there is a special place in my heart for what i call “errant foods.”
i find that when a food manages to make its way across national borders (and sometimes oceans) to establish itself in a new locale, is worth giving a try once or twice at the very least.
i firmly believe that there should be a division of anthropology devoted to the study of errant food. errant food never develops in a vacuum; it is the result of cultural interaction, which means the resulting recipes can be used as a sort of historic landmark for when, where, and how culinary traditions from different cultures collided.
it’s just carrots, celery, and onion, right?
yes. and in many ways, also no.
until 1871, it was illegal to eat beef in japan.
yeah, you read that right. in fact, it was generally frowned upon to eat any kind of meat taken from livestock until the midst of the meiji restoration. chicken, pork, beef, you name it. while the reason for such an edict is obviously up for debate, many historians think that it was originally put in place to prevent famine. raising large livestock, particularly cows, requires an excessive amount of land and feed which can be put to better use on humans. put simply, beef wasn’t efficient.
close your eyes for a moment and think about every type of mushroom you have ever eaten.
in no particular order, my list includes: morels, white button mushrooms, oyster mushrooms, chanterelle, portabellas, creminis (which are technically just baby portabellas), hen-of-the-woods, shiitake, brown clamshells, white clamshells, porcini, matsutake, enokitake, maitake, and king trumpet mushrooms. there might be some others, but those are the main ones i can think of. honestly, i think fourteen different kind of mushrooms is pretty good right off the top of my head. what was your score?
while you are distracted with this fun little mental exercise, i guess i’ll go ahead and get to the point of this post.
true, this post is about mushrooms as i am sure you have already guessed. but this post is also about a swedish guy named carl linnaeus.
in today’s rapidly globalizing society, it seems like you can find at least one restaurant of almost any major country’s cuisine regardless of where you go. there are french restaurants in china, chinese restaurants in the united states, japanese restaurants in canada, and italian restaurants in japan. you get the idea.
i think some people (incorrectly) assume that these cuisines make it across borders and oceans relatively intact. when a country imports the food of another nation, it tends to insert a its own local flair. a chinese person eating at a chinese restaurant in america would, more than likely, be very confused as to why the food is audaciously titled “chinese food,” seeing as it bears almost no resemblance to the cuisine they ate growing up. conversely, many chinese people i have met in japan insist that the food served in chinese restaurants in japan is better tasting and more authentic than the food served in chinese restaurants in china.
but i digress. this post isn’t about how nations get foreign cuisine all wrong.
this post is about the world’s most misunderstood condiment.