Leave it to the Washington Post to present a story about one tribe's rather stunning ignorance about the world around them into a heartwarming tale of charming (although oddly stubborn) foreigners [Latinos Newly Open to Cooking From a Can, June 3, 2009].
To begin, do-gooder social workers in Falls Church were wondering why they couldn't give away canned food to the local Hispanics...
Moreno, who emigrated from Colombia decades ago, knows her fellow Latinos. "We are not used to cooking with canned food," she says. "We do not know how to cook with it.... There was a pantry full of food not being taken because people don't know how to use it!" [...]
Which brings us to the Bailey's cafeteria Monday afternoon, for a cooking class. Two professional chefs in white coats are standing behind an array of canned goods, speaking in Spanish to an audience of about 20 parents and 30 children. Univision should pick this up for a new cooking show called "Tin Chefs."
"We Latinos like to eat well," chef Javier Quiroga jokes, patting his belly. "It's not necessary to lose the Latin flavor, which is very important. But we can use what is donated here.... We're going to learn how to use cans."
Whatever happened to the expression, "Beggers can't be choosers"? As usual, the immigration universe is a negative mirror image of our own values.
In this case, hispanics are being trained in special, culturally sensitive classes so they will accept and use the food which is being given to them. Only in America.
What's everybody's word for beans, for corn? Quiroga asks, and a variety of names are called out — frijoles, habichuelas, ejotes for beans, elote, choclo, ma?z, mazorca for corn.
He holds up a can of, um — he searches for the word — a can of "los baked beans." "Do you know these, do you like them?" he asks.
The audience is silent. It is the silence of polite revulsion.
"They're sweet, right? Don't you eat sweet beans in the Dominican Republic?" he asks Carolina Dotel, who is from that country.
Yes, they do eat a sweet bean dish called habichuelas con dulce in her country, Dotel allows. "But only at Easter." And it is nothing like baked beans.
Quiroga sees he will have difficulty making the case for baked beans, but he will try. Later.
Even better was the first reader comment...
I am so happy with lessons. I did not know that food from cans was to eat. My mother in South America always told me it was to clean toilet. Thank you for lessons. I love America. It is a good country. Than you.
Diversity certainly is a marvel. Just when you think you have heard it all, there's more that you never could have imagined.