Jeremy and I had a “delicious” time making this month’s episode of You Say Toma(h)to. Alright, puns aside, discussing the foods of our respective nations was quite fun. I must admit though, the more episodes we make in which I try to discuss things “American” the more I realise that I can only speak for my own experience as a girl from the Northeast. We’ve got our fair share of diverse restaurants and the like, but when it comes to speaking for American cuisine, I find it difficult to know where to begin.
Often for these episodes I will do a very quick bit of internet research. I find it helps to broaden my perspective so that when I do chat with Jeremy about whatever topic we’ve decided to focus on, I’m bringing with me not just my own impressions but a bit of a more well-rounded approach. However, the call of personal lived experience is stronger than an hour or so of Googling.
When I think of the food of my people, my impressions are “flavoured” (sorry I can’t help it) with what I grew up eating. Being a Jersey-girl, that means tomato pie, pork roll, and bagels. But being an American, it also means, burgers, hot dogs, corn dogs, mac ‘n’ cheese, meat loaf, and stacks of fluffy pancakes. That was all before I became a vegetarian of course.
I should also admit that, like Jeremy, growing up I was an exceedingly cautious eater. I didn’t like to venture too far from the familiar and stuck mainly with my favourites. I’m not sure when that all changed. Perhaps it happened when I stopped eating meat during undergrad. I mean college is the time to step out of yourself and experiment. That’s maybe when I began experimenting with different foods: Chinese, Indian, Thai. I discovered a love of spicy food with vibrant flavours. It was a slow transition but now, I’ll try just about anything (yes, yes, barring meat from land animals).
Eating is a viscerally human experience and the choices in what we eat and how we eat are brilliant manifestations of our history and culture. I love, too, the way that cultures meet, intermingle, and impact one another. I was reminded recently in a Facebook post for example that Chinese food in America is nothing like Chinese food in China. Jeremy and I discussed in the podcast how British curries are different from Indian cuisine. It seems that food can be considered a microcosm for cultural interaction.
In lieu of an interview this month, Jeremy and I opted to make the ultimate sacrifice for our listeners and attend the 44th Annual Cambridge Beer Festival armed with our recorder. It was really fun for us to share that experience with listeners. While I may not become a beer drinker soon, I loved the cider and the mead I tried there. I also think it is important that we resolve one thing: