Onigiri Action, our interactive cooking workshop and nutritional activism event brought together 20 undergraduates and masters students in the Asian Studies, Asia Pacific Studies, International Studies, and Sociology programs at USF.
Students learned how to count to ten in Japanese while washing their hands thoroughly in a very thorough Japanese style, learned the history and nutritional characteristics of onigiri and Japanese rice, and the common situations in which onigiri would often be eaten (at a picnic, for example). Their new knowledge was tested with questions in a quick, game-show style speed round in the chat! After learning all this, they even learned how to make onigiri for themselves! At the end of the event, attendees showed off their instagrammable onigiri before making their post on social media–and eating it for dinner!
We first welcomed Table for Two’s (TfT) Mayumi Uejima-Carr and the organization’s chef-instructor, Debra Samuels. Mayumi and Debra had a lively chat with USF undergraduates and master’s students about their connections to Japanese food, culture, and language. Students were eager to share their knowledge of Japanese cuisine, and the best places to get a delicious meal in San Francisco.
Mayumi introduced Onigiri Action — TfT’s nutritional activism campaign that allows them to provide healthy school meals to nutritionally-insecure children in Southeast Asia, East Africa, and cities in the U.S.. She told us a fun fact–a few years ago, USF had one of the most active college chapters of Onigiri Action! Our event was inadvertently following the footsteps of past Dons!
Then, Debra Samuels took the helm to teach how to make a simple onigiri, a Japanese “rice ball” snack, which was (in this case) filled with tuna. She introduced attendees to the ingredients and tools in the Ongiri Action kit that was provided free-of-charge to participants, and with her 2-camera setup, demonstrated patiently every step of the way to making a delicious and well-formed onigiri. Students cooked-along and were proud to show off their work!
Students thanked Debra and Mayumi with a round of applause that was both audible and visible, and some even unmuted themselves to thank them for leading such an entertaining and interactive workshop. In the weeks since, students like Madison Burk (’22) have expressed their thanks for this event: “Onigri Action was really fun because all those ingredients are so yummy and who doesn’t love onigiri… ever since that event, I’ve been craving it everyday, thinking ‘ooh where can I go in Japan town to go get some just like tuna rice ball?'”
We were glad to help remind USF students to eat delicious and healthy Japanese food, while also helping passively donate school meals! We remain grateful to TfT for the work they do, and encourage you to participate in their upcoming Instagram campaigns to donate more meals!