Monday, September 10, 2007

Food for Thought

Mr. Henry, of Manolo Food Blog fame, has spent the last month or so wrestling with the ubiquitous Omnivore's Dilemma, deciding what it means to him personally. He's not the only one, but I digress.

During his soul-search, Mr. Henry did some interesting philosophizing about food and culture and what it all means. This hit a nerve with me:
Cuisine marks culture more distinctly than any other lifestyle choice. It’s the most conservative cultural trait. (Japanese-American families keep umeboshi in the fridge no matter what fashions they wear, music they listen to, or ideologies they favor.)

As much time as I (and others) have spent lamenting the rise of global cuisine to the detriment of regionalism, Mr. Henry is right. I can't speak to the pantry contents of the Japanese-American community, but I do know that pretty much every single Marylander ever has some Old Bay stored in a place of reverence in his kitchen. From my 88-year-old grandmother to the bachelor-iest of my guy friends, nobody goes without. It's as much a taste preference as it is a symbol of pride and a core part of who we are.

Food is woven into our personalities and histories in such a complex and fantastic way - I have a hard time wrapping my head around it.

1 comment:

xiao zhu said...

i completely agree w/ you there. cultural food items represent comfort and stability, a constant we can come back to again and again. like all chinese, my parents have a bottle of chili oil and the ubiquitous "lee kum kee" sauces in their permanent spot on the 'fridge door.


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