by SVukadin-Hoitt


As a global nomad repatriated to the US, I find myself missing my global life — especially the role and status of food.

I’m amazed at the American compulsion to compact a variety of social interchanges into multitasking events, especially when centered around communion and food. Often the quantity of things is more important than the quality of life. I sense a lack of appreciation for the ritual when I see car drivers furiously slurp from gallon-size coffee cups.

Despite the media demand for stock photo images of “laughing woman eating alone” and “happy single man with fruit salad”, I wonder:

What is the fun of eating by yourself?

In other parts of the world like Italy, a certain lassitude with regard to time allows people to get in an extra cup of coffee with a friend or a quiet meal with a parent. I rarely have this experience here unless I create it myself.

I recharge by cooking and eating the cuisines of my childhood and adult travels: Bosnian cookies, Austrian cabbage rolls, Thai rice, Italian sauces.

I love to invite friends and share the love! Give me a riotous family dinner where everyone is talking and eating, any day. The decorum of setting a table, making food, sharing stories with friends — is life. If, like me, you live in an area without a big ethnic population, the availability of products can be scarce but I’ve overcome this with creative cooking. I consider the ritual of sharing a way to engage in relaxation, good parenting, entertainment and sport without it becoming a mechanical chore.

How do you recharge yourself with ethnic food rituals?

Silvana Vukadin-Hoitt is an activist currently developing the sustainable food movement in Colorado. The entrepreneur and aspiring writer grew up a TCK and is most at home where diverse cultures intersect at a well laid out table.

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  • Miss Footloose

    I so enjoy the long, leisurely meals with friends and family when I live abroad. It is sad to see these disappearing from American life. Many young Americans don’t know anything different than eating on the run. I’ve now seen commercials for different microwaveable dishes for the different members of the family, so they won’t all have to eat the same thing, God forbid. Or eat at the same time, for that matter.

    This is the trend, and I’m worried it’s just not going to change.

    • Anastasia

      Yeek….sounds like that priority about food is converging on time-saving/convenience/low-impact.

    • SilvanaMondo

      Miss Footloose, there is a whole culture of kids that either grew up eating in the car or in front of the television, …practically alone. Even though I am devoted to eating together…even I struggle quite often not to give in to the hype (and the pleading, mind you, of the kids) that it is ‘ok’ to eat mechnically.
      Appreciating the art and ritual of making and enjoying meals together really does seem to be a dying art in the States…it’s unfortunate. The best way to fight it is to do it!

      Thank you for the input – I haven’t seen that commercial…I don’t think I want to, lol. SVH

  • Anastasia

    Thanks for this topic Silvana, it really is important.

    I’m an American who comes from a sort-of natural place so have never eaten the way the American family does in your first link and my hometown also had a great assortment of ethnic restaurants. (By the way, if anyone hasn’t peeked at that first link in the post yet, do — it shows what representative families around the world eat in a week and the American family is all over-processed neon-packaged junk food while most other families have at least a portion of whole foods on the table. They also spend the most!)

    So, I’d say my tendency toward actually preparing my own meals from lightly or unprocessed source materials is not exactly linked to ethnic food, but I do enjoy making food from cultures I’ve visited. And many cultures I’ve first visited through food…some I only know that way, like Ethiopian food. Food is one of the ways I’ve found the world most accessible, and learning what goes into making a table of dishes from a certain region can reveal so much of the history of the people and the place.

    When I’m Stateside, international food supply stores are a favorite haunt. I love Kalustyan’s in New York…I believe they ship, too.

    When I started cooking on my own, it’s probably no coincidence that the first cookbook I bought took me around the world=> Sundays at Moosewood Restaurant: Ethnic and Regional Recipes from the Cooks at the Legendary Restaurant.

    • SilvnalaMondo

      Anastasia, I love that you write ‘Food is one of the ways I’ve found the world most accessible’ this resonates deeply for me and so many of us who write in to expat+HAREM, live globaly and with mixed heritage (whether by blood or spirit). That Kalustyan’s in New York sure does look like a fun place to visit!!

  • Anonymous

    Yes! Food should be a central part of life and sharing. It is a sensual delight that should be enjoyed consciously with all our senses. Food can be beautiful, smell heavenly, taste even better. And food can be heard, too: bacon sizzling, water boiling, sauce simmering.

    In our fast food times, when food is gulped and swallowed without barely chewing, in noisy environments that smell bad, cooking, eating slowly around a table with friends or family is becoming a lost art.

    As a French Canadian, food and drink have always been a major part of my life. When I first wandered into the “Anglo” world, I was astonished to see that people were drinking standing up in bars. For me and my friends, drinking (and eating) was not an occasion to socialize with strangers but to commune with each other. I’ve adapted since then but never have been able to relax the way I can around a table with good friends or family.

    I also have travelled extensively, so ethnic food is an integral part of my life. It enriches my outtake on life and makes me more interested in the kaleidoscope of cultures around the world. Food has power.

    • Silvanalamour

      Thank you for commenting MD! I love that you mention the olfaction part of the equation regarding food. This is so integral to our memories. We carry the smells with us as we become adults and sort out our stories – the smell & sounds of food are sometimes involve our best stories, don’t you think?!
      Who doesn’t have memory of a hint of spice in grandmothers’ apron or a dreamy nuanced second in time where something as ordinary as an dish towel or or a sweater brings forth years of emotion?
      Equally enticing the sounds…eehhhii….for me, my grandfather grinding nuts in the ancient grinder every Christmas – grk grk grk- and yes, bacon sizzling! Beautiful imagery, md – Food does indeed have power!

    • Anastasia

      Guess that goes both ways, too, MD! When I arrived for college in Rome I was surprised to see the Italian coffee shops were standing only, and the idea was to have your espresso and get moving. Nothing like the loungey-while-away-the-day coffee shops of my collegiate hometown!

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