Immigration Adds Spice!26 Aug 2010
We often call our readers’ attention to scholarly studies that document the many economic benefits of immigration – the creative energy and brainpower of foreign-born workers who help America to maintain its competitive edge in a knowledge-based economy. Beyond the hard economic numbers, though, immigration brings less-quantifiable, but equally important, benefits of cultural diversity: different music, literature, cultural outlooks, and especially food, things that enrich the American experience and make our country a more interesting place to live. In short, immigration adds spice to the national melting pot!
A case in point: this year’s winner of the national culinary competition, The Next Food Network Star, is Aarti Sequeira, who was born in Bombay and raised in the United Arab Emirates. (See: www.foodnetwork.com/aarti-sequeira-bio/bio/index.html.) Ms. Sequeira’s cooking is a fusion of her childhood culinary influences and mainstream American fare, bringing new and interesting flavors to old favorites, transforming humble Sloppy Joes with Indian seasonings – garam masala, ginger, chilies, and pistachios – into a gourmet version she calls Sloppy Bombay Joes. Another of Ms. Sequeira’s recipes uses a traditional Indian flatbread, naan, as the crust for a pizza featuring mango chutney, prosciutto and paneer, an Indian farmer cheese.
It’s also interesting to note that Ms. Sequeira was not the only competitor to bring the flavors of the immigrant kitchen to a wider audience; one of the other three finalists, Herb Mesa, is a Latino, a first-generation American who grew up on the Cuban and Puerto Rican cuisine of his immigrant parents. As the old Meat Loaf song goes, “…two out of three ain’t bad!”
On another cross-cultural note, NBC’s entertainment competition, a mid-August episode of “America’s Got Talent,” featured a dazzling performance by an Indian-American dance troupe, the Kruti Dance Academy. After so much recent controversy and unsavory rhetoric about immigrants and immigration, it is wonderful to see our country’s ethnic diversity celebrated, in all of its glorious sights and sounds and flavors.