My mother didn't like coffee mugs. "I don't know why people give me mugs", she'd say, looking at a gift horse squarely in the mouth, "when they know I drink coffe only from a cup and saucer." My mother was not as sweet as those who only knew her smiling public face. What she was, was highly opinionated. She grew up drinking cafe con leche from a cup on a saucer, and as far as she was concerned that was the only way.
Most people are like her. Their way is the right way. In national terms this is known as chauvinism. It's a human trait. However, when destiny has made you what we call bicultural, you become aware of the arbitrariness of, say, mugs vs. cups. That's my experience, a minor one, cloven by only 90 miles and the relatively small differences between Anglo and Latin America -- had I been born Chinese, then we'd have big differences.
There are still Americans, I'm sure, who have soup as a first course every day, but for Mexicans I know that's a must. And speaking of Mexicans, I know Texans of Mexican ancestry who won't travel without their own batch of tortillas, a meal without them being inconceivable. In Miami, Cuban coffee shops will serve eggs and side meats for breakfast, but that has been learned in exile. Traditional Cuban breakfast is cafe con leche and pan con mantequilla, which in Miami gets called "Cuban toast" -- Cuban bread buttered and pressed. Now that we're told breakfast may not be the most important meal of the day, we may have been right all along.
Of course, right and wrong is what naive people call what should rightfully be identified as tradition. American progressives point to European countries' superior practices of public health care as models to emulate. Trouble is that only preaches to the choir. To other progressives who are already eating tarte tatin instead of apple pie. The ones who prefer the latter may see nothing enticing about European models just because they're European.
But things change. Starbucks taught Americans to drink espresso instead of their traditional watered-down coffee. Sure, espresso got frapuccino-ed, but that's also how things change. Half the items in my supermarket were only available in specialty shops in my youth. Now we happily load up on weirdly shaped pastas and lots of olive oil, a product that in my Indiana years was sold in tiny bottles in drugstores.
Does this cosmopolitanism translate to politics? Dare I guess that our coming election is divided between espresso drinkers and those who still favor Folger's? Between McDonalds and Chipotle? Between free-range and caged birds?
Me, I'm an espresso drinker. Always have been, always will be. No morning Folger's. As I wrote this, I was drinking my morning cafe con leche. Out of a mug.