There's a practice in the food press that bothers me. It's the condescending term "ethnic dining". First of all, what ISN'T ethnic dining? Well...French, Northern Italian, Thai, Chinese; the Officially Sanctioned Cuisines. "All of those other...LITTLE places," goes the old-fashioned rap, "offer surprisingly INEXPENSIVE alternatives to those unfortunate souls who can't afford the Real Thing". Well, screw the official sanctioners. I love cassoulet, but how dare they pronounce it more edibly valid than its Brazilian cousin, feijoada?
Posh dining is a fine evening's entertainment, and the food in this very narrow slice of the food spectrum sometimes even inspires. But one wouldn't want to live life drinking only champagne; darn it, a banana milkshake is more than just culinary consolation for those who can't afford Dom Perignon. In fact, I won't even concede that Dom Perignon tastes "better" than a beautifully-made shake. They serve different needs and say different things. THE CATEGORIES ARE HORIZONTAL, NOT VERTICAL!!
An end to culinary materialism! Delicious is delicious...period! The art of cooking is no different from any other: a feeling or idea in the mind of the artist (cook) faithfully transfers via a medium (food) into the mind of the audience (eater), the MESSAGE TRANSCENDING THE MEDIUM. To become caught up with ingredients and technique-- medium for medium's sake--is to flout art.
All who sample The Arepa Lady's arepas smile the same smile. The Arepa Lady is telling you something deep, and what she's telling you has nothing to do with corn cakes.
Postmodernism embraces and respects all manifestations of an artform. It's long past time for stodgy gourmets to adopt a more postmodern attitude toward food.© Jim Leff, 1999.