So I hear you saying: “All I have time to do before one of these potluck things is run to the Kroger and pick up something quick. How can I possibly make an attempt at historic period foods?” And to you I say: Here’s a list of a few things you can pick up at your local grocery store and stay well within the boundaries set up for pre-17th century Western European food. There’s lots more, but this ‘shopping list’ can help you get started.
Native Americans kindly showed the settlers the concept of Three Sisters: corn, squash and beans planted together in the same hillock with a fish at the bottom for nutrients. The corn stalk would grow tall, giving the beans a place to climb. The beans would fix nitrogen into the soil. The squash planted around the base would shade the roots with their big leaves and help to retain moisture. This practice created a symbiotic arrangement that produced a healthy environment for all three plants to survive.
The now-defunct Embers Restaurant in Mount Pleasant, Michigan served a salad that I have never forgotten. Sweet and creamy, their Peas and Peanuts was made with Miracle Whip and Spanish peanuts. Taking advantage of fresh spring peas makes this salad worth revisiting with roasted, unsalted peanuts and a lighter vinaigrette. (Although it is still pretty great with a mayonnaise base as well!)
Exploring new cuisines can be intimidating, especially if the spices and flavorings are unknown to you. Profiles in Flavor – Africa is one of a series of classes I created to help take the mystery out of several wonderful cuisines. We look at a ‘shopping list’ of staples you would need to cook foods from that area, and taste lots of new flavor combinations. Once you know the typical protein, carb and veggies found in an area’s cuisine, you can enjoy eating and cooking it much more often!