Last night was spent having dinner and conversation with several Seattle Food Bloggers. For the first time I got to meet the folks behind such wonderful sites as Amuse-Bouche, Culinary Fool, I Heart Bacon, Orangette, and Tasting Menu.
We congregated at Malay Satay Hut and discussed (surprise, surprise) food blogs! The amount of passion that was on display at the table certainly made me feel less obsessive about the deeds that I do for dinner.
One of the things that was brought up, by Orangette if I recall, was the idea of context of food, an idea I wholeheartedly support. Although we didn’t really elaborate on this idea, it’s one that I believe is important when it comes to understanding food.
What people eat in any given area is determined. This means that there will be products which are readily available, and those which will be difficult to find. More often than not, these items are determined by economic status, tradition, accessibility, food knowledge, market forces and political forces (There are probably more, but those are the ones that rolled off the top of my head).
For example, those of us from the East coast mentioned the lack of good bagels or corned beef in Seattle. But as the Culinary Fool pointed out, these items are not here because there is no culinary tradition of those products here. What passes for a bagel or corned beef here survives, because the collective knowledge base in the Pacific Northwest allows the market to sell second and sometime third rate products. The best illustration of that in the Seattle area surrounds our search for the perfect pizza (which we’ve discussed here before).
Conversely, we can look at a town like Lawrence, KS and wonder just what is going on in their neck of the woods. There are local traditions and market forces (Beef is big time there, and decent BBQ can be had as it’s only an hour from Kansas City), but at the same time, this is a part of the country where Whole Foods just doesn’t exist. Do you think you can find decent prosciutto, salmon or Dim Sum there? Not likely. The context of their food traditions is completely different from what’s here in Seattle, or even in Chicago or New York, London or Paris.
I love the idea of context, as it allows us to see the bigger picture. That is one thought(of many) that I took from last nights get together.