Culture Comfort Zone

Every so often, in a group here, somebody, while relishing their dinner, will remark, ‘I can’t understand how these Goras eat their bland food. They have no taste. There is nothing like Indian food’.

I call it the ‘Culture Comfort Zone’, where we believe that everything we like, or what we have grown up with is the best. And it happens to the best of us, doesn’t it? For instance, piercing of ears of young children is so common in my culture. We normally have a ceremony on the 28th day after a baby is born and if it is a girl, her ears are pierced. It is said to be easier, because the tissues are softer and apparently the child does not feel the pain, as much(we can never be sure of that, can we?). My mother had her ears pierced at the age of 8 years, and she remembers it vividly, and felt that it is much better to do it at a time when the child is less likely to remember.

Something that is common and totally acceptable in my culture might come across as horrible, and cruel to some others, who believe in letting a child decide when she is older whether or not she wants pierced ears. They might think that we are barbaric to even think of doing it to such a young child. That is again, because of the culture one has grown up in. I am so used to the concept that I did not even have second thoughts about piercing daughter’s ears.

In some cultures, a samosa is a great, delicious treat, while in others it might be fish and chips. And who is to say, that one is tastier than the other? Who is to say that I have better taste than you?

For a vegetarian, it might be unthinkable that someone could relish non-vegetarian food, while for non-vegetarians, vegetarian food might seem so uninteresting.

So many of our likes and dislikes are based on our upbringing, and the influences through our lives. Some of us love to try different cuisines and enjoy it too, while others need that comfort food. What I find difficult to understand is that blanket statement of how ‘my food is better than yours’. Of assuming that other cultures don’t know how to cook.

I know people who like only Indian food, and try to get hold of it where-ever they go, but don’t go around spouting things like, ‘Only Indian food is edible’. They find it difficult to try other cuisines, but don’t try to run them down. That, I think, is perfectly fair. Not everybody can like every cuisine, but surely, that does not mean that other cuisines are not good?

Maybe, if we remember that just as we find somethings in other cultures different, and difficult to accept, there might be things that others find totally unacceptable in our culture, we might not be so judgemental about others?