by Christine Peace
Originally published at Laurellife.com on February 8th, 2023.
Culture permeates everything.
It shapes who we are and to what we identify, even if we are unaware of it.
Truly, it is a part of us that cannot be ignored or denied,
and it is important to understand the impact it has on our lives.
For example, I was talking to a student about food the other day during lunch break. The topic of rice came up and, specifically, whether I rinse it or not. A simple question, yet one that, apparently, has strong answers. Although I don’t know exactly when I first learned this, I remembered that you are “supposed to” rinse rise, due to contamination of arsenic (well, I have been known not to rinse my rice out of laziness at times).
One student agreed with me while the other immediately and clearly was flabbergasted by the idea, stating, “No, you never rinse rice. That’s wrong.” I was just as surprised as her, particularly that she felt so strongly about what I thought was certain was truth. It took me a few moments to sit back and breathe before it dawned on me that maybe, somehow, we were both right. I decided to do some research, and what I discovered surprised me and led to me having to return to the student and correct myself.
I discovered that, in the United States and around the world, depending on your background, there are reasons true and valid reasons as to why you may or may not rinse your rice. For example, some cultures rinse rice because of the arsenic or starch, whereas other cultures do not rinse rice because they don’t want to wash away the positive nutrients. This means I was right and wrong. I returned to the student who I had disagreed with and acknowledged the error in my ways (an important and difficult, but necessary skill for growth.) She accepted my acknowledgement and we returned to discussions about culture and differences.
But how often may this type of situation occur? When, and how frequently do we assume someone else is wrong, simply because what we have always known to be “truth”was different then their “truth”? We may tend to believe that other people are wrong just because their culture is different from ours, due to our own cultural biases. It might not always come out verbally, as it did here. It may not even be a conscious thought, but it is happening. We may not be familiar with the customs, beliefs, and values of another culture and may see them as strange or unfamiliar. This can lead to an attitude of superiority, where we believe that our own culture is better than the other. On the other hand, it may just lead to division and conflict; not that we think we are better, but that we know better. Additionally, fear of the unknown can lead to judgments of other cultures that are different than our own.
It is important to be aware of our own biases and to strive to be open-minded to understand and appreciate the beauty of different cultures. We must be willing to learn and accept that there is often more than one way to do something, and that different cultures can all be right in their own ways. We should strive to be curious and ask questions, instead of immediately jumping to conclusions, to have a better understanding of other cultures. It is only through understanding and accepting different cultures that we can create a more unified, accepting, and understanding society. Plus, we may just improve on our cooking skills in the process!