by Kate Heyhoe
"So do the kids look the same as when you were a student here?" asked my husband as we strolled across the University of Texas campus in Austin.
"No way," I replied. "In the late seventies, we wore bright tie-dyes, patchwork velvet-satin-cotton vests and jackets, and embroidered goods handcrafted in Guatemala, India, or at the local hippie commune."
I pointed at a herd of students converging on a crosswalk. "These students are like walking advertisements for The Gap. Their clothes may come from a third-world country, but only in the form of plain, mass-produced, polyester-blended pants and shirts. Lackluster variations on the same uniform," I sniffed with a slight air of artistic superiority. "In fact, I suspect their clothes were actually made for pennies, by dark-skinned, non-English speaking children, half their age."
Continuing on with my aging cynicism, I observed that students today are actually braver than we were: They impress their own stamp of originality on themselves, literally, in the form of tattoos and body piercings. "In a sense, it's this generation's commitment to the handcrafted look," I noted. Even the most conservative of sorority sisters rebelliously sport a dainty rose or heart, etched in some inconspicuous (or even private) body area.
Aside from fashion, students today really are braver than we were when it comes to food. Lunch spots and restaurants adjacent to UT and other campuses have graduated from serving sandwiches, burgers, and pizzas to a more eclectic blend of global cuisines: Greek gyros, fiery African stews, Cambodian hotpots, Middle Eastern shwarma, and bright red tandoori chicken. With so much tasty and healthful food available quickly and affordably, fast-food chains are decidedly boring. Why munch on Big Mac combos when two plates of steaming hot Korean barbeque with kimchee and rice are but less than a sawbuck away?
Ethnic restaurants also bring more options for meatless meals. Vegetarian restaurants in my era were mostly limited to filling the brown-rice bowls of Krishna crowds, and they were about the only place a committed vegetarian could dine. Today, almost every type of restaurant includes a few appetizing vegetarian options, which are a far cry from being boring, gloppy, or overly grainy. Indeed, in the post-Vietnam War world, migrating cultures from all continents have blessed us with their own inspired dishes and exciting flavors. It's hard to imagine meals without lemongrass, cumin, or enormous amounts of garlic, but some of us grew up never eating such exotic fare, or anything close to it.
Around college campuses, students eat better today because of us, the baby-boomers and our children. I'm not crowing here, it's just a fact: We were the guinea pigs, and the experiment was a success.
Here's what I mean: Revisit the time of the Kennedy White House, when air travel (once an option only for the rich) becomes so affordable that whole families can go to Europe and even far beyond to more distant lands. Over the next few decades, high-end chefs introduce foreign foods in their restaurants at the same time immigrant families open up small cafes and joints for the populace, often in pod-malls. As the public abroad and at home tastes and welcomes such foreign dishes, the specialty food industry joins the party, making instant marinades, packaged foods, and spice blends for aloo gobi, chimichurri sauce, and pesto. TV chefs and publishers spew out an array of cookbooks that open up the world's pantry to the home cook, and what was once unknown and foreign is now new and exciting. Eventually, such cooking loses its novelty, but instead of dying out, weaves itself into the edible fabric of our daily lives.
The whole process is a cyclical thing that never ends. Today's younger chefs will bring different flavors into their kitchens, focusing on regional cooking from some far-off locale (one not yet tormented by tourists and shiny industry). It will be cooking that is waiting to be "discovered," and this will be welcomed by younger diners. The Lawry's and McCormicks and Williams-Sonoma product development teams will jump on the bandwagon, and before you know it, a meal of Iraqi lamb with apricots or desserts with date syrup may be as common here as macaroni and cheese or chocolate pudding.
Wanna know what the next big food trend for home cooks will be? Look at the plates of the upscale restaurants in California and New York. Or better yet, visit your local college campus, and experiment with a meal at a small pod-mall diner. Order something you've never had before. If it tastes good, you just may be onto something big.Ciao,
Cuban Pork Chops
Feta, Mint and Green Leaf Salad
with a Honey-Walnut Vinaigrette
Filet of Beef Creole
Green Mango & Cashew Salad
Horseradish Canapés from Verona
Jasmine Pear Pilaf
La Tunisia Chicken and Grilled Onions
Salmorejo (Spanish Soup)
Scallops with Miso, Ginger, and Ruby Grapefruit
Shrimp with Fresh Coconut Milk, Calabaza, and Avocado
Spanish Fresh Tuna and Potato Stew
with Smoked Paprika (Marmitako)
Kate's Global Kitchen for December 2004:
12/03/04 Christmas Cheer For Cooks: Gift Guide 2004
12/10/04 Nuts to You: The Process of Toasting Nuts
12/17/04 Holiday Light: Veggie Dips 'n' Wonton Chips
12/24/04 Virgin Cocktails and Virile Libations
12/31/04 Graduated Cookery for 2005
Copyright © 2004, Kate Heyhoe. All rights reserved.
This page created December 2004
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