The Arrow

There are no answers; only choices.

Posts Tagged ‘feta cheese’

And What Are We Eating?

Posted by thearrow on February 6, 2009

This is what my boss asks me if he happens to walk by my office when I’m getting ready to eat. With few exceptions, I always cook once a week and pack my lunch. It’s too expensive to buy it every day and I like to know what and when I’ll be eating because, when I’m hungry, I don’t want anything to stand between food and me.

So there is this endless curiosity about what I cook, which presumably is very different from what other people eat :). It used to drive me nuts, because 1. I had to stop to explain what the heck I was eating and 2. it made me feel like some kind of exotic stranger. We all have our own offices, which is neat, but when someone stops in your doorstep and puts you on the spot about your lunch, the office turns into a cage. All of a sudden, you’re the savage with weird eating habits. I’m exaggerating, I know, because there has never been the slightest trace of disrespect. Regardless, the simple question reminds you that you’re different.

But I’ve decided that being amused is a better option. I couldn’t bring myself to tell my boss that I hated being asked about my lunch (and he’s not the only one, but he does it the most often), so I came to terms with his curiosity. Or, rather, with my being different. It’s not the actual difference that bothers me, but the fact that its existence means I have to spend energy on explaining the recipe, putting it in context, be it geographic or cultural. And building all these bridges of understanding used to take an enormous amount of effort in my first years here. That’s unavoidable when you start living in another country. It’s also exhausting. So I think my annoyance has something to do with the trauma of all this effort, year after year, in the first place. I felt like I had to go through it all over again after I thought I was done. I guess you’re never done with this. However, feeling like you’re an exhibit in a cage has its share, too. But now I just smile and explain.

Then, I continue to be the crazy feta-cheese woman at the Lebanese store behind my apartment building. All the workers there are Hispanic, so they’re probably not too familiar with the Balkans. One of them asked me if I was Lebanese the other day. Heh-heh. I started explaining that I’m from Romania, which is close to Greece and Bulgaria, and that everyone in that region eats feta cheese; that’s a staple in our diet. And they, too, were curious how I eat feta, so I had to give them a few recipes. Then they asked me if I had tried pupusas (which I haven’t) and said that I’d probably like them because they have cheese :).

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Posted in cultural differences, food, immigration | Tagged: | 2 Comments »