Friday, February 24, 2012

America is a Cobb Salad

By: Gus Victoria
This is NOT America.

Many of you reading this I will trust have heard the term ‘melting pot’ to refer to the American population of immigrants all slowly melding into one homogenous culture resembling a big blob of Anglo cheese spiked with various other continental spices. I present to you a different model. One in which our differences are preserved. Together they combine to form something greater than their individual parts without sacrificing that distinct flavor of the constituent ingredients.

I was sitting at the Hollywood Brown Derby Restaurant at Disney’s Hollywood Studios and I had just ordered my very first Cobb Salad. Typically I shy away from all salads, but the Cobb is so legendary and iconic I knew I had to try it. The dish came and was mixed at the table. After a bite or two a paradigm shifted and there I sat just staring at my salad until I exclaimed, “America is a Cobb Salad!” Everyone at the table looked at me incredulously. To be fair there was no preamble to the exclamation. I was just a crazy man yelling at his salad. “No guys, let me explain…”

The melting pot of America is something we grow up with this country. With the various hundreds of cultures, ethnicities, and differences that immigrants to this country bring and have brought since its founding how has the American identity developed into something unique and distinct. This melting pot is a way to explain that. Everything goes in and over time with proximity and the friction of coexistence we lose what we were and transform into a new and nearly homogenous thing. Each slice of the American cheese is the same. That’s the ideal of the theory. However, anyone living here for even a brief time will know that theory is not reality.

THIS is America.
The Cobb is a far better model. The salad, which is delicious by the way, is comprised of quite a few ingredients. In the traditional dish these include iceberg lettuce, watercress, Romaine lettuce, tomato, bacon, chicken, egg, avocado, chives, red-win vinaigrette, and Roquefort cheese. Fresh, vibrant, delicious and completely ruined when an attempt to melt them together is made. As these ingredients were mixed I was skeptical and unsure how it would taste with all those differing flavors. Would the bacon overpower the chicken? How would the egg compare with the Roquefort cheese? To my great surprise all these flavors combined to make the dish far better than any of its single ingredients. The distinctiveness of each flavor was not lost though. I could taste the avocado and the vinaigrette, but they combined magically with the lettuce and tomato, with the chicken and the bacon. The dish blew my mind and opened it to new possibilities.

There was no misguided militia patrolling my dish making sure the avocados didn’t make it to the dish. There was no set of byzantine legal acrobatics needed to have the watercress enjoy its place next to the hard-boiled egg. They freely mixed and mingled, not once losing their taste, but adding to a far greater dish. That is this America I have come to call home.

We cannot continue to think we are a melting pot for that is a dangerous idea that will force us to conform and give up what makes us unique not only individually, but as a country. Walk down the street in just about any city and you will see proof in the buildings, in the food, and in the people that this America is indeed a Cobb Salad.

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