are the Food Police when you really need them?
by Mad Dog
Im afraid that
with the way current cooking trends are going, the line between ethnic cuisines is
blurring faster than an eye chart after a bottle of tequila.
|| Its hard to find purity in food these days. Not purity in the safety
and cleanliness meaning of the word. Thats pretty much assured since we have people
like the Health Department, Department of Agriculture, FDA, and the Busybodies of America
looking out for our welfare. In fact, if anything we need to keep them in check, since if
it was up to them our food would be so squeaky clean we wouldnt want to eat it.
Remember a year or so ago when they passed a law
in California outlawing Caesar salad made with raw eggs? Luckily less hardboiled minds
prevailed and it was later revised so now you can get a real Caesar salad as long as the
waiter or waitress gets your prior approval. In triplicate. Unfortunately this means you
have to bring your lawyer to dinner with you to review the release form. On the bright
though, eating Caesar salad in restaurants has become the hottest diet aid sweeping the
state, since it turns out most people lose their appetite when a lawyers sitting at
the dinner table with them.
No, my concern isnt with the health purity of food,
its with the ethnic purity. Im afraid that with the way current cooking trends
are going, the line between ethnic cuisines is blurring faster than an eye chart after a
bottle of tequila. America may be the melting pot of the world, but that doesnt mean
its necessary to throw anything thats handy into the double boiler, does it?
This is, after all, the same cooking method that led us to Slim Jims, Spam, and
Reeses Peanut Butter Cup Cereal.
This culinary miscegenation is pretty much a restaurant
phenomenon. At home, people still seem to be perfectly content to keep the boiling bag
spinach soufflé separate from the microwave French toast and apart from the
Toast-R-Pasta. But go out to eat and its another thing altogether.
Wraps come filled with Caesar salad, corned beef and cabbage, and chicken soup with matzo
balls, all things which god wouldnt have created had he known someone would end up
stuffing them in a tortilla.
|| The biggest of these
combo trends may be Pan-Pacific cooking, which earned its name because chefs calmly throw
anything they want in the pan and people will not only eat it, but will stand in line and
pay big bucks to do so. Pan-Horrific was the original, more accurate title, but lucky for
them the marketing people prevailed.
be confused with side-by-side menus, like the Chinese-Japanese restaurant I recently came
across. No, the idea here is to mix and match any and all Asian food items in the same
dish so you end up with things like sushi egg foo young over soba noodles in green curry
sauce (patent pending). Im not sure what it is about Asian food that brings this
urge out in chefs, but I suspect it stems from the American thinking that anything eaten
with chopsticks is more or less the same thing anyway.
Pizza has also become fair game. Gone are the simple days of
sausage, mushroom, or maybe even the Zen pizza, "one with everything." Now you
can get your pie topped with barbecue chicken, lamb curry, and Thai noodles in peanut
sauce. Luckily its easy to spot these restaurants since their signs proudly proclaim
that they have gourmet pizza, which is an oxymoron that ranks right up there with quality
Then we have those wonderful food items which Mexicans have
been calling burritos since the first Mayan Bell restaurant opened, oh, about a thousand
years ago, only now theyve been reincarnated under the name wraps. At least
thats what they call them when they fill them with Caesar salad, corned beef and
cabbage, and chicken soup with matzo balls, all things which god wouldnt have
created had he known someone would end up stuffing them in a tortilla.
Interestingly, all of this comes at a time when the Associated Press reports that chefs
are increasingly up in arms about the Americanization of food.
|| And bagels, now
theres an area where cross-pollination has achieved new heights. Or is that lows?
Bagels now come in more flavors than Baskin-Robbins ice cream (and I suspect they share
test kitchens). While luckily they havent started making bagels mixed with other
ethnic foodsnot that Ive seen, anywaytheyve certainly blurred the
line between bread, pastry, and candy. Im not being a total purist about
thisthough I could since my mother claims I teethed on stale bagelsbut
wouldnt it be better if they spent their time doing something more useful than
dreaming up bizarre bagel flavors like pumpkin-pesto-carob-swirl? You know, like say,
learn how to make a decent bagel?
this cross-pollination trend continues we can expect to see restaurants opening up
featuring a whole slew of new food styles, like NATO-Fusion cooking (schnitzel pizza,
escargot and kidney pie, and back-bacon borscht), Mexi-börd (a charming buffet featuring
tacos, gravlax, and lutefisk mole), and those ubiquitous California combo Chinese
Food/Donut shops which will go totally hog wild by selling sweet and sour donut holes.
Interestingly, all of this comes at a time when the Associated
Press reports that chefs are increasingly up in arms about the Americanization of food.
Theyre upset because French dressing shouldnt be creamy and made with
tomatoes. They claim pepperoni pizza is a shuck since there isnt any such thing as
pepperoni in Italy. And they bemoan the fortune cookies we get at the end of Chinese meals
because, well, theyre an American invention.
Make up your minds, Chefs of America. Which will it be, purity
or total fusion? Gee, its enough to make you drown your sorrows in a loaf of
Wonderbread and a jar of Cheez-Wiz.
©1999 Mad Dog Productions, Inc. All
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