Acceptance, it starts with food (#18)

My grandmother was the cook in the house when I was growing up. She was a traditional good, thrifty German-style cook but the meals were a little repetitious. On Sunday we had a roast and then the next three days we had leftovers. We had beef three days in each week and pork for two days. I was 17 before I tasted pizza. The only pasta we ever ate was elbow macaroni and that was in the form of macaroni and cheese. We ate out twice a year and each time I was cautioned to order something safe like the roast chicken. When I was in high school and she was in her late 70’s a revolution occurred in our kitchen. Julia Child’s Mastering the Art of French Cooking began to be televised and our home and the entire United States started to understand cultural diversity.

I cringe when I think of those bygone days when everyone lived in a cultural food ghetto. If your family was German you ate potato pancakes, roast pork, and vegetables boiled into submission. If you were Italian you ate only Italian dishes. My mother went to school in the South and never overcame her distaste for collards. I grew up thinking that British food was “mushy” and Italian food was “stringy”, the Chinese lived on chow mein and Africans had no cuisine at all. Thinking that your own food was naturally superior and healthful was the accepted cultural outlook. There were as many prejudices about food as there were about ethnicity and skin color.

Friends of mine who are black bought a house in the 1960’s in a previously all-white neighborhood. One day they caught their neighbor staring through the dining room window as they ate dinner. When my friend invited the neighbor, Violet, in she remarked, “I am just amazed! You eat with knives and forks just like the rest of us.” Violet’s amazement was just a little more pronounced than my family’s reaction when we had dinner at the home of a Jewish family and they served hamburgers. They ate the same kinds of food as we did, what a surprise. Yes, we were all that provincial and closed-minded.

Today people eat out more and they are far more adventurous when it comes to food. At the Loft we support the new gastronomy that lets you travel the world on one plate. Recently the celebrity chefs were from a local restaurant and the kids ate a Portuguese dish with pork and clams. I hear it was not only delicious but also ground-breaking. The kids who thought they would never eat anything “weird” loved it. They made one small step in getting to know how other people live when the walls of their self-imposed culinary ghetto began to crumble.

Once you learn that sushi is not poison you might become more interested in Japan. If you eat Polynesian food and love it you might want to know more about Pacific culture. Maine is a wonderful state and I would not want to live anywhere else on earth but I want our kids to see the options in the world. I want them to embrace their own culture and the lives of others. Once a former Game Loft member said to me, “I’ve been to Toledo, I never have to travel again.” I know that was an isolated comment because that young man married a girl from Ireland and visited her family there. We are working at the Loft to open the world to our kids and to prepare them to enjoy all it has to offer.

Thank you Mark and Anita at Captain A.V. Nickels Inn and Mermaid at the Homeport for serving our kids a traditional Portuguese dish with pork, clams, and calamari in a perfectly seasoned tomato based sauce. It was spectacular!!!

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Patricia Estabrook

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