America vs. France: Cooking Edition

I cooked dinner tonight.

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I was tempted to call it “Zucchini et por la Fwench”, which means, “Zucchini, eaten by the French” in some local, organic, low French dialect. Or something.

But I caught myself. It’s really just called, “Zucchini Eggs.”

I was talking to a friend about this dish that my mom makes a lot in the summer.

“You sauté shredded garden-fresh zucchini and peppers in oil. Then stir in eggs and scramble everything together. Sprinkle with browned sausage and cheese. Voila. Zucchini Eggs.”

“Don’t you mean an “omelet”?

No. I mean zucchini eggs.

Does anyone else feel the pressure to change “everyday” things to obscure, “exciting,” foreign things so that we can accept them? My question is: why can’t we just eat zucchini eggs? Why must we name it something else? And if it has to be something else, why does it always have to be French?

Really now. It’s just eggs and zucchini. Why does it have to be French? In fact, why do we give a ______ about the French at all? We all pretend to love the French. Rather, we love the stereotype of the French. And what is their stereotype? That they are cultured and snobby. Why would we celebrate snobbishness? Why wouldn’t we instead want to celebrate the dozens of loving, faithful cooks who have cooked for us over the years? Our mothers and grandmothers, never snobby, and certainly not French.

Why don’t we celebrate the thousands of meals prepared for our own tired bodies by cooks who would also like to be sitting down to their favorite Netflix— Oh wait, I forgot. Our parents didn’t watch Netflix. They selflessly slaved away in the kitchen.

My own mother felt the pressure. When she served leftovers, she began Naming Things. We were too small to know what “Comment allez-vous” meant. All we knew was that it meant all the leftovers in the frigerator were fried up in a skillet and served with a big bottle of ketchup. My mom alternated between “Comment allez-vous” and “Romaine Hash.” As young children, we began to disdain the French, the Romanians, and their ketchup. I think it would have been just as well if my mother had chosen more local dishes. “Midwestern Mixed Meats”, for example. Or “Vittles in the Valley”. A rose, after all, as the poet says, by any other name would smell as sweet. With or without ketchup.

All I’m saying is that we don’t have to stamp Eiffel Towers on everything to make it more “cultured”. (Besides, the French don’t even like the Eiffel Tower. “That ugly thing?” they say. … … … They would.) So instead of implanting foreign names and silly stereotypes on our own local dishes, let’s call them what they are: good home-cooked food.

As much as I love trying ethnic foods, even French foods (if you live in central Ohio, you simply must visit La Chatelaine), I’m realizing that my body does best with the food I’ve grown up with. Homegrown vegetables. Simple meat and potatoes meals. But I’m not allowed to say that. I can’t celebrate Amish and Mennonite foods because “they’re fattening.” Yeah, they are if you eat too much of them. Simply: don’t. We should celebrate the healthy foods our mothers and grandmothers have fixed for us for years. And we should celebrate the culture that has produced these foods. No matter if that culture is “down-home”, “countrified”, or even cooked up in an iron skillet.

(I made zucchini eggs in an iron skillet.) Yeah, move over, Le Creuset, “circa 1925”. (Do the French think they own everything?) Lodge has 30 years of experience on you. Since 1896, Lodge Cast Iron has been helping out American pioneer families. Thank you very much, Le Creuset, my grandmother and my mother have always cooked in cast iron, and I’ll probably do the same. You know, my mom bought me a Lodge cast iron skillet from Lehmen’s Hardware (what do you think of that?) before I moved this summer.

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And I really really like my cast iron skillet. In which I cook “boring” American dishes like… zucchini eggs. So eat that.

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