Friday, May 2, 2014

The "American" Dream Intervenes

For me, food is a very important symbol of my culture. This idea was shown several times in the Food & Culture episode of The Meaning of Food we watched in class. I related the most to the Muslim girl. People don't normally pick me out as first generation until they see the food I normally eat or until I talk to one of my family members on the phone. But if one walks into my house when my mom is cooking, it is very evident that I am Polish... very Polish. My parents came to America to be able to live out the "American Dream" and to be able to provide their children with all the opportunities that they can. They have always wanted a better life, an easier life than they had when they were younger.

This picture is really creepy to me... but I found it under American Dream and family eating together, so there you go!

The view of the "American Dream" is hypocritical, at least in my life. My parents work all the time to make the most amount of money and to provide the best life for me, so we can have financial independence and security. That was something neither of my parents had when they were younger. It's not the point of, "Oh, let's make a ton of money and buy new cars, a huge house, lots of new technology, etc." The point of earning money and being financially secure is to be able to not worry or stress about our house being taken away and to be able to do things that we think are valuable like traveling. We live a comfortable life. We do not need things that aren't a necessity. In order to achieve this, my parents have been working for all their lives and have been very frugal and smart with their money. Ironically, this has not allowed us to achieve the "American Dream". There are very diverse meanings of what the "American Dream" and each person may have their own dream. One view of the "American Dream" to some people is a man working and a woman who stays at home and takes care of the children. My family doesn't achieve this view, because my mom also works. Another view is having an entire family coming together for dinner every day. My family doesn't achieve this view, because we all have different schedules of work, school, and other extracurricular activities. My family has tried to achieve the "American Dream", and by doing so, has not been able to achieve the "American Dream" in some people's opinions.

 Food is important to my family as well. I can tell that the "American Dream" has affected how my family and I dine. Visiting Poland I can see how my parents grew up. My grandparents and I would prepare food together for almost every meal, cook together, eat together, and converse together. In America, my parents are working. It is hard to come together to eat because we all have different schedules. My father worked 6am-6pm, my mother worked afternoons and nights at a hospital and has a very sporadic schedule, sometimes working for 16 hrs straight, my brother did his own thing, my sister lived at her own place eventually, and I was in a school sport year round and came home around 8pm every night. This was life when I was in high school. We would each individually eat when we could. We didn't have time to cook together or even to eat together. We would eat when we were hungry. In Poland, dinner and breakfast were meals that every single member of the family had to be a part of. That never happened here in America.

I can see, now, that food is a very important thing for my family to bond over. When I come back home, my mom always asks what I'm going to cook for dinner the next night. I have really enjoyed cooking now that I have left home. I really took food for granted and what food can actually do, besides the physical job of nourishment. Food, I realized, was a way to connect with people and to share an experience with someone. It is a way to give your time, effort, and love to someone to show how much you care. It is a way to not only feed someone physically, but also to feed someone emotionally and spiritually. These are the most important qualities about food that I see as valuable. Over breaks I don't have much to do, so I cook for my family and when they are home, they help me cook. It is an incredible bonding time for my family and I to discuss work, school, friends, and any philosophical topics that may come up. So not only did I learn something since being away at college, but I believe that my whole family has, too. We have learned a new balance and that balance includes cooking and eating together when possible. I think my family has a very good and healthy relationship, even if it isn't the epitome of what the "American Dream" is. I really don't care. It is my family and we have attained our dream and that is good enough for me.

Now this looks like a normal family!


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  2. I loved hearing about your family's personal "American Dream" Joanna! Although I am not a first generation American like you, I can tell you that our family eating dynamics sound very similar. We almost never sit down and eat dinner as a family, because even though it is just me, my mom, and my dad, we never seem to work on the same meal schedules. So usually I will cook dinner whenever I am hungry and save the leftovers for my parents when they get home from work and errands. The only experiences I've ever really had with eating as a "family" (not including mandatory holiday meals) occurred after I joined my sorority. At least twice a week now I eat together with 10 or more of my sorority sisters in the kitchen of our sorority house. This is really the ideal time to catch up with all of the sisters, learn new things about their lives, and really get to know each one on a whole different level. So, I guess my "American Dream" and yours are both a bit different from what may be considered "normal"!

  3. This really got me thinking about how I spend meals with my family. Meals have really become a matter on convenience and they are not held all together unless it is a special occasion. I fully believe that capitalism has a large impact upon why meals have become a matter of convenience rather than a matter of familial bonding. However, I do feel like those moments where families can get together on limited occasions make those moments more prized and special. So it is a really difficult topic to discuss in a heavily capitalistic society such as ours.