Cross Cultural Cuisine: Breaking Boundaries

Pretty much everyone in Montreal and throughout the province of Quebec is talking about the Parti Quebecois’ Charter of Values. If you are not familiar this is essentially a xenophobic reaction to what the current government perceives to be a threat to “our” culture. Overt religious symbols would be banned by any public worker like a doctor, teacher, and daycare worker and whatnot. You might be wondering why this is being written about in a food blog. Well, this affects all of us here in Quebec and Canada really and if this passes it will embolden other places around the world to push for this kind of thing. This charter actually has a fair amount of support in the province surprisingly (somewhere close to 50% in recent polls). I think that something as simple as food can really help overcome so many of these social, racial, and religious boundaries. The human body craves 4 things: food, water, sex, and sleep. On a side note; never try to satisfy all 4 of those cravings simultaneously. You can get hurt really bad. Don’t ask me how I know, just take my word that I do. Once those 4 needs are met everything else in life is just gravy really. So I maintain that if we can just get people from different ethnicities, religions, and cultures together and enjoy a meal once in a while and just get to know each other we can see we all have the same wants, needs, dreams, goals, hopes, fears and so on. 

Is it always easy to be open minded about everything? Nope. We all make snap judgements from time to time. It is human nature. But you know, with a little knowledge of the world around us we can not only tolerate people who are different from us in any number of ways, but we can accept  them too. Ignorance is a dangerous thing, one of the most dangerous things around if you ask me and I think this is playing a big part in this fiasco. A statistic was released not long ago claiming that 49%(!!!!) of Quebecers are functionally illiterate. I am no mathimagician but that is a crap ton of people, like 3/4 of us at least. Ok, kidding aside, it is a shocking number and something to consider when you see a good chunk of the population in support of essentially removing basic human rights from people based on religious beliefs. I’ve grown up in and around Montreal all of my life. I have always been proud of how accepting I thought we were. I would like to believe we still are. This proposal is being put out there apparently to help preserve Quebec values. That is a vague notion at best. People from all over the world have moved here and called this place home. Many Irish, Italian, Ukrainian, Polish, Greek, Portuguese…(and on and on and on I could go) have settled here early on and helped establish what Montreal and Quebec is today. It is reflected everywhere you look all over the city and in many places across the province. I have never visited another city as culturally diverse as Montreal. So what are Quebec values then if not actual cultural diversity? 

Take a look at my extended family as a perfect example. On my side, my mother is from generations of Irish and French who settled here pretty much from the beginning and are Roman Catholic. My dad’s family came here a little after WWII from Europe and are also Catholic and observe the same holidays as the Orthodox calendar. On my girlfriends’ side her mom’s family are also of the first here and have been Quebecois farmers for generationsand are Catholic. My father in law is from Suriname and is Jewish. My girlfriend has a brother who is French Canadian and another brother who is a devout Muslim who was born in Suriname and now lives in Germany. As for me, I consider myself a non-practicing Atheist, meaning if I wasn’t so indifferent to the idea of organized religion and lazy I would not really believe in any religion.  

So as you can see, we are a pretty eclectic bunch. Families like this in Montreal are not a rare thing either. Being around such a melting pot of culture just at my own dinner table kind of makes it second nature to be open minded and curious about other religions and ethnicities. When my brother in law visits I have no qualms about going to a Halal butcher to get what I need to make dinner for him. We have great, deep spiritual conversations too even though we are of very different faiths as I also do with my father in law. What is wrong with that? Isn’t that what life is about? We’re all much more the same than many people would have us think. And when we all have meals together any differences we have disappear because we are family, or friends, just eating and having a good time. We all talk about the same things anyone else would. When you eat a meal together barriers can disappear real fast. It’s also a great way to expose yourself to new cultures and ideas. So if you have a neighbor of a different ethnicity or religion ask them for a recipe. Share one of your traditional recipes with them or have them over for dinner. We’ve always welcomed people here with open arms. It has created a unique city with flavors from every corner of the planet. We should be happy about that.

In 1995 the Parti Quebecois, then led by Jacques Parizeau, lost a referendum when asking its citizens if we wanted to secede from Canada. In his post-defeat speech Parizeau said that they lost because of money and the ethnic vote. If this charter passes it will alienate these “ethnic voters” all over again and on a much more grave level. Anyone who is not Christian will essentially become a second class citizen. I am not ok with that at all. It is not what I am about. It is not what my family is about. It is not what Montreal, Quebec and Canada is about. The fact that you can walk down a street here and walk into a Jewish deli and then a few blocks later walk into a Halal butcher shop is something that should be celebrated, not frowned upon. If you go to a doctor and they are wearing a hijab or a kippah why should that bother you? Shouldn’t you be more worried that you just waited 17 hours in the emergency room? Shouldn’t you be more worried that 49% of us are functionally illiterate?

Stay phat.

Categories: Phood Philosophies

Tags: , , ,

6 replies

  1. Great points Jody Love the article if everybody would think like this Life would be so much better in the world. I wish more of us would think like this. it’s sad that more people don’t.

  2. Brilliant. Absolutely and categorically brilliant article Jody. Thank you so much for contextualizing and condemning this brooding xenophobic Parti Québécois nonsense with an extra pinch of your usual gutsy personal flare and overture. Non! À la charte des valeurs. Oui 🙂 Oh que oui… à Phatman Pheasts.

    (In other news: WE WANT PHATMAN PHEASTS’ MONTREAL FOODTRUCK!!! Summer 2014. Crossing my fingers, my toes and my taste buds.)

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