By Asma Ghribi
Daniel Pearl Fellow
When I first tried to get myself my new favorite treat here in America, I had some trouble.
“Please give me the whole thing,” I said to a bewildered salesperson, who gestured vaguely toward the wholegrain row of baked goods.
Correcting myself, I scanned the nameplates until I found it: “One ‘everything’ bagel please.”
“Everything” bagels have been a revelation: their delicious, chewy texture
is perfect for cream cheese, lox, butter, or just about anything.
Their combination of sesame seeds, garlic, and poppy seeds (which I had never tasted before) is heaven in the mouth.
The wonders of American food don’t stop with that Jewish delicacy.
There’s Thai curry, Chinese egg drop soup, Mexican quesadillas, Indian palak paneer, Brazilian cornmeal couscous. . .
What I love about American food is that it brings together cuisines from around the world.
When an American asks “What would you like to eat?”what they mean is “Which country’s food do you want to eat?”
That diversity of cuisine is a good symbol of the diversity of America itself.
Of course, that there are people from every country in New York, I knew that before coming here. But what surprised me is how the groups are so well integrated.
Many times I’ve walked into a store and seen someone behind the counter who looks like they’re from a different country, but when it comes time for me to check out, they speak to me in flawless American English.
I’ve realized there’s no way to tell if someone’s American just by looking at them.
I’m from Tunis, the capital of my country, which is a cosmopolitan city; I’m used to seeing people of different races.
But the difference is, they’ve always stood out. As Tunisians, we always know who is a foreigner. We would never approach them by speaking in Arabic.
Even though people have different skin colors, there’s always a way to know if someone is Tunisian or is not,even if just by their manner of dress.
Here in America, there’s truly no way.
And it when it comes to me, people have desperately tried to guess where I am from originally. Some people approach me in Spanish and I find myself struggling and embarrassed that I did not take my Spanish
seriously in high school.
Others know from first sight that I’m Arab.
Still others think I’m Indian. I’ve even gotten Italian!
Different groups try to appropriate me as one of their own, but I’m from that tiny North African country that so many Americans confuse with Indonesia: Tunisia.