Written By:  Scott @ County Seat Living

My Mom’s kitchen has always had one consistent staple. No, it’s not a well seasoned cast iron skillet or an apron she always wears or a rolling pin that was passed down from a generation before. Those things would imply that cooking was going on in her kitchen.

Instead, it is a world map.

world map2

For as long as I can remember, she always had a world map in close proximity to our dining table. As kids, she owned a map that consumed an entire wall of our breakfast nook. She would read the newspaper to my brother and me and then we would have to find the country where the story took place. Teaching us to be aware of the world beyond our rural community was always a priority for my Mom.

In high school, I thought I was “too cool” to participate in Mom’s ongoing geography project. However, much like a permanent dinner guest at our table, the map was always there. While reading the newspaper in the morning before school, I would quickly glance at the map while Mom wasn’t looking to confirm where a certain war torn country in Africa was or remind myself of the configuration of nations in the Middle East. It always gave me a sense of my place in the world. It made me think well beyond my own borders.

An updated world map continues to hang in Mom’s kitchen.

This morning I was reading the Omaha World Herald and caught myself checking out where the country of Liberia sits in Africa. There was an article highlighting the death of former Liberian President Moses Blah and the news immediately took me to Mom’s trusted map. FYI: Liberia is in West Africa and is bordered by Sierra Leone to its west, Guinea to its north and Cote d’Ivoire to its east.

world map liberia best

I moved on to other news dominating the headlines: The new Pope is shaking up things in the Catholic Church, the same sex marriage debate continues on, Hillary is talking about 2016 and apparently the bird flu is back. A particular article regarding immigration reform caught my attention.

immigration article2

Again, I went back to the map. This time I didn’t fixate on a particular region or country but rather I looked at the world in its entirety. I took in our proximity to Mexico and Canada and find it silly that we separate a continent by invisible lines.

world map north america

I see how small North Korea is and wonder how they can fill this giant world with such fear. It reminds me of all the amazing South Korean people I had the pleasure of meeting in Los Angeles after they had immigrated to the US in hopes of escaping eminent doom from the north.

world map north korea

My eyes veer up to look at Sweden and its vast distance from America and I think about the journey my ancestors took to come to a land filled with opportunity. It made me think how soon people forget where they come from and how most people in our country are here because of immigration.


Then I eyed Spain and I thought about tuna belly.

world map spain

What does tuna belly have to do with Spain? I’ll explain…

About fifteen years ago, my parents bought an old boarding house that dates back to the late 1800’s. I have deemed it “Burlington House.”

They inhabit the main floor and the upstairs has two furnished apartments they rent out to travelers and people seeking short and longer term housing. Currently, one apartment is rented to a fabulous woman from Spain who teaches Spanish at the local high school. Like other tenants from around the world that have stayed at Burlington House, our family loves learning about her country, her culture and her traditions. Awhile back she had given Mom and Dad a few things that had come in a care package from her family back home. One of those things was a can of tuna belly.

tuna box birdseye


tuna can and box shine

My recent map viewing reminded me of the Spanish provisions in the pantry. Since lunch was quickly approaching I decided to make a bite with an international flair.

I pulled together a quick Nicoise Salad with mixed greens, cherry tomatoes, haricot vert, farm fresh hard boiled egg and a tarragon vinaigrette. The Spanish tuna belly topped the salad beautifully. It was delicious.

tuna overview

tuna closeup2

As Mom and I helped ourselves to seconds, we discussed their Spanish neighbor and how sweet it was of her to share food from her family. It was her simple gesture that allowed us to understand her better and appreciate a tiny part of her culture. We then referred to the map and chatted about Spain’s proximity to the ocean and how amazing seafood must be in her country.

My lunch and the world map got me thinking about immigration and the discussion that is being had within Congress. I wonder if the debate will ever truly be resolved. We are a rogue nation of immigrants that was created because we wanted a better life for ourselves. We battled high seas, crossed untamed land, and fought for a freedom we had never known. I hope leaders and lawmakers will think about that when they discuss reform. I hope they keep into consideration the fact that we are all living on borrowed land. I hope they exercise tolerance and have the compassion and knowledge to try and understand where someone else is coming from; literally. If we don’t try and understand our neighbors, no matter where they are on the map, we will never be able to prosper.

And perhaps that can be learned by a tattered map and a can of tuna.

tuna can






Scott Rager

Robert Scott Rager is a Nebraska native who returned home to start a boutique business called "County Seat Living". His personal goal for "County Seat" is to translate the lifestyle design he was creating in Los Angeles for the past twelve years and apply it to the sensibility of the Great Plains. Whether he's writing about decorating, homemade ice cream, floral creations, event planning or product design, he wants the personality and style of Nebraska to shine bright.