Growing up in a small town in Kentucky in the 70's and 80's didn't exactly expose me to a plethora of cultures and traditions. My intent isn't to knock Kentucky; I imagine that during that time, most places in the U.S. weren't eagerly adopting other people's traditions and beliefs. Indeed, there were still schools resisting integration at that time.
One of my first foreign culture encounters came around food. Between my junior and senior years of high school, I participated in the Kentucky Governor's Scholars Program. While there, I met Yukio; a boy of Japanese heritage who attended a nearby school. After the program, some of us kept in touch for a while, and at one point Yukio has several of us over to spend the night at his house.
Everything seemed normal at his house until the next morning when we ate breakfast. His mom had fixed some type of rice dish for breakfast. It was a big shock to me. I couldn't believe that people actually ate rice for breakfast. Little did I know that perhaps billions of people in fact did that very thing every morning.
Meat and potatoes were definitely the staples in our house. We ate rice a few times a year, and it was "spiced" with cinnamon and sugar. Once my grandfather gave us a pack of squid or octopus that he had accidentally bought (not quite sure how), and it ended up throwing it away.
So this morning as I was eating my fried egg and rice breakfast, I thought about Yukio's mom serving us a rice for breakfast. Life has changed quite a bit since then.