One of the great things about going to the University of Wyoming is the surprising diversity in the music department here (at least concerning the graduate students). Many of my colleagues are from different areas of China and South Korea, and it’s been a lot of fun talking to them about the many differences between their home countries and America. One of the big differences that I like to talk about is in the style of teaching, both in the university setting and in the private lesson setting. Since I’ve spent the last five years of my life at college I have a pretty firm understanding of how American institutions tend to work and it’s just really neat to think about how it works in different countries.
But more importantly there are huge differences in food and diet. For some reason since I’ve moved to Laramie I have become a food monster, I’m always hungry and I’m always eating! The logical part of me says its because I’ve been lifting a lot more and working out a lot more than previously, but it still seems a bit odd to me. Anyways, the fact that I focus on the food differences between my friends and I won’t come as a surprise to any of them.
So what of these differences? Well, a couple of weeks ago a group of us got together and we had our friend Stephanie make some authentic Mexican food. That wasn’t exactly the plan; we were breaking in my new ice cream attachment for my beautiful new stand mixer (thanks mom!) when Stephanie decided she wanted to contribute to the food as well! It was great: the food was delicious, we had a blast helping Steph prepare everything, and we just had a lot of great conversation. So naturally I decided that this was something that needs to happen more! Even for my American friends (which actually aren’t very many here as Ashley and I are the only two American graduate students in our year) we all come from different environments. We all grew up eating different things; we have different tastes and skills. So why not share it? Which is super exciting, because that means we all get to get together and eat! What an excellent idea!
So for tonight we will be going to Mei’s place and indulging in some homemade Korean cuisine. I have no idea what’s on the menu but I am really excited. Especially since my boyfriend and I recently broke up, I’m looking forward to going on and seeing people—maybe we’ll go out for a few beers afterwards! (: The interesting thing about Mei is that she is Korean but grew up in China. She retained her Korean culture but also absorbed some of the Chinese, so this is going to be an even more unique insight into her life.
I’m not trying to say that food can reveal everything about a person, but it does say a lot. The cliché is that you are what you eat, and I think it has a point. How you approach eating says a lot about how you take care of yourself. If you don’t care about yourself and your body, what says you will care about me and mine? Obviously this is a generalization—enjoying fast food on occasion is by no means a deal breaker, but if McDonalds is your idea of a daily lunch, then we might have a problem.
The cultural differences in food can be a great eye-opener for many other differences. When eating with my Korean friends we don’t all have our own plates, instead we order a variety of plates and share everything on the table. Korea is a very collectivist place, fitting in and working together is far more important than being an individual and this is revealed through how they eat. When eating with my friends I learn many things about them because it gives me space to relax and just ask. Perhaps the straightforward act of sharing a meal makes you feel closer to someone, or maybe that’s just me. Regardless it’s something I love to do.
So tonight we will continue the new tradition of enjoying each other’s cuisine, company, and stories. I look forward to it and I’m glad that food is something that can bring us all together.