Sunday, September 6, 2009

UnRecipe: One Nation, Under Gastronomy

Mother of Exiles -- a memorable phrase in Emma Lazarus' poem, The New Colossus, referring to the Statue of Liberty and her role as a sentinel for the New World. It's the same familiar poem about the tired, poor masses yearning to breathe free that's engraved on a plaque, sitting at the base of our émigré watchtower. I remember seeing this plaque as a gradeschooler on the dreaded family vacation, the poem not holding any meaning beyond a perfunctory history lesson. Many years later, the words start to resonate as I wander through local markets and putter through recipes and restaurants all offering pan-fusion-insert buzzword here-cuisine. I start to think about what it means if we have to answer the question: What is American food?

American as apple pie... sort of - Photo by Wasabi Prime

It seems like a simple enough question, right? One immediately thinks of drive-thru cheeseburgers, milkshakes, and other industrialized forms of cuisine that is less about food and more inherent of industrial revolution and our Manifest Destiny of I Want it NOW. But I don't think it's fair to characterize our nation's home cooking by conveyor belt quickness and Conehead-like mass quantities. I should think the food we eat in this country is a byproduct of the drive of necessity, ingenuity, and the notion that there's still room for good flavor amongst those moving parts.

Unidentified Foodie Objects - Photo by Wasabi Prime

Inspired by our crucible of cultures, I threw together a hodgepodge of ingredients to make roasted pattypan squash stuffed with chorizo. This sounds fussy and obscure, but it's surprisingly basic. From our backyard garden, we had tender baby scallions and a couple of carrots (including one scary claw-shaped one - RAWR), a spare onion in the pantry, and several snowy-white pattypan squash from fellow bloggers, Mr. and Mrs. Picket Fence. The name of the mothership-like squash is French in origin, referring to a pâtisson, a cake pan having a similar shape. For the filling, I used a soft Mexican pork chorizo, but the spice-laden sausage has origins throughout both Spain and Portugal.

It's hard to associate this meal with any single ethnic cuisine, and so I think it's simpler to just say it's American. Many of the key ingredients were home-grown, and the final result was inspired by the variety of flavors we're lucky to experience here.

It doesn't seem as all-American as apple pie, but I think a sundry dish like this speaks a bit of our own disparate origins, a melting pot that is stirred by the children of exiles, eager to make something new and bring a part of the old country back for seat at the dinner table.

Home-grown garden bounty included scary claw carrot - Photos by Wasabi Prime

Post-Script: Big THANKS to Tastespotting, Serious Eats' Photograzing and FoodGawker for choosing photos from this post. Much appreciated and happy eating!!

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  1. Your food looks very sophisticated. Almost like it is wearing a hat. I like it when my food gets all dressed up and pretty, right before I devour it! Growr!

  2. YOu had me at "dreaded family vacation." ;) Seriously, your squash looks lovely as does the claw carrot. Nice job!

  3. Hi, it's a great blog.
    I could tell how much efforts you've taken on it.
    Keep doing!

  4. You are so SMRT! Lovely dinner and quite a claw carrot!

  5. Ahaha, I love the claw carrot! It could double as an all-natural, biodegradable garden fork while you're still working in the garden. :D The scallions are lovely, too.

    I've never seen white pattypan squash before. They look oh-so-delicate and yummy!


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