While hanging out at this service thing with a bunch of people a couple of weekends ago I witnessed tons of hugs, hellos, smiles and general all around friendliness. Maybe even a bit too much chattiness and not enough getting-er’done going on. But that’s okay.
I’m near two women when one leans over to the other and says, “I love how everyone’s so friendly even though we all come from so many different walks of life.”
The other woman replies, “That’s so right! It’s like this place works like a great big crock-pot.”
The other woman agreed wholeheartedly.
I had to perform some mental gymnastics to stop myself from correcting her metaphor. I’m sure she actually meant to say “melting pot” not “crock-pot.”
Don’t take my word for it. Here’s what Merriam-Webster has to say about that metaphor:
1 a place (such as a city or country) where different types of people live together and gradually create one community
2 a place where a variety of races, cultures, or individuals assimilate into a cohesive whole
3 a process of blending that often results in invigoration or novelty
That term was first used around 1887 about immigrants to the United States as they assimilated, contributed and became part of the culture here.
To clarify, a crock-pot, or slow cooker, simmers or cooks at a very low temperature over many hours. This process tenderizes meats, rarely burns the food, and simplifies meal preparation and cleanup. It’s one of my favorite appliances.
Can you see why I felt a little queasy at the mixed up metaphor?
Imagine a big pot of melted cheese (with a side of tortilla chips please.) Mmm. I could go for some Queso about now, couldn’t you? That’s how I picture a melting pot. Everything blends together into one big indistinguishable gooey mass of deliciousness. There’s nothing that really stands out or looks different. It’s all good, but it’s all one flavor.I like the crock-pot image better for what my friend observed and tried to put into words.
After a day of simmering, whatever ingredients thrown into the pot in the morning still seem familiar and beckoning in the evening. Carrots, meat, potatoes, onions, peas, celery have spent enough time together enduring the heat that they’ve sort of shared flavors with each other along with the spices and broth in the pot. Lifting the lid on such a concoction sends out such an aroma of comfort.
Or maybe what you throw in the crock-pot is beans, rice, corn, meat, tomatoes, green or red chili peppers, onion and garlic. Ten hours of basking in the heat makes for melt in your mouth, warm up your belly wonderful nuances of shared flavors and mixed tastes. Nothing beats a big bowl of chili this time of year, with autumn singing its promising song.
Isn’t that what we want when interacting with people different from us? A little something of them rubbing off on us and maybe a bit of us making them a bit sweeter or spicier? Spending time together, even if only metaphorically, ought to make everything better.
Expecting a kind of total agreement and sameness sounds so boring and sad. Imagine cheese dip every single day, all year long, every year.
Don’t take my word for it. Listen to these wise words:
“Just as the natural environment depends on biodiversity, so the human environment depends on cultural diversity, because no one civilization encompasses all the spiritual, ethical and artistic expressions of mankind.” ~ Rabbi Jonathan Sacks
I love that idea! Pluralism really does define how society naturally works best. In case you were wondering the Oxford English Dictionary defines pluralism this way:
1 A condition or system in which two or more states, groups, principles, sources of authority etc. coexist.
2 form of society in which the members of minority groups maintain their independent cultural traditions.
Reasonable, right? That’s what I think, too!
What worries me happens when political correctness or peer pressure or social media onslaught demands conformity from everyone. Seems to me that insisting on complete and total agreement, drowning out differences of opinion actually takes away from the idea of unity that all those louder, bigger voices say they want.
Tension and repression and discord become the norm and actually kill off unity.
Some days I feel like I’m watching this country attempting to force a giant stew into a blender and turn it into baby food. Ick! Nothing delectable there.
Can’t we just simmer down and enjoy each other’s differences and work together somehow for a happy outcome?
The crock-pot’s set on low for a while.
I’ll bring a few loaves of fresh-baked bread, if you’ll bring along some butter.