Friday, December 06, 2013

Learning geography from works of fiction

Geography and world history have never interested me at all, especially when they concern some country that had nothing to do with the history of the United States.  I've known a little about the extreme poverty in India for years, of course.  It's one of those places I conveniently put out of my mind, because it seems it would be an impossible task to change the lives of millions of people who are starving, so why lay awake nights worrying about them?

I'm reading a book entitled "Secret Daughter" about a girl adopted from India.  The story goes back and forth between the U.S.,  where she was raised, and India, where she was born.  I am intrigued by the author's descriptions of Indian food and decided to get online and see how far I would have to travel to taste some of that kind of fare.  Apparently the closest place to me is the Habashi House at City Market.  Reading reviews of the place, I noted that the reviewers liked the food, but a couple of people said it was more like Pakistan cuisine than Indian.
Now, here is the round-about way my mind works:  Seeing the country of Pakistan mentioned in the reviews, I recalled that I once worked with a young Pakistani man at the apple orchard.  He had an attitude and a smart mouth, and I decided I wanted nothing to do with that part of the world.  Prejudice happens.  Yes, I judged a whole country by one person.  But I digress.

Here's how little I knew about that part of the world:  As I searched for reasons as to why an Indian restaurant would have Pakistani food on their menu, I found out Pakistan (the green area on the map above) used to be part of India.  Good grief, how different could the food be if the countries are that close?  I made my way to the Habashi House website and learned that they bill their food as "middle-eastern".  That covers all the countries I'm learning about.  I wonder if they serve chai, the tea everybody in my current book is drinking all the time.  

I'm discovering a lot of facts about the middle east that I never knew or cared about before.  Recently I read "A Thousand Splendid Suns", a work of fiction by Khaled Hosseini. The story is set in Afghanistan.  This morning, looking up the location of Pakistan, I noticed that those two countries are next-door neighbors.  Who knew?  OK, probably everyone but me knew, but some of us have to be tricked by fictional works into finding out about these things.

So here I am reading fiction and learning about geography and the history of countries to which I never gave a thought.  And I want to taste their food.  

Look at me, getting all educated and stuff!


  1. This comment has been removed by the author.

  2. you are learning. I will give you a fact about India. The English ruled for years in India by their wealth. They took every thing from India .
    Men went to India and used the people as near slaves and took every thing they had and took it around the world keeping most of the profit for them selves.
    I can't remember what they took except tea, spices and seems like some kind of cloth.

    finally India rose up and pushed the English out. controlling India was how the British became a world power.
    History has always been my favorite subject.

  3. My husband and I love Indian food. And chai tea is my favorite beverage. I'm glad you are reading about this culture.

  4. I also love Indian food. I learned about geography (partly) through terrorism and Osama bin Laden who was in Afghanistan and then crossed over into Pakistan. Did you like A Thousand Splendid Suns? I sure did.

  5. I've always loved history and geography and reading too. It's true you sure can learn a lot by reading. I've never gotten into much in the way of exotic foods. But I do love hearing and reading about other cultures and their way of life.

  6. I used to be addicted to biographies; mostly of successful American people. One day a friend, who liked those paper back romance novels (her escape), told me that she doesn't read biographies because the people are all lying anyway, so it may as well be fiction. That was an eyeopener - not that I believe it's all lies, but the author can portray his or her life however they please.

    About 8 years ago, I joined a book club just so that I would be forced to read different genres. Again, I was reminded that fiction contains some of the most remarkable information because a good author/writer does a great amount of research. I have learned so much by reading fiction; entertainment infused with knowledge.

    Keep reading and get out to those cultural restaurants and events! :)


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