First March Entries

Marita – Riverside, California

Another Form of Art

My uncle and I went to eat at Dave and Buster’s a couple of summers ago. I ordered their special nachos. Nachos, in my opinion, are a fun snack. They incorporate many textures, tastes, and combinations of other foods: fresh tortillas layered with melted queso, black beans, salsa, lettuce, jalapenos, sour cream, and of course, the fresh guacamole. I find it amazing how you can transform a list of food ingredients to create one whole unique appetizer.

My uncle brought up the topic of school. How is it? Good. Do you have a lot of Chaldean friends? No. Why not? I don’t associate myself with them. His face looked dissatisfied and he didn’t let the subject go. He began discussing the importance of our culture. He said “Trees cannot grow without their roots. Being Chaldean is your root. Without it, you can’t grow”.

I have yet to meet anyone in college so far who knows what Chaldean culture is. Growing up, I was surrounded by that community of people. We are from Northern Iraq and classify ourselves as “Christian Catholic Iraqis”. We speak Neo-Aramaic and distinguish ourselves from Arabs. Culture is vital to my family and community. Our culture has survived for centuries.  The Chaldean community is not heavily dispersed in America, but we’ve still proven how our culture cannot simply vanish.

I am what’s called a “hyphen America”. My family have stressed to me the importance of maintaining my culture. Those who know me see me as “white passing”. I’m not super cultural, but I do keep certain values of my culture embedded to me. Growing up a hyphen American has forced me to establish a common ground between culture and assimilation. Through this, I’ve obtained my own perspective, a creative one. Creativity allows me to expand my perspective and considers other’s perspectives. Creativity allows room for diversity. To me, food is a form of art.

Food is unique to every culture. It’s fascinating how each place around the world cooks and serves their food differently. My culture has interesting cuisines that encourages my friends to always come over. However, I’m a vegetarian and I don’t find myself indulging in sheep’s feet to be appetizing. Vegetarianism clearly isn’t something I picked up from the Chaldean culture. Although, I’m not missing out on my cultural consumption. There are many ways I incorporate what I like into the foods my grandma prepares. I enjoy adding hot sauce to my tabbouleh and lemon to my potato curry. I like to get creative with my food. What I eat is one of my forms of expression. Adding hot sauce to my foods presents how much I enjoy spices.  I believe there’s room to have both authentic food and foods that have been modified to satisfy other taste buds. The McDonald’s in India contains actual spices in their food compared to the American restaurant. Indian McDonald’s in contrast to other McDonald’s restaurants is a form of expression of Indian cuisine. The culture is still there, just in a different form.

I believe I’ve found my place between westernization and Chaldean culture. Just like the nachos, I incorporate what I like into my foods to enhance the quality and taste. I express my vegetarianism and culture through the foods I eat. I’m creative with my choice of condiments and I don’t fear hot sauce. I’m not shy to go outside the box and allow more diversity to my taste buds. Food is a form of art, and I believe it’s important to allow room for diversity and assimilation.