Texan Concepts of Ethnic Food: Breaking It Down, Venn Diagram-Style

Categories: Edible Science

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Pictured: a stereotypical Texan, according to The Simpsons.
Have you ever traveled abroad and met people who -- upon learning you're from Texas -- ask if you own any horses? Own any cattle? Own a ranch? Ask where your boots and buckle are?

Stereotypes abound far and wide, from my dear ex-mother-in-law from England -- who wanted to know if we could just "pop over to Southfork Ranch" while she came to visit Houston -- to those who are disappointed when Texans don't show up for meetings in ten-gallon Stetson hats.

Americans are equally prone to stereotype other ethnicities and nationalities, especially when it comes to food. When you think of Chinese food, what are the first three things that come to mind? Egg rolls, fortune cookies, General Joe's chicken? It's a reflex, conditioned over time by fast-fooderies like Panda Express and the Americanized Chinese restaurant your grandparents always ate at on that one Saturday a month when it was time for "ethnic" food.

And although things have changed for the better over the years, there's still a surprising disconnect between Americans' concept of what other countries' inhabitants eat and what those people actually subsist on each day.

I polled Texans -- not just Houstonians -- on what they thought of when they were asked to consider foods from places like Ethiopia, Lebanon, Germany and several other countries. Through Facebook, Twitter, email and personal interviews, I compiled the most common responses from Texans far and wide. And then I set out asking people that were actually from those countries what their idea of commonly consumed foodstuffs were. I was interested to see how often the American concept of another culture's food overlapped with that culture's actual dining trends. And that's where Venn diagrams come in.

The results were surprising in some areas, not so in others. In the Venn diagrams below, you'll see Texans' answers on the left, the actual countryman/countrywoman's answers on the right, and any overlap between the two in the middle.

Read on to find out what Texans think of Korean food, Mexican food and more.

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Photo illustrations by Monica Fuentes

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