The Santa Monica Farmers Market offers a series of free stimulating panel interviews held at the Santa Monica Main Library. I finally made it to my first one this past Thursday night, and was thrilled to see well known food writers on stage discussing and reflecting about the origin of recipes. Authors Lauryn Chun, Valerie Gordon, Russ Parsons (former LA Times Food Editor), Kevin West (moderator), and Anne Willan shared a lively conversation on traditions, food, and culture.
A large subject of discussion had to do with the influence of culture and geography can alter or enhance traditional recipes. Lauryn Chun of Korean descent uses seasonal and local ingredients like pine nuts and kale in kimchee (what a fabulous idea!). Mr. Parsons spoke to the geographical influences of the Korean and Mexican communities of Los Angeles. He gave an example Chef Roy Choi (creator of the Kogi Food Truck and several LA restaurants) who successfully fused Korean BBQ Beef with the ubiquitous corn tortilla. Mr. Parsons commented “there is a ring of inevitability to it.” Twenty years ago he recalled seeing Pastrami in tortillas. Moderator Mr. West asked Mr. Parsons if Wolfgang Puck’s Smoked Salmon Pizza creation was a result of “cultural inevitability.” Mr. Parson’s responded “…well you have a pizza maker married to a Jewish woman,” immediately followed by unanimous laughter from the audience.
The question of ownership of a recipe was heavily debated, but an answer was not proffered. It was made clear that recipes cannot be copyrighted. Ms. Willan spoke of her personal experiences with the late Julia Child. Julia Child, a culinary master in the kitchen was famous for her beef bourguignon recipe. Ms. Willan shared that ironically, Julia Child would not take ownership of that recipe. Valerie Gordon, owner of Valerie’s Confections shared how on some occasions she may use an old recipe, recognize the recipe that inspired her, and adds different ingredients to make it her own. Ms. Gordon later encouraged the audience to be more liberated in the kitchen, throw out the cookbook, and make a recipe your own.
If you are as much of a food geek as I am, and live in the LA area, I think it is worth attending these panel interviews as they are engaging and educational. Toward the close of the panel discussion, a book raffle took place, immediately followed by a book signing with all the panelists, topped off with delicious sweets made by Valerie’s Confections. The toffee crunch was amazing, and the cookie was absolutely buttery and moist, making it a perfectly sweet ending.