Me: “Hey mama!” (On speaker phone)
Mom: “Hi babe!” (Connection scratches)
Dad: “Hey!” (in background)
Mama: “Oh yeah your father is here.” *chuckles* (sarcastic tone) “OK let’s get this started!”
Me: “So this interview is for my food blogging course. I’ll be asking you some questions about you and your experience with food over a part of your lifetime.”
Mama: “OK shoot!”
Me: *inhales* *exhales* “Before marriage, in the beginning of your marriage, before you had me, and after you had me, how has your relationship with food changed over the years?”
Mama: “Before we got married daddy and I used to go to Grama Sandie’s house and eat there a lot. He used to a lot more than I would because he still lived there still at the time. Great Grama Juanita would cook with Grama Sandie.”
Me: “Was grama’s cooking different than great grama’s cooking?”
Mama: “They both had similar cooking styles. Whether they made mushroom pork chop gravy, chicken fried steak, or hamburger gravy it was always tasty.”
Me: *Drool* At this point I was hankering a home cooked meal. “How about after you both got married?”
Me: *chuckles* (They do this all the time)
Mama: “How did we cook when we first moved in together and got married?”
Daddy: “We tried to cook like mom and great grama. But we didn’t cook every night. Sometimes we ate out.”
Mama: “Your dad and I had opposite shifts so it was hard to have dinner together on a regular basis. We used the weekends for having friends and family over. I’d cook a lot of Mexican food too! Burritos and tostadas were a regular!”
Me: “Oooooooh tostadas!” *drool* again.
Mama: *Laughs* “Daddy used to barbecue a lot because we hated our electric stove!”
Me: “He still does! So glad we have a gas stove now. OK next question: Once you had me, how did my eating habits affect the way you both cooked and ate?”
Mama: “Well as I said we had opposite shifts so sometimes your Uncle Teddy and both your grandparents would feed you mac and cheese in those plastic containers… GROSS.”
Me: *Laughs* “Those were so good! I miss that so much!”
Mama and daddy: “They were gross.”
Mama: “So gross…”
For a moment I paused I realized what a great deal of commitment, time, energy, and sacrifice my parents gave and did for me to have the best of both worlds: a family and a meal at the end of the day. Although I was sort of picky, my parents accommodated to what I was interested in at the time. My taste buds evolved and my palate matured, but all in all I remained faithful to my family values surrounding food. I found a new sense of appreciation for all they have given me.
Mama: “Baaabe! Are you there?”
Me: “Yeah mama sorry I was just zoning out.”
Mama: “Don’t zone out this is an interview!” *chuckles* (Gives me more crap about how I’m doing with some sarcasm)
Me: “O.K. last question for both of you… if you could cook or eat more of something, what would it be?”
Mama: “I wish we cooked more veges!”
Daddy: “I wish we cooked more steak.” *chuckles*
As I tilted my head downward at the receipt and spit street, I noticed a large puddle of rain water and see an oddly hanging sign in it’s reflection. “Mr. Pollo” said the sign (if signs had a language).
As my group and I enter the hole-in-the-wall restaurant I feel as if we were transported into a mini lounge in the Meat Packing District of New York City. The air, cool and calm, sifted around my damp coat and Vans. I noticed the tight space covered in black walls had a brightness to it; that brightness was due to the chef Ivan from Guam, a young man in his mid-twenties working his ass off in this hip-and-groovy hole-in-the-wall.
The way he handled the polenta, plantain, and arugula felt as if he performed a magic trick with no magic involved. The sheer easiness of his flow created a stomach-fluttering, heart-melting dish. Although it was bit larger than an amuse bouche, I treated it as a plater of golden truffled kobe steaks. Tiny bite by tiny bite I let each flavor dissolve in my, also tiny, mouth. The combination of the nutty, mealy, cheesy polenta, the sweet, creamy, carmalized plantain slice, and the biter, crisp arugala created an orgasm of clean and pure scrumptiousness in my mouth.
Since the trip I have had flashbacks to that dish. The fantasies need to become realities over and over again as soon as possible.
For my Chopped challenge, the first thing that came to mind was, “Lindsay would LOVE this challenge.”
Lindsay, my best friend, and I adore the Food Network channel. Every time I go over to her house or vice versa, the first program we look for is Chopped or Iron Chef. We would cook with random ingredients, with whatever we found in our pantries and see if our creations would become anything appetizing.
I went home for two days and luckily she was visiting her mom the same weekend I had this challenge. Not only was the timing perfect but so was the moment we shared as we created the dish.
First we went to Safeway and bought a petite filet of salmon, lemon icing, and bok choy. My ingredients consisted of any sort of fish, bok choy, and icing. To my discomfort I knew the icing would be the tricky aspect of this dish.
Luckily my parents had just bought ingredients to season their wok so I gingerly asked to use their precious pan Asian cuisine. Luckily they let me use their seasonings.
First we turned up the pan to a medium high heat, added some sesame oil, lemon juice, salt, pepper, and ponzu. As the pan heated up, we chopped the bok choy into chunks and tossed them into another frying pan where we added a splash of water, lemon juice, and sesame oil.
Next, once the empty pan was hot, we threw the salmon in and it immediately sizzled. We put the skin side down first to get the crunchy skin.
As the bok choy and salmon were cooking, we started on the sauce. In the sauce, we added a dollop of the lemon icing, honey, lemon juice, sliced ginger, ponzu oil, red pepper flakes, fire oil, and sesame oil to the mini pot and kept it on low heat for 10-15 minutes. The first attempt at making the sauce Lindsyaa and turned the fire up too high and burnt the sauce to a gunky black goop. The second time around while we stirred the pot to insure none of the sauce burnt.
Once all of the ingredients were cooked we placed the bok choy on a petite plate and placed the salmon filet on top. Lastly we took two spoonful’s of the sauce and drizzled it over the plate. For the final touch we carmalized a lemon slice and put it over the flame of the burner for a few seconds until the tips of the lemon were crisp.
Now that Lindsay and I are in college, the time we spend together is more valuable than ever. Although UC Davis is only a few hours away, we’re still in two different worlds. Luckily food and our string friendship keep us close no matter how many miles separate us.
Every step I took I gathered more and more fish juice, pig blood, and street sewage.
As I strutted through the open-faced pasty fish and poultry market, I felt myself hollowing about the store with my trusty IPhone 4S and open mindset. I made my own rule regarding what not to do when visiting Chinatown in general as well; rule one: do not wear Uggs for you have a high chance of getting animal guts on them.
Every time I tipped my nose into a bucket, cage, or tank I had the notion that it was my duty to dig past the surface of the sights of the store. Sort of expecting the unexpected, I realized I had been in similar situations before.
Growing up around my Vietnamese family friends I remember grocery shopping with my friend Margaret Lee and her mother Fe at fish markets; both my past encounters with markets and the encounter in Chinatown included stenches and sights of whole frozen frogs, flopping fish, and crawling crustaceans flooding my senses. To some the unsightly buckets of questionable sea life could pose as a turn-off. However I found the memories with the Lee’s comforting and made my experience with the fish and poultry market in San Francisco Chinatown.
The first cracking of its burnt sienna shield made me want to continue repeating the same action.
However, I stopped myself and realized how beautifully the vessel wobbled by its self. Not even my trembling fingers could reach the same peacefulness that the smooth gelatin-like inner complex radiated. At first I felt chipping off the fragile shell acted as a crime to its innocence, but I realized how cruel leaving the boiled vessel lying on the paper towel; it was my duty to dissect.
Once I half way completed the peeling of the egg, I soon took notice of the thin web sandwiched between the shell and the whites. Every time I forced the shield off the membrane held on exactly the same way as a calf was stolen from its mother. All that remained was torn apart bits of shell, gelatin, and chalky yoke.
As I pinch a bit of the mustard hued crumbles and plopped them into my mouth, I felt a sensation of earthiness. The delightfully dusty yoke mushed between my teeth and echoed through my ears. I never tasted something so pure that contained only one ingredient.
The exercise was over now and my peers circled the room collecting any leftover remains of the cells and their shields. The battle was won for my belly and lost for the life-form.