Posts Tagged With: cultural diversity

Cultured diversions: Knowledge is comfort

Chris Rubber Dragon. Flickr. August 23, 2011

Chris Rubber Dragon. Flickr. August 23, 2011

Despite the abuse of the web by criminals and bullies, it offers breathtaking opportunities for the development of cultural diversity.  Even for residents of culturally diverse America, though, our first introductions to cultures different from our own may be via introductions to new tastes rather than new people.  Enjoying gyros, jerk chicken, sushi, or kielbasa with your family and friends requires little exposure to the unknown and much less risk of discomfort.  If you don’t like the gyros, your friends will understand.  You can discuss the flavors and textures that aren’t palatable to you.  Your order of a more familiar dish such as a hamburger or salad won’t embarrass your family.

Even if you devour your sushi and convey the all-American compliment of ordering a second helping, such biological and social nourishment isn’t sufficient to nurture the understanding required for pluralism.  Relationships with people, of course, require greater time and effort.  The nuances of verbal and nonverbal communication necessitate an investment in knowledge of other cultures.  Even if you choose to converse with people who speak English rather than learning another language, there are varying preferences for popular culture, greetings, gestures, and personal space.  Where will you sit?  Should you shake hands?  What will you talk about?  The possibilities for embarrassment have been multiplied.  The usual anxieties about meeting new people have been squared.

Fortunately, the web offers numerous and authentic opportunities to learn about varying cultures with no risk to your savior faire or your ego.  If you don’t like to read, photographs, videos, and audios abound.  Visits to sites for particular localities usually offer piquant overviews of community customs, events, and pastimes.  Language is no barrier due to online translation software.  Whether you’re becoming better acquainted with your teenaged grandchildren, planning a visit to an unfamiliar region of America, or welcoming your new neighbors, a little clicking will enable you to talk as well as exchange recipes.  The comforts of conversation will soon supersede those of comfort foods, too.

© Laura Rizzardini, Inc., 2013

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Food and cultural diversity

Carol Moshier. Flickr. February 6, 2009.

Globalization with ready accessibility to mass transportation has expanded the menus if not the palates of Americans.  Although authenticity has suffered, pizza, fried rice, tacos, and grits are readily and quickly available to many Americans.  For more adventurous eaters, gyros, bagels and lox, and ravioli abound.  Still, our culture of efficiency and economy has constrained the American diet.  If it can’t be located, purchased, prepared, and eaten quickly and economically, it has less value to Americans.  No wonder French food in America is defined by fries and mustard.  Similar reasons have prompted the celebration of beef sandwiches, deep dish pizza, and heaps of mostaccioli as Italian food in America.

Authentic French and Italian food are defined by the purity of their ingredients, the complexity of their dishes, and the slow pace of their service.  The time and expense required for its enjoyment prevents many Americans from preparing or eating French cuisine.  Italian fine dining in the United States has been diluted by large portions, packaged pastas, manufactured cheeses, iceberg lettuce, and house wines.  Unlike Italian families or first-generation Italian-Americans, Americans prepare frozen lasagna, serve boiled spaghetti with canned marinara sauce, and drench pale tomatoes in bottled oil and vinegar salad dressing.

For the hesitant, but courageous diner, fruits and vegetables offer inexpensive adventures in eating.  Their simplicity requires minimal risk.  Their purity rivals the finest restaurant meals.  Sampling kiwi fruit, jicama, lychee nuts, and papaya, is possible due to their availability and affordability.  Even plum tomatoes or tomatillos offer flavors and textures that distinguish them from American tomato varieties.  Consider expanding your dinner menus to include a fruit or vegetable novel to you once per week.  Incorporate your family’s favored ones into meals regularly.  You’ll have a chance to learn new recipes or presentations.

© Laura Rizzardini, Inc., 2011

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