I have always been interested in different cultures.
I love to learn about traditions around the world, religious practices, ceremonies, and especially the foods.
It may stem from the fact that I don't really know what nationality to call myself.
A photo of Carne Asada.
Cooking the meat for the dish.
Al’s Israeli Salad ingredients.
My paternal grandfather was Scottish, my maternal grandfather was Native American from the Navajo tribe.
My paternal grandmother was German and my maternal grandmother was Spanish.
As a child, I felt very confused about who I was.
Mexican Carne Asada with Al's Israeli salad
2 lb skirt steak
2 cloves garlic, chopped finely
C. olive oil
C. cilantro, chopped finely
tsp. chili powder
Juice from three limes
In a bowl, combine the olive oil, salt, pepper, cilantro, chili powder and lime juice. Mix well. Lay the skirt steak in the marinade and completely cover the steak. Place this in the refrigerator until you are ready to cook it. Heat a skillet or grill to medium hot. Cook the steak for about three or four minutes on each side. Serve with Spanish rice, pinto beans and a salad.
Al's Israeli salad
1 large hot house cucumber, skinned and chopped into tiny cubes
3 hot house tomatoes, chopped into tiny cubes
4 spring onions, chopped into small pieces
1 Tbsp cilantro, chopped
C. olive oil
Mix well. Set in the refrigerator until you are ready to serve.
My mother was Catholic and my stepfather was Jewish. I didn't have the sense of place that many of my friends who were obviously Korean, Mexican, or Indian had when they were asked about their heritage.
However, I was intrigued about different nationalities and always wanted to know more.
In college, I studied every culture I could read about. I took world religions, Islamic art, Chinese literature (translated, of course), and African American history.
Later, I moved to England and learned how the English live.
I spent some time in France mostly just eating.
Soon after that, I lived in a predominately Mexican community in Los Angeles.
Recently, I have resided for many years in a small Norwegian town in the Midwest.
I have children who are half English and American, and others who are half Indian and half English. I have close friends who are Jewish, Christian, and Hindu.
Recently, I came to the conclusion that labeling myself doesn't matter anymore. Being a part of all of it is who I want to be. I love it all and try to soak it all in.
Learning about the customs, family relationships, and business practices of different societies is interesting; but, learning about the food they eat is fascinating for me.
Japanese food is so clean and it doesn't get any fresher than sushi.
Greek food is flavorful and full of delicious seasonings and sauces.
Indian food is rich and spicy and garlicky. I love all of it.
Whether you are living in a small tribe in West Africa, or in the South of France, food is something that brings people together.
No one plans a social gathering without it in any part of the world.
Parties and get-togethers revolve around food.
In Hawaii, they have the luau and in the Midwest we grill out.
Where I grew up, Southern California, and more particularly in Baja California, they have a Carne Asada.
Carne Asada is the equivalent of a Midwest grill out.
This means that thinly sliced beef is going to be marinated in tons of seasoning and lime juice and grilled for a few minutes on a barbecue along with other foods.
Carne Asada as most of us know it is the dish itself.
You may order it as a meal served with beans and rice or in a taco or in a burrito. Usually it is still marinated in lime, seasonings, garlic and cilantro. Always, it is delicious.
This weekend my parents have travelled from Southern California to spend some time with us and I decided to make Carne Asada to celebrate their arrival.
I served it with Spanish rice, pinto beans and (oddly enough) an Israeli salad that a friend taught me how to make years ago.
This friend of mine, Al, was from Israel and moved to California where he lived on a ranch and became a cowboy. He also spoke Spanish in order to communicate with his employees.
Yes, he was my Spanish speaking, Jewish, Israeli cowboy friend who lived in Los Angeles. It was inspiring to see one person blend all of these nationalities with such finesse.
He was an amazing guy and boy could he cook. He made us the most delicious grilled food.
We must have spent every weekend for a year enjoying delicious barbecued meals at his house listening to his stories about being raised in Israel.
Always, he prepared this same cucumber and tomato salad which he told me was an Israeli family recipe. This salad is smothered in lime juice and compliments the flavor of the Carne Asada marinade so well.
Why not invite everyone over this weekend to your house for a Carne Asada and mix things up by adding an Israeli salad? Or, make some other combination of national cuisines. Just use your imagination.
You'll come to find that, like the people who reside in the far reaches of the world with all of their lovely cultural ways and traditions, the foods from these different places harmonize with each other just as well.