Tuesday, March 17, 2009

Kid friendly Broccoli and Carrot Quesadilla

I had been mulling about identity ever since the usually unflappable DD came home all upset. She was in second grade. A girl in her class had repeatedly insisted that she was an American Indian (Native American) even though DD explained to her several times that she was Indian from the subcontinent. They were learning about Native Americans and the girl wanted to know if DD and her folks roamed around with bows and arrows.

This came up again a few days ago but DD a bit older dealt with it to her satisfaction. Not exactly the same context but a Chinese friend of hers was surprised that Indians were also Asian. She had assumed only people from the Far East countries are considered Asian. I would not blame her, there are lot of adults who assume that and that is generally the case. DD this time put her foot down and asked the friend if she was going to believe her or another person who had no knowledge of the fact and with the advice to go check in an Atlas if India belonged in Asia or not.

This also brings another incident to mind, one of DD's classmates is from Taiwan(T1). The conversation between him and another boy went like this.

B1: Where are you from?
T1: I am from Taiwan.
B1: So you are Chinese?
T1: NO! I am Taiwanese?
B1: You are Chinese!
T1: NO, I am not Chinese. I am Taiwanese.
B1: Whatever.

That answer pretty much sums up the apathy which is so bothering. All these incidents clearly illustrate that kids though not expressed openly (at least in our home it is not) take their identity seriously. The country that someone is originally from might be as important as the ethnicity. I also have to add through all of this their pride in being American never wavers.

From the food we eat, clothes we wear, customs we respect and traditions we follow are all inextricably linked with our identity. Even saving, spending habits and educational achievement are all identified by who we are and where we came from. Of course this identity also comes with certain stereotyping like this comment from one of DD's classmates again "Asians don't have a life!". It can be taken as a compliment or a commentary IMO. It could just mean that Asians as a group are hard working and value education more than frivolous pursuits. Again I am stereotyping here but with a spin. But this stereotype could be true of Asians only when applying to a small group of immigrants, but surely back home it is a different story.

I imagine it is hard enough being an immigrant kid trying to blend in and also carrying the burden of defending who you are. It is good to be part of the melting pot but would be best while retaining the good and leaving the bad when you melt into that pot.

When you live in your own home country advice, support and help is only a plane or train ride away. Elders guide you towards the best of possible choices and serve as sounding boards and steer you in the right direction. But when you are far away this support and clarity of thought is not always available. What is readily available though is the practises and customs that are part of your identity. Most times decisions based on those age old practises turn out to be the best for any situation.

I have not always been aware of my identity or its significance till I moved away from home. The older I get the more I realize that identity is very important to what you are as a human being. Teaching kids the language and food habits are just the most obvious way to connect to that identity. But the other not so obvious ones are what is essential for living a better life.

The problems with this identity manifest themselves in the lunch room at schools. I am sure parents of school age kids have resorted to packing peanut butter jelly sandwich just to keep peace at home.

DD hates peanut butter so we had to figure other foods that tasted good and were not junky. Broccoli Carrot Quesadilla is one of those things though ethnic has blended into the mainstream that no questions are asked. She has also learned to deal with the eeyews and what is that? and does not hesitate to take easily eatable Indian foods to school. I like quesadillas as they provide a great canvas for me to work on. No No I am not suggesting I am artist. I am not that creative :( It also takes very minimal time and a tasty lunch is ready in minutes.

DD's version of the recipe: Quesadillas with Broccoli and Bell Peppers


Broccoli and Carrot Quesadilla
Serves: 1

1. I head of broccoli florets (about 1/2 cup of cooked broccoli)
2. 1/2 carrot grated
3. 1 tbsp shredded cheese
4. 1 large whole wheat tortilla
5. Variation: scrambled eggs, roasted bell peppers

1. Microwave the broccoli florets with a sprinkle of water. Once done squeeze out any extra moisture and chop them up.
2. Heat a pan and heat the tortilla on both sides for a few seconds.
3. Spread the broccoli and the grated carrot.
4. Sprinkle the cheese on top and let it melt a bit
5. Fold the tortilla over, turn over and cook a bit on the other side.


Lunch is ready with a side of yogurt. I am not fond of broccoli but give me as many of these quesadillas and I am ready to eat them, no problem.


  1. Telepathy indeed, ISG! :) Healthy quesadilla with broccoli and carrots. Looks wonderful!
    I think and feel more "Indian" after coming here. Being away from your roots gives you a chance to miss and crave for little things that we'd taken for granted. It also re-establishes your identity, i think.
    DD handled the issue well.
    It's also lack of knowledge that makes people assume the wrong things. Back in India, I met this college kid who asked me where Karnataka was. She thought it was a town in one of the "Madrasi" states!

  2. U R so right about the kids being born here.. I have had my DD face issues jsut not with ethnicity but even with skin color.... innocent questions in preschool... but things that she never thought of noticing! anyway... now in 2nd grade, she knows how to handle it..u r right again about quesadilla's being abig canvas:-)

  3. Very familiar to me too. I tell Trisha to say "My parents are from India" instead of "We are Indians". Same with Asia question, Trisha has to tell them that India is in South Asia, not in south east Asia, that makes her Asian too! :D

    After 9/11, some girls even said to her that "your people killed my people" in ele school. Trisha told them off and said "People from India didn't take the plane and crashed it!" Girls say "oh, I thought you are an Arab"!! What more can I say about that?!

    Trisha tells me that "they are all so frigging ignoramus, they all need some edumacation, Mom!" HeHe!

    I just came from Vani's Quesadilla and I see more yummy Quesadilla here too, looks yum. Guess what? I am posting Whole wheat Taco tomorrow! :)

  4. My daughter has had the identity issues.
    I personally feel the second generation Indian Americans face lot of issues. I take atmost care to practise the customs that are part of our identity and I agree that food certainly plays an important paet to connect to that identity.

    Thanks for the wonderful post. Quesadilla looks great and healthy.

  5. I agree with your post. Identity is very important.

    I don't think Mischief will have the same problem, if we continue to live in TO as Toronto is as multi0cultural as it can get. But sure, she will face similar problems. So glad to hear your DD handled it well. Way to go!!

    Your broccoli quesadillas are always a big hit at home. She even assembles her own Qs. Thanks for suggesting that.

  6. ISG, I always come looking for your recipes (and quesadilla is another winner!) but leave thinking you really missed your calling -- you should be a writer. Your essay is thoughtful and thought-provoking. I think you should send it to the Post!

    Hope you're over your cold, too :)

  7. wow what a healthy and colorful Quesidilla.... cheesy and yummy.

  8. When I remarked on Westerners' insulation (stereotyping again, maybe) and lack of knowledge of other countries' culture or affairs, I was told that India being a developing country, it made it its business to be well informed.
    I would have imagined people would know the basics, esp the English, but I was quite surprised when a well-educated person asked me what "a female Maharaja" was called in India. Guess it was my mistake to assume the terms Raja and Rani were well known.
    Indo, I'm curious, what do you think about schools and offices ruling that no "smelly food" (spicy, ethnic stuff) should be brought in? Quite a few people I know have faced that situation.

  9. I can understand DD's feelings very much. We being in our native country when I first heard from my other friend like you I was totally taken back. Her daughter was refusing t take anything yellow or green for lunch. This quesadilla looks simple and inviting! Why shudn't u send it to Srivalli's Kids food event?

  10. Very nice post. Proud of DD, should take tips from her in the near future :)
    Does this go to Meeta's Minthly Mingle ? It is Kids' theme this time

  11. I have never had quesadilla, and this looks really yumm and healthy.
    I love DD answer to look up in the atlas where India is.
    I agree with Vani after comming here i feel more indian than i felt in India were our culture is taken granted by us.
    My daughter is 16 so onece in her class they were talking about marriage and kids, and Shyama was like who wants to get married ( well that is what she says now, she think living together is far better than getting married) and then one of her friends asked her you don't want to get marries, is it because your mom is Indian and you have to go for a arranged marriage.

  12. Completely agree and identify with what u said.Though we live in India but still the difference of opinion among ppl prevails and there is an ongoing rift and unrest between different communities of the same Nation.It's shameful,its pathetic,its ridiculous.No doubt i am so very proud to be a Sindhi,but i am more proud to be an Indian and even more to be a Human.Won't it be good if parents taught their kids that respect your religion from depth of your heart,but never ever raise a finger to other communities.World would surely be a better place that way
    Coming to quesadilla,its awesome-ly Healthy and wonderful recipe

  13. Looks lovely! Not just kids, but everybody loves this recipe!

  14. Thanks for stopping by at my blog and your kind comment. Your blog is great and I need some time to go through it :)

  15. Our friend's 6 yr old was teased too but he always had a firm response and even explained the goodness of the food his mom packed for him - i was realy amazed at him.

    this is a lovely lunch recipe and the kids helping to make this will definitely make them want to finish it.

  16. And what about giving credit to the right person when it comes to quesadilla, I see DD1 had already made it and you never even told us ;-)

  17. Vani, it is astounding how people don't know even the most basic facts. Ignorance is everywhere. But when it comes from a so called educated person I wonder if pointing out the facts would even make a difference. But kids are different, they seem to understand better.

    Soma, yes kids learn early that they are different. Sad but true. Take heart unlike adults who already have opinions kids do not have a stereotype in mind they are just learning. Kids are generally more accepting and accomodating once the exotic is taken out of the equation.

    Asha, isn't it really sad. I do agree with Trisha, there sure are ignormous people around.

    Cilantro, it indeed difficult. Feet in two worlds is never easy.

  18. Kay, the DC suburbs which we live is very very diverse but still there are issues. Those broccoli quesadillas are life savers.

    Linda, thanks.you are my biggest cheerleader. Oh! post has surely seen better writers than me :)

    Sra exactly. I have found that even uneducated Indians in India know the world around them better than a lot of educated Americans. Sad.
    I am curious. I have not heard of that around here. That would be a travesty. What smells delicious for me could smell awful for someone else and vice versa.

    Nirmala, I know what you mean. DD had a friend who was particular about her food. So when another kid made a comment she got up walked over to another table finished her lunch and walked away. The trouble is not all kids stand up for themselves. Moreover DD never hesitates to take food even colorful Indian foods that she likes. She has learnt to defend and ask the right questions back.

    HC, I hear you, steretypes are so hard to overcome. Sometimes it is curiousity and other times it is plain ignorance. Shyama seems to understand the world better than a lot of adults :)

    Alka, you said it, yes respect.

  19. My DS is still only 3 years old and I am dreading the time when he grows up to face 'real' world with talks about Indians, Chinese etc.

    It was very laudable the way your DD handled it and kudos to her. Also looks like she is a budding cook, loved her version of Quesadilla.

  20. Hi Indosungod,

    I have been in the US for many yrs now and initially I found myself thinking a lot about my identity here ..With time, I have found the answers and feel even more pride in who Iam and what I represent :)

    Can only imagine how it will for my kids when they come into the picture:)

    lovely recipe and so very innovative ..I totally think you are an artist :)


  21. Indo, this is such a great idea. Why kids, I think I would love to make it too :)

  22. I don't like broccoli too - but these quesidillas look yummy!

    Identity issues become larger as we move away from our birthplace even if we are in the same country....K who is four is realising now that other kids in Delhi don't speak Tamil at home - the other differences will slowly follow.

  23. i second Vani's thoughts. most north indians assume that any state in south india is madras and we in turn think of all states above our territory as north indians. ask someone in india as how many states we have and u will get 8 different answers from 10 different peole.
    i have rediscovered my identity after staying away from India. here all indians, pakistanis, bangladesis and srilankan are called as asians, not by our country. it sure puts me off as i thought after ruling our country and splitting into 3 different countries people in this country will atleast identify us based on our country! no such luck!!! sometime people are really ignorant and somettimes they act that way to simply piss us off. i have learnt to dela with such ppl now.
    DD is handling such issues with diginity and maturity. i am really impressed.
    and i am also impressed with ur simple quesadilla. carrots and broccoli, how good it can get!
    have a lovely weekend :)

  24. Indo, now that you say that.. I remember I have 'talked' to an ignoramus here too - In one of the forums I belonged, a member posted very angrily 'one in 5 Indians are millionaires...why do they get concession in oil?'

    After I picked up my jaw from the floor, I responded to her msg. No, she never had the decency to come back and respond to that.

    So yeah, people like that are everywhere and the key is to stand up for yourself and stop the insinuation or the insult. Like your DD did.

  25. Nice thoughts! Love the cheesy quesadilla.

  26. I recently discovered how amazing carrots and quesadillas are together, and I wanted to see if anyone had done this before. Little did I know I'd be reading about cultural identity, too! I appreciated learning about your perspective. I certainly hope schoolkids are becoming more open to other cultures. That's one of the best things that comes from public education. I suppose the ignorance issue is an opportunity for people to make mistakes and ask questions and, hopefully, learn something that will change them into more understanding people in the future. It is frustrating, though, that sometimes this process is hurtful.


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