Wednesday, October 29, 2008

Ethnic or Faux

Being in New York has only increased my interest in food, which was rather high to begin with. Even so, it has often surprised me to find out that some foods that are so strongly linked with certain cultures are actually not originally from those cultures. For example, chicken parmesan, a 'traditional' Italian dish, does not originate in Italy. In fact, chicken parm was created in the US in the mid 1930's, according to CHOW,

"Chicken Parmesan is a hybrid of dishes and ingredients from different parts of Italy,
brought together by the Neapolitan Italian communities in New York or New Jersey
during the 1930s. The big question is why it’s called “Parmesan,” since the primary cheese
used is mozzarella. The breaded meat and “Parmesan” name of the dish probably came
from the authentic costelette Parmigiana, a crumb-coated and deep-fried veal cutlet that
originated in Parma, Italy, and was served without sauce or cheese. The name, then,
comes from the town of origin, and not from the use of Parmesan. Mozzarella is an
addition from Campania, which is in southern Italy near Naples, far from Parma. In
Naples, southern Italian cooking produced a layered tomato-and-eggplant casserole dish
covered with melted buffalo mozzarella, now known as melanzane alla Parmigiana.
Chicken Parmesan would be unrecognizable to Italians for several reasons: the
combination of meat and red sauce, and the overload of mozzarella cheese."

A smililar tale applies to veal piccata, also an italian-american dish invented in the 1930's, when the Milanese (larding the veal) and Sicilian (lemons and capers) cooking styles comingled. Other dishes like this include chicken tikka masala, which is often thought to have been created in the UK to accomodate Indian food to British tastes and fried chow mein
, which were invented by chinese cooks working on the transcontinental railroad in the 1850s. The first fortune cookies were created in America, though there are a couple of different stories about who invented them. Pasta primavera was created by d’ Sirio Maccioni, the owner of Le Cirque, in 1976 and Ceasar salad is also not italian but was created in San Diego, although there are several accounts of the actual originator.

And of course burritos, my favorite mexican food, were in fact created somewhere in southern California,

Regardless of where it comes from, all of this food is delicious ...

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