20 January, 2009

On Apple Cake and Race

"What colour this, Mama?"
So asks The Monster on a regular occassion. She might be asking about the colour of a toy, a bird, a carrot, or a person. In all but the last case we hapily give her the answer in detail - aqua not blue, chartreuse not green (I am a quilter, after all). But when she asks about people I struggle to answer. I feel the weight of race relations on me. I feel like that moment will define how she approaches people who look different than her.

Yup, I know I'm over-thinking it. But on today, of all days, it's at the forefront of my thoughts. We watched a bit of my show - the inauguration - before she left for the day, after I convinced her to turn off Sesame Street, of course. Hubby and I tried to explain to her what was going on, but I think the significance was lost on a two and a half year old. But tonight we'll be reading stories and she'll ask me what colour Dick and Jane are and then what colour are Pam and Penny.

Hubby is straightforward about things, but I'm not comfortable with that. He and I debate over the best approach. We were both raised without much of an issue over race. Here in Western Canada we just don't have the race issues of the US, at least as we see it. It is a product of our own suburban upbringings and the exposure to so many cultures along the way. I prefer to focus on exploring cultural differences, rather than race. But that still doesn't answer the Monster's questions.

And when I cook her coconut curry or spaghetti and meatballs or pierogies or suya she will learn about the world in a way that our travel budget just doesn't allow. Will that teach her about race and different cultures? Perhaps. But in the coming eight years both our girls will grow up with the memory of their first US President and not even understand what the big deal is.

To change the topic slightly, I've been thinking about what it would be like to live in the White House as a young family. What if Michelle and Barack want to make pancakes for breakfast? What if Malia and Sasha want to bake cookies? Is there a special family kitchen in the White House? There must be, otherwise it would feel like living in a hotel. That's got to wear on anyone.
I'm hoping to keep tabs on things by faithfully reading Obama Foodorama. And today, in honour of the inauguration I'm baking this apple cake. It isn't the recipe from the luncheon, but it looks beautiful and honours the food of the day.


Amanda at Little Foodies said...

I loved reading this. How to answer that question is really tricky. When we're learning about different countries, their cultures and and the foods they eat, we never discuss colour. I don't know, maybe we should because it doesn't matter if people have a different skin colour and possibly by not talking about it, it could make it an issue.

...and.. What an amazing speech he gave!

Roving Lemon said...

Thanks for this thought-provoking post--and for the tip about Obama Foodarama!

Vincci said...

I like how in Chinese, things can be "skin"-coloured.

Took a peek at Obama Foodarama—who writes it?

Holli said...

What a great post, Cheryl. Lots to think about.

Claire said...

I appreciate your reflections on this tricky subject... all good questions.

postscript on the Western Canadian thing.. our elephant in the living room would be our relationships with Aboriginal peoples, I think.. I grew up in blissful suburban ignorance next to Tsuu T'ina and only now am learning about things like this..