The O-town Scene

May 10, 2012

The O-town Scene - Oneonta, NY

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LOCAL EATS By Christina Ceisel To say that we are in a "food moment" is both a cliché and an understatement. "Cuisine" has moved out of the realm of professionals, and become something that everyday citizens have begun to feel com- fortable participating in. Friends and family exchange recipes and cooking tips over coffee and/or drinks, kitchens increasingly resemble elite workshops, and cooking blogs are scoured and shared on Facebook and Pinterest as we daydream of grilled caesar salads, homemade chips and deca- dent cookies. Rather than (or perhaps in addition to) a way of procrastinating, I think this inter- est not only in food but making food and talking about food is a way for us to connect as a community. Particularly in a place like Oneonta, where we are surrounded by farmland, cooking and sharing in food ex- tends us beyond our insular daily selves and into the larger circuits of the upstate New York economy. As a recent upstate transplant, I have been invigorated and heartened by the number of local companies that are making truly excellent products: cheeses, yogurts, meats, and let's not forget our excellent micro- brews! Food also connects us to our past, our heritage. Through migration, ethnic com- munities influence and change how other communities eat and flavor their cuisine — for example, Oneonta has more Italian restaurants than the Midwestern town I moved here from, while Chicago and the surrounding communities have more Latin- American restaurants. As a result, even at an "American" restaurant, there are more Latin-infused dishes. A community's history is visible through its food culture. This also happens on an individual level. We learn how to cook from our parents, Local Eats features area restaurants, and food articles and recipes by area residents. To contribute a recipe, e-mail Experiencing a Food Moment Upstate and pass that knowledge on to our children. I grew up in a Cuban/German household, and an investigation into the foods that I grew up eating reflect the border crossings evident in the larger histories of their lands: the slave ships from Africa that brought the plantain to Cuba, or the Tartars invading Central Europe with sauerkraut stowed in their saddle bags. Cuban food is the com- fort food I know — rather than the turkey and mashed potatoes of the U.S., I turn to picadillo, a mix of ground beef, pepper, garlic, cumin, tomato sauce, raisins and green olives; arroz con pollo — chicken slow cooked in a pot with rice and pota- toes; black beans and rice, fried plantains. My father's German favorites make it into the repertoire as well: spaetzle, goulash, chicken paprikash. These are the dishes that I turn to for inspiration and share with partners and friends. Recently, I have found myself using the ba- sics of these recipes, and then "riffing" with whatever I have on hand. Moving to One- onta has added foods to my weekly meals — the house I rent has basil and zucchini growing in the garden, and last summer I incorporated those into the sofrito that is central to many Cuban/Latin American dishes. The prevalence of Italian restaurants encourages me to think about new ways to use capers, oregano and lemon in sauces. Christina M. Ceisel is an Oneonta-based Ph.D. Candidate at the University of Illinois at Urbana Champaign. Her research considers the role of identity, hybridity and authenticity in contemporary culture. She has presented and published on these themes as they relate to transnational foodways. Her dissertation work analyzes the role of food within global commod- ity culture. She can be reached at cceisel2@ May 10, 2012 O-Town Scene 11 In the interest of contributing to O-Town's current conversation about food, here is my recipe for sofrito, a base for chicken and rice dishes: Sofrito 1 green pepper, diced 1 onion, diced salt and pepper to taste Goya Sazón — optional, but adds a really nice flavor, available in the international food aisle 2 cloves garlic, chopped 2 T olive oil 1 t oregano 1 t cumin Heat the olive oil in a me- dium size skillet over medium heat. Once the oil is sizzling, add garlic and onion. Once the onion is beginning to get translucent (about 2-3 minutes) add green pepper, oregano, cumin and sazon (if you are using it). For an easy dinner, add chicken, pork, steak, or any additional vegetables (think eggplant, zucchini, even garbanzo beans) at this point. Serve with rice. **note: there are sev- eral recipes for sofrito: some involve tomatoes, others blend the ingredients in a food processor. So feel free to experiment — this is just a starting point! Serve sofrito with rice and enjoy! Contributed

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