I get a lot of funny looks when I tell people what I’m studying in college. I’ve got a double major in journalism and Italian with a minor in cultural anthropology. If there was a mold for the typical college student, I probably wouldn’t fit in it.
Everyone always asks me why I chose to study within these three, seemingly unrelated areas. That’s when I tell them that, as a third-grader, I wrote a three-page argumentative essay on why the school cafeteria should be serving spanakopita instead of sloppy joes. In my mind, the connection between food and culture has always been clear. Writing is just my way of expressing it.
I grew up on a small cattle ranch in Saint David, Arizona. If you’ve ever been to Bisbee or Tombstone, you’ve probably driven right through my town without ever noticing. My parents were former Foreign Service officers who got tired of life in the city and decided to give their children a taste of the “great outdoors”. Saint David wasn’t exactly bursting with ethnic diversity, but my parents instilled in me at a very young age an appreciation for the richness of other cultures and a desire to travel the world. In the last 20 years, I have been fortunate enough to visit 14 countries; I plan to see the remaining 181 before I die.
The more I see of the world, the more I realize that, despite our differences, we all share one common denominator: food. Food is an integral part of our cultural DNA.
For example, my family comes from a long line of Scandinavians, but the food cooked in our household came from a cultural melting pot. Every night, my mother prepared dinner using flavors from around the world-Vietnamese pho, Greek souvlaki, Middle Eastern baba ganoush, and Jewish latkes. Each recipe in my mom’s repertoire came from the people she met while living and working overseas.
The anthropologist in me can’t help but get excited at the prospect of traveling to a new place and creating food memories with the locals there. To quote one of my favorite professors, “Food is never just food.” Food is inscribed in our daily lives, and the way we produce it, cook it, distribute it, and enjoy it says a lot about who we are.
The Baja Arizona region has been carefully cultivating a rich garden of stories, traditions, and food memories for centuries. I can’t wait to bring them to the Edible Baja Arizona blog!