A melting pot of cultures continues to amaze and educate people about the world around them in one of the U.S.A’s biggest cities.
Devon Avenue is a neighborhood in Chicago that serves as a meeting place for different cultures. While several cultures are represented, Hinduism and the Indian culture are heavy focuses in the neighborhood’s Desi corridor, which refers to people from South Asia.
People of various nationalities come to Devon Avenue to experience cultures in other countries without having to hop on a plane. In a single neighborhood, people can find dozens of shops that sell things from Indian sarees to iconic dishes such as pani puri and bhel.
American and Jewish writer Breisa Grandolfo said that Devon Avenue has taught her a lot in the 23 years she has lived in Chicago.
“I think that Devon has changed the culture of Chicago,” Grandolfo said. “It changed me because it opened my imagination to what other cultures could be about.”
In India, the way that food is served is very different from the way food in America is served. In a restaurant called Patel Café, pani puri, (crisp shells with potato filling and water), is served on a one-by-one basis, and is prepared seconds before it’s eaten. The spices in India are also very different from the spices in America. For example, Indian cooking uses a lot of cumin, chili powder, and mustard seeds, and sometimes, the spices are toasted in oil before adding the food to add another dimension of flavor. Devon Avenue allows people on the other side of the world to learn about and familiarize themselves with these aspects of Indian food.
“I make a very good chicken vindaloo,” Grandolfo said. “(If it weren’t for Devon Avenue) I would not have learned about the passion of Indian people…to eat. I love to run through Devon and meet people. I get a chapati and watch the world go by.”
When Grandolfo first entered this part of the neighborhood, she was taken aback by the amount of culture and religion she found there. This area is full of authentic Indian shops, and there is also a Hindu temple in the center of the area. The temple’s ornate decorations resemble the decorations of most Hindu temples.
“(When I first went to Devon Avenue) I woke up and found a world I haven’t imagined.” Grandolfo said. “I often dream about going to India, and even though I can’t tell you their significance, I know about Lords Krishna and Shiva.”
Lords Krishna and Shiva are Lords that are significant parts of the Hindu religion. In Hinduism, there are many prayers devoted to these Lords specifically.
According to Grandolfo, The Indian culture is one of the many cultures that are far different from the American culture, and a better understanding of the world can be achieved by greater amounts of people visiting.
“People should be open to exploring all neighborhoods.” Grandolfo said. “I think that Devon is a mirror for all cultures’ melting pots. It’s a great and vibrant demonstration of how America’s evolving.”