#grapegate and onions


Usually we associate food with harmonious, benevolent, generous sharing. But….the angry response dubbed #grapegate to The New York Times article “The United States of Thanksgiving” (http://nyti.ms/1t9Ebcp) reminds us that food is deeply connected to how we identify ourselves. In this case the article offended the state of Minnesota with its attribution of grape salad as a gastronomic emblem. Alabama is not too happy either. Disagreement certainly fuels reviews, recipes, blogs, food writing, competitions and more. As Minnesota arrives at wild rice consensus we witness a region reclaiming it’s identity. Thanksgiving is not only a time of sharing but more importantly a time to confront tradition, nationally, regionally and personally. Whose recipes make it to the table? How are the recipes personalized? Imagine an Immigrant’s Thanksgiving Table…now there’s a great cookbook idea! As a cook in a chopped and blended family, I have to say, the dinner table is an exhausting culinary and cultural challenge with occasional exhilarating moments of delicious resolution (for us, usually in burgers and brownies).

(Dear Bobby Flay, yesterday I made your pumpkin bread recipe from the Epicurious recipe app. It was fantastic, moist, light, flavorful. I confess, I added dried cranberries making it even better. I feel you would approve. Recipes like rules are meant to be broken, sometimes with thought.)

May we all eat well and grow this Thanksgiving as we confront who we are and want to be together.


Here is a poem from today’s Writer’s Almanac that speaks to the intensity and intimacy of everyday culinary disagreements.

Recollection of Tranquility

The first time we ever quarreled
you were cutting an onion
in the kitchen of our rented cottage.
I remember vividly. We were making creole
for a late night supper with champagne,
and you were taking it seemed forever
to cut the onion.
Each time your dull paring knife
chopped on the counter, I shifted my feet,
and I saw once in a glimpse over my shoulder
a white wedge of onion wobbling loose.
I sighed inaudibly. The butter I stirred
had already bubbled and browned.
I was starting over with a new yellow lump
that was slipping on the silver aluminum
when you brought, cupped in your hands,
the broken pieces, the edges all ragged,
the layers separated, bruised and oozing
cloudy white onion juice.
I complained:
the family recipe stated specifically,
the onion must be “finely chopped,”
for what I explained were very good reasons.
Otherwise, the pungent flavors would be trapped
irrevocably in the collapsed cellular structure
of the delicate root.

You sighed, I guess, inaudibly
and adjusted your glasses carefully
with two fingers (a fidget
I have since come to know
as a sign of mild perturbation)
and explained:
the pungence of onions too finely chopped
would be simmered away. The original sharp
burning crispness could be retained
only in fairly large, bite-sized chunks.
But you wouldn’t fight tradition.
I mopped onion on the counter
with the dull knife, while you set the table
and figured the best way of popping the cork.

“Recollection of Tranquility” by Idris Anderson, from Mrs. Ramsay’s Knee. © Utah State University Press, 2008.


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