I have always loved food writing. Always. I remember learning about M.F.K. Fisher in college and was hooked, even though my preferred diet at the time was diet Coke and peanut M&Ms (oh the stupidity that is youth). Food plus culture? Even better. So writers like Barbara Grizzuti Harrison and other Europhiles became my escapist reading. But then I found Frances Moore Lappe and I changed my life.
Today, while rolling out tortillas over my lunchbreak, I thought again about my current reading jag: local foodism. It is true that what most attracts me to cucina povera is the fact that there is a local food culture that backs it up. Sure, it’s immensely obvious that the Greeks’ hilly, sunny clime was an excellent place to have goats, grapes and olives. Or that the arid climate of northern Mexico and the American Southwest enabled its people to cultivate the native corn, peppers and squash. Or the grassy beauty that is central Europe allowed those people to have the most wonderful dairy cattle, sheep and goats. I could go on: the leftovers that weren’t good enough for slave owners became the fatback, collards and cornbread of its slaves. All these foods were amazingly whole, and amazingly healthful to those who ate them.
So I look at culturally loaded things like French food and I see through it to the farms that initially produced it: the mother sauces, after all, were simply ways to sex up the common, daily cuisine. Crepes, like tortillas, dosa, injera, pita and countless other flatbreads, are simply using what is at hand to both fill the tummy and extend what little protein is available.
With all this floating in my mind, I do wonder where I am going with all this research. I complained to my uncle a couple weeks back that I am kind of in a reading rut. He, like many of my family, is a voracious reader, and his advice was that this is no rut: you are simply working through something.
And I do know where I am going with it, at least tangentially: I am looking to produce my own food culture, whereby we can live, mostly, off what we produce here on the farm. And that there is a whole tide of generations who have done it before me is both daunting, and really, really inspiring.
And it’ll be much better than M&Ms.
I’m going to take a few days off from blogging to do some thinking.