Friday, February 19, 2010
People have brought up several instances and examples where they see parts of America as having a true and distinct culture that revolves around the food they eat and how they eat it. That is very true... For instance the subject, or probably more appropriately stated as the religion, of Barbecue. This item in particular is one of the best examples, because when looked at on the surface, would appear to signify what it means to be American. The whole scene of rolling out the grill, the smoker, the rusty old garbage can that your uncle sets up with charcoal every 4th of July, is what many people hold in their hearts as what helps define them as American. In fact Oscar Myer probably wouldn't exist without this image of Americana. However in truth, Barbecue may be one of the most dividing culinary substances that our country produces. From one state to the next we see a different example of what "barbecue" truly is. For instance Carolina Barbecue, Texas Barbecue, St. Louis Barbecue, Memphis Barbecue... Everyone of these examples is so completely different, and depending on who you talk to, each one represents the "best" barbecue there is. Leaving it as more than just a simple debate. In fact it seems as though the south has done a better job over the years of defending what true barbecue is, than they ever did defending anything during the Civil War.
But what these simple examples display is how, for each individual region of barbecue, there is a defined culture. It is a part of what it means to be from Texas and Carolina, Memphis and St. Louis. Their Barbecue distinguishes them. However at the same time, that deep connection to their one respective region completely alienates them from everyone else and in turn alients everyone else from them. Its the driving force behind this overall concept that there is no unifying culture in food for us as Americans. Memphis barbecue has no effect on people shoveling snow in upstate New York and it more than certainly has no effect on the toothless biggot lighting up a smoker, down some dusty, dirt road in the middle of Texas. They all opperate as individual entities that, if anything, only look to separate themselves from everything else that is different. Which at the end of the day pushes the divide even further from where it originally was, leaving Americans on either side, without so much as a glance across the gap.
Tuesday, February 16, 2010
Is there an American culture in food? This question has been running through my mind ever since my first Gastronomy class at the CIA. Now that over a year and a half has gone by, I am left with only one conclusion: There is no real connection between Americans and a defined cuisine, like there is in countries like France, Japan and Italy. America is more like a shopping mall with the food scene functioning as a giant revolving food court.
America’s culinary world is a revolving door spinning on an out of control axis. We have one culture after another, moving in and adding another spoke to wheel, but nothing reaches the unifying center. We are left with so many options, but nothing that brings any of the different sides together.
Which leaves me wondering, "Is there such a thing as American Cuisine?” Was it once here as a dynamic and integral part of what it meant to be American, and then over time became blended so well with our multitude of cultures, that American food is part of a world culture? Or is it something else entirely? Could it be that America never really had a cuisine to call its own? That, maybe it was never possible to create a unified "new world" of food because people as a whole were so divided, so hell bent on their individual pursuits, that "us" wasn't even imaginable?
And that is precisely what this first question looks to, for lack of a better word, attack. The question of, "is there an American culture in food?", directly questions, what it means to be a part of the American Culture on any level. Because when we look at how dynamic and fundamental a role, cuisine plays in the foundations of other cultures, we begin to notice, that America simply doesn't have any of that.