InterVarsity Christian Fellowship and PAACE co-host community dinner

Students bond over homemade Asian dishes.


Angela Tu

Aislinn Niimi, ’24, prepares egg rolls.

Catherine McKean

Students gathered in the ARC House on the evening of Sept. 30 for the community dinner co-hosted by InterVarsity Christian Fellowship and the Pan-Asian Association for Cultural Exchange (PAACE).

“I’m really happy to see all of you here tonight,” said PAACE secretary and InterVarsity small group leader Aislinn Niimi, ’24 . “I know this past week has been busy for a lot of us, but we still have an amazing turnout. I’m very glad that we were able to do this dinner so that we could all come out for some great food.”

The homemade dishes, which included broccoli-tofu stir fry, potstickers and egg rolls were made from scratch by Niimi, who said she believes that food is a great catalyst in human connection because it can be shared by everyone.

“Everyone eats food,” she said. “It’s so universal.”

Food is a big part of culture and tradition, Niimi said. 

“It’s passed down from person to person and can be learned. You learn to cook from your parents, your family, your community,” she said. “I learned to cook Japanese dishes traditionally, the homemade way, from my mom. Although she is white-American, she learned how to cook these Asian dishes after she married my dad and lived in diverse San Francisco, and in turn was able to teach me.” 

Niimi said that finding certain materials and ingredients in a small town is a challenge, but she has been able to make do.

“I actually prepared this year by bringing some of my favorites from home,” Niimi said. “I have also found that Kroger does offer a surprisingly good collection of Asian ingredients, so it’s definitely possible to make good Asian dishes here in Lexington.”

Angela Tu, ’24, who serves as PAACE’s public relations officer, said the idea for a community dinner has been in the works for a while.

“COVID has made it really difficult for both of our groups to expand,” Tu said. “The sharing of culture is something we find really important. We want PAACE to be available to all of the Washington and Lee community in order to share Asian culture, and this idea of sharing culture and connection is what InterVarsity stands for as well.”

Lauren Miller, ’22, who attended the event, said she enjoys events that allow for connection between students.

“I come to these sorts of big group events as often as I can,” Miller said. “COVID has understandably made these gatherings difficult, but I really do enjoy the big group setting. This event is also giving me a nice reprieve from all of the work I have.”

Both PAACE and the InterVarsity Fraternity plan on organizing more food-based events with Washington and Lee’s other cultural organizations in the near future. Students can keep an eye on their social media accounts to be alerted.