Monday, November 22, 2010

East Coast vs West Coast

In my last post,  I commented on popular magazines (those with recipes), and here goes my rant. -- It seems (to me at least) that most magazines, these days, are created, researched and published on the East Coast. The recipes include ingredients that are probably easily found on the Eastern side of the country. Hello! We on the West Coast are having a difficult time finding some of the ingredients used in said recipes. Especially those of us living in small towns of 50,000 folks or less.  Additionally, one must point out that on the West Coast cities do not blend one into another (except for really big metropolitan areas like Seattle, Portland, the SF Bay Area, Los Angeles)?  How many "towns" can the East Coast claim to be surrounded by country - not many.  When we drive from one town to another we know where the city stops  because there is country, bare land or crop fields before the next city line begins.  This makes shopping for specialty items a problem because there is no one store or shopping center in surrounding towns that carries everything one needs.  And we are trying to be green - we are not willing to drive an hour to pick up a special delicacy.

One of the most frustrating items for me is "meatloaf mix".  As far as I know one cannot buy "meatloaf ground mix" which is 1/3 ground beef, 1/3 ground pork and 1/3 ground veal in Oregon. Mother asked her butcher for it and he claimed that it is illegal to sell mixed ground meats in Oregon. I can find ground beef and ground pork (not only in separate packages but they are also in separate areas at the meat counter) I have yet to find ground veal. I was hoping that when the new and glamorous, high-end Market of Choice store opened I would be able to find "3 meat-meatloaf mix" - no such luck.  So maybe Mom's butcher was right - meatloaf mix is illegal in Oregon!
It would be really great if the East Coast magazines that include cooking recipes would try them out with West Coast chefs or your home cooks as testers.  I'd sign up in a minute for the job!
And let us not get started on international cookbooks and recipes.  At a national chain book store one can purchase beautiful recipe books for just $-change.  The only problem is that these gorgeous full color cookbooks are published in England and in English-English without American-English translations.  I know that an "elevator" is, in English-English" a "lift" but I didn't know that an eggplant was an "aubergine". 
Years ago I had been stumped for ingredients called for by my Spanish Puerto Rican cookbook (that has, thank goodness, since then been translated into English). My Spanish to English dictionary came up with the translation of a spice as "maiden hair fern".  As a foodie,  fern lover and lover of Puerto Rican dishes, I knew not to throw any ferns into my pot of beans.   I now believe that the ingredient called for was "culantro" which is not available in Oregon (no big surprise) but has a taste that is stronger but similar to cilantro.  Substitutions are becoming my specialty!
Seemingly cooking-worlds apart, the East Coast is much more connected with the Caribbean islands while the West Coast looks to Mexico and the Hawaiian Islands.  Foods and the spices are not used in the same way by any of these mixed cultures.  East and West, we are all familiar with Mexican "refried" beans but in Puerto Rico the same pinto beans are not smashed into a paste but they are cooked with pumpkin and a variety of flavorings. So with a Caribbean-born partner (the love of my life) living on the West Coast and looking at recipes published in East Coast magazines and cookbooks from the loml's homeland you can bet that I have problems finding certain ingredients. 

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