March 21, 2007

I Want To Try It All

Living in Canada has exposed me to a wide variety of cuisines. I’m grateful for that but at the same time I can’t help but wonder how authentic anything can really be when it’s out of its original context. What North Americans call Italian or Indian or Chinese cuisine can often vary greatly from what natives to these countries would consider everyday food. I have not traveled as extensively as I would like to and therefore haven’t tasted all the fares of the world. Instead, I have to rely on cookbooks to help transport me to other lands. This quite often results in some new flavour combinations and tastes that may be wonderful on their own but that leave me wondering if the dish turned out the way it was supposed to. I think that instead of calming my urge to travel, cooking new dishes from other cultures intensifies it. I want to see where the ingredients come from and how they’re prepared. I want to know how the dish is supposed to be eaten and under what circumstances. Some experiences just can’t be replicated outside of their natural environment. The act of eating encompasses more than simply the flavour of the food. That’s why so many of our memories are linked to food, because eating is a complete sensory experience. Putting a fork into your mouth is a small part of a complex interaction of sensations that requires all of your senses.

I can’t tell you what an authentic Jamaican seafood curry tastes like because I’ve never been to Jamaica. I can, however, describe the maple syrup experience which is uniquely Canadian. Although tasting maple syrup is a wonderful thing no matter what part of the world you’re in, (it’s like liquid gold) you’ll never truly know maple syrup without coming to Canada. To truly know Canadian maple syrup you must also know its beginnings. You must have trekked into the sugar bush during the early days of spring to watch the syrup run when the days are warm and the nights are cool. To truly know Canadian maple syrup you must have drank a cool glass of fresh syrup, straight from the tapped trees. You must have eaten maple sugar candy until your teeth hurt and still gone back for more. It’s a unique experience. And because of that, when I make a new dish, I savour the immediate flavours but I still long for the experience.

Brilynn’s Jamaican Seafood Curry Remix (Adapted from The Caribbean Central & South American Cookbook by Jenni Fleetwood and Marina Filippelli)

1 ¼ lbs mixed seafood

2 T peanut oil

2 cardamom pods

1 cinnamon stick

6 allspice berries

½ tsp cloves

1 onion, chopped

4 garlic cloves, chopped

1 inch piece of ginger, grated

2 tsp ground cumin

1 tsp ground coriander

½ tsp cayenne pepper

2 tomatoes, chopped

1 can tomato paste

1 sweet potato, peeled and cubed

1 cup water

1 cup fish stock

2 ½ oz creamed coconut

2 bay leaves

Heat the oil in a heavy bottomed pot and stir fry the cardamom pods, cinnamon, allspice and cloves to release their aromas.

Add the onion, garlic and ginger. Continue cooking over gentle heat until onion is soft.

Add the cumin, coriander and cayenne and stir to combine.

Stir in the tomatoes, tomato paste, sweet potato, fish stock, water, creamed coconut and bay leaves. Bring to a boil and then lower the heat, cover and simmer for 15-18 minutes until the sweet potato is tender.

Add the seafood and cook through, a few minutes, depending on what you use.

Serve over rice.

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Elle said...

We may not get to Jamaica either, but this stew sounds really delicious. I love the sweet-hot mixture of cardemom and cinnamon, and all the other spices and even a bay leaf. Yum.

Anh said...

Brylinn, I agree with you about cooking dishes from other cuisine. It's hard to know whether we come close to the real thing.

I really want to visit Canada for the real maple syrup. Your description is wonderful!

Lydia said...

As I was reading this post, I kept thinking, "Is she going to put maple syrup in curry?" Now that would have been very Canadian, eh?

Freya and Paul said...

Great post as usual and the stew looks delicious, really creamy but spicy too!

Lis said...

You did an excellent job relaying your thoughts about different cuisines and how they are suppose to taste.. I OFTEN wonder about all the Italian food my father made for us while growing up.. was it really Italian or was it more Ameri-Italian? Talk about a culture shock when I first started reading Ilva's blog.. no heavy sauces, plain and simple dishes, just really good fresh flavors brought out with little fuss. Amazing.

I've never been to Jamaica either, but I agree with Elle.. your dish looks delish. =)

Patricia Scarpin said...

I know what you mean Brylinn: living in a country that looks like a continent, I don't even know the correct versions of dishes from the far parts of Brazil!

MyKitchenInHalfCups said...

The curry looks great but now I'm craving maple syrup!! Great writing!!

wheresmymind said...

What passes for "Mexican" food around here really gets me IRKED!

Bruno said...

Looks great Brilynn! I love dishes that blend coconut, curry and other hot spices. I can see the squid in the photo, what other seafood went into your mix?

veron said...

bril , I am crazy about squid. I love this dish especially with those tentacles teasing me like that!

Sara said...

Well said Brilynn!

Anonymous said...

That sure does look exotic and I think you're right on about cooking food from other cultures. It's always a great adventure but you never know if it's quite right. Heck, even within your own culture it's sometimes up in the air! (Hencce my Mexican food being different from my Mom's and my Abuela's and so on.)


Ari (Baking and Books)

Rachel said...

I love anything like this!

Kristen said...

In my opinion, right or not doesn't matter... as long as it tastes good and that looks like it is yummy!

sher said...

Alright! That does it! I've always wanted to visit Canada, but now you brought up the maple syrup. I have to have it! And the stew looks wonderful!

Heather said...

I was looking forever at these pictures and the recipe to figure out what the octupus like thing is in this dish.
I have never eaten anything like this. Very interesting post.

Brilynn said...

Bruno- The seafood is squid, shrimp, sole and scallops.