August 24, 2012
One of the greatest opportunities afforded to us by living in America is the chance to share in cultures from around the world. Different people come to America, bringing with them different aspects of their own culture. We can see it in their languages, their fashions, and their beliefs; but there is a distinct difference between seeing it and experiencing it. When it comes to experiencing a different culture, the best method is without a doubt to immerse one’s self in that part of the world. However, this is often impractical and sometimes even impossible for the typical working adult tucked tidily into their suburban home with a spouse, two kids, and a dog. The question then becomes how to bring outside cultures into these homes. The answer is quite simple. A culture lends itself most accessibly to outsiders through the food that people share.
MCPL is actually facilitating the unique opportunity to share this part of a culture. Our new community program presenter Irma Brown hosts two different programs teaching people how to cook a Mexican meal. I had the opportunity to talk with Irma about her cooking (as well as to devour what was very possibly the most delicious chicken taco ever to grace my taste buds), and her views on the situation were far from what I expected.
When she was sixteen, Irma had a small restaurant with her mother in Mexico called La Cocina Economica. In English, this roughly translates to The Economical Restaurant, which is incredibly appropriate for what Irma teaches in her classes. She strives to be both very health-conscious and financially conscious with her recipes. When I asked Irma about how she viewed the sharing of her recipes with us, I wasn’t surprised when she told me that it was a fun way to share her culture with Americans. What surprised me was the reason she gave as to why she loved doing it so much. Irma brought up a point that I had never before considered when she explained that, "In Mexico, I was just another cook." In America, the culinary culture is appreciated because it is something so out of the norm, something that is a privilege to share in. Irma said that she loved to give this back and to share, sometimes even sharing recipes that she never thought she would. She can remember when she first came to America and people shared American recipes with her. Think about how sausage gravy and fried chicken seem so regular to us. Sharing these recipes with someone from Mexico is the same as them sharing how to make salsa with us – the appreciation comes from the novelty.
Whatever the appeal, Irma’s programs are definitely worth attending. She teaches two different programs: Mexican Meals for Under $25 and Breakfast Mexican Style. Currently, one or both of the programs are available at twelve MCPL branches. Whether your meals are from Mexico or from America, it is important to remember that most important part of dinner is not what’s on the table, but instead what happens around it.
Oak Grove Branch