Triangle Chatter

No, We Didn't Forget the "O"

FREEDM Systems CenterAs the leaves turn to shades of crimson and gold and the morning frost accumulates on the last surviving blades of green grass, we begin the inexorable race toward the end of the calendar year.  The change from Daylight Saving Time to Eastern Daylight Time always feels to me like a shot from a cosmic starting pistol, in a race into the wonderfully exhausting holiday season and all that it brings.  The days are shorter, we speculate on the severity of the coming winter, and both work and personal end-of-year deadlines loom large.  Winter gear and holiday decorations are hauled out of storage, we cram projects that absolutely, positively must get done before winter, and make token attempts at  fulfilling new year’s resolutions. The cycle repeats itself every year, though each time feels a bit different.

It’s at time like this that I think most about … Food.   It’s at once one of the most basic human needs, but at the same time, the one that can give the most pleasure.   Oh, I enjoyed my obligatory corn dog, smoked turkey drumstick, and fried [fill in the blank] at the NC State Fair, but they don’t compare to the smorgasbord of gastronomic delights that await us at the big family gatherings and holiday parties in the coming months.  Nothing is more enjoyable than being able to savor both common, family favorites and to also sample delicacies from the many cultures and backgrounds as we visit with family and friends in the coming months. 

Here in the FREEDM Systems Center (hold the “O”), we have students and faculty from around the world and the cultural milieu is best observed at lunch in the break room.   The aromas are at once enticing and provocative.  For a food lover like me, the aromas and combinations of ingredients are fascinating to see.   To use an automotive analogy, my daily salad and turkey sandwich are like an unmarked, white, State minivan in comparison.  I wish we could swap lunches like in grade school!    And for me, the annual pot luck Thanksgiving party is the highlight of the year (sorry National Science Foundation).  Though many students come from countries where Thanksgiving is not celebrated, both male and female students alike, enthusiastically whip up some of their favorite dishes from home; much to the delight of everyone in attendance.   The buffet is one great big United Nations feast.   I’ve become a big fan of Ban mi, chana dal, biryani, steamed dumplings, baklava, and curried [fill in the blank]. I can report that Americans are not the only ones who worship the holy trinity of sugar, salt, and fat.  We always give a prize for the best dish, and I’ve often peppered (no pun intended) the winners with questions about its origin and for a copy of the recipe.  I’ve learned a lot about culture, music, religion, and history in this environment and find it quite enlightening.  I’m convinced that the diversity of cultures and ethnicities is what helps us be successful.  The center’s mission is focused on electric power system research, engineering education, and technology innovation.  I just wish that in addition to sharing our amazing research results, there was more sharing at lunch.

Author: Rogelio Sullivan, Managing Director, FREEDM Systems Center, NC State University                                                                                          

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