We have a wonderful restaurant near us called Pho Real. I love the name, and the pho comes with super clean, super fresh garnishes: cilantro, basil, bean sprouts. When you order pho what you really get is a soup and a salad! Pho Real is in a little strip mall that also has an Indian market, an African market, a Peruvian restaurant and a Chinese place, Mexican too, and a Pizza Hut too! Why not? What’s great about these places is usually when you go in everybody in them is Vietnamese, Indian, Mexican or Pizza Huttian. The customers, the waiters, the cooks, sometimes even the people who are just walking by! And at the same time, of course, everybody’s American too.
The name Pho Real is a pun. A play on “For real!” It also works in Spanish where “real” means “royal”. (Pho King has a slightly different feel to it in English, though there are a couple of them too. ) Pho Real has done a good job of reaching out, and when you go in there are always customers who are not Vietnamese. It looks like a miniature America in there. 😉
We struggle with the best metaphor for America. Is it a melting pot or a salad bowl? People have always come here to find a better life. A big part of that is figuring out who you really are. That means strengthening both your cultural identity and your sense of self. And we have a lot of people here who really are Vietnamese, who really are Indian, who really are Mexican; and they really are All-American too.
That’s what America is! A soup and a salad, pho real.