My last little post on these pages celebrated the joys of Ricochet meetups and of promoting local products, so this time I thought I’d turn the lens outward, to foods from around the world.
Not so much in the sense of authentic national dishes (like Mr. Right’s childhood favorite, Czernina, Polish duck blood soup)–although feel free to weigh in on your most-loved, or your least adored of any such; there are no hard and fast rules here, and the conversation will wend where it will. I’m a Brit, so a braggadocios post about my country’s cooking generally garners belly laughs and ridicule, and occasionally even inadvertent triggering–faggots and peas, anyone?–and I’m not quite up for that at the moment. Maybe some other time.
I’m thinking of a conversation more along the lines of foods which we’ve boastfully and appropriatively absorbed into our own culture and which, in the superior and thoughtless way we have, we’ve made our own whether or not they even exist in the country they reference. Things like: Swedish meatballs; Belgian waffles, English muffins; French toast; German potato salad; Canadian bacon; Danish pastries; Hungarian goulash. And so on.
Do the French really eat something called “French toast?” With maple syrup? I have no flaming idea. Do the Germans actually mix cold chopped potatoes with hot bacon dressing? (I must confess that I love this!) I do know that the origins of “English Muffins” are suspect. And when the Swedes aren’t showing the rest of us how to do “socialism” properly, do they all sit around on Christmas Eve eating meatballs in gravy with lingonberry jam, while (probably unsuccessfully) trying to assemble IKEA’s Sammanhang shelving module, or the SNÖYRA lights, from the incomprehensible instructions that accompany each product? (Pro Tip: Alcohol. Serious alcohol. That’s what it takes. Akvavit is topically relevant, and will do, for starters. Enough alcohol and you won’t even need the batteries. And it won’t matter if your inferiority complex is in overdrive because the instructions state that a two-year old can assemble this project without grown-up assistance. At least, I think that’s what it said. It was all those silly pictures, and no words. Maybe I got that wrong too. Never mind. Just pour me another drink, please. And next time, don’t put the toddler in the shopping cart head first. Make sure the picture’s the right way up before you start. Or just turn the shopping cart over before depositing Junior in the seat.)
Are there other foods of dubious provenance like this? Do you like them? And how do you cook them? Or do you just drink your way out of the conundrum when it presents itself? Sometimes, that’s best.
Do tell. And if, at any point along the way, you’d like to confess how unjustifiably superior you’ve felt all your life, how privileged, insensitive, rich, greedy, and guilty you feel, or if you’d like to beg the forgiveness of one oppressed group or another for not properly honoring its contributions to your life, and for all the offensive and oblivious assumptions you’ve made without benefit of appropriate remuneration and reparations, have at it. (It doesn’t even have to have anything to do with food. In fact, such things usually don’t. But you can get them all off your chest here. We’ll listen, and we’ll pile on additional opprobrium to support you, as you confess and indulge in self-flagellation and virtue-signalling until you’re spent. You’ll feel so much better after. Promise.)
PS–Here’s my beloved mother-in-law’s recipe for German potato salad. She was of 100% Polish extraction, on both sides, so I’m sure it’s authentic:
- Boil some waxy potatoes (not floury like russet. These aren’t to mash, these are to chop. Don’t peel them before you boil them. This is a peasant recipe. Peasants couldn’t afford to waste anything). Cool them, then chop into chunks.
- Cook four or five slices of good bacon until crisp. Save the bacon grease.
- Put 1/2 to 3/4 cup chopped onions in the bacon grease, and cook till soft. Stir in a couple tablespoons flour, a little salt and pepper, and a couple teaspoons sugar.
- Stir in a cup or so of water, slowly so it doesn’t get lumpy, and then add about 4 tablespoons white vinegar.
- Simmer for a couple of minutes.
- Crumble the bacon over the chopped potatoes.
- Dump the bacon and coarsely chopped potatoes into the skillet (now she tells me) with the “dressing.”
- Cool a little.
Note: I undercook the potatoes slightly so the hold their shape. I don’t add additional salt, as I figure the bacon takes care of that. Other ingredients, such as the vinegar and sugar, can be adjusted to taste.
PPS–Whatever you do, while experimenting with recipes and trying to show off your street creds in a rush of fellow-feeling towards the marginalized, please remember the invaluable advice regarding Loon Soup from The Eskimo Cookbook. This may be the last time I’m allowed to cite it without being deplatformed for hate speech, just for mentioning the name of the publication. Wonder if anyone’s asked our feathered friends how they feel about being referred to as “loons.” Prolly not. Yet, anyway. Someone, please call Greta Thunberg and get her on the case.)