Food Fight Chapter One: Owning Food
I've been guilty of treading on a few toes.
You've all seen it: changing chimichurri, transforming tortelloni and warping welshcakes to my whim.
But these experiments have raised questions: when does Italian, Spanish, Indian, German, Mexican cuisine simply become my cuisine? When I make a taco with ingredients from Spain and Argentina and nobody wants to claim it based on pride/identity, or when I push Italian ingredients to their limits like gnocchi with creamy earl grey sauce and Italians put their hands on their hips and say "that's not Italian"... it's in no-man's land, right? Does this make it my cuisine? Or does the influence still root it elsewhere?
These are questions I'm asking due to the some of the rigidness of cuisines around the world. Like the dogma surrounding Italian food, or the Spanish and what should go in paella (Poor Jamie, nobody deserves the wrath of angry Spaniards), or giving Germans potato for breakfast (which I discovered is definitely not normal). I'm sure many of you have had this toe-treading experience, and possibly even flinched at the negative reaction.
So the possible solutions are as follows:
1) Follow the Rules, and don't experiement
2) Call everything [Insert Dish Here] influenced by [Insert Cuisine Here]
3) Claim it as your own.
And the responses are:
1) Dad (and Douglas Bader) always says: "Rules are for the guidance of wise men and the obedience of fools" - I'll never be a rule follower. They're good foundations, but if you stay on the tracks, you'll always know your destination.
2) I'm getting over pandering to this. When it comes down to the crunch, nobody wins - the Cuisine purists are reluctant to entertain it. All you end up with is undue allegiance and a cumbersome name.
3) This is where I'm starting to head. It's the safest route. It gives you credit for making something TASTY that nothing within the rules allows for.
So I say to all those homecooks out there putting cheese on fish, mac n cheese in burgers and pineapples on pizza:
Scale the mountain. Mix your labour with the land. Walk where nobody dared to walk. Cut how you want. Crowd the pan. See what happens. Break the rules, make mistakes and when you get something tasty, a happy error, PLANT THE FLAG. Name and claim it as your own and nobody else's.
This is your cuisine.