They say the apple does fall far from the tree. Then again, whenever someone isn’t like Mom or Dad, they always say that the factor in question tends to skip a generation. So I guess there’s a saying for everything.
The other day my dad told me that he thought it was interesting that he had made it some sixty-odd years on this planet without ever seeing a chipotle pepper, and now he can’t turn around without bumping into one. You can get chipotle in sauces at McDonalds, in Kraft mayonnaise, and in every brand of salsa on the grocery store shelf. And you don’t have to live in the southwest to find it any more. It’s everywhere.
To my dad, this is an unwelcomed change. It’s a sign that the world is changing too quickly. If someone wants to seek out a foreign new flavor, he should have to seek it out. Stumbling onto it is fine, but having it thrust is our faces is something else. Call it progress, but at some level it’s a sign that the old ways are just that, the old ways, on their way out, being replaced at a rate that some of us are not quite ready for.
And it’s not like my dad is a white bread, steak and potatoes type. Granted, you can count the great Irish culinary contributions to society on one hand, but my dad did live in New Orleans for the better part of two decades. And those folks will mix just about anything together and call it something I can’t pronounce. So it’s not that the chipotle itself is too weird for him; he’s just not crazy about the intrusion of a regional flavor into places where it shouldn’t be, like the center aisles of the grocery store and generic fast food restaurants.
When he told me that he was about sick of having chipotle sauces shoved in his face, he might as well have been speaking Martian and trying to explain string theory to me. For starters, it seems to be the free market at work. There must be a demand for it, or it wouldn’t be there. And while there may be a marginal at best societal benefit to increased Scoville-awareness, I have trouble understanding a down side to people from other here sharing a bite to eat with people over there. And if they can’t share an actual sit-down meal, then sharing the techniques are the next best thing.
Where my dad sees the old, familiar ways being crowded out, I only see the continual process of refining and refining and refining that which we have. I can whip up a tray of blackberry cobbler, but that doesn’t mean I’m replacing my great-grandmother’s chocolate chip cookies, which will always be the gold standard for desserts. I’m not so sure culture is a zero net game. The addition of X doesn’t mean that Y must decrease by the same amount.
But it is interesting that father and son are wired so differently. My dad wants to be able to walk into the grocery store and see everything he expects in the place where it should be. I want to walk in there and get surprised by something I’ve never heard of before, which I will then look up to see where it came from and what one does with it.
This week the Rocky Ford melons hit the stands. And the other day the Greasy Skillet made a cucumber aqua fresca, something I would never have considered making because I like plain old water. Cantaloupe, because of it's high water content, makes a wicked easy beverage that's a lot better for you than Tang or Kool-ade or that carbonated battery acid that's so popular with the kids.
Melon Fresco: Blend all and serve over ice
1 Cantaloupe melon
1/2 cup cold water or one cup of ice
2 Tbs Lime juice
1 Tbs sugar
Or try melon in your next salsa. Any recipe will do. Just keep the melon to about 1/4 or less of the total volume of salsa, and don't blend the melon in a food processor or blender — cut it into small chunks with a knife, or you'll get spicy melon soup. The simplest starting point is like this:
about half a cantaloupe
1/4 cup onion, chopped medium-fine
a handful of chopped fresh cilantro
1-2 Tbs olive oil
1 Tbs fresh lime juice
1/2 - 2 jalapeños, finely chopped
Add other peppers, garlic, tomatoes, tomatillos as you see fit.
Don't fear the chipotle, or the melon, or anything else, for that matter.