Food for Thought (Literally)

Throughout the years, I’ve been exposed to a lot of things I’ve grown to care about and follow closely.  I used to live in my own bubble, and my life mostly consisted of my parents, my piano, my books, and the internet, most of which I used to casually stalk other people on facebook, and watch korean dramas.  During my high school years was when I started to pay attention to movies and film music and start a notebook.  But it wasn’t until college that I ventured out of my bubble,  became friends with gay people, started reading up on news and politics, and discovered through experience how wrong it was to assume people thought, felt, or processed things the same way I did.  I made friends, drifted apart from friends, and learned how it was normal for shitty things to happen, but that it was still important regardless to retain my empathy and sensitivity in a healthy amount. I’m proud that I’ve decreased my level of ignorance, even though I’m sure there are still tons of things out there I’m not aware of.

And now it’s come to the chapter of post-graduation life.  In the three years since college, I’ve continued to grow by becoming more aware of myself as a person as well as building on my understanding of different issues globally.

  1.  I’ve struggled with my one-foot-in-one-foot-out stance on Christianity
  2.  One of my passions have become following the representation of Asian-Americans across the spectrum of different things, particularly media (shout-out to BTS and Awkwafina in particular this week!)
  3. I’m really disappointed in the Kavanaugh-Ford result this week, and find it harder to have faith in our government in general.  I also need to read up on what the current election situation is.
  4.  I’m now a partial-vegetarian:  I’ve been such for about 2-3 months now. I consciously avoid beef/cow and pig/pork now.  I don’t buy it, and if there were other food options I would choose the alternate food option.  The only time I still eat it is if for example, my mom made pork soup and it’s already been prepared, or if I’m at a friend’s house and it’s rude to refuse.  The reason being, from a moral perspective I’m not sure I could kill a cow or pig unless I had no choice, especially being aware that a pig is smarter than a dog, and dogs are so wonderful and intuitive.  I think I’d be okay killing a chicken or seafood though, so I still eat those.  I also understand why people consume meat, but the food should be treated with respect.  My mom used to lecture me on starving kids in Africa and never to waste food.  It gave me a lot of pressure especially since I had eating problems as a kid, but as an adult, I fully understand what she was getting at.  From my perspective, eat it if you want, but don’t just eat a bite and throw it away nonchalantly.  This is particularly for meat, because an animal did have to be sacrificed for you to fill your stomach.  And because the meat industry is so industrialized, we don’t think about this when we purchase a slab of steak at the supermarket.  That’s really upsetting to me.
  5. Related, but Americans in particular are so wasteful, and our environment is in danger.  We’re all conscious now about global warming and entire ecosystems being tainted with pollution, and polar bears drowning or starving because of us.  I know the problems are so convoluted and big that I can’t change things alone, but I’d like to rid myself of the guilt of adding to the problems.  So some changes I’ve made are to always use my refillable water bottle, and I haven’t touched a plastic bottle in the past 3 months or so.  I’ve been nagging my parents to do the same, which is ironic since my mom used to be the one to nag us.  It’s really easy to grab a plastic water bottle on the go, but in my opinion, those are there for exceptions, such as emergencies, or for a guest in need.  You don’t need a plastic bottle to use at home.  I also have been trying to put leftovers in containers so we use less plastic wrap.  We have a semi-compost situation where we throw our rotted vegetables and egg shells in a separate bin.  My next step is to buy a refillable bubble tea container, or at least a silicone or glass straw.
  6. I need to organize my clothes and Marie Kondo the old clothes that do nothing for me.
  7. Some mistakes have happened at work this past week, but not even knowing if those mistakes came from me or something else made me realize I needed to have a talk with my boss about receiving additional training.  I needed to understand from a holistic perspective about the company, and he wholeheartedly agreed and supported my thoughts.  My co-workers encouraged me to stand up for myself and have that discussion, so I feel grateful and proud of myself for again, venturing out of my comfort zone.

I guess life consists a lot about making choices that you’re comfortable with.  I can’t keep focusing on upsetting thoughts like where my potential life could be at if I wasn’t held back by my illness.  Even though there are an infinite amount of things happening around me that are terrible, I feel a bit better in the knowledge that I am trying my best to do my part to make a difference, even if it’s just a tiny bit.  At least I can live with myself, knowing I have no regrets, that I don’t have guilt in my hypocrisy, and that I continue to push through, admit to my mistakes and grow.  That’s what’s most important to me these days.

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3.06.18 – Appreciation in Food Culture, Friends, and Motivation vs. Depression

I find that I don’t click well with people who have their heads so far up their ass and are so far stuck up their little bubble that they don’t see anything else outside of it.

Aren’t you curious about the rest of the world and how they live their lives?  That’s the only way to pursue truth, to open your eyes and really grow as an individual, to humble yourself.  To understand other people’s way of life and beliefs, and have a greater appreciation for your own, and to fully understand what privilege or lack of it is.  That’s why it’s always so surprising to come across someone unbelievably ignorant.

That was a bit harsher than I intended.  I guess what I’m trying to say is that while I wish I could have the means to travel all over the world and learn about other people’s experiences and culture and way of life, I have been lucky.  Despite all the issues, my parents have always made it a point to try to travel to other places to see and absorb and learn, and I realize I am fortunate because of that.

My friend came back from Ethiopia recently and was generous enough to give me some pre-mixed shiro-bebere powder that her coworkers gave her.  It was amazing because I know I’ll probably never have the chance to visit Ethiopia, but making it and having it for dinner was a unique and exciting experience.  I was thinking what, puree onions and tomato?  Who does that?  Ethiopia does. And it’s freaking delicious.  And it was obviously more authentic too because a native Ethiopian made the mix.

We made a trip to the Indian grocery store and I got so excited by things like their roti, badam, and of course, bru (instant coffee.  TAKE ADVANTAGE OF THE DIVERSITY IN AMERICA.  EAT ALL THE FOOD.


Blessings:

  1. My friends and I were planning our next upcoming get together, which would be a bit more venturing and walking.  I was a bit worried that I might get exhausted.  My friends said they would be happy to push me around in a wheelchair so I could save my energy.
  2. My friend told me I would be one of her bridesmaids when she gets married.  I didn’t realize how happy that would make me when I heard it.  ❤

I had gone through a phase a few months ago of “I can do this!” planning to work out every couple days.  That only lasted for about three-four weeks, and then it got cold or something and I fell off the wagon, unmotivated and sinking into a bit of depression on my limitations.  The physical limitations really do weigh on your mental health.  Misery can be a constant companion, but you gotta remember to reach for your other friend too, perseverance.  Consistency… whatever it is, I need more of it.  I need to get on my own ass regarding my goals that I wrote in my previous post.  I want to transform my chicken legs and get some abs, just become fitter and lose 3 pounds.  Will stop just saying, must do too.

Must not let depression, limitations, and other people’s problems stop me.  It’s all noise.


Today’s Favorite Songs:

 

Empty- Olivia O’Brien

“I wonder if I’m good enough… pretend there’s no tomorrow…. I wish there’s no tomorrow. But I’m empty inside x2, I just don’t feel alive, and I don’t want to live but I’m too scared to die”

Pursuit of Happiness – Kid Cudi

APPRECIATION FOR EGGS~

While I’m finishing up my last post on food, I just want to stop for a second and say I am just starting to understand the amazing ingredient of egg- just the versatility alone blows my mind.  I always wanted to host a food competition where in one round, we blindfold the contestants and they have to taste the ingredient and guess what it is.  I just discovered what my second contest would be… the best dish showcasing EGGS.

How many ways can you feature eggs?  The possibilities are limitless, I tell ya.

I grew up hating eggs because my parents liked eating them crispy and with ketchup.  As I started to learn how to cook, I discovered I much preferred eating them lightly scrambled and tender, or in liquified yolk form that you find in poached eggs, sunny-side up, etc.  Now I’m looking into Japanese egg custards and Korean omelettes. I actually like eating soft boiled eggs or dipped with oyster sauce.

-Fried egg

– Soft boiled egg

-Medium boiled egg

-Hard boiled egg

-Poached egg

-Sunny side up egg

-Scrambled egg–> French method is over low heat = ultimate tenderness

-Egg omelette

-Korean egg omelette (folded technique)

-Baked or “Shirred” egg

-Taiwanese Egg custard (dan ta)

-Japanese Steamed egg custard

-Japanese Tamagoyaki <– my new goal to master

Waste

You know, it’s interesting to me that we often discuss waste, but not much in the literal sense.  More in the abstract sense of “waste of time, waste of emotions, ugh Trump is such a waste of space” that kind of thought.  “That boy is not worth my time,” the usual kind of relationship material featured on mainstream music like Taylor Swift. Maybe it’s more romantic than talking about actual, straight up, physical waste.

I don’t remember where I read this from, so forgive me if the forgotten source detracts from the credibility of my blog post, but Americans do waste 40% of their groceries on average.  When I came across this figure, I paid attention to the amount of food I unearthed in the fridge that had gone bad because it was shoved way in the back, or we simply ran out of time before it started getting inedible, and ashamedly I admit it was probably close to that figure that particular week.  After that, I tried to stay on top of things and remember to use up food while it was fresh, but this new mindfulness conflicts with my natural hoarder mentality to tuck everything away and save it “for next time.”  Especially during college, when I had the occasional frame of mind to focus on making food with real ingredients and not instant ramen, I would open the fridge and stare aghast at the over-aged, sad-looking, withered bok choy and the molded cheese and fruit (It had only been a week!)

I grew up in a household where a few grains of rice left on my bowl prompted my mother to warn me that the amount of grains remaining equaled the amount of pimples on my future husband’s face.  Even though some unused ingredients manage to slip through here and there, my parents had known a harder life than I had, and know the value of food.  I’m not saying it was helpful or fun to hear a voice constantly guilting you of all the African and Asian children starving when you couldn’t finish your noodles or felt unmotivated to eat the rest of the fried rice- I was too young to understand anything from it anyway except that it made me feel bad.  Regardless, the general rule was that until the food placed on your plate was empty, your butt was not allowed to leave the chair.  This plus my eating problems resulted in many nights of sitting at the kitchen table for hours.

In contrast, my friend and I talked about the occasional dinner to a white friend’s house, and finding it absolutely blasphemous when they couldn’t finish their dinners, instead of putting it in the fridge as leftovers, the simple answer to most things was to throw it out.  And while I am certain this was not the scenario for every white family, or even my scenario for every Asian family, there seemed to be a common theme for some differences, particularly for how privileged the family or generation is at the time as well.

Many other countries consider Americans lazy, pampered slobs. In many ways, they are right.  When other countries think of McDonalds and obesity first, that’s kind of upsetting.  Going to Taiwan and Japan, many parts of the culture revolves around the theme of moderation.  I find that every single napkin handed to me by the waiter in Japan is petite, and valued.  Place this image side by side to the food court at some American mall, where some dude walks by and grabs an unnecessarily large wad of napkins, all to jam into his face as he eats a burger and fries.  Sometimes, I get frustrated that I have to walk a couple blocks to the subway station in Taiwan just to find a trash can to throw a cup out, but you know what?  It works.  Furthermore, Denmark has transformed into waste-to-energy country, with a Zero Waste system in place.  I’m pretty happy to be an American, and I am proud to call myself one, but on the other hand, why is it that such a powerful, great nation is unable to achieve what many other smaller countries already have?

Another facet of waste that I see often that is a personal pet peeve of mine, is the waste of water.  Let me begin by saying that I definitely waste water- I am very guilty of taking long hot showers, especially when I’m having an off day.  It’s one of the best feelings in the world.  But what really gets me is when people take their time examining their face in the mirror and leave the faucet running for a minute or more.  I see this all the time in public bathrooms, and it BOTHERS ME.  Because well, at least the hot shower was contributing to someone’s happiness, but this is just well, plain waste for no reason at all except habit.

I love watching cooking shows.  But every time the judge takes one bite of food and then leaves the rest, I can’t help but assume that the remaining food is thrown away.  I cringe when I see Joe Bastianich throw the entire plate into the trash can just because it’s not up to his standards.  I mean, is that really necessary?  While I’m on cruises, I get excited when I know that I get to order as many things as I want, try and taste different plates, because well, the whole point of the cruise is to spoil yourself and get all glutinous, right?  A part of me says not to, but I still end up picking maybe two things and not finishing all of it.

I am a hypocrite, but as I’ve grown older, I’ve watched more documentaries (“Living On One Dollar A Day”, courtesy of Netflix, hop on it folks) on why and how people who count every drop and every bite of food, and I’ve had few moments when I was alone and had little access to buy a meal or go grocery shopping.  Of course, my spare moments are nothing to complain about, but I just mean that I had a very minor taste in what it could be like to be hungry and make every bit count.  I’ve walked by the streets and seen homeless people waiting to get enough for the next meal, or been asked to donate some money to organizations.  Listen, I know none of us are exactly able to dump out our pockets and just give it all away, because soon enough, one after the other there are more and more causes piling up, it’s endless.  The ongoing problems in our world rarely end, especially the common themes of war, hunger, poverty, politics, inequalities, etc..  But maybe I can honor the organizations and people a little bit by trying harder than I am now not to waste.  It doesn’t kill me to make that tiny choice of finishing the rest of the food for tomorrow, it doesn’t kill me to decide to research a few ways to use “waste,” such as using stale bread to make bread pudding, or overripe bananas into smoothies.  Even throwing waste into the garden patch is better than just throwing it into the can!  It doesn’t kill me to form the habit of remembering to turn off the faucet more frequently. I’m not saying, force yourself to eat the sad-looking, withered bok choy or the expired cheese.  Just being more mindful of little choices everyday is a great habit to have, despite our flaws and our desires to be less so.   We know there are better solutions out there, and it must be a goal to better our methods from the personal habits to society’s answer to waste and pollution.

 

 

Foodventures: Cooking Chronicles

I had started a segment called “Food” on my blog, but never got around to it.  It still needs a lot of work in terms of organization, but for now I just want to get started on making a list of things I’ve tried to make over the years.  I grew up on Asian food my parents made, and that meant mostly fried eggs and stir-fried rice.  Now that I’m older, I appreciate the food more, but back then I always had eating problems and wasn’t a fan of some of the food I ate.  My brother, probably sometime during my freshman year of college, would occasionally make baked penne when he came home, and it was so delicious.  Our whole family was impressed, wondering how the magic of non-Asian cooking came into being.

It wasn’t until one day I was craving the pasta that I casually googled it, and a million recipes came up on the internet that I realized, hey, the ingredients aren’t that difficult to get, and although 40 minutes seemed a long time to spend on making dinner, it flew by.  One of my favorite websites is allrecipe.com, mostly because of its simplicity and its detail on serving size, total time, and exact ingredients laid out with precise steps and photos.

My style of penne vodka was a bit different from my brother’s, but I actually prefer my version because I think it’s less heavy and more healthy.  The real difference is using fresh produce, and the recipe I started off with called for 5-6 tomatoes cut up to be left on the pan for about 10+ minutes:  the point of this was for it to melt into juice, and then create part of the sauce.  At college, when I didn’t have access to tomatoes, I could only rely fully on tomato sauce, and that absolutely did not taste as good.

The second secret to penne vodka’s sauce, was the heavy cream.  This was a huge thing, as heavy cream is not a familiar ingredient in Asian cooking at all.  But really, the gist of good penne vodka is very simple.  You mostly need tomatoes, tomato sauce to compensate for extra flavor or viscosity, heavy cream, a splash of vodka (or rice wine), and some spicy sausage/chicken bits, and finally, the penne. That’s it, only 6 ingredients!  Salt and pepper to taste, but not absolutely necessary since the sausage and tomato sauce often adds salt and spice.

And ever since then, looking up recipes was a fun pastime, and when I had the energy, cooking new things became a hobby.  Turns out, apparently I am quite talented in spicing my food!  I am super picky about overcooked foods, so when it comes to pasta or meats in particular, I stand over my cooking food like a hawk.

That said, I tried a bunch of things and tweaked or changed a lot of the recipes I made, sometimes improvising.  If they tasted bad, I completely dropped the dish from my list of foods to keep (such as avocado chocolate pudding, white chocolate pudding, and a weird lemon chicken pasta).

Here are another two basic cooking tips besides fresh produce:

  1.  On the fiscal spectrum, stock up on versatile ingredients you make often from Costco in bulk:  for example, the steak at Costco is amazing, and usually can be used for 8 meals for an average of $30 total, which comes out to roughly $3-4 per piece. Just freeze them.  Same thing for salmon, or chicken stock
  2. Foods taste best when there is a balance of flavors and textures (maybe I learned this from the multiple cooking shows I watch like Chopped):  Generally, food tastes great when you have a component of
    1. Acidity, sourness (Lemon juice, vinegar)
    2. Sweetness (Honey, sugar, mango, caramelized onions)
    3. Saltiness (salt, soy sauce)
    4. Others
      1.  Spiciness (chili flakes, sriracha, hot peppers)
      2. Spices (cumin, sweet or smoked paprika, chile, garlic powder, a little nutmeg, salt/pepper)
      3. Oils (sesame oil, coconut oil, vegetable oil)
    5. Textures- Creaminess/softness (avocado, mayo, mango  vs. Crunchiness (alfalfa sprouts, red peppers, raw onion, cucumbers)

NEVER OVERCOOK. You can never go back and fix something overcooked.  Never.  The only times this is acceptable is if it was meant to become mush, like porridge or bread pudding.

  1. Penne vodka
  2. Mango Rigatoni
  3. Asian-inspired Stir Fried Linguine with soy sauce, sesame seeds, broccoli, peppers
  4. Shrimp Linguine with butter and wine
  5. Pad Kee Mao (Thai)
  6. Avocado pasta with black bean and salmon
  7. Oven-cooked spiced salmon with honey and lemon juice, accompanied by vegetables (kale, bok choy, peppers, broccoli)
  8. Tortilla Wraps with variations on steak, salmon, mango, red pepper, onions, tomato, lemon juice, cilantro, avocado
  9. Chicken Thigh Burgers
  10. Halal Guys imitation attempt with turmeric
  11. Popcorn Shrimp Sandwich with cucumbers, mayonnaise, avocado, honey, lemon juice, arugula, alfalfa)
  12. Alfalfa-Avocado and Cream Cheese Sandwich
  13. Grilled Cheese Sandwich (Colby Jack, cream cheese, and butter)
  14. Crab Creole
  15. Crab Cakes
  16. Lobster Salad (layered in a martini glass, avocado, lime mayonnaise, red peppers and mango, cilantro, lemon mayonnaise, topped with lobster pieces
  17. Lobster Bisque
  18. Pumpkin Soup
  19. Hummus and Guacamole
  20. Sweet Potato fries
  21. Panna cotta (vanilla with strawberries or blueberries, low-fat almond extract with red bean topping, orange, green tea, and attempting mango with fresh mango nectar and pieces soon)
  22. Creme Brulee
  23. Sabayon
  24. Mango-Strawberry smoothie
  25. Lychee-chocolate milkshake (learned from Lindt)

 

My favorite foods I would say are:

Taiwanese-

  1. Beef noodle soup via my dad
  2. Ba-wan (taiwanese meatballs) when the outside is all wobbly and fresh with the sauce
  3. Oyster pancakes
  4. Coffee black tea with vanilla ice cream and bubbles
  5. Kong Xin vegetables

Others-

  1. Jia-jiang noodles via my mom.
  2. Penne vodka, because that’s the signature dish that I first made, and the one that inspired me to continue trying other things.
  3. Korean food, particularly the banchan dishes along with their BBQ.

Next, I want to attempt not just the mango panna cotta, but also buy an ice cream maker and try out some recipes I’ve come across.  What are your top three favorite foods?