I just finished watching Anthony Bourdain’s “No Reservations” on the Travel Channel. This episode took Anthony to Dubai, which is one of the seven states of the United Arab Emirates. Anthony calls Dubai a 21st Century City. He visits places that are both exclusive and homely. Dubai appears to be a 21st Century Melting Pot. There are over 180 different nationalities living there. So the food is reflective of this commingling of cultures.
The most poignant part of the episode was when Mohammad Parham (an Emirati or a UAE national) paraphrased a quote that was originally stated by Jane Addams. Ms. Addams was a social worker, peace builder and one of the founders of Hull House in Chicago, Illinois. Hull House became a place that helped to progress social reform. (Interestingly enough, the neighborhood that housed Hull House was made up predominantly of Italian immigrants.)
Anyhow, Anthony is sitting around a huge table, feasting with Mohammad and his family. Toward the end of the meal, Mohammad says, “Human beings are more similar than they are different…” He points to his outfit and says if you take away the clothing you could be in any setting anywhere in the world. I paused the television (I had it DVR-ed) and listened to their conversation again, this time more closely. What a true and affecting quote. I looked up who said the original quote and found that it was Jane Addams, who I mentioned earlier. Her full quote was “Human beings are more similar than they are different and what unites is stronger than what divides.” We should all take this quote to heart and live this quote everyday of our short lives. It is so true how similar we are. Don’t we all love, eat, cook, celebrate, cry, mourn, yearn, bleed, care, etc? Our customs, traditions and clothes we were might be different, but then again when you look at the big picture are we really all that different? I say absolutely not!
Growing up, I was skeptical when it came to trying foods from cultures other than my own (namely Italian and American). But as I have gotten older, I have come to the realization that there is a lot more to food, cooking, cultures and customs than what I grew up with. Nowadays, I love trying new and diverse foods from cultures throughout the world. I have found that by expanding my culinary palate, I have become a better and more open-minded human being. I feel that by experiencing the cultures and cuisines of other peoples, we realize that we are one big global community. Sure we might look different, but beyond the color of our skin, we are truly all the same.
So I challenge you to go out into the big, wide world of food and experience at least one new cuisine. Let it be a cuisine that you never thought you would have eaten. You’ll be surprised, and your eyes will be forever open. I’m not saying you have to love what you eat (although there is a great possibility you will), but it is important to respect the customs and traditions that went into preparing that food item or that meal. You might even recognize some of the flavor profiles as being familiar to your favorite cuisine. Have fun with this. I am looking forward to hearing what you try and what your experience is. Enjoy!
Living to eat,