My husband, who grew up eating cardamom in traditional ways, is forever requesting infusions of it into my everyday cooking. Since both of my parents are from North Carolina, region of rice and spice, I don't find the combinations entirely jarring. A recent cardamom-grits experiment (cook Quaker quick grits with ground cardamom, salt, black pepper, a split chile, and a ton of butter) was a satisfying variation on breakfast with my late grandmother Lulubelle and her spinster sister, Eppie, who sometimes sipped bourbon while stirring the grits.
I can only imagine how these apron-clad homebodies might have reacted to cardamom in their skillet, let alone to an Indian relative in their kitchen. I suppose that after getting used the the idea, they'd have tasted my nouvelle southern and offered the nice Indian fellow a whiskey. For all I know, Lulu and Eppie never tasted "foreign" foods like bagels or enchiladas or seaweed. But inevitably, had they been exposed to them, the would have come around. Food is the first step. When it comes to eating, what's intimidating or alien can quickly become absorbed into the household recipe file, taking it's rightful place at the table, in the scrambled eggs, the shortbreads, the casserole. Why? Because it tastes good. Anyway, what was Lulu and Eppie's southern cooking if not African fusion?