Celebrating Originality this Holiday Season

I’m such an Ella Fitzgerald fan that I couldn’t let this holiday go without sharing her magnificent, fun self.

Rudolph’s story has always had a soft spot in my heart because he was different, picked on, and laughed at….but his beautiful originality was what wound up saving Christmas. Just goes to show that being unique is a gift, not a curse. We need to better learn to embrace it.

Melting Pots, Ethnic Food and Language

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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?

Do Unusual Foods Tie In To Diversity?

My sister is continuing her education.  Her classes have been online courses, so she hasn’t had to miss a single day of schoolwork while she’s here.  She’s taking two courses. One is in her chosen career of nursing. The second, and most interesting, is a diversity course.

In a prior life I took a class in leading diverse teams and found it quite interesting and educational. She shared some of her scenarios that they were required to discuss, and I found them to be quite thought provoking. Of course, there’s still the random person that reacts rashly, strictly going by gut instead of considering from all angles, but there were also a number of people who gave well thought out responses.  I thought it might be interesting to get a feel for everyone’s point of view here as there are many people from different cultures.

The thing about the first couple of questions were that it forced you to consider ethnocentrism versus racism as well as cultural diversity. Ethnocentrism is the belief that your your culture or social group is inherently superior to others. Racism is a hatred or intolerance of other races. On the surface they look to be very similar. What do you see as the differences?

As for the questions…I’ve created my own samples as hers came from a class. Here’s the first one:

A large department store company has invited a very successful Italian designer from Italy to come to New York City to meet with one of their executives and to work out a potential deal to carry the clothing line in his stores. He decides to take the designer to a fine American restaurant.

They were seated and placing their orders with the waiter. The Italian gentleman ordered “filetto di cavallo”, only to be told that it wasn’t on the menu. The designer expressed his disappointment with such “limited” options, and throughout the meal became more and more disinterested. At the end of dinner they shook hands and the Italian gentleman went back to his room.

The following morning, when the young exec called the hotel to make arrangements for the tour of the offices and some of their top stores he was informed that the gentleman had checked out and gone home.

When the owner called him for an update, he told him that the gentleman had gone back to Italy. The owner asked what happened, and all the exec could say was that he’d ordered something called “filetto di cavallo”, but it wasn’t on the menu.

The owner replied, agast, “He ordered horse?”

What do you think of the situation? Was there anything the young executive could have done differently that may have changed the outcome of this meeting? What do you think this has to do with diversity, tolerance and ethnocentrism? Is it wrong to eat something just because it’s not common in the US?

I found this thought provoking… What WOULD I have done differently? I figured out a couple of things I might have done differently. What about you? I’d be curious about the cross cultural implications…

Family Time

Well, my sister and her husband are in town and staying with us. They arrived on Halloween evening and go back to Chicago on Monday. So far our time has been spent catching up, walking our dogs and enjoying our pool (we heated it for their time here).

While they’re here, my sister is also doing her schoolwork for her classes she’s taking online. Her nursing one is work…but she’s also taking a Diversity class that we’re both finding very interesting. I remember taking a workshop at my prior job about leading diverse teams. This takes it a step further. I think tomorrow I’ll be posting some of the intriguing questions that have come up.

Tonight we spent our evening playing Apples To Apples…a very fun game. Have you guys ever heard of it? Basically each person takes a turn as the reader. The reader reads off a specific word and definition. Everyone else has 7 cards that have words that could be used as an explanation or example to represent the reader’s word. Once all the cards are selected each person gets an opportunity to argue their case to the reader. The reader picks which word he thinks best represents the definition. It’s freaking hilarious! What games do you guys enjoy playing with friends? Do you guys play board games?

Tomorrow we go to a cousin’s birthday party. The next day is our family’s early Thanksgiving since my sis and her hubby won’t be here. We’re gonna head to mom’s to chow down! My hubby will be making a gluten free chocolate pecan pie. I’ll probably be making a carrot cake. Step dad will be deep frying a turkey.

What foods do you look forward to for Thanksgiving?