Tuesday, February 13, 2007

A Cook’s Tour of Regional American Dishes:

Jill in Ottawa and I have been debating what defines a classic Canadian or American dish, and now it’s time to start cooking. Jill will research and prepare American cuisine, while I’ll tackle Canadian gastronomy. Jill has read my ruminations on the quintessential American dish and she responds immediately. The following line gets her attention: "America is made up of regional dishes...Jill's cooking assignment may have just gotten somewhat larger in scope."

She writes: Now I'm getting nervous. What is your brain cooking up for me to cook up? Could this possibly mean a dish from each U.S. region? I know there are 50 states, but just how many regions are there? And if this is the plan you're hatching, will there be room in my kitchen for all this food? So many questions as I await my assignment. Now that you have the makings of a plan, I'd better get moving to finalize my thoughts for your culinary challenge. Given the direction you appear to be going, could an entire menu be in order?

Jill is, in fact, on to my plan, although I’ve tried to contain the geographical scope, at least a little. So, I issue my American Culinary Challenge:

Dear Jill,

America is a vast country and an enormous “soup pot” of cultures and cuisines simmering with flavor. I’ve consulted with the experts, and they concur that there is no single quintessential American dish. There are, however, hundreds of distinctive and delicious regional dishes.

So, I’m proposing an “armchair” tour, from your kitchen in Ottawa, to locations in the United States where distinctive and enduring dishes have emerged.

Your culinary mission, should you chose to accept it, is to research and prepare a menu of five dishes, each with its own succulent history. Together, they comprise a menu, so I’d suggest that you invite some guests and gather their impressions as well. Your focus will be the East Coast, where I have traveled extensively. Your culinary itinerary of the U.S. includes:

Boston Brown Bread
New England Clam Chowder
Waldorf Salad from New York City
Country Captain from Savannah, Georgia
Southern Sweet Potato Pie

Perhaps it’s ambitious, but I’ve seen you whip up a spinach soufflé in no time, and I know you like to travel, so I think it will be a “piece of cake” for someone of your culinary skills. Here are some questions to ask as you move forward:

How did the dish emerge?
Why were the ingredients important to the dish?
How were the ingredients characteristic of the region?

I propose March 18 as the tasting date for our culinary exchange, both in New York and Ottawa. You can prepare individual dishes and send research updates ahead of time, but March 18 should be the date it all comes together. We can each record our experiences between now and then, and share our discoveries.

I eagerly away your Canadian Culinary Challenge!

Bon Appetite!

T.W. Barritt

© 2007 T.W. Barritt All Rights Reserved


veron said...

ooooooh , I wonder what Jill will come up for you to prepare! :)

Sally said...

I believe James Beard's "American Cookery" has attempted to do just what you have asked Jill to do. Interesting challenge. Nice blog you've got here. I came by way of The Old Foodie.

T.W. Barritt said...

Thanks for visiting, Sally! I will check out James Beard as I await my Canadian challenge!

sandi @ the whistlestop cafe said...

Ah Ha! The timer begins~
I know a little about that sweet potato pie...must be sweet, but not to sweet, must have a full texture, but not stringy, the crust needs to flake with a southern breeze.

Susan said...

Please let me know if you need a taster for the sweet potato pie. :)

OldRound said...

I'm glad to see that you added Country Captain. I was going to suggest that!