Wednesday, November 26, 2014

NYT's miscues on Thanksgiving food don't obscure the value of family recipes and sharing them

Last week The New York Times published Thanksgiving recipes from all 50 states, as well as Washington, D.C., and Puerto Rico, after soliciting them from readers. (It later published a sizable correction.)

Some submissions were criticized by those who felt they did not properly represent their state's culinary characteristics. "The largest offense seemed to come from Minnesotans, who were given a mixture of grapes and sour cream for their holiday dish, a recipe attributed to an anonymous 'Minnesota-born heiress,'" Smith writes. Linda Holmes of NPR accused the NYT of "fly-over elitism."

Lora Smith of Kentucky sent in a family recipe for dressing, which was chosen for publication. "I wasn't the only one surprised, as some readers in Kentucky sounded off about it failing to represent a state rich with culinary diversity," Smith writes for the Daily Yonder.

The recipe doesn't speak for all Kentucky citizens, and no recipe could do that, Smith writes. Her family has been making it for four recorded generations, and the recipe is attributed to her great-grandmother. The Times adapted the recipe for national audiences by recommending the patties be cooked "in oiled muffin tins for consistency of shape instead of hand patting them," Smith writes.

Pieces of the Kentucky recipe are "tied to a larger experience," Smith writes. "There's certain ingredients and aspects of the recipe that open the door to stories about other shared rural experiences: hunting traditions within families, foraging practices and the use of the once abundant American chestnut tree in our region before blight erased it from our landscape."

Trendy chef Sean Brock, who grew up in Virginia near the Kentucky border and emphasizes local food at his Husk restaurants in Charleston, S.C., and Nashville, wrote recently on the Huffington Post that diners "are realizing that the food of their grandmothers is the most important food they will ever eat. I think people are really starting to experience this new sense of pride in regions, hometowns and families." (Read more)

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