Wednesday, March 9, 2011

March 9, 2011 – Stir-Fry Nation

Jennifer Lee puts the melting pot metaphor to rest for the final time when she describes America as more of a stir-fry than a melting pot. She writes, “We are a stir-fry; our ingredients remain distinct, but our flavors blend together in a sauce shared by all.” It’s all in her book The Fortune Cookie Chronicles. The book has two of my favorite topics — Cultural history and in particular the immigration experience. And it’s about Chinese food. I did love this book and learned even more things about the role of Chinese Food in our culture. I have to thank the library for recommending this one. Another great pick in their On The Same Page Series.

Ironically, just before picking up this book, I did a piece for the 2011 Project on fortune cookies and then one on chop suey. So today it is about the stir-fry.

You’ll note my stir-fry is in my trusty, old, cast iron frying pan. I used to have a wok, but that never made it out here from the East Coast. Space is at a premium in a San Francisco kitchen, and you can make a stir-fry without a wok. I am sure some purists would disagree. But that is what is so great about a stir-fry there are no set rules. The stir-fry does make a great metaphor for America, because pretty much anything goes in it. I was aghast when my Australian friend Alan once tossed in peanut butter (a trick I have since copied many times. My cousin Bekah is a good cook, but when I saw the smoked kielbasa going into the stir-fry, I had my doubts. We are both half Polish-American, but I was raised on much more traditional Polish cuisine. Bekah, having far less experience with Polish food, clearly had no issues with using smoked kielbasa in a stir-fry. Needless to say, it tasted great and I do the same thing all the time. The only question is what’s next? Could I put soy sauce and hot oil on pierogis instead of sour cream and call them Polish Potstickers?

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