ANDREA SEABROOK, host:
Does all these economic talk get you down? Are you tired of watching the stock market act like a sorry Phoenix rising from the ashes only to plummet again? Well, maybe it's time for a little comfort food for all the world. As the leaders of the G-20 huddled in Washington this weekend, we sought out cooks from their home countries to talk about the foods that soothe when times are tough all over. Take Germany.
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KATE DAVIDSON: Largest economy in Europe, but it's gone into recession. Chancellor Angela Merkel's going to need some comforting.
Mr. ERICH CHRIST (Owner and Chief, Black Forest Inn, Minneapolis, Minnesota): Yeah, I would make jaeger schnitzel.
DAVIDSON: That's Erich Christ, owner and chef of the Black Forest Inn in Minneapolis, Minnesota.
Mr. CHRIST: That would be a slice of veal with some wild and domestic mushrooms and probably a very nice (unintelligible) dumpling. And as a vegetable, red cabbage, and that's a sweet sour cabbage.
DAVIDSON: Cooked with salt, pepper, cloves, and applesauce. Christ says the aroma wafting from the kitchen should be one of cinnamon and vinegar, comfort food from Germany.
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Ms. PATRICIA JINICH: My name is Patricia Jinich, and I was born and raised in Mexico City.
DAVIDSON: So, if you were going to cook one comfort food for President Felipe Calderon while he's here in the United States, a real comfort food, what would it be?
Ms. JINICH: It would have to be enfrijoladas,
Ms. JINICH: Enfrijoladas.
DAVIDSON: What are they?
Ms. JINICH: Enfrijoladas are corn tortillas that are dipped in beans that had been cooked and seasoned and then pureed. And then you drizzle a little bit of Mexican cream and some queso fresco or fresh cheese. And then it's your choice of which salsa of the infinite varieties that we have that you can drizzle on top. My choice is chipotle (unintelligible) sauce.
Ms. JINICH: Smokey and...
Ms. JINICH: And rich and spicy and sweet.
DAVIDSON: Tell me about the sort of - what it feels like to cook this?
Ms. JINICH: There is always a pot of beans being cooked in a Mexican home. No matter where you are, it can be the north, the south, it can be the tiniest little town in the countryside or the fanciest mansion in Mexico City. There's always a pot of beans that are being cooked. And the smell is sort of - it's earthy. There's a lot of moisture in the air coming out because the beans have to be cooked for a long time for them to be tender. And it just smells like home to me.
DAVIDSON: From Mexico to India.
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DAVIDSON: Indian cook Madhur Jaffrey also loves beans but the Indian version, dal. Dal is split peas in some parts of India, split beans in others. It seems simple...
Ms. MADHUR JAFFREY: But in India, you never leave anything as simple as that. Then you seasoned it. You take a little fat, which could be oil or it could be clarified butter, and into it, you put spices. And these could be cumin seeds and chili, or it could mustard seeds. And you pop these spices in this hot, hot fat, and you pour it over the dal. And that gives an extra little philip to the dal, and it becomes absolutely yummy.
DAVIDSON: Jaffrey says dal is her soul food.
Ms. JAFFREY: These are the kind foods that you hanker for, something that you've had as a child, as a baby, something that goes down easily, something that will always be true. You know, you can have fancy things, and they're exciting, but something that is always true and solidly itself is what is comfort food.
DAVIDSON: Madhur Jaffrey talking about dal, comfort food from a childhood in Delhi. Do you have a food that soothes? Tell us stories about your comfort food at npr.org/comfortfood. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.
In turbulent times like these, don't we all need a little comfort food? As world leaders converge in Washington, D.C., this weekend for the Group of 20 financial summit, we asked cooks about soothing foods from their homelands.
Americans have seen a lot in the last few months. Failed banks. Frozen lending. A stock market like a weary phoenix, rising from its ashes then plummeting again. In turbulent times like these, don't we all need a little comfort food?
Comfort food, it turns out, is a global phenomenon.
As world leaders converge in Washington, D.C., this weekend for the Group of 20 financial summit, we asked cooks from their native countries about the comfort foods of home.
Take Germany. It's Europe's largest economy, but it just entered a recession for the first time in five years. That must keep Chancellor Angela Merkel up at night. Erich Christ, owner of the Black Forest Inn in Minneapolis, said Merkel could probably use some jaeger schnitzel. And sauerbraten. And spaetzle. Not to mention bread dumplings and red cabbage.
For the uninitiated, Christ describes jaeger schnitzel as "a slice of veal, with wild and domestic mushrooms." Sauerbraten is marinated beef, "the epitome of German food," and spaetzle is a dumplinglike egg noodle.
Christ grew up in Mannheim, Germany, during the post-World War II era when food was scarce. He described the aroma that should waft from the kitchen during the preparation of the ideal comfort meal: one of vinegar and cinnamon, both sweet and sour.
Indian cook Madhur Jaffrey also grew up during trying times — the partition of her homeland into India and Pakistan. She now lives in New York, but for her comfort food she chose a dish that's prepared in every Indian household, no matter how humble. Dal — split peas or lentils — is a dish that's seasoned with cumin, chili, mustard seeds, onion or garlic.
"When people ask me, 'What would you like to eat that will really make you feel very comfortable and wonderful and soothed?' I always say dal and rice."
And what makes it comfort food?
"It's our soul food," Jaffrey says, "and I think these are the kinds of food you hanker for. Something that you've had as a child, as a baby. Something that goes down easily. Something that will always be true."
Plus, she has read that President-elect Barack Obama loves to eat dal — and cook it too.
To ease the worry of her countrymen, Mexican cook Patricia Jinich picked enfrijoladas, which are corn tortillas dipped in seasoned and pureed beans, drizzled with Mexican cream, queso fresco and one of an infinite number of salsas. She says it's a Sunday meal, a family meal. And it ties Mexican households together.
"There is always a pot of beans being cooked in a Mexican home," Jinich says. "No matter where you are, it can be the north, the south, it can be the tiniest little town in the countryside or the fanciest mansion in Mexico City."
Families around the world are already united in their concern about the world's economic outlook. The most fortunate among them will be able to put aside their worries tonight over a plate of enfrijoladas, dal and rice, jaeger schnitzel or — what else?
Tell us your favorite comfort food and the memories it evokes in the comments section below.