How a Little Flavor Brings Cultures Together

This podcast episode of “Stand Out from the Inside” features author and speaker Liz Nead, who wrote a brand new book called, “Curry Up.” This episode talks about how curry spices add a little extra flavor. And how like spiced food, the United States is a blend of cultures that are better when you put them together. Liz Nead is an exuberant mother of 7 children in her blended family. She created and hosted an award-winning television show called Life Dare, which won an Iowa Motion Picture Association Award and was nominated for regional Emmy. Liz is the author of several best-selling books, the “1st edition of 20 Beautiful Women” and “The 180 Life”. Her work has been featured in Ladies Home Journal, Better Homes and Gardens, Huffington Post, and Buzzfeed.

Podcast Specific Hashtags: #foodie #foodculture #spicesofindia #curry

Guest(s): Liz Nead – Best-selling Author

Social Media Handles: 
Instagram @lizzynead
LinkedIn https://www.linkedin.com/in/liznead

About Our Host:

Edgar Daggett born and raised in Ann Arbor, MI. He currently serves as the Specialty Programs Marketing Associate at Versiti Blood Centers, where he focuses on direct involvement and campaign management on specialty products and diverse groups. Past family experience inspired him to begin his journey at Versiti in 2020. He knew that the need for diverse units was growing year to year, and because of his personal history, he decided to make the change – and help make a change.

Through the Stand Out From the Inside podcast, he hopes to empower new and bright individuals in his community and beyond to spread the word on the need for diverse blood products through donation and blood drives.  

“I hope you all enjoy the Stand Out from the Inside podcast presented by Versiti, where we talk about the needs of the community and ways we can become stronger!”

About - Podcast Show Series

STAND OUT FROM THE INSIDE presented by versiti™ is a podcast where—we recognize community with light, uniqueness, and identity. Edgar Daggett will talk with individuals to celebrate ethnicity and blood type — it is part of our survival. Because within our communities, we have attributes that we give and serve in our community. This is a fresh podcast that will give voice to diversity and inspiration. We will promote strength, trust, caring, inclusivity, and positivity. And will go deep on the lifesaving impact of blood donation. How do you Stand Out from the Inside? https://www.versiti.org/standout

Edgar: [00:00:00] Welcome back, everyone. Welcome to another Stand Out from the Inside podcast presented by Versiti. I'm your host Edgar Daggett, welcome back to our viewers. And if you're new, please catch up on our other episodes by subscribing to the Versiti podcast, Stand Out from the Inside available on all your podcast channels. Welcome to another week, hope you guys had a great week, great weekend celebrated. I enjoyed some of the festivities, the fall festivities. Hopefully in your state is not getting too cold like it is here in Michigan, a cause you know, we're already freezing. It went from summer to winter, real cold, but you know, that's the Midwest. So as we go along here, you know, we have an exciting episode for you all today. We'll be talking a little bit about, you know, that community side, how that outreach to hospitals, what that looks like, the bias against either the community or against the hospital. So we'll be digging into details about that. But to join [00:01:00] me in that conversation, we have an amazing person who lives out of Indiana. Her name is Liz Nead, she's a best-selling author with her brand new book, "Curry Up," that's available on Amazon. Liz, welcome to the Stand Out from the Inside Podcast.

Liz: Hi, thank you for having me. I'm excited about this. 

Edgar: No, thank you for joining. I'm super excited to have you here. I've heard so much about you being involved in the community. You weren't originally in this space and somehow you've joined, you've conquered, you're spreading the word, you're bringing out the mission and it's inspiring. So I want to thank you. 

Liz: Thank you. 

Edgar: Liz is a bestselling author. She just wrote a new book called "Curry Up." It's available on Amazon, you can see the link down below. And let me, let me just start there, "Curry Up," because I'm a food fanatic. You know we're foodies here, at least in Michigan, you know, coming from my side of the [00:02:00] history of the minority side, we're big foodies. And curry is a big one that we use in all of our seasonings, but it comes from Asia on that Indian side. What was inspiration about that book? "Curry Up." 

Liz: That's definitely my story, "Curry Up." So I was born in Detroit and then we moved to Minneapolis St. Paul area. You know, my parents are immigrants from India. They came here in the late sixties, and so I lived that immigrant daughter's life. I grew up around people who were Scandinavian, Norwegian, Lutherans, so blonde, blue eyes, fair skin. And then there, my dad was, a PhD, living kind of in a more blue collar area. And I really hated being Indian when I was young. I really stuck out like a sore thumb. I'm neurodiverse, I have ADHD. I never felt like I could get away with anything. [00:03:00] And so I rejected everything about my Indian culture. I just wanted to have lasagna and hot dish and bars. That's what they call those things in Minnesota. And my mom, you know, she delivered, we had a lot of meatloaf. He had a lot of pot roast, I think about how she was 17 when she left home. And she married at 23, 24 years of age in a country that she wasn't familiar with. And so she tried to do everything she could to assimilate and we did have a curry regularly, but not until I was older, did I really fall in love with the cuisine. So because of that, I asked a lot of questions and I learned about it. So one of the things that you need to know is that curry is just a combination of different spices, coriander, cumin, some different peppers and paprika and the combination someone called it curry. So there's different curry combinations. If it's lamb, vegetables, [00:04:00] shrimp, and the other thing to know, that's really cool is that these things, these curries, these different spices are cancer fighting. There's a very low incidence of cancer in India. And that's partly because they're raised on these different spices. So people think of curry, they think hot immediately. That's just the way they think of, you know, heat that it's super spicy and that you're just going to be sweating. But actually those flavors don't have to have heat in them. So what I did is I put together what is a representation of my childhood. And I took the things that I loved, mashed potatoes and onion rings and sliders, and I, I thought, how can I make this taste better with these spices that my parents grew up with? And so I say that, you know, like take a dish and "Curry Up," like make it a little something. So there's a few dishes in the book [00:05:00] that are recipes that are traditional Indian food, but most of it is food that you would get at your local pub. And it's just a little extra flavor that's in there, which I think is the beauty of the United States that we have all these different cultures and we can take different things and put them together, and they're actually better than they are separate.

Edgar: So this is a fusion. This is a fusion of American dishes with your spices coming over and enhancing.

Liz: Yep, exactly. 

Edgar: What are those top three? You have to name three dishes on that cookbook. What are those three dishes that you're like, okay, someone's new coming to my house. I got to make these three dishes. What are those three dishes that's in that book?

Liz: The first one is just the straight up chicken Curry. Like here's a thing that you can do, you don't always have to order it out. And I actually think that if you make it this way, it might be more compatible with a traditional American palette. I give some background in the book about why [00:06:00] these things are the way they are. So that's the first one. The second one is the onion rings. So they're coconut and spiced onion rings because coconut is a really big part of Indian cuisine, and it's also inexpensive. I mean, you're hearing about how all these foods are, and so this is a really inexpensive way to bring flavor into your dishes. And then the final one is the potato thins that you just take potato because you know, I'm from the Midwest. So everyone loves potatoes. So here's a way to make the potatoes. And then you have this yogurt dipping sauce that is really good. And it's a way to take something traditional that you're comfortable with and be able to dip your toe in like, just try this little thing. The big thing for me is that it's not just the spices. Like coconut is not a spice. Yogurt is not a spice. So there's techniques, there's interesting ways to bring these foods into our [00:07:00] lives that we can learn from other cultures.

Edgar: Wow. That's amazing. Next time we do this podcast, I know exactly the setting we're doing it in. We're going to take a road trip over there and we're going to try some of these items because they're exciting. And I didn't know that about coconut you said it's expensive? It's hard to get?

Liz: No, no, no. It's not. What I was saying is, you know, it's inexpensive. So these are things where you can eat like a king, you know, people, the way that my parents grew up, they grew up in villages. I mean, my dad bathed in the backwaters of Carola. He did not have a shower and my mom, she didn't even have a well. Like they had bladders that they called water skins, and she went to a river to get water. But they ate so well because if you know how to use these different things, so coconut is very predominant in the Southern part of India. Yogurt is something that you naturally use because it's good for your gut, [00:08:00] and also it's good to cut the spice if that's something that you need to do. And so using these ingredients, you can eat so well and it can be so good for you and it doesn't have to be expensive. So in light of all the talk about inflation and the stress in the economy, this is a good place to start, like, find out how to make these things yourself and use things that are used all the time. They're already proven to be really tasty and good for you from other cultures.

Edgar: I have to repeat something because heat is something that I always hear my friends saying, like, I don't want to go there because it's spicy. Cause I love Indian food. I'll go out to a couple of restaurants that we have here in Ann Arbor. I'll want exactly how you will make it at home, that's how I want it to come into my house. Well, what my friends are, some of my friends are saying, they're like, that's spicy. I'm like, no, you don't have to get a spicy, you know, it's for the flavor, it's a different flavor. Like the sauces, you have to enjoy that. And then I take them and I'm like, listen, they don't want spicy. And then [00:09:00] the waiters are like, oh yeah, completely fine. We don't have to do anything spicy, we can do it just mellow. We have different spice levels and they explain what you said too, exactly that. We're not just spice, we're flavor, we're different types of flavor, and we put on different meals that you can see everyday, like chicken. That's something that is common. And, you know, I'm trying to expand my palette and trying to like, reach out to like different cultures, and it's all about trying. It's all about being willing to try it and not be scared of what people say. So heat is not always about Indian food, or it's not always a key component Indian food.

Liz: Yeah. You know, I want to get a little serious right now and say, you know, these are narratives that are used so that we will be afraid to try new things. That's a reality in our country. Who told you, who was the first person who tried Indian food and said, "Oh no, that's not how we roll. That's not the way that we eat." And then didn't go [00:10:00] any further. So what that does is it stops you from understanding that there is a way of doing something. And of course it's not, you know, we, want to believe as a culture that maybe Indian people or maybe Vietnamese people, I don't know wherever you want to think about, that they have a special tongue that can handle the spices because whenever we're unfamiliar with something, we want to make it genetic right away. We want to say, "Oh yeah, we're just fundamentally different." But the reality is that people learn and develop into these things, and that if you went to a place that you wouldn't normally frequent, a place that isn't just a salt and pepper, basil, sort of place and there is a challenge to your narrative and you go, and you say, I'm unfamiliar with this, but I want to learn, you will learn so much. And they would do anything because they're proud of their cuisine as much as we are, and I'm saying we, because I live in two worlds, I live in a world that is traditionally [00:11:00] American, but I also, because of who I am, I'm exposed to my other culture and other cultures. And I can tell you that they're very proud to teach you things. So whenever someone tells you, "Oh, that's bad," question it. Go to the place and learn. Why did they choose the spices they do? What are the benefits? What can I learn? How can I create synergy that's positive and powerful that will make a difference? But that narrative has really hurt people. There was some person who was very traditional, who only used salt and pepper, maybe a couple other things in their dishes, they took one bite of something and no one taught them anything, and they said, no, that's spicy. And then they really did their job to pass that narrative down. What a shame. I'm 50 years old, and when I was 18, people were saying those things. What a shame that I'm 50, that I've been in this country since 1970, and that people are saying the [00:12:00] exact same things that they did 30 years ago. Why haven't we learned? Why do we believe the narrative of fear, and we're not able to enjoy something that is ours now? I mean, our birthright as a country is that we accept people from different cultures. I mean, we're not the nicest to them always, but we're stuck with it. We have lots of different cultures. So then why is there this other problem that we are afraid to try things in other cultures? Because there's billions of people that are eating this food, so it can't be that bad. And when people are like, oh, your skin is so good, I'm thinking, well, why don't you go to the playbook and look at the spices and look at the foods and they say "Indians stay out of the sun," like take the page from that playbook. Why do you have to learn it all yourself? You can learn from other people and enjoy it.

Edgar: Yeah, all you have to do is ask. That's one of the key components: ask. And don't be afraid to ask because, you know, here in the United States, [00:13:00] we're afraid to be ignorant or there's that ignorance level where like, okay, we don't want to sound wrong, we don't want to be wrong. So we're not going to ask entirely.

Liz: Right.

Edgar: Be open, ask a question. And you know, when it would come to the blood of the world, a majority of our workers are Caucasian, white, and they're scared to go into these communities. And they're like, "Okay, why are you scared?" "Because we're different, we say things different." If you're scared and you're scared to ask, bring somebody part of that community and go with them. It'll make it so much more comfortable for you. So again, I take my friends, I'm like, okay, let's go get Hispanic food. Oh yeah, where are we going to eat Mexican? I'm like, no, we're going to eat Hispanic food or everybody just, you know, Spanish food is Mexican. It's Mexican food is amazing. It's delicious, but it's not, there's whole other countries down there on the other side. So let's go, I know maybe the workers don't speak [00:14:00] English, they speak Spanish, I'm there for you. I'm there. I'll be your tour guide and let's enjoy. And when you get there, you will actually love the food because it's something unique, something different. And yeah, maybe sometimes it can be a little spicy or maybe a little bit unique, but start off slow. You know, if it's spice start off, slow on a very low level, and again, all of our tongues are the same. You'll eventually adapt and you'll actually want more and more heat. And one of the funny things that in our culture is Hot Cheetos in some type of way. They're Frito-Lay Hot Cheetos, and at least in South America, spice is not a key component depending on the country, but most of the time spice is not a key component in our dishes. So when you eat something like Hot Cheetos, it's hot, it gets really, really hot. But then when you start eating it and eating it, it calms, it cools down over like six months. This is no longer hot or maybe it tastes good now. And it's something as simple as [00:15:00] that, that over time develops on your palette. But that is really, really good to point out. And we'll be, we'll dive into that a little bit more in questions, but as I said with you, you didn't just start writing books, you didn't begin writing books yesterday or two years ago, maybe 10 years ago, where did you start? Like what, how did you get into this messaging side of being part of the diverse community spreading word? Where did it start from?

Liz: That's such a big question. You know, I think it started for me just growing up. I didn't know it was starting at that time, but I felt like I had the rules to this rule book and I could follow them, but the other person didn't have rules for me. So I always ask this question, diversity talks.I say, if life is a game and I go to the school for your game and I learn [00:16:00] everything about you, I know about your patterns, I know about your sporting events, I know what's important to you. I really understand you, but you don't know anything about me, who will win the game? Like who gets to win it? I have a leg up on you because I understand everything about you, but you don't understand anything about me. I am able to integrate myself or create change or create influence, because I just understand the way you think. And then I obviously understand the way I think. So I'm able to communicate that way. That was something that I was learning without really understanding that I was learning it as a young person. And then, I spent 15 years in corporate America, and in that time there are just things that happen. Like I can't tell you how many times I've had the joke when I'm talking about, "Oh, I'm Indian," and they said, "Oh, you mean dot not feather." Like those kinds of microaggressions and things about identity, things about marital status, all these different things happened. [00:17:00] And so when I went into being a speaker, so 15 years ago in 2008, 2007, that's when I started this business. I really saw this problem that it's like, people were learning something that was at too high of a level, but they were not able to sit and communicate in a room together. So they knew that something could be wrong, unconscious bias, discrimination, racism, they knew that that was wrong, but they didn't really know how to say, "Hey, how are you? how are things going? Do you want to go get some food? Let's try this." And the minute that we get into a place where the common assumptions are not the same, we're a disaster as a community. I mean, it's really something and we just really didn't learn anything. Like I didn't learn anything of, except for, you know, the descendants of the Vikings. I know a lot about being Scandinavian and Norwegian. I'm a fan of the Vikings and I know how to make lefse, and I understand all of these things. How can I know how to [00:18:00] make lefse, but someone doesn't understand that curry is not really a thing? That it's just a name of something that's different than mashed potatoes. So that was where the passion started for me, that I realized that in basic conversations, we need to be able to get to know each other and that these rules of hospitality, these rules of connection have not been made available to us, but we're in our thirties or forties or fifties, we're expected to know how to have these communications, but yet we weren't taught. That is what the Facebook thread is. That is what the terrible meme on Instagram is. That is where the shocking Tik Tok is because people didn't just wake up that way. They were taught through the tropes in our community that our knowledge, which was a lie- knowledge, isn't necessarily the truth. Knowledge is what you know. And so if you were taught a lie and you believe that lie wholeheartedly and you treat it as knowledge, it can become a baseline for our community, and that's kind of where we are. [00:19:00] And so I'm meeting people where they are right now.

Edgar: And we need to be getting taught this in high school or like schools, because that's where the fundamentals begin. Those are where you're learning, you're learning about the world. Yeah, obviously your parents and your family have a big part in how you become or what you become, but those teachings and learnings have to come through school because that is where you spend your eight hours a day. Your teachers in your communities are one of the biggest influencers, for who you become. And when you go to school, not learning anything, you learn just the basics. You learn that one-sided, cause I know in other countries, you learn about other countries. You learn about other cultures and you learn about America. Well, why can't we learn about their countries over there?

Liz: I'm probably giving you an example of something because I was born in Michigan. So I'd love to give you an example of something. I think that we're told that this level of granularity is something that you can't teach. Like there's too many things, too many splinters [00:20:00] of it, but here's an example. So, people ask me like, why did your mom and dad choose Detroit? Well, doing some research, I found out that there were four Indian men, long before my parents came, that immigrated to Detroit. And well, actually they immigrated to New York City, got off the plane, got their apartment, and then they thought, okay, we want to move west. And it's kind of a funny thing that they went all the way to Detroit. That doesn't seem like so far west, but for them, that was west of where people were immigrating. And so these four people set up shop in Detroit, and that is why there is such a large Indian population in Detroit. And that is part of why my parents ended up there. And the other thing is in Seattle, there was a group of Sikh people, Sikhs are the ones that were the turbans and never cut their hair, a long time ago, like early 19 hundreds. And they were part of the logging industry. And once they gained a little power, they were kind of [00:21:00] split apart by the community. They were blocked from logging, but there's also because of that, a large population of Indians on the west coast. So if you learn a few things, you can stop asking questions. Like my goodness, "Why are there so many Indians? There's so many Indians on the west coast. It must be because it's warmer, you know, because it's warm in India and it's warmer in California. So that must be why." And then that's where they stopped, when I find it really interesting that, oh, my dad didn't just land in Seattle and then get married in Detroit, and that's where I was born. That was something that had started long before my family ever knew about it and getting that kind of information creates the possibility for connection that we need in order to influence each other positively.

Edgar: You see, that's something that we didn't know. We don't know that, we're like, okay, there's this group population. How did they get here? And that's something that's not taught. We don't see those examples. The only time we [00:22:00] can see an example or hear those types of stories is from a person that was either connected directly to it. I know, in college you stopped learning about history, unless you're going to a history class or you take a specific, so I took international business classes that we have to learn about specific groups. And even my professor then was like, " None of you will learn this unless you're in this class and you're not gonna learn about the cultures. You're not going to learn about different types of people. What communication is like," and you know, it's something cool because when you go out to like certain businesses, I've been able to travel and go overseas. And when I talk to different people, different organizations, We don't just talk about business or we don't talk about work. We talk about that personal side. Like how's your family, how's everything going? You know, we ask questions, we learn, we learn about the culture. They want to experience my culture. When they come and visit me, I want to experience theirs. But here in the U. S. it's hey what's the business. What's the deal. It's [00:23:00] complete opposite. That interaction, that connection is completely the opposite. So when you leave, you don't know who you're really working with, you're done. You didn't learn anything. You just come back, we had got a deal and that's it. And that's something that has to be changed the way we connect with people, whether in the business setting or not, and it's something that we'll have to change over time and incorporate into those high schools, even middle schools, if it starts early and especially in the colleges, because colleges normally that last step, not for everybody, but normally that last step before you enter that business world. And that is super, super needed from my point of view.

Liz: I really agree with you, with that. Yeah.

Edgar: I wanted to enter because you know, being in that diverse community, people have different thoughts, different ideas, and, you know, people can be a little bit closed, especially when it comes to hospital community relationships. And I wanted to get your opinion on how [00:24:00] do diverse communities view hospitals directly when it comes to either just going in like for an emergency room appointment, or just giving back in a way of donation of blood. And I wanted to hear that connection and see your side of things.

Liz: So if we think about it, W. E. B. Du Bois is a sociologist that lived a long time ago, an African-American individual that coined the phrase "double consciousness," the idea that you have the knowledge of who you are, and then you have a knowledge of how people look at you and it's particularly impactful when you think about diverse people, people who live in diverse situations, because you're always aware that this is the way someone sees you, but this is who you are. So whenever you're talking and you're thinking about what we call, I don't actually believe people are diverse, I don't think that, because that means that there's a standard of dominant culture, [00:25:00] which would be a white male, heterosexual, Christian, but for the purposes of this, because you know, my idea hasn't caught on and swept the nation, when you're talking about a diverse person, you have to think about what do they think about how they're seen and what is the dissonance between how they're seen and who they really are. I'll just take an example that's just from my own life, you know, Indians are seen as very smart, very focused on getting things done. I will tell you, there's plenty of dumb Indians in the bell curve of life. There's people who are not that smart and people who are super smart, but I think through immigration, you're getting to see a very driven group of people and they tend to work even in the medical world. And so if you're trying to get someone to give blood and you're like, oh, you're comfortable with the medical world, why wouldn't you give blood? But they know how they're seen, Indians are not seen as part of the community. They're seen as a really nice add [00:26:00] on. And as long as they behave well, they're called a model minority for a reason.

Edgar: Real quick, what do you mean behave well? Because that's something that pops up. What do you mean behave well? Like, do you have to walk in a specific way? What do you mean behave well?

Liz: It's really just about assimilation. So there are certain cultures in the United States that tend to be Asian or South Asian that buy into the idea that if they adhere to certain rules, that they will be able to be successful. So education becomes really important. And, my parents made sure that I wasn't out late. They made sure that I wasn't partying. They were like, okay, this is the way. nice people are treated, so we're going to be nice. They didn't bring up racism. They didn't talk about their personal experiences, their difficulties. They didn't call attention to their differences and it paid off. My dad is a millionaire. He came into this country with $30 in his pocket and he is a millionaire. And so because of [00:27:00] that, because assimilation is the point of success for somebody who is Asian or south Asian, if you're talking to them about a specific difference, you're going to run into a problem. So even in my own family, when I tell my parents, you know, what I've experienced racism and our family has experienced racism, they will deny it before they even ask me a question, they'll deny it. So if I say, by the same token, you know what, your blood is, very important because genetically the imprint of your blood is needed to give to other people that are from your background that might be in trouble medically. They're going to resist that because they're like, no, everyone's blood is the same. I want to be the same as everyone else. There's no difference between me and someone else, except for the color of my skin. I don't want to hear about that. And I've already worked through things that were microaggressions, things that were racism, and now I'm on the other side of it. I've bought my way into [00:28:00] assimilation and I would rather stay that way. You don't see me in jail, you don't see me in movies cast as the villain. They're rewarded that way. So that's an example of really understanding how they perceive the way you perceive them. That's an example, a really good example of it.

Edgar: And it makes sense. So when you say those are direct ways you have to act how nice people act, is it a nice way of saying how they act over there in their homes or like where they originated from in India or is it nice way how they act here in the United States? And we have to purposely be directly like, you know, in the majority group, is it no changing that? Because sometimes I feel, you know, you have to be careful, I imagine a little bit sometimes when you, when you act as the other side. But sometimes when groups of people want to be directed, like one, one other. It almost like, kind of takes away [00:29:00] from yourself and like who you are, because you want to act like somebody or want to be on that same line as someone else…

Edgar: Thank you all for tuning in. I want to thank Liz, but we're going to take a little break. Cause this is a two-parter. This is a two part podcast. You just caught part one where we dive in with Liz about culture, being involved. But next week catch us where we take a deeper dive into the black and brown communities and what it means to be a community partner. I'm your host Edgar Daggett, this is the Stand Out From the Inside podcast presented by Versiti. We'll see you all next time.

TO BE CONTINUED…

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