5 Ways to Cross Cultures With Cuisine | Omega

Add some variety to your holiday meals and get to know more about your friends and the world by including dishes from other cultures.

Holiday meals in the United States tend to rely on traditional family recipes and comfort foods, like mashed potatoes, stuffing, and pumpkin or pecan pie, but they can also be a time to honor different cultures, connect with your friends, and expand your palate.

Stephanie Meade, founder and editor of InCultureParent, says that for many years she and her family have celebrated Thanksgiving with friends who are not American, and now the holiday doesn’t seem complete without a bunch of people from other countries.

All cultures and religions use food as part of events and ceremonies. Most celebrations end up with people crowded around a table of food, talking, laughing, and sharing stories.

"The celebratory nature of food is universal," says Ellen Gustafson, cofounder of the FEED Project, which aims to help fight hunger issues globally. "Every season, every harvest, and every holiday has its own food.”

Whether you are looking to add more spice and variety to your meal or be more inclusive at your holiday events, here are a five ways to add a multicultural element to your celebration.

1) Start by asking your guests to bring their favorite dish from their family’s archives or from their hometown.

“We invite a bunch of our friends from different countries, and everyone is required to bring a dish from their country,” Meade says. “Last year we had Indian samosas, Indian idlis, Moroccan chicken, and French veggies and dessert—in addition to the traditional American stuff.”

2) Another option is to research a traditional dish from another country and prepare it along with your standards. You can keep the main elements of your meal traditional and incorporate foods from other countries into your appetizers and sides.

Try traditional Lebanese starters like hummus or stuffed grape leaves. Or spice up butternut squash soup by adding some Thai curry spices. You could even serve sweet potato sushi, right along with your green beans and pumpkin pie.

3) If want to stay traditional with the main meal, go global with your desserts. Try this Cuban pumpkin flan recipe or apple empanadas from Ecuador.

4) Another way to learn about other cultures is to play games from around the world. Everyone needs a little time to digest after the big meal, so consider getting a few boards games like mahjong from China or mancala from Africa.

5) Round out your event by asking your guests to talk more about something they are grateful for from their culture or upbringing. You can download Seth Godin's Thanksgiving Reader to set the tone. Listening to and sharing stories after a meal can also be a great way to experience the world in the comfort of your home.

© 2016 Omega Institute for Holistic Studies