Writers more published than I (not hard to be) have often told me with wide eyes, a hand on my arm, and great conviction: “Write what you know.” Typically, I want to tell them both to stop touching me and to shove it, because I all-too-often feel without wisdom, whimsy, or wit, and so wonder what remains to be written if these three are removed. Well, someone I respect highly said this to me again recently; naturally, in my stumped state I turned to food—which surprisingly provided me with unanticipated insight.
I went home for a long weekend recently. Thursday night we were to have a party, and I found that by early afternoon, all entrée options in our house had been substituted with desserts. As I had already channeled my inner Augustus Gloop earlier in the day, I decided to seek lunch options beyond the confines of our kitchen. Now, here in my choice of restaurants I reveal my highly unsophisticated food preferences; I will defend myself meekly in saying that I had not eaten fast food in a while, and so was craving it mightily. And with that preface, the match was: Burger King vs. Little Tokyo, the charmingly (in)authentic Japanese stall at the mall. In the end, Little Tokyo won; I’m a sucker for an ethnic experience, and what is a mall food court if not the uniting of cultures and cuisines from around the world? I can think of no better word to describe the setting but mezcla, which is Spanish for “mixture” and Evie for “I just stepped it up and turned this piece bilingual.”
After ordering the classic Japanese dish of Hawaiian chicken, I sat down at a table for four. I did not have the luxury to getting my food to-go, for my mom had given me money with the stipulation that I bring neither the food nor the smell back to our house. So, my taking the money had landed me in the seat across from the Mr. Pretzel stall with Chinese—sorry, Japanese—food in a Styrofoam box and a plastic fork whose tines kept buckling before piercing the heatlamp-cooked chicken’s skin. Or crust. Or shell. Anyway, I began by opening my book and signaling to all nearby that I was not in a particularly cute state.
As I read, though, I became increasingly distracted by the other patrons of the food court. Rarely at school do I get to spend sustained amounts of time alone, and the solitude provided me with the much-desired luxury of observation. A multiplicity of languages, religious beliefs, experiences, and laughs surrounded me; instead of isolated, though, I felt surprisingly unified with the bodies and minds near to me. I have a language, a set of religious convictions, and a laugh that I call my own, and to be encircled by so many others who could say the same produced a sublime feeling of solidarity.
Away from the roiling turbulence of our University’s social and academic pressures, I could more easily perceive the wonder and gift of diversity. This school’s student body boasts more languages than I could name, more eccentricities than I could imagine, more potential relationships than I will have time for—but they are worth seeking. I felt encouraged coming away from Little Tokyo feeling semi-assured that I didn’t have food poisoning, and totally assured that my bubble here has room for growth in diversity and multiplicity. This, I feel sure, is something that I know.
Little Tokyo: Appreciating Diversity in Unexpected Places
Posted Apr 29 2012 - 10:09pm
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