As a Pakistani, food at my house is usually filled with tons of spices, pepper and oil. Meat is fried, not baked, and each dish packs a powerful punch of tangy, mouth-watering flavor. No meal is light; a traditional breakfast boasts a fried tortilla or paratha and fried goat brains. Yummy!
So naturally my siblings and I yearned for the occasional taco or lasagna when we were younger. My great cook of a mother would welcome the change of menu, because instead of slaving over a hot stove watching meat simmer, she could pop a tray of lasagna in the oven and be done with it.
Although the average American kid would think someone was weird if he craved McDonald's or some pizza joint, we jump at the chance to eat “out.”
Luby's Cafeteria, for example, is what I consider the traditional American restaurant. For me, it's actually ethnic American dining. Where else can you enjoy a LuAnn platter with fish, macaroni and cheese and mashed potatoes? Not to mention being able to choose from a variety of side dishes, desserts and breads. The possibilities are endless.
As my siblings and I grew older and began to get tired of Pakistani food, my family adapted a once-a-week eating out routine. Whether it meant ordering pizza or a night at Luby's, at least it was something different.
Some nights my dad would suggest taking us to a Pakistani restaurant for this special occasion.
The complaints would begin as soon as he mentioned it, “We have this type of food every night. Let's have something different.”
I never fully realized as a child that my own house was truly an ethnic restaurant. We had this food every night, what made it so special?
So when a class assignment asked us to try an ethnic restaurant and write a report, I figured for someone like me, Luby's was the perfect place — because macaroni and cheese was more like a foreign food to me, than, say, biryani.
As an adult I can now understand that food is a central part of many cultures. It not only offers a time for families to gather together but also a retreat from the busy routines of daily life.
In many cultures, guests hardly are entertained without food of some sort. You can't come to my house and expect to leave with your stomach empty.
This was something that I really could not understand growing up. Why did guests always have to eat something? And why did I have to worry about making it?
My father always told me that having guests at your house is a blessing. Their presence brings you sustenance and when they leave they take all the bad spirits away.
Now that I am older I understand how nice it really is to have people over. It means they remember you and took time out of their lives to visit you.
Sadly many children of immigrants aren't able to fully comprehend the various cultures of their ancestors. The fast paced lifestyle of today offers no time for reflection and appreciation.
I never cared for the richness of my culture that included cooking. But when my cousins are done, and my mom and aunts are in the kitchen cooking and laughing, I can see how food really does bring a culture to life.
Zaidi, a senior communication major, can be reached at email@example.com.