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Mar 6, 2008 03:35 AM

Very multicultural families: What foods can you all agree on?

My family is Chinese, Indian, German, Swiss, Irish, not all of whom have been tempered by the homogenizing influence of living in a diverse city. I'm wondering what I'd do if (really, when) I bring them all under one roof, for one meal. Are there dishes you've come across, not necessarily from these cultures, that you've found to be universally (or near universally) appealing?

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  1. I grew up in a family comprised of Filipinos, Pakistani/Middle-Eastern hybrids, Creole, Argentine and generically American members, so we had not only ethnic differences, but differing religious restrictions. In general I found that we could all come together with comforting, starchy dishes: usually something with rice or noodles to satisfy the Asians among us. Biryanis were well-received if not too heavily spiced; fried rice or paella were near ubiquitous. Noodles like pancit or chow mein were also popular. Otherwise it was American food that brought us together. Everyone loved barbecue. Hot dogs, burgers, ribs, and the occasional bulgogi or tandoori. Everyone happily ate a traditional Thanksgiving dinner, with the caveat that half of us would eat rice rather than potatoes or stuffing. And if we were to go out for dinner, we could all agree on Chinese: it's a uniter, not a divider.

    1 Reply
    1. re: JungMann

      Starches are a great idea, JungMann (except for maybe the diabetic members of the clan) -- thanks! I hadn't thought of making biryani for my Chinese relatives. That might be an Indian dish they'd actually eat.

      I do think most everyone will eat mashed potatoes, too.... And maybe latkes can unite us all.

    2. We're Native American (NDN), Hispanic, German, Swedish and something else around here. It escapes me at the moment. I do the whole fry bread and squash thing, which the rest like. I'm also a good bit Swedish and grew up in a house with a Swedish dad and Grandparents (adopted) who were very keen on the passing on of the food of the old country (first generation). I do Swedish food and love my creamed herring. Which is a good way to clear the kitchen, since everyone else hates it.

      My husband (German descent and pretty close to the food of his ancestry gastronomically speaking) will eat anything, but is very fond of meat and potatoes.

      Two of my boys (adopted) are Hispanic. One is not too keen on Mexican food, but the other one is starting to get this whole Latin Identity thing going and wants to eat Mexican food. The problem is, to a ten year old, Taco Bell is Mexican food. Shudder. I'm hoping his tastes broaden after a cruise to Mexico we are planning.

      Taco Bell. Ugh.

      I'm also someone who cooks from many regions and cuisines. So there are a lot of Asian influences and Southern European. I don't do much African. I've not fallen in love with the cuisine, yet.

      2 Replies
      1. re: nliedel

        You sound like you have a really wonderful family, nliedel -- despite the fact that they don't like creamed herring (I'm not sure I can wrap my mind around that ;).

        What do you serve when you have everyone over? Do you just borrow a little from each culture?

        1. re: cimui

          Creamed herring, of course. LOL!!!

          I do some meals sometimes and others other times. Depends on what I want to cook. It changes daily.

      2. Sorry if this gets posted twice. For us, pancit and lumpia are always a hit. Fry bread, of course, but I don't make it that often. Green salad always goes untouched, so I don't even bother anymore.

        1 Reply
        1. re: foodiemommy

          Haha. At least everyone is united in their DISlike of salad. :) It's the same way in my family. Only people who are dieting will eat salad -- and then they do it with the most mournful look on their faces....

        2. Growing up in a family comprised of mostly Korean with some Japanese, Cajun, Irish, German and Chinese, we've found that rice, Korean BBQ, salmon (seasoned with salt, pepper and paprika), jap chae, steak and salad (1000 Island for the Koreans, vinaigrette for the others) were loved by all. Unlike JungMann, not all of the Koreans liked hot dogs, burgers. Kimchee and a lot of the banchan didn't go well with some of the non-Koreans. And I grew up in a family where almost all the older people hated Indian food.

          And I agree about the Chinese food. Good uniter.

          7 Replies
          1. re: Miss Needle

            My older (read: parent's age or older) Chinese relatives HATE Indian food and my older Indian relatives HATE Chinese food. I suspect it has to do, in part, with the 1962 Sino-Indian war.

            Everyone can agree on Korean barbecue except for the Indian vegetarians!

            1. re: cimui

              Wow. I don't think I've met anybody who's hated Chinese food.

              What about dumplings? Every culture's got dumplings of some sort. You can have veggie ones for the Indian vegetarians. If you want to do it East Asian style, just call them mandoo or gyoza for your Indian relatives.

              1. re: cimui

                Here in CA, we actually have a few Chinese Indian restaurants. Would your family be ok with that I wonder?

                1. re: justagthing

                  I know the younger ones are fine with just about everything, including Chinese Indian. (We had it in Hyderabad not too long ago.) But the older ones are firmly attached to S. Indian food, with only one exception that I've discovered for Italian food. They don't even like N. Indian.

                  I personally think it's great!

                  1. re: cimui

                    Me too. I can't eat spicy anymore. I lost the ability when I got pregnant with number three and it never came back. It's painful for me. It has to be hormonal. Anyway, I used to love South Indian, but I can't manage it without pain now. I'm still in mourning for my taste buds.

                    1. re: nliedel

                      Oh, that's rough--I'm sorry! But I do think there are a good number of South Indian dishes that aren't all that spicy hot. Have you tried just plain dosa, vada, or utthapam? You can't get any less hot than iddli!

                      1. re: cimui

                        I love dosa, but am not familiar with Vada. Which means I'm about to go on a recipe hunt.

            2. I should mention that many family members are from the homeland, or are first generation. So most of them are still very much tied to the home cuisine.