January 5 marked the 19th anniversary of my immigration to the United States. I chose America because of its diversity, because in America, except for native Americans, everyone is from somewhere else. Over the years, America has truly become my home. With this past election, however, I have become deeply troubled by the outbreak of racism, discrimination and hostilities towards minorities.
In Germany I grew up with the knowledge that my grandparents’ generation turned a blind eye to hate. Few spoke up when Jews and other groups were officially vilified. Silence became a vote of approval and deadly persecution soon followed.
In 1989 I saw the Berlin Wall fall. I know the futility and human cost of walls.
When it comes to food, America rolls out the red carpet for diversity. There are hundreds, if not thousands, of varieties of dishes and cuisines from as many varieties of immigrants.
As Americans love their hyphenated foods, I wish we could do the same for the people, too. That gave me the idea to bring people together over food – at potlucks where we share the foods that make up our culinary traditions and heritage.
My initiative Cooking-with-a-hyphen is a statement: that in America, we are all from somewhere else, that we are all different yet we are all equal, and no single group can claim America for itself.
Diversity gives America its strength and energy. It’s the reason why I am here, and I am not going to let that America go.