Leeks are braised in stock with a topping of breadcrumbs and cheese for a simple, but so flavorful side dish.
By Maya Parson
Years ago, when I lived in Central America, my friends would regularly flatter me by observing that even though my eyes are blue and my skin is light, I could pass for Nicaraguan. One day friends asked me about my family history, and when I revealed that my grandmother was Portuguese, there was a collective, “Aha!” I wasn’t exactly Latina, but my kin (at least some of them) came from the Iberian Peninsula.
That explained it! Like most people, the stories of my ancestors fascinate me, but I am doubtful how much my genealogy can tell me about things like my lack of self-control in the presence of Nicaraguan fried cheese or my obsession with a particular allium. Nonetheless, I have to admit that in one of my recurring fantasies, I am an old leek farmer. I wear frumpy woolen clothes and muddy rain boots and spend my days tending my small plot of leeks. But the point is that there is something about the leek that speaks to me in a way that feels deep and meaningful and familiar. Or maybe I just really love leeks. In any case, I found the most tender, lovely leeks this Saturday at my local farmers market. Some were as thin as my pinky. I grabbed up the bunch and told the farmer I’d take them all. I hope I didn’t seem too greedy, but good leeks will do that to me. I’m blaming my ancestors.
Maya Parson entered the world of food journalism as an ice cream taste tester for her local newspaper at age eight. She later pursued a career in cultural anthropology – happily feasting on farm cheeses, fresh corn tortillas and a lot of rice and beans during her field research in Central America. Maya eventually settled in the other “central America” – the U.S. Midwest – where she enjoys cooking with farm-fresh foods and writing about food, culture and the culinary arts. She is the editor of Edible Michiana Magazine and can also be found on her blog, Cultured Grub.