Everyone has their food truths, and immigrants and transplants in the U.S. are no exception. In fact, being away from home may accentuate your food truth, make it even truer, so to speak. What’s your food truth?
***There is no lentil soup like my mother’s lentil soup, no sour cherry pie like my grandmother’s, certainly no sauerkraut like my father-in-law’s. The highest quality, freshest artisan-made food can be found in Sonoma County, California, and no decent Mexican taquerias can be found north of the California-Oregon border. These are some of my food truths and no amount of evidence to the contrary can prove to me otherwise.
A certain amount of bias toward the food we were raised on and prepared by our families is natural. People with a love of food and who’ve grown up or spent a decent amount of time in a food-rich environment can have fairly extreme prejudices towards their own and against others. Ask any Californian who has relocated north where to find a good Mexican restaurant. The answer will likely be, “At least 500 miles south.”
A while back I had lunch in Petaluma, California with two designers who had recently relocated back to the area after a few years living in Portland, Oregon. Munching on our fresh greens we discussed the superiority of California cuisine, the difficulty in finding decent ethnic restaurants (other than Vietnamese) in Portland, and the benefits of California’s emphasis on fresh, light cuisine versus Portland’s overabundance of comfort foods. It was a California love-fest: three natives and their devotion to the food they know and love.
Was this a bad thing? Should we be ashamed of our culinary smack talk? Food is a component of tradition and if we view our own traditions as the only right and true traditions, do we shut ourselves off from experiencing different traditions that might be equally enjoyable and satisfying? Perhaps, especially if a sense of superiority keeps us from enjoying anything but our own mother’s cooking.
But the food we were raised with and have eaten for years of our lives is more than simply the taste in our mouths. My grandmother’s cherry pie is summers in Petaluma, swimming in their backyard pool, when my brother was still a cute little baby and my family was together. Mom’s lentil soup is gentle mothering and the feeling of abundance during our family’s bouts with poverty. My father in-law’s sauerkraut is a first Christmas in my now-husband’s home country. Our food truths are tied with our experiences, they can’t be replaced or substituted. It’s justifiable that in our food realities, these truths are universal.