In second grade, my teacher announced our class would be hosting a “cultural day,” during which all students were invited to bring in a favorite dish representing their culture. I had no problem choosing mine: borek, a delicious combination of phyllo dough, parsley and feta cheese.
Borek was hands-down the dish I most looked forward to eating at every family gathering, and each of its ingredients represented my Middle Eastern heritage perfectly. But the day of the cultural celebration, after I begged my mom to prepare the dish, the Pyrex container full of the flaky, cheesy pastry was left uneaten. Some even derided it for its funny look and texture.
Thinking back to this moment, I remember feeling ashamed about my heritage; growing up on Long Island with parents from Syria and Turkey was not easy, to say the least. But I also cannot help but recognize how this generation’s conceptualization of cultural food has changed since this experience.
The types of cuisine that were once avoided are now embraced, simply because the appreciation for food has evolved into something entirely new. The food industry has flourished into an American cultural phenomenon, so much that there is now a term dedicated to it: the foodie. This newfound foodie culture is a mere representation of this generation’s commitment to community, diversity and multiculturalism.
There is something about food that connects people, that brings a common experience between two seemingly different individuals. Whether it is sharing a bag of chips or sitting down for a four-course meal, there exists a sense of commonality. The foodie culture optimizes on this sense of commonality — it promotes excitement and experience in a similar manner as music did for the previous generation.
When millennials gather together, either to catch-up on life or discuss future plans, food is almost always involved. And because food is involved, there is room for experimentation — experimentation of new flavors, spices and tastes, whether one is talking about a new love interest over chicken tikka masala, discussing politics over bibimbap or a drunk night over pierogies.
Foodie culture is much more than taking a photo of your macaroni and cheese or avocado toast and posting it on Instagram — it has entered a larger cultural context in recent years. The American foodie, in particular, is unique because he or she is not based off of a single culture. No matter how different we are as individuals, whether we come from Asia or South America, whether we follow Christianity, Judaism, Islam or Hinduism, at the end of the day, we all have to eat. We are all human.
Our desire to unify Georgetown around food inspired Alex Heintze and me to start the GU Eating Society. We host events for members at various internationally themed restaurants at a discounted or free price, going out of our comfort zone — i.e., the front gates — and entering an area that we have yet to try. Just in this past year, our palettes have led us all around the world; we have eaten kimchi at Korean restaurants, blue catfish at a contemporary American restaurant and shawarma at a Lebanese restaurant. We even partner with on-campus cultural clubs to foster a closer student body connection — hand-making some delicious Spam musubi with the Georgetown Hawai’i Club.
This generation recognizes how we are not all the same, that we are equally different in race, ethnicity, sexual orientation, gender identity and even in the food we eat. Each cultural cuisine serves the common purpose of nourishing our bodies and bringing us together. Foodie culture is simply an outlet to promote multiculturalism, diversity and tolerance. It is about making the world a more accepting place through good company and a good appetite.
Brittany Arnett is a sophomore in the College.
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