Gastronomic Mosaics & Culinary Road Maps
By Karen Ballum on February 20, 2013
Food quickly becomes important to the story in Alex George's A Good American. Before the Meisenheimers ever open the restaurant, Jette finds herself homesick. She turns to the meals she ate in her homeland for comfort. She didn't have recipes passed down from her mother or even a cookbook to turn to. Through a process of trial and error, she made her way through the food in memories until they existed on her table.
"Over time she constructed a gastronomic mosaic, each dish a quiet elegy to all she had left behind. Spareribs with sauerkraut, steamed ham, caraway meatballs with spaetzle, fried apple slices, barley porridge with buttermilk -- these concoctions came freighted with memories. A mouthful of streuselkuchen, laced with golden almonds, took her back to long summer afternoons spent in the garden of her childhood home. The heavy rye of roggenbrot the chill northern evenings closing in. Jette's kitchen became a shrine, turning out culinary museum pieces." Page 65
While I felt sad for Jette in that moment, I loved that passage. It makes me wonder what my own culinary road map would look like.
There would be potatoes, freshly pulled from the ground, boiled and then topped with butter. My grandfather's homemade doughnuts, which went directly from the fire and into a bag where we'd shake them with cinnamon and sugar. The many, many jars of mustard pickles I remember helping both my grandmother and grandfather make. It was my older sister that introduced me to nachos and how they are the perfect food for dinner when you can't decide what else to make.
I started making bolognese sauce when I was in my tweens as a way to avoid yet another meat and potatoes dinner. Don't get me wrong, I like a good meat and potatoes dinner, but sometimes a girl just needs pasta. High school makes me think of French fries -- lots and lots of french fries. College introduced me to Montreal's famous smoked meat sandwiches, Montreal-style bagels and late night poutine delivery. A college professor introduced me to sushi.
I don't know which meals I'll remember from this time in my life. Will it be the chicken pot pie? The jalapeno poppers we make for my husband's friends? Or maybe my raspberry cake?
What foods are are part of your gastronomic mosaic?
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