Thursday, July 6, 2006

All-American Food

It's one of those things that keeps me up at night. Fortunately, I woke up with this one at 5:30am, and since my alarm goes off at 6am, I didn't lose as much sleep as I might have.

A couple of weeks ago I was watching Food Network, which I don't really suppose should come as a surprise to anyone. I don't remember what show I was watching, but a man stated that barbecue (real Southern 'cue, like smoked brisket and pulled pork and the like) was the only real American food, because everything else was imported into this big, great melting pot that we call the United States. Mexico and Canada don't count. No offense guys, but when somebody says America, they don't mean North America or even South America as a whole. They're referring to us, the US, and often our egotism. But I digress.

It got me to thinking, at 5:30 in the morning, is 'cue really the only American food? I laid there in bed and pondered other greats. Pizza? No good, it's Italian. Hamburgers? Supposedly German. Same with hot dogs, aka frankfurters. Chop Suey? While technically invented in Texas, it is still based on Chinese food. Same thing with fortune cookies. By the time my alarm went off at 6am, I had only thought of one other food: fudge. Legend has it this wonderful delight was invented by a student at Vassar College a hundred or so years ago. By the time I'd gotten out of the shower, I had added maple syrup to the list.

As I sat down at my desk at work, I realized that corn is indiginous to America (and not just the United States), and so various corn dishes might count. Potatoes too. But it's still a pretty short list. During this time, I also thought about a comment that I think I read in Culinary Artistry, about how Mexican food is technically a fusion food because it's really a combination of Spanish cuisine and Aztec cuisine. Even Mexico is low on truly Mexican dishes! Canada? Who knows, eh? They'll probably blame it all on the French. Or give credit to. Or something like that.

As I continued to ponder, I headed over to the Utah Open Source Planet for my daily fix. The top article was by Peter Abilla, and on the surface seemed to be about Krispy Kreme. Note: Donuts are said to be an invention of the Pennsylvania Dutch. Melting pot food. Anyway, he talked about the process a bit, and the free donut offer that pulled him and his family in there in the first place. The offer has never pulled me in because I'm assuming that the only free donut they hand out is the classic glazed donut, which is also the only donut they sell that I truly and utterly dislike. One day I will go in and actually find out. Anyway, after a while, a couple of things occurred to me. First, he wasn't really talking about donuts as I had hoped, he was actually talking about process. Enthralled, I read the whole article. Second, I noted the irony. He suggested that the free Krispy Kreme donut isn't truly free, because he felt obligated to buy something while he was there, in this case a $2.50 chocolate milk. Note the parallels between his visit to them, and my reading his article.

Back to process. It was truly interesting to me that he focused on things like waste. I'm not just talking about the candy bar wrapper left over after you eat the candy bar. I thought about when I was a baker, and learned that it's next to impossible to only do one thing at a time in the bakery and be successful. When I would walk in in the morning, I would turn on the ovens. As they heated, I would walk over to the coolers and unlock them, and then go down to the dressing room to get in uniform. By the time I got back, the ovens were heated, and I could put the morning's breakfast foods in, and start doing inventory and check the task list for the day. The rest of the day was like that. If something was baking, then I would use that time to mix something else. I always had several processes going at once, and was always trying to eliminate not just wasted time, but wasted steps. My boss would often catch me taking unnecessary steps, and try to help me learn to eliminate them. And I mean footsteps. Walking back and forth across the bakery wastes time. A successful baker learns what order to do things in, how to most efficiently walk across the kitchen. To this day, I cannot even ride an excercise bike without reading a cook book, or setting up my notebook on an ironing board across my handlebars, to slam out code. To just ride to bike is beyond me. I have to be doing something else at the same time, or else I will feel unproductive.

Even now, I'm not just typing up a blog entry. Part of my brain is still trying to figure out foods that are truly, 100% American. Another part wants to think about fudge. I finally found coconut cream, which is nearly an impossible task in Utah County. Another part is still thinking about last night's adventures in mango ice cream (expect an update on that sometime today or tomorrow). And yet, I still can't help but feel that I'm not doing everything as effectively as possible. Could I be listening to a foreign language tape right now, in an effort to finally learn Japanese? Would my brain be able to handle it, or would that cause mental saturation? The journey goes on. Maybe I'll figure it out.

1 comment:

  1. Peanut butter and many other products made from peanuts were invented by George Washington Carver, a black from the Southern region of the USA. I believe that makes peanut butter 100% an American food.

    Maybe you also know a food anthropologist that could tell us whether the legend is true that popcorn was invented by Native Americans (Amerindians?).


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