Monday, March 15, 2010

International Stew

When I was in college, I spent six months in Chile. While there, we mostly ate Chilean food (think, seven parts starch, one part unidentifiable protein, probably fried). A girl, Claudia, on our trip was from Mexico, so one day we decided to look up and go to a Mexican food restaurant. She wanted a taste of home and the rest of us wanted a taste of Mexican food.
I will never forget how excited Claudia was that they had Mexican rice on the menu. It was one of her favorite foods--all that tomatoey, spicy, goodness--and she was practically bouncing in her chair until the meal came out. Including the rice. Which, turned out to be plain ol' rice, died to look like the Mexican flag. It was funny and tragic all at once.
I thought about this today because I'm travelling, so I had to eat dinner out. I was writing up a report and mulling over what I wanted for dinner. Italian? Mexican? American? I am in a smallish town in NC, so those, plus BBQ and a Chinese buffet comprised my dinner options. It took me an hour to decide on American, and then the front desk clerk recommended this "really good little Italian place." I have a personal credo not to pass up really good little Italian places, so I changed my mind.
As I sipped a cheap white and debated the merits of shrimp scampi vs. chicken puttanesca, it struck me how great it is to have so many choices. As an American, born in the melting pot, I forget that International stew isn't the norm everywhere, or really anywhere but here I suppose.
If I'd been born in Chile, let's say, I'd be wondering which starch I would eat and what the unidentifiable fried protein actually was. But no, I have an entire globe of options (okay, the Chinese probably isn't super authentic, but still) at my disposal.
I love diversity and options! I love that it is normal to see people who speak differently, look differently, and cook differently than I do. I love that the abnormal is the norm. I love that when I order Mexican rice I don't get back an edible flag, and I love really good little Italian places.
Thank you, God, for this crazy, diverse, beautiful world and all the crazy, diverse, beautiful people you populated it with. Please bless the Chileans who were in the earthquake, protect them and help them rebuild.

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