September 8, 2017 • By Seamus Mullen
My first real exposure to another culture came when I was 16 and spent my senior year in high school in Spain. I moved in with a host family that was food obessessed and we cooked together every day. They were so thrilled to have a foreigner, a giri, who truly wanted to learn as much as possible about their culture.
Cooking with my host mother was a remarkable experience, I began to see how food could be so much more than a meal—it was a link to the past, a culinary heritage that connected generation to generation. The recipes I cooked with my host mother were her, slightly updated, recipes that she had cooked with her mother and so on and so on. In the world we live in today, we are often disconnected from the culinary origins of our own past. It’s as if we need to borrow from other cultures to really have a sense of who we are. But in Spain, in that tiny kitchen in Burgos 25 years ago, there was no doubt where we were or where we had come from.
The irony is that food, just like music or popular culture, is never static—it’s in a constant state of flux and flow, and is influenced by so many factors. I think that’s one of the things I love so much about cooking—it’s a constant evolution. We learn every day and those lessons show up on the plate. Food, with music, are the two true languages of culture.