zondag 27 juli 2014

All Cooking is Fusion Cooking

MAP ONE: MOLE


Ingredients: Allspice, corn, tomatillo, chiles, tomato, chocolate, peanut, thyme, cumin, onion, garlic, raisin, cinnamon

Areas of domestication:

South Mexican and Central America:
Allspice, tomatillo, chilli
South America (Peru, Ecuador, Bolivia, Chile):
Tomato, chocolate
Brazil, Paraguay:
Peanut
The Mediterranean:
Thyme, cumin
Northwest India, Afghanistan, Tadjikistan, Uzbekistan:
Onion, garlic, raisin
India, Bangladesh, Myramar:
Cinnamon
Source: http://allrecipes.com/recipe/mole-sauce/


There is no cuisine in the old world that has not completely absorbed several food crops from the new world. Potatoes, sweet potatoes, cassava, chilli peppers, peanuts and tomatoes, to name just a few, are now staple foodstuffs across the world but they are originally all from the Americas. The national cuisines of the Americas themselves are dominated by old world flavours and ingredients like onion, garlic, coriander, black pepper, rice, wheat, beef, pork and chicken. The European discovery of America and the 'Columbian exchange' that followed, the term was coined by Alfred W. Crosby in 1972, is an ongoing process of biological levelling. Isolated Amazonian tribes are still succumbing to what are to us harmless childhood diseases, plants and animals are still finding ways to become invasive elsewhere, the craze for quinoa shows that there are still Andean crops to be integrated in the global food market.



In her book Cuisine and Empire (2013) Rachel Laudan writes about the bedazzlement that overcame the Mexican poet Octavio Paz when he travelled to India in 1962. He could not make-up what had happened, how it could be that such different countries had such a similar cuisine. Was the Mexican national dish Mole “an ingenious Mexican version of curry, or is the curry a Hindu adaptation of a Mexican sauce”. Unable to explain the shared love for chilli peppers and flat bread (the chapati and the tortilla), taking note of the fact that the chilli could only have been introduced to India from Mexico in historic times, he concluded that “the two cuisines share a position that can only be called eccentric: they are both imaginative and passionate infractions of the two great canons of taste, French and Chinese cuisine.” A strange and incredulous conclusion. What made Mexican and Indian cuisine look and taste alike should be understood, Laudan argues, as a consequence of the spread of Islam as the dominant religious and political power from India to Spain. Columbus himself was only admitted to the Spanish court to plead his case after King Ferdinand II had conquered the last Moorish stronghold in Southern Spain. Only with the Moors gone could resources be allocated to speculative journeys of exploration. What the Spanish ate was however still a local rendering of the same style of food that the Mughal empire brought to India. Chiles spread almost everywhere almost as soon as the Europeans discovered America. India and Mexico share the right climate for the plant and its taste found a niche that nobody in the old world knew existed until they tasted it. Mexican cuisine is an old world cuisine developing in the new world.



Map 2: Mulligatawny


Ingredients: Chiles, tomato, black mustard, cumin, coriander, lentil, onion, garlic, lemon, coconut, black pepper, ginger, turmeric, plum

Areas of domestication:

South Mexican and Central America:
Chilli
South America (Peru, Ecuador, Bolivia, Chile):
Tomato
The Mediterranean:
Black mustard, cumin
The Middle East:
Lentil
Northwest India, Afghanistan, Tadjikistan, Uzbekistan:
Mustard, onion, garlic
India, Bangladesh, Myramar:
Lemon, coconut, black pepper, ginger, turmeric

Link: http://www.saveur.com/article/Recipes/Classic-Mulligatawny

From the perspective of the ingredients one conclusion is inescapable: at a deep level all cooking is fusion cooking. From the perspective of culture this is blatant nonsense. Food is something to take pride in and claim as your own, on personal level, on family level as well as on ethnic, religious, political and national level. On these different scales of food, the local and the global, the temporary and the historic, the cook makes her or his choices.


A fusion cook, someone who mixes tradition with alien elements with the intention of creating a novel effect or flavour is always making a statement about the importance of identity and tradition and experimenting with how far diners are willing to go in their loyalty to them. It is easy to sympathize with the Indians of the 18th and 19th century, who, with bewilderment, must have taken note of the 'Indian' food that the English in India were concocting and sending back to Europe. A dish like Mulligatawngy, a soup, became popular throughout Europe as an example of an exotic cuisine. In reality is was as novel to the Europeans as it was to the Indians: the concept of a soup was unknown on the South-Asian continent. The anglicized curry was a form of culinary imperialism, yet another example of a regime taking its own prejudices for reality, misunderstanding the food as much as they did the continent, a further humiliation of a subjected people.


The mulligatawny is a European food-monument of that time and recipes for it are included by major cookbook writers like Mrs Beeton and Escoffier. Jane Austen ate 'currees' and liked them. William Thackerey wrote 'Poem to a Curry', a recipe inside a poem proscribing a way of cooking a curry that was purely European. Thanks to google books we have easy access to publications like the 1830 issue of the 'Arcana of Science and Art, Or an Annual Register of Popular Inventions and Improvements, Abridged from the Transactions of Public Societies, and from the Scientific Journals, British and Foreign, of the Past Year' and the 1840 edition of the 'Magazine of Domestic Economy'. The food snob is a thing of all ages and these pages show a lively interest in the proper ways of cooking Indian food. This excitement for a new food perhaps explains why it was in the end good for Indian morale. The mulligatawny has been naturalized and is now claimed by Indian food writers such as part of Indian food heritage. Curry-Bible author Madhur Jaffrey uses it as an example of the baroque turns food can make without losing its own identity. You can take the curry out of India, you can't take India out of the curry. Culinary change is not a special circumstance but part of its nature.



MAP 3: SNAIL PORRIDGE



Ingredients: Parsley, celery, thyme, fennel, rosemary, bay leaves, oats, mustard, onion, shallot, garlic, carrot, almond, walnut

The Mediterranean:
Parsley, celery, thyme, rosemary, bay leaves
The Middle East:
Oats
Northwest India, Afghanistan, Tadjikistan, Uzbekistan:
Mustard, onion, shallot, garlic, carrot, almond
China:
Walnut

Link: http://www.bbc.co.uk/food/recipes/snailporridge_74858

Mole is Mexican no matter how much Moorish-Iberian prestige cooking was transported to it. The pizza wouldn’t be less Italian if the tomato was brought to it from outer space instead of from South-America. Both foods can however only exist as a result of larger historic circumstances that made local crops global. Map your Recipe is a website that turns any recipe into a map showing where the fruits and vegetables that went into it were first domesticated. It does not explain the historic processes of what events made what dishes possible, but by translating recipes into maps it can perhaps make visible patterns in cuisines and dishes that can only be seen from a distance. When applied to individual chefs distant cooking a recipe can reveal unspoken biases. Heston Blumenthal is at the forefront of molecular gastronomy, a way of cooking inspired by the latest developments in food science. The idea of 72 sautéed snails in oats-porridge is not immediately attractive to most people, even if they are French. The challenging nature of the main ingredient is probably explained by the environmental benefits that could be had by an increased use of non-mammalian proteins. But when putting Blumenthal’s snail porridge on the map the result is not just classical but geo-conservative. There are no ingredients here that were not available in the Middle Ages.



MAP 4: PANCAKED TURKEY SALAD, ASIAN STYLE.




Ingredients: Chilli, cashew, olive, chicory, coriander, pomegranate, onion, spinach, sesame, lime, ginger, soy, cranberries, mint, watercress

Areas of domestication:

South Mexican and Central America:
Chilli
Brazil, Paraguay:
Cashew
The Mediterranean:
Olive, chicory
The Middle East:
Pomegranate
Northwest India, Afghanistan, Tadjikistan, Uzbekistan:Onion, spinach
India, Bangladesh, Myramar:
Sesame, lime, ginger
China:
Soy
North-America:
Cranberries
Old world, but not exactly known:Mint, watercress
Link: http://www.jamieoliver.com/recipes/turkey-recipes/asian-inspired-turkey-salad-and-pancakes


Jamie Oliver has sold more than 10 million books and it suggests that his type of food is accessible to many people. The map showing the origin of domestication of the ingredients in his Asian style turkey dish with pancakes is very different from Blumenthal's food sourcing. In this one dish Oliver manages to use resources from around the globe with what can only be called pan-globalist promiscuity. But his recipe does not contain anything out of the ordinary and all his ingredients can be purchased in probably all supermarkets in the developed world. Map your Recipe has as an inbuilt feature which tries to guesstimate the cuisine of a dish based on its ingredients. Using his distinctive wide ranging choice of ingredients this function will also try to determine if a recipe could be from Jamie Oliver.  



CHART: MAPPING THE COLUMBIAN EXCHANGE





By analyzing historic cookbooks for the origin of its ingredients it might be possible to put in perspective the food diversity that we find taken for granted in Jamie Oliver. The above charts have been produced from data obtained from 46 out-of-copyright cookbooks, published between 1390 and 1935. The earliest is the Forme of Cury (1390), its unknown authors cooks to King Edward II. The latest is the Sunset All-Western Cook Book (1933) an all-purpose cookbook with “Recipes Included for Favorite Regional, and Foreign Dishes Peculiar to the West “. In between there are classics like the Art of Coockery by Hannah Glasse (1747), The Book of Household Management by Mrs. Beeton (1859), A Guide to Modern Cookery by Auguste Escoffier (1907) as well as a titles like The Curry Cook's Assistant, or, Curries, How to Make Them in England in Their Original Style by Daniel Santiagoe (1887).



Some observations:

- In the early part of the 17th century the number of ingredients available increases sharply.

- A second sharp increase happens 200 years later in the beginning of the 19th century.

- It takes to about 1650 when produce from the Americas are significantly introduced to the larder.
-American crops on there own are not enough to explain the increase in the 17th century.

All the early cookbooks used to create these charts were intended for use as mnemonics at royal courts. The modern cookbook was only created in the 18
th and 19th century and written for the emerging middle-classes. The abundant use of small game birds in the royal medieval kitchen however would get any restaurant recreating them into problems with animal rights activists. We hear much about how people's diets across the globe are getting more similar. Calling globalization a melting pot is however a faulty metaphor. Culture is not a can of paint, there is a plenty of room on the plate. Travel and migration, curiosity and surplus are creating chaotic gastronomic exchange routes on which a million mulligatawngies can emerge without hurting anyone's feelings. Global food culture is literally, filling the map and connecting the dots. Eat well.




With gratitude to Rachel Laudan for clarifying some details.
Reay Tannahill - Food In History, Penguin 1988.
Brothwell and Brothwell – Food in Antiquity. John Hopkins University Press, 1998.
Alfred W. Crosby – The Columbian Exchange, Biological and Cultural Consequences of 1492, Greenwood Press, 1972.
Madhur Jaffrey, Ultimate Curry Bible, Ebury Press, 2003.
Charles C. Mann, 1493: Uncovering the New World Columbus Created, Vintage, 2012.
Rachel Laudan, Cuisine and Empire, Cooking in World History, University of California Press, 2013.




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