CNN  — 

Samuel Johnson said, “Patriotism is the last refuge of a scoundrel,” but I consider myself a patriot.

The fact that the United States of America is the birthplace of the blues, jazz, rock and roll and Muhammad Ali is argument enough for me that we are a place worthy of pride.

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The surprisingly diverse cuisine in Houston
01:00 - Source: CNN

Texas, however, was, for most of my life, a foreign land – a place and a culture far from the one I knew, growing up in New York City and suburban New Jersey.

And I will shamefacedly admit that for most of those years, I entertained the same lazy prejudices and assumptions about what Texas was like – and who, I believed, lived there.

But judging from Houston, it ain’t like that at all, is it?

Houston, is, in fact, about as multicultural a city as exists in the country. Houston has been, from what I experienced, particularly if not more welcoming to immigrants and refugees from all over the world than most other cities I know.

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Our show focuses on some of those communities and on those stories, of people who looked to America as a refuge, as an ideal, as a place of opportunity – and who found it in Houston.

Yes, I took subversive pleasure in opening the show with an American flag – and then spending an entire episode in an America that is non-white, non-Anglo-Saxon, non-cowboy – and entirely devoid of the usual tropes: barbecue, Tex-Mex, big hats and big oil.

Houston is far, far more – and more interesting than that.

We are a rich country. Rich in stories. These are some of them.

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Congolese cooking in the Lone Star State
01:16 - Source: CNN

This essay was originally published in October 2016.