Addie K. and Jeremy Martin are writers traveling the world visiting new places and experiencing the unique cultures that call them home. To document their experiences, they run this site, Culture Curious, along with Culicurious, a recipe blog that explores cultures via food, recently though the lens of the humble (but nearly ubiquitous) sandwich. In exploring other places and cultures, they hope to contribute to global understanding of the human experience.
We met in New Orleans, at a free concert in a public square downtown. Long story, it’s pretty saccharine really, you’ll have to ask us to tell you about it sometime. The point is that we were both wrapped up in New Orleans before we met, and we only dove deeper into things after that. Jeremy grew up in New Orleans, Addie in the more rural marshy, bayou area of the state in Golden Meadow, Louisiana. Between the celebrated traditions of the city and the lesser known (or often misidentified) traditions of rural Cajuns, we had a solid background in South Louisiana culture. We love the people here, the diverse ways they practice their culture, and, of course, their food.
So over time we kept learning about New Orleans and learning about South Louisiana. It was interesting for us to try to understand what makes this place special, why we love it here beyond the simple fact that it’s home. Eventually, this learning process led us to write a book, Southeast Louisiana Food: A Seasoned Tradition, which explored the origins and development of much of the rural, coastal portions of the region. We also continued to actively participate in New Orleans culture.
A funny thing happens when you pay attention to a culture over a period of time: you start to notice it change. Change is inevitable in any (healthy) culture, even if all the changes aren’t necessarily positive. New Orleans is changing, and rural South Louisiana is changing. This is a result of increased communication: the culture here, once isolated in the marshes and swamps, is more connected the the outside world than ever before. People here see things they like out there, and people out there see things they like here. Economies everywhere change focus to match step with global demand. In the end, what were once thousands of independent identities eventually become a memory, but for a few closely held traditions kept alive by people who understand their importance.
It’s tempting to view this process of change as negative, but it’s neither good nor bad: remember, healthy cultures must change to survive in any form. After all, cultures aren’t codified, they’re points in time, always shifting. As changes occur, it’s vital that the practitioners of a culture understand their traditions, that they learn not just what their people do, but why they do it in the first place. Learning about one’s own culture serves to strengthen the feeling of connection and the desire to preserve that connection. As this part of Louisiana changes, we’ve seen some traditions fall by the wayside with much wringing of hands, but at the same time, we’ve seen others grow stronger in response to outside influences. This is the fascinating business of cultural evolution.
But as we learned more about our home, we realized that this is merely one of many places in the world experiencing these changes. Globalization means that all cultural evolutions are accelerating in a similar fashion, so suddenly the changes in South Louisiana seemed to us like just one of many fascinating stories. We wanted to hear more of these stories, from places facing similar pressures. We wanted to learn about the ways other cultures cope with outside influences and document practices that might not survive that coping process. Thus Culture Curious was born, a place to explore the most fascinating and fluid of human creations: culture.
In the first iteration of Culture Curious, we’ve covered a variety of aspects of our travels: sights, activities, foods, etc. in an attempt to build a basis for further exploration. Now that we’ve begun traveling full-time, it’s our intent to grow the second iteration of this site into a living document of the ways that communities have learned to approach their lives and the ways that those approaches develop and change with time and outside interaction. Change is inevitable, but every cultural shift has a lesson to teach us about where we came from and where we’re going. We’re looking forward to diving in, and we hope you come along for the journey.