Friday, May 13, 2011

"New" Food

This is where I came from.  Huge plates of food, piled high with grits, garden fresh vegetables, slow cooked meats, tangy pickles, salty cornbread.  Where macaroni and cheese is considered a vegetable and gravy, a beverage.  The glorious South.

To me, there was nothing like food from home.  In part, at least the nostalgic part, I was right.  But as I spent more and more time traveling through Central and South America, I started to see that maybe I wasn't totally on point.  I ate and ate and more and more frequently I began seeing our Southern staple ingredients: corn, tomatoes, chiles, beans, rice, cabbage, pork, hominy all start overlapping with our neighbors to the south, the REAL deep South, I guess you could say.

Suddenly my plate of smoked pork shoulder, black-eyed peas, cole slaw, corn bread and rice pudding didn't seem so distinct.  When I had a craving for BBQ, Costa Rican chicharrones were a good substitute.  I reached for tamales to fill the void that cornbread left and I can take or leave rice pudding now that I've had arroz con leche with sweet condensed milk.  These Latin equivalents soon replaced their predecessors and now that I'm home I find myself craving them more than ever.  Now I'm beginning to view what I eat a little differently.  When writing new menus, I've inadvertently begun substituting and using ingredients from the two kitchens interchangeably, less in an attempt to create some sort of new "fusion" cuisine but more as an effort to pay attention to the already existing natural similarities of our two foods.  These are the things I want to accentuate in the food at PushStart.  Smoked pork shoulder, crispy tamale, white BBQ sauce, chile-lime corn nuts.  The way that the two naturally fit together a combination of familiar ingredients and flavors reorganized and presented in a contemporary method.  Fried green tomato, hearts of palm succotash, jamon serrano, lemon-mint vinaigrette.

Starting next week, I'll be traveling around to different markets to begin this research.  Check back here frequently for updates, new menu ideas and progress on the PushStart Kitchen re-do project.  We are aiming for our first dinner to be on the evening of May 28th, so everyone stay tunes and we'll be in touch!


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