These Chiles? Nothing to Fear

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AKUMAL, Mexico — There is no one American cuisine, and I suppose you can say there is no one Bittman cuisine either. The nation developed without respect for what was here before the Europeans flooded in, and what might have been was supplanted by anything goes. This culinary manifest destiny can be fascinating, of course; my block has Turkish, Southwestern, Tex-Mex and Italian, all within 100 feet of one another. (That’s before you cross the avenue.) None are very good, but you can’t complain about variety.

My own story is one of rejecting, or at least subsuming, a limited culinary heritage that I saw, and continue to see, as inferior to those of much of the rest of the world. Oh well, it’s not inconceivable that in the course of their threatening, perhaps horrible, early years and subsequent difficult journey across the Atlantic, my grandmothers lost many of the better elements of the cooking of their mothers and grandmothers. I’ll never know.

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