My parents, grandparents, and older relatives love to eat a fruit from southeast Asia called a durian. I don’t know if you’ve heard of it before, but if not, just know that durian is a fruit with such a strong odor that it is banned in several buildings and public transportation in Asia. When I was younger, I would sometimes come home from elementary school to the scent of durian which I could smell from outside the apartment. Whenever I knew there was a cut-open durian in the living room – and it’d be hard for me to not notice unless I’ve lost my sense of smell – I would hold my breath and charge from the front door straight into my room. Of course, the smell of durians could easily penetrate my bedroom door, but it was the best I could do. If I had to come out of my room for the kitchen or restroom, I would have to stop breathing for a moment.
Then one day, the durian did not stink anymore. I don’t even understand why that previously disgusting odor turned into a sweet scent, but I was finally able to eat the durian when I was around 17 years old. Apparently the durian is somewhat similar to ice cream in consistency, but with its own distinct flavor. But don’t be mistaken; it’s not like I suddenly love durian now. Whenever I even think of a durian, the picture of me running away from its odor in our old apartment would automatically come to mind.
For as long as I can remember, my family and I would enjoy boxes upon boxes of mooncakes every year during the fall to celebrate the Autumn Moon Festival, which is officially on the date of August 15th of the Chinese calendar. The Chinese calendar follows the phases of the moon, and the night of August 15th is said to have the brightest full moon of the year. As with the story of Momotaro and all great myths, the myth to which this holiday is dedicated has taken on many versions, most of which are contradicting. However, all of them involve a pill or elixir of immortality and tell the story of a woman who now lives on the moon with the power of immortality, a woman also referred to as the Moon Goddess of Immortality. On August 15th, families gather together to eat mooncakes while admiring the moon at its fullest.
Today, there are many variations of mooncakes; however, the traditional moon cake contains lotus seed paste as well as an egg yolk, which closely resembles the full moon. Some even have four egg yolks to represent the four phases of the moon. Imprinted on the top of the mooncake crust are sometimes the Chinese characters for longevity and harmony, as they are important values for the Chinese family and characteristics which are greatly wished for.
After I left for college, my mother sends me mooncake whenever the Autumn Moon Festival comes around. I like the new flavors that have been more recently invented, but my favorite is still the original lotus seed paste mooncake with egg yolk.
Sorry that there’s no photos because I didn’t have my camera with me, but the garden looks alright today.
Weather seems to be going back to normal too.
Masanobu Fukuoka, a Japanese farmer, philosopher, and writer, pioneered his method of “nature farming,” in which he seeks to let crops grow with as little interference from humans as possible. However, though farmers should neither plow nor till the fields, they must do the necessary work to keep this method practical. Fukuoka does not encourage complete abandonment of the fields, but instead focuses on teaching people the advantages of “going back to nature.”
In today’s world, it is next to impossible to find any food or ingredients grown truly naturally. Today’s “foodies” constantly explore new flavors and create recipes, while neglecting the roots from which these dishes came into being. For example, the acai berry hype started when some people discovered the “miracle fruit” in the wild. Yet now, because of the popularity of the fruit, it is being so overly produced that the nutritional benefits have been depleted. Following this, some scientist will most likely try to find a method of preserving the nutrients, even when the best method would have been to have not put them through machines to begin with. Through their efforts to transform food into its best form, “foodies” are in fact encouraging the actions that Fukuoka strives to change.
With his belief that the fundamentals of nature have never changed, Fukuoka would criticize today’s “foodies” as aficionados obsessed with chasing the new. Those who read the blogs and comments of self-proclaimed “foodies” discover that it is not just about the ingredients anymore; there is the atmosphere of the restaurant, the customer service provided by the staff, and the difficulty of making those over-priced, extravagantly decorated dishes. The food itself has become a side topic.
There is this common dish, in all Chinese restaurants, called Orange Chicken, which is basically batter-coated chicken deep-fried to a golden crisp, then stir-fried in a special sauce. Most at-home chefs make the sauce from lemon juice, soy sauce, ginger, garlic, pepper, and some kind of orange flavoring, such as orange juice, orange zest, or orange marmalade. It tastes wonderful with steamed white rice, but this process of frying and re-frying doesn’t exactly make this dish good for the heart and body.
In order to make this a healthier dish, I decided to used grilled, non-fried chicken and chunks of genuine orange. The most important part of this meal was that I was not planning to eat it – my roommates were, and I was confident that their immune systems could combat anything I throw at them. My roommates usually do all the cooking, so since I had finished my homework for the day, I decided to help with cooking dinner. I had already had a filling lunch at 3p.m. and wanted to cook for the sheer fun of experimentation. I have never tried to cook fruit with meat before, but it is not unheard of. I personally love Hawaiian pizza with its pineapple and ham combination.
However, it turns out that chicken (previously marinated with one of my roommates’ mother’s homemade sauce) mixed in with oranges neither looks appetizing nor tastes great. Nonetheless, it was edible and quite different from anything we have had before, and no one fought for the bathroom that night.