Thursday, July 17, 2008

America Is Still Melting In The Pot...Or Is It?

The great American experiment has been chugging along for over 200 years and it has, for the most part, been a successful endeavor. The Great Melting Pot has produced some amazing people in its relatively brief history. Sometimes, however, when too many ingredients are poured in too rapidly, the fire beneath becomes overburdened.

Through most of the 20th century immigrants to America eagerly leapt into the pot and willfully allowed themselves to become part of the mix, revelling in their new-found home and enthusiastically embracing its culture. Then something changed near the end of the century; new additions began to cling to the side of the pot in an attempt to retain some of their original composition by not submerging themselves fully into what I call the stew. This corresponds to the emergence of hyphenated nationality labels. "Whatyouwill-Americans", e.g.

The stew began to change with these new ingredients being added, even more so than it should have. The flavor was always in flux, true, but the basic composition of the stew was always about a mixture of components. I am at a loss in explaining this change.

Yes, the flavor changes with the ingredients of a stew, but the stew remains relatively unchanged in appearance. This is because everyone cooks down to a common broth. There is change, but the change is so gradual as to be nearly imperceptible. That is, so long as one of the ingredients doesn't thrash about, wailing, as it loses its core identity at the boiling point. One must agree that such an occurrence would be most noticeable to the cook.

Up until the latter part of the 20th century there were no reluctant ingredients being poured into the pot. Sure, they still hit the plate as either orange carrots or white potatoes, but they all shared the plate without quarrel. It was a stew from the "pot", and all were equally consumed without prejudice (3-year-old-racist-picky-eaters notwithstanding). Now we have the ingredients demanding special privileges and prominence on the plate.

To really throw a wrench into the mix, pomegranate has insisted on not only being added to the stew (something which, to my knowledge at least, is unprecedented), but has demanded even further that it be highlighted on the menu. Outrage, I say.

I think the cook needs to turn up the heat and use the ladle to clear the sides of the pot, stirring frequently. We need a common identity once again in order to survive.


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