Tag Archives: kid culture

Which End Up?

When it comes to the world – which end is up?

That’s a question that we don’t often consider. For most people, we’re pretty comfortable that North is up and South is down. But who determined that – and how does it affect our world view?

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Australians, in particular, are irritated about coming from “the bottom of the world.” Some of these flipped – or reverse – world maps spring from their desire to set the record straight. But they are not the only ones to have a different perspective.

Over time, maps have changed significantly. In Biblical times, East was at the top of the map. It’s actually where we get the term “orientation,” for the Orient.

It’s fun to think about – but it also has deeper significance. How does being “on top of the world” affect how Europeans and North Americans, in particular, see the world? How does it affect how we treat people who live “on the bottom”? Knowing that it’s a completely arbitrary way of looking at the world, why do so many people get upset when they see the “upside down” map?

Food for thought, I guess, and that’s always an interesting meal.

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Italian Dinner

For the last 30 years, one of my best friends has been a nice Italian girl named Cara. Through her family, I got to experience different food, family culture, and history without even thinking about it.

One of the best things about kids is how open-minded they can be. They’re often more willing to embrace new things and share their own family cultures. Laying a foundation of curiosity about other people early in life – and through friendships – helps children appreciate how our differences are nothing to fear.

Even as an adult, I’m still learning – and loving it. Recently, Cara’s family hosted their 2nd Annual Italian Dinner – an extravaganza of food, music, wine, and laughter that brought together family and friends from near and far. We enjoyed dishes from their family’s native Calabria in Italy, told stories, and even danced the tarantella. In fact, there was a fair number of medagon (non-Italians; it’s kind of like being a Muggle) enjoying the feast. I’m already looking forward to next year.

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The Joy of Julia

Julia ChildIn 1961, a gangly Californian with a funny voice introduced Americans to French cuisine – and culture.  The recent release of “Julie & Julia” has launched a renewed Julia Child love-fest.  The film chronicles Julia Child’s foray into French cooking in post-World War II France as well as how a Manhattan secretary named Julie Powell followed in her footsteps 40 years later.

But you don’t have to be a food-lover to appreciate Julia Child. In her book, My Life in France, Julia describes how she threw herself into the culture of France. Food was only a part of that. She describes meeting up with an old friend who was also living in France, “ . . . she loathed the Parisians, whom she considered horrid, mean, grasping, chiseling, and unfriendly in every way.” In contrast, Julia “loved the people, the food, the lay of the land, the civilized atmosphere, and the generous pace of life.”

Julia also briefly describes her life in China during World War II, a country and a culture that she and Paul Child, who later became her husband, also enjoyed. “We loved the earthy Chinese people and their marvelously crowded and noisy restaurants, and we spent a lot of our off-hours exploring different types of regional foods together.”

It reminds me of an old proverb. An old man was sitting outside a city’s gates. A traveler stopped and asked the old man what kind of people lived in the city. He replied, “What were the people like in the city you just left?” The traveler responded that they were horrible, mean, and cheats. The old man replied, “You will find the same people here.” The traveler kept going past the city. A second traveler asked the old man, “What kind of people live here?” The old man replied again with a question. “What were the people like in the city you just left?” The traveler said, “They were wonderful, kind, and generous.” The old man said, “You will find the same people here.”

The moral is that a lot of our interactions with new people, new cultures, and new experiences are influenced by our own attitudes and preconceptions. Julia brought the same cheerful, pleasant attitude to the people she met in China and France and so she found happiness wherever she went.

It’s a lesson that she emphasized in her signature sign-off, “Bon appétit.” To enjoy life, people, and food, anticipate that it will be good – or “bon.”

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