Women, Spoon, Culture – Simple Broth
Who would guess that Women, Spoon, Culture combine to make a Simple Broth? In fact, Women, Spoon, Culture Simple Broth do. The treatment of Women in any society is a contentious subject, especially for a foreigner. However, unless we recognize the limits of cultural understanding, we unfairly impugn others because of a lack of proper dialogue. In spite of different culinary traditions and the formal and informal table settings, a Spoon is ubiquitous in human society. Learning foreign languages does more for a student than gaining knowledge of exotic grammatical rules. In actuality, acquiring a distant tongue opens us to learn non-native history and culture. Paradoxically the most important lesson we come away with is a better understanding of ourselves. Taken together and in the correct measures, Women, Spoon, Culture combines to make a Simple Broth from which we can benefit.
I studied the German language with a dynamite petite woman from Austria. Frau Teacher, I no longer recall her name, more than taught the cultures of the people of Germany and Austria. She narrated a story whose moral continues to resonate.
Women – Die Frauen
“When I first came to the USA, a male American colleague and I went out together. We arrived at a closed-door. He opened it and stood there. I stood there looking at him and waiting. He continued to wait and staring at me. Neither of us moved nor said a word.”
A student asked, “Why didn’t you go through the door? He was holding it open for you to walk through.”
Frau Teacher replied, “Because I was waiting for him to go through the door first.”
Someone asked, “But why? He was holding the door open for you, and being respectful. You are a woman, and that means you must go through the door first.”
Our Frau Teacher said, “I understand that now. But where I come from, the man goes through the door first."
Culture – Die Kultur
“What?!” we collectively gasped. ‘Normal’ reason was under assault as we felt the impact of her words and fathomed their meaning. As moans of disapproval surfaced from the class, a student, with polite indignation, asked a piercing question. “How can modern and DEMOCRATIC countries like Germany or Austria disregard the female half of their population?!” Subsequently, we bombarded Frau Teacher with our opinions about what we universally thought is a major faux pas of German culture. Simultaneously, many more heaped a barrage of questions upon her.
Students, “Why?! This is wrong! Women must go through the door first! It makes no sense! Does German culture, respect women?! Do German men value women?! That is crazy! It's backward!”
Frau Teacher, whom I now realized anticipated our reaction had a ready and concise response. She said, “Of course German people and culture respect Women. The reason a man goes through the door first is this. When you approach a closed-door, you do not know what is on the other side. If there is a danger, the man will face it first. He could, therefore, warn the woman, allowing her time to flee, protect herself, or prepare for what may come. The man going through the door first is a way of protecting the woman."
“Ohhh! That makes a lot of sense! That is very cool!” we roared enthusiastically. Laughter erupted from the class, as did the inevitable comment...
“We have to teach American men to do the same!” shouted someone.
Wisdom – Die Weisheit
Contemplating the moral of this story, the first reactions, and the wise narrator, I arrived at a few conclusions. We all suffer from the tendency to make mistakes. That said, the peril of immediacy can unnecessarily aggravate shortcomings. Still, there is hope in a universal common sense. The American man was trying to do the right thing, and the Austrian woman was giving him that opportunity. Unfortunately, they followed non-converging paths. My errors were applying a set of cultural standards on someone who comes from elsewhere and being judgmental. It is unfair to expect the foreigner to succeed at a task in the way of the native. Furthermore, condemning a population based on one event or situation is a wrong we suffer unto ourselves alone. Another obvious lesson is the ineffectiveness of nonverbal communication. The fruitlessness of that mode of interaction is more pronounced when we speak to people from other lands. Lastly, hiding behind cultural norms does little to diminish the real failing of character.
Spoon – Der Löffel
Living in ethnically diverse New York City, I have had many opportunities to apply lessons from Frau Teacher’s story. Among them: Interpreting non-verbal communication can lead to misunderstanding because cultural parameters are always a reason. Request a clarification when confronting an oddity. Above all, do not take offense over a perceived insult. In fact, the person with whom you are communicating may, in all sincerity, be giving you the highest compliment.
In some ways, accepting an invitation to a private residence is akin to visiting a foreign country. That is precisely how I felt while at the home of an acquaintance. First, in that culture, it is customary to sit on the floor while eating. Second, use only the right hand when consuming the meal. Lastly, eating from a communal dish but minus utensils. My comfort level and other factors make it difficult to eat with bare hands. Exceptions to that rule include pizza, which is normal in New York, or snack foods such as potato chips. In my opinion, I determined it is best to ask for a Spoon in that kind of situation. Requesting a fork and knife may fluster the host if, in their culture utensils is uncommon.
Simple Broth – Die Einfache Brühe
Everything was going along very nicely, and I was thoroughly enjoying the tasty meal. At some point, our hostess plucked from the heap of rice, stewed vegetables, and meat, what she deemed, I suppose, is the choicest morsel of the meal. She presented this gift to me – her American guest.
“Sister, I saved this piece for you. It is the cow intestine,” said she.
There it was, and in all its glory, an organ meat. An identifiable body part, succulent to its presenter, but gag inducing to the intended recipient. Instantaneously, all I could see was a behemoth enshrouded in trickling gravy, spices, and the delicious flavors of our repast. Then, strangely, it began its migratory movement, floating as it were, towards me. In my mind, it was a saliva slathered appendage and a body part oozing with the juices of the meal. Although in reality the edible portion was merely lovingly sandwiched between the fingers of a greasy hand.
Feeling tremendous unease, I smiled, put down my Spoon, and said, “That’s very kind of you Sister, but no thanks. I’m American, and generally, we don’t eat body parts.” It would have been impolite to say all I was thinking. At this point, I lost my appetite.
Women, Spoon, Culture Simple Broth
She recognized my consternation and was gracious. “No problem Sis. I understand. I’ll give you leftover halal Chinese food,” she said. And in that instant, we solved our "problem." Rudimentary gesticulations, such as eye rolling, teeth sucking, or furtive glances remained in hiding. If, however they surfaced, all present may have been hurt by its appearance. Furthermore, this scene presented me with the chance to apply Frau Teacher’s lessons. Moreover, I was able to appreciate her kindness and generosity, embodied in the form of cow intestines.
Women, Spoon, Culture Simple Broth explain our common humanity while juxtaposes our ideals. Human Culture epitomizes Women as well as the Culture of the female sex. Still, we often look at other lands for verification or vilification of our beliefs. Be that as it may, a mundane tool, such as a Spoon, serves as a reminder of our ordinary existence. Cultural norms are not always universal; however, human imperfection is. Whatever or wherever our start point is with a Simple Broth, it is the redeemable individual components which we must nurture and cultivate. In conclusion, I am forever grateful to meine Frau Teacher. She more than taught us the German language and the many forms of der, die und das. Because of her insights and wisdom, we gained a greater appreciation of our diversity and better respect for our humanity.
Spread Love, Cheer, and Peace, insha’Allaah