There are two spheres of life in the Czech Republic that are wide open for the right talent to walk into and call their own - giant gaping voids that just scream "opportunity!" The first sphere would be politics which I've written about in other posts. The second sphere of life in the Czech Republic that is in need of new voices, new talent, & new thought is cuisine.
Where is the Czech "Jamie Oliver?" He's the British chef who said "we could make our national food and cuisine and what we serve our kids healthier." The Czech Republic is in bad need of this kind of culinary cultural leadership.
It's interesting to compare what needs to be fixed in American diets and what needs to be fixed in Czech diets. My hero, author Michael Pollan, writes extensively and entertainingly that Americans eat a lot of "edible food-like substances" rather than real, actual food. He has said Americans are unconscious when they eat processed food. It's not really "real food." It's an "edible, highly-processed food-like substance" that has been created because processed food adds more profit to ag companies than commodities.
Americans are so guilty as charged! Pollan says it would be hard to create an eating culture that resulted in more heart disease, obesity, and chronic disease than our own, but we Americans have managed to do it. Most likely, because each one of those health problems is a profit opportunity for someone. So ag companies can make profit on creating unhealthy food and drug companies can make profit on fixing all the health problems created. You are not a person - you are a profit delivery system for large companies in the American food landscape!
So Michael Pollan asked all of his readers ("The Omnivore's Dilemma" and "In Defense of Food" were each chosen as among the top ten titles in the year they were written - both of them are fantastic) to send him their family "food rules" so Americans could begin to develop an eating culture that would not poison them. It has resulted in his new book "Food Rules," a collection of the rules people sent in.
The most well-known food rule people sent is this: Don't eat any food your great-grandmother wouldn't recognize.
What a conundrum. Everything Czech people eat is food their great-grandmother would recognize! If we were doing manual labor on a farm it would be the perfect cuisine: bread and potato dumplings, deep-fried cheese, piles and piles of potatoes, loads of beer (and not light beer either), and inexpensive cuts of beef and pork (did you know pork had knuckles? Pork knuckle is a famous Czech dish). So far, the Czech people look pretty skinny. But I was seeing the pedestrian Czechs for the most part - not the driving Czechs. Now that Czechs are beginning to buy cars, I wonder how long they'll stay skinny.
I say the opportunity is right for an inventive Czech chef to update Czechs to the beautiful, wondrous, variety of vegetables out there beyond cabbage and potatoes. Communism is dead! Czech people, you don't have to eat like a communist or a member of the A/H Empire anymore. You deserve vegetables in every possible color, not just white. You deserve high-quality meat! There are more exotic things for you to discover beyond bananas!
This mythical chef could possible update gender roles a bit too. In America, every man I know proudly kicks ass in the kitchen. Czech men have no idea how fun it is to cook!
Travel Channel host and chef
Tonight, Anthony Bourdain's American travel show "No Reservations" travels to Prague to see how cuisine has evolved post-communism. I'm so excited to see what he has to say.
Armchair Traveling With Tony
What Flavor Do You Associate With the Czech Republic?