I love that the United States is a melting pot. Today I found myself thinking about diversity and the many ways we can choose to embrace it. As a child born into a multicultural household (mother Asian, father WASP from the US) it has been important to me on a personal level to integrate and honor both cultures I represent.
For me, the process has been fairly easy. I was born a military brat and got the opportunity to travel with my family. Even better, my mom is an amazing cook who passed her skills down to her girls. The picture above is of a Filipino dish called pancit using rice noodles, veggies and chicken (though it can be done with other meats). Making this tasty Asian pasta for my Italian husband today was what put me on the path to this discussion.
I’ve enjoyed integrating our cultures through food, and so has my guy. As many of you know, he cooks, too. What’s funny is that he wasn’t exactly anyone’s idea of a culinary adventurer when I met him. He hadn’t even tried Chinese food, convinced he’d hate it. Too many childhood jokes about fried lice that he actually believed it. (And somewhere along the way he’d heard soy sauce was bug juice). Dating me changed that and opened his palate. (It’s amazing what guys will try to impress the girl.)
So, in our house these days, you could be treated to traditional American fare of pot roast or meatloaf or you might be served Asian fried rice or pancit….or even homemade ravioli or chicken cacciatore. The big regret I have is that I never learned my great grandmother’s Cornish pastie recipe.
But food is not the only blending I do. I’ve learned to merge my love of languages and music, too. I love that I can still remember a few of my favorite church songs in both Tagalog and English. Over the years I’ve even taught them to some of my friends. I enjoy the fact that I can still speak, read and write in both languages. My husband has even picked up some words and phrases over the years.
Which leads me straight onto a soapbox. As many of you have probably guessed, English is not my mom’s first language. Would you know it if you met her? Maybe not. She only has a hint of an accent. Why do I bring this up? Because there has been such a huge deal made lately about immigrants and their language choices that it’s had me shaking my head.
Why am I shaking my head? Because I sort of feel like we’ve brought some of these negative behaviors on ourselves. To be clear, I do believe that those who want US citizenship should be required to learn the language. I’m not saying to throw away or hide your primary language. In fact, I recommend you teach it to your children should you have any. I simply feel that if you decide to take up this country’s flag and the many benefits that come with it, the least you can do is learn the language. I believe this should be the case for whatever country you decide to reside in.
But here’s where we screw ourselves with our arrogance. We are notorious for going into other countries for vacations or business and demanding they speak English. Why? We are in their world, not ours. Is it any wonder why they get pissed off and return the favor when they come here?
We’re getting a taste of our own medicine, people!
The beauty of this country is in our diversity…and yes, there’s more than ethnics in diversity, but it’s what I decided to share today. If we were to take the time to understand and appreciate a few more cultures here within our melting pot, maybe we’d have a little less hatred and violence. There are so many cool and unique flavors to our many different cultures. I challenge you to try just one thing outside your cultural comfort zone and see what you learn.
Am I way off base with my little ramble? Have you had a really cool experience a little outside of your cultural box? What’s your favorite ethnic food?