We can all stand to learn new things, as well as being brave enough to try thing out of our comfort zones. And what better time to spice things up than during National Pork Month.
You may have read the piece that I wrote that the National Pork Board declares it is “Time to Tango,” in reference to the U.S. pork industry needing to step up to better meet needs and wants of the large Latino population in the country.
Food is entrenched in many cultures, and Latinos are no different, and they wish to bring many of the dishes they grew up with to their families who have now settled in the United States. The problem is, other than in ethnic-specific grocers, it may be hard for them to find such offerings in mainstream U.S. grocery stores.
One cannot begrudge U.S. Latinos for wishing to hold onto and recreate the flavors of their homeland, much like U.S. Germans roll out sauerkraut or U.S. Nordics feast on lutefisk. (Two of which I’ve tried, but fail to understand the allure.)
As I discussed the “Time to Tango” report with the NPB’s José de Jesús and Jarrod Sutton a few weeks back, they stressed that meeting the needs of the U.S. Latino shopper does not mean an overhaul of U.S. grocery aisles and meat cases, merely adding some offerings in stores found in neighborhoods with large Latino populations.
I relish the thought of spicing up the offerings from our kitchen, so if by offering greater ethnic choices for Latino shoppers it will expose us to different flavors to broaden our palate, I’m all for it.
After I visited with de Jesús and Sutton, the National Pork Board formally opened the Innovation Kitchen at the organization’s Des Moines-area office, and Chef José Mendín and his crew broke it in in fine fashion, taking us on a cuisine cruise through the Latino world.
Mendín created Anticuchos de Lomo from Perú, Pupusas de Chicharrún from El Salvador, Carne Frita with Mofongo from his native Puerto Rico and Michoacán-style Carnitas from Mexico, and the dishes resulted in rave reviews.
Will I be able to recreate these dishes in my home kitchen? Maybe not identically, but I’m willing to try. One thing that the NPB hopes to accomplish with the Innovation Kitchen is the ability to create how-to videos to remove the veil of difficulty in the preparation of such dishes, helping the novice or even the experienced chef broaden their kitchen skills. The goal is to have such videos available on the Pork Checkoff’s YouTube channel in due time. Preparing ethnic dishes won’t be the sole content of such videos; basic proper pork preparation techniques will also be presented.
We can all stand to learn something, and for me if it means broadening what may be offered on my plate, sign me up.