Wednesday, September 12, 2007

The Great Debate: Cuisine Conclusion

After keeping the poll open an extra two days because of a seeming lax in voting on the subject its finally brought to a close.

Out of the 6 votes its tied dead even with 3 for "Yes" and 3 for "No".

I'm slightly disappointed in the votes and lack of responses/comments to this question as I was thinking that this is a serious culinary issue.

It dawned on me that perhaps we all view the idea of "Cuisine" quite differently, leading us to believe if it really is dying out.

I spent some time over the course of the vote to discuss the idea of cuisine with a few friends, fellow students, and chefs. It would seem allot of the younger generation doesn't seem to understand what exactly Cuisine is. When I asked some of the chef instructors for their view on the subject the answers were varied, but all had a good idea of what exactly what Cuisine really is.

I asked one student, one I did not know personally and in passing, their opinion and thoughts and the response was something like this:

"Well yeah, cuisine in America is alive and flourishing! I mean you've got Italian, Chinese, French.. you know all that stuff."

There are two fundamental things wrong that I see in this response. First, and foremost prevalent, the student in question saw Italian, Chinese, and French as all there was to cuisine. The area, no more so the style, of the food seemed to be what dictated cuisine to him. Secondly, all these are not American.

While America is a "melting pot" of cultures, beliefs, and lifestyles to say our cuisine is defined by styles from places around the world is a mistake.

That statement alone leads to another great point in this debate. Does America even have a Cuisine?

I believe the answer is a resounding DUH!, but what exactly it is seems to be fading further and further away. Awash in a sea of fast food, 30 minute meals, and commercialized convenience.

I hope that America awakens to the reality that we tread dreadfully close to losing one of the most profound aspects of a unique culture, Our Food Heritage.


methadoneklinic said...

I don't think i picked an answer to the poll and I hope my reasoning might explain some lack of response.

In your post, you relayed a passing encounter with a younger student regarding the topic. His response was seemingly uninformed. I think this illustrates that even among those who 'should' care about this issue, that it just doesn't rank as a "hot button" issue.

Now, before this comes across as confronting your opinions, I am not trying to say it isn't important. Perhaps, the kids response proves your point that it is indeed dying out. When even the culinary students don't care enough to understand the issue, how can someone outside the industry care or realize what is going on?

Another point in your post seemed to address the situation in America specifically. The little bit of food history I have picked up (mostly from reading your posts) seemed to indicate everything started in Europe (France from what I gather). Europe seems to have a knack for keeping history alive. So, is this an American problem mostly or do you see this as a global problem?

In my opinion, as long as there are those who wish to keep something going, it will. You will keep cuisine alive and well in your life and possibly turn some others on to it. This was the point of my previous label of "Vintage Cuisine". Seeing as, in America especially, we like to take anything outdated and slap the word Vintage on it to make it popular again. Remember, everything goes in cycles. What's dying to day will be the craze of tomorrow.

The Foodist said...

I think you make a valid point about people outside the industry not really caring. I think this may be part of the problem. There are a hundred reasons why exactly why I think Cuisine is dying out, but outside the professional landscape were seeing a decline in families eating together, families cooking together, even so much as families talking about their history.

What it boils down to is as a society we are numbing ourselves with fast food and commercial convenience. Now I’m not saying that it’s a terrible thing, but anything in a large amount is bad for you and what not.

I’m glad you mentioned what you’re picking up in the way of food history. I don’t want you to think that "our" food history comes directly from France, because that would be incorrect. I speak allot of French cooking because it’s the basis to professional kitchens. The first freelance (Free from the upper societies chains of servitude and control I should say) came during the French Revolution which kind of gave birth to modern restaurants. Restaurant is actually a word in French used to describe a restorative, not a place to eat. Go back in time and ask for a restaurant and you’d get a bowl of strong soup or broth.

But culinary history goes much further then that, the Mediterranean alone is the real home and birthplace of cuisine. From the expansion of the Roman Empire to the rise of the Moors during the dark ages the Mediterranean has been a fountain of food for countless ages.

Your right about Americas fascination with "Vintage" specifically when it applies to food. Look at the repeated and continued fascination we have with diners. For a few years we grow uber health conscious and wont go near them, then we have a television show that tells us how neat and "Vintage" they are and everyone goes running.

To say that cuisine is dying out is one thing, to say its dead would be a mistake. Your right, there will always be pockets of people who strive to stay with time honor traditional and to stay true to cuisine. But as a country I think right now, more then ever, we need to remember who we are and were we come from... a big part of which has to do with what we eat.

tyronebcookin said...

I believe what I cook almost every day is American Cuisine, more specifically Southern.

I may have influences...but I usually choose to not label a food as italian (for example) when I cook it, but rather italian style, or mediteranean style.

Most of my own personal cuisine (what I cook for friends, family, naturally at home...not a paid gig)is influenced by 'simple country folk', Creole, Americans of African decent, the Caribbean...I feel its imperative to keep this 'cuisine' by resourcing ingredients that are indigenous to my area.

I think Alton Brown is doing an interesting and excellent job on his new series (now season 2) Feeding on Asphalt...and you are seeing an American Cuisine uncovered/discovered.

He has yet to uncover a blatant mom & pop thai restaurant, or french, or .....

Ah, but I may err in not really knowing the definition of 'cuisine'.

I think like all things, it will go full circle and end up here once again...but only after trying all the latest greatest things and getting triple bypass surgery.

If only we would take a more collective pride in our country...including defining its cuisine.