Saturday, August 1, 2015

Embrace culture through your stomach :)

     In my culture we have an expression : "The way to the man's heart is laying through his stomach". That's why being a guest at Russian woman's place you will notice how she is concerned with everybody being full :)). For me as a bright representative of this culture, being an expat I would adjust the expression to : "The way to adjust to a new culture is laying through your stomach", or simply "trying the national dishes". We are blessed to experience different cuisines travelling abroad and in US you can try a diversity of cuisines without leaving the country. I strongly believe that food is really demonstrative to show the culture from inside out. If you are open to different types of food you would agree with me that it is not only the taste of the food but the way you eat. It is the length of serving, the pauses between dishes if any, the types of dishes, plates and cups, the order of the dishes, and the specific rituals. All of this combined together gives you an idea of the culture you are experiencing.
     I am always glad to hear stories of native people explaining the native dish, as it has been affected by culture, history, climate, religion. You may get to know much more from these stories than from a google search. For example, why do you think Russians eat so many pickles? I am not a history expert, but I would tell you that having winter for more than 3 months in most parts of my big country taught people to preserve fresh fruits and vegetables in a conserved way. I remember when I was little, my grandma used to have dedicated day to prepare conserved food with whole my family all together helping in our summer house. We canned pickles, tomatoes, different kind of jams, fruit drinks, vegetable mixes, etc. So when the winter hits and fresh fruits and vegetables would be only imported with huge price increases we would still be able to receive our portion of vitamins from our conserved cans from the previous summer.
     Anyway, not to be wordy I will give you couple of examples to compare with your own stomach. For the next couple of dinners plan go to American Diner and then go to Moroccan Restaurant. How is that experience different?
   There are several nice places in Philadelphia with good Moroccan cuisine (Fez, I particularly liked, Marakesh, Casablanca, by the way all advised by originally Moroccan). If you're not an expert of Moroccan food, try the 7 courses meal. Your experience starts as soon as you enter the place and you see the carpets, the low tables and the atmosphere in general. Sometimes you eat with hands, sometimes you are lucky to be on time for the belly dancing show. Overall we spend about 2 hours there.

    Can you imagine something like this in an American Diner? I would start complaining why it is taking so long. America is the home of progress. People here live fast. That's why the most native dish, if you think about it, would be some kind of sandwich, the one you can eat on the way. In different areas you will find the most authentic type of sandwich: Cheesesteak in Philly vs Dipp Sandwich in Colorado vs Pastrami Sandwich in NYC vs Crab Cake Sandwich in Maryland, etc. I am happy I can grab my coffee and croissant in drive-thru and not waste time to stop for a snack while I am hurrying somewhere. It always comes to the basic economical principal: "The demand dictates supply". We can see other examples of  this principal being true. Because of the nation's diversity and strong feeling of your personal rights you have an opportunity to change your order in every American Restaurant depending on your allergy, diet or simply taste. I always get rid of onions, yeaahhh!!
     Knowing that most of you, my readers, are foreigners and trying to stay fit embracing American food, which I would say not always easy for food-lovers like me; I decided to share with you my personal favorite low-fat Meatloaf recipe. So even if you used to cook at home you would try something truly American.
Oat bran (or Oats) Meatloaf.
portions: I would say for big 6 portions
time of cooking: 10 mins preparation, 1 hr cooking.
ingredients; 2 lbs ground beef, 1 cup tomato sauce ( you can mix tomato sauce with salsa or I also like to mix with 1/3 cup of Barbecue sauce for a flavor), 1/2 cup of chopped onion, 1 egg, 3/4 cup of Oat bran or Quaker oats, 1 tablespoon of Worcestershire or Soy sauce, salt and pepper.
Chop onion. While preparing ingredients, start preheating your oven for 350F. Mix all ingredients in a ball. Create a meatloaf shape, put it in a loaf pan (I use pan for baking and put baking paper on the bottom). It will not really attach, because fat will go out of ground beef. Bake for 1 hour. Pour couple of spoons of liquid on top of the meatloaf for juiciness if you not eating it right away. Get rid of all the rest liquid. Enjoy just by itself or pair with fresh salad.

Sorry, the picture doesn't show whole Meatloaf, but it was so smelly, I couldn't resist ;))).
Buon appetito to everybody!