There’s a huge difference between what she described and the highly specialized, large industrial commodity farming operations that dominate U.S. agriculture. Although this system is great for producing abundant inexpensive food, it also homogenizes our culture. When you drive through Burger King or sit down at Applebee’s, you’re no different than the thousands of other people visiting different branches of the same corporate-owned franchise, ordering off identical menus. This ubiquity is something most Americans don’t notice, but immigrants like Lu see it right away—because they see little on those menus that represents them.
When Lu came to Lincoln in 1968, the city’s cultural base was largely homogenous. The food of her homeland, as vital to her identity as my cattle and the milk they give are to mine, was hard to find on the Lincoln landscape. She and other immigrants have worked hard to incorporate their cultures into their adopted landscape. We’ve seen Lincoln’s diversity grow as a result, especially in the past 10 years. That diversification is most evident in the number and range of Lincoln’s ethnic restaurants and grocery stores.
Lu has played a part in this trend by promoting diversity through education, teaching at NWU, working with the Nebraska Humanities Council, encouraging Lincoln Public Schools to add Chinese to its list of foreign language offerings, and simply sharing meals with new friends. Even after retiring from Nebraska Wesleyan, Lu still remains active in promoting our campus community’s diversity. Continuing the Chinese New Year dinner tradition is just one example.