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May 25, 2009 06:03 PM

A RANT AGAINST THE TERM 'PEASANT FOOD' or its inaccurate, indiscriminate, disrespectful, unchowish use of it.

I keep seeing people use the term 'Peasant Food' way out of context. For example... 'Enchiladas' are merely Peasant food. What does THAT mean? Are people saying they have spent time with Peasants

(From Wikipedia: 'A peasant is an agricultural worker who subsists by working a small plot of ground. The word is derived from 15th century French païsant meaning one from the pays, or countryside, ultimately from the Latin pagus, or outlying administrative district (when the Roman Empire became Christian, these outlying districts were "pagan," that is, not Christian). [1] The term peasant today is sometimes used in a pejorative sense for impoverished farmers.')...

and they eat Enchiladas or Dumplings or whatever people here sometimes decry as Peasant food. I get the sense that the people who refer to certain foods as Peasant Food:

1) Can't cook... because no one that cooks (and I am including high performance professionals) would ever utter such barbarity. (and when I mean cook I mean from scratch not some Rachel Ray hack job)

2) Thinks Enchiladas are peasant food but Raviolis are not. Refuses to pay more than a few dollars for Dim Sum but spends $20 a plate on linguini or pizza.

I guess one of the contexts is price. Dried Corn... cheap, Lobster expensive... therefore Dried Corn is peasant food, but Lobster is food of Kings. So 200 years ago when Lobster was almost exclusively the food of impoverished coastal peoples was it peasant food? Further... is Lobster really more refined? Does it take more skill & "civilization" to harvest & boil a live lobster? How about the Corn that was bred from a puny grain at the end of a stalk... to a massive cob, and all that knowledge that is required to preserve and then reuse via slaking with limestone and preparing into composed food items that take on a new abstract form unrelated to the original simple ingredient... this is not a product of civilizations? So in effect the cultures that who obtain the technology to produce that wonderful grain based meal inexpensively are derided instead of praised? This makes no sense.

People praise dandelion greens... one man's weed another more intelligent man (or woman's) salad. I doubt there are lot of true peasants out there habitually eating the foods that people often so irresponsibly & baselessly refer to as peasant food.

The other context is that some people seem to think there are only two types of food.... Food as Fine Art & then peasant food. Yes I appreciate the Fine Art style... might even be my acknowledged highest expression for food... but I am annoyed when people are snobbish towards anything that is not Fine Art. And I mean... how many places really provide Fine Art cuisine? Gastronomy as Fine Art is still a very rough, entry level Art form because there just aren't very many knowledgeable connoisseurs. Most highly acclaimed haute restaurants are the equivalent of a Thomas Kinkade art store.. no depth, no story... laughed at by the Michaelangelo & quality Folk Artisans alike. A good example is Cyrus in Healdsburg... a Michelin 2 star, yes they provide a haute dining experience in form... but there is substance, no real story, no intellect, no idealism behind the actual food just a hollow, pretty thing like a Kinkade painting... certainly not qualifying as Fine Art.

And yet this is the basis for snobbery? I think not.

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  1. Take a deep breath. Home cooking, comfort food chez nous is our preferred cuisine. When I go out and want to be wowed, it's haute cuisine. Both can be great, and I think that great restaurants acknowledge this.

    1. Eat_Nopal, i'm not, by any means, championing the accuracy or expertise of anything one might find on Wiki, but since you cited their definition of "peasant" in your OP< i just wanted to point out that there's also an entry for the term "peasant food"...

      and there have been a couple of prior threads devoted to discussion of the topic:

      4 Replies
      1. re: goodhealthgourmet

        I referenced Wikipedia... not because I think its a bastion of truth... but because they had a quick to reference (cut & paste I should say) accurate definition. The definition for "Peasant Food" seems to me to be absolute crap.

        1. re: Eat_Nopal

          I guess we have different definitions of what peasant food is. It seem pretty accurate to me.


          1. The original comment has been removed
            1. I agree with you although I'm not sure I exactly understand everything your wrote :) I was trying to think of anything I'd call "peasant food" that wasn't made by peasants. I didn't come up with anything. Maybe there needs to be more categories/descriptions. I loved your Kinkaide analogy. A purty pitcher but not "art." Expound more please!

              1. EN , by now I know enough about your soul to know that you are frustrated by the illogic of sine-wave trends and peculiar human behavior. I was raised as a protestant in a catholic area of Connecticut, and we ate fish on Friday, not in sympathy with the catholics, but because it cost less. We would go to Cappy's tiny fish market, where he had a 6-foot swordfish splayed on his cutting board, and we would tell him how thick to slice our dinner food, because it was cheaper than hamburger. Peasant food changes, as do us peasant wannabees who remember better days.