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The Cultures We Cook

My family is pretty mixed up (in a good way, mind you) when it comes to the ethnicities we incorporated in our daily life.Growing up, my father considered himself Muslim, though only showed it by not eating pork and fasting during Ramadan.My mother, a preacher's daughter, considers herself Hindu, but has an interest in all religions on a philosophical level.Ironically, we all attended a Baptist church until my brother and I were old enough to assert that we didn't want to go any more. Food-wise, we ate pretty exotic cuisine for Americans. My father cooked chili and often attempted Feijoada(with beef instead of pork). My mother loved Indian food but only knew how to make goat curry. She'd sometimes make fish stew in palm oil and have it with garri that we'd eat only with our right hand.Yes, we'd have the typical American/European meals of pasta and cheese, hot dogs and eggs,but I have more memories of curry than pasta.

My own personal tastes tend to lean toward East Asian Cuisine. I have yet to master it, but I can make pretty good stir-fry and Japanese-style curry rice (using the ready-made paste cubes, however). I really want to make proper rice balls, but I'm a bit too impatient to make it right.


I've been thinking recently that it's kind of odd how my family, myself included, seems to pick and choose cultures that inspire us to cook. On one hand, I feel that it's a sure sign of our privilege that we can experiment with the kind of food we eat. It brings to mind all the "Asian" food that people make nowadays that take this interest in another culture's cuisine and neuters it to suit an American palette.On the other hand, some people with more money than we had wouldn't be caught dead eating goat, and that's a shame.Food is a huge thing in all cultures, and you can really connect with people if you're willing to try their food.It's like traveling in your own kitchen.

With the world becoming less disconnected with the internet and globalization, is it okay for the way we cook to follow suit?There is a lot that can be gained, but some things can be lost in the shuffle as well.But that has happened for centuries before as a culture's cuisine gets made. Early slaves in America might have lost their local cuisine(be it fish, goat, or cow depending on the culture and location), but they created a new kind of cuisine that defined the new world that they lived in.Is that what's happening now with even mainstream cooking magazines including "exotic" food on the menu?I'm not even sure of that, but all I know is that it used to be weird that my family ate goat curry, but I'm not sure if that's the case anymore.

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