Thursday, April 10, 2008

A world in one city.

My first post alluded to the sensory fusion growing up with Vietnamese and American foods, particularly the butter-and-sugar-coated-toasted-white-bread slices that my aunt would deliberately plow in my face (She had good intentions - trust me). While rice was the staple, my mother would drudge away for hours on end after work to fill the kitchen with discerning aromas - spicy, sweet, succinct, and sharp - perks that I'm sure she grew up with in Vietnam thousands of miles away.

The Food & South Asian cultures seminar I'm experiencing includes weekly readings. This week's prose was brought by a NYT writer, Seth Kugal, who could sympathize with what my mother and I grew up with. Seth Kugal scoured ethnic markets at the end of February this year to catch a glimpse (and taste) of the panoply of cultural foods in one dense New York City.

Euphoria aside, can cultural demands in an urbanized city where one in three are immigrants meet sustainable practices in the long run? This is the dilemma that I faced attending a "Liberty, Innovation, and the Environment" seminar last summer in Berkeley hosted by the Institute for Humane Studies. How can generations sustain their cultural gastronomy when these generations may be physically detached from one another? In addition, how can an emigrated generation sustain the very biological needs for survival without losing cultural honor?

And when cultural foods are reintroduced to new territory, are these very practices environmentally-conscious? If the very ingredients, instruments, and cooking-ware aren't available in a new location, what cultural identities will be sacrificed?

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