I was making some dinner the other night – egg noodles with some tomatoes, garlic, onion, and a fillet or two of anchovy – and was pondering why we eat what we do.
Would I be whipping up pasta + tomatoes, veggies & anchovy late at night if I still lived in Texas? For some reason, I want to say not likely. I feel cooking may be influenced by the cultures of geography, or at least my cooking is.
I’ve been reading other food blogs all over the world. People that live in China tend to eat dishes with rice, soy sauce, oyster sauce, minced veggies, and a bit of meat as common ingredients. A lot of Australian food bloggers have creams and (wonderful looking) meat. My southern blog brethren have cornmeal, okra, collards, and smoked pork as common ingredients. These are all glittering generalities, and in no way the exclusive foods that compromise their dishes, but they still come up as ingredients rather frequently since they’re widely available in their respective locations. These aren’t just natives, but expats and non-natives as well that cook fairly geographically.
I think part of it is economics. You’re going to cook with ingredients that are easy to get and fairly affordable. The average home cook in the Midwest isn’t going to be able to find fresh bamboo as easily as the home cook in China. And likewise, the home cook in China isn’t going to easily be able to access a lot of the dairy products as someone in Midwest America. And even if either do, they will pay a premium for something not so readily available in their markets.
Another part of it, though, is culture and tradition. When you move somewhere, part of moving is assimilation to your new culture. Voluntarily or involuntarily, it’s bound to happen. It’s not like someone from Japan is going to move to Africa and be all like “Oh, screw fufu. I’m only making sticky rice for every meal.” Ya know? You’re going to get introduced to the culture by the available foods. Slowly you absorb some of that and BAM, you’re kind of assimilated.
Aside from moving to a location, maybe you just REALLY like that kind of food, or have an interest in the culture. Maybe you find yourself cooking more of that culture’s kind of food.
I mean, I know that one of my many cultures is not Italian. And yet I think I cook some pretty decent versions of lasagna (pasta from scratch, no less) and marinara. But the Cap Region has quite a few Italian influences, and quite a few folks of Italian descent in the area. It was also one of my first non-Chinese, non-American types of food I’d ever had, so I’ve got a soft spot in my heart for Italian. I think part of what makes me an Albany-ian is that I’ve absorbed that culture. And likewise my totally non-Asian husband tends to cook Chinese-style more frequently than any other.
So, what kind of food do you cook most often?