Are you American?

by: S.W. Kirch


Starting, June 27th,  the Aspen Music Festival will examine what it means to be American through the lenses of different composers and poets.  What do you think? We mulled the question over, as well as asked one person: Karin Derly, The French Alpine Bistro – Crêperie du Village restaurant co-owner and immigrant to the United States.


The Definition


Does being American mean you have to look or act a certain way? Of course, there are stereotypes of Americans, but there’s also a data-based theory, as summarized in a Washington Post article, which posits that there are actually 11 different nations of America.  As diverse as the country may be, most anyone from the U.S. would say that s/he places a relatively high value on traits such as, flexibility, creativity, industriousness, and friendliness.  All these American characteristics are exemplified in the pioneer spirit of optimism: it’s possible; it’s feasible; it’s attainable. Why, though, even try to quantify just what being American means?  


The perfect setting to continue intellectual conversations after a day at the Aspen Ideas Festival 

Who Am I?

Maybe we strive to determine what being American means because it is
intrinsically linked to the existential question of, “Who am I?” It’s  something that everyone grapples with at some point in his/her life.  On a cellular level, we’re the combination of our parents’ DNA, but research is revealing that not only our physical make-up, but also our predispositions to certain personality traits, phobias, even food preferences are influenced by our genes.  Enter, then, our environment, which has also been proven to also play a substantial role in determining just who we become.  So, who we are is much less Nature vs. Nurture, but rather more Nature and Nurture…where we’re from, plus what we’re around, forms who we are. The Aspen Music Festival invites participants to reflect on all this while enjoying the works of American composers including Gershwin, Ives, and Copland


Tarte tatin

After, you’ve listened to inspiring music, The French Alpine Bistro encourages you to end the evening on a good note with a decidedly delicious dessert – Tarte tatin.  A classic French tart, it is a twist on an American favorite: apple pie.  Made with caramelized apples, and embedded in a firm, yet crumbly crust, it’s served with cider sauce and vanilla bean ice cream…all pure music to the palate.  At times, who we all are is simply hungry!


How does a French Alpine restaurant fit into being American?


Co-owner Karin Derly hails from the “Old World” country of Austria. She originally visited America to improve her English, but kept being drawn back – especially to Aspen, Colorado.  In 2011, she chose to stay in the “New World” permanently, and combined her gifts and passions with those of native Frenchman, Raphael Derly, to open a restaurant.  Unlike in Europe, where formal training in a certain subject is seen as essential to success in business, the American optimistic spirit encourages anyone with enough ambition to jump into a venture. Karin now describes herself as an, “European American with Austrian roots”.  She especially appreciates that, “Americans are outgoing, friendly, very social and fun….the United States is a very business-friendly country and encourages entrepreneurship, much more so than any European country.” Residents and visitors to Aspen get to reap the rewards of two creative, hard-working, and friendly immigrants. So, whether before (aperitif 3 -5:30 p.m.), or after (6/27-8/18 kitchen’s open late: 10:30 p.m.) you’ve clapped enthusiastically at one of the Aspen Music Festival’s American concerts, be sure to read up on the specials highlighted below; next, toast to your American and immigrant friends, and then tuck into a truly gourmet French/Austrian/American meal.