Tuesday, March 29, 2011

On feature writing

If I could write like anyone in the world, I might pick Tom Junod. Everything he produces blows me away. In the last week or so, I've read two of his Esquire pieces in particular that I thought were amazing (and were linked by a common food theme). If you have time, check them out, "Mom's Cooking" in particular. The last sentence made me catch my breath.

This article really made me think about my own personal "tribe." To me, Americans often seem to be the most culturally confused people in the world. Nearly everyone who lives here comes from somewhere else originally, and are often the product of a number of cultures getting together and making babies (that is, mutts). "Old country" traditions are abandoned as the reproducing generations cause further and further distance from their homeland. Fourth of July and apple pie replace Dia de los Muertos and lutefisk. It isn't a bad thing, embracing the American culture, but so many seem to look back and search for the sense of community that once existed; their own tribe.

For my own family, made up of mutts from many European cultures who have lived in the United States for numerous generations, we are fully assimilated. We retain no British or German or Swedish traditions. We have substituted Methodist potlucks. If I died tomorrow, I would fully expect green bean casserole and creamed corn and jello salad and any number of pies to show up at my funeral reception. My family prefers to eat their feelings, so the dishes would touch a place in their hearts that let them know everything would be okay.

My own mother is quite unlike the author's mother. Mine hails from a long line of good female cooks. My mashed potatoes will never taste as good as the childhood memory of hers. My grandmother's angel food cake literally melted in your mouth. Their family banana bread recipe is perfection, and I cannot be convinced otherwise. My grandma no longer makes big meals for the whole family, but the group still gathers around the table when they want to reconnect (full mouths lead to fewer arguments). Still, this article is incredible.

No comments: