History of Food

Food is the nourishment of life in profound ways: not just for body fuel but as a means for good friends sharing intimacies, for family conferences, and for simple exchanges of daily events. With the world becoming more and more of a global village, what is found on kitchen tables in Kyoto or Cuzco or Las Vegas or Venice has become more and more similar. Here are some of “American’s” favourite foods that have originated elsewhere and are now part of our everyday menu choices for these important gatherings.

Rigatoni, Fusilli, Fettucini, Spaghetti, Linguine, Farfalle… It’s all pasta to me! You like Italian? Most cities in America from Des Moines to Savannah and from Portland to New Orleans boast about their Italian cuisine. But New York has the biggest population of Italians so why not try some pasta when you are there?

Beef – but from where? Wyoming Beef of course! Immigrants in the 1700’s and 1800’s kept moving West. Why? They craved land. Why? They craved open spaces. Why? They wanted to farm: raise cattle and a family on their own terms. We now reap the benefits of this honed skill when we bite into a juicy piece of medium steak. A little horseradish, a little baked potato are merely unnecessary add-ons. The mouth just waters thinking about this.

Australians make it. Chileans make it. Even Canadians make it! But France, Italy and California win hands down with their reputations for good wine. The great thing about wineries now is that many are open to the public: you can take a tour; follow the grapes through the process; see for yourself how that sublime glass of red you crave with your steak or that glass of white you savour with your pan-fried sole ends up on your supermarket shelf.

The coastal area around Georgia, South and North Carolina is known as the low country. The cuisine from this area is heavily based on the fruits of the sea. They know that crab is best eaten when captured in water temperatures between 60 and 68F. The jumbo lump crab cakes served with spicy mayonnaise and whipped potatoes is a classic crowd pleaser. Mix it up a bit and try the locally grown peaches that have been made into a spicy salsa and the crab takes on a whole new “low country persona”.

Are you a chilies fan? The influences of Spain, Mexico and our own Natives have integrated themselves into the cuisine and we now call it “southwestern” cuisine, a growing national favourite. The Native American and Anglo-European methods of cooking such as barbequeing and grilling combined with the Spanish preference for hearth cooking. Chilies are used to flavour and help thicken sauces. Some of the other common flavourings found in this cuisine are cumin, onion, Mexican oregano, cilantro, and tomato. Chicken, beef or pork are seasoned with the spices, and often they are topped off with some red peppers and/or cinnamon and then laid on a bed of beans, corn or squash, the cornerstones of much American cuisine.

Tea is a beverage enjoyed worldwide but perhaps with the most ceremony in a Muslim home. This ritual is centuries old and one must learn not to rush and risk offending the host. Tea is poured into one glass from a great height so it froths on top. Then this tea is poured from glass to glass until all the glasses have held some of this liquid. Back it goes into the pot. To steep a little longer. Again tea is poured from a great height and again shared with all the cups and poured back into the teapot to steep again. This is repeated six times. Once all the tea is back in the pot, the glasses are wiped clean. Just two inches are now served to each person - but three times - as each person must drink three cups. The tea is hot, sweet and sharply minty. This ritual is performed before the conversation turns serious.

And finally some Sushi Do’s and Don’ts: Do eat one piece per bite; do pour sake and beer for another person; do not pour sake or beer for yourself; do dip with the fish side down; don’t saturate the rice with soy sauce; do use the blunt back end of the chopsticks when taking food from a shared plate; do use wasabi to offset the natural oils in fish; do use ginger to cleanse your palate; don’t use ginger as a condiment; don’t rub your sticks together to sharpen them and don’t pour the soy sauce on your rice.

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