Imagine that someone who has never visited the place where you live wants you to recommend three meals prepared by local restaurants or chefs that best represent your hometown’s people and culture.
Where would you send this person for breakfast, lunch and dinner? What foods would you suggest they eat?
In “A Day in Houston: 3 Meals, 3 Cultures, One City,” Sebastian Modak describes a one-day eating adventure in this Texas city. Houston’s diversity led him to eat dim sum, barbecue and Afghan cuisine. He writes:
At first glance, much of Houston looks alike. Making your way out of the “Loop,” the I-610 highway that circles the city center like a shirt collar, skyscrapers give way to manicured office parks and strip malls, each seemingly a carbon copy of the last. But when you look a little closer, you notice that in one of those strip malls, all the business names carry the tonal accents of written Vietnamese. In another, two Indian restaurants sit on either side of a service specializing in money transfers to Central America. In a nearby parking lot, a family — the men wearing skullcaps and knee-length agbada shirts and the women in brightly patterned hijabs — loads up a sedan with the ingredients for a meal that I imagine tastes like another home, thousands of miles away.
Houston is widely considered to be one of the most culturally diverse cities in the world. According to the city’s planning department, 48 percent of residents speak a language other than English — and more than 145 languages are spoken in the city. Twenty-nine percent of the population is foreign-born.
… So, feeling a kind of kinship with all those Houstonians who live between worlds based on my own unmoored and multicultural background, I leaned into it. I ate more than I should have and blew my Uber budget pretty quickly, but over three meals in a single day, I found a Houston I never imagined existed in the cracks between SUV-clogged freeways and oil-boom money.
Students, read the entire article, then tell us:
— If Mr. Modak visited your hometown, where would you send him to eat? What foods would you recommend that he try? What do you hope he would learn and appreciate about your hometown by eating like a local for just one day?
— Are there dishes or cuisines that are popular where you live that you simply don’t like or rarely, if ever, eat? Would you still suggest them to visitors for the sake of having “the local experience”? Why or why not?
— Have you ever traveled to a new place and ate dishes that, though popular there, were unfamiliar to you? If so, recount your experience.
— What stops, if any, that Mr. Modak made at Houston restaurants are places you’d also like to visit? What would you eat there?
Students 13 and older are invited to comment. All comments are moderated by the Learning Network staff, but please keep in mind that once your comment is accepted, it will be made public.