A taste for the ‘poor’ food

Some friends of mine host an annual event in which they ask everyone who attends to bring something that can be put on the grill. It’s a BYOBBQ. I got creative this year and brought fresh fruit that I cut up to put on skewers with a spicy maple glaze. (It was OK, but it didn’t match the year they handed me a cheesy plastic trophy for “Achievements in Chicken.”)

Each year, the man of the house brings out a surprise to be grilled last. He has done rabbit, a fish stuffed with another kind of fish — I don’t remember which kinds — and this year … beef tongue. I’m a fairly adventurous eater; and beef tongue is delicious anyway, so I was excited to try it grilled and with some good sauce. Others were … less eager. But it prompted an interesting conversation about the foods that become staples among some poorer groups of people because those with more money have already gobbled up the “good” parts. The example given by another guest was oxtail soup.

I can think of a few dishes that I think are incredible — dried beans, or “leather britches;” wilted lettuce, which I’ve seen at fancy restaurants as “garden greens in hot buttermilk and bacon dressing;” pickled anything — that I grew to love as a child, only to realize much later in life and in another part of the country that other people assumed we did not have a lot of money if we ate them. In fact, I could not get one of my New York City friends to try dried beans. She just wouldn’t do it.

In my mind, she was missing out. But I wonder: Is it an acquired taste, these things we grew up eating because it’s what we had? I prefer to believe it was all really that good; and Gran knew some things Julia Child didn’t.

***

Once the weekend was over, I got back to the office and had a guest drop by, who wanted to talk to me about something that had appeared on the editorial page. It always frustrates me that I can’t allow the readers to listen in on some of these visits, particularly when it is someone intelligent, well-spoken, well-researched and with first-hand knowledge of the matter being discussed. Though my mind was not changed much from the perspective that had already appeared in print, this guest put a voice to an entirely different side of the matter, and did so in a way that was respectful and informative, rather than judgmental and adversarial.

I wish there were more discussions like that happening right now. We might actually get somewhere.

***

There will probably be plenty of political discussions across the state over the next year. There will also be political ads.

I do not mean this as a criticism of any particular candidate, because they all do it. But why do politicians think they need to appear in those videos wearing a hard hat at some point? Why do they so often use a narrator that sounds like a Sam Elliott impersonator? Why do they try to appear so relaxed and just-plain-folk?

Surely they understand they are not fooling anyone into thinking they are blue collar workers who would fit in anywhere from your local neighborhood bar to the Wild West.

I, for one, have had enough of the faux folksy, average Joe (if “average” means wealthier, better educated and with far different ambitions than almost all of the rest of us). Just tell us who you are. We all see through the act. Really.

***

Forgive the stream-of-consciousness this weekend, ladies and gentlemen. It is a hot mid-summer day, and my train of thought is fairly easily derailed. I hope you all are having a fantastic summer … and remembering that school starts in one month. Enjoy.

Christina Myer is executive editor of The Parkersburg News and Sentinel. She can be reached via e-mail at cmyer@newsandsentinel.com

COMMENTS