Thursday, August 7, 2008

Food = Consciousness

“Food is a yardstick of consciousness,” writes Doris Friedenson in her essay, “Chapulines, Mole, and Pozole: Mexican Cuisines and the Gringa Imagination” (165). While I haven’t eaten chapulines (grasshoppers), it’s only because the opportunity hasn’t arose yet, and this, Fridensohn argues is because the “foods we eat tell much about where we have lived and where we have traveled” (165). So instead of writing about chapulines, mole, and pozole, I’m going to write about where I have been, namely where I’ve been for the last two years: Boise, Idaho. As I can count down my days left in Boise on both hands, I’ve begun to think about the indelible food prints Boise culture has left in my life.

Here is a list of the things that Boise, with its heritage of Basque immigrants, Spanish food, and Northwestern hippie/fusion cuisine, has opened my palate to in the brief two years I’ve lived here:

  1. Lamb (I honestly don’t remember ever eating lamb before moving to Idaho, and because a lot of lamb is raised here-due in part to the first Basque, sheep-herding immigrants at the turn of the century I suppose this makes sense).
  2. Manchego cheese (and any other sheep’s milk cheese, also that Spanish/Basque connection)
  3. Serrano Ham. (My love of pork products has increased ten-fold since moving here, dry aged hams in particularly make my taste buds quiver. The head cheese experiment also helped encourage my new found pork obsession).
  4. Smoked Paprika (this is Estrella’s influence, the tapas bar where I used to work introduced me to this powerful, and delicious seasoning way before Rachael Ray started singing its praises.)
  5. Lavender (I didn’t even know it was edible until I saw it being sold as a culinary herb at the Boise Farmer’s Market. Now I make a wicked lavender vinegrette to dress salads of greens, goat cheese, and candied pecans, which is a spin on Bungalow restaurant’s signature salad.)
  6. Trout (sure everyone eats salmon, but trout? Delicious. Think sort of the more mellow, laid back little brother of salmon.)
  7. Hazelnuts (I’d eaten them before, but I never baked with them so much before. Hazelnuts are largely grown in Oregon. I could get them in bulk here relatively cheap, which is something I’ll miss when I’m gone.
  8. Sourdough. (This is a western thing dating back to the Yukon territory and the Gold Rush, and pioneers who brought sourdough along with them in covered wagons. I heard friends talk about sourdough cultures—thanks Kelly— and thought I should try my own. Norton (aka my sourdough starter) will be traveling to Ohio with me, in sort of a reverse Oregon trail pilgrimage.
  9. Berries. (Of course I have had blackberries, blueberries, and raspberries before moving here, I just hadn’t had local berries as good or as fresh as this every before.)
  10. IPAs (in outdoorsy, hippie country like this Indian Pale Ales are everywhere. I don’t know that I’ve fully acquired a taste for them yet. But, I can drink them comfortably, whereas, two years ago, if it was hoppy enough to bounce around on my taste buds like a super ball, I couldn’t choke it down.)

So there you have it, my top ten food memory map for the Boise, Idaho stage of my life. These things I’m sure I will miss, as in some instances it will be hard to find some of this food, the way I remember it, in Ohio. But, it also leaves me wondering, what new list, will I create in Ohio?

Foods connect me to people, to places, to memories, and the quest to find them, to recreate a cherished dish is just a part of self-creation, of self-definition in the constant flux and inevitable change of life.


Anonymous said...

Nice writing piece. You sound a little melancholy about leaving foods you have come to love there in Boise. But, I know you and you will find new food loves in Ohio and you will adjust just fine. We all know what a fine palate you have. I am looking forward to finding out about Ohio foods. See you soon. Mom

jana (and sometimes renee) said...

You just gave me something else wonderful to miss about Boise! I love how you notice things I never did; it makes me want to start cooking and appreciating all the MidWest corn that is in overabundance. SO MUCH CORN. Any yummy recipes revolving around corn to share?

This is the first time I'll be painting a place, and I'm totally stoked! I think I'm going out today to pick out colors and I'll paint all day tomorrow. And I've always been intrigued by the idea of feng shui, but was too embarrassed to actually try it. You've convinced me. When do you leave for Bowling Green? Have you scoped out jobs yet?