I realize that food is a tremendous source of inequity in the world … some folks have too much, some too little. However, I decided to write about the connections we share through food traditions.
Food is an important aspect of culture and connection. In our diverse household, we dye easter eggs and hide matzoh in the spring. We eat latkes and Christmas cookies in the winter. Food is an important part of our celebrations and a way to maintain a connection to our family’s diverse ethnic background.
When we travel the world, food allows us to explore other cultures … both for good and ill. I was adventurous, eating market-stall dumplings in Beijing, only to pay the price for several days after (eating undercooked meat!). We played it “safe” in Egypt, ordering pizza from a very western hotel room service, only to find it was not any kind of pizza we had ever met. We’ve endured more traditional English breakfast sausages than can be counted …
But mostly the food adventures have been glorious. In Cairo, when I tried Turkish coffee for the first time, every waiter came out of the kitchen to see how I liked it. In Athens, my daughter and I ventured into a grocery store to buy olives and pistachio nuts – and then sat by the water at sunset eating one of the best meals we’d ever had. We sipped high cream tea with friends in Winchester, munched on croissants in the Dordogne, and sipped red wine in Rome.
Some of my favorite moments have come when my daughter realized as she ate noodles in China, or pasta in Italy, that we all share so many foods – but it’s a culture’s individualization through spices, sauces, and cooking styles, that make them unique. We are the same and we are different.
I pity Americans who visit another country and spend a moment in McDonald’s or Burger King. The whole point of traveling is to see someplace new, experience another culture – step out of your ordinary routine world for a little while. It will return, soon enough.