26 and Roberta Martey '25 to dinner at the Social Kitchen where special guest Ayesha Attique prepared traditional Pakistani dishes. Ayesha is the mother of Muhammad Ammar '24.
While Ayesha finished cooking, everyone gathered around to listen to her stories and ask for her cooking tips, since she has been cooking for her family for decades and one of her favorite subjects in school was Food and Nutrition.
- Masala chai, prepared by Muhammad Ammar
- Chicken biriyani, a spiced rice dish with chicken and potatoes, prepared by Ayesha Attique
- Raita, a yogurt-based vegetable dip, also prepared by Ayesha
- Spinach pakoras, fried spinach fritters, prepared by Abraar Arpon
Some of the Dinner Guests
Arpon, the event organizer and team co-lead of the Slow-Cooked Movement, reflected on the dinner. “The motivation behind hosting the Pakistani dinner was to provide our students with an opportunity to learn more about the culture and cuisine of Pakistan and foster a sense of community and inclusivity within our college,” said Arpon. “We wanted to give students a chance to try traditional Pakistani dishes and learn more about the history and culture of Pakistan from someone who has lived in it. I believe food satisfies the hunger of the stomach, and knowledge satisfies the hunger of the soul—Slow Cooked Movement II and the Social Kitchen value both equally. And I believe bringing cultural dinners in the kitchen, like the Pakistani dinner, the Iranian dinner, and the Paraguayan dinner justifies my statement. It was a memorable and enjoyable evening, and I am grateful for the opportunity to have been a part of it.”
Speaking on the night, Ayesha said, “I was really delighted to cook one of our Pakistani favourite dishes, chicken biriyani, in the Social Kitchen. It was a well-equipped, well-managed place, and it was a pleasure meeting the students present there. Everyone was so cheerful, helpful, and welcoming. I thoroughly enjoyed the experience.”
Alejandra Vouga ‘26 said cooking with Ayesha reminded her of cooking with her own mother.
“The Social Kitchen, in general, reminds me of my mom and how she portrays love in the food. I found that to connect my home to Bennington,” said Vouga. “Being with people and having a meal with someone else is really good.”
Umang Malik ‘25 said that for him, as an International student from India, “It was a breath of fresh air to have something that was authentically from my region and what I grew up with.”
Ammar described the dining experience best. “It was amazing to share with the Bennington community the food I’ve been privileged enough to enjoy all my life—nothing tops Mum’s delicious chicken biryani fresh from the pot!” said Ammar. “I loved seeing how everyone was so excited not just to prepare and eat the food, but also to hear the little stories and tidbits my mum shared throughout the evening. A special shoutout to Abraar for facilitating this dinner at the Social Kitchen!”