{74} Friend’s Prompt #3

“ empanadas”

KenK prompted me “empanada” with zero explanations and, I suspect, zero expectations.

I think I can spin this as a lesson in cultural isolation, though. I spent the latter part of my childhood in the Central Florida area, which has a strong Hispanic and Latino population, as would be expected given it’s location in the middle of a peninsula bordering the Gulf of Mexico, the Atlantic, and the Florida straights (ie Caribbean-adjacent).

Given that, you’d think I’d be familiar with the tasty savory pastry known as empanada, when in fact I never even ate one until I was in my 40s.

I can’t say I don’t know why. I totally, 100% know why, and that’s the fact that I came from a very, very white middle class culture. We did not go out to explore new and interesting world cuisine; well into my 20s I thought Taco Bell was legit “Mexican food.” It’s easy to make fun of that kind of heritage, and I don’t blame anyone for doing so. But it’s sad too, showing how purposefully isolated the mostly-white middle class makes itself in order to make a show of preserving it’s purity.

There is a lot of my Southern heritage that is worth preserving, but I’ve learned that opening up my life to new foods and experiences is not any kind of dishonor on my kin. In fact, it’s helped me understand that most of what I know has “my culture” originated elsewhere. So much Southern food was created/engineered by African American slaves, for instance. There is nothing of white Southern heritage that is “pure.”

My parents did not purposefully keep empanadas from me, of course, it was just too Latino for their comfort, the food of poor immigrants. The inherent racism of that perspective was lost on them. It was lost on me for most of my adult life.

But empanadas are delicious. If you haven’t tried one yet, I suggest you do.

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