I think the reason why I love my neighborhood is that it is culturally pretty diverse for Italian standards.
My daughter has been lucky enough to spend her first years with a tight-knit group of friends with parents from several continents, exposing her from the start to different religions and traditions. Just as an example, one of her oldest friends is half American, just like her. Our neighbors and good friends are from Argentina. Her favorite playmate is a girl from the Philippines and there are children from all over the world in both our children's classes.
This may be a given in many countries but it is still a novelty in Italy. This country only recently went from being a country of emigrants to one that welcomes large amounts of immigrants, making diversity a reasonably new concept here, especially in the more gentrified neighborhoods. Many children here are first generation Italians and some just moved recently and are still coming to terms with a new tradition and language.
Sometimes I hear things people say that make me cringe. I realize it is often more the result of not being accustomed or exposed to diversity than an actual feeling of superiority and more often than not the words are said totally unaware, without malice, but it makes me realize we still have a ways to go.
My children and I often talk about being different, because we/they are different. Their mother speaks to them in a foreign language, they do not take religion in school (how about teaching children about the religions of the world to help them understand them and be more tolerant than having an hour dedicated to the Catholic religion, that most children learn about in Sunday school anyway?), their grandparents and aunts and uncles and cousins live all over the world and speak a variety of languages.
We have a book full of fun and interesting drawings about different people, different colors and different shapes. Tall people, short, people, big people, thin people. Blue eyes, brown eyes, green eyes. Big noses, tiny noses, bumpy noses, freckly noses. Long hair, short hair, curly hair, frizzy hair. Blonde, brown, black, grey, white. Huge ears, wrinkly ears, hairy ears. Some of the men wear pants, others tunics or skirts. Some have short hair, some have long hair. Some wear earrings, some don't. Some women have bare chests, others are covered from head to toe, some have colorful tatoos and shaved heads, others have plates in their lips.
We are different, different is good, different is important.
Yesterday my daughter told me she heard something someone said to a classmate of hers. It was not outright offensive but she grasped the fine line between funny and hurtful and felt bad for him. This made me happy, because now I know she has the sensitivity to think more about how she communicates with people.
If we all stop to think before we speak, we could avoid a lot of hurt. I do it, we all do it, every day, usually without noticing. We could avoid hurting those we love, our friends, our colleagues, our acquaintances and even and foremost strangers.
Food is another powerful way to reach out to each other, cross borders and cultures, as Sasha reminds us every day. I try to expose my children to the world's incredible variety through the meals I prepare daily for my family.
This dish is definitely a result of globalization, an example of a fusion dish.
There are ingredients and inspirations from Maghreb, Thailand and Japan in this simple meal. It takes just a few minutes to throw together and is full of vitamins, it is light and extremely tasty. Once again I will be giving you general guidelines because how and what you use is really up to you and your personal taste. The dressing (which I found in an old Donna Hay book) has very little oil in it and to keep things even lighter and healthier I used less couscous (which you can buy whole wheat) and more veggies. Oh, and don't discard the tough stems, I have a recipe coming up for those too!
Ingredients (5 servings)
2 cups couscous
1 large, ripe avocado
2 bushels of asparagus (minus the tough part of stem - do not discard)
Furikake (as much as you like, I used a little over a tbsp)
1 tbsp sesame oil
1 tbsp brown sugar
2 tbsp lime juice
1/4 cup soy sauce (I used low sodium)
1 tsp fish sauce
2 chilis (optional, I skipped this for the kids)
To clean your asparagus rinse carefully and snap off the tough ends of the stems. Do not discard, I have a recipe coming up for those. Heat a grill pan and then grill the spears until lightly charred.
Make the couscous following the instructions on the box (I used the instant kind).
While the couscous is resting you can start making the dressing by putting all the ingredients into a jar with a lid and shaking them together until combined. This recipe makes more dressing than you will need, but you can store it in the fridge with its lid for up to a month. It is delicious on pretty much everything, trust me, I tried.
When the asparagus is ready set aside to cool. Then chop into approximately one-inch pieces. Chop the avocado in bite-sized chunks.
Mix the vegetables into the couscous, pour over as much dressing as you like and sprinkle over the furikake.
Last but not least, thank you Manu for your award, you are the best!
Here are 7 facts (do you really want to know them?):
1. tonight I am going to see The Boss live!
2. I have been a fan for more years than I care to say
3. I buy nail polish and then don't wear it
4. I do the same with make up
5. I am reading The Tiger's Wife6. I have to remind myself constantly to drink water
7. I am getting ready to say goodbye to diapers: am about to start potty training my last!
I pass this award on to:
Feeding Andy (for her new start)
Ztasty life (a reasonably new read)
Twinisms (the girl makes me laugh)
Hotly Spiced (how does she always get a new post up?)
The Girl's Guide to Guns and Butter (a fun and interesting read)
The Little Loaf (an old favorite)
And Baby Cakes Three (another old favorite)