Take a look at the following photos:
What cuisines do they make you think of? Well, if you’re like the handful of folks that I showed the photos to in person, you most likely rattled them off just like they did: Chinese, Italian, and American*. It’s normal to consider foods as belonging to one culture or another, but the question at hand is do we allow certain stereotypes to impact the food we decide to eat?
I offer up a simple example, a comment I heard in the last 30 days.
I don’t like curry
Now, personally, I love Indian food. At one point prior to my wife getting pregnant, we were getting Indian take out just about once a week. While we certainly appreciate subtle flavors, we do enjoy the occasional kick in the taste buds! Indian curries involve a LOT of flavor! For that reason, I can understand it being slightly overwhelming to some. But, should the fact of not liking curries impact a person’s willingness to try Indian food? Not everything in Indian cuisine is a curry. Tandoori would be an excellent choice in this instance, giving you an opportunity to try something you may not have had before and opening yourself up to a new food experience!
Don’t even get me started on the variety of naan! :)
But, lets apply the same concept to another cuisine. Thinking back a moment to one of the photos shown above: spaghetti and meatballs. We’ve established that in the mind of most Americans, spaghetti and meatballs is an Italian dish (make sure to check the footnote at the bottom!). Now imagine that you believe that one dish to represent all the dishes on the vast landscape of Italian cuisine. What if you weren’t a fan of tomato based sauces? You’d be in quite the pickle!
Are we afraid to go ahead and try something different because we’ve locked ourselves in to believing a culinary stereotype?
Keep an open mind
The truth of the matter is that there is no limit to what you can find in the culinary world. Sure, when we see a burger, we think of America and for good reason. Burgers are American, and we have some damn good ones! But, does that in anyway encompass the whole spectrum of American cuisine? Of course not! So why limit yourself when it comes to the whole world of culinary experiences that are waiting for you?
*So if you thought you were spot on in identifying the photos and which cuisine they belonged to, you might want to think again. Of the three, the burger, in its various incarnations, is indeed viewed as being an American dish. Both the fortune cookie and spaghetti and meatballs, however, are not typical of Chinese or (authentic) Italian cuisine. “Um, what?” you may ask. It’s true! Fortune cookies are believed to be a Japanese invention, the vast majority of them found in Chinese restaurants in the United States. In fact, in 1989, fortune cookies were reportedly imported in to Hong Kong and sold as “genuine American fortune cookies.” Spaghetti and meatballs, while having some precursors in true Italian cooking, first made its way to the plate in New York City in the early 1900’s. So, while we may make the association of certain foods to specific cuisine, that doesn’t mean we’re right. Definitely something for us all to chew on! :)