Expanding Our Geographical Taste Buds – How Enjoying Food from Other Countries Can Expand Our World

 

“Tomatoes and oregano make it Italian; wine and tarragon make it French. Sour cream makes it Russian; lemon and cinnamon make it Greek. Soy sauce makes it Chinese; garlic makes it good.”

~Alice May Brock

 

The United States is one of the most culturally diverse countries in the world! In any major city, families have an array of food choices to experience the flavors of cuisine from around the world. It is truly fantastic!

 

When our family traveled around the U.S., we always looked for the place where “locals” ate. These little foodie nooks represented the culture and the taste of the city we were visiting. We could always learn not just about the customs, food and preferences of the people in the area, but we could also learn about the architectural inclinations of the town and all the things they held dear.

 

Every new restaurant represented an adventure to the senses and of course, we were always ready to take on the new experiences! Traveling to Louisiana, we made sure to try Cajun food and passing by South Carolina, we stopped at our favorite restaurant for catfish and black eyed peas. California always welcomed us with the most amazing burgers at the popular In-N-Out Burger. Austin, Texas had the most amazing shaved ice ever and Des Moines, Iowa refreshed us with sarsaparilla. Along the way, we found our favorite spots and made sure to return year after year.

 

After some time of doing this, we started realizing that all cities had some foreign influence as well. Detroit, Michigan had a large population of Iraqi families- it was simple to notice it by the amount of restaurants that reflected their culture. When visiting Los Angeles, we appreciated the many options of Indian Cuisine. And in our own “neck of the woods,” we found endless choices of Argentine, Nicaraguan, Venezuelan and Cuban food, just to name a few.

 

With my personal passion for culture, I started looking for foreign restaurants in the United States. The more traditional, the better. Upon entering each restaurant, I made sure to notice the decor and the dressing attire of the waiters. I also inquired about the menu and often asked the waiter to pronounce the names and explain in detail where the dishes originated, how they were eaten and what gave them their unique flavor. We talked about spices used and vegetables that were not common to us. We usually ordered a variety of dishes and never kept it “safe.” In other words, we ventured to try new things ALWAYS. We tried appetizers, breads, main dishes, desserts and drinks…we tried it all!

 

When my family left each restaurant, our bellies were full, but most importantly, our knowledge of customs, dishes and people of other countries had grown. Although this does not replace traveling abroad, it is certainly a phenomenal option and a way to live outside your comfort zone. We must enjoy the diversity this nation has to offer. By visiting a foreign restaurant, you will have an opportunity to expand your horizons and to be more sensitive to people who are different from you. This experience will also allow you to have topics of conversation with others and to build bridges between cultures.

 

I invite you to look for a foreign restaurant in your city. Invest in a family visit to the restaurant and consider your to do list done, while someone else cooks and you delight in actively learning about foreign cultures!

 

P.S.  Check out Not Just Tacos, my own cultural cookbook where you learn unique facts about the different regions of Latin America while preparing delicious food!

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