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Thursday, Dec 18, 2014
Food & Dining

Chef says food helps us share, overlook differences

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Carla Hall wants everyone to get along.

Men and women. Whites and blacks. Conservatives and liberals. Meat eaters and vegetarians.

To accomplish that goal — especially in hyperpolarized United States — the co-host of ABC’s talk-with-your-mouth-full chat show “The Chew” (WFTS-ABC, 1 p.m.) says we all need to share each other’s food.

“Through food, can’t we all see that we’re similar with very small differences that we should be able to tolerate?” she said.

Her new book co-written with Genevieve Ko, “Carla’s Comfort Foods; Favorite Dishes from Around the World,” (Atria, $29), the one-time “Top Chef” contestant shares the warm, loving dishes of home. If a recipe is in the book, there’s a good chance that the source of the idea came from a family dinner somewhere in the world.

“Being from the South, that’s the food I’m drawn to,” Hall said recently.

Each chapter in the book discusses a basic recipe and then shows variations of spices and ingredients to explore the similarities and differences of world cuisine. Eggplant, for example, can be found in an Indian dish of Spiced Eggplant Stewed with Potatoes and Tomatoes as well as one for Chinese Hot and Sour Eggplant Stir fry.

“I’m not saying that any of these dishes are the definitive recipes,” Hall said. “They’re more about exploring spices and ingredients will lead you to find new flavors and textures.”

Hall lives in Washington, D.C., and commutes to New York City to tape “The Chew.” In the early 1990s, she lived in Tampa while she worked as an accountant. She still has fond memories of Bayshore Boulevard and a handful of small restaurants. Now she spends time noticing common themes among cuisines, even when she isn’t traveling abroad.

“[Americans] need to focus on traveling in this country so we can get to know each other,” she said. “We’re so used to running away from this country, but there’s so much this country has to offer.”

While we’re all getting along, blending and sharing food, Hall says it’s still OK to celebrate our differences. Southern food, for example, is strong enough to stand alone as a cuisine without too much experimentation.

“It’s probably one of the last regional cuisines that we have in this country,” she said. “We don’t have to always think about how creative we can be by combining two things that are diametrically opposed.”

jhouck@tampatrib.com

(813) 259-7324

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