I read the novella Daisy Miller: A Study for class this week and it intrigued me. The story, if you’re not familiar with it, follows the interactions between Mr. Winterbourne and Daisy Miller. It takes place in Europe and what makes this setting interesting is the fact that both Winterbourne and Daisy are Americans simply living and touring throughout Europe. Henry James, the author of this novella, was extremely interested in analyzing the similarities and differences between American culture and European culture. He himself traveled frequently between the United States and Europe before finally settling down in Europe after becoming infuriated with the U.S. for not entering World War I right away. His extensive experience with both cultures provided him with a base of information from which he could build a story that investigates these inter-cultural relationships.
So, the fact that he wrote a story about the differences between European culture and the culture of the U.S. got us into a discussion in class yesterday about them. We talked about topics such as clothing, noise levels, habits, and sexuality. It was interesting to hear about people’s perceptions of the different countries even now and many students talked about their experiences studying abroad in Europe and how it’s a social norm to keep quiet in public places or speak very lowly, that wearing black is a common and fashion forward choice in most European countries, and how although Europeans may expose more on the beach than we do, their day-to-day clothing is much more modest. In addition, we spoke about the book in relation to these differences as well. Daisy Miller is looked down upon for walking unchaperoned with a man, especially when she does so at night. She is perceived to be an ‘American flirt’ who does daring things like travel places unescorted, have an intimate relationship with her family’s courier, and keep company with men who may not be socially approved by the upper echelons of society.
We also get a view of what Americans might have been perceived as through the greedy and rude actions of Randolph Miller, Daisy’s little brother. At the beginning of the novella, he approaches Winterbourne and asks for one sugar cube off of Winterbourne’s plate. To make it worse, he grabs three instead of just one cube as was decided and then proceeds to eat one of them right in front of Winterbourne. While he’s doing this, he babbles on loudly about how “American candy’s the best candy” and that “American men are the best”. To see this interaction take place on paper is very telling in terms of how Americans were perceived in Europe during the late 1800’s.
The discussion we had in class was really very interesting and it got some wheels turning in my head. Of course, these thoughts included sweet potatoes, the differences between American and European cuisine, Daisy Miller: A Study, and this blog. So, what came out of that mini brainstorm? A twist on the classic burger and fry combo that I associate with the United States.
See, when I started thinking about all of these similarities and differences between the culture of Europe and the culture of the United States as presented by Henry James, I started thinking about what my perceptions were in terms of popular food in Europe and the U.S. For Europe, I envisioned thinly sliced salmon, wine, cheese, capers, olives, bread, and roasts. I have no idea if any of these thoughts are ‘correct’ per se, but they are my opinions and perceptions of what food would have been like during the time period. When I imagined in the U.S., I immediately thought of hamburgers, french fries, and milkshakes. What a classic combo, right?
And after I started thinking about it, I had to make it for dinner for myself. But I didn’t want just any old burger and fries. First, I had a pack of Amy’s Bistro Burgers in the freezer that I was just itching to try, and of course some sweet potatoes in my pantry. I had a little fun switching up my traditional savory recipe for sweet potato fries by trying out a brand new creation that are a little bit out there but delicious nonetheless. So, in honor of pondering the similarities and differences between European and American culture, or in honor of sitting down and reading the novella Daisy Miller: A Study, for yourself, here’s a recipe for some unique sweet potato fries that I came up with.
Sweet Potato Fries: An Experiment
1 cup puffed Kamut cereal
1 teaspoon cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon nutmeg
1 egg white
1 sweet potato
1. Cut the sweet potato into fries. I do this by cutting the sweet potato into halves and then cutting thin slices from there. You can make the fries as thick or thin as you’d like-just try to make them all a similar width as it will affect the cooking time.
2. In a food processor, blend the cereal, cinnamon and nutmeg until the cereal attains a flour-like consistency and the ingredients are well mixed. Pour the contents of the food processor onto a large plate. Spread the mixture so that the “flour” covers the entire plate.
3. On a separate, smaller plate, crack an egg and put the egg white on the plate. If you are using medium-sized eggs you may need two egg whites. If you’re using large eggs, one egg white should be sufficient.
4. Preheat oven to 350 degrees and lightly spray a cookie sheet with cooking spray.
5. Take the pile of sweet potato fries and individually douse them with egg whites and then roll them in the flour. They should be coated with the flour mixture when you put them on the pan. After you’ve covered all the fries in the flour mixture, bake them in the oven for 30-45 minutes depending on how thick you cut your fries.
6. Pile up those fries and serve them next to a burger of your choice! Enjoy!