Sunday, April 27, 2008

You say paella . . . I say jambalaya . . . let’s call the whole thing yummy!

In New Orleans last week, I took a course in Creole and Cajun cooking, and I appreciate the point our instructor, Saundra, made about what happens when populations migrate to new areas with their old recipes in tow. Essentially, they must use what they have at hand in their new environment and adapt their recipes as best they can.

For example, European settlers to the Louisiana lowcountry brought their recipe for paella, and it metamorphosed into jambalaya, as they had to substitute tomatoes for the saffron and oysters for the mussels. In the process, a wonderful new cuisine was born.

Corinne puts the finishing touches on the jambalaya. With a dish this varied and flavorful, you’ll never miss the saffron and mussels!

As she handed everyone a packet of recipes, she encouraged us to make gumbo at home. “But,” she said, “if you live where there’s no andouille, use what you have—kielbasa or chorizo or whatever is native to where you come from.”

This is the way it has always been done. We cling to our customs and recipes, but as we settle in new places, we have to make adjustments. With humankind's propensity to roam the earth, who’s to say how authentic any recipe--or any custom--is?

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