When I was a college freshman starting life on campus, I found the food available in our college cafeteria very confusing. Though ranked among the most diverse and delicious offerings, many times, I would walk through and find myself still with an empty plate. I could not find anything to eat. I had grown up on non-typical food, lots of roots and tubers, legumes and pulses, kale before it became a dietary hit, and lots of plain old water. Now I was part of a place that had fun theme food nights, and I could not find something that resembled my normal diet. Where I should have been thrilled, I was feeling tense, and very hungry. Many times, the most familiar thing was pizza. It often made me feel full, long before I felt satisfied with the meal.
Saved by a last-ditch connection with a wonderful nutritionist named Mimi in those first few weeks, I quickly started looking at our college food theme nights, and their accompaniments with new eyes. I could not find the foods I knew well, but I could find their close cousins in the dining hall. Since then, I began a lifelong practice of looking for the familiar foods, among those that may appear radically different. Foods from cultures that are not our own hold secrets to our own health, and happiness, if only I could get into them. (more…)