Monday, March 22, 2010

Tradition! Tradition!

A couple of years ago I stumbled across a web site dedicated to the preservation of Irish Soda bread. I had no idea it was even in danger... but apparently people have been putting things like like whiskey, fruit, sugar, and god forbid orange zest into their recipes and daring to call it traditional. Well this Saint Patrick's Day I decided to try the authentic recipe myself... I combined the flour, baking soda, buttermilk and salt (my hand paused briefly over the orange zester, but I resisted the temptation). I kneaded it sparingly, placed it into a round pan, cut a cross in the dough and put it in the oven to bake. Then I finish cooking my less than traditional St. Patrick's Day feast of aloo matar and channa masala and cracked open a Sierra Nevada Pale Ale (the store was out of Guinness).
That night at dinner the bread was a hit. My husband thought that it was a bit lacking in the flavor department... but my friend Sara and the 5 and under crowd loved it. My older daughter who is suspicious of foods that are "mixed together" stayed away from the Indian food and dined on warm Irish bread with peanut butter and did her sister and friend.

After dinner I pondered the concept of traditional recipes vs innovation and tried to decide where I stand on it. At heart I am an innovative cook who believes that if you ain't got it in the pantry try something new... but at the same time as a collector of foodlore I love traditions and recipes that are handed down over the generations. I once posted a recipe in a Greek food forum for Meatless Moussaka. The recipe was removed from the list and I was informed by the moderator that this was not a traditional recipe... Who knew that taking the meat out of the moussaka was so controversial? I have in fact run afoul of traditional cooks on many occasions: I've made tamales without lard, I've cooked seafood and rice in a paella pan and called it paella, I've made somosas with refrigerator biscuits... I've even made gumbo with a roux that a creole would turn his nose up at (although a cajun would probably tip his hat).

I'm happy to say that I've decided where I stand. I am right smack dab in the middle of it all. Some occasions call for traditions and others for innovations.... and who knows one day one of your innovations may turn out to be a new tradition... Maybe one that is passed down through the generations. Heck... maybe your great granddaughter will even make a web site dedicated to it's preservation of one of your reckless innovations.

You Tube Video from fiddler on the roof.

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