Whether it was 1603 or 2013, when did your family first arrive in the United States? There are many stories, many dreams, many family traditions linked to these journeys and Welcome.us is celebrating them this July, deeming the month the first annual Immigrant Heritage Month. The American Dream is alive and well and what better time of year for this immigration-story-telling to happen than in July. The freedom and opportunities unique to this nation are, quoting Welcome.us, “…what drew the first people to the U.S. and what continues to drive American business. American success is a result of our many distinct experiences, not in spite of it.”

Welcome.us is exploring and celebrating these stories of immigration by gathering them from across the nation and spotlighting the historical backgrounds of various national leaders. We love this video featuring actress Joely Fisher as she visits with several of our favorite chefs across L.A., from Susan Feniger to Wolfgang Puck, to chat about the diverse cultures in this nation that make up our incredible food and restaurant culture. Watch Welcome.us video and enjoy Joely’s thoughts below…

The Chalkboard Mag: Joely, what is your own family background? We love the quiz on http://welcome.us/ that asks “When Were You Welcome” and spans all the way back to the 1600s.

Joely Fisher: Growing up, my mother definitely instilled in us a respect for where we come from. She is a quarter Blackfoot Indian and half Irish, but insists she is full-blooded Sicilian. My father Eddie Fisher’s family were all Russian immigrants. I never spent much time with them.

TCM: What food did your own family make that has history in your family?

JF: As a child, in our home we ate predominantly Italian food. We learned how to cook from my grandmother and my great aunts. For holidays we would hand make hundreds of raviolis, but it was the stories that enthralled the kids. My mother, Connie Stevens, born Concetta Rosalie Ann Ingolia, makes a rocking chicken cacciatore and a mean sauce.

TCM: Which ethnic foods do you love most? Any great spots we should know about?

JF: I love that in every major city in this great land of ours you can go from neighborhood to neighborhood and find pockets of every ethnicity. In LA everyone is represented. First it’s the signs, the faces, music coming from inside storefronts… kiosks and street vendors and the smells of what that block has to offer. We are all culturally identified by what’s in our kitchen, what we bring to America’s table. Little Tokyo, Olivera Street, Koreatown. The streets of Venice, Beverly Hills and downtown, my favorite haunts. Border Grill, Mr Chow, Madeo, Taverna Tony in Malibu, Nobu, even Nate ‘n Al’s, Osteria Mozza, Bestia and Sugar Fish.

TCM: Why does this subject have so much meaning for you?

JF: I’ve traveled all over the world, lived in other countries in the course of my life, in urban cites, remote corners of the world. I’ve immersed myself in other cultures… the sights, languages, music, and, of course, the food. However, I always kissed the ground upon return. I think I’ve just always appreciated this country’s freedoms and opportunities. There is room for enhancement, education and empowerment here that doesn’t always exist off this continent.

As we said in the piece “Feast Your Eyes,” there is something spectacular that happens when people break bread together. We communicate, we learn about each other, we investigate, we break down barriers, we earn trust, we laugh and we love each other at the table, no matter our heritage. What a country, huh?!

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