Sunday, 9 August 2009

Ethnic Food and Family

Our last evening with Norma and Art we went to a Mexican restaurant. I think we'd originally headed for a Chinese, but it was shut for vacation or refurbishment or something, so we went here instead. It was so colourful in there I couldn't resist snapping a picture or two.

When we got home we sat around and talked. Norma told me some of what she remembered about her Grandma Clara's cooking. It only lately occurred to me that she and I both had Grandma Clara's. She talked about things like homemade noodles and dumplings, soups and cooking with bacon grease. I remember saving bacon grease in a tin can back in the old days. Can't imagine doing that now, for health reasons, of course; couldn't here even if wanted to, the bacon has water in it, not grease. English bacon is nice enough, but in the States I think we'd call it ham, not bacon by any means.

In another conversation, we talked about the ideas of nationality and ethnicity. I think living in the US -- particularly if one doesn't t travel abroad much and get asked the questions "In what country were you born?" "Of what country are you a citizen?" it is easy take American nationality as an obvious fact and find it more interesting to talk about one's ancestral heritage. In a place as multi-cultural as Minneapolis, people seem to be very aware of their roots and Norma obviously identifies strongly with being of German descent; as did my Grandparents and my Dad.

Growing up I came to think that one had to be black or Hispanic to have 'ethnicity' and always thought of mine as 'vanilla -- plain, boring, white, vanilla'. The cultural dictionary online, however, defines ethnicity as

Identity with or membership in a particular racial, national, or cultural group and observance of that group's customs, beliefs, and language.

So, I just need to start baking Irish soda bread, making wieners and sauerkraut and eating Swiss cheese; I'm pretty sure some sort of dirndl skirt and white ruffled blouse would work for all three...

Seriously, hearing about Norma's memories of her Grandma was great. I later came to realise how much I'd missed out because my Grandma Clara was pretty much senile by the time I was 12. I'm thinking I'll be pestering Norma for some recipes; we might even come up with our own Grandma Clara's Recipe Book!

1 comment:

Rick Stone said...

You're right about nationality over here. We just assume that we're all bonified Americans and everyone else is just a foreigner. In researching the family last night I hit on a site, on, that was put up by one of Jo's cousins last night. It included places, dates and loads of pictures of Jo's maternal grandmother. She had gone to bed and I had to get her up to see my "find". These go back to Norway and list both her husbands, who she married in the States but were both from Norway.