Today is New Year’s Day. For dinner last night, New Year’s Eve, I made blini with caviar and today I am making Hoppin’ John with black-eyed peas, a food traditionally eaten in the American south on New Year’s Day day to bring good luck. While these foods are “traditional” New Year’s fare, they have not been traditions in my family or the cultures that I claim as my own. Yet, I enjoy them thoroughly.
When I have written about audience engagement or about programming in a spirit of cultural inclusion and egalitarianism, I have sometimes included the phrase (or the spirit of): “if you want the world to look at your stage, the stage needs to look like the world,” meaning that the world on stage needs to reflect the diversity of stories found in the audience. In saying this, I have been accused of advocating for “setting quality away on the shelf.” Nothing could be further from the truth. My New Year’s culinary “programming” provides a good analog. The food was delicious, using the highest quality ingredients. If I were presenting this food professionally, I would have brought in a Russian chef for the blini and a Southern one for the Hoppin’ John to assure not just the quality of the fare (I humbly assert than I have that covered) but also its authenticity. Most importantly, the excellent food can be enjoyed by all: Russians, Southerners, and everyone else.