Originally published in quality newspapers on July 1, 2010
Every once in awhile I have a conversation with one of my children that stops me in my tracks and I had one of those with my oldest son the other day. We were talking about some of his friends from school and one of the names caught my attention. I repeated the name back and asked, “Is he…” then named the nationality from which I thought that name might come. My son paused, looked at me quizzically, and said, “No, he’s American. He lives here.”
At that moment, I realized that my children see the world much differently than I do. When I encounter someone with a different color of skin than me or with a particular accent, my first thought is to associate them as Mexican, Chinese, Greek, or whatever. My son, however, sees them first as American, simply because they are here. They are here, just like me, and they likely have the same American dream as me. We’re all here together and occasions like the 4th of July are good times to be reminded of that.
This diversity is part of what defines us. We all came to this country originally as the tired, the poor, the huddled masses. I recently had a chance to poll some of my friends about where their families came from originally and for how many generations had they been here. Nearly every corner of the globe was represented in the responses and some had been here for just a generation and others for centuries. One of my friends noted that unless we are Native American we’re all originally “boat people.”
We’re essentially a nation of imports and even some of what we consider as quintessentially American was imported from somewhere else. Would there even be baseball had there not first been cricket? It’s hard to imagine our American cuisine without its many influences. Most of our favorites have roots from elsewhere. In this season of cookouts and backyard BBQs, we have Germany to thank for our hot dogs and England for our apple pie. This summer I’m trying to broaden my repertoire of “American” picnic fare by enjoying Asian noodle dishes and sandwiches made on Cuban bread. Another terrific picnic menu item is this Curried Chicken Salad, bursting with the warm spices of India.
I don’t know if we’ll ever update our idioms to make room for our diverse American reality – “As American as motherhood and Pad Thai?” but I’m grateful my children are growing up in a country where no matter what color of skin you have or how your last name is pronounced, you are American because you are here.
Curried Chicken Salad
- 1 -1/2 lb grilled chicken breasts, skin removed and meat chopped
- 1 medium red onion, chopped (1 cup)
- 1 firm-ripe mango (3/4 pound), peeled, pitted, and chopped
- 1/2 cup salted roasted cashews, coarsely
- 1/4 cup chopped fresh cilantro
- 1/2 cup mayonnaise
- 1/3 cup plain yogurt
- 5 teaspoons curry powder
- 1 tablespoon fresh lime juice
- 1 teaspoon honey
- Salt and pepper to taste
Place the chicken, onion, mango, cashews, and cilantro in a large mixing bowl. In a medium bowl add the remaining ingredients and whisk to combine. Add the dressing mixture to the large bowl and stir to combine. Serve on good bread or in pitas.