Food is philosophy in that what we serve on our table tells our stories, and what we like to look at on our plate and taste tells who we are. Here are some of my musings on the tastes that make us.
Accent du terroir is a French term that just means “flavor of the land.” When I’ve heard it, it’s been used in talking about wine, and how wines take on the flavor of the land their grapes are grown in. Minerals, types of soil, spices and herbs grown nearby, climate…all of these things help form the flavor of the grape as it grows, and permeate the wine with unique tastes.
I feel like it’s a term that can be used to describe people as well. Even as mobile as we are these days, jumping from city to city, country to country, the places where we were grown leave a definite imprint on us, and strongly shape what feels like home.
I grew up in the country – wine country – so my accent du terroir is full of California grapes. But there are many other flavors in there as well. The rolling gold dust pushed over the ranch by the cool afternoon breezes that came up our valley from the bay. The briny sea salt crusting the edges of those breezes. Hazy afternoons that are warm without ever getting too hot, sitting on the back patio under the grape arbor.
The food I love is rich with that heritage. The beef and rice grape leaf wraps crisped in olive oil that our Greek neighbors showed us how to make. Lots of spicy sausage and fresh pasta and olives brought from home by the large Italian population settled around us. A surprising but brilliant dash of spicy pepper or rich sauce in a dish inspired by settling Mexican families who brought flavors from home with them as well. All the fresh produce you could ever want.
Visiting home immersed me in all these flavors all over again. Walking to our favorite trattoria with my folks and enjoying delicious local wine and fresh baked bread dipped in olive oil and balsamic, sitting under the grape arbor and wrapping dolmades, and even sitting out on Monterey Bay with a glass of wine and enjoying the smell of the salt spray.
That, to me, is the most wonderful thing about traveling, tasting, and cooking. If you take the time to deliberately sense and taste the flavor of the land, if you stop to learn a dish or two, you will always have a flavor of that place that you can take home with you and share.
What flavors and stories make up your accent du terroir?