When the book Real Men Don’t Eat Quiche came out in the early ‘80s, many of us had a laugh about the gender stereotypes portrayed in the book. Unfortunately, the satire was lost on some of my acquaintances, who truly believed that to eat quiche (or to try any foods with foreign-sounding names for that matter) was to lose their masculinity.
They were, of course, way off base, but I understand the importance of food to our identity. “You are what you eat,” after all. Foods can be tribal affiliations—Coke vs. Pepsi, vegans vs. meat eaters, carbs vs. protein.
Even if we eat the same things, the vocabulary of food defines and divides us. Soda or pop? Hoagie or sub? Chips or fries? Biscuits or cookies? Casserole or hot dish? Brownies or bars?
But for the adventuresome, those differences quickly resolve into similarities. Cook enough different foods, and the divisions become connections.
Take quiche lorraine, for example. It is just the French version of the English bacon and egg pie. The variations within “quiche” and “pie” are greater than the differences between them.
A gallette is just a tart with a French accent.
Mexican tortillas are almost the same as Indian roti.
Greek pita bread could be mistaken for Indian naan.
French ragout, Indian curry, and Latin American sancocho are all just stew by a different name.
Sweet, sour, bitter, salt, umame. Starch, sugar, protein. It all comes down to biology, and we all need the same nutrients to keep us going. The protein in my burgers may come from soybeans, and yours from beef, but we both love that slab of umame-rich protein on a nest of carbohydrates (a bun, some rice, some bulgher) and dripping with sweet/sour catsup (or ketchup, or sauce…).
The spicing may differ, but the essence is the same. Just like us. We are what we eat, after all.