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nadia
03-09-2010, 08:08 AM
Hello! Let's talk about how our cultures and backgrounds influence how/what we cook.

This should be a very interesting thread, because every single one of us cooks something in the manner of our ancestors. We may break our parents' and grandparents' hearts when we assimilate, marry out of the faith and drop religion like a Bible made out of hot iron, but when grandmother teaches us how to make bagels crispy on the outside and light and chewy on the inside, we listen and nevar forget.

Moreover, food preparation transcends race and colour. A white person might cook Greek food, which is different from European Jewish food, which is different from Irish food. A black person might cook Jamaican food, which is different from African food, which is different from Trinidadian food. And of course, everyone of any colour can adopt each other's recipies.

4 INSTANCE: My Hungarian grandmother taught my Irish mother how to cook, so I grew up with a lot of Hungarian and Ashkenazi Jewish cuisine. Simple stuff, but comfort food at its best.

My Hungarian heritage is illustrated by my love affair with paprika. The taste is mild but flavourful, and it adds a unique texture to meats and soups and stews. My sister-in-law is from Trinidad, and she stews a lot of her meats and whatnot, which is something I've started doing. So when I make a pot roast, it doesn't go in the oven anymore. It boils for several hours with a great deal of paprika (in addition to onion, garlic, beef base, and salt). Halfway through cooking, I throw potatoes in there. In the end I have a tender roast with amazing potatoes and a thick and hearty soup stock for later use.

And even though my mother doesn't cook much in the way of Irish cuisine, there's still some influence in there. She often makes champ--mashed potatoes with green onions boiled in milk. She's also a convert to Judaism, so our meals for the high holy days often feature roast turkey. Jews are cooking turkey for holidays a lot more than they used to, but when my mom started doing it, it was seen as kind of a strange thing to do.

Oh and she still insists on cranberry sauce, which is not something you'll see often on a Jewish dinner table, turkey or no.

So, what's your story?

Also, viva gefilte fish.

pence
03-09-2010, 08:16 AM
I am a horrible person, since I have actively avoided my mother's recipes for German potato salad. However, I have eagerly carried forward her recipe for stroganoff and method for preparing meatballs. All meats should be served with sour cream, mushrooms and egg noodles.

Chasmang
03-09-2010, 08:24 AM
I'm fortunate enough, when it comes to food, to be of mostly Cajun descent so I have lots of access to super flavorful foods which are nothing like what popular food culture seems to think.

Unfortunately, I haven't learned much of it myself yet. I should probably get on that before I move away.

Ethan
03-09-2010, 08:35 AM
My mother is a Jew from Virginia with northeastern European roots, and my father is an immigrant from Hong Kong. I'm not sure I've really combined those influences in a unique way, but I'm a big fan of traditional Jewish cuisine, and my introduction to authentic Chinese food at a very young age opened me up to pretty much all East Asian cuisines. My home cooking is usually something between Italian and Americanized French, so... not sure where I got those tendencies.

nadia
03-09-2010, 08:52 AM
The combination of Asian and Jewish cooking would be interesting! All I can think of is Philadelphia rolls--sushi with smoked salmon and cream cheese. Hardly counts, I know, but damn tasty.

Bergasa
03-09-2010, 10:08 AM
I am a horrible person, since I have actively avoided my mother's recipes for German potato salad.

That is horrible of you. My heritage is German as well, and my Gram Gram's potato salad is one of my favourite things.

nadia
03-09-2010, 10:12 AM
Describe to me this potato salad. My mom's potato salad was adapted from my grandmother's. It includes potatoes (really!!!), eggs, mayo, shredded carrots, and the secret ingredient, Kosher-style dill pickles.

Must be Kosher-style. Ideally, Strub's. (http://www.strubpickles.com/)

Sarcasmorator
03-09-2010, 10:23 AM
My family never really ate much German cuisine (my Dad's parents came over in the 50s). We tended toward American comfort food growing up.

My wife has a French background, so I've had a lot of foods in the last seven years that I'd never had before, but mostly my wife just makes stuff up. She likes pine nuts and peanutty foods, and is terrific at making a full meal out of whatever's lying around in the house. Awesome pizza and focaccia baker (same recipe for dough, difference is in how many rises), and very good at cakes, cupcakes, pies, etc. We have a good division of cooking labor: If it goes in a pan, I make it. If it goes in the oven, she makes it.

My favorite French tradition: Thirteen desserts on Christmas Eve.

Bergasa
03-09-2010, 10:29 AM
Describe to me this potato salad. My mom's potato salad was adapted from my grandmother's. It includes potatoes (really!!!), eggs, mayo, shredded carrots, and the secret ingredient, Kosher-style dill pickles.

Must be Kosher-style. Ideally, Strub's. (http://www.strubpickles.com/)

The potato salad you are describing sounds a lot like the one we get from Costco; it's by Moishe's steak house in Quebec. It's really great too, but my Grandma's recipe is quite different.

It's not mayo-based like a lot of potato salads. Instead, it's oil-based. Ingredients are potatoes (Yukon gold I believe), pickles, green onions, boiled egg, and oil (olive oil maybe? Maybe Canola). Sometimes my Grandma used to put bacon bits into it too. I have never made it myself, so I don't know the specifics, but that is mostly it. It's really light compared to some potato salads that feel thick and heavy because of the mayo.

Dadgum Roi
03-09-2010, 10:46 AM
Southern here, so basically English food by way of Africa. Lots of : stewed vegetables flavored with meat scraps, vinegary hot sauces, corn in various guises, fresh seafood. My grandmother's mind had gone before I took much of an interest in this stuff, so I am slowing learning via vintage cookbooks and such.

Balrog
03-09-2010, 11:19 AM
My wife will cook some German recipe her grandma used to cook every once in a while but they don't do much for me. My mom's from the South so I tend to cook a lot of stuff the way she did...I fry it. Does anyone else put a little bit of bacon in their green beans? I've always wondered where my mom got that from, I guess it's a southern thing.

Man, I've got a hankerin' for some fried okra now.

gamin
03-09-2010, 11:39 AM
The culinary traditions in my house had very little to do with my parents' cultural or racial backgrounds. My mother was half German, half Anglo-American and her best meals were Italian in origin; the pasta from spinach noodles she'd make herself was amazing, as was her pasta salad. Aside from that, she drew from a wide cross cultural influence and a lot of Americana--meatloaf, chicken breasts, baked potatoes, stir fry, beef stew, pea/potato/lentil soups.

Stiv
03-09-2010, 11:54 AM
The side of my family that actually cooks is Croatian and Irish, and they've only ever mixed together on one occasion: Macaroni and cheese casserole (Irish) with a tomato-based sauce on it (Croatian). Other than that all of my family food is Croat, mostly involving lamb. I'm going to be making my great-grandma's rizot (lamb stewed with tomatoes and rice) for the first time in a couple of weeks and I'm pretty excited!

The only other thing my family is notable for is their absolutely perfect spaghetti sauce. I actually had a discussion with a pro chef a couple weeks ago about how to make the perfect sauce, and I was a little surprised when he knew the family secret: Cinnamon instead of sugar. And not a pinch of cinnamon, a lot of cinnamon.

Oh, and growing up in the southwest brings its own variety of cuisine knowledge. I know how to make very good mexican food, salsa, and chili, but those are mostly through experimentation and not a family thing.

Ample Vigour
03-09-2010, 11:59 AM
My Dad cooked Dad food (the only authentic Indian dish I know is frybread). I learned to cook from the same mix of cookbooks and Iron Chef reruns as most everyone else under 40.

Dadgum Roi
03-09-2010, 12:14 PM
My mom's from the South so I tend to cook a lot of stuff the way she did...I fry it. Does anyone else put a little bit of bacon in their green beans? I've always wondered where my mom got that from, I guess it's a southern thing.


Yeah, bacon/fatback etc. are pretty common vegetable additions here.

Sheana
03-09-2010, 12:59 PM
Anyone who can stomach gefilte fish is an amazing person in my book, as to me it's basically fish SPAM.

I'm Irish-Polish, though there's no real Irish heritage to my cooking other than "POTATOES ARE DELICIOUS". My mom and her side of the family are Polish immigrants though, so there's plenty of home-made ethnic dishes goin' on there. I myself only know how to make a couple things: leniwe pierogi (aka Lazy Dumplings/cheese noodles), poppyseed cake and some half-assed latkes that I never really actually make because I don't care for potato pancakes.

nadia
03-09-2010, 02:38 PM
Anyone who can stomach gefilte fish is an amazing person in my book, as to me it's basically fish SPAM.


I think you have to be born a Jew to not be completely repulsed by gefilte fish. Given my family's love for pissing off God by marrying outsiders, we have a lot of non-Jews who join us for every festive meal. None of them will so much look at the fish, including my mom. The rest of us are totally OM NOM NOM--after we slather on plenty of chrain (http://www.jewishworldreview.com/0404/chrain_chronicles.php3) (hot horseradish and beetroot sauce).

My grandmother used to make imitation gefilte fish with chicken. It was stunningly delicious. She called it by a name I can't hope to spell, but it was just Hungarian for "false fish."

Sarcasmorator
03-09-2010, 02:43 PM
I was mixing up gefilte fish with lutefisk in my head; it actually sounds pretty good.

And that's no lye!

nadia
03-09-2010, 02:46 PM
I was mixing up gefilte fish with lutefisk in my head; it actually sounds pretty good.

And that's no lye!

Gefilte fish is made of different kinds of fish (pike and whitefish are popular choices) ground up, shaped into small loaf-like pieces, and served cold in a jellied broth.

Lutefisk is the Devil's vomit.

Sarcasmorator
03-09-2010, 02:52 PM
Lutefisk is the Devil's vomit.

You see why it was a problem to mix them up in my head.

Red Hedgehog
03-09-2010, 02:54 PM
I think you have to be born a Jew to not be completely repulsed by gefilte fish. Given my family's love for pissing off God by marrying outsiders, we have a lot of non-Jews who join us for every festive meal. None of them will so much look at the fish, including my mom. The rest of us are totally OM NOM NOM--after we slather on plenty of chrain (http://www.jewishworldreview.com/0404/chrain_chronicles.php3) (hot horseradish and beetroot sauce).

Oh yes. Gefilte fish with horseradish is the way to do it. We won't be having it at our seder this year because my dad and I are probably the only ones who will eat it and I understand this even if it makes me a little sad.

My father's family is Eastern European Jew and my mother is a Scottish/Scandinavian mix, but neither (nor any grandparents) really taught me the recipes of their people. My mom mostly cooked from Joy of Cooking and Moosewood and so I have quite a bit of new American in my repertoire along with various other things I picked up in college from sharing recipes with friends. I am finally going to get my dad's fried matzoh recipe when I go visit for passover this year.

Marfy
03-09-2010, 02:55 PM
My mom doesn't cook. My dad's family is Irish (at least, they celebrate their Irish heritage very fervently) but due to his mom raising 5 kids on her own, most of the meals he describes her making were "Kraft dinner with ketchup and if you didn't like it you'd go to bed hungry". I remember her making really good food at holidays before she died, though. He can cook some good stuff and has always gone out his way to make me great vegetarian meals, but none of it is particularly ethnic.

So I guess what I'm trying to say is that my food heritage is the microwave.

nadia
03-09-2010, 03:02 PM
So I guess what I'm trying to say is that my food heritage is the microwave.

Maybe so, but from your use of the term "Kraft Dinner" and the mention of ketchup in your KD, I can deduce you are of Canadian origin. Y/N?

You see why it was a problem to mix them up in my head.

Well, if you want to be more accurate, I'd say go ahead and refer to gefilte fish as the Devil's poop.

I am finally going to get my dad's fried matzoh recipe when I go visit for passover this year.

Fried matzoh sounds awesome. One year, my friend and I made matzoh nachos.

I partnered up with the same friend for a school project on foods from our heritage. Since I went to a school with a large Jewish population, everyone was going to bring in hamantaschen--three-cornered cookies filled with cherries, poppy seeds, and other wonderful things. Easy to make, delicious to consume.

I really wanted to do something different, so we tried to think of suitable Irish dishes and came up totally dry. We made the stupid hamantaschen and they all stuck together in the oven and looked like a mutant.

Sven
03-09-2010, 03:25 PM
Well, I generally don't like Indian food all that much (cue the running self-hating gag that also ties into nuking Ghandi whenever possible in Civ), but I use Indian spices in a lot of things. But I'm pretty orthodox in most of my food, albeit with a bit of a french bent now because Kelly likes a lot of that (since she's Italian, it's generally new to her).

mopinks
03-09-2010, 03:44 PM
even though I grew up around gefilte fish, I still can't bring myself to eat it. it looks like alien brains.

my great grandma's too old to make chicken paprikash anymore, but hers was so good. I think I need to steal that and her matzoh ball soup recipe before she gets any older! somehow none of her old world culinary knowledge got passed on to her daughter, so my dad grew up with meatloaf and boiled sacks of frozen broccoli.

Marfy
03-09-2010, 04:21 PM
Maybe so, but from your use of the term "Kraft Dinner" and the mention of ketchup in your KD, I can deduce you are of Canadian origin. Y/N?

I was born in Georgia and lived there all my life, but both my parents are from Buffalo, NY which is basically Canada. I had no idea that Kraft Dinner was a Canadian phrase until recently!

Red Hedgehog
03-09-2010, 04:26 PM
Fried matzoh sounds awesome. One year, my friend and I made matzoh nachos.

It is. It's basically matzoh and chicken fat all fried up and makes a delicious (if unhealthy) breakfast.

Sheana
03-09-2010, 04:47 PM
My ex was Jewish and I attended a Seder with him once, so I tasted a variety of different foods. I can honestly say I quite enjoyed the matzoh ball soup, and would definitely have some again if I had the opportunity.

Comb Stranger
03-09-2010, 08:51 PM
My parents are Irish and Irish, and neither can cook.

Ethan
03-09-2010, 08:56 PM
Chicken fat, eh?

In my childhood household, "fried matzo" was basically a French toast variant made with broken up matzo and topped with a little bit of sugar. I loved it.

shivam
03-09-2010, 09:05 PM
i make indian food. my wife makes white people food. it's very strange sometimes, cause she insists that sweets can only be eaten after meals, and that you can't have two starches together, when the core function of gujarati food is rice, potatos, wheat, and lentils, in some proportion.

Brickroad
03-09-2010, 09:30 PM
lol "white people food"

shivam
03-09-2010, 09:33 PM
well, what else do you call lightly steamed green beans, and plain rice with cheese and peas, or pasta and salad? It sure as hell ain't 'ethnic'.

That said, my wife and I fucking love food and cooking, so we're always adventuring into random culinary experiments, and she's really good at it, so it works out.

Brickroad
03-09-2010, 09:35 PM
well, what else do you call lightly steamed green beans, and plain rice with cheese and peas, or pasta and salad? It sure as hell ain't 'ethnic'.

"Vegetarian."

Balrog
03-09-2010, 09:39 PM
"no soul food"

Red Hedgehog
03-09-2010, 09:41 PM
Chicken fat, eh?

In my childhood household, "fried matzo" was basically a French toast variant made with broken up matzo and topped with a little bit of sugar. I loved it.

Yeah, most people have matzo brei prepared sweet. But I think savory tastes much better.

i make indian food. my wife makes white people food. it's very strange sometimes, cause she insists that sweets can only be eaten after meals, and that you can't have two starches together, when the core function of gujarati food is rice, potatos, wheat, and lentils, in some proportion.

I went to a gujarati restaurant the other day that was all you can eat. So good, but I was so stuffed.

nadia
03-10-2010, 04:00 PM
I thought I made it kind of clear that there's no such thing as "white people food" at the start of this thread, but I guess I faild. :(

I wanted to start the thread specifically to explore how food breaks down from race to race. I think it's interesting. What your wife cooks still sounds very different from what a German person might cook (if they were sticking to their native menu, of course). Maybe "American" fits better than "White," but even that's too broad a descriptor from coast-to-coast.

Dizzy
03-10-2010, 04:15 PM
I thought I made it kind of clear that there's no such thing as "white people food" at the start of this thread, but I guess I failed. :(

No, shivam's just racist.

NevznachaY
03-13-2010, 05:04 AM
I'm boring because I'm strictly Russian ethnically (maybe a bit Jewish, but I'm not sure). So I get all my foreign recipes from external sources.

Merus
03-13-2010, 07:57 AM
Similarly, my family self-identifies as Australian, and so that's sort of how we cook.

As far as I'm aware there's a few main elements to Australian cuisine: seafood is fairly common; there's usually a salad, or several different kinds of salad; Australian chefs constantly filch ideas.

Sarcasmorator
03-13-2010, 08:01 AM
I'm boring because I'm strictly Russian ethnically (maybe a bit Jewish, but I'm not sure). So I get all my foreign recipes from external sources.

But what do boring Russians eat? Because I sure don't know.

NevznachaY
03-13-2010, 01:36 PM
The flesh of fallen enemies.

Speaking of national dishes, my mother excels at (and my grandmothers excelled at):

- Sirniki (cottage cheese fritters);
- Roasted duck with apples and buckwheat;
- Okroshka (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Okroshka);
- Russian PIEEEEEEES (specifically egg + cabbage, but also others);
- Fried potatoes (kinda like roesti) with mushrooms and sour cream;
- Beef stewed with carrots and potatoes in small clay pots;
- Whole lot of pancakes - various flour, various fillings (most notably, salted salmon and salmon roe);
- Beef stroganoff;
- Minced chicken/turkey croquettes;
- Boiled beef tongue;
- Assorted kashas;
- Mushroom soup.

That's the main list.

Therefore, those are the things I love (I know how to cook some of them).

demonkoala
03-13-2010, 09:29 PM
"no soul food"
Ziiiing

I cook a whole lot of whatever. I cook food from my cultures, but they sure as hell don't cross, since they're polar opposites.

Dadgum Roi
03-14-2010, 05:50 AM
well, what else do you call lightly steamed green beans, and plain rice with cheese and peas, or pasta and salad? It sure as hell ain't 'ethnic'.

Gotta go with shivam here. Sounds like typical generic post-war middle class "American" food. The kind of thing my grandmother would have made if she were reading Betty Crocker that month instead of Southern Living.

shivam
03-14-2010, 10:57 AM
to be fair, my wife's parents are incredibly adventurous foodies normally, but recently they've been on a hyper minimalist kick, so their food is super simple.

and again, it's balanced by the fact that my wife and i absolutely love cooking and eating fun and different things =)