Food – a Door to Cultural Exchange

Just back from a 4th of July weekend wedding event in beautiful Door County, Wisconsin – and what a celebration! A college friend and sorority sister re-newed her wedding vows to her Danish husband for all their American friends and family. Friends from literally all over the globe converged on Bjorklunden, the lakeside retreat owned by our alma mater, Lawrence University.

The setting was perfect for such a global menagerie of people. Of course, most of the groom’s side was from Denmark, but the bride’s side is also relatively diverse. Friends I have not seen in years flew in from as far away as Georgia and Arizona. The lodge we stayed at was originally built and owned by a Scandinavian-American couple, and they decorated the Great Room with Scandinavian legends, motifs, and rosemaling. The design is even typical Scandinavian – clean lines, natural hues of wood and stone, and functional. A short walk away from the lodge is the chapel, built by the original owners as an exact replica of a Norwegian stave kirche (or church). Inside, the walls are adorned in frescoes painted by the couple. And outside both of these beautiful buildings, a dramatic setting- Lake Michigan.

The perfect setting to celebrate the union of an American woman and Danish man. The festivities were laced throughout with traditional Danish elements – a kranskage, the traditional Scandinavian wedding cake (a scrumptious memory of my childhood to this Norwegian-American girl!), the traditional first dance followed by the groomsmen cutting off the toe of the groom’s socks, and a rousing chorus sung by all the guests about the couple.

I especially noticed a cultural exchange in the food we ate and the beer we drank. A number of my far-flung college friends savored the abundance of Wisconsin beer, mentioning how difficult it is to find the local specialty brews in other parts of the country. One particular friend, Carolyn, was thrilled we made a detour to Tom’s Drive-in in Appleton so that she could savor again the deep-fried goodness of Wisconsin cheese curds.

Cultural food exchanges also occurred between the Danish and American guests. We made new friends over Oreos and root beer floats (which apparently tastes just like Danish toothpaste. Who knew?). Trying new foods opened up dialogue further, to include discussions of cultural differences between the States and Europe, as well as regionally within the United States.

The lesson I’ve learned? When traveling and meeting new people, be open to trying their traditional food, snacks, and delicacies. A whole world of cultural exchange awaits you.

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About chronictraveler

Chronic Traveler starts as a dream, one that I thought I had lost, but that has slowly changed into a mission to realize and live that dream every day. In December 2007 I became seriously ill and the doctors did not know what was causing my illness. I had to stop teaching as my life tumbled into a never-ending nightmare of doctors, hospitals and tests. Finally, in May 2008 I was diagnosed with a chronic condition - fibromyalgia. I was only 26 years old at the time. I have had to give up teaching, and now work part-time at a performing arts center as I learn how to manage my condition and improve my quality of life. What helped me through the months of uncertainty and sickness, and continues to inspire me, was a new focus on what truly mattered to me: family, friends, gardening, the arts, and especially travel. I have always fed my soul by traveling, ever since I first stepped off the plane at age 16 in Kathmandu, Nepal to help with an orphanage's building project. Meeting new people and experiencing how they live and how they view the world infuses my life with a richness I was so afraid I would lose when the doctor first said, "You have fibromyalgia". This blog is my story, as I begin to forge a new path. I am embracing my life as it is, with the fibromyalgia pain and fatigue, and learning to do what I love regardless. It may mean I have to go slower and take more naps or breaks! But I am determined to learn how to travel and experience the world, and hopefully what I learn will help others like me who believe their medical condition stands in the way of their travel dreams.
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