Thursday, October 9, 2008

Lost in Translation

I returned this week from a week in Besancon, France, where I spent a week preparing for and participating in the food and music festival, Musique de Rues. (You will see a video of me talking about why I was there. Just scroll down.) This was a wonderful experience linking food and music, a totally natural combination. The people were welcoming and I explored the local food of the Franche-Comte region.

I also learned a valuable lesson. Recipes fall far short of explaining how to fix food that is not natively yours. In the kitchen with culinary students, I saw that "small pieces" of chicken were not as small as I thought. That onions, bell pepper and celery - sauteed for the gumbo - should not be pureed, just because they puree everything. That gumbo is a soup, but they think that it should be served on a plate. They don't want to mix the rice and gumbo. It is wierd for them to sprinkle file on at the table. I learned a lot about foodways, what I take for granted, about their curiosity and openness, how to write a recipe, and the universal language of the kitchen.

I appreciated the opportunity to talk about the many French influences on the food of Louisiana. I learned about the warmth of the people who welcomed me. They brought me home to eat with them. Oh what we learn in the kitchen and around a table!