This is my final blog post. In the true spirit of “saving the best for last”, I have decided to continue speaking about the international food experience, and the culture of food, but with a whole other twist. As suggested by a very good friend of mine, I have decided to talk about ingredients. I struggled for some time to decide what exactly this means. Is it about the ingredients that exist in various cultures that for some reason are impossible to locate in America? And that’s when I realized it – this blog has been just as much about my experience as it has about the general experience. There is no general without the individual, and the individual is (at times) affirmed by the general. All this to say that I feel two specific types of way about ingredients:
- They make food FOOD.
- Part of the immigrant experience is finding ways to make the exact same dishes with the ingredients you have.
At some point in our class, out professor got to speaking briefly about how he feels there are so many cuisines and dishes that people (mostly people who have lived and grown up in “first-world nations” such as America) often expect to taste one way, when in fact they don’t taste that way a lot. I personally have heard a large portion of Americans say how much they love Chinese/Indian/Greek food. And it’s interesting, this idea of the transnationalism of food. Because many people from these nations will say and have said that the dishes the Western world considers to be cultural and traditional are actually usually completely wrong, or just variations that don’t actually taste or look that way in the culture and/or country itself.
When these dishes are made by people who have immigrated to America, often they just don’t have easy and affordable access to the same ingredients. There is thus this moral dilemma, if you will, of trying to accurately recreate dishes from their home countries and cultures that their families, friends and others can enjoy. But without this access to the ingredients they need, it becomes virtually impossible to recreate the flavors of home. I think this takes me back to the idea of going home. Of return. Food is a search for home, an exploration of self.