I branded this company as Nontraditional for a reason - to give me the artistic freedom to continue exploring other food cultures whilst paying homage to my own.
The Baba's Original Zelnik was my favorite thing to eat as a child. As an adult I've become infatuated with my Macedonian background and the culture, particularly the food. However, a culinary journey through Macedonian cuisine was not my first of its kind. No, my first deep dive into food culture was Mexican food.
The question that spawned my curiosity about Mexican food was what is the root of American food? Truthfully, the answer to that question is that our classic American cuisine was born out of the African slave trade. However, I made an error in logic when continuing my query. What cuisine was indigenous to this LAND? That school of thought led me to the obvious answer - whatever the American Indians ate. And so, I began a deep dive into American Indian cuisine and came across a cookbook by Chef Sean Sherman titled The Sioux Chef's Indigenous Cookbook. Sean is a member of the Lakota tribe and he has built his image in the Minneapolis food scene, resurrecting indigenous food ways. I found his work quite fascinating! In his book he talks how American Indian diets differed region to region but the key thing that linked all of their diets was some form of nixtamalized corn; that is corn that has been soaked in an alkaline solution, unlocking all of its nutrition. That process is used to make hominy, used in various stews. It was used to make corn cakes, toasted on rocks over open flame. In many indigenous cultures, that cake was made rather thin and used as a vessel for consuming other foods. That is the TORTILLA! For thousands of years indigenous peoples have been eating tacos!
Mexico in and of itself has a vast and diverse culture. The culinary techniques are quite advanced from the Americanized version of Mexican food that many of us are fond of. Anthony Bourdain once wrote that "as much as we think we know and love it, we have barely scratched the surface of what Mexican food really is. It is NOT melted cheese over tortilla chips. It is not simple, or easy. It is not simply “bro food” at halftime. It is in fact, old — older even than the great cuisines of Europe, and often deeply complex, refined, subtle, and sophisticated. A true mole sauce, for instance, can take DAYS to make, a balance of freshly (always fresh) ingredients painstakingly prepared by hand. It could be, should be, one of the most exciting cuisines on the planet, if we paid attention." Well, it's got my attention. I aim to learn something. Maybe I'll borrow a technique or two for a nontraditional twist on a traditional Macedonian dish ¯\_(ツ)_/¯
So, to come full circle, I'd like to make an announcement.From here on, I'm dedicating the months May through July to my continuing exploration of cuisines born of American Indian cultures, with a heavy focus on tacos of course.
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