One day over the weekend Tim and I were in the mood for Chinese food. We found our local favourite place in Venice shortly after we moved here. It's very clean but it's not a pretty place. While there are tables and benches, I have NEVER seen anyone eat in the restaurant. Everyone picks it up to take out. Every Single Time. Communication is tricky occasionally as we do not speak any dialect of Chinese and English is a difficult language. But eventually, with much patience and a lot of smiling and gesturing, the ordering always gets done.
I always order the same thing. I am so boring. But it's what I like! Vegetable Fried Rice. It's actually a little bit different each time, or at least the vegetables tend to vary. This visit it was heavy on broccoli. I like broccoli, that works for me. Other times it's been primarily pea pods or mushrooms or celery. It doesn't matter to me. It's what I always order and I always am pleased with my order. I like my vegetable fried rice with duck sauce on it. You can cringe all you like, that is how I eat it.
Tim's order varies more. He is far more adventurous with food than I am and a lot less picky. This visit he ordered dumplings and General Tso's Chicken and spring rolls. But it might just as well have been something else. It always smells really good though far too spicy for my delicate little taste buds. He prefers soy sauce and szechuan sauce with his order so I made sure to pick up plenty of each sort of packet that we both favour.
As we drove home, breathing in that wonderful flavour and salivating a bit I remembered a short video I saw recently....somewhere..... It was of a variety of folks from Mexico trying the Amercian version of Mexican food. The reactions were interesting. One older lady glared at the tacos suspiciously through narrowed eyes, then poked at them as if she expected something to jump out of it. Finally she said to someone off camera (which was translated to English and captioned across the bottom of the screen) "What is it?" The off camera person said, "it's a taco". She looked at the offending taco again and shook her head, "No it's not" she said very firmly. Cracked me up. Some of the folks trying the American Mexican food actually enjoyed it, other people firmly did not and of course others stood in the middle of the argument with a definite "meh" reaction. Not good, not bad, just meh. It was interesting.
I suppose I already knew that what we call Pizza or chili or cashew chicken or any other ethnic specific food probably really isn't very authentic. I just never really thought about it before then. It makes sense. Every culture has it's own locally inspired dishes which probably is what helps us to develop our specific preferred palate. So in borrowing another cultures recipes, it makes absolute sense that those dishes would be tweaked a bit to satisfy the new cultures tastes. Up to and including creating whole new recipes that only feel like it might possibly be authentic, like Nachos which were invented for and by Americans.
And I thought back to our trip to Curacao a few years back. We ate local cuisine almost every single day. Some of it we liked, some of it I didn't (I'm pretty sure Tim was fine with all of it) but one night we found an American Restaurant in town. Kentucky Fried Chicken. Yup, KFC was in right there and it was busy too! And we were curious. Was KFC in Curacao the same as KFC at home? Interesting question. So we checked it out. The menu was a little different, though I don't recall in what way (it was a few years ago now) but it was noticeable and everything was a lot more expensive. Tim placed his order to go and we took it back to our hotel and sat out on the balcony to eat. Tasted completely different. If you think thatfried chicken is fried chicken you would be wrong. I am not certain if it was different spices, different oils or a different kind of chicken but there was a distinctly different taste. And actually, now that I think about it, that makes perfect sense.
Did you know that Coca Cola slightly adjusts their recipe for different countries? They do! I know that even candy companies have slightly different versions of common place American candies that go to other countries. Even the packaging is a tiny bit different. My guess is that the same thing may happen for candy that comes here from other countries. Myabe they Americanize it for us?
Think about it, American touts itself (or at least used to) as the Melting Pot of the world. All the people who came here from so many other places helped to create this country. They brought their language, some of which we have borrowed, their celebrations, which we claimed as our own and their food, which we love! You think I'm wrong? I have 4 words for you: croissant, Christmas and spaghetti.
Here is a great idea for a fun trip. Traveling the the world eating other countries versions of our food. Seems fair, in America we eat our version of their food. Did you know that I was a full grown adult before I ever had Chinese food? As unadventurous as I am regarding food, my family growing up was even mores so. No spices, no flavour and nothing unfamiliar. Maybe that's why I enjoy food so much now??
I'm sure you already know that fortune cookies were invented in California in the early 1900's. So while they were created by a Chinese company, it was in America. So does that make them Chinese? Or American? Who cares. Whatever the origin, they are fun and a look forward to them at the end of every meal of Chinese American take out!
Yup, this is me. Some people said, "Sam, you should write a Blog". "Well, there's a thought", I thought to myself. And so here it is.