Standard Pages (they don't change often)

Tuesday, April 5, 2011

On community and learning

Sometimes, it's worth stepping back, and looking at the big picture.

I am often puzzled by the strenuous attempts people go through to recapture certain tastes and dining conventions. Like how often vegetarian cuisine is defined by how well it can mimic meat or meat based diets, or the inordinate hoops that shrines to authenticity some restaurants become. Because despite the biological implications of eating, dining, in general, is really a cultural phenomenon, building community through communication, and, yes, discriminating against those whose mores don't conform. Some effects are universal (such as the predilection for sweet flavors), while others emerge from agreement, debate, and conformity.

This is the root of fear when dining outside of the comfort zone of cultural acceptance. And those who venture beyond these lines can be seen as equal parts foolish and adventuresome, and most of us watch in fascination. Or in my case, I applaud these mavericks of dining.

Take, for example, the grand project by Daniel Delaney, called What's This Food? (cheekily abbreviated WTF). Every day, Dan takes a different foodstuff, something that may be sitting in the border of the American dining consciousness, and brings it into focus for a few minutes in a video segment, cooking or preparing it with humor and aplomb. The segment on Kiwano melons is inventive to say the least.

Speaking of community, no doubt you'll notice the addition of the new gadget for ChipIn. Linda Salinas of Houston had an accident, and the community is rallying to support her in her time of need. P. Cook of Houston Food Adventures is helping organize fund raising activities. Please help spread the word. Thanks for helping.

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