Locavore. Locally grown. Farm-to-table. These terms have become ubiquitous among the health conscious, environmentally aware, and food-loving population. It sometimes seems that if you don’t know where that apple was grown, you don’t want it. Somewhat in this vein, my daughter once told me that if she were to eat chicken, she would want to know how it was raised, what it was fed, and that she would even want to visit the farm so that she could confirm its good upbringing. My response was that by the time she had done all that she would have known the bird too well – probably by name – and would never have taken a bite. After all, could she eat somebody whose home she had visited?
But, back to that apple. Where did it really come from? And what about the peanut in your PB&J? Or the eggplant in your parmigiana?
Fascinated almost to the point of obsession, I have spent the past few years researching the histories of some of my favorite foods: their origins, how they got to various points across the globe, and what the people of those places have done with them. I have found — and prepared — not only recipes that include the foods, but all manner of artifacts, literature, and rituals.
The research has been fun and sometimes even surprising. (Who knew that the tomato was the subject of a U.S. Supreme Court case?) And the variety of dishes is amazing. Take the grape. The French, Brazilians, Hungarians, and Mexicans all have different ways of incorporating it into their national cuisines, and all in different ways.
It’s time to make supper now. What shall it be tonight?