Sunday, July 3, 2011

Patriotism is patronage.

(L) American Idol Pop-Tart. (R) Passport w/ tinfoil hat. © Ryan Schierling
We are a nation of immigrants and descendants of immigrants, each celebrating life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness through the most sensual of daily pleasures... food.

An amazing array of cuisine from all over the globe lies waiting outside our doors and we just plain take it for granted sometimes – that Thai restaurant down the street where we get the occasional pad pug take-out, that little Greek cafe around the corner with the amazing avgolemono. We are the proverbial melting pot, fusion perpetual in this equation, and we're also a lucky bunch to enjoy such incredible diversity in food and flavor influences.

Sometimes we're also a bunch of awfully unadventurous bores compared to the rest of the world. We're squeamish about eating insects, we have generally bland expectations of flavor and seasonings and we have a deplorable propensity toward eating over-processed pre-packaged foods – well, maybe in some circles that is considered being adventurous....

Regional, sub-regional, generational, individual, traditional, international deliciousness is so close for most of us. We don't even have to buy a plane ticket or remove our RFID-chipped passports from their tinfoil wrappings to get there.

There are people in our neighborhood, down the street, in our town who have so much to share about the world outside of Hamburger Helper. There are little specialty grocery stores tucked into strip malls carrying foods we'll never see at the big supermarket chain stores. There are grains, spices and condiments that will invite a world of new sensations into our kitchens and possibilities to our palates.

New techniques enhance our cooking skills and challenge our ways of thinking about what a meal is or can be – and getting started is easily accessible. It's all at our finger tips with a world-wide web full of recipes and helpful tips and tricks.

So, while we may be standing over the grill contemplating the massive quantities of hotdogs and hamburgers being cooked up for Independence Day, we should also consider what else constitutes All-American cuisine. Let's actively celebrate the independence of millions who are free to make our lives and country richer because they have brought with them the history and flavors of their families and food.

Let's go out and try tasting something new; read some reviews, experience a new kind of cuisine, and then another. Then let's seek out the appropriate resources and try making our favorite dishes at home. Perhaps one will find a place of honor in the family dinner rotation – an indulgent tribute to the wealth of diversity the good ol' USA has to offer.

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