I am an UNABASHED food nerd. I love everything about it. Give me the science, give me the history, give me the traditions. I want to know everything about why we eat as we do, and how tastes have evolved over the centuries. Hopefully, you have that curiosity as well! Let's check out some of the most classic starter combos in history!
The Three Sisters
One upon a Corona-Free time, at Food Lion, I overheard a conversation between two stocking clerks about Independence Day being the next day.
Clerk 1: So, if we leave out milk and cookies for Santa, what do we leave out for Captain America?
Clerk 2: *chuckling* I saw that meme. Apple pie and beer!
Me: Neither one of those is American.
Clerk 2: What?
Me: *turning to them* Beer is from where Iraq is today, we just drink a crap ton of it here. So, 'Merica.
Clerk 1: You're telling me Apple Pie isn't American?
Me: Apples are from Kazakhstan. Johnny Appleseed just got America rolling.
Clerk 2: Hot Dogs?
Me: *continue to shop* Frankfurter, sorry bud. That's German. Cap might take offense.
Clerk 1: Well, what would you leave?
Me: *turns back to the fellows with a smile* Pumpkin pie, corn, and beans.
It's true, the most American pie is the humble, oft-leftover, pumpkin pie. From Central America, flowing with waterways, came the tradition of the Three Sisters. The indigenous people would plant corn, beans, and squash together. Let's look at how it works.
This was an ingenious, and natural means of growing crops while preserving nutrients in the soil while fighting off weeds and pests. Corn is naturally tall, providing something for the beans to climb, and the beans strengthen the corn stalk against winds. However, corn naturally depletes nitrogen from the soil. Given enough of this leeching, the ground wouldn't be able to support more corn growth. Beans actually add nitrogen back to the earth; thus, it cuts the burden put on the land. Squash is a low growing plant, with broad reading leaves that helped block weeds and repelled critters and crawlies (or at least distract them).
All three of these items freeze well, can well, and store well. So, make sure to keep them around.
The "Holy Trinity"
Father, Son, and Holy Spirit are the OG Trinity. However, in Cajun and Creole cooking the holy trinity takes a different form. Onions, celery, and bell pepper create the base for all sorts of savory dishes.
Added to Roux
The absolute importance of these ingredients is not so subtly hidden in their name. To "kick it up a notch," garlic and green onion are often added, or used as a topper to finished dishes. With these few things, you're well on your way to making any Cajun entree you can think of.
Proportions differ by dish, of course, but usually, it's heavy on the onion, medium on the celery, and lightest on the bell peppers. If you're going to be doing a lot of cajun cooking or prepping, go ahead and chop a whole lot of each to store in your fridge. You can also freeze for a couple of weeks if you're really into prepping.
The mother of all dish starters! The Cajun Trinity is based on French Mirepoix. Cajun, French, well... you get it. Pronounced MEER-PWAH, the fellow who created it has a name that is less pronounceable. Charles-Pierre-Gaston Francois de Levis, duc de Levis-Mirepoix is credited for having established this as a dish starter worthy of a 10+ syllable named man. Traditionally this is cooked in either fat or wine to start a dish.
Italians also cook this trio down in olive oil to create a soffrito. Two whole nationalities with dishes based off of these three unassuming varieties of vegetation!
Like the others, if you want to save some serious time, go ahead and chop a bunch of this for use in the week ahead. Freeze it, or seal it up in the fridge, for a quick and flavorful start to any soup, savory pie, sauce, or vegetable dish!
I studied German in high school and college. Turn out my high school teacher, Hérr Goranson, was right. German is SO LOGICAL! Literally meaning soup greens, suppengrün is a staple of my kitchen.
Depending on what region of Germany you live in, suppengrün comes in different combinations due to varied climates and growing practices. Traditionally suppengrün consists of leeks, carrots, and a piece of celeriac (celery root). Haven't had celery root before? You're missing out! It looks like elephant turds. Tastes like clean, pure celery. Plus, you can make the most deliciously savory mashed "potatoes" with it! I digress. Other items these bundles might contain are:
Either way you bundle it (get it, they come in bundles), suppengrün consists of vegetables that are useful in cold climates and can be stored for a long time naturally. Each of these items is used to impart robust flavor and nutrients into soups and sauces. This way, you can imbue flavorless things, like peas and beans, with a taste that will keep you coming back for more!
Suppengrün can be used dried, but I recommend them fresh. Many of the root vegetables can be kept in a cool, dry place for weeks at a time, but others will need to be purchased fresh or flash frozen.
There are many more dish starters of other nationalities, but these are my go-to in the fall and winter as soup weather, pumpkin spice, jeans, boots, and crips air set in. I'll make sure to tackle some of those in the coming seasons, but I'm trying to rush 2020 to be over. I hope you enjoyed a few minutes of nerding out to foodstuffs. Be sure to subscribe to The Vegan Pauper to be the first to read new posts! Happy supping!