Thursday, March 01, 2007

Ethnic foods

Sauerbraten with boiled potatoes

As my friend Suzanne said, "How come a nice jewish girl like you can make such amazing christmas cookies? <munch munch>" - but that's the point of being American, right? we can adopt whatever cultures we like, albeit running the risk of being a poseur or a fake or a wigger (what the middle school & HS kids call the white kids who act a little too ghetto).

Surely with food, it's relatively harmless, the worst results are merely tasteless, literally and figuratively, like the fast food chain we have here in the Midwest, Carlos O'Kellys. My dad was a Russian Jew, whose family came to the US in the early 1900s; my mom was the daughter of Germans who were part of the mass immigration to the US in the 1850s, settling in Ohio - that's on her mother's side; her dad's side was Scottish. So presumably I can adopt any food ways of any of those cultures that I like, and I like Christmas cookies - I've always had a little inside joke that one of the cookies that I bake for Christmas, Ruggelach, is really Jewish.

Last week, I made sauerbraten, one of my mom's standards, passed down no doubt from my German grandmother. Yesterday I made most of the leftover meat (still a few more sandwiches for me; as Suz says <munch munch>) into Tex-Mex Beef Enchiladas, based on a recipe from Martha's Everyday Food mag. Instead of the ground beef that the recipe calls for, I used shredded up sauerbraten beef, that had been cooked with cinnamon and cloves and bay leaves and red wine, which is actually not at all UN-Mexican, as I learned years ago from a nice Irish girl, who was fluent in Spanish. This friend, who had spent a lot of time working with farm workers and Cuban "refugees" - here in Wisconsin (a lot of anti-Castro, middle class Cubans moved to WI in the late 1970s and '80s) - served us beef tacos spiced with cinnamon and cloves, and chile powder. Later, working in a restaurant that served spicey foods from Mexico, India, the Mediterranean, and Africa, I learned that cinnamon and sweet-sour with beef or pork is a common combination in Mexico and Spain, but until Carol served me those tacos, the only place I had tasted cinnamon with meat before was in sauerbraten.

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