Coming from a family of Belarusian immigrants, I am no stranger to food combinations that would make most people cringe. When most people think of salads, they think of some green veggies with salt, pepper, and maybe some olive oil. What they don’t think of is mayonnaise, cow tongue, and daikon(white radish). These three ingredients, along with some herbs, make up the salad that is sold to my mother simply as “radish salad”. In many ways, these ingredients tell a history of my people. Daikon, for instance is found primarily in East Asia, which begs the question, “How did it become a part of Slavic cuisine?”. The presence of this vegetable indicates that there was an abundance of trade occurring between Russia and Asia. This possibly could have happened when Russia was under Mongol rule along with much of Eurasia, fostering trade and mixing of culture. In addition, cow tongue tells a story of struggle. For most of its history, Russia and its surrounding regions were under a feudal system, and then a communist system in the 20th century. Under both forms of government, food was scarce for those who were not in positions of power, so people had to use as many parts of the animal as they could, including the tongue. Immigrants like my family, and countless others, make sure that these stories continue to be told through culture and food, and the introduction of our food to American consumers helps make our stories a part of theirs.
– Daniel Levin