Monday, September 14, 2009

Cabbage Pie

One of the readings I assigned my classes for today was an essay by Geeta Kothari, "If You Are What You Eat, Then What Am I?" Kothari traces several points of conflict between her Indian upbringing and the desire to fit in, to eat the kinds of foods American kids eat--"bologna, hot dogs, salami." During a couple points in the essay, she discusses a sense of inherited vegetarianism, and her various rebellions against it (like eating her friend's tuna-salad sandwiches at school). The essay didn't go over as well as I'd hoped; my students refused to see the conflict, refused, in fact, to see beyond the fact that one could go through life without meat products. I feel like because about a third of my students are older than I (some of them significantly so), I was more reluctant to question their stance, and didn't pursue the discussion into the realm of disclosing my own veganism. Of course, with all of the semester ahead, I think at some point, they will inevitably know.
Kothari's essay resonated with me--I, too, moved to the United States as a child. And although food issues were not as ripe with conflict as they were for her, I am beginning to realize, more and more that:

One day, my parents will be gone, and I will long for the foods of my childhood, the way they long for theirs. I prepare for this day the way people on TV prepare for the end of the world. They gather canned goods they will never eat while I stockpile recipes I cannot replicate. I am frantic, disorganized, grabbing what I can, filing scribbled notes haphazardly. I regret the tastes I've forgotten, the meals I have inhaled without a thought. I worry that I've come to this realization too late.

When I was growing up, there was cabbage pie. My father would make the dough, and my mother would make the filling and put it all together. A few weeks ago, I started thinking of making this pie. Of course, after at least half a dozen phone calls (and two emails) to my mother, her only advice to me in making the pie was, "Oh, you'll figure it out." And as it turns out, I did, although my pie was not as elegant as hers are--it was a sturdy replica. Usually, the pie is made with either cabbage or potatoes, but I had both on hand and decided to use them. In the pie are also carrot, onion, bell pepper, banana pepper, and spices. I made the pie last Monday, and we've been slowly eating it, taking it with us for lunches, having it for dinner, with a side. Today, I lunched on the final piece and it was as good as the first. I am already planning more pies with different fillings, but am also wondering about what else I'm potentially forgetting about, what other foods did I not appreciate as a child? I We all should remember things as such sooner, maintain those memories...

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