I have said it before and I will say it again now, I am often troubled by the vituperative nature of the dialogue in America these days. It feels as if people are fighting each other verbally for some idea they have of what is “American”. It feels often as if people are saying “I am more American” than you and I am right. And if you think I am not right, then you are not really American. I say that what is American is the dialogue itself, and we have lost sight of that I think. What is important about America is that we have always had the dialogue and respect for the dialogue and for those engaged in it.
It seems, currently, that it is futile to engage in talk, if I express a political opinion I am either wrong or silly or I am simply dismissed or ignored. So I decided to take a different tack and talk about what is really and indisputably American; food.
Almost as much as sports, food is a matter of regional and ethnic pride in this country. I was lunching on barbecue the other day and the restaurant offered a stunning array of sauces. I knew, for example, that the golden mustard based barbecue sauce is a staple of the Carolinas, and the sweet generally associated with St. Louis. And I am not a barbecue expert by any stretch.
I have lived in many regions of the country and have had the privilege of learning in each one. Fresco in southern Cali, green chili in Nuevo Mexico, crab cakes in Maryland, maple syrup in New England and cornbread and fried green tomatoes in Florida. And so much more. As a result of living in New England I still make applesauce and can it every year. As a result of living in New Mexico I still wrap lots of things in a warm flour tortilla. Since I grew up in New York, I still love good rye bread, especially with pastrami. And Florida strawberries make the best jam. And so much more.
Starting with politics and ending with food. Maybe if we all just sat down to a meal and tempered our dialogue with shared food we would understand each other better. Maybe if we broke cornbread together the dialogue would be tempered with respect. A ridiculous idea I know, but this baker of apple pies can dream, because our food is as much a reflection of our diversity and the rich tapestry of our culture as our political points of view.