One of my favorite concepts (and practices) is that of eating place-based foods. Place-based foods are those that have a deep connection to the land where they grow. That connection is a physical one, as well as a historic one, and it is reflected in the taste, look, feel, and culture of the food.
Last weekend I spent my birthday--a milestone one, they say--on the North Fork of Long Island, and I focused my activities and my eating on place-based traditions.
I went wine-tasting and swirled in my mouth the product of the relatively new grape growing traditions of the East End. On the island only certain varieties grow well, and as a result, the menus are populated by Chardonnays and Merlots, with some Gruners and Rieslings mixed in. You don't go to Long Island to drink Pinot Grigio; be where you are. Drink where you are.
I ate corn. Lots of it. The North Fork's sweet summer corn is outstanding, and extra good when grilled in its husks by your big brother (hypothetically speaking, of course). I ate homemade lobster rolls, made with local lobster--Una's recipe, via Ethan, and outstandingly simple and good. Also, local wild striped bass, more than once, and tomatoes, tomatoes tomatoes (blight be damned). There were no local peaches, because it turns out all those peaches at Union Square all come from Jersey. So, I guess you don't go to Long Island to eat peaches; be where you are. Eat where you are.
And the birthday thing: I think I am meant to be scared by this birthday, by the fact that I haven't figured out my whole life yet, by the fact that I am getting older and nobody lives forever. But instead I walked on the beach, and I rode bikes with my friends, experiencing what it must feel like to be a kid in the suburbs, learning to feel comfortable on a bike, thrilling at the freedom of exploring the neighborhood, tooling around with your buddies, baking in the hot sun.
My birthday mantra: maintain a place-based tradition. Be where you are.