“We’ve changed it for American tastes.”
It’s something I’ve heard a lot while reporting on food in this country. When I was interviewing Fikru “Chu Chu” Bekele about his Italian restaurant, La Carbonara in DC’s U St. area, he continually told me about how he changed his recipes to accommodate American tastes. He added more cream than necessary. In Ethiopia, where he is from and once owned an Italian restaurant, he needed to adjust recipes for our taste here, not there.
Last night, at a press dinner at Taberna Del Alabardero, our host explained the make up of the gifts we’d be receiving that night. It was olive oil. In Spain its citizens are used to a more bitter oil, here, a sweet oil. Instead of adhering to its home county for inspiration, the restaurant uses a sweeter oil to cook with. Guests were given a 250ML bottle of extra virgin olive oil packaged in Sevilla, Spain, but given the American taste treatment.
Kushi, a Japanese restaurant in DC, at times creates presentations so authentic it literally made my heart ache for the real thing. But it doesn’t serve the cuts of meat so familiar in Japan: heart, cheek, liver….instead, it serves chunks of American-favorite pork belly on a stick.
I was discussing this “dumbing down for Americans” concept with DC food expert David Hagedorn. He reminded me that restaurants are businesses and need to make money. They need to sell food that we will buy and enjoy.
I told him I wished restaurants weren’t always businesses. That they could be institutions for learning, places for people to explore authentic flavors of the world, without the requisite dumbing down for American tastes.
And then I remembered that our national past time is eating Doritos.
Photo Credit: Flick User Mattieb