13 October 2006

What's So Great About Good Food? Part II

Here's something I'll have to post about on chowhound:

I have a theory about Chef Lachlan MacKinnon-Patterson at Frasca Food and Wine. It goes like this:

With his uses of cured and pickled foods, Lachlan is tapping into people's wartime and depression-era memories of having to put things up for the winter, having to use everything you produce (especially when you can't eat all you harvest), and having to introduce variety in winter months with foods preserved from the summer months.

Sure, the folks at Frasca have cryovac machines and good freezers. You know they could probably find a way to serve you watermelon in January if they wanted to, but Lachlan works at this preservation aspect honestly, perhaps like his grandmother before him, and hers before her, in the new country and in the old.

And now some of Lachlan's grandma's peers are well-heeled folks who dine at Frasca, perhaps not only for the unforgettable combinations of ingredients (is it the clove in the shaved pork with cherries that makes it so memorable?) but also for a little history alongside an exploration of northern Italian cooking. And this history comes with a side of echoes of their own pasts through red pepper jelly and pickled green tomatoes from his family's repertoire. For the forward-looking, Lachlan takes ideas like this one and stretches them, pickling cauliflower and shallots for dressings, for example. It is the absence of gimmics or trickery and the deep respect for old ways that appeals to me here.

Lachlan may well be deliberately trying to attract the people who remember life during wartime or grew up in the long shadow of the depression, which adds up to a lot of people (although I suppose many of these are folks who wouldn't dream of spending $100-$150 on food and wine per person in an evening, if a perfectly adequate meal could be found for $20 or $30). Lachlan has something for everyone: He gives the people who are part of the Slow Food movement and who are nostalgic for another way of life (e.g., witness the hoops Bill Buford jumps in Heat) an opportunity to go back in time and yet be on the cutting edge of their own era all in one evening.

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