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That Sweet Enemy

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<img src="http://forums.egullet.org/uploads/1167783622/gallery_29805_1195_16164.jpg" hspace="8" align="left">by Tim Hayward

I was recently shown a cutting from an Arizona newspaper by a food writer who, having returned from a trip to France, waxed poetic about the experience. Like many of us, he'd been blown away by the quality of food he'd encountered and told us so, in florid prose, for the first 800 words. He then wrapped up by explaining that hopeless, incurably crap food would always remain in his part of the world. It saddened me to see that sort of weak-minded, unthinking dreck coming from an American -- because I'm so used to reading it from English writers.

There are a lot of historical reasons why the English have problems with food. Some blame the industrial revolution, some blame a class system that puts the responsibility for cooking solely into the hands of servants -- these theories are well documented -- but there's something else. There's a powerful strand of middle- and upper-class worship of French cuisine at the expense of English, and it goes back a long way.

The French Cook, a translation of La Varenne's Le Cuisinier François. was a bit of a bestseller in the UK (insofar as a book which could be read by few and afforded by fewer could be considered a bestseller) back in 1653.

In 1747 Hannah Glasse averred that: "If Gentlemen will have French Cooks, they must pay for French Tricks. So much is the blind Folly of this Age, that they would rather be impos'd on by a French Booby, than give Encouragement to a good English Cook!”

Half a century later, Tallyrand was losing his chef -- Careme -- to the Prince Regent, and the British aristocracy were falling over themselves to worship at the feet of any Frenchman in a toque -- and they've never stopped. Things probably reached their most egregious after the war in Elizabeth David's early books, where her breathless worship of everything Mediterranean bordered on the lubricious.

Though St. David is often credited with the regeneration of food appreciation in the UK, the way that she redirected the moneyed classes towards France at the moment the privations of war were over means she could equally well be blamed for keeping English cookery in the dark ages for a further three decades. This is a shame, because by all accounts, by the time she was into her later books, Spices, Salt and Aromatics in the English Kitchen and English Bread and Yeast Cookery, she had matured enough to realize that perhaps all the sun, sea and shagging had turned her head in her early years. She acquired a little historical rigor and began to get really interested in English food. Much to her disgust, of course, it was too late to redirect her myrmidons, who were rushing off, lemming-like, to clog up Provence with their Volvos.

The French, obviously, think their food is the best in the world. It's a fair opinion, but I wonder if, at the peak of their international influence, had the English not agreed with them so very much, that the whole of the English-speaking world might not consider other cuisines just as worthy of attention.

But the idea that French is the ur-cuisine and the only one which matters is just one of the many tired tropes that food writers slide so easily into. It offends me that the French are so unquestioningly worshipped as the best, because the Brits are equally thoughtlessly singled out as the world's worst. Our national attitude towards food has been questionable, but -- for example -- the Dutch, who with a religious predisposition to regard enjoyment of food as actual sin and with almost no culture of dining out or entertaining, are benignly ignored by those who pontificate on culinary matters.

Similarly, though our nation could be characterized as half a dozen foodie hotspots interspersed with a moaning, crud-chewing herd of junk-fuelled semi-morons, one could argue the same for the US and Australia, both regularly praised for their exciting, cutting-edge attitude towards food. Ask any honest Frenchman and he'll tell you how French supermarkets are filling up with packaged rubbish, French farming is going to the dogs and burger bars are despoiling his city. In fact, he'll tell you, it's every bit as easy to eat crap in Paris as in London.

The authentic cuisine of the British Isles has solid, unbroken and documented history as old as the nation itself, and every bit as dignified as the French. If the middle classes hadn't been quite so distracted by the worship of French food, they might well have written about it, instead of allowing recipes to drop off the cultural radar. Now we're starting to rediscover the stews, pies, pasties, cawls, hotpots; the game, the smoked goods, the amazing fish recipes; the superb lamb dishes -- any of which would, in France, have a 'confrerie' founded in its honor, be declared a national treasure and get written up by panting international gourmands. With a bit of luck, our food culture might be extricating itself from generations of neglect and perceived inferiority -- but not unless we can wrestle our concentration back across the Channel and give it a fighting chance.

Now, lest you think I'm just indulging in the olde English sport of baiting the French, let’s drag ourselves back to Arizona. There are several reasons the article pressed my buttons.

First: I’d always assumed that blinkered, romanticized Francophilia was a disease of the English middle class (and, of course, the French), which is why it's shocking to see it trotted out in a country that has no reason, cultural or historical, to bother with it. Second: it's ill-mannered that anyone with a public platform and a desire to communicate about food should attack his own food culture for failing to be French.

But these are minor gripes -- the real problem is much wider. I believe that unthinking reiteration of these tragic old prejudices damages the interests of anyone who loves food.

When I was at art college, I was probably over-influenced by critics like John Berger and Peter Fuller. They argued that what was regarded as "art" in the West fitted into a tradition shaped by imperialist expansion and that the acquisition and collecting habits of the wealthy -- basically, western art starts with the Greeks, and passes through the Italian renaissance and the Dutch masters because Victorian gentlemen nicked or looted so much of it to populate their museums and stately homes. This didn't mean, as some people have interpreted it, that everything from Fra Lippo Lippi to the Pre-Raphaelite Brotherhood was unmitigated crap, but it did mean that in order to understand art, it was important to understand its historical and cultural context. Articles that parrot the same old nonsense about French cooking without context show that appreciation of food and cooking today is as developed as art history was in about 1890 -- ill-informed and elitist, and a poor reflection of the intellect of its perpetrators.

Writing that French food is great, that English food is unremittingly awful -- or even that Phoenix lacks decent chefs -- is easy, but without an understanding of the web of national, cultural and class preconceptions behind it, the statement is pointless. Food -- to me -- is one of the most important creative outlets available to human beings. It will never be taken as seriously as it deserves -- as seriously as art, literature or music -- as long as our appreciation of it remains intellectually naive. Maybe the ability to write a pleasant thousand-word, adjective-laden piece on why French food is simply lovely is the very definition of a food writer. I believe firmly to the contrary. In 2006, it displays a complete lack of objective taste, zero knowledge of food history and an almost criminal ignorance of a wider world of food appreciation.

<div align="center">* * *</div>

Tim Hayward is a freelance writer living in London, and former host of the UK forum. He publishes the newsletter Fire & Knives. Photo by the author.

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Bravo.

Here in the US, of course, our adoration of French food was moved along at a rapid trot by the marvellous Julia Child. James Beard championed "American" food in many of his writings, with a round-the-world bit of this and that always thrown in, but Beard did not become celebrity as Julia did. One wonders what shape our foodways would be in today, if he had held within him the same charisma for large crowds that she held.

France was the first (that I know of) to intently codify their recipes for foreign consumption. Reached the finish line first in that way, in that the food was not quiet in the native kitchens. Careme holds the nickname of "the first celebrity chef", no? :rolleyes:

Add a moustache, a beret, a dangling cigarette, and a twist of a pretty black fishnet stocking from the Folies Bergere, and, as you say

the ability to write a pleasant thousand-word, adjective-laden piece on why French food is simply lovely

et voila! Many are helpless in face of such an assault.

Gobble gobble. :smile:

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Bravo to all of it Tim.

The French, obviously, think their food is the best in the world. It's a fair opinion, but I wonder if, at the peak of their international influence, had the English not agreed with them so very much, that the whole of the English-speaking world might not consider other cuisines just as worthy of attention.

... it's every bit as easy to eat crap in Paris as in London.

....  The authentic cuisine of the British Isles has solid, unbroken and documented history as old as the nation itself, and every bit as dignified as the French.

...  I believe that unthinking reiteration of these tragic old prejudices damages the interests of anyone who loves food.

.... in order to understand art, it was important to understand its historical and cultural context. Articles that parrot the same old nonsense about French cooking without context show that appreciation of food and cooking today is as developed as art history was in about 1890 -- ill-informed and elitist, and a poor reflection of the intellect of its perpetrators.

Food -- to me -- is one of the most important creative outlets available to human beings. It will never be taken as seriously as it deserves -- as seriously as art, literature or music -- as long as our appreciation of it remains intellectually naive.

Maybe the ability to write a pleasant thousand-word, adjective-laden piece on why French food is simply lovely is the very definition of a food writer. I believe firmly to the contrary. In 2006, it displays a complete lack of objective taste, zero knowledge of food history and an almost criminal ignorance of a wider world of food appreciation.

I think that the cuisine of France got put on its very strong pedestal at the time when trade and travel were suddenly opening up the world to a larger class of people, and a large part of the appeal was that if it was new, foreign and therefore exotic it was to be admired and aped on that basis alone (something which still happens). France probably got the adoration (rather than, say the Dutch or Germans) precisely because of their obvious unflinching belief that they had the best cuisine - which made the "admirers" subconsciously believe that that must be founded in fact.

Perhaps the fashion did not fade as quickly as it might because there were plenty of French chefs available for hire in the early eighteenth century, and it was a great way to "one-up" your neighbours.

I think the interesting question is why the "fashion" has endured so long.

Agreed - it is time the food world grew up and out of it.

Why do we feel we have to nominate a World's Best Cuisine anyway?


Happy Feasting

Janet (a.k.a The Old Foodie)

My Blog "The Old Foodie" gives you a short food history story each weekday day, always with a historic recipe, and sometimes a historic menu.

My email address is: theoldfoodie@fastmail.fm

Anything is bearable if you can make a story out of it. N. Scott Momaday

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The British may not have done a good job of promoting their own culinary tradition, but they have been geniuses at promoting the cuisines of others, foremost of which have been the French. This is not just true for cooking, but it has been so for wine as well, as the rarified reputations of both Bordeaux and Burgundy owe a lot to their British fanciers. One thing to consider though, before we go off railing against the French, is that there might in fact be much merit to their culinary reputation. If that reputation has been supported by foreigners that is not the fault of the French nor does it mean that the reputation is undeserved. While French cuisine is clearly not the only great cuisine in the world it is just as clearly one of the world's great cuisines.


John Sconzo, M.D. aka "docsconz"

"Remember that a very good sardine is always preferable to a not that good lobster."

- Ferran Adria on eGullet 12/16/2004.

Docsconz - Musings on Food and Life

Slow Food Saratoga Region - Co-Founder

Twitter - @docsconz

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One cannot discount the restoration of the monarchy in England as having an effect on the perceptions of French food as more desirable fare for the aristocracy. This trickled down to the emerging affluent middle class in the works of folks like Menon, Carter, Dalrymple, Verral, etc. Even Glasse, through all of her Franco bashing, included scores of French influenced dishes in The Art of Cookery.

This influence was lost, I surmise, during a Victorian reaction to France's dissolution of their nobility. French cooking had not taken root in the U.S. firmly enough to survive the revolution and the conservatism and jingoism that followed.

The point in your piece is well taken, we must not paint with such broad strokes, but even today few speak of British food outside of Britain. Likewise America, although becoming aware of other food cultures and our better traditions, there is still an attitude of xenophobia when it comes to the unfamiliar. There may be historical reasons for this, but there may also be cultural reasons why some countries, and more people within those countries, take their culinary traditions and the refinement thereof more seriously.


Edited by menon1971 (log)

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menon, it's interesting that you say that there's an attitude of xenophobia toward the unfamiliar in the U.S. If that's the case, how did Italian, Chinese, Jewish East European, Japanese (sushi), and Thai food (among others) get accepted? Is this xenophobia you speak of largely a regional phenomenon? I ask because I think it's almost wholly absent in New York, perhaps aside from a few homogeneous neighborhoods in the "Outer Boroughs."


Michael aka "Pan

 

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Our food traditions in the US are such a new culinary patchwork (as opposed to other countries with more years of "being" nations or the geographic equivalent of nations with a steady heritage of sorts) that one wonders really what our "actual" heritage would be if we had to "just pick one".

I also wonder if the reputation British food owns (in some ways, to some people, in some parts) in today's lingua franca is due in some large part to the really terrible deprivations in terms of basic foodstuffs and the substitutions that occured by neccesity during WW2 (?). Did it have such a "bad name" previous to that time?

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menon, it's interesting that you say that there's an attitude of xenophobia toward the unfamiliar in the U.S. If that's the case, how did Italian, Chinese, Jewish East European, Japanese (sushi), and Thai food (among others) get accepted? Is this xenophobia you speak of largely a regional phenomenon? I ask because I think it's almost wholly absent in New York, perhaps aside from a few homogeneous neighborhoods in the "Outer Boroughs."

I think the wide acceptance of international cuisines in NYC is a relatively new phenomenon and is a reflection of the cultural diversity present there. That diversity is exceptional for the US outside of a few other major cities. Speaking of my own environment several hours outside of NYC, it is much less culturally diverse than the city and most local dining habits reflect that. NYC is the exception to the rule. Interestingly, I think that it was the Phoenix writer's recognition of this that elicited the statements that caught Tim's craw. Sadly, I think that writer has a point though I know that Phoenix has at least a few superlative restaurants. Though the culture of food is growing in the US it does not yet form a significant part of the fabric of American life as it does in other parts of the world.


John Sconzo, M.D. aka "docsconz"

"Remember that a very good sardine is always preferable to a not that good lobster."

- Ferran Adria on eGullet 12/16/2004.

Docsconz - Musings on Food and Life

Slow Food Saratoga Region - Co-Founder

Twitter - @docsconz

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Our food traditions in the US are such a new culinary patchwork (as opposed to other countries with more years of "being" nations or the geographic equivalent of nations with a steady heritage of sorts) that one wonders really what our "actual"  heritage would be if we had to "just pick one".

I also wonder if the reputation British food owns (in some ways, to some people, in some parts) in today's lingua franca is due in some large part to the really terrible deprivations in terms of basic foodstuffs and the substitutions that occurred by necessity during WW2 (?). Did it have such a "bad name" previous to that time?

That is a good question, Karen, however, as Tim stated in his article, the British aristocracy has subsisted to a great degree on French cuisine for some time.


John Sconzo, M.D. aka "docsconz"

"Remember that a very good sardine is always preferable to a not that good lobster."

- Ferran Adria on eGullet 12/16/2004.

Docsconz - Musings on Food and Life

Slow Food Saratoga Region - Co-Founder

Twitter - @docsconz

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That is a good question, Karen, however, as Tim stated in his article, the British aristocracy has subsisted to a great degree on French cuisine for some time.

Mmm hmm. But we're always talking about two different things when we talk about the food that the "usual" people eat and the food that the aristocrats eat, even in the US, no, Doc? :biggrin:

Oh, plus I thought that the British aristocracy used to eat French food in public. . . and nursery food, large joints, and puddings in private when they "let their hair down" so to speak. But that could be another one of my fantasies. :sad:

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That is a good question, Karen, however, as Tim stated in his article, the British aristocracy has subsisted to a great degree on French cuisine for some time.

Mmm hmm. But we're always talking about two different things when we talk about the food that the "usual" people eat and the food that the aristocrats eat, even in the US, no, Doc? :biggrin:

Oh, plus I thought that the British aristocracy used to eat French food in public. . . and nursery food, large joints, and puddings in private when they "let their hair down" so to speak. But that could be another one of my fantasies. :sad:

You are correct about the divergence, but I believe that reputations for quality as a national cuisine and the "superiority" of French cuisine has come more from the top down than from the grassroots though French country cooking is certainly wonderful as well. Besides, being no expert on British cuisine I based my statement on Tim's article. :smile:


John Sconzo, M.D. aka "docsconz"

"Remember that a very good sardine is always preferable to a not that good lobster."

- Ferran Adria on eGullet 12/16/2004.

Docsconz - Musings on Food and Life

Slow Food Saratoga Region - Co-Founder

Twitter - @docsconz

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That is a good question, Karen, however, as Tim stated in his article, the British aristocracy has subsisted to a great degree on French cuisine for some time.

Mmm hmm. But we're always talking about two different things when we talk about the food that the "usual" people eat and the food that the aristocrats eat, even in the US, no, Doc? :biggrin:

Oh, plus I thought that the British aristocracy used to eat French food in public. . . and nursery food, large joints, and puddings in private when they "let their hair down" so to speak. But that could be another one of my fantasies. :sad:

I've been under that impression as well.

Wasn't there something recently in the UK press concerning Her Majesty's Tupperware at the breakfast table, and penchant for leftover beef prepared in pies?

I like what Prince Charles has done recently for Farmer's and local foodstuffs in the UK. Seems like I remember him launching a mutton bandwagon recently.

The banqueting menus I have seen in the past for UK State Dinners are decidedly French influenced, though.

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though French country cooking is certainly wonderful as well.

I wonder, though, if British country cooking *might* just be as wonderful as French country cooking. Seriously. I wonder.

The banqueting menus I have seen in the past for UK State Dinners are decidedly French influenced, though.

As have been, and as are often, many of our own. . and that extends out into the world of haute entertaining for business too, though that is changing at a rapid pace now in both areas from what I've noticed, which is pleasant to see.

P.S. That "mutton bandwagon" thing you describe sounds like quite a rollicking good time, Anne. :biggrin:


Edited by Carrot Top (log)

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though French country cooking is certainly wonderful as well.

I wonder, though, if British country cooking *might* just be as wonderful as French country cooking. Seriously. I wonder.

The banqueting menus I have seen in the past for UK State Dinners are decidedly French influenced, though.

As have been, and as are often, many of our own. . and that extends out into the world of haute entertaining for business too, though that is changing at a rapid pace now in both areas from what I've noticed, which is pleasant to see.

P.S. That "mutton bandwagon" thing you describe sounds like quite a rollicking good time, Anne. :biggrin:

Hey, there's got to be somthing good about any parading meat!

:biggrin:

It is actually a "Mutton Appreciation Society" and I am quite impressed.

http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/main.jhtml...xportaltop.html

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I think the wide acceptance of international cuisines in NYC is a relatively new phenomenon and is a reflection of the cultural diversity present there.

John, define "relatively new." When I was growing up, I ate in Chinese, Japanese, Jewish, Italian, Greek, Hungarian, Arab, and Indian restaurants, among others, as well as patronizing Jewish, Italian, Viennese, and Hungarian bakeries, again among others. This was in the 70s. And when my parents were courting in the early 50s, I know that they ate at a cheap Greek restaurant and an Indian restaurant (though to be fair, that was one of only two in the city, they say).

That diversity is exceptional for the US outside of a few other major cities. Speaking of my own environment several hours outside of NYC, it is much less culturally diverse than the city and most local dining habits reflect that. NYC is the exception to the rule.[...]

How widespread are pizza and pasta? Chinese takeout? Greek diners? Tacos?


Edited by Pan (log)

Michael aka "Pan

 

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I wonder, though, if British country cooking *might* just be as wonderful as French country cooking. Seriously. I wonder.

Sickening, really, that I am sitting here responding to myself, but if I don't I'll forget what I wanted to say. :biggrin:

Cultural stereotypes. We have the Latin lover, the artiste, the passionate genius on one side of the coin. On the other we have the British banker, the Queen, and a nation of fine gardeners. Toss the coin in the air and we have our own Puritans with their funny hats and the Almighty Dollar that moves our souls.

Which of these would one *think* cooks *best*?

And which came first, the chicken or the egg?

Do we become what it is that is expected that we are?

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menon, it's interesting that you say that there's an attitude of xenophobia toward the unfamiliar in the U.S. If that's the case, how did Italian, Chinese, Jewish East European, Japanese (sushi), and Thai food (among others) get accepted? Is this xenophobia you speak of largely a regional phenomenon? I ask because I think it's almost wholly absent in New York, perhaps aside from a few homogeneous neighborhoods in the "Outer Boroughs."

Are you suggesting that all New Yorkers have embraced ethnic food? Then why are their chain restaurants pepped throughout all five Burroughs? I agree that exposure and acceptance of other food cultures is regional, but it it also true that most Americans are not eating authentic Thai, Chinese, and Italian food, the latter especially in NYC outside of some fine dining establishments. Also most Americans do not live in cosmopolitan cities; most live in suburbs,and a tour of the restaurant selections in most American suburbs will give you a pretty accurate impression of what people are eating. I would guess that if one went out to LI and peered into shopping carts that they would see a lot of cheese food, iceberg lettuce and white bread. One of my students commented recently that they went to "fancy" restaurant at the beach and being served a salad that contained scary looking greens, but one of the last times I was in NYC I overheard a guy from Brooklyn speaking of his unwillingness to even try sushi. I am not trying to make a blanket statement here, but to suggest that many Americans and weary of the unfamiliar.

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I think the wide acceptance of international cuisines in NYC is a relatively new phenomenon and is a reflection of the cultural diversity present there.

John, define "relatively new." When I was growing up, I ate in Chinese, Japanese, Jewish, Italian, Greek, Hungarian, Arab, and Indian restaurants, among others, as well as patronizing Jewish, Italian, Viennese, and Hungarian bakeries, again among others. This was in the 70s. And when my parents were courting in the early 50s, I know that they ate at a cheap Greek restaurant and an Indian restaurant (though to be fair, that was one of only two in the city, they say).

That diversity is exceptional for the US outside of a few other major cities. Speaking of my own environment several hours outside of NYC, it is much less culturally diverse than the city and most local dining habits reflect that. NYC is the exception to the rule.[...]

How widespread are pizza and pasta? Chinese takeout? Greek diners? Tacos?

Tacos, Chinese takeout, and the Greek fare served most places are mostly vastly American takes on what you would find in Mexico, China (or Chinatown for that matter), or Greece.

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Tacos, Chinese takeout, and the Greek fare served most places are mostly vastly American takes on what you would find in Mexico, China (or Chinatown for that matter), or Greece.

Of course they are! And what passes for "bagels" in parts of the Midwest is a monstrosity! But all that indicates is that "foreign" "ethnic" food has been incorporated into the mainstream. Doesn't that contradict the claim of "xenophobia"?

Yes, I think that the great majority of New Yorkers (I'm talking about New York City here) have embraced one or all of the following "foreign" "ethnic" foods:

Bagels, pizza, Chinese takeout, pasta, if not more.

And as for Long Island, I went to Stony Brook for grad school, and there were two edible Chinese takeout places within reasonable distance of where I was living, plus a good, upscale Italian place. Let's not talk of Long Island as if it were some kind of wasteland of tasteless food, because it isn't. There's a sizable Indian community in Kings Park and environs, a Mexican community in Patchogue, among other places, and a bunch of dining choices in Huntington. Etc.


Michael aka "Pan

 

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Tacos, Chinese takeout, and the Greek fare served most places are mostly vastly American takes on what you would find in Mexico, China (or Chinatown for that matter), or Greece.

Of course they are! And what passes for "bagels" in parts of the Midwest is a monstrosity! But all that indicates is that "foreign" "ethnic" food has been incorporated into the mainstream. Doesn't that contradict the claim of "xenophobia"?

Yes, I think that the great majority of New Yorkers (I'm talking about New York City here) have embraced one or all of the following "foreign" "ethnic" foods:

Bagels, pizza, Chinese takeout, pasta, if not more.

And as for Long Island, I went to Stony Brook for grad school, and there were two edible Chinese takeout places within reasonable distance of where I was living, plus a good, upscale Italian place. Let's not talk of Long Island as if it were some kind of wasteland of tasteless food, because it isn't. There's a sizable Indian community in Kings Park and environs, a Mexican community in Patchogue, among other places, and a bunch of dining choices in Huntington. Etc.

NY Pizza is not Italian pizza, although I love it. You are right on about the bagels, most out side of NE cities make me want to weep.

I made my comment concerning xenophobia to denote a certain timidity and knee jerk fear of things potentially un-American. Many of the foods you describe were embraced precisely because they were rendered familiar (and dare I say bland). How may Chinese restaurants have whole ducks, hot pots, Chinese clay pot casseroles, and the bevy of ingredients that most Americans would find unfamiliar? Xenophobia may be a strong characterization for the urban urbane, but these folks are not representative of the population as a whole, although I think more and more people are coming around.

Pursuant to the original piece discussed I hope that what come out of such discussion and critiques is a desire to understand and hold up the best of food traditions. I have heard that the food culture in the UK has experienced a renaissance. There was always good food there, but having attended state school there briefly in the late 1970s I can say that my experience of British food varied in reference to quality. In contrast, I sent some time growing up in France and found it difficult to not find a good meal.

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I've noticed mention on some of the other boards, Japan and finding a decent pizza comes to mind, that American food culture seems to be rather diverse on the whole.

I wouldn't expect to find especially appealing Jamaican meat pies or a good jerk chicken in France, unless someone makes it at home. I don't think Mexico is particularly well known for its fine Chinese food either. I think this reflects market demand rather than Xenophobia.

However, in most parts of the United States I have traveled in - there is almost always reasonably good hispanic, mediterranean, asian and more recently middle eastern options readily available - if that's what you are hungry for and are looking.

Sure, the bagels are best in NY (I've always heard it was the water) - enchiladas are outstanding in the Southwest - Cuban in Miami, etc.

The hispanic market within walking distance of my house here was doing Peking Duck for the holidays. I kid you not. About a third of the market includes Asian specility items and ingredients, but the staff is entirely Spanish speaking. Plenty of people shopping across the spectrum there as well, mostly because they offer a pretty good deal and interesting ingredients.


Edited by annecros (log)

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This diversity is still a relatively recent phenomenon and is not all that diverse considering that the most widespread examples tend to occur around ethnic enclaves. That some of the foods or derivatives of them have made it to the mainstream is a function of evolution and the fact that not everyone is xenophobic and by xenophobia I mean averse to eating foods foreign to them as opposed to foods of non-US origin. Michael I believe that you answered your own question about "relatively recent" when you provided the time line you did.

Perhaps traditional British food has been grossly under-rated for many, many years. I would like to see more evidence of that. On the other hand, I don't think that French cuisine has been grossly over-rated from rustic to haute. It is that good, even if claims that it is the pre-eminent cuisine of the world may be exaggerated.


John Sconzo, M.D. aka "docsconz"

"Remember that a very good sardine is always preferable to a not that good lobster."

- Ferran Adria on eGullet 12/16/2004.

Docsconz - Musings on Food and Life

Slow Food Saratoga Region - Co-Founder

Twitter - @docsconz

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I've noticed mention on some of the other boards, Japan and finding a decent pizza comes to mind, that American food culture seems to be rather diverse on the whole.

I wouldn't expect to find especially appealing Jamaican meat pies or a good jerk chicken in France, unless someone makes it at home. I don't think Mexico is particularly well known for its fine Chinese food either. I think this reflects market demand rather than Xenophobia.

However, in most parts of the United States I have traveled in - there is almost always reasonably good hispanic, mediterranean, asian and more recently middle eastern options readily available - if that's what you are hungry for and are looking.

Sure, the bagels are best in NY (I've always heard it was the water) - enchiladas are outstanding in the Southwest - Cuban in Miami, etc.

The hispanic market within walking distance of my house here was doing Peking Duck for the holidays. I kid you not. About a third of the market includes Asian specility items and ingredients, but the staff is entirely Spanish speaking.  Plenty of people shopping across the spectrum there as well, mostly because they offer a pretty good deal and interesting ingredients.

I would tend to agree that American food culture is diverse, but that not everyone participates in this diversity. In reference to Mr Hayward's piece British food is diverse as well, due to the influence of the colonial period, with many Brits seeking refuge in Indian, West Indian, and Chinese fare.

True, but the market is driven by people's experiences and dispositions concerning novelty.

The Cuban food in Miami is excellent, but I was a minority the cafeterias I visited.

I still contend that the consciousness and perception of eGulleteers is not that of many who walk among us. Perhaps a survey is in order. :smile:

Am I being to judgmental here?

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This diversity is still a relatively recent phenomenon and is not all that diverse considering that the most widespread examples tend to occur around ethnic enclaves. That some of the foods or derivatives of them have made it to the mainstream is a function of evolution and the fact that not everyone is xenophobic and by xenophobia I mean averse to eating foods foreign to them as opposed to foods of non-US origin. Michael I believe that you answered your own question about "relatively recent" when you provided the time line you did.[...]

What time line? My mother and grandparents were eating Chinese food in the 1950s and probably earlier. Katz's Delicatessen was founded in 1888. And how long have foods of German origin been part of the American diet?


Michael aka "Pan

 

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