I Say Tomato,You Say Tamater

From Randomms – What do we forfeit in the name of communication and getting along, and what should we hang on to to be authentic, in the name of contributing to diversity, in the name of not betraying our roots? Do we use our heritage, our life experience when it suits us, when it looks good on us, when it works to our advantage, and forget it the rest of the time?


I wasn’t sure what I was going to write about until I came across this post on a blog called Randomms. I’ve written about this subject before, but I has been on my mind recently for a variety of reasons. When we interact with people from a similar cultural background as our own, we often feel (and possibly rightly so) that our difference of opinion are personal not cultural. When we interact with people from other backgrounds, it is often hard to tease out what is cultural and what is personal until you have had interactions with a good cross-section of people. This goes for age and gender as well. Of course, all of these factors combine to make up a picture of who we are as individuals and one could argue that it is irrelevant where it stems from and more important how you deal with it.

I think there are a few valid reasons to look at where a persons actions stem. One is that many cultural norms are just simply unconscious actions. They have been ingrained in us from such a young age that we don’t even recognize them ourselves.

When we consider gender difference we must also consider that some of them are biologically driven and may also not be easily recognized. I think this is particularly difficult because you can go live in another country and have many of the same experiences as a native person. A man cannot have a personal experience of childbirth, PMS or menopause. He can only ever be an observer.

When we think about this in terms of age it is possible that someone older has had a personal experience very similar (experientially and/or biologically) to someone younger. We like to say, “Oh, I’ve been there…”. However, someone younger can only ever be an observer of an older age. They will never have a personal experience of it until they get there.

Where, then, does this leave us in terms of interpersonal communication. The person who posted in Randomms asks, “what do we forfeit in the name of communication”?  I wonder if forfeit is the right word. Perhaps we should be asking, “what do we use for communication?” My answer is this: If we cannot rely on personal experience; if we cannot rely on certain shared cultural norms for understanding; and if time is what is needed to gain a kind of understanding or new view for ourselves; then we need to look at what tools we do have for relations.

What tools we can use are these: valuing our similarities as the glue that established repore; respecting our difference instead of letting them divide us; curiosity about something other than what you know; flexibility; a willingness to re-examine our own dogmas; kindness to ourselves when we cannot understand and compassion for others when they cannot understand.

The author of the quote from Randomms talked about her Indian pronunciation of “THUN dhoor hee” rather than using the american pronunciation of “TAN-doori”. I’ve been in this situation, I cannot say Patel properly to save my life. I’ve discovered that pronunciation maybe be the most obvious of difference sometimes, but it is the least of our cultural conundrums.

One thing I have learned by having curiosity is that Indian cuisine uses Tamater in a lot of  things. Here is one of my favorites from showmethecurry.com:

Panir Makhani

Image from Cumin and Cardamom

Paneer – 14oz (approx. 1/2 kg)
Oil – 2 tsp.
Butter – 4 tbsp (50 gm)
Garlic Paste & Ginger Paste: 1.5 tsp each
Crushed Tomatoes – 1 cup
Paprika or Kashmiri Mirch – 1/2 tsp
Red Chilli Powder – 1/2 tsp
Coriander Powder – 1 tsp
Garam Masala – 1 tsp
Salt – to taste
Heavy Whipping Cream – 1/2 cup
Water – 1 cup or to taste
Sugar (optional) – 1 tsp or to taste
Cilantro – to garnish


1. Cut panir to desired shape.
2. Heat a pan and add Oil and then Butter.
3. Once hot, add Ginger and Garlic paste & saute for 2 min.
4. Add in the Crushed Tomato.
5. Add the dry spices – Coriander Powder, Garam Masala, Paprika, Red Chili Powder and the Salt.
6. Mix and cook till oil separates.
7. Add Paneer and mix gently.
8. Pour 1 cup water and simmer for 5 mins.
9. Lower heat and add Cream.
10. Allow it to come to another boil.
11. Add Sugar and mix well.
12. Garnish with Cilantro and serve hot.



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