Jambalaya For America

We celebrate and commemorate things with food a lot around here. Any time I can think of some way to bring some fun food to the table, I do it. If you go poking around the blog the last few years, you will find many examples of this (Bruins hockey, Dr. Who and other TV shows, birthdays, and holidays). Well, with any luck, tomorrow night will be an extraordinary night for America, in a good way, and of course, my mind began casting about for a way to survive  enjoy what could be a very long night.

I couldn’t help but dive back into my virtual New Orleans adventure, because all that I read and cooked and learned about that city confirmed what I have felt about America for my entire life. There is only one group of American citizens who can truly claim to be “from” here, to originate here, and that means that virtually everyone else here is “from” somewhere else, somewhere down the line. What made this country possible at all were people willing to set aside their differences to work together to build it, defend it, and make it last, not just one ethnicity, race, religion, or gender, but all people, from all the places they left behind, bringing their own experiences and insight into the human condition, and working to improve it for those who came after them.

Just as any one group is not solely responsible for what makes America great, one group or another is not solely responsible for the parts of America that are ugly, in pain, angry, and lost. All you have to do is read the news online, where you can access many different regional news outlets, to see that violence, poverty, bigotry, and hatred are everywhere, and are felt, and caused, by people of all races, all religions, all genders, all ethnicities.

We are our own worst, most frightening enemies. Thankfully, historically, we have also been our own better angels. Our ancestors endured so much to keep this country on the map, a beacon of hope that, even now, still shines in the world as a place to find safe haven and a chance to begin again.

That’s why I’m making jambalaya tonight, for dinner. As I introduce each new ingredient to the pot, I will know it is not native to this place, but that it brings its own unique gifts to the dish. Jambalaya would not be jambalaya without all the ingredients and flavors brought to New Orleans, and America, by European, Caribbean, South American, and Asian  immigrants, and African slaves, for over 250 years. Tomorrow night, we can enjoy how well the flavors of the jambalaya have commingled, given time. We can munch on crunchy, salty snacks as the evening wears on (great for nervous nibbling), and hopefully, at last, open the champagne chilling right now in the refrigerator, to celebrate our better angels rising to the occasion, one more time.

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