Why are most American dishes not vegetarian
"Soy burger? No way."
The US cuisine is considered to be meat-heavy. Were there enough vegetarian recipes for this cookbook?
There was! But it's true: some people thought I would have to write down soy burgers and the like. This is nonsense, of course! Of 150 recipes in the book, just 10 are modified meat recipes, all others are originally vegetarian.
Of course there was probably hunting in America earlier, but many traditional recipes have their origins centuries ago and there was either no or very little meat. Just as we used to only have a roast on Sundays, Thanks Giving is said to have been celebrated in its original form without a turkey. It's hard to imagine today ...
What is it that makes good vegetarian cuisine?
It must not pretend to be something it is not. Tofu sausages, for example, are not a vegetarian cuisine for me, but primarily food technology. And why do you have to work cauliflower until it is a meatball !? A good vegetarian kitchen is first and foremost independent.
The US is a huge country. You can even from the speak typical US cuisine?
No, American cuisine is actually as diverse as the country. And above all shaped by immigrants: it is like a thrown together heap of different influences. There are many European styles of cuisine, for example Italian, Irish and German. But just as of course Asian and last but not least Mexican. Over the decades, these kitchens have been interwoven like a colorful carpet and now together form the American kitchen.
Which of these influences is reflected most strongly in the book?
They're actually pretty evenly distributed. There are “Boston Baked Beans” as well as Greek Easter bread because the majority of diners are run by Greek families, Jewish potato pancakes or pasta Primavera with artichokes.
... although Pasta Primavera doesn't sound exactly American now.
I always try to explain that: you just can't clearly delineate American cuisine. The other day someone smiled at the whole book project and said that there wouldn't be anything more than steak, hamburgers and hot dogs. Therefore, in principle, I can only fall back on such “foreign” recipes and that would not be “honest” American cuisine.
But what if I cooked in the Italian kitchen without potatoes, tomatoes and polenta? After all, they all came over from (South) America at some point.
How do you have to imagine working on such a book? Where did the ideas and content come from?
I “nourished” myself from different sources: Some dishes come from my (childhood) memory, for example “Mac and Cheese”. Then I took on the "Encyclopedia of American Food and Drink" by John Mariani. This is a great standard work on American cuisine. But I also looked at the websites of Indian tribes, for example. They want to maintain part of their culture by passing on their recipes. Unfortunately, I couldn't take everything from it that I found exciting: bread that you first have to build an earth oven for and then bake in the ashes is not particularly suitable for everyday use ...
Which recipe is from Indian cuisine, for example?
The three sisters casserole ("Three Sisters Cobbler"). The sisters involved are corn, cucurbits, and beans. The native Americans always grew them together in one field because they benefited each other as they grew. And so it is in this recipe too! In this way, you also get a chronic look at the world of the Indians. That was a lot of fun.
Sounds like you would have rediscovered US cuisine through the book ...
You could say that! I cooked at the Four Seasons in the USA and at the Park Hyatt in Chicago and that's just a cosmos of its own, in which you don't really notice much of authentic American cuisine. And would never cook “Calas”, for example.
... and these are?
Sweet rice balls. The story behind it: Before Thomas Jefferson bought the French colony of Louisiana from Napoleon, French law prevailed there. Even with the slaves. And that said, firstly, slaves had to have one day off a week and, secondly, they could buy their way out if they could pay the price their owners asked for them. So in New Orleans on Sunday they collected the week's leftover rice, mixed it with eggs and sugar, made it into a mixture, shaped it into balls, fried it in oil and sold it. With the income from this they could then buy their way out. When the US bought Louisiana from the French, this business model was over. And so the recipe has also been forgotten. These are all things I didn't know before, and it's just exciting how the kitchen relates to history!
What is your favorite recipe from the book?
"Mac and Cheese". This is the Childhood memory. In American school canteens, powder used to be mixed with milk, which then resulted in a squeaky yellow, almost neon-colored cheese sauce. I can promise: my variant works without powder, but with spicy cheddar.
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