What American dishes mean to me

Ali Aljubouri with teapot

I always hear that America is a melting pot but for me, America is a potluck.

For my fellow immigrants who may not know, a “potluck” is a meal or party to which each of the guests contributes a dish. This is my America. As a proud newcomer American, I always looked to contribute to this country by sharing my culture, health habits, and food and learning about American dishes and culture. In this way I am connecting and building a safer community. Also by sharing I am encouraging others to share. 

When I first came to the United State as a refugee the first thing I asked for and looked for was food. Do not be surprised! I am a chef. I struggled in the first year with severe stomach issues because of the new food and diet. I researched American dishes and how to collaborate in my menus. I found out that the USA is famous for apple pie, pizza, and hot dogs. After navigating the food at restaurants and the many shopping centers, I started to mix my cuisine and made my global kitchen. 

I started to pick the good things from each cuisine and made them my own.

I also started to share these habits with my students and my community and I will be glad to share some with you. 

One of the things I realized when I came to the USA is education and awareness about drinking water. I started liking to eat and drink low-fat dairy products. I also kept my tradition of cooking at home and avoiding fast food. I know that in America everything is rushing but I am still strict about sitting and eating and using my glass and pottery to eat and not papers and plastics products. I also teach my kids to pack their lunch from home and not eat out and live on snacks. 

I grew up on a saying in Iraq that we wear what impresses people and eat what you like. This is the case even though sometimes what you like isn’t necessarily healthy. Now I always liked to eat what made me happy but it doesn’t hurt to practice healthy food habits and create my healthy American dishes.

The beauty of American dishes at a potluck is the combination of the world’s tastes in one gathering. It may be Mexican tacos and the Indian masala dosa. Or Singaporean chicken rice and the smell of cardamom tea. American dishes are all of that and more.

Opinions expressed and advice given in USAHello’s Voices and Hello blogs are the writers’ own. USAHello offers impartial information and online courses to help newcomers in the USA.