The Best Food Is Peasant Food

Any intermediate-level home cook knows about the concept of deglazing. And if you're a student of French cuisine, you'll also know that the idea of deglazing was an insight from French peasantry: it was a way take very little meat--or meat of not the greatest quality--and get a lot of flavor impact out of it.

Likewise, dishes like Coq au Vin also reveal the brilliance of a resourceful peasantry: take a not-particularly-prized type of meat (in this case an old, tough rooster who, uh, can't quite do his job any more), cook it for a long time in cheap red wine, et voila: a delicious, hearty and healthy meal with amazing flavors. A meal like this didn't cost a lot to cook a few centuries ago in rural France, and it doesn't cost much today.

Consider the lowly catfish: a perceived low-end fish that Cajun cuisine adapted to produce astonishingly delicious meals. See, for example, Paul Prudhomme-Style Fried Catfish, an easy and out-of-this world delicious recipe we featured here two years ago during our 30 Days of New Recipes trial. Rich people a century or two ago would never eat catfish. Today, they line up for it at the finest Cajun restaurants.

When I spent three weeks in Medellin, Colombia earlier this year, I sampled morcilla, an incredibly delicious sausage made with rice, spices and various unmentionable parts of a pig. I couldn't get enough of it--it was the best sausage I'd ever had. Which is why morcilla is popular all over Colombia by all classes of people. Once again, a food made by peasants, and made from inexpensive ingredients, becomes a delicious and culturally prized dish.

These are all simple examples, but they illustrate a truth we often state here at Casual Kitchen, a truth easily forgotten in our always-striving, always-craving culture: Really good food does not have to be expensive. It never was true, and it's not true now.

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1 comment:

Melissa said...

I don't know how long I've been saying that exact phrase "the best food is peasant food" but it is always so damn true!