Sometimes, I Wish I Spoke Spanish

Last night we went to this fabulous Spanish restaurant and I ate something I’d never had before that has a name I can’t even begin to figure out how to spell even enough to look it up on the internet, but my god, it was fabulous–rice, peas, meat, some sauce–and I had this salad with tomatoes so good that it made every other tomato I’ve had in my life suddenly better in retrospect.

And as we left, the guy who took our money at the garage spoke English until the driver spoke Spanish to him and then he smiled sheepishly in that way men do when they suspect you’ve overheard them talking about you when they thought you wouldn’t know.

As I was laying in the tub, trying to coax my ankle into bending again–hot, cold, wiggle, wiggle, hot, cold, wiggle, wiggle–I thought about how much I appreciate that my parents traveled with us when we were growing up.  We learned by experience that the whole nation was much larger and much different than the small towns we were growing up in, and that our experience was not the only kind of experience one could have in this country, that on down the road there’s always something new to try–new foods, new smells, new people–and it’s all open to you if you’re willing to search it out.

I sometimes think of how people complain about how homogenized our culture is, how no matter where you go, there’s a McDonald’s and a Tiger Mart and a Hilton and a Walmart; how all the songs on all the radio stations are all the same.  And I have to tell you, I wonder if they ever actually get out and about in the places they accuse of being all the same, because these places all seem amazingly different to me.

Which makes me wonder what we mean when we talk about preserving “American” culture.  We talk about losing it like we’d be losing something distinct and uniform, when really, what is distinct about us is how many different experiences can be encompassed by the idea of the “American Experience.”

I mean, yes, things are changing and it’s a different nation than the one you grew up in, but all you had to do was drive a hundred miles from where you lived and it was a different nation even then.

Is our culture really threatened or is it just your understanding of our culture, which was already too small to begin with? 

10 thoughts on “Sometimes, I Wish I Spoke Spanish

  1. if most people got off the interstate and took the old highways and bothered to drive THROUGH small towns they would see that the American way of life is preserved.But most people are about getting there rather than experiencing the trip.that’s the way I see it, anyhow

  2. The American way of life is preserved in big cities, too. Nobody forces you to eat at McDonald’s *anywhere.*And what color rice? What color sauce? What kind of meat? Dried or fresh peas?

  3. Don’t know what you’ve done to the ankle either, but in general, R.I.C.E. works best: rest, ice, compression, elevation. Buy a bag of frozen peas and wrap them around the ankle, leave on for 20 minutes while it’s up in the air. Rest seems out right now for you, and compression could be an ACE bandage if you can swing it, but the ice alone will help and heat will only maintain the fluid/swelling in it and cause a longer recovery. Note: I’m neither a doctor or a sports therapist, but due to my frequent visits to the training room in college and self-therapy thereafter, this is accepted treatment.

  4. Wendy, "Tiger Marts" are how Exxon lures you into buying their gas, with a little quickie mart that is clean and well lit and pleasant enough to momentarily make you forget about their business practices.Prof, it’s just the same old ankle crap it always is–left over nonsense from the grad school incident. It doesn’t hurt and there’s no new injury. Monday it just stopped moving and Tuesday it was better but since I was doing a lot of driving and walking by last night it was completely immobile again, so I was trying to just get it loose and flexible. There’s no pain. It’s not swollen. It just stopped working.I wore different shoes today, so we’ll see if that helps.NM, I had a half and half of this thing. So, it’s this rice-based dish. Half of it had peas (which could have been dried and then reconstituted, maybe) and zuccini (I think) and other veggies and a green sauce. The rice had been cooked in a big flat pan, almost like a risotto. The other half had some kind of ham-like pork product that was almost ham almost bacon. And it had a creamier sauce.

  5. I’ve always maintained that life is what you make of it. I grew up in a small town, but, just as you mentioned, my parents exposed me to all kinds of new things, and I really think that’s made all the difference.

  6. It sounds like the dish was some sort of classy variation on arroz con gandules. The "pork product" was almost certainly jamon de cocina. Was it a restaurant serving food from Spain, or from the Caribbean (both get called "Spanish", usualy)? The veggies suggest that it might have been Caribbean, because in Spain they’d usually rather die than eat veggies that hadn’t been cooked to death completely.Oh, and was the green sauce spicy (cilantro-ish), salty (olive/caper-ish), or something else? And was the rice colored yellow?

  7. NM, I have since discovered that I had two kinds of paella. How authentic they were, I can’t be sure, but they were delicious.

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