Heartland Cooking, With Fish Sauce

Cooking instructor Supatra Johnson connects the dots from southeast Asian farmers to you

I felt like a whole world opened to me, which had only been partly glimpsed before. And it was a very Minnesota world, one in which, from Nisswa to St. Peter and back again, Thai, Lao, and Vietnamese families are cooking, farming, and, generally, living in a world of exciting food that is parallel to the dominant culture, but rarely intersects with us. So, I don't think that I've recommended a cookbook in a few years, but I really can't say enough good things about Crying Tiger. It speaks so specifically to the actual moment in geography, in history, in agriculture, and in the cultural experimentation in which we all live.

Farm fresh: Supatra Johnson unlocks the mysteries of the farmers' market
Diana Watters
Farm fresh: Supatra Johnson unlocks the mysteries of the farmers' market

At the end of the day, I have to admit that in some ways this story seems unbelievably stupid: Like a Lao family moving to Paris, and one day a daughter comes back to the house, exclaiming, "Hey, you know all the stuff they're selling in that market? It's edible! All you have to do is figure out something called a vinaigrette." But hey, I take shelter in the idea that if no one was ever brave enough to risk looking like an idiot, there would be little information exchanged across cultures. And that's how I set out trying to find the names of some greens, and came to love a little self-published cookbook, and walked out with enough sticky rice to teach a man to fish.

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