Just in time for Thanksgiving, I gave a talk last night: “Getting Thankfully to the Promised Land of Vegetables.” Just before the talk began, I was surprised by the arrival of some Japanese students, then a Russian, then a group of Saudis and another of Kuwaitis. A Taiwanese student rounded out the group of 10 international students.
They are all here for a short language-immersion program at the University of Colorado, and their professor thought a healthy eating class would be a perfect language-immersion activity. At first, I wasn’t so sure. I quickly ticked through my planned talk, panicking that it wouldn’t be relevant or of interest to young people from all points of the globe. There really wasn’t time for much adjusting, however, so I dove in.
Turns out, the topic was just fine for our international attendees–and they were a wonderful audience. As interesting as anything was learning from them about food issues in their countries.
- In Russia, vegetable eating isn’t the alien act that it is in our country. Because food is so highly priced, nearly 90% of the population has a garden and derives a good part of their diet from it. So they end up with a vegetable-rich diet automatically. And getting exercise is no problem, either.
- Kuwaitis are dealing with diabetes, too. One student’s mother makes sure his father eats a lot of broccoli, among other things, to help with his diabetes.
- Also in Kuwait, dieting is the rage among women.
- In Taiwan, organic foods are becoming quite popular. One student worked for a successful German importer of organic nuts and spices.
- During the cooking portion of the class, we prepared a Light Orange Spinach Waldorf Salad. It was interesting to see how many of the ingredients were common in other countries, e.g., Bosc pears, spinach, Asian pears and walnuts.
- Finally, when the conversation turned to the seasonal foods in the salad, speaking to an international audience got me thinking about the meaning of this concept in countries that don’t have so many or such distinct growing periods. In Saudi Arabia, for instance, do they ever have cool-weather crops? Do they ever not have warm weather fruits? Hmmm . . .
Bottom line: American cuisine has been delightfully enhanced by the addition of international flavors. Maybe our whole conversation about healthy eating could benefit and take on greater dimension with more international perspectives.