Cultural Baggage - CULTURAL BAGGAGE By Barbara Ehrenreich...

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CULTURAL BAGGAGE By Barbara Ehrenreich Recently an acquaintance was telling me about the joys of rediscovering her ethnic and religious heritage. “I know exactly what my ancestors were doing 2,000 years ago,” she said, eyes gleaming with enthusiasm, “and I can do the same things now.” Then she leaned forward and inquired politely, “And what is your ethnic background, if I may ask?” “None,” I said, that being the first word in line to get out of my mouth. Well, not “none,” I backtracked. Scottish, English, Irish—that was something, I supposed. Too much Irish to qualify as a WASP, too much English to warrant a “Kiss me, I’m Irish” button; plus there are a number of dead ends in the family tree due to adoptions, missing records, failing memories, and the like. I was blushing by this time. Did “none” mean I was rejecting my heritage out of Anglo-Celtic self-hatred? But the truth is I was raised with “none.” We’d eaten ethnic foods in my childhood home, but these were all borrowed, like the Cornish pasties, or meat pies, my father had picked up from his fellow miners in Butte. If my mother had one rule, it was militant ecumenicism in all matter of food and experience: “Try new things,” she would say, meaning anything from sweetbreads to clams, with an emphasis on the “new.” My mother never introduced a domestic procedure by telling me, “Grandma did it this
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This note was uploaded on 04/19/2011 for the course WRIT 142 taught by Professor Carlacio during the Spring '08 term at Cornell University (Engineering School).

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Cultural Baggage - CULTURAL BAGGAGE By Barbara Ehrenreich...

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