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Why do we do this ?

Why is it when we have a special guest at our house we decide to cook or talk about what is common from their ethnic backgrounds? My wife is German and most people seem to think that all she wants to eat or make are all things German, not true.

When we are guests to someone elses house do they insist on talking about hamburgers and fries, LOL ?

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  1. Oh, this could be due to a myriad of reasons -- some very innocent and others -- well, let's just say it's probably beyond the scope of this board and would probably lead to some very heated discussions.

    I find that some of our visitors from other countries want to eat food of their home country when they visit America. When my grandmother used to live in Korea and visited the States, do you think she wanted steak or meatloaf or fried chicken? No! She was looking for rice, kimchi and banchan. Personally, I found it a bit strange as the last thing I want to eat is "American" food when I travel. I want to eat things that I can't find as easily in my hometown -- whether I'm traveling to Bangkok or to New Jersey. And then I meet folks like myself who aren't that interested in eating foods that they can get in their city/country. I do have to say that if I'm in a place for an extended period of time, I do tend to miss food of my hometown. I was in Korea for 3 months and wanted a burger and fried chicken so badly at some point.

    I've mentioned this on this board before, but I got really peeved when I had dinner at my ex's parents (not Asian) for the very first time. His mom insisted on having Asian pears at the dinner table and was so worried that I wouldn't be able to eat any manicotti, meatballs, brasiole or antipasto. Come on, I love that stuff! My ex kept telling his mom that I was born in America and that I eat everything. However, it was so fixed in her mind that she must have Asian pears there to make me feel more comfortable. In addition, she was so shocked that I wasn't 5 feet tall as her views of all Korean people all came from the two ladies that ran the Korean deli down the block. Sigh ... While there was no malice on her part, it really did annoy me a great deal.

    2 Replies
    1. re: Miss Needle

      I seriously think rice is addictive... I go into withdrawal after a few days. A few years ago, my Asian family went on an extended trip to Germany. We're not shy about trying new foods or anything, but after a week or so we were actively searching out Chinese places just for the rice. And it's not just simply an "I miss eating rice" sentiment, we all got pretty cranky about it.

      1. re: mogo

        I worked on a project in the Middle East (building and commissioning a new gas plant) in the middle of nowhere that had no on shore living facilities for the workers. So they towed two huge "live aboard" multi-storied barges to the site and then anchored them to the shore. The Filipino and Korean workers had it written into their contracts that they got rice in all 3 meals, 7 days a week.

    2. That may be true in the US, but even more odd but regular responses await the guest in other countries: after years and years and years in the Philippines, filipinos would still ask, "Oh, have you tried filipino food?" Then there is Colombia, where I now live: most Colombians simply don't think about or discuss food - neither among themselves nor with or among non-Colombians.

      9 Replies
      1. re: Sam Fujisaka

        Sam, according to an old friend who recently attended a family reunion in Colombia, there are very good reasons for Colombians not caring to talk about their food. I wouldn't know; the only Colombian food I've tried was pretty good, if relentlessly redundant in the starch department.

        1. re: Will Owen

          With my most extreme and sincere apologies to jungman, both filipino and Colombian cuisines don't quite make it into the list of world class for very similar reasons - lack of spices or picante, a lot of fried and carbs, comparative lack of complex technique). Filipinos, however, love their food and are insulted if anyone might suggest that they don't have the greatest foods (and legendary hospitality). Colombians, on the other hand, also love their food but don't really discuss it and don't really care what others think. AND! In both countries, everyone from the president to the last guy or gal eats roughly the same respective food. Cooks recruited from the ranks of the poor cook their own foods for the rich in both countries.

          1. re: Sam Fujisaka

            I don't know, a really good dish of pancit is up there on the list of my favorite comfort foods.

            1. re: lulubelle

              Don't get me wrong. I cook a lot of filipino dishes. Can't say the same for Colombian. Hmmmm.

              1. re: Sam Fujisaka

                From my limited experience, I'd guess that a unified cuisine across class lines is more common than not throughout Latin America. My niece's husband is from an upper-class Peruvian family, and when his parents were visiting at Thanksgiving a couple of years ago, their several contributions to the feast included a dried-potato stew that was most emphatically peasant food. It was also very, very good.

                My father-in-law, whose cooking is mostly French, fell in love with the Colombian potato/chicken/vegetable stew (whose name escapes me!) a long time ago. He cooked it at our house once, and used up every pot in the kitchen! Then recently he heard about a Colombian restaurant in Glendale, called to confirm that this was on the menu, and of course we all had to go there. No, not exciting, but very nice.

                1. re: Will Owen

                  Did your Peruvian in-laws bring the chuño? Chuño soup is very Andean (Peru and Bolivia) and very campesino! You make chuño by dancing/stamping on the cut up potatoes in the Altiplano. Conditions are so cold and dry that you get freeze dried.

                  The Colombian dish is sancocho de gallina: the chicken stew that everyone eats. Good example.

                  1. re: Sam Fujisaka

                    Yes, they brought the potatoes, in a plastic bag. I assume they either got them at a Latino store with Peruvian products or via mail order, since they've lived in New Jersey for many years.

                    And yes, sancocho was the name I'd forgotten. I imagine everybody eats it because the only easy way to make it is in a giant pot that you just keep adding to as it gets consumed.

                    1. re: Will Owen

                      For sancocho, the chicken is usually served on a plate along with rice and avocado. The Bogota version is even better: add sour cream and capers to the soup/stew when serving.

            2. re: Sam Fujisaka

              That's it, Sam! Next time you're in NYC, you have a standing invitation to come to dinner so I can show you why I think why Filipino cuisine, with its interplay of salty and sour, bitter and sweet, combining techniques ranging across the globe, deserves to be considered among the best of international cuisines!

        2. It's probably innocent - maybe the guests probably aren't familiar with German food and figure your wife is, so they may want to know about it. Maybe they are trying to search for common ground ("oh, I also LOVE sauerkraut!").

          If someone cooks German food because your German wife is coming to dinner, they probably are just trying to make her comfortable. Some families have "traditional" food that's passed down from generation to generation, so we sometimes assume that you've eaten that "traditional" food growing up, are used to it, and like it. Or perhaps they like German food, know that some people might not like it (and thus don't usually serve it to company) and are excited to have someone over who (they figure) won't turn her nose up at sauerkraut (or whatever). Same thing as when wine afficianados have a fellow wine person come over and break out the good stuff that they normally wouldn't "waste" on non-wine lovers.

          I've had a lot of people ask me about the food we eat in the US or how their food is different from what I am used to, when travelling abroad, and when people learn that I grew up in Hawaii, a lot of them want to talk about Spam and poi (and sometimes Hawaiian pizza or some other pseudo-Hawaiian foods). I figure that with the Spam and poi it's just somewhat foreign to them, they've heard negative things, and are curious, and with Hawaiian pizza, etc. they are just trying to find common ground.

          When I was an exchange student in India, my host family's cook would make me fried eggs for breakfast, even though no one in the family ate them. They figured that fried eggs and toast is an American breakfast and wanted to give me what I was used to. Truth be told, at home I almost never ate a heavy breakfast - I was used to having fruit and maybe some bread. It was sweet, and those eggs were tasty, so who am I to complain? After a while, though, I told them that while I appreciated it, I didn't need the cook to cook a whole separate breakfast for me and I'd love to eat what they ate since I was there to learn about India.

          People are just trying to be polite the best they can - like when you stock beer for a party even though you don't drink beer because you figure some of the guests might want it or if your family likes really spicy food but you tone it down for guests because you figure there's a good chance they don't eat food that spicy normally. There's clearly a potential for offense in it, but I'd rather have the person try than just say "oh well, she's a guest in my house and she'll eat what we eat whether she likes it or not!"

          1. In terms of talking about food, I think it's a way to approach talking about cultural differences without moving into anything inflammatory. Certainly when I lived in Japan, people asked me what people traditionally eat in the US. People are curious, but at least in a dining type of situation, you usually don't want to veer into something with just an acquaintance that could make one party angry.

            1. I truly think that we as home cooks/hosts might be looking for some affirmations from the guest *expert* that we are "doing it right," with regard to the menu presented and execution of same. I think it's all innocent and well intentioned.

              Now, if all I fed my Scandinavian family was Scandinavian food, things would get a little stale very fast. The German menu for your German wife might be a lovely invitation to discussion of the cuisine upon first meetings or special occasions, but if it's the norm, it would also get old fast. Variety...you know what they say.

              Cay

              1 Reply
              1. re: cayjohan

                Oh My Gosh! I thought my boss was the only one that did this. We often entertain French winemakers and he always wants to take them to this crappy, (read really boring mediocre) French "bistro" in our city.....I am always horrified. After years of taking one guest, (who was a chef in SF and in France) I had to make it stop! We are in Southern California and the wealth of ethnic food we can share is astounding....stop with the bad versions of their food already....things are better now and our guests always seem so much happier.