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What members say about the club sessions

February 20, 2012

The last three sessions of the Westgate Culinary Club were a huge hit. Members learned how to make healthy soups, crispy falafel and fluffy buñelos. They embarked on a gastronomical journey — a taste of China, Middle East and Colombia — that left the them craving for more.

The club members were all charged up after a brief hiatus, due to the renovation work at the lounge where the club’s sessions are usually held.

“We have been eagerly waiting for these sessions. Learning new cuisines is always an interesting thing. It adds a new dimension to your culinary skills,” Debasmita Dutta, an active member of the club, said.

After moving to the United States last year, to accompany her husband who is pursuing a PhD degree from MIT, Debasmita said it’s the loneliness that she often finds hard to battle with.

Her work as a research assistant at Calcutta University had always kept her occupied back in her hometown Kolkata. Debasmita holds a Masters degree in clinical psychology.

Today the ample time she has at her disposal is no less than daunting at times, she said. “I am bound by the visa regulations. I cannot engage in paid employment or pursue a full-time academic course,” Debasmita said ruefully.

But it is the culinary club that has helped her cope by coming in contact with people who are in the same boat.

“Cooking is something I have always found interest in. The club has helped me to whet my passion and also helped in building my own social circle. I have made a lot of friends through the club. The club activities keep me occupied and now I have something to look forward to every week,” Debasmita said.

The club’s first in-house session this year was held on February 2. Li Theng, the club founder, hosted the session.

It was a session on soups. “Soup forms an integral part of Chinese cuisine and is a part of every meal,” she informed the eager audience.

In the hour-and-half-long session, Li dished out four soups:

Airy Pea Soup with Sliced Almonds, Curried Carrot and Cilantro Soup, Minced Meat in Egg Soup and Lotus Root Soup.

The session also triggered conversation about cuisines and cultures from various parts of the world.

Li hails from Singapore where she was employed as an elementary school teacher. Her 12-hour a day work schedule had always kept her busy.

But things look different now. After moving to Cambridge in August last year, she keeps herself occupied by volunteering at different organizations like the Cambridge Farmer’s Market and local soup kitchens.

“I came up with the idea of the Westgate Culinary Club to socialize with other people and to engage in community based activities,” Li said.

The club provides the members with the opportunity to learn about different cultures through their cuisines, Li said.

While visa restrictions do bother Li, she tries to keep an open mind and make the best of the situation she is currently dealing with, Li said.

Boston houses thousands of well-qualified immigrants like Debasmita and Li. While a recent study has shown that immigrants create jobs for American workers, dependent visa holders continue to be tethered by regulations.

Visa regulations need to be eased and that’s the only way to provide some respite to dependent visa holders like them.

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