A huge part of the culture is its traditional food. Just like experiencing a new culture, it is important to feel and taste the cuisine of a country and learn to appreciate it. Hence, to understand how culturally diverse a certain place is, it is enough to learn how many different cuisines you can try. It will tell you more than you think.
I guess I learned to read these stories when I was little. Two amazing and very different women raised me up. They cooked completely different foods and told completely different stories. My great grandmother came from a traditional Lithuanian household (rural area, self-sufficient), didn’t have much money when she was growing up. Thus, everything that she made was from home-grown vegetables, dairy products, and meat. She saved every tiny bit of what we had and made sure that everything is used efficiently. You would get more or less the same food every day – meat and potatoes, potatoes and meat, milk and potatoes. She taught me to appreciate what I have, to make sure that nothing goes wasted, to respect the food. My mom taught me a slightly different story. She tried and tested. She experimented and was constantly searching for something new. We would get to try everything – from sushi to some weird grain-based dish. By doing that, I learned that there can be many different tastes and they are equally good and important. She showed how important it is to respect food, but she never allowed herself to stop and think that’s it, there is nothing more worth exploring. She taught me an importance of the discovery, constant learning, appreciation of a variety and differences.
When you live in a faraway land, you don’t get to experience, experiment and learn about different kitchens. There is basically one thing and nothing else. I come from that background, from the place where basically all the food is the same. In Lithuania, you would have its traditional dishes (cepelinai, barsciai, etc.), burgers, hot dogs, pizzas and fake Chinese food. That’s about it. Occasionally (or if you can/want to pay a lot of money), you can find gourmet restaurants just like Dublis no. 1 or Stikliai. However, these are not the common ones. So, you end up eating the same food over and over again. As I said, it tells you a lot about the country – we want to modern and more like Western countries, but we don’t really accept other cultures, other views. We tend to stick to what we are used to. That wasn’t enough for me. My mother taught me to seek for novelties, to experiment and to enjoy every single dish equally. That (and cultural diversity) was one of the main reasons why I was really excited about moving to the Netherlands. I can find almost any kind of food and taste I want and I don’t even need to put much effort in it. I ate burgers (how you can survive without eating burgers?) at Waag, had a proper glass of beer (Dutch are crazy about their incredibly small glasses of beer) at English pub, tried Greek pitas (trust me, they weren’t that good) and today I came back from Korean restaurant in the Hague. I didn’t that only in few weeks. Even though I tested the waters in few places, I realized that there are even more spots left to test. Finally, I get to try, I get to feel and enjoy the differences! My goal for the next year – to check at least one new place during the week. Maybe that will help me to learn something new the cultural differences and experiences.
Isn’t that exciting? Isn’t this variety amazing? It helps you to realize how close everything is and how small the world really is. You get to experience (at least tiny bits) other cultures without even leaving your home. These are the great times that we live in!