Thursday, October 30, 2008

More Red Gravy

Making red gravy and tomato sauce made me think a lot about authenticity. When I made the sauces I made my grandmother's sauce the way she would have, not the way I would have today. Similarly, I made the red gravy the way I had learned to make it from cooking with friends, not the way I would have made it. Of course, I did it that way so that we would have a true test, especially since the same cooks, Sara Roahen and I, were making both dishes.

But being a child of New Orleans, I would normally put green peppers in my tomato sauce, even if my grandmother wouldn't have. Being a child of Sicilian grandparents, I would still add my anchovy to red gravy for depth of flavor. Making these dishes very different made chosing between them easier. This one tastes like Italy. This one tastes like New Orleans. But when we cook, we carry all of these things around with us, and our food, regardless of recipes and faithful renditions of food remembered, is personal. And I think that this is what makes it authentic.

As I get older I am more anxious to remember and leave the memory, either in writing or on tape, because I feel like a bridge to an earlier time. The food is the continuity. I am not sure how to keep that continuity from being interrupted. That is where a lot of my energy goes right now, to finding a way to keep the connection between the past and the future. It used to always happen in the kitchen, and without as many people cooking, I have not seen another bridge forming. The kitchen connection isn't sacred, but some connection is necessary. I want to find it.