Around the World in Dumplings

29 04 2011

Tonight was date night.  S and I went to a cooking class on how to make dumplings.  We learned to make gnocchi, pokora, pot stickers, and matzo balls. What really interested me though was how there are so many types of dumplings.  I didn’t realize that they come from all over the world.  Dumplings are basically cooked dough- but they can be spicy, sweet, fried, steamed, boiled, or sautaed.   They can be in eaten in all kinds of ways- by themselves, in a gravy, or dipped in a sauce.  Growing-up the only dumpling I knew of was Chicken and dumpling soup.  I was raised on a mid-western diet aka bland with not much variety.  Everything I ate was grown on our farm- and that was that.  When I met S during college I fell in love not only with him- but the dumpling from Nepal: Momos.  I have tried and made momos many different ways with various fillings but my favorite way to make them is with pork sausage and deep fry!  (See recipe below).  One of my favorite memories from college was a huge Nepalese get together where 20 friends gathered in my living room filling and folding momos.  All over the world, dumplings are a sign of family, friends, and celebrations.  Because dumplings are extremely labor-intensive to make, most cultures serve their particular dumpling during holidays or when big groups come together and can help make the traditional dumpling. Not only are dumplings a delicious comfort food but making them brings people together- yet another reason to love the little things!

Momo Recipe: 

1lbs breakfast pork sausage
1large onion minced
2 green chili peppers seeded and chopped
2tablespoons minced garlic
1 inch piece ginger  grated
1/4 cup cilantro chopped
1 teaspoon garam masala 
1/2 teaspoon turmeric
1 teaspoon cumin powder
1 teaspoon coriander ground
salt (to taste) 

1 package Wonton  or pot sticker wrappers

Directions:  Heat oil on stove on medium heat.  Mix all ingredients in a large bowl until well blended.  Wet edges of the Wonton wrapper with water.  Place one table spoon of mixture in the middle of the wrapper.  Bring edges together.   Place carefully in hot oil and fry until golden brown.  Allow to cool before tasting.  Enjoy with your dip of choice!  We like: Ketchup, Wasabi sauce, Hot sauce, Mango Chutney, or Tomato chutney.  

**On a side note: Tonight I was researching and found out there is a Swedish dumpling called Kroppkakor.  My dad is 100% Swedish, but unfortunately he didn’t spend any time in the kitchen with his mom learning how to make traditional dishes to pass on to me!  Does anyone know how to make Kroppkakor?

Please share your dumpling recipes with me!


Celebrating Life with Family Traditions

25 04 2011

I’ve always believed its the little things in life that mean the most. This Easter it was proven time and time again-as my family got together and participated in some old family traditions.  Growing up it was our routine to have pizza and watch a movie on Saturday nights and since I was home on a Saturday- thats exactly what we did.  We also wore bunny ears to dye eggs and hunted for them and other hidden treats this morning.  Joining my family in these traditions gives me so much joy- and even though I am probably considered “too old” to participate in these activities, I won’t give them up and plan to eventually pass them on to my children.

Now that I live away from my parents, and only make it home a hand-full of times per year, it is very important to me to find ways to reconnect with my family  as often as I can.  Establishing and maintaining family traditions helps us to do just that- reconnect.  Participating in traditions brings the whole family together allowing us to express unity, intimacy and create bonds that last forever.  In my experience I have found that when I set time aside for family functions- I am essentially creating opportunities for unique interactions…in which memories are always made!  Research suggests that families gain greater feelings of closeness, belonging and connection between generations as family traditions are acted out and passed on. In having set customs, rituals, or time together as a family, the family unit grows stronger.

Traditions are an integral part of creating culture.  In America we often celebrate Easter by dying and hunting hard-boiled eggs, going to church and celebrating Jesus’  resurrection.  However, since every family unit is unique unto itself, the traditions created by each family are sure to be just as unique and special.    These unique traditions create a family culture  that gives its members a sense of belonging and self-identity.

Our culture connects us to past and future generations. Our traditions provide meaning and connection, as well as a sense of ritual and comfort. And they can create – and help to preserve – some of life’s most moving moments.  I am so thankful for my family and the traditions we have created together.  I am proud of  the culture my family has created!

The Immigrant Mentality

21 04 2011

When I first met my man, I knew there was something different about him.  Something that made him shine amongst all the other college guys on campus.  I soon realized it was his drive for success.  His determination to find success in America.  To not only gain employment and be self-sufficient but also to be secure enough to support his family as well.  When most of the college guys around me were hoping for a 6 pack of beer and to “get lucky” after class, my guy was focused on working to get out of college debt-free and to network with higher-ups in the technology market.  His life has not been easy by any means.  He was the first of his family to study abroad and with that came (and still comes with) additional pressure from his parents and relatives to succeed.  A success that is not just measured by working, marrying, having children and being happy….  His relatives measure success in the ability to have a secure financial portfolio as well as support one’s immediate family.

I learned later that my boyfriend’s drive for success  that so attracted me to him is called the “Immigrant Mentality.”  This “Immigrant Mentality” that had always intrigued me-now strikes me as a critical element for success let alone survival in this globalized society.   After I graduated there were thousands of talented individuals competing for the same handful of jobs- due to the poor economy.  There were those who had come from social means, parents’ with connections who received jobs as there always are. There was also another group of individuals that did not have these benefits but made up for it with ambition and determination who also received jobs.  These later individuals make up the “Immigrant Mentality” and what I believe originally built America’s strong foundation.   Most of these individuals with “Immigrant Mentality” are 1st generation Americans striving for success, but also those Westerners maintained their ancestor’s roots and are able to compete on a global scale.

My grandma was a first generation American who would always tell stories of how she moved away from home and worked for her room and board at age 15  so that she could attend and graduate from high school (something unheard of in the 1920’s for females in small town Minnesota).  Grandma helped my Grandpa create a thriving business as well as raise 10 children.  She taught me at an early age the key to success was hard work and determination.  I knew that in order to succeed I may have to work at jobs I didn’t particularly enjoy-until I moved up the ladder towards my goal.  I did not have any financial assistance from my parents to attend college- so I worked 40 hours a week in addition to volunteering and school work.  I soon realized that working while going to school was a rarity at my private institution.

The “Immigrant Mentality” -the idea of hard work and determination is now a crucial asset to survive in today’s job market.  With the competition that exists for few jobs it means one has to say “yes” more than “no” at work.   It means being aggressive and refusing to be mediocre in the workplace.  It means doing the work now- not procrastinating…and to always be “hungry” for more.  I am so thankful for my grandma who first instilled these values in me, and my boyfriend who continuously inspires me to press onward towards my goals.

Where have you seen the Immigrant Mentality?  Do you know a first generation success story?  What are other critical elements needed in today’s job market? 

Three cups of lies?

19 04 2011

Earlier I wrote a brief blog about “Three Cups of Tea” by Greg Mortenson.  Today’s news deeply saddens me.  According to the Washington Post and CBS news, Greg Mortenson’s book is filled with myths –not truths.  I am shocked and hope that these headlines are not true.  But the evidence and reports are hard to repute.  We will have to wait for more information but here is a link to the article in the Washington Post and the video clip of the CBS investigation.

The truth behind the stereotypes….

15 04 2011

I spent the last week with friends in Chicago exploring the city.  My two friends are not Americans- they came to know me during college where they were international students.  As were were window shopping along the magnificent mile- (checking out $9,500 fur coats and $ 5,995 handbags) my friends said “This is so AMERICA!”  Meaning Americans are materialistic. Although my friends didn’t think much of there generalization of Americans (even in front of an American) I was slightly offended and took pause to think about their comments.  I don’t think of myself as materialistic or a “shopaholic,” but I have had no problem filling my apartment with clothing, shoes, and other “things…”  I realized that I’m probably more influenced by the materialistic stereotype of American culture than I’d like to admit.   Although I don’t fit this stereotype to a “T”  I also realized it’s impossible to completely avoid being influenced by your country’s values….

An important thing to recognize with generalizations and stereotypes is that they don’t just create themselves.  Yes, sometimes they’re just plain wrong – based on the hatred, jealousy or fear one culture may feel towards another, or developed from cultural misunderstandings. But often stereotypes or generalizations are based on one small kernel of truth.   Recognizing that stereotypes may begin for a reason- is an important step in understanding others especially when you are in an inter-cultural relationship or have international friends like I do.  Of course it is never okay to judge a person based on a stereotype, generalization, or bias!  However it can be extremely valuable to consider how those stereotypes about your culture have come into being – and how they effect you personally.   Try to ask and answer questions with your significant other in a respectful manner.  This discussion will help to create better mutual understanding of each-other’s cultural backgrounds and differentiate them from individual values, and beliefs. Talking about what stereotypes exists about your culture, and how closely they mimic the  values and beliefs of your personal culture.   Just like I wanted to separate myself from the stereotype of the “Materialistic American,”  there may be some stereotypes that you see in yourself or your partner and others that you and he or she would like to distance yourself from or completely reject.

The best way to communicate in a inter-cultural relationship is  in a simple, straightforward manner.  In considering these questions, remember that stereotypes exist because others have identified  some trait or characteristic that they think is different or stands out in people of your culture. Even if you may not fit the stereotype, you may still be  influenced by the mainstream values that drive that particular stereotype.   My partner’s family (although they do not know me well as an individual) believe that Americans do not value commitment or faithfulness in marriage.  After all, they say  “greater than 50% of all American marriages end in divorce and that’s a fact.”    Because of this stereotype, they do not believe that I personally would be a good choice for their son because I am an American and therefore must have the same lack of values.  This is simply not true.  What I realized was that this stereotype was developed based on a kernel of truth -50% of marriages end in divorce in the USA. This maybe true of some Americans, but this particular stereotype is one I firmly reject as part of my own personal culture.  After close observation of me and my immediate family, my partner’s parents would see that the values of faithfulness and “for better for worse” are strongly valued!  My parents have been married 25 years and I’ve dated my partner for over 5 years without wavering.   This stereotype  may be true of some individuals but not all individuals in a culture.

When my friends in Chicago began their comments on American culture I was initially offended but I soon realized that it was not meant as a negative thing- it was only an observation.   It was important for me turn their stereotype of the “Materialistic American” into a discussion to help my friends and myself understand more about it!  We began to discuss  our own personal values related to finances and things.  Their stereotype ended up initiating a conversation that brought us closer together as friends- sharing our own personal value and belief systems- as well as our hopes for the future.

Culture influences  us negatively and positively- discussing how it has influenced us will bring us closer… just as it did for me this last week with my buddies in Chicago.

Happy New Year 2068

14 04 2011

Today is the  New Year Festival in Nepal.  Instead of celebrating 2011 as we did in America just 4 months ago, Nepal is celebrating 2068.  Nepal follows the Bikram Smbhat calendar which is based on ancient Hindu tradition. The Bikram Sambat calendar has 56.7 years more than the A. D. calendar that is followed in America.   The Bikram Sambat starts with first day of month Baisakh (the Chaitra Purnima). It usually falls around April 14 (today). In addition to Nepal, the Bikram Sambat calendar are also recognized in northern and eastern India and in Gajarat and Maharashtra (States in India) among Hindus.

The new year is celebrated in Nepal as any other new year in any other part of the world- marked by parties, family gathering and exchanging wishes.  This Morning Hillary Clinton wished Nepal a Happy New year on behalf of President Obama and the American people.   “As Nepal’s steadfast friend, the United States hopes that the coming year will see fulfillment of the peace process and a new constitution that will keep Nepal on the path toward progress and prosperity,” Clinton said, adding that the U.S. is looking forward to continuing its work together in the years ahead.
May the people of Nepal whether at home or around the globe enjoy a safe and happy holiday. Naya Barshako Shubha-Kamana!

It’s written in the stars…

29 03 2011

One of my first and favorite memories with my boyfriend is walking hand in hand one summer night looking at the stars and talking about horoscopes.  I had never really paid much attention to horoscopes- blowing them off as goofy “fortunes” listed in the Sunday paper.

I soon realized that astrology wasn’t considered “silly at all” in my boyfriend’s home.  Horoscopes are serious business in Nepalese households.  When our friends became engaged they had to reschedule their wedding date.  An astrologer in Nepal chose an auspicious date- by reading the patterns of the moon and stars.   He gave them a date that would surely bestow increased blessings on their marriage.

I started to believe more in astrology the more I read.  For example my sign is Libra which is represented by a pair of scales.  According to what I’ve read, Libra’s goal is to witness cooperation and harmony in human life.  We are said to strive for fairness and balance.  Although it may take me time to “weigh the options,”  I do see myself as someone who can look at complex situations- even emotional ones, and come to a balanced view- after considering all sides.  Even in elementary school I was voted, “Peace Maker.” Coincidence?  Maybe- but I’d rather be safe than sorry….in the future I will be consulting an astrologer for any and all important dates that need to be scheduled.