In honor of the Ordinary Times food symposium, this edition of Mount Rushmore will focus on cuisines. The boundaries of a particular cuisine are hard to define. As such, I will make up a bunch of arbitrary rules as I go to suit my needs and preferences and you
can all shove it if you disagree can all do the same.
American Barbecue: No, I’m not talking about hot dogs and hamburgers… what stupid northerners often call barbecue. That is a cookout, people! I’m talking about meats cooked low and slow with plenty of smoke. And because it is too hard to narrow down between the different traditions of barbecue (e.g., Carolina, Tennessee, Texas) AND I think they are similar enough in terms of approach and key components, I’m lumping them all in together, putting them on the mountain, and there is nothing you can do about it.
Italian: Yes, yes, I know… Italian food is arguably too broad a category when one thinks of the diversity contained within — both in the cuisine’s native land and the exported American derivation — but too few people know the difference between the food of Florence, Naples, and Sicily (or, for that matter, Italian food and Italian-American food) so I’m again putting it all together and ignoring all complaints. Besides being amazingly delicious — particularly in its native land — it is also probably the most accessible non-American cuisine to Americans (even if they are technically only eating the Americanized version of it). As such, it needs to be on the mountain.
Indian: Again, a cuisine that could arguably be broken in two what with the differences between the food eaten in the north of the country versus that in the south, but given that you can find true pan-Indian restaurants here in the states and thereby have a meal with dishes from both regions, I’m keeping them together. Indian food is delicious. It is just that simple. The richness of the sauces and the complexity of the flavor profiles are both the things that dreams are made of. If you haven’t had it yet, try the tikka masala, easily the most accessible dish. If you are more adventurous, the menu will be your oyster. My favorite thing to do is to go to a restaurant with some of my Indian friends and just say, “You guys order,” and attack their choices family style. Indian food is also probably the most accessible “ethnic”* food at this point for Americans.
New Orleans: This was the toughest spot to fill. My traditional approach to mountain carving tends to favor ubiquitousness and/or influence over my personal preferences. And that is somewhat reflected in my first three choices. Were I holding dear to that, French cuisine would almost certainly have to be on the mountain. Its influence on western cuisine is undeniable. Unfortunately, I’m just not the biggest fan of traditional French food. Admittedly, I haven’t eaten a ton of it, but the flavor profile just isn’t in my wheelhouse. So, I’m going with what is probably my personal favorite “micro-cuisine” and the food of a city in which I’d weigh 300 pounds if I lived. Jambalaya, red beans and rice, gator, gumbo, crawfish, po’boys, oysters, catfish… seemingly everything including the complimentary water having sausage in it… heat as far as the tongue can see… yes, yes, and more yes! Of course, the influence of the traditional French approach in the cuisine of our most Frenchiest of cities is undeniable, but New Orleans’ approach to food is something all its own and something I cannot get enough on. So on the mountain it goes.
That’s what I got. What do you got?