February 4, 2014

Creating a Culinary Identity

I am the only person in my family who was born in the United States. My children were born in and adopted from South Korea. My husband was born in South Africa to Irishman and a Cypriot and has family members on 3 continents right now. Then there's little old me who lived in the same house in Massachusetts until I left for college. 

You can imagine the difference in our palates when we first met in our dorm. He loved sushi and Indian food. I loved donuts and bagels. When I looked at a menu I refused to order anything that mentioned spice in the description. One of the many reasons I adore my husband is the way he helped me to grow out of my comfort zone. He never chided me for being a baby about trying new things or pushed me when I was scared. He walked alongside of me and helped.  

The very first time I met his parents was the first time I ate Indian food. New food and new people to impress terrified me and yet that night became one of my favorite memories. All three of them helped me navigate the menu: from picking the right wine to balance the spice to which dishes could be ordered mild. It was the beginning of a culinary awakening. Food was about more than the flavor. It was the experience and the relationships that a shared meal creates. 

It was years later that I realized how much the art of cooking the food added to that relationship. We began to be more intentional in what food we ate, where that food was grown, how the recipe fit in with our family history. 

Our family has connections all over the world and bringing the food of each of those cultures is a way for us to celebrate and acknowledge this. We try to be intentional in our choices about both the recipe and the source of the ingredients without it feeling forced. Sometimes eating Bee Bim Bop sparks discussions of our trip to South Korea to pick up our youngest child and sometimes we just talk about the latest Lego creation the boys have built. The important thing is that we come together over the food and talk to each other. 

Though I need to be realistic for a moment here…my boys are 4 and 5. That means there are a solid number of dinner time conversations that revolve around them yelling "POOP!" as loudly as possible to drive me batty. 

This weekend I devoured "Notes From a Blue Bike" by Tsh Oxenreider (from The Art of Simple). Tsh writes about her family's journey to be more intentional and slow life down in our frantic world. Reading her story, especially the chapters on food, helped me focus thoughts and concerns I had about my own life. When we lived in California it was very easy to eat locally. We had our own garden, participated in a CSA and went to the Farmer's Market. In rural Oklahoma it's really hard to do those same things. What I loved about the book was the tone of support. Doing your best is good. Start with what you can and do more when you figure out the "how".  I know that this assignment to Oklahoma is almost over. When we move we will be in a better place to give the boys their own vegetable garden again and have Saturday mornings strolling through a Farmer's Market as a family. 

Right now I will focus on the memories and lessons I can give them. We can take food from our individual pasts and make it into our family present. I can let go of the extra mess that happens when the boys cook with me. We can linger over dinner. We can savor every moment of it.  

This post is part of the Blue Bike Blog Tour, which I’m thrilled to be part of. To learn more and join us, head here. From a Blue Bike is written by Tsh Oxenreider, founder and main voice of The Art of Simple. It doesn’t always feel like it, but we DO have the freedom to creatively change the everyday little things in our lives so that our path better aligns with our values and passions. Grab your copy here.


  1. My copy of the Blue Bike arrived today. I was really excited to read it and now that I have read this post, I really can't wait!

  2. I have been looking forward to this book since I first heard Tsh mention it. It sounds like your kids will have a rich culinary heritage. I love Indian food - I'm in the process of learning to make it at home. The fact that we live 1.5 hours from an Indian restaurant is good incentive :)

  3. You live in Oklahoma? I'm in Southwest missouri (Springfield) -- are we close?

  4. I live in a tiny little town in southwest Oklahoma (Altus) which is about 2 hours from OKC. So close-ish!

  5. We are really far from Indian food too-though I don't cook it as often as I'd like to. The appetizers are what I would love to learn how to make…what I wouldn't do for a decent pakora!!

  6. Can't wait to hear what you think! You should check out the list of links on the Art of Simple…there are some really fabulous posts other people have written there!

  7. We're hoping to fit in a trip to Tulsa before we move later this year-if we make it out there maybe we can meet up :)

  8. Yes, please let me know!


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