In the past week or two I’ve come across 2 TED talks related to food (I do realize this is a bit late for anyone who was looking for possible essay topics):
The first is about adding insects to our diet!
And the second is on creating Sustainable Restaurants!
Please comment if you watch either of these. I’d like to know what you guys think!
I was cooking an Indian vegetable dish last night, and the recipe called for peas, tomatoes, whole milk cheese, and an array of spices. I made the decision, perhaps unwise, to not shop for the ingredients, I knew I had peas at home, and just use whatever I could find in my kitchen.
Once I had cut everything and began to cook I realized that there was no ginger in my fridge, an essential part of the spices. Instead I found a can of ready-made curry sauce, which contained ginger, and decided to add that over the top at the end. The next problem arose when I realized there also wasn’t any whole milk cheese available, so I decided to use tofu instead, because it has almost the same consistency. Soon after, the next hurdle arose because I remembered that tomatoes release water when cooked, and while this would be fine if I cooked according to the recipe, I wasn’t. I was adding curry sauce at the end, and the water from the tomatoes would make the dish too watery.
Finally after the peas had cooked and I had added the sauce, there still just wasn’t something right. The dish wasn’t as rich and creamy as it was supposed to be. I had no cream to add, so I added a little milk instead and let it cook on low heat for a while. All in all, the dish turned out to be a success and my improvisation had worked.
If Fukuoka were looking down on us from the heavens, he would be looking at us with disappointment and disgust in his eyes. Fukuoka was an advocate for simplicity in food. He believed in the natural form of food— organically grown food with little, if any, alteration. According to Fukuoka, people should live with nature and not separate themselves from it; they should learn how to coexist with it in its pure form. To him, food and the human spirit should be one. Thus, a human should be “satisfied with simple food, it is nutritious, tastes good and is useful daily medicine” (Fukuoka 136). Today, this is certainly not the case.
We live in Southern California where food has become a culture, a form of expression. The natural ingredients have taken backstage, and the chef’s ability to use the ingredients and create a masterpiece has come to define cuisine. Due to the extravagant affair eating is today, a new class of people has emerged—the modern “foodie”. A “foodie” is basically an arrogant eater, someone who prides himself in recognizing quality food and believes he has the right to criticize cuisine. Today, because of the many restaurants and ethnic cuisines that exist, the “foodie” has become very common. In fact, every other person is a “foodie” of some sort.
To Fukuoka, the “foodie” is the enemy. He feels as if the “foodie” has missed the whole purpose of eating. Instead of being united, “food and the human spirit have become estranged” (Fukuoka 136). Eating should focus on the natural flavors of food, not the seasoning or cooking technique. Modern day cuisine has confused the human spirit, creating chaos. For Fukuoka, this is disaster. In his perfect world, eating would be a simple process with simple ingredients and simple ambiance. No one would be able to pride themselves as a “foodie” because food would be pretty standard. The ostentatious food industry would not exist.
Much to Fukuoka’s disappointment, the industry is not changing. Elaborate food is so ingrained in society, that there is no going back. In fact, Fukuoka’s view feels very primitive and unrealistic. I’m sure there are still some advocates of simplicity today, but their movement is not revolutionizing anything. The various cuisines are here to stay and eating will continue to be an extravagant affair.
Every meal that Mother makes I would consider personal and “customized.” She just has a way of predicting what our family’s taste buds are craving at the moment. So it follows that the cultural foods that our family gather ‘roudn the dinner table to prepare together form an even deeper bond between us; a truly personal and familial experience.
Forgive me but I must say that of all the dishes we have shared and “customized”, I choose to speak of dumplings not only because the public is fairly familiar with them but also because I have no clue as to how to explain or romanize the names of other foods.
Whereas dumplings made by the recipe follow a strict set of instructions, Mother gathered my sisters and I around the table and gave us a hands on experience with dumpling folding. While our technical skill never matched hers, we sought to push the boundaries of dumpling folding given the 3 basic steps:
1) spread egg white onto the wrapping
2) place filling on the wrapping
3) and fold.
What we got from this experience was the fun of not only eating good dumplings, but dumplings that were different, not store-bought nor manufactured; and each dumpling had a fingerprint. For example I could tell a certain dumpling was mine if it was folded in the form of an envelope, a letter filled with meat addressed to myself.
And every time we would encounter the inevitable “omg more meat than wrappings” problem, resulting in a lot of fat dumplings, that actually don’t taste that bad! Whereas the community or company may have a notion of an “ideal” dumpling, the ideal is not necessarily the best tasting or the most enjoyable. A lot of the thought behind the food counts, too even if it may be the simple exclusion of a food someone has an allergy against.
One of my favorite and coincidentally strangest meals is a sort of modified meatloaf. This dish was created and first made by my father, with the help of his favorite son, me! Many of the ingredients are the same as you’d find in any other meatloaf, such as ground beef, salt, and pepper. The first place where this recipe varies, however, is with the ketchup. Instead of using typical American ketchup, we use sweeter, richer Chinese ketchup, and we also mix this with Hoisin. In addition to the ketchup itself being richer and more flavorful than normal ketchup, the sweetness from the Hoisin sauce adds a completely new element to the meal.
In addition to these strange modifications, the typical use of breadcrumbs is replaced by extremely tasty buttermilk fried onion rings. Not only is the onion flavor absorbed into the dish, but the batter itself makes for a much “fluffier” meatloaf. Finally, the absolute craziest modification is… wait for it… Quaker Chewy bars—in particular, the S’mores flavor! We get a huge bowl with the whole meatloaf concoction, and then mix in about seven of the candy bars and knead them into the mixture.
As per the ingredients, this is where the oddities stop. However, the shape is also quite unconventional. Instead of the traditional shape of a loaf of bread, it is now rolled into something reminiscent of a snake. We find that it is much easier to cut and divide, as well as much quicker to cook this way. Overall, just a few quick modifications to the recipe as well as the technique completely change the dish, to create a more efficient, tastier, and more customized dish.