Utah's Food Identity 

Lynne Rossetto Kasper talks culinary renaissance

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I know it’s spring when fresh asparagus is roasting and its scent, accented by truffle salt, fills my kitchen. Only recently, I found out that this green goddess was grown locally at Day Farms in Layton. But roasted asparagus doesn’t scream “Utah”—and, beyond green Jell-O salad and funeral potatoes, outsiders might surmise that this isolated desert town is without a food-rooted sense of place. Lynne Rossetto Kasper thinks that might be changing, though.

It’s a subject American Public Media’s The Splendid Table radio-program host and co-founder is fluent in, as indicated in her 1992 magnum opus, The Splendid Table, which dug into the foods of Northern Italy’s Emilia-Romagna. Although she fondly remembers Lonestar Taqueria’s fish tacos, Kasper makes no pretense at knowing Utah’s culinary landscape in detail. She can, however, speak to America’s changing paradigm in a broader sense. “We are finally starting to own our cuisine, to step out of the shadows cast by France or Italy or wherever,” Kasper says from her Minnesota office. “I probably would’ve said this 20 years ago, had I been doing a radio show for nearly 20 years then, but we are in the middle of a renaissance.” It’s the culmination of food awareness—social, economic and political aspects—and expression.

Locally, restaurants like Zy, Faustina, Eva’s and Tin Angel Café, to name a few, demonstrate this by combining a pioneer-influenced preservationist mentality (local first) with a contemporary American palate for high-desert flair. So are everyday folk, Kasper says. “I wouldn’t wish it to happen again, but the current economy has forced people to rethink meals, which forces us to cook more, bring people together—such a wonderful thing.” Kasper published How to Eat Weekends in September 2011, which relates stories and recipes that celebrate the benefit of extra kitchen time with friends and family, which facilitates a cultural culinary identity. 

KUER (90.1 FM) is bringing Kasper to town this weekend for several special events for donors; they are not open to the public.

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