Globalization, Topanga Style

Globalization is a bit of a loaded word these days. Obama likes it, but Trump sorta scrunches up his nose and waves his arms about it.

We celebrated the globalization of our own little coastal California canyon recently with “Heritage Day” in my 5th grader, Willa’s class.

The Heritage Feast

The Heritage Feast

“Dad, what’s our heritage?” Willa asked about a week before her heritage presentation was due. Her mother and I cobbled together an approximate lineage. Between the two of us, she was probably close to 50% Irish, I contributed my 25% Swedish, plus some English and Welsh; my wife added German and Norwegian, plus a bit more English and Welsh.

By way of interesting facts and artifacts for the presentation, her maternal grandmother loaned her an Irish cross and a pair of nylon stocking doll representations of her own parents in a jar that Willa dubbed her “pickled grandparents”. For my part, I contributed my teenager grandfather’s 1925 ocean liner bill of passage from Southampton to Halifax, and a photo of her great-great-great something-or-other (uncle?) Cardinal Cushing of Boston christening an infant Caroline Kennedy in the doting arms of her father and mother. (He also married the celebrated couple, and presided over the requiem mass for the assassinated president.)

Willa and her pals of Japanese, Dominican/Israeli and English heritage

Willa, her boxty and her pals of Japanese, Dominican/Israeli and English heritage

And then there was the matter of the heritage feast. Willa pulled up a list of appetizing Irish fare such as boiled bacon, black pudding, coddle, fried bread, boiled pig feet, kidney and bladder stew…

“Oh no!” she sighed, dejected.

I assured her there were actually less intimidating and tastier Irish dishes. And we could also go Swedish, German, Norwegian. And, er… Welsh. Not exactly France or Italy, but surely we could find something fun.

Zoe and his Nigerian beans

Zoe and his Nigerian beans

We settled on some Irish bangers I had in the freezer, paired with crispy “boxty” — small pancakes made of both cooked potatoes and raw potatoes. Irish Kerrygold butter and sprinkling of truffle salt would add a bit of sophistication the kids might not appreciate, but the adults would enjoy. Willa busied herself with making tiny Irish flags to stick atop each potato pancake.

I initially thought perhaps I would make Irish soda bread. Until I got an email from my pal/sidekick Katy, which read: “I’m making soda bread!” I accused her of not even being Irish, and then carried on with my research.

Nate Cambras and his Greek lasagna

Nate Cambras and his Greek lasagna

We arrived in time to catch the tail end of Cavan’s speech on his Sri Lankan heritage, and the beginning of Bennie Schneider’s madcap cultural mash-up of Dominican, Polish and Israeli (which began with the blowing of the shofar horn).

Next door, the parents had deposited and were now unwrapping the various ethnic dishes for the feast. The British Isles were well represented with myriad starchy, potato-rich offerings. But the diversity beyond the expected white anglo-saxon presence was truly impressive. The foods of Mexico, Spain and the Caribbean were proudly representing for the Latin world; there were African beans and Japanese rice cakes; Europe’s greatest hits could be found in samples of French, Italian and Greek cuisine; eastern Europe, Russia and the Middle East were in the house!

My plate, featuring egg roll, Dominican rice and beans (topped with Sri Lankan curry), Japanese rice ball, Nigerian beans, Russian crepe, English toad in the hole and Mexican pozole.

My plate, featuring egg roll, Dominican rice and beans (topped with Sri Lankan curry), Japanese rice ball, Nigerian beans, Russian crepe, English toad in the hole and Mexican pozole.

Meanwhile, Katy’s soda bread sat largely untouched. Our Persian friend Lara sampled a piece, and commented on its resemblance to a scone.

“It sorta sucks all the moisture out of your mouth, yeah?” I said. She had no moisture in her mouth, so could only respond with a nod and a dusty mumble.

Katy attempting to distance herself from her soda bread

Katy attempting to distance herself from her soda bread

Suddenly I could sense a presence beside me, and turned. It was Levi Rosner.

“Have you tried my dad’s lindertorte??” he demanded.

His dad — my man Andras! Hungarian amateur confiseur extraordinaire!!

I made my way to the dessert table to try the lindertorte, which was superb. I snuck a few into a napkin to sneak home with me, and sent Andras a congratulatory text.

Levi and the lindertorte

Levi and the lindertorte

“Don’t tell Levi!” he cautioned when I confessed my theft.

The bell rang, the parents slogged from the room in carb-induced comas. It was as if none of the participating lands-of-origin could muster a fresh leafy green. At a picnic bench outside, the kids attacked a Danish kringle.

I drove slowly home, and then indulged in a ritual common to many of the world’s cultures after lunch — flopped down on the couch for a siesta.

*     *     *

serves 6-8 as an appetizer

1 large russet potato, washed and grated
2 medium Yukon gold potatoes
1 large egg
1/2 cup flour
1/2 cup lard or oil
salt & pepper to taste

Cook the two Yukon gold potatoes in boiling water until soft. Remove from water and let cool.

While Yukons are cooling, swish the grated russet potato in cold water, and drain.

Mash the Yukon potatoes until smooth. Stir in the egg, grated potatoes and flour until you’ve got a thick batter.

Heat the lard or oil over medium high heat in a large skillet. Drop potatoes, about 2 tbsp. per pancake, into the oil. Cook, 5 or 6 pancakes at a time, about 3-4 minutes per side or until golden.

Remove to a platter and season with salt and pepper.


5 Comments (+add yours?)

  1. Mom
    Dec 09, 2016 @ 21:00:27

    WHAT FUN!!!!!


  2. andreathompson2
    Dec 09, 2016 @ 22:54:44

    Yeah, that is SO awesome! Great idea, whose ever it was!!


  3. Amanda Bower
    Dec 12, 2016 @ 18:52:08

    What a fun thing for the kids to do!


  4. Katy
    Dec 14, 2016 @ 00:15:56

    Thrown. Under. The. Bus. Soda bread is a dry bread, just ask my grandmother (RIP).


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