Alright, so I know it’s a bit weird to blog about one of Judaism’s most famous leavened breads during Passover (which, for all the non-jews out there, is a holiday where you abstain from leavened bread), but I’m not the best Jew, so this isn’t entirely out of character.
There are a few origin stories for the bagel. One, a myth that has since been debunked, tells the tale of a baker in Vienna in 1683, who created a bread shaped like a stirrup, in honor of King John III Sobieski of Poland, who prevented the Turks from taking over the city. This story even claims that the word bagel comes from the German word for stirrup, bugel. Though this story held sway for many years, we now know that it is totally false, since the Yiddish word beygl can be found in a 1610 document of rules for a Jewish community in Krakow. The rules state that bagels were to be given to women in childbirth as a gift. It’s believed that the bagel actually originated in South Germany, where it was named beugel, or bracelet. It then moved into Poland, where, some sources say, it was used as an alternative to the obwarzanek, a very similar bread, that was associated with Lent. Whether or not this is true, the bagel has quite a history in Poland. In the shtetls, hawkers sold bagels out of baskets or on long sticks, and were required to have a license. Even the illegal selling of bagels occurred, mostly by children with widowed mothers, though if they were caught, the police would often beat them and take away their goods.
However the bagel originated, with the diaspora of the Jews, it spread to Western Europe and the east coast of America, where it found a stronghold. Many Jews found employment selling bagels in their new cities. These days, the bagel is one of the more well known Jewish foods, and is intensely associated with New York. In fact, New Yorkers claim that they actually make the very best bagels, thanks to the high quality of the water. They even call their plain bagels “water bagels.” Another variety of bagels is the Montreal bagel, which is made with malt and is blanched in water with honey.
Bagels, in addition to being a famed Jew-food, also hold a lot of significance in Jewish culture. The shape of bagels symbolizes the circle of life; the loop of a bagel has no beginning and no end. Even more, they were considered to be a good luck token and it was thought they could fend off the evil eye. For this reason, it has held meaning in ceremonies that are life cycle events, like circumcisions, during childbirth (as mentioned above), and funerals. And as much of Jewish humor revolves around food, you can bet there are bagel jokes…namely “a bagel is a donut with rigor mortis.”
But really, while all of this bagel history is interesting, what is more interesting is how delicious they are. Bagels are made from an enriched dough with flour, water and yeast, though these days many people add eggs as well. The dough is then rolled out and shaped into the familiar rings, and are left to rise briefly. In order to get the fantastic crusty outside with the delightfully chewy center, the dough rings are blanched quickly in boiling water, and, after being drained, are then baked to bagel-y perfection. Of course, bagels don’t retain their freshness for very long, which is where that rigor mortis joke comes in!
But what really makes bagels so great are their ability to make delicious sandwiches. While much of bagel cuisine revolves around cream cheese and smoked salmon, the bagel is truly a versatile bread. Really, you could throw anything between a halved bagel, and chances are, it’d be awesome. Even better, is that the bagel is a very sturdy bread, so you can easily make open face sandwiches! Of the photos above, the sandwich ones are from Tompkins Square Bagels in New York City, which was around the corner from where my brother used to live, and was a place that necessitated at least two visits per trip to New York. The first open face bagel is a homemade sandwich, with lox from Zabar’s, and the second two are from The Wood in Los Angeles, a cute restaurant, and this, in my opinion, is the star of their menu.
But however you eat your bagel, (or for that matter, whether you’re a Jew or not!), bagels are definitely a part of both the sandwich and the breakfast culture of America. You can get a bagel with cream cheese at almost any grab and go breakfast place, and even many lunch places: Dunkin Donuts will put any of their sandwiches on a bagel for you. And these days, you can get just about any flavor of bagel you want, from plain to blueberry, to pumpernickel. Which really just gives you more options for your sandwiches.
As soon as I tried onigiri for the first time, I knew I had to eventually post something about it on Anatomy of a Sandwich. I had thought that, like many other posts I’ve done, I’d have to spend most of my time justifying how onigiri fit into a sandwich blog. But then I opened up a book by Shizuo Tsuji called Japanese Cooking: A Simple Art. This book is widely considered to be the first translation of Japanese cuisine into Western understanding, not to mention the foremost encyclopedia on traditional Japanese foods. So needless to say, I was thrilled to find this sentence leading the description of onigiri: “Japan’s traditional sandwich equivalent.”
This means, fortunately, that instead of validating onigiri’s inclusion here, I get to talk about the fun stuff!!!
Onigiri, also called omusubi, are delicious balls of rice stuffed with vegetable, meat, or seafood fillings, then wrapped in seaweed (called nori). Though the word “onigiri” has the same root as “nigiri”, a form of sushi, rice balls actually fall into a different category of Japanese cuisine. The relation here has to do with the etymology of “nigiri”, which means “clenched” or “gripped”. If you’ve ever seen a sushi chef make nigiri, then you know what I’m talking about. Onigiri are also clenched, as the rice must be pressed hard enough to stick together, without squishing the rice grains, which makes them harden. In fact, it is said that, since cooking was traditionally done by women, the clenching of onigiri was a sign of a mother’s love gripping the rice together. Onigiri are usually triangular in shape, but can also be tubular or round.
On the other hand, there is a very big difference between nigiri and onigiri: the rice. While sushi rice is made with vinegar and sugar, onigiri rice is simply steamed. Furthermore, when making nigiri, you simply wet your hands so the rice sticks together, but not to your hands. With onigiri, wetting your hands is followed by salting your hands, so that as you press the ball together, you are also seasoning it. The reason behind this actually has to do with the original reason each dish was created. Sushi was created as a way to preserve fish: the fish was put between layers of this vinegared rice in order to preserve the fish. Alternatively, onigiri is salted because it originated as a method to preserve rice, not the filling inside. To this end, traditional fillings for onigiri are usually preserved in and of themselves, like umeboshi (pickled plum), salted salmon, and tarako (salted cod roe). Onigiri is also on the larger side, meant to be handheld, you know, like a sandwich!!! Furthermore, onigiri is often thought to be Japan’s oldest food, possibly originating before the widespread use of chopsticks, since it takes rice, a difficult food to eat with your hands, and makes it more accessible. Archaeologists have even found a lump of carbonized rice from around 300 BC that showed evidence of being held by human hands!
Today, onigiri holds a very similar place in Japanese cuisine as sandwiches do in Western cuisine. Found everywhere from onigiri shops to gas stations and convenience stores, modern technology has had a large part in making onigiri as widespread as it is. While traditionally, the emotional associations and precision needed to make onigiri made it impossible to mass produce, these days we’ve figured out how to have machines grip the rice properly, stuff the ball with filling, and package the ball with nori in a way that prevents the seaweed from going soggy. It is a truly portable meal that is eaten in the same context as sandwiches, and is considered one of the best platforms for highlighting local flavors and trends. They are also used to explore other cuisines, as now you can find the traditionally English filling of tuna mayo, or even Italian-style, with tomato sauce and cheese. In LA, we have two great onigiri spots: Sunny Blue (in Santa Monica, with a new location in Culver City) and Kawaba Rice Ball in Hollywood. Both offer a great combination of traditional and modern fillings, as you can see in the photos. And both are unbelievably delicious and reasonably priced, so are great for a snack or a full meal, which means if you pass one of these places, you have no excuse not to go!
Well, it’s been quite a hiatus, but I’m back, and starting up again with one of my favorite sandwiches…the lobster roll.
Let’s begin with a bit of lobster history! There are actually quite a few species of lobster, but culinarily speaking, there are two that really matter. Lobsters are actually found all over the world, but the two we eat most are from each side of the Atlantic Ocean: the American lobster, and the European lobster. In fact, lobsters have been a part of the human diet as far back as the Greeks and Romans! For our purposes, let’s stick with the lobster we all know and love, from the westside of the Atlantic.
When the Americas began to be populated, lobsters were overwhelmingly plentiful, and not considered a delicacy. As it became a part of our diet, it was actually seen as the opposite: only the poor, prisoners, and indentured servants ate lobster…and they weren’t happy about it! But by the mid 1800s, eaters in Boston and New York had begun to pick up on the deliciousness, and technology advanced to a point where lobsters could be fished more easily for mass consumption.
The problem is, lobsters inherently lend themselves to being a luxury. They live alone, on the sea bed, in rocky outcrops, and reproduce very slowly….it can take up to two years to produce fertilized eggs, and then another six to eight years for the lobsters to become large enough to legally fish. Furthermore, lobsters are caught in traps, not with huge nets, and have been known to engage in cannibalism when in captivity. So in terms of price, female lobsters are the way to go…not only are they generally bigger, but the eggs, or coral, can also be used in sauces, and many gourmands believe that they taste better anyway.
In America, Maine is known for their lobster, and lobster is associated more than anything else with Maine. And it’s true, a lot of lobster comes from Maine. But actually, there’s a whole lot more in Canada, Maine just has a better PR company.
But let’s move on to lobster rolls. Lobster rolls come in two forms: hot and cold. The original lobster roll, unsurprisingly, comes from Maine, and is cold. The Maine version usually has a bit of mayo and some seasoning tossed with the lobster meat. Elsewhere in New England, the meat is usually mixed with mayo, celery, and a bit of seasoning…it’s actually a bit similar to a tuna salad, just overwhelmingly better (because it’s lobster). The hot lobster roll is credited to Harry Perry of Milford, CT, and is a simpler affair: hot chunks of lobster meat, drenched in drawn butter. But where the hot and cold join in the Venn diagram of lobster rolls is the bread: a toasted hot dog bun (or similar shape) cut down from the top instead of horizontally. I think the wonderfulness that is the lobster roll is best summed up by Susan Russo in her book The Encyclopedia of Sandwiches: “it’s ironic that lobster, one of the world’s most luxurious foods, is also the featured ingredient in this, one of New England’s least pretentious sandwiches.”
I think anyone who has had a lobster roll in New England can agree. The photos above are from Captain Scott’s Lobster Dock in New London, CT, where I went to college. The afternoons I spent there, eating lobster rolls (always hot of course…I may be a sucker for mayo, but there’s nothing better than hot lobster and drawn butter), are recalled with casual vibes and feelings of relaxation, not of white tablecloths and fine wines. It was about sitting outside at wooden picnic benches with friends and a cold beer, watching the boats come in and out of the harbor, chowing down on delicious food.
When it comes to a cheap, quick meal, most people think of fast food. However, not only does fast food have generally little to no nutritional value, but it is also seriously lacking in culture. Now, it is easy to argue that everything has some sort of culture, but I’m talking about a meaningful history, and an idea represented through consumption that eaters want to be a part of.
The po boy, on the other hand, combines history and culture with an inexpensive sandwich option. As with many culturally important and region-specific sandwiches, there are lots of stories about how the po boy was created. Generally, though, this sandwich’s early beginnings are agreed upon. During a streetcar strike in 1929, the Martin brothers, Bennie and Clovis, both former streetcar workers, vowed to feed every man involved. They partnered with John Gendusa to create a larger, yet inexpensive sandwich. Gendusa’s bread was bigger than the usual sandwich bread, and came to define the New Orleans-style French bread. The Martins served spare bits of roast beef and gravy on this bread, and after supplying enough of them to the “poor boys” that came to eat, the name stuck to the sandwich.
Today, roast beef is still one of the most popular and common po boys, along with the fried seafood varieties, available thanks to New Orleans’s location. Po boys are served “dressed” with shredded lettuce, tomato, pickles and mayo. They are also generally the cheapest sandwich on any menu, from restaurants to delis to convenience stores. This creates and interesting situation. The po boy was born out of the need for inexpensive food, so it is almost comforting to see that it has not left this part of its identity behind in the growing foodie culture of America. On the other hand, this position does not encourage much quality control. After all, very few people will complain if the cheapest sandwich doesn’t quite live up to their expectations. To counteract this laziness and to uphold and honor the po boy’s history, some establishments take great pride in their sandwiches and make a point of it, too. Furthermore, the New Orleans Po Boy Preservation Festival was created to keep the sandwich and its place in the city’s culture alive.
Sadly, the po boy pictured in this post is not from one of the places that puts emphasis on creating an exceptional sandwich. I discovered this sandwich in a po boy joint that supposedly had the best in the neighborhood. Unfortunately, this was apparently not a neighborhood that has remarkably high food standards, instead continuing the po boy’s history as a meal for those who might otherwise be unable to afford one. I got the classic roast beef, dressed. Though the sandwich was tasty, it was good in the way that cheap food is. It was very obvious that customers frequenting this establishment were not foodies. And while the sandwich itself was not spectacular, I definitely had a po boy experience reminiscent of its early days.
When I found out the bus was going to New Orleans, I was over the moon as the city is home to a very special sandwich: the muffuletta. Not only does the muffuletta originate in New Orleans, but its creation is also specific to one grocery store, which is still open. In the early 1900s, Central Grocery was a market that catered to the Sicilian farmers that worked nearby. In traditional Sicilian fashion, the farmers would buy meats, cheese, and bread, and eat it all separately. Now considering that the farmers weren’t having nice, sit-down lunches, but instead attempted balance all of these ingredients on their laps, the meal was a bit perilous. Luckily, the owner of Central Grocery, Salvatore Lupo, noticed these lunchtime difficulties, and figured out that the whole meal could be combined into one, easy to eat sandwich. This sandwich, a phenomenal composition of capicola, salami, pepperoni, ham, swiss, provolone, and marinated olive salad, gets its name from the round muffuletta loaf that its served on. And though the bread plays a defining role, it is actually the olive salad that truly makes a muffuletta. In fact, this is so much a part of the muffuletta that Central Grocery sells it by the jar, for your own sandwich making adventures.
As a person who loves food more than almost anything, and who will try pretty much everything, there is nothing better than finding great local foods. If there is a defining food of a culture, I want to be eating it. When eating with a local, I generally use the “I’ll have what she’s having” approach. This gives me the opportunity to branch out and try new and exciting things, in addition to getting to truly experience the culture. The muffuletta is one of these foods, an embodiment of New Orleans culture. It is also an interesting example because much of this culture is heavily influenced by its French history. This sandwich, on the other hand, is a key part of the New Orleans food culture, but finds its roots in Sicilian tradition.
Now, I’m a big fan of the “italian sub.” I love the combination of meats, and the fact that while it is a pretty common sandwich, many establishments manage to make it their own. And though the muffuletta could easily fit into this category due to its origins and ingredients, it really is in a class of its own. Yes, it has components that you won’t find in any other italian sub, and its own bread, but what truly sets the muffuletta apart is its place in New Orleans culture, as well as in the sandwich culture in America. Search online for the best muffuletta in New Orleans, and you’ll find heated battles between die-hard fans. Everyone has their favorite muffuletta joint, and there are quite a few places around New Orleans that specialize in this unique sandwich. Furthermore, the muffuletta left the Crescent City and can now be found in sandwich shops all over the country.
And let me tell you, this sandwich is amazing. The bread is soft, but dense enough to soak up most of the oil from the olive salad. The addition of swiss takes away a bit of the sharpness of the provolone, creating a cheesy, but balanced platform on which the meats can shine. And the olive salad…brilliant. Made from the classic giardiniera (pickled celery, cauliflower, and carrot) with the added bonus of olives, oregano, garlic, and lots of olive oil, it’s tangy and savory with a bit of a bite, matching it perfectly with every other ingredient in this sandwich.
Essentially, what I’m trying to say is that if you find yourself in New Orleans, you must try a muffuletta. You’ll get a great taste of New Orleans culture. At the risk of offending any muffuletta-heads, I highly recommend going to Central Grocery. After all, it is where the sandwich was originally created, and they still make excellent sandwiches today.
When it comes to barbeque, the real question is, where to begin? Barbeque as a cuisine is very personal: it has so many varieties that each region, state, county, city, restaurant, and family has its own barbeque, and they know for a fact that theirs is the best. From Tennessee and the Carolinas, to the Midwest, to the state that is infamous for it, Texas, barbeque is pervasive throughout the United States. Now, luckily, as a sandwich lover, I got to eat some great barbeque in Texas, the state that gives you sliced white bread along with all that delicious slow-cooked meat.
Barbeque’s history stems from cooking methods in the Caribbean and Florida area. Originating from the word barabicu, the Spanish adapted it to barbacoa. This referenced a wooden framework on which meat could be cooked. Eventually, during colonial times, barbeque came to have the meaning it has today, with the added connotations of gathering with many people around large, slow-cooked meals.
Since doing one blog post about the entire culture of barbeque would be both overwhelming and way too long, I’ll stick with Texas since their way(s) of barbeque do fit into the sandwich category. Along with the tender barbeque they serve, restaurants will give you a nice helping of sliced white bread to use instead of (or in addition to) utensils. Now where this idea came from, I’m not quite sure, though one person in a online forum noted that it’s great for sopping up all the delicious juices. Though many people outside the barbeque culture seem to hate on the commercial white bread phenomenon, I think it’s pretty fantastic. Granted, white bread isn’t the healthiest, but what part of barbeque is? The second photo in the blog comes from Rudy’s in Austin. Seth and I decided to share since neither of us could decide what to get. The great thing about Rudy’s is that they’ll let you try pretty much anything you want until you decide. After a bout of sampling, we chose the moist brisket (you can also get lean, but why bother?), the smoked turkey, and a half rack of baby backs. I decided to make half sandwiches, and above you can see my brisket sandwich. Now, I could go on and on about how amazing all the meats were, but let me just say one thing…this brisket was more than moist. It was so delicious and tender that even after I thought I couldn’t fit one more bite, I kept eating it. The other meats were good too, but this brisket was pretty much out of this world.
Another thing about barbeque is the sauce. Again, doing an overview of all the different kinds of barbeque sauce would take a book in and of itself. Everyone makes their own sauce, and everyone thinks theirs is the best. Now Rudy’s sauce was good, but it had nothing on the sauce from Live Oak in Austin. I really wanted to take a picture of the sandwiches I made here, but after the first picture of the box of meats (photo #1), I dove in headfirst and didn’t come up for air or pictures until I was stuffed. The meats at Live Oak were some of the best I’ve ever had. We got a little bit of everything, from brisket, to pork steak, to ribs, to sausage. And as amazing as all of that was, it was the sauce that blew me away. Black, thick, and with a flavor that I couldn’t pin down, I asked the owner what was in it, and surprisingly, he actually shared the ingredients. For the most part, it contained all the usual suspects, and then he uttered one magical word: coffee. As a barista in my professional life, I just about died and went to heaven. I don’t think I’ve ever used that much sauce on anything in my life.
So ultimately, though we only hit two barbeque joints in Texas, I think I get the relationship between phenomenally cooked meat and mass produced white bread. It’s hearty, it’s starchy, it sops everything up perfectly, and most importantly, it’s damn tasty.
Frybread is inescapable in the American Southwest. If you had to pick one food that would represent Native American culture, this would be it. Frybread is essentially a pancake of fried dough that can be served alone as a snack or made into two different types of sandwiches: a Navajo (or Indian) taco, or a meat pocket-type thing.
Frybread originated on the “Long Walk” that the Navajo were forced to make during their relocation from Arizona to New Mexico in 1864. Luckily for them, the US government was kind enough to provide them with flour, salt, sugar, and lard (yes, that was just a tad bit sarcastic). Thus, frybread was born: a food with a very contradictory identity. Though frybread is a symbol of the painful past that the Native Americans have shared, it is also a way for tribes to connect over this history. Furthermore, frybread is central to powwows (gatherings among tribes), but is also credited with many of the health issues among Native Americans today.
But how does all of this relate to sandwiches? Frybread is the base of many dishes…both as a convenient way to eat your mutton and sheep intestines (pictures #2 and #3), and in Navajo tacos (picture #1). A Navajo taco consists of frybread, ground beef, chili beans, lettuce, tomatoes, and cheese. The first picture is a Navajo taco from Charly’s in Flagstaff, AZ. Sadly, we found out once we actually got to the Navajo reservation in Gallup, NM that we had Americanized tacos, which was disappointing, but kind of predictable. I’m sure that by this point, I don’t have to argue the fact that the Navajo taco is a sandwich, even if it is easier to eat with a fork and knife.
Fortunately for us, we have a friend living in Gallup, and so we got to experience the real Navajo culture…and real frybread. We went to the Navajo flea market, and aside from buying really cool jewelry, we ate a whole lot. The second picture is roast mutton…meat, tomatoes, lettuce, onion, all wrapped in frybread. Now, this definitely fits into the sandwich category, as you can pick it up and munch. The mutton, coincidentally, was also fantastic (I think I thanked the Navajo woman about twelve times). The third picture doesn’t appear to qualify as a sandwich, considering that there are three kinds of meat (including a rib and sheep intestines), a potato, a corn cob, all on top of frybread. A great way to eat this dish, however, is to break off a little bit of fry bread and a little bit of meat and eat with your hands. This meal was really fun because I got the boys to try the sheep intestines.
So though I didn’t really talk about sandwiches on this blog, I thought it was important to talk about a different kind of bread, especially one with such a cultural importance. Plus, everything with frybread is phenomenally delicious.
Since I’m on the topic of the East Coast, I thought this would be a good time for a post about Five Guys. Though Five Fuys is now a burger franchise all over the world, it started out as a little, family-run burger joint in Arlington, VA. My first experience with these delicious burgers was during my senior year of college. Somehow, I had made it almost all the way through my entire college career before I had even heard of the place. Then, one lucky day, one of my friends decided that we were having burgers for dinner. Words like “handmade patties” and “just like in-n-out” were thrown about, and even though I was extremely skeptical, I went with it.
Now, I am a Southern California girl through and through, and you just don’t compare any fast food burger to In-N-Out. Period. And this was no Double Double. But, Five Guys makes burgers that could fit the description of an East Coast In-N-Out. Plus, they have toppings (pictured is lettuce, tomato, pickles, cheese, and grilled mushrooms). These toppings range from the classic ketchup, onions, lettuce, etc, to the more exotic A1 sauce and green peppers. Furthermore, and this is what totally sold me on Five Guys, they have really good fries. As much as I love In-N-Out, I just really don’t like their fries. And not only are the Five Guys fries amazing, but they also have cajun fries, which are pretty much to die for.
I must say that I was slightly devastated to move back to Los Angeles and realize that my Five Guys days were over. But then…I discovered that the closest Ikea happens to share an address with the closest Five Guys. And since I was moving and obviously needed an Ikea trip, what better time to hit up Five Guys?! The best part was the first bite…until I took another…and another.
So who’s heading out to Carson with me for another Five Guys trip?
I semi-recently took a trip to New York to see my brother and my college friends. Now for those of you who have been following along, you will have noticed that I frequent the East Coast, and that I continue my quest for awesome sandwiches on these little vacations. While I did have some great sandwiches on this trip, you’ll have to wait for future blog posts. This post is about a little seafood shack in Connecticut and a fish sandwich that signified the change of the seasons, the beginning and end of the school year, and the promise of fun with great friends.
Though there are two main seafood shacks in New London that have similar traditional menus, Fred’s Shanty is the place you go when you want a fish sandwich. Simple, cheap, and fresh, there really isn’t much that’s better on a crisp fall day that’s reminiscent of summer.
In an earlier post, I touched on the idea of the connection between food and memory. In the same way that a smell or sound can take you back to a previous moment in your life, food can also be associated with memory. Just how I have many good feelings and memories associated with sea urchin, the Fred’s Shanty fish sandwich evokes visions of countless warm fall and spring college days spent outside – on the green, in the arboretum, at the beach – accented by trips to a small seafood shack on the Thames River. And of course, these memories are attached to this sandwich not just because the consumption is recurring, but because of the strength of the emotions that the memories call up. Yes, the fish sandwich from Fred’s Shanty is good, but it doesn’t stand out in a crowd of fish sandwiches. In fact, the main reason to go to Fred’s Shanty instead of Captain Scott’s Lobster Dock (the other sea food shack in New London) is because it’s cheaper, not because the food is better. And though I have similar, and definitely more Lobster Dock memories, they involve a sandwich of a different sort. It is this sandwich, the simple yet delicious fish sandwich, that carries ties to the lush life of college.
Now before I begin, I want to note that it has been quite some time since I’ve posted. Sorry.
Secondly, and much more pertinent to this post, I am not a pizza expert. On the other hand, I very much know what exactly I like and don’t like when it comes to pizza. Quite honestly, that deep-dish, thick crust stuff just doesn’t do it for me. That is why I always make sure to eat pizza as much as I can when in New York.
I hope that by now, I won’t have to argue too strongly as to why pizza fits into the sandwich category. It very much resembles an open-face sandwich and, furthermore, is most often eaten with your hands (unless of course, you are one of THOSE people who eat their pizza with a fork and knife, and probably pat off all the grease as well).
What is really interesting about pizza, in my opinion, is how many different cultures have laid claim to it. Its origins in Naples make it inherently Italian, yet America has adopted it into its food culture as well. Going further, Chicago has made the pizza its own, as has New York, and any college student could tell you that pizza is one of their most eaten foods. For me, this is the beauty of food — its universality allows all sorts of people to eat the same food while meaning very different things to each person.