Friday, August 17, 2012

Americans and a National Cuisine

Pellegrini correctly assesses that Americans who are not recent immigrants lack an established cuisine. He comments about Americans:

"His curiosity about culinary matters, of relatively recent origin, is an encouraging sign.If he would proceed wisely, however, he must remember that the evolution of a traditional cuisine requires time. His immediate concern should be a willingness to experiment, an insistence upon quality, a purging of his mind of all culinary prejudice...

The culinary poseurs, foreign and domestic alike, are out to capitilize on American credulity in cultural matters. Their insistence that cooking is an art and eating and drinking a ritual, has thrown the dinner hour out of focus and produced needless confusion. There are few Americans, for example, who can serve a dinner which deviates a little from the native tradition without being somewhat self-conscious about it. And who is certain about when to serve red and when to serve white wine? The proper attitude, of course, is that it doesn't make a damned bit of difference." (p. 231-2)

For Pellegrini, what matters is the quality of the ingredients and a willingness to improve, using the proper techniques, using the materials on hand. He also states earlier in the book his belief that women and men can be equally good cooks, although it is easier for men to do so as a vocation because women are tied down with domestic duties. This is a radical statement since he is asserting that domestic cooking is as important as restaurant cooking.

Both Italy and France have strong regional cuisines. Peter Mayle in particular likes to visit smal, unpretentious restaurants in little towns with traditional (often female) cooks. These regional restaurants will serve food using recipes that draw from the meats and produce traditionally produced by the surrounding countryside. Although they don't use the term, these restaurants can be viewed as locavore dining spots.

It has been sixty years since this book was published. I would be interested in hearing from readers whether they think that Americans have developed a domestic cuisine, and if so, what is it? I think we have developed the burger and fries combo to a fine art, but would love to read comments from others.


Anonymous said...

The American national cuisine is hot dogs (with or without chili), french fries, apple pie and ice cream.

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