Cooking with a History

by Kathryn Baldwin

Sometimes a memory can enhance a flavor, just like a memory clings to a song. Do you ever find yourself holding onto a song long after others are sick of it because it reminds you of… that one dance club in Mexico?… or that one car ride in high school? I do.

For me, food is the exact same way. Sprinkling sesame seeds on my mole enchiladas isn’t a meal-altering flavor boost; it reminds me of my host mother and makes me feel more and more nurtured with each bite. Eating ice cream out of a tall mug with added milk and a long, skinny spoon doesn’t change the flavor of the ice cream; it reminds me of my Pop and how I grew up admiring his quirky traditions.

Of course, this is all explained through Miguel de Cervantes’ words, written in Don Quixote (year 1605):

Translating from one language to another, …is like looking at Flemish tapestries from the wrong side, for although the figures are visible, they … cannot be seen with the smoothness and color of the right side.

As we choose our meal menu, or lost in thought as we chew, sometimes our dinner dates are sitting on the other side of the tapestry.

We may be thinking, “These purple potatoes remind me of that meal I had, sitting next to the clucking chickens in a rural Peruvian village.” But our dinner guest may be thinking, “Oh God, my ex boyfriend loved his stupid, purple Lakers jersey: I officially hate purple!”

The culture, the colors, the flavors, and the memories, which seep through our taste buds and into our souls with each bite, are ours to keep. I can try to describe why recipes or flavors speak to me, but you must cook with the passion that you find in your own history.

Recipe:

Giada tips her hat to Peru every time she cooks with Quinoa. I followed her recipe for “Quinoa with peas, potatoes, and olives” from her newest cookbook. I had tri-color Quinoa already in the cabinet to work with. Also, I didn’t hunt down “Peruvian potatoes,” I just used the darkest ones I could find (Did you know Peru has literally thousands of identified potatoes with names and distinct flavors?). I also packed the meal in a casserole dish and brought it to my sister’s for dinner a day later. Plus, I had it for lunch the day after that! Half of the recipe could feed a family of five as a side dish. My sister marinated chicken with lime, oregano, and red pepper flakes as the main protein. They were perfect together.

Come queens, come crooks! Come climbers, come quitters! Come coaches, come crews! This colorful, carnival of quinoa can calm cranky kids, can comfort complaining cooks, can connect cultural cues.

Keep cooking …

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