An aromatic ladle of sopa de albondigas, or meatball soup, is made from more than beef, onions, and jalapeño. For Elannah De La O ’24, it represents a history of recipes passed down through her Mexican-American family. To share her story in a bowl, De La O hosted a group of curious students in her installment of ALANA’s Cooking Around the World series. Each event gathers students in ALANA’s kitchen space to share and celebrate their heritage through cuisine.
The series began when ALANA Director Esther Rosbrook joined the team in 2019. A year later, she welcomed De La O to her team of ALANA Ambassadors: a crew of students who represent and support the center. De La O was later promoted to an ambassador lead, and now serves as the main point of contact for ALANA’s student team.
“My main job as an ambassador is to connect people to other people,” says De La O. “Cooking Around the World allows me to foster those connections — October is Latinx heritage month, and I am Latina. This event is a celebration of my culture with the student body.”
De La O, who is from the Northern California area, attributes her long-held passion for cooking to her family. Their sopa de albondigas recipe tells a story through the ingredients. “How we cook the dish is telling of how my family uses seasonings,” she says. “We make a flavorful broth that can be used across many different soups.”
This versatile broth of chicken stock, tomato, garlic, and onion meets De La O’s aim to teach students a “simple, low-budget, but very flavorful recipe.” To it, she adds hearty vegetables and beans: potato, garbanzo beans, and carrots. Next come the soup’s namesake meatballs, to which De La O adds two special ingredients: jalapeño and mint.
“The mint is included not just for flavor, but also to aid with digestion,” she explains. “And a lot of people think the jalapeño will just be spicy, but what I try to showcase is that the chili has its own distinct flavor.”
These personal touches make De La O’s dish her and her family’s own. The way she sees it, sopa de albondigas is a comfort meal. “Whether you’re sick or coming home from a long day of classes, the dish cheers people up,” she says. This personal connection to food, Rosbrook contends, is what makes the event one of ALANA’s programming staples.
“Cooking Around the World is not just a culinary program,” says Rosbrook. “It’s a warm and inviting space where friendships are forged and a sense of belonging flourishes.”
Other Cooking Around the World events this academic year include sessions led by Nicole Carvel, Indigenous and Native American programs coordinator, and the South Asian Cultural Club.