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.