Key Term Ten – Smorgasbord


Smorgasbord – An extensive array or variety.


I watched a comedian a while ago who had reflected on the idea that New York was America’s Melting Pot. “It’s not much of a melting pot,” he lamented to the amused crowd. “It’s more of a bunch of little pots in one big pot, but the little pots don’t touch each other.” It made the audience laugh, but it made me think – he’s not incorrect. For a “melting pot”, there would need to be less segregation among the numerous neighborhoods to meld everyone together. This is why the term smorgasbord appeals to me so highly – we can keep up our food metaphor, while simultaneously better reflecting on what New York City has to offer. We have an extensive array and variety of people from all different walks of life, they’re just not mushed together side by side. Like a buffet, you can select from whatever you’d like carefully, without the cook having everything but the kitchen sink shoved together and slopped down on your plate. It’s all going to the same place, but really, isn’t it better to take the different dishes in separately and appreciate them all for what they are bringing to the table, rather than take a few hesitant bites of everything crammed together and hope that the different flavors compliment each other?

I didn’t mean for this metaphor to end up as culinary-centric as it did, but I feel that my point is a legitimate one. We’re not a melting pot, we’re a smorgasbord. We work together to create the perfect platter, but we do that by enhancing each other with our differences, not by forcing ourselves together. This is why I appreciate the diversity and multiplicity around the city. It’s not imperative that we are smashed together. We can respect, appreciate, and work with each other while maintaining our own identities. New York isn’t a faceless blob, and our trademark saying should not emphasize us as something watered-down and probably not tasty (though if we said the city itself, like the buildings, was a melting pot, that would work to, because then we could have a city of fondue and the people that lived there could be all the different dipping options). Doesn’t a smorgasbord sound so much more delicious?


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