Steam whistles from a pressure cooker in a kitchen that barely holds four cooks.
The cooks, having left their shoes at the door as an Indian custom, jump back on the white tile. They’re afraid of getting burned, like friend Amit Deokar, an electrical engineering graduate student, did at a previous dinner.
“That’s why he’s not cooking tonight,” Aditi Godbole, office of information technology student assistant, said as she pointed to Deokar. “We want to protect him.”
Deokar laughed as sounds of Hindi dialect bounced off the walls, where five international students gathered for dinner at a Cooper Chase apartment, near the university.
The group meets every night to cook each other a taste of home, a taste of India. Thursday’s meal: Lentil curry with Jeera rice or cumin seeds.
“The rice is one of my favorite foods,” Deokar said. “It’s very simple and very healthy.”
Ninad Maniar, a mechanical engineering graduate student, and Godbole peel garlic and wash the rice, while others snack on dishes or treats sent from parents.
A few of them didn’t know how to cook before they came to Arlington. They said they would observe their parents and apply observations to their cooking.
“My mother would tell me to stay in the kitchen and don’t do anything,” Deokar said. “Sometimes, it’s better to learn like that.”
For Godbole, she said she would call her mother in the early morning in India while it was night in Arlington.
“I’m a vegitarian, so there aren’t many options,” she said. “So last time I went to India, my mom gave me a recipe book. So now I use that.”
The five spent winter break together as well, exchanging meals every night and watching shows. Two of them haven’t seen their family since summer or winter of 2011.
The group said they start gathering after meeting in student organizations or just in passing in their apartment complex. The friends said they’ll rotate apartments to cook in sometimes. The largest group they’ve had for a meal was 20 people, they said. Sometimes, the group changes apartments so often that they’ll borrow each others utensils, and when one utensil goes missing from someone’s place, they will borrow it from someone else’s.
There’s even been instances where the smoke from experimented meals have triggered fire alarms in an apartment and the fire department came out. Not tonight though. Tonight, the cooking has gone smoothly.
“They know us, they know our cooking,” Godbole said.