At market on Saturday I was extolling the virtues of the overlooked Romano green bean, listing tenderness, flavor and a couple of my favorite recipes from beans I’d blanched and froze. One of those is the ubiquitous Midwest green bean casserole, routinely made with cream of something soup and topped with dehydrated onion from a can. Seen at Lutheran potlucks and family gatherings. My friend of Korean ancestry scowled, asking probing questions about this soon to be maligned sacred dish.
And he’s correct, no matter how delicious the beans, the dish is really a cultural food icon, one that we look for during holiday meals, our memories much better than the actual dish. And only when someone with our green bean casserole cultural bias points it out, do we see it for what it is – our grandma’s best attempt at using frozen or canned beans (and a pretty good marketing campaign by the dehydrated onion people).
The significance of our favorite foods or preparation of those foods is often more deeply entrenched in the relationships or how they intertwine into our family stories and histories than the actual flavor of the food. And today’s green bean casserole with really good romano beans is probably much much better than the one my Grandma made 50 years ago, but it’s still nostalgic comfort food.
Perhaps, this is one of the reasons we’re so afraid to try new preparations for the items you find in your weekly share. Perhaps, we’re somehow wired for foods we know and trust. Dishes that meet our expectations based on previous samplings. Why so many people love to watch cooking shows and the Food Network, but few actually try the recipes. Even many of our CSA members explain how much they love the recipes, reading them and imagining how they would taste or if their family would like the flavor combinations. Then they add – BUT; but I don’t have time; but it seems a little too different than what we normally eat; but. . .
I want to challenge you to step out of your own cultural food bias. I want to challenge you take the cauliflower in this week’s share, and make something Indian; with made from scratch toasted spices to a prepackaged spice and sauce mix purchased at the grocery store. I want to challenge you to try the Purslane, make a pesto using the recipe Chef Shel contributed to the newsletter and demonstrated at the West Allis Farmers Market last Saturday. I want to challenge you to take that whole head of juicy fresh garlic and roast it, then spread it on a beautifully toasted slice of whole grain bread, perhaps with soup (tomato, cauliflower or carrot all sound easy and delicious) on the side.
Take this week, trying one new flavor or recipe. I’d like to guarantee that it will taste delicious and you will be a changed person. And maybe that will happen. It could just as easily taste less than stellar. But that’s part of the challenge of stepping out, finding what works is often a result of what didn’t work and then trying again with changes and twists. I can’t wait to hear what you try this week.