What to Cook This Weekend: Edible Time Travel

Allie Wist, associate art director, develops a time machine through taste to transport you to different eras of food

Classic French Banana Cream Pie

This nearly forgotten recipe comes to us from the beloved Ships Diner in Los Angeles that closed in 1995. The whipped cream filling doesn’t require any cooking—no custard here—while some slices of banana and toasted almond add texture and flavor. A fast, easy-to-make pie from a bygone era that deserves a comeback. Get the recipe for Classic French Banana Cream Pie »

I’m fairly certain that quantum physics applies to recipes. The bendy and loopy and multi-dimensional oddities in the fabric of our universe may be, in fact, accessible via food. We time travel through old recipes, and their flavors allow us to curve back into the past and experience it again. In my recent Q&A with Clifford Wright about his 1997 feature story “Hearts of Syria” for Saveur, we found ourselves experiencing the flavors and smells of Syrian cuisine 10 years before the current civil war. When you cook a dish attached to a history, be it personal or shared, you allow for a bit of movement into the past.

I first developed this theory in an unlikely incubator for legitimate ideas on gastronomy: on a cramped flight, tepid Diet Coke in hand. A slightly tacky quantum theory documentary, which actually used a slice of cake to demonstrate the theory’s suggestion that you can see multiple “slices” in time, also used distant stars to show how we could go back in time via our senses. The light we see coming from a star could be millions of years old, but our eyes are seeing it now. And presto: we’re able to be in two places at once—now, and the eon when that star let off its light.

Somehow I feel certain that taste can function similarly to sight in this way. The flavors and smells from certain recipes, ones that are anchored in a specific time and place, give us that ability. At Saveur, we do this through a recipe for a Banana Cream Pie from the 1940s, almost lost to history, but salvaged by Valerie Gordon; through our recreation of the the first plate of nachos, a product of midcentury cross-cultural culinary invention at the Mexican border; a lunch from 1984 made by David Tanis to recreate Provencal cuisine; and by cooking root vegetables to explore our ancestor’s discoveries in edible plants. We can look to our past by eating now.

Classic French Banana Cream Pie

This nearly forgotten recipe comes to us from the beloved Ships Diner in Los Angeles that closed in 1995. The whipped cream filling doesn’t require any cooking—no custard here—while some slices of banana and toasted almond add texture and flavor. A fast, easy-to-make pie from a bygone era that deserves a comeback. Get the recipe for Classic French Banana Cream Pie »

Real Deal Ignacio-Style Nachos

A balance of pickly, salty, cheesy, and crisp, this recipe—inspired by the original—proves that simple is preferable when it comes to nachos. When deep-frying your own tortillas, look for soft tortillas made with all corn (and no flour) for the crunchiest results. Get the recipe for Real Deal Ignacio-Style Nachos »
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