I never realized I was of Irish descent until I started dating a Puerto Rican woman. Sometimes you can't see what you're in until you get outside of it. My parents rarely referred to Irishness, and made no point of encouraging any such awareness in their children. They did, of course, maintain the Irish Cuisine, or, perhaps, the lack of it. We ate food that was a study in grays, off-whites, greenish grayish shapes floating in semi-viscous, transluscent whitish, yellowish, vaguely edible fluids. Dinner was an experience in non-experience. One mound of stuff tasted perplexingly just like the next mound. All food was canned or frozen. The word "fresh" was reserved for sexual misconduct only.

Why is this something to write about? Food plays such a big role in our lives that we completely forget to notice it. It is always there. Through much of human evolution, getting food was life. Today, work is life, then we buy food so easily and mindlessly that it becomes a triviality. Yet culture is still largely identified by its food, and cultures can still be radically altered by food or the lack of it. The Irish potato famine caused the migration of millions of people from Ireland. More recently, similar famines have caused upheaval in Africa.

America is the land of plenty, capable of feeding much of the world, and attracting immigrants with opportunity, and food. The United States rapidly absorbs cuisines of other cultures. Here you can eat almost any kind of food from any culture. The flavors are bland-ified to to remove the subversive, political or fanatical content, but still the form is recognizable as being from Japan, Italy, China, Thailand etc.

So food says a lot about a culture. The term "homogenized" plays such a large role in US foods that I begin to suspect it carries a deeper symbolic meaning. My grandparents left the land of potatoes (whitish, starchy, low nutrition) to go to the land of Lucky Charms (whitish, starchy, low nutrition), careful not to stray too far from the familiar. For me something is lacking and I continue my "Quest for Cuisine". Recently I visited my parents, and showed them a head of garlic I had brought. "What's that?" they asked suspiciously.

And so the saga continues.