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27 November 2004

Turkey with curry

I’ve never been too fond of the various models of American diversity
that float aorund out there.  The “melting pot” metaphor reduces
too much, homogenizing all things, in some sense.  The “tossed
salad” metaphor doesn’t really work either, as it means that the
separate elements retain their separate natures, not being changed in
the process of encountering one another.

This article from Thursday’s paper exemplifies my new idea for an American national blending metaphor — turkey with curry.

Thanksgiving, which began as a party for immigrants, remains the most
accessible American holiday for many newcomers. It requires no specific
religious or political allegiance. Even if an immigrant is from a
culture where whole roast turkey is never on the menu – and that is
nearly everywhere except North America – most are willing to give it a

Everybody’s got a common element: the turkey.  And everyone does
is somewhat differently, putting their own spin on the common part:
Mexican-descent Americans simmering the bird in garlic and onions
before baking, Indians using curry, and Arabs “bathing it in lemon and
olive oil and stuffing it with rice, beef and pine nuts.”

“Turkey has become so iconic to our mythic heritage that by cooking
that turkey, even if you don’t like it, you are part of something
bigger,” said Lucy Long, a professor of popular culture at Bowling
Green State University and the author of “Culinary Tourism” (University
Press of Kentucky, 2003). “You are symbolically showing unity.”

course that translates into a nation of cross-cultural Thanksgivings,
where sticky rice stuffing edges out corn bread, and curry fights with
gravy for dominance on overloaded plates.

Fernando Rojas, an
immigration lawyer in Miami, came to the United States from Colombia
with his family when he was a boy. His wife, Jeanette Martinez, is
Puerto Rican. They will share their Thanksgiving meal with his Cuban
and Colombian godparents. The critical mass of Latin cultures means a
spread that could put Manhattan’s best fusion chefs to shame: roast
turkey rubbed with garlicky adobo sauce, served alongside plantains,
roast pork and platters of black beans and rice.

That’s more American than melting pots or tossed salads.

Posted in RmAuNsDiOnMg on 27 November 2004 at 12:12 pm by Nate