Saturday, April 21, 2012

Slow Foods Wine Tasting

 This week I went to a Bordeaux wine tasting with a friend of mine. We got to taste 9 different wines, and they served Boeuf Bourguignon halfway through. It was really fun, and I did learn a lot about Bordeaux wine. As you can maybe see from the pictures, it was a chance to get out and meet some new people, and bring down the average age a little bit. :) This is the second time I have gone to a Slow Foods event in Berlin. I really enjoyed being a member of the local chapter in Ann Arbor, but I think Berlin is just too big to have the same kind of feel to it. But events like this are nice because you actually get to talk to people.
At one point this guy at our table was asking us about food traditions and culture in the US. This is always a tricky topic...The US doesn't have a "cuisine" like "Italian food" or "French food," or even "German food" (although many people wouldn't call that a "cuisine" either). And it's offensive when people say burgers and fast food are "American" food. That is not food. And aside from not really having a national cuisine, I feel like we don't even have as many regional and seasonal "specialties" as in old Europe. We have some, but not compared to here.

For example, in Germany people get excited about Asparagus season. Really excited. And the cafes all change their soup special according to what's available: in the fall it's pumpkin soup, everywhere, then potato soup and onion soup, in the spring wild ramp soup (Bärlauchcremesuppe) and then asparagus, Spargelsuppe. In this US, is there any one ingredient that is literally celebrated? I can't really think of anything. Sure, we have some regional things: walleye in Minnesota, wild rice, maple syrup. But in the grocery store we can often get things out of season, so you can get them even when they shouldn't really be there. Take asparagus. I bet you've had asparagus in the grocery store, even though it's from Peru or wherever. In Germany, I haven't seen asparagus in the grocery store until this week. For the first time.
So anyways, I was trying to be a bit defensive of this whole anti-US thing, and told this guy that although we may not have a "cuisine", we have some of the best chefs and restaurants in the world cooking "New American" food and I feel like home cooking is also on the rise. I read a lot of food blogs, and I get the sense that more and more people care about where their food comes from, whether it's local and/or seasonal, and how it tastes. They blend international flavors and ingredients when cooking. What is American? Nothing really, but also everything. When I read smitten kitchen or 101 cookbooks, or other blogs, I feel like there is a generation of people cooking really good, creative, modern food that is healthier and more tied to local/seasonal traditions. So it's hard to respond to the question about "What is 'American' food like?" "Do we have a national cuisine?" What do you think? How would you respond to this question?


  1. I feel bad about it too, but fast food is very American. I wouldn't necessarily call it "food" either, but people eat it... a lot. It's part of our culture.

    How about pizza delivery? We're getting a little closer real food now. I would imagine that's more common here than anywhere else.

    You could describe American cuisine the same way you describe the ethnic makeup of it's people.

  2. I like your response, Paul. :) It's true that a lot of people eat fast food and it's part of American culture, even if it's not a part we're happy about. The US is not only ethnically diverse but very diverse in terms of eating habits, from the super-healthy, to the super-unhealthy. So it's too hard to generalize about what's "American".

  3. Amerika ist ein "smorgasbord" aus Kulturen. Nichts dafür entschuldigend sein!