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Jump on the food wagon

It is a melting pot of American flavours at Cappuccino till July 19


AMERICA IS the land of Hollywood and larger than life images that relegate reality to the background, be it the evasive WMDs or the Marlborough Man's machismo or its food. We will start by deconstructing the much-bandied regional food.

The early pioneers ate what they did in their homelands. Later the cuisine evolved to include the locally available ingredients. The slaves brought new flavours to the table. A distinct regional identity is more of an image. "The problem will always be the slipperiness of the term `regional American.' In cooking, as in most parts of our culture, `one nation indivisible' means more than we often realise. Our regional identities are strictly limited, existing only within the secure sense of our overall national identity." This is how the gourmet columnist Anne Mendelson explains the chimera.

As the Great American Chuck Wagon rolls into Cappuccino, Park Sheraton, the sense of unreal continues. The real thing is far away and if you are a finicky eater there is always the newly launched Emirates flight to New York. The very festival itself is to mark the joyous event. The Philli cheese steak is a dry rendition of Philadelphia's tribute to America's fat food fiesta. Then there is the Louisiana blackened snapper. The peppery fish typical of pungent, strong Cajun cooking would have been a delight, had it not been underdone. Barbecue chicken meant to invoke the expertise of Southern pit masters barely does its job. If there is anybody who takes their barbecue seriously it is the Southerners. They are fussy about even the size of the splints used in the fire, besides the type of wood to optimise the effect of smoke on meat. At Cappuccino, it was more like a Northerner's backyard barbecue with a nice bourbon touch.

The run of the mill entrees lifted with the morel and leek crepes. It was a fine, light touch amid robust meatiness. It is not that the hearty non-veg main courses weren't nice, they just failed to distinguish themselves. When Dennis the Menace asked his Mom whether he could go straight to the good stuff i.e. the dessert, the kid was spouting true wisdom. Just bite into the candied sunkist orange pie and listen to it speaking of sunny orchards, cool breeze and fertile earth. The other eloquent one is the roast peach with star anise glaze. The topic here is the great melting pot, in this case the melding of an Eastern spice and a Western fruit. It is quite a captivating discourse. If you want to hear them talk visit Cappuccino where the festival is on till July 19.

MARIEN MATHEW

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