Embracing Diversity

Here’s a boring little secret. I often read annual reports. Back in business school, it was required as form of analysis. What did the Chairman really say in his letter? Did the financial evidence support the words? Today, I no longer look from that vantage point but I do zero in on things like “corporate values”. This became of interest to me after the Enron crisis when that silver-toothed energy trader claimed “integrity” as a hallmark of their corporation. I began to realize the “sameness” of values and how unless they were embraced at the top and infused into decision making – including employee selection, there was really no point. It’s a bit like all of those folks with milk mustaches. Got Honesty? Got Integrity?

Embracing Diversity

Today, Diversity appears to have popped as a core value for many. And why wouldn’t it? In the stinging aftermath of lawsuits faced by corporations like Walmart, company officers are keen to point out that they wear the diversity badge. The dialogue ranges from establishing diversity as a point of pride to the statement that it is a competitive advantage. Personally, I believe it is both and more. I believe that company employees need to reflect the populations that the company serves and I also believe that diversity is much broader than race and age and sexual orientation. I lean strongly towards diversity of thought and to those places where it is safe and welcome to express differing viewpoints.

Why then, do I run the other way in the kitchen? Oh, it’s not that I don’t love a wide variety foods and dishes reminiscent of locales around the globe. But I am known to shout and take a firm stance on, “THIS is what we’re having for dinner” or “I will not be a short-order cook”. Many times there is not a lot of room for opinions. The result is that at least two of my three children are darn good eaters. The third tries. How can I possibly honor individual choices without sacrificing my time and their taste buds?

It’s the new year and I’m eating cleaner. I want to lighten up and cleanse and catch the whole renewal spirit. Others in my household, don’t necessarily need the same thing. They’re not opposed to what I’m having but they want something more dense with more calories and perhaps animal protein. And I have a mountain of bok choy that arrived in our CSA from Desert Roots Farm.

Instead of making everyone suffer through my choice, I made the Shiitake Bokchoy soup and then added other ingredients as side dishes for those that wanted a more robust meal.

Shiitake Boy Choy Vegan Soup

The original recipe calls for chicken broth so I pan sauteed some breast meat for my son to add to his version.

Organic Free-Range Chicken

Finally, to add bulk which is really necessary for both of my younger sons, I made a pot of soba noodles. Soba are made from buckwheat and are readily available in your Asian grocery. They cook quickly and are a great source of manganese (which helps to metabolize carbohydrates).

Soba Noodles

I doubt that I can be as diverse with every menu but in this way, I can begin to accommodate differing opinions about food and flavor.

Shiitake Bokchoy Soup
adapted from Bon Appétit
Serves six

Ingredients:
  • 8 cups vegetable broth
  • 6 ounces dried shiitake mushrooms, hydrated in hot water, caps sliced
  • 2 Tbs minced peeled fresh ginger
  • 3 Tbs fish sauce (nam pla)
  • 1 Tbs soy sauce
  • 1 Tbs toasted sesame oil
  • 1/4 tsp chili oil, (optional – I only put red chili flakes on my bowl)
  • 3 cups thinly sliced bok choy
  • 4 tsp rice vinegar

Bring broth, mushrooms and ginger to boil in large pot. Reduce heat and simmer 3 minutes. Add fish sauce, soy sauce, sesame oil and simmer 2 minutes. Add bok choy and simmer until bok choy is tender, about 2 minutes. Stir in rice vinegar. Season soup to taste with salt and pepper.

Ladle soup into bowls. Add soba or chicken if it matches your own unique taste.

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76 Comments

  1. dana

     /  January 9, 2012

    The soba noodles look good and good to know they metabolize carbohydrates. I may have to try this receipe. I too would have to add the chicken for my family or they would be saying “where’s the meat?”

    Reply
  2. Yum, I wish I had some to eat right now! I couldn’t agree more, values might as well not be espoused if they aren’t going to be lived at every level (or at least sincerely attempted). Then you have a lack of values and cynicism. It takes courage and discipline to live the values, we just did a post on this last week.

    Reply
  3. Lisa H

     /  January 9, 2012

    Ha, that was a surprise twist! I have the same issues with meals in our house. One kid will love it, the other, not so much. I try to mix things up, say, a meal I know everyone likes, plus a new side dish. It’s hit or miss. A favorite meal of ours is tacos–I put all the ingredients in bowls on a lazy susan and we create our own tacos. It’s a huge hit.
    Having the CSA box definitely helps me expand our meals using vegetables I normally would not purchase. I never knew I could make so many dishes using kale! Now, if I could just learn to enjoy cabbage a bit more. :)

    Reply
  4. I used to love to cook, but when I cook dinner, unless I’m making chicken nuggets and macaroni and cheese, I end up making two or three separate meals. I know I shouldn’t, but I want the kids to eat something healthy.

    Reply
    • You’re not at all unique in that way and I think there should be an “ebook” of easy options for this. Hmmmm.

      Reply
    • Funny! I’m planning one, although I was going to frame “One Pot, Five Meals” as a leftovers strategy rather than a picky eaters strategy…

      We always had leftovers in the fridge growing up, so the picky eater could have last night’s caulflower curry or fried rice instead of lasagne (*cough*). I did a lot of leftovers…

      Reply
  5. Equality in cooking. Love it.

    Reply
  6. I love your sense of diversity and compromise!

    Reply
  7. Good thoughts, Tammy. When we are feeding a “diverse” group of diners, I set out Taco Bars, Salad Bars, Burrito Bars, Pasta Bars, etc., where everyone can create their “ideal” meal.

    Reply
    • Great ideas Nancy. I really do think we should put together an ebook that describes many of these “suit yourself” meals.

      Reply
  8. I’m copying this recipe and also the idea. Yes, one dish can be served in diverse ways and that’s the key to a happy home. You are a great writer Tammy, I don’t know if I have told you this before. I find so much substance in what you write or should I say, I find so much meat in your copy :) Great read.

    Reply
  9. Applying a principle in new ways always brings a smile to my face. The fact you see the value in other’s opinion and the fact that just because others might see things differently (or maybe not as strongly) isn’t a reason to divide, but rather a chance to unite for an even richer view is delightful and healthy.

    I assumed when I read the title of your post it was going to be about the lack of diversity in our food supply as a nation. I just watched a documentry called “Ingredients” which made a very conviencing case for the need for more local DIVERSE food sources.

    Also the point you made about diversity in people being way more than just race, sex, color, religion or sexual orientation is the point I feel many in our society miss. Diversity in its puriest form is honoring all the differences we all bring to the table.

    I often tell hiring managers, your job is to protect and improve the “gene” pool of our organization. You already work here so you don’t need to hire “yourself.” Go find the person who will make us all better (more diverse.) Diversity isn’t just the right thing to do it. It is simply good business and healthy.

    Great post!
    Thanks,
    Chris

    Reply
    • Thanks Chris. I agree with your philosophy of improving the gene pool. Also, thanks for the great idea to blog about food diversity. That sounds fun to research.

      Reply
  10. Sally Mom

     /  January 9, 2012

    Applause, Applause. Everything you say, is a reminder of genuine concern for the success of not only family considerations and business, but personal relationships as well. Great post and great reactions from your readers. A great reminder.
    Thanks tammy.
    Sally

    Reply
  11. That’s funny – so not where I thought you were going with the diversity talk : )

    That’s the way it worked in my house too. Everyone’s satisfied and not much harder for the cook.

    Reply
  12. Barbara Miller-Collins

     /  January 9, 2012

    One can also see poverty in the U.S. is a diverse perception with one’s values established from our diverse cultural experience. I have been told by someone who should know that migrant farm workers often arrive in a new town with a scarcity of household effects. The neighboring migrant will welcome a new family and share what little household effects that they themselves own, knowing that the favor will be returned. Yet many Americans value their own self sufficiency. The idea that one expects help from a neighbor or the government does not resonate with someone who values self sufficiency. An immigrant from China once told me that she would rather live in poverty in the U.S. than live in poverty in China because at least here the poor have running water, flush toilets and electricity. Diversity in values in a huge topic. Thanks for writing about it. Barbara

    Reply
    • Thanks Barbara and thanks for bringing up the perspective of poverty. I have no idea what it is to live in poverty and I don’t think a lot of policy makers and others do either. Our family tries to get out and do volunteer work often but that is observing poverty – not living it. I have a friend who used to be homeless and she told me how people avoided her and how she was embarrassed about being dirty and that there was no dignity. I really appreciate her perspective.

      Reply
  13. JRLlanes

     /  January 9, 2012

    I’ve been looking for evidence that universities value diversity and work to promote it and I see any efforts with few results. Our culture fears cultural diversity and seeks unifying themes which erase difference lest we become “dis-united” Unity comes from mutual respect for each other’s values not from the same values but we cannot see that clearly.

    Reply
    • That would be the case here in AZ where we’ve made some ethnic studies “illegal”. Great to hear from you Professor! I’ve missed you.

      Reply
  14. I’m voting for a more diverse definition of diversity as well. At the same time, you know I’m not at all against animal protein. But I know it’s very exensive to feed a whole family from organic meat. (I can’t even afford organic just for myself, so I buy regular meat. I just don’t get satisfied without meat, it’s annoying.)

    Very nice recipe! I’m so in love with Asian flavors! :D

    Reply
    • I do know that organic meat is very costly. And I respect that you enjoy it. I do think the higher cost might cause us to treat it as we should from a nutritional perspective – more as a side dish or flavor than the centerpiece of a meal.

      Reply
  15. love the “a la carte” method to building a meal to meet individual needs… but the intro of your post cracked me up! i have a friend who swears it is very simple to tell what major problem a company is trying to overcome – just look at the employee badges. they’ll have a big “INTEGRITY” or “QUALITY” printed in red… which tells you what they’ve been forced to work on…

    Reply
  16. Tammy, I need to make that soup immediately :)

    Reply
  17. Diversity of thought is a concept I really wish more people understood, let alone valued. Thank you for highlighting it.

    Plus your soup looks delicious!

    Reply
    • It’s like what Chris Antrim said, if you already work there, find someone else who thinks about it differently.

      Reply
  18. Hi Tammy… thanks for the comments on my blog, I received your newest article “Embracing Diversity” in email and all the comment updates from your previous article… so I think my subscription is working *Grin* I will have to learn how the “Subscribe” feature works for my blogs. *Smile*

    Reply
  19. I agree with Rukmini, you are a great writer, Tammy. In each of your posts there is something for the mind to think about and for the body to rejoice on ;) I like the idea of side dishes beside the main meal so that everybody finds what is needed and appreciated. Happy New Year, dear Tammy, I am looking forward to your posts. And..thank you !

    Reply
  20. That is nice of you. I don’t always please everyone in my family, that’s for sure. Usually the main dish is what it is, but I try to have a variety of sides, so everyone can be getting some good, healthy foods. I hope that the exposure to so many different veggies and fruits, as a result of participating in our CSA, will help my children grow into a lot of foods that they might not love just yet. I know my tastes have changed as I’ve grown older, and things that I wouldn’t touch as a child are some of my favorites now.

    Your soup sounds so good. I will have to look this up when we get bok choy again.

    Reply
    • Hi Melissa, I definitely don’t always please everyone and it doesn’t make me happy when they voice their displeasure. If I could think of things like this more as steps or sides (with a few mandates), then perhaps we can get to something that accommodates more tastes.

      Reply
  21. Ah diversity! At the Senior’s Residence – when I was there- we wanted to present a variety of healthy meals within the realm of this age group’s preference.

    No pasta, thanks! Some organ dishes on occasion (ewww) and “if there’s tofu, don’t tell us!”

    We had rotating seasonal meal plans (3 months each) that did not have one repeat dish for 6 weeks. Oh, there’d be chicken or beef or fish, but all with different recipes. You know, diversity.

    We did our best to keep our Homemakers from turning into short order cooks (each house had 8 to 12 residents), but there were vegetarians, allergies and meds that often meant preparing alternatives that looked as much like the regular meal as possible – in presentation. People didn’t want to be appearing “special” or “different”.

    The Homemakers did incredible jobs. Thank goodness they loved to cook!

    Sounds like you have the same challenge, Mom!

    Reply
  22. It seems like the more diverse we claim to be the more alike we are.

    Reply
  23. Hi Tammy:

    As the Mom of two growing boys, and a husband with a crazy metabolism I understand your dilemma. I’m always trying to bulk up meals for them, while keeping them lean and clean for myself.

    I’m so glad I found your blog (thanks for the comment and follow on mine)!

    Reply
  24. I like how you twisted the diversity talk back to food; it gets tricky when you have a lot of palates, and dietary needs to please. Nancy Hatch’s ideas of the different food bars are helpful. Shifting to other (potentially leaner) global cuisines as you’ve done with this recipe, serves to awaken the palate with fresh flavors, and less fat or carbs.

    Reply
  25. This is slightly off topic but still about diversity. We have a plethora of mangoes at the moment and I’m looking for new ways to use them up. so far we’ve had mango ice cream , milkshakes, fruit salad, chutney, prawns with mango and mango mousse. Any other ideas Tammy?

    Reply
    • As a last ditch effort, find a friend with a dehydrator. You can dehydrate them and then they’ll save and you can use them all year long. One thing I love to make is mango salsa. I chop mangos, with a bit of red onion, jalapenos, red pepper and cilantro. Add a bit of rice wine vinegar and sugar to taste. It’s wonderful with fish. Mark Miller (chef I love) makes a mango mash for dipping fish and seafood. He sautes 1 c onion, 2 cloves garlic, 2 Tbs ginger, 3 diced tomatoes, 4 minced chiles, 1 c diced pineapple, 1 can coconut milk, bunch cilantro for 10 minutes. Remove cilantro and keep cooking 5 min. Put in blender and cool. Then remove one cup & save for later. To the remaining, add mango, dash of hot sauce, chopped cilantro, lime juice and blend again.

      Reply
  26. Great combination, Tammy! I always face the same dilemma when I am being careful with food, and the rest need to eat like horses. I love this solution.

    Reply
  27. I work in refugee and migrant advocacy so woooooooot diversity! :D

    Reply
  28. Wow, this looks just amazing!
    I love how simple it is..definitely going to bookmark this one! :)

    Reply
  29. You show such flexibility and respect for others in your family as you embrace diversity in the kitchen. This is a clever way to include everyone around the same meal. Bravo!

    Reply
  30. Oh, yum. My mouth is watering…

    Reply
  31. I eat a lot of soba noodles & your vegan Asian inspired soup is looking so tasty!
    Real fresh flavours in here! I must make this osup this afternoon. I have all of the ingredients in the house!

    Reply
  32. Thanks for the recipe, Tammy. Since this time last year when my blood pressure shot so high it touched down on the moon, I have forced myself onto a special diet, which means I spend a great deal of time preparing my own food. Finding things that taste good that won’t affect blood pressure is very difficult. This looks like something I can.

    Tim

    Reply
  33. My wife just started teaching a course on diversity (she just started an assistant professorship) so this post rang a familiar tone. We’ve been talking about it quite a bit lately, and I’ve been clipping articles and such. So you’re thought of bringing diversity to the kitchen was definitely a new direction for the conversation! In every setting, though, I think it is appreciated.

    Reply
  34. Congratulations on your recent nomination by Island Traveler for the Hope Unites Globally HUG Award. To accept the award and learn how to share it with others, please read the Guidelines at http://ahopefortoday.com/2012/01/14/hope-unites-globally-hug-award-guidelines/. Blessings, Connie at A Hope for Today

    Reply
  35. Some other great additions to add separately might be bean sprouts, siriacha sauce, green onions, onion slices… My family loves the crunch of fresh vegies in Asian soups.

    Reply
  1. Blog awards shared in gratitude to bloggers for blogging inspiration — Naomi's Notes

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