The first time I tasted artichoke, I was already in college. As far as I know it was not an item they stocked at Pat’s Food Center in Freeland, the one-stoplight farm town where I grew up.If I had seen one at all, it was probably the likeness of an artichoke on someone’s apron.
These are people who know and care about local food.
For years I would ask my Arabic students, Where do you eat? In what restaurants do you find the best, most authentic Arabic food? The response was predictable: a bewildered smile. Then, also predictable, the answer: At home. Whatever they ate in a restaurant was, by default, going to be second best. Eating around in Dearborn, I tended to look toward the kitchen, hoping to see an old lady or two. If there was a grandma back there, that was a good sign.
In the last couple days, we’ve eaten in establishments with kids in charge. Kids? Okay, people younger than us, a lot younger, fully in command of local food tradition.