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Food is love

I have a friend, Mia, on Livejournal, who blogs about food all the time. I think I am going to have my one post that just talks about food to make up for all this time I haven’t talked about it. I have no pictures to share, alas, although Richard might have some from meals I shared with him last month, and I have one blurry cameraphone picture of the Eggplant Moussaka I had at Butler’s Pantry that is really more blurry pixel soup than coherence.

For those of you who haven’t lived with me or talked with me about my food habits (which I’m assuming is the majority of you who probably don’t care), here’s a bit of background:

  • My family is from Hong Kong, which means I was weaned on typical Cantonese cuisine from my parents. That said, they’re from Hong Kong, which means they have a healthy exposure to Western ingredients too. Almost everything my mom makes is yummy. I make it my life’s mission to make versions of her things with less MSG.
  • Whether it was nature or nurture, I have the unpickiest palate ever. I will try anything once (though I have yet to partake in the most Chinese of experiences, eating dog). I eat things that are smelly. I keep very good track of my leftovers (mm, lunch). I will mix things just to see if it works. But I can also be very plain and simple about things too.
  • Almost definitely by nurture, I am pretty health conscious when it comes to eating. When I was in grade 8, my dad put up a poster on the back of my door showing fruits and vegetables and their vitamin and mineral contents. I used to stare at it while I tried to fall asleep, playing anagrams with the headline: “Reduce your risk.” My entire family (well, I’m not so sure about my brother) watches our diet and our personal reactions to food fairly carefully, taking note of how food makes us feel and what we can eat to make ourselves feel better. They subscribe traditional Chinese medicine, especially regarding the Four Natures (I like to think of them as humors, to put a bit of an old Western equivalent on it), so every once in a while I’ll hear things like, “Get some chrysanthemum tea and some apples, you’ll feel better.” It’s a very instinctual way of eating, where it’s just a matter of asking one’s self, “What will make you feel better?” (or, as the case may be if I’m eating out sometimes, “What will make you feel least worst?”). I have a pretty slavish devotion to having a lot of variety in my diet.
  • I find the above point fascinating as well because food is also so closely tied up in memory of times and places for me. I ate very well in Iceland, and I will probably never eat that kind of food outside of that time and place again because I feel it is associated with that place (though if someone makes that fish-corn-asparagus bake thing again, I will certainly not turn them down). I will not actively avoid it, but that it was out of the ordinary and special (and absolutely delicious). I often tell people that I don’t eat Chinese food in Toronto, because Chinese food in my head is something I share with my family. It’s also a cooking for one thing too – it seems excessive to have multiple dishes when you’re cooking for yourself, so I do away with the separation of things and tend to just combine things into a single bowl, which is much closer to the way fusion restaurants serve their dishes than the communal eating experience I enjoy with my family.

Anyway. I like cooking by necessity, which means making whatever’s on hand taste good, and keeping things on hand. These tend to be driven by markets for me, i.e. whatever seemed cheap at the organic store. My most recent innovations and attempts have included:

  1. steamed celery with onions and canned oysters with noodles in miso soup. This is kind of a staple for me anyway though: I tend to do some green vegetable with onions and some protein product with noodles in miso soup or rice on a fairly regular basis. Previous iterations of this have included brocolli with onions and calf’s liver with noodles on rice, and green beans with onions and a hard boiled egg in noodles with soup.
  2. salmon and gorgonzola Garbanzo Beans (Chick Peas) with whole wheat pita and cream cheese. (Gorgonzola is a cheese, not a bean.)
  3. Eggplant / ground pork lasagna in tomato sauce
  4. Shake and Bake chicken. I went branded for the learning experience. Next time it will be organic breadcrumbs and herbs, huzzah!
  5. Chili – beef, beans, onions. This was a first. I think I did pretty well with the seasonings. Probably lightweight to most, but it hit me in the back of the throat.
  6. Butternut squash stew with zucchini, onions and kidney beans.

As for the future, I just bought all the herbs to do an all-out, actual curry this weekend. I think it will have spinach, potatoes and chicken in it. I just hope I get time to cook it! And I want to try doing a century egg congee soon.

2 Comments

  1. Mmmmm, food.

    I applaud your efforts to cook even just for yourself. I find myself almost incapable of serious cooking unless it’s to share with others.

    Also, you gave away your west-coast-ness in this post. James has informed me that no one east of the Rockies ever uses the word “fusion”. ;)

    Posted November 19, 2006 at 2:56 pm | Permalink
  2. My palate is similar to yours. Grew up on Cantonese cooking, so I can eat just about anything. Unfortunately, I cannot cook to save myself. Mostly due to laziness and also past failures. :P

    Posted November 23, 2006 at 3:40 am | Permalink

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