Cross-cultural (or is that Inter-cultural?): A Baking Experiment


I decided that today I had to do a little dessert experiment: it had to be something that was white on the outside and brown on the inside…and something else that was white on the inside and brown on the outside!!!  It’s from an old “inside” joke…finding food items that describe what we are on the inside.  I guess that when you are in an “interracial” marriage you don’t have to be politically correct with each other! haha!  I’ve always said that Henry’s a coconut: brown on the outside and white on the inside!  And then I try to think of what I am…what’s white on the outside and brownish on the inside..?  Not a chocobanano or a chocopiña…maybe a slightly rotten egg? Hmmm….hey, I just this second finally thought…oh uh, duh, no, I was going to say a toasty marshmellow, but that’s not it, other way around please!

Anyways, we’ve joked a lot about that stuff; Henry has fit into Canadian life and culture very very well….whereas I have had more struggles (I think).  After having been raised in Guatemala (17 yrs.), in a strange mixture of cultures, in the end I’m not sure what I am!  We had our Canadian culture (Canuck) at home, American culture (Gringo) at school and Guatemalan culture (Chapín) at church and shopping (and TV).  So with all of that, I don’t know exactly what “color” I feel!! heh heh, hope no one is offended.  I know it’s not “P.C.” to talk so much about the color thing, but like I said, when you are in a cross-cultural marriage and have kids, the topic comes up a lot and there is the freedom to talk AND JOKE about it!!  So here’s my baking experiment, (with no actual baking done):

I was thinking about my marriage today…and thinking about the phrases interracial and cross-cultural.  And I just asked my daughter (after she saw the title of this post), “do you realize that your father and I are an interracial marriage?”  She looked at me with a weird look, then said she hasn’t heard that word before.  As far as noticing the whole the Canadian/Guatemalan thing, yeah of course.  So that is where I whip out the dictionary definitions!! (heh heh, all part of my plan).  I think that the two words sound so different: one sounds weird (almost like inter-species) and the other sounds more human and interesting.  To help out:

I just went off to the Merriam-Webster online dictionary,

Definition of INTERRACIAL

: of, involving, or designed for members of different races (not too helpful, so we’ll continue with race)

Definition of RACE

: a breeding stock of animals
a: a family, tribe, people, or nation belonging to the same stock b: a class or kind of people unified by shared interests, habits, or characteristics
a: an actually or potentially interbreeding group within a species; also: a taxonomic category (as a subspecies) representing such a group
(that makes it sound really weird!!!  On the dictionary site they want to know why you are looking up the word, and so I scrolled down through some of the comments and here is one that interested me about race:    “found it! Race originally isn’t about the color of skin, physical appearance, or religion.  We evolved it to be that way. Race is a modern term for the differences between us all.  Did you know that Genetically we are 99.9 percent made of the same genetic material and that .1 percent is what determines things such as skin color and facial features.  How sad that it’s that .1 percent that keeps us segregated as we are.  I luv late night studying, opens your mind to so many intriguing and educational notions.”

Definition of CROSS-CULTURAL

: dealing with or offering comparison between two or more different cultures or cultural areas
a: the integrated pattern of human knowledge, belief, and behavior that depends upon the capacity for learning and transmitting knowledge to succeeding generations b: the customary beliefs, social forms, and material traits of a racial, religious, or social group; also: the characteristic features of everyday existence (as diversions or a way of life} shared by people in a place or time <popular culture> <southern culture> c: the set of shared attitudes, values, goals, and practices that characterizes an institution or organization <a corporate culture focused on the bottom line> d: the set of values, conventions, or social practices associated with a particular field, activity, or societal characteristic <studying the effect of computers on print culture> <changing the culture of materialism will take time  — Peggy O’Mara>
(this is so weird, as I write this, my 5 year old jumped on the couch by the window, and I asked her why and she said “I had to check my skin color.”  What??!  So I guess she went to the light to check the color of her skin because she’s creating some sort of digital version of herself, and went on to figure out her hair and eye color, don’t worry, its on the PBSkids site!  But how funny that she did that at this exact moment when I am deeply involved in typing out all this info/opinion!!)
Anyways, enough rabbit trails, back to my big contemplation of my marriage….it’s so funny to think of how people look at you, and how you see yourself, isn’t it?  What is the first thing you think of when you see this photo (or what is the first thing you notice?):
My first thoughts were: 1. I look so young! 2. whichever kid took this photo did a good job! 3. Henry and I are starting to resemble each other. 4. Hmm, lot of freckles on my arm.  5. Henry is handsome (even thought he has even more white hair now than back then(haha).
I guess the obvious race thing comes in our genes from our ancestors, all of his Italian and Spanish genes vs. my English, German and Swedish ones.  The cultural question is a little more less obvious.  Or maybe that should be super more less obvious.
I remember one of my high school teachers, Mr. Gilbert, talking about family cultures.  He mentioned the obvious difference in cultures such as Canadian and Guatemalan…and then there are other kinds…  (the examples were about couples)  He said that, as a couple, you could each come from the same country, the same small town, even the “same side of the tracks” and still live in totally different cultures: different family cultures.  (and how this can affect your marriage and how you get along with each other).  This combined in my mind with what my Uncle Bill said to the two of us when he was giving us some ‘official’ premarital counseling: “Don’t use your difference in culture as an excuse…for anything” (he meant for disagreements or fights) or words to that effect (it’s been a long time since I heard it!)  So going into my marriage with Henry, we were very conscious that we would have “obvious cultural differences” but the reality was that we didn’t notice anything…at all different or weird or hard.   (Ok, the only weird thing I noticed was that he folded his dirty clothes).
We didn’t even fight for the whole first year of marriage.  I think, looking back, our “cultures” weren’t that different.  I had grown up in Guatemala since I was 6 years old.  I spoke Spanish fluently. We knew many of the same people/friends. We were familiar with each other’s high schools.  We had been to the same places/restaurants/beaches, etc.  Both of us were at about the same economic level (don’t kid yourself that this doesn’t matter or make a difference, it does).  We both attended the same church and, more importantly, held the same basic beliefs and values pertaining to God, life, family.
So looking at it carefully, our cultures weren’t that different….as far as those kinds of things.  Up close, the differences were more family culture and personality differencesHa, ha, the first example of that that pops into my mind, is when I was newly engaged and visiting my grandparents in Canada, and the only question my grandpa asked about Henry was: “Is he Handy?”  And I’m afraid at that point, I didn’t even know if he was handy at fixing things, fixing cars, building, etc.  But in my family that was kind of an important thing, that all the men did.  (turns out Henry is a super fast learner and today I can say, Yes, He is Handy!!)  As I write this, though, I’m thinking that it turns out that that could be more of a culture thing….fixing things yourself vs. hiring someone to fix it for you….is that a country culture thing or a family culture thing??  I think it’s some of both.
Umm, do I really know what I’m writing about??? maybe not, I can only give my humble opinions.  And my opinion is…..drumroll please…..when you are going to get married, study the family culture of your “intended” and don’t get so distracted by the perceived outward differences of “race” or even country culture.  If you can try and see how much the family is influenced by their culture, that might help.  But what I really really believe is the important part:  check out your basic beliefs, deep beliefs and values and world views.  Those are the things that will make your or break you in the midst of disagreements about money, housing, careers, sports, kids, and chores and housework…oh, yeah, I suppose  I should add the s-e-x word in there, too.
It sure helps if you both have the same HOPE.  Which is why we have had the grace to be married for the last 18 YEARS.
I guess I should have written up an outline for this post, as I have wondered around a bit, and ended up forgetting my original reason for writing this post…..hmmm, still can’t quit remember.  Was it about outward differences vs. inward differences?  Was it about marriage? kids? baking?  An excuse to make something sweet to photograph and eat? (probably that one!).  Or maybe just to say… see one thing on the outside…I look like some stereotyped person, but just from looking at me, you don’t know me, who I am inside, what “color” I am inside, what I’ve been through, what I think or value: who I am.  I guess you have to get to know me to figure those things out! “Everything is not what it appears!” or how about “don’t judge a book by it’s cover” haha!  Anyways, I had fun doing my ‘sweet’ experiment and talking about it all with Henry, and eating it up for dessert! 😉
(I don’t get all ‘mushy’ about Henry and “us” on facebook, so I thought I’d post a few more photos here)
And I thought I’d tack on some photos of some of the mess I made making those little candy balls at the beginning of the post, just so you can see how chaotic things get just to get a couple of nice photos!  Story of my life.
and then I realized it doesn’t look that chaotic….but the rest of the kitchen did!! and does!! I go all out for the baking and photographing and just leave everything else in a disaster.  *sigh*

3 responses »

  1. Love reading your blog, it always makes me smile. Here is what i learned: Legally speaking, I am White-Hispanic because I’m not Native American, Indian, Mayan, Asian, etc. Our kids are White Hispanic because they inherited my race and ethnicity. Tony is White-American….and we all are crazy.

  2. I remember a few years back I was trying to pinpoint the actual definition of “race” for a paper I was doing, and I discovered that the more you try to piece apart what you mean by that word, the more you start to realize it’s a word that is a carry over from an older time when people more or less thought of different cultures as different species. I think ‘race’ is a word that will hopefully drop out of common usage within the next couple generations.

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