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Garden Update, Nov. 16

16 Nov

Garden looks good.  It was fairly cool and the entire garden was in shade while I was there.

I also watered the compost.  Unlike past watering visits, no huge flies buzzed out when I lifted the lid.  I take that as a good sign?

The hose had a funny kink in it.  When I rolled up the hose, that kink didn’t want to unfold itself easily.

The Most Memorable Dish of All

9 Nov

Before college, when my friends and I went our separate ways, our families used to have parties all the time in the cold season:  Thanksgiving Dinner, Christmas Eve, Christmas, New Year’s Eve, the Chinese New Year, and every other weekend in between.  As our parents are first-generation Asian Americans, we rarely had turkey on Thanksgiving and ate distinctly Asian food for the winter American holidays.  My friends and I, being mischievous high school students, often joked about the food albeit our love of it.  Many of the dishes were memorable because our parents asked us to help prepare them before taking them to the hosts’ home.  However, my most memorable food was by far the fruit tart pie brought by the family of my best friend, who claimed the recipe to be a great family secret.  It was not because of the taste or the sugar, however, that made this food memorable.  (I think I have a delicate sweet tooth, as I consider many chocolates and smoothies to be too sweet.)  All my friends knew my best friend had a tendency to exaggerate or outright lie, but I was naïve to his boasts a little too often for comfort.  Thus my friend’s “family secret” fruit tart pie became memorable:  it came in a black plastic dish with a clear plastic cover, plastered with a Kroger grocery store sticker with nutrition facts.

Garden Update, Oct. 21

21 Oct

It’s been drizzling on and off for the past couple days, and I felt rain this morning, so I did not water as much as last week.

The faucet looks leakier.

Garden looks good – the new plantings have grown since last week.

It seems we let the large radish sit too long, as something took a huge chunk out of it.  I threw it in the compost (which appears to have been watered before I got there).

The next couple of people to check on the garden should probably harvest some of those radishes before we lose more.  (We’re already loaded on groceries, else I would have taken some.)

Food Propaganda comes from the family too

19 Oct

The first image an American might come up with when asked about propagandistic food might be “freedom fries”, or the less well-known “freedom toast”, renamed because of French opposition to the U.S.-led invasion of Iraq.  Few might look at their own families for sources of propagandistic food, but that is actually one of the first things I thought on the topic.  My mom loved telling me in my childhood that eating spicy foods would result in a long and energetic lifespan, pointing at my grandmother (her mother), who was well past 70 but still climbing apartment stairs and working in the medical lab daily.  I cannot remember what I thought of food when I was young, though I suspect I avoided my greens; nevertheless, I have been eating spicy foods for as long as I remember.

As I write this, I am also aware that many people simply cannot tolerate spicy food.  The only way I could rationalize this scientifically was to think that perhaps these people had too many spicy taste buds on their tongues, whereas I had too many burned away over the course of the years.  But even if that were true, that would suggest that at some point in time, I too was not able to tolerate spicy foods well.  It just goes to show how powerful propaganda in food can be, especially on a child whose mind can be easily molded.  Though I cannot remember it, the lull of a longer, more eventful life seems to have encouraged me to pick up spicy foods, to such an extent that my tolerance of spice has kept going up for as long as I can remember – and to the chagrin of friends who try spicy dishes I recommend.


Garden Update, Oct. 14

14 Oct

I came to water the garden around 12:30pm.  As I sit on the bench 25 minutes later typing this, it has gotten a bit hotter than it was earlier.

Before watering, I gently rattled the plants with my hand to see if any critters are munching holes in our plants.  I only turned up small flying insects.  (Curiously, the wasps did not show up until after I started watering.)

This is the garden before watering.

Garden after watering

Last week, we planted new daikon seeds next to our transplanted daikon.  They seem to be doing well.

New daikon plantings next to transplanted daikon

When I opened the compost bin, several flies zoomed out.  Nevertheless, I still watered it.

Compost before watering

Overall, I’d say the garden looked pretty good today!

P.S.: The radishes look really great.

Magical experiences aren’t always happy

28 Sep

“Magic” is generally used to describe supernatural events.  In a place lacking in genuine Chinese cuisine, Junichiro Tanizaki thought his accidentally discovered Chinese dishes were “magical” due to their appealing to all senses, not just taste.  When food’s primary purpose is to be eaten, it ought to be unusual if one sees and hears something extraordinary; feels something unusually textured; and smells an aroma distinct from food commonly consumed.  While Tanizaki’s experience was clearly positive given his yearning for more Chinese food, I have an experience with “magical” food which is not nearly as glowing, and unfortunately not soon to be forgotten.

This past summer, I was granted the opportunity to study abroad in South Korea, for which I am extremely grateful to the USC East Asia Studies Center.  The variety of food, and sheer quantity of choices throughout Korea – all of which are extremely cheap relative to American prices – could itself qualify as a magical experience like Tanizaki’s.  However, there is one meal I do not miss, but cannot forget.  While visiting a village on Jeju Island, I was confronted by a large pot of boiling pillbugs.

Bugs are actually eaten globally, and experts say they actually quite nutritious.  However, as bugs are not a part of my diet, it should come as no surprise that this meal “magically” took over my senses.  I saw and heard murky, brown liquid boiling, and felt sickened.  I smelled something similar to mud, and wanted to hold my nose.  Without touching anything, I imagined feeling bugs crawling inside my stomach.  I stuck a toothpick through one, and cannot remember if I heard crunchy food or squishy food.  I am sure half the senses I remember feeling that day were actually imagined and not real.  Regardless, I, like the poor hunters from “The Restaurant of Many Orders”, can remember experiencing something unnatural.

What “Nature” means to Fukuoka, and What We Can Do

16 Sep

In the movie Ratatouille, all kinds of complicated dishes are served to the wealthy patrons of a French restaurant.  However, it is the taste of a simple dish which wins over the heart of the harshest of food critics.  Masanobu Fukuoka might have said, “I told you so,” but there is much more to his philosophy of simplicity in food.

Modern society’s obsession with refined, commercialized food clashes with Fukuoka’s belief in the consumption of purely natural foods.  The sad reality is that even those who think they eat a lot of natural foods probably do not, if going by Fukuoka’s definition.  First, Fukuoka is not just referring to snack food with preservative elements; he is also referring to chemicals used during the growth of crops.  He has shown that crops grown without chemicals and insecticides may actually be healthier than the chemical-doused crops grown by huge companies.  The consumption of out-of-season fruits, as an example, would also be the consumption of unnatural chemicals.  I do not believe it is practical for everyone to stop buying fruits and vegetables grown with the use of chemicals; were today’s diminished count of farmers to forsake “science” when growing crops, we would not have enough food for the Earth’s current population.

There is one aspect of Fukuoka’s wishes which can, however, be tackled.  Today, it is all too common to find the taste of natural food overwhelmed with artificially added flavors.  Vegetarians who swear by natural foods slather them with unnatural dressing.  Americans commonly oversalt foods of all kinds.  Snack and soda manufacturers all cram too much sugar into too small a space (have you ever measured out 40 grams of sugar and seen how much space it occupies?).  It is completely within our power to choose to consume foods with a limited amount of additional flavorings, in an attempt to get back to “natural” taste.

Student-style fried rice

3 Sep

When one thinks of fried rice, images of Asian restaurants generally come to mind.  It’s quite common to eat fried rice which contains beef, pork or chicken, in addition to scrambled egg and an assortment of vegetables.  However, for college students cooking for the first time, a comprehensive dish of fried rice featuring vegetables and meats may seem prohibitively expensive for frequent consumption.  Thankfully, a little bit of thinking outside the box can help here.

The first night my roommates prepared dinner, plenty of my years-old perceptions of food were shattered.  My greatest shock wasn’t when my roommate put rice and noodles in the same dish.  (He said it was because there weren’t enough noodles to go around.  I wonder why we bothered with the noodles at all then.)  It was when he said he was going to slice up some chicken and put it in the wok with the rice and noodles.  I wondered, when and how did we come across cheap chicken?

Well, it turned out the chicken would come from our Dino Nuggets.

A bite full of chicken nuggets, rice, and broccoli sounds like a strange combination.  If you taste it, you’ll probably think it an unusual texture as well.  However, it was an adequate dinner which covered the food groups.  Our filled stomachs certainly didn’t complain.

Thankfully, we have refined the recipe for cheap fried rice.  Sliced hot dogs have turned out to be a much more scrumptious type of meat in fried rice than defrosted, sliced breaded chicken.  Packs of hot dogs are certainly cheaper to buy than packages of fresh raw meat.