City Flavours

When I initially came to Montreal, I was a bit wary of the supposed “lack” of student activities. There wouldn’t be any clubs up here, and I thought because of that, there wouldn’t be as many events to go to. Where were the volunteer sessions? The trips downtown? The free food???

Lucky for me, I was immediately proven wrong. Champlain Montreal constantly has activities going on and (even luckier for me) tons of those activities involve free food.

If you know me, you’ll know that food is one of my central motivations in life. If there’s somewhere I can go that has food, I’m there, especially if it’s free. For me, food is an opportunity to hang out with people I like and enjoy a meal together, and there’s nothing better than that. Even if the food isn’t great, it’s still a way to bond with the people around me, since we can talk about that and share that experience with one another.

I’m also an amateur baker with a knack for cheesecakes, so food is also kind of a form of communication. When I bake, I put everything I have into it. Every emotion that’s been swirling around in my head for the day is translated into a whisk or a knead that makes it into the cake, in my case. It’s a cathartic process, but it’s also a way of telling the person who eventually eats the food how you were feeling, on some level.

Or maybe I’m just over-philosophizing because I want an excuse to make an inordinate amount of cheesecakes for people. Either way, food is great and free food is even better, which is why my favorite activity that I took part in during my time in Montreal was dim sum.

“Dim sum” is a style of Chinese cooking in which food is served in small portions in steam baskets or on tiny plates. Waiters pushcarts of these ready-to-eat plates around the restaurant and customers can ask for some of those plates when they pass by. In the restaurant we went to—Restaurant ChinaTown Kim Fung—we had a sheet that kept a tally of the plates we took. We could then bring that list up to the counter after our meal and they would count up the costs.

Dim sum is thus more geared toward a big gathering than a one-on-one date, since the more food you get, the better the deal. We thus all went as a large group—Champlain students and Hannah Cartmel, our Student Life Manager—and sat at a huge, circular table.

This outing was during our Fall break, so it was pretty early on in the semester. At that point, I didn’t really know anyone, and many of the dim sum folks were students I had never even talked to before.

But the second the food started coming to the table, all of my awkwardness dissipated. In the middle of the table, we had a giant Lazy Susan, so we spun it every few seconds to pass the food around to everyone. We called out across the table when we spotted something we liked on the other side, and we tried everything. And I mean everything—at one point, we got a plate of duck feet! I’m not going to lie—they were pretty tasty. Really crunchy, though, which I guess is to be expected.

We spent almost an hour snatching up noodles, peeling open packages of sticky rice, and trying dumplings with loads of different fillings. During all of that, I began to feel really comfortable with the people around me. When it comes to food, all inhibitions about people for me seem to fall away, and I’m able to talk and try to get to know the people I’m sharing a meal with. Food, as I said before, is a method of communication for me—and it’s not just on the baking side of things.

After we were all stuffed, we headed out, and I stuck with a big group of fellow students while we walked back to the Academic Center together. It was the first time I felt really connected to everyone who had come up to Montreal, and I can confidently say that dim sum helped me along the way to making a lot more friends than I ever thought.

So, the moral of the story? Get free food whenever you can, especially at Champlain in Montreal. You never know what it’ll lead to.

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