RACHEL SHENK: Finding a way between two cultures | News

RACHEL SHENK: Finding a way between two cultures | News

On a cool but sunny June morning, I grab my bike off of the front porch, hop on and slowly stretch my biking legs on the short ride to downtown.

I easily find a place to park my bike and head to my favorite coffee shop, The Electric Brew, for a meet up with a customer. John had recently purchased and read my book, “Cultured: Stories and Recipes from La Bonne Vie” and wanted to meet up with me to talk about it.

When he initially told me he had some questions for me, I laughed and said, “You aren’t going to be like my mother, are you? She wondered about my past smoking habits after reading it!”

At the counter, we catch up a bit with each other. I order my usual flat white and he asks for coffee with cream, then we sit at a table outside in the sun. And then we talk. He tells me the story of his first 14 years which has close similarities to my story of living in two cultures and learning how to tread between them.

I grew up in the Belgian culture and left it abruptly at age 15 to arrive in this American culture. As I make my way, both cultures stand within me and allow me to bounce ideas or ways of being off of them. Sometimes I create my own way, a third way, that seems better than either. Or at least, I can more objectively see the patterns that surround me and choose or not to follow them.

I think that John and I both discovered that living with two cultures has given us a balanced perspective. We understand that there is more than one way to do things, more than one way to follow. And we’ve learned to trust our gut and our own intuition rather than neatly follow what is expected of us in one culture or another.

I tell him that there is freedom in floating between cultures. I am not bound to the usual social pressures. He agrees.

In talking, what we really discover is that it’s easy to make connections with each other because of this common ground. And maybe that’s all we need: to be able to find common ground with others, understand their stories, acknowledge where they are coming from.

The sun is getting higher and warmer and our projects are calling. Maybe we’ll get together again over coffee to talk about these things. Meanwhile, it’s been a thoroughly enjoyable time and I have ideas to ponder throughout the next few days. Every now and then, it feels good to look over my life and continue to figure it out!

And as midsummer approaches, there will be plenty of daylight hours to do it in.

La Bonne Vie’s Rachel Shenk has been an artisan baker for 30 years. Born and raised in Belgium, she has lived in Goshen since 1973. She has been writing about food, traveling and the good life for about 10 years. You can connect with her on her Facebook page, La Bonne Vieor at her cheese shop in Goshen, The Wedge.