By Mary Ann Ebner
Those who love the world through the table these days can easily find staples such as masa corn flour, fish sauce and tahini at local stores. What began as makeshift selections in many communities — corner shelves of Asian spices, assorted German cookies and pricy Italian pasta — have expanded to aisles flush with global ingredients.
From the looks of some home kitchens, it’s plain to see influences of world travel, long-distance assignments and neighbors who share traditional cuisine transported from Mexico, China and Pakistan. My family lived for a time on a suburban street resembling the parade of nations. At neighborhood gatherings I came away with insider tips for Chinese dumplings and tamales as well as an appreciation for Texas culture and the new religion of brisket.
The exchanges made me a more adventurous cook, but the benefits didn’t end there. Food sparked introductions, and we grew more connected as we passed samosas. It reinforced my belief that food helps establish beginnings while allowing a touchstone to the past.
Leonora Burton of The Country Goose in Cold Spring brought her own tastes from Wales to the Hudson Valley, but she caters to a wide range of preferences.
“Marmite is definitely a fun thing to sell,” Burton says. “We have a ton of Brits living in the area and they come in for this, but I make the Americans smell it and it makes them throw up.”
In addition to the thick and sticky Marmite, which is made from yeast extract, The Country Goose sells HP sauce, another favorite condiment among Brits that never seems to go out of style. Burton says a number of customers give their Indian meals a good kick with the vast amount of Madras curry powder.
All the international tastes she encounters are “incredible,” Burton says. “We sell a lot of lemon garlic finishing sauce, wasabi ginger sauce and, of course, the British baked beans.”
Burton says she has hooked many Americans on PG Tips tea. She also introduces tastes through gift baskets, tucking everything from Yorkshire Gold tea to Swedish lingonberry sauce into deliveries, the latter of which she says people then come looking for. “I’ve also had people say ‘Oh, I’m going to make it myself,’ but you can’t make it,” she says. “The berries have to be picked in Sweden at midnight in the land of the midnight sun.”
The mention of bright red lingonberries takes me back to my own Swedish connection — not a trip to IKEA but living in Sweden as an undergraduate. Lingonberries were impossible to miss as Swedes served them with meat as well as paper-thin pancakes. I learned to make moose meatballs and the recipe recalled here originated with my host family.
It may be impossible to round up fresh lingonberries outside a Swedish forest, but the tart red berries prepared with sugar and mixed into a jam are available at supermarkets. Burton carries 10-ounce jars.
“We try to help people get what they can’t live without,” she says.
Serves 4 to 6
1 pound ground meat
1 large onion, minced
2 tablespoons butter
3 cups bread crumbles
2 cups milk
salt and pepper
1 teaspoon butter
2 tablespoons flour
1 cup broth
½ cup cream
Sauté onions in butter. Combine ground meat (diced mushrooms work as a substitute), onions, eggs and bread crumbles soaked in cream. Season with salt and pepper. Shape mixture into balls and fry in butter/oil mixture until crisp. Set meatballs aside. Beat flour into pan drippings. Add broth and stir. Raise heat and gradually add cream. Stir and cook 5 to 8 minutes. Serve meatballs with brown sauce and lingonberries.