Ethnic food refers to foods that originate from a specific region and heritage and that the people utilize their awareness of indigenous ingredients of plants and animals. Each ethnic food is associated with particular people who find pride in these foods (Kwon). For example, baklava food from India or Chimichanga food from Mexico are regarded to be ethnic food. Persons from different countries are always eager to introduce their foods to an immigrant country. Of course, each nation’s food has its story and past as well as nutritional advantages though often the latter has inadequate information. Ethnic food consumption has been growing over the years. The perception and attitudes toward ethnic foods have been changing. Currently, people look for restaurants that offer traditional flavors and tastes. The attitude has been changing because of the perception that ethnic foods have low calories and low fat and increased nutritional content.
The process of development to ethnic Americans is long and gradual. One can only think of it as the emergence of a new social group. Immigrants often try to stick to their cultures. However, when it comes to food the perception is different. Most people try to recreate the foods from their homeland with little or no success. Several factors lead to these. For example, in a new land as in America getting basic ingredients is often stressful. A simple constituent such as flour may of a different quality from that in the homeland. Other ingredients may prove challenging to find or they may be expensive to obtain. Consequently, immigrants often proceed to adopt alternatives ingredients for the various dishes. Even getting the same cooking equipment is a difficult task. The Bosanski ionac is a Bosnian national dish that is cooked in a special earthenware pot. The Bosnian-Americans have been forced to substitute the pot with aluminum cooking ware and for most the taste is different. The home taste of the dish is gone and remains a memory (Kwon).
The breakfast dish is usually the first to undergo a fundamental change in a foreign country. This is closely followed by lunch and the most rigid one being dinner. For most immigrants, dinner does not change as it is associated with social and cultural interaction. Perhaps the most rigid of the dishes are festival dishes since they are eaten at particular events for specific reasons that the immigrants would like to retain. Special meals are associated with specific memories. Ethnic restaurants are present and have been growing steadily from colonial times. In 2016, the business was booming with sales of $4 billion. The sales will continue to grow with the changing attitudes (Kwon).
The baklava is a sweetened pastry found in numerous cuisines of the previous large Ottoman empire. The pastry consists of films of phyllo dough packed with sliced nuts such as walnuts and almonds and sugarcoated with syrup. Baklava is so delicious that it was mainly served to royalty. The dish is claimed by both the Greeks and Turks, though it is sometimes regarded as a Greek specialty. The research into it is inconclusive. The pastry is the first to be prepared and soaked in large trays. Later on, the pastry is soaked in sweet fragrant syrup, and then lastly the baklava is chopped into smaller shapes and served after cooling. The word “phyllo” means leaf in Greek in honor of the development of the technique of rolling the dough to a leaf. The preparation process takes time. The meal was reserved for special occasions in the Greek culture (Chatzopoulou). The meal is taken before a wedding ceremony or during Christmas or Easter.
Historically, the Greeks in the US have been viewed with mixed emotions such as respect, puzzle, hate, or mockery. There is no doubt that the Greeks have contributed immensely to western civilization to an extent that most English books have to refer to the Greeks such as Aristotle. On the other hand, the Greeks are often viewed strangely. Hence the common phrase “its all Greek to me” to mean that something is beyond one’s understanding. The Greeks were also discriminated against. When the 1924 immigration law was effected, the Greeks were constrained to the lowest immigration class. The first known Greek is Don Dorotero. Male Greeks formed the majority of the population that migrated to the US (Kunkelman). The first Greeks were received with mixed feelings and generally, the Greeks developed feelings of self-hate. Consequently, the Greeks established societies with important-sounding names to massage their egos. For example, the Greeks used terms such as “supreme president”. The terms enabled them to adjust to the hostile environment.
However, following the civil rights movement of 1960, the attitudes of mainstream society changed hence, Greeks began to accept themselves. After the 1960s, the Greeks stopped anglicizing their names to get jobs (Moskos). Many immigrants came to America when it was strongly Anglo. All people that wanted to succeed had to adjust to the Anglo lifestyle. The Europeans had the least pressure to adjust to the Anglo ethnicity while the Greeks took on massive pressure. During this time, civic education was built about the “melting pot”. Translated, the term proclaimed that all the diverse cultures felt a strong desire to melt inside a particular cultural pot to form an American culture. The Greeks have strongly adapted the American lifestyle. Some Greeks such as Dukakis unsuccessfully vied for the American presidency which shows that the Greeks have blended into society (Kunkelman). One of the reasons why Dukakis lost was because Bush took advantage of the Greco-phobia in the general population during his campaigns. Perhaps the general population may still view native Greeks as outsiders even today.
Chatzopoulou, Elena, Matthew Gorton, and Sharron Kuznesof. “Understanding authentication processes and the role of conventions: A consideration of Greek ethnic restaurants.” Annals of Tourism Research 77 (2019): 128-140.
Kunkelman, Gary A. The religion of ethnicity: Belief and belonging in a Greek-American community. Vol. 12. Routledge, 2019.
Kwon, Dae Young. “What is ethnic food?.” Journal of ethnic foods 2.1 (2015): 1.
Moskos, Peter C. Greek Americans: struggle and success. Routledge, 2017.