This I Believe

Portia - Norfolk, Virginia
Entered on July 21, 2006
Age Group: 18 - 30
Themes: family, tolerance
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Food Fight

Much like the fictional family in the movie “Soul Food,” my family believes in holding regular gatherings with everyone centered around the dining room table. My family is multiracial so the variations in the type of foods that are prepared consist of an array of dishes from soul food to Indian cuisine. I have always believed that food can bring a sense of togetherness in a family despite their differences. It may sound silly, but in my family food is no laughing matter. As you can imagine, this can bring some tension to a family.

My African American family can become very serious when it comes to food. The people on my father’s side of the family take pride in their great dishes. The McClurkin’s have a system of recipes passed down from mother to daughter and father to son. For instance, my grandfather gave my dad a book of main course dishes that has been in the family for almost a century. My family makes these traditional dishes when the whole family gathers together and for the most part they are all that we serve. When my mother’s traditional Indian family gets thrown in the mix all sort of tensions arise.

Food is also an essential part of my Indian family. Most of the members in my mother’s family do not eat meat of any kind. Those who do eat meat do not eat beef or pork. About four years ago when the two extended families were first introduced at the dinner table, the differences in the type of dishes that were offered caused some uproar. Even though the aboa curry that my aunt made smelled like pure bliss, no one but her family and I ate it. Moments after my first bite of aboa curry, my olfactory sensors were filled with the sent of tender juicy pork chops. I was ready to eat but everyone else had reservations. My father’s mother was insulted that none of my mother’s family would eat her pork chops or green bean casserole and my mother’s family was appalled that no one so much as touched their aboa curry.

As words flew across the table I remembered something. I had tried both dishes and was quite fond of them. In the midst of the confusion, I cried out that even though the aboa was not beef or pork, it was both flavorful and delicious. I then turned to my mother’s family and told them that the green been casserole was similar in taste to an Indian salad. I could see the eyes of the people around the table looking at me as though they were ashamed of their actions. Tensions began to melt and for the first time we looked like a family. Once their differences were behind them my mother’s Indian family and my father’s African American family experienced the new dishes and were surprised at how good they tasted.

That evening we all sat at the table and enjoyed cooking from both families. Ever since then our family accepts dishes from everyone. As I think back on the situation and the bridge that I played between two families, I realize that though we may be culturally different, we all believe that even though food can distinguish us from one another, it can bring people together. Now, instead of fighting over food, we celebrate it.