Marrying into a culture other than the one a person is raised in means getting introduced to a completely different way of thinking, eating, perhaps dressing and living in general.
Over forty years ago when I started keeping company with a young man from Kyoto, Japan I began to absorb much information about his background, family, food choices and I studied East Asian History, East Asian Literature and gleaned more from a sociology class as well.
All this was not as thorough as being raised in that culture, but it all added to my understanding. Over the years, and with the help of an assortment of cook books as well as the efforts of a few in-laws showing me their ways of doing some of the basics, I did learn to prepare sukiyaki, tempura, nori maki sushi, miso soup, udon, fried rice dishes, teriyaki, and of course gyoza or potstickers as they are called by Westerners. Many of these entrees became favorites of mine as well as of our dinner guests both in California and later here in Ohio. Only my father did not like the new cuisine and said to my face… you don’t know how to cook!
Serving a fine dinner had been one of my most frequent and favored forms of entertainment for both old friends and newer acquaintances until recent years when I found I could no longer do so without persistent back pain which caused preparation and clean up to be quite a prolonged process and eventually I gave it up altogether.
Going out to eat, just makes a visit easier on all involved, so that seems to be my new direction. It came as a surprise to me on one such outing with some cousins that I see less often, from my mother’s side of my family when the wife of a cousin advised me that the two little white cubes I had just added to my selection for a stir fry were tofu. Almost laughing, but not quite, I said, “I have been to Japan” and she just smiled, thinking I know not what. Does she know I wondered, that there are two kinds of tofu, firm for cooking and soft for eating from the package? Later it occurred to me that she doesn’t know me at all except that I am her husband’s quiet cousin, one out there in the extended family who usually shows up at family gatherings which happen once or twice a year.
It is interesting what assumptions people make just from the surface they see when looking at a person. There was a student in a painting class I was in at San Jose State who decided to explain to me what a kimono was. I explained to him that my husband was from Japan and I had some experience with that mode of clothing. I did not mention that one of my in-laws was in the business of selling kimonos and I had the privilege to attend a sale where rows and rows of kimonos were displayed on a floor for ease of viewing.
In our complex society most people do not seem interested in knowing anyone outside their immediate family very deeply. Things are too hurried and harried to be bothered so how would anyone guess that there is more to the average individual than meets the eye. I believe everyone does have a story, but who cares?