Over the holidays, the kids were home and it was such a great time. I honestly cannot name one specific thing we did that was so much fun it stands out. Just being all together in the house at the same time trumps it all. But there is one thing we did waaaay too much of: eat. We ate huge and gourmet breakfasts, lunches and dinners every day; midnight snacks, leftovers, desserts, candy, you name it. We ate shameless amounts of food until we all complained of discomfort. Disgusting. One of the New Year’s Resolutions I made was to STOP eating like it was going out of style, and to work on working out again. It’s only been a few days, but I feel pretty good about this.
So deciding to write about food is probably like dangling a cigarette in front of someone trying to quit. I’m okay with it, though. As I have said in previous posts, I do love food, even when I am not actually eating it. And just because I acted like a glutton doesn’t mean I have no self-control. Most of the year. This blog posting was inspired by a photo a friend put on Facebook showing her dinner last night: two plates artfully decorated with gorgeous and carefully placed pieces of sushi special roles. And my comment to her photo: “YUM” helped me choose my topic for today.
I will taste anything once or twice before I judge its culinary value. This is likely due to my father’s standard of making us try things ten times before we were allowed to say ewwwww. Ten is a pretty big and arbitrary number to require, but it did the trick. All of us kids are into trying new foods. And I did the same to my own kids, who now eat any kind of cuisine that is placed before them. I’m really really happy about that. I always say I like a kid who eats. While they were growing up, there were always extra kids at our dinner table who had no other place to go, and I always was happy when they actually ate what I made. I was not one of those moms who made different foods for each palate at the table. My kids were weaned onto a variety of foods and were expected to eat what I made or go to bed hungry.
When I go out to a restaurant, I try to order something I do not make at home. This has become more challenging as I get older because if I really like what I order, I go out of my way to learn to make it myself. There really is nothing as fresh and good and healthy as homemade. That being said, some types of food are just a pain to make, or the ingredients are so specialized that it gets expensive to make at home. Lots of Asian cuisine falls into this category.
Every day on my way home from work, I start to think about dinner. That gives me about two hours to decide what I’m “hankering” for, get to the store to buy what I need, and then go home and prepare it. Or it gives me time to convince my husband to go out or order in; he’s pretty easy about all this, leaves it up to me. Good man. And every day I “hanker” for something completely different. I have read that Americans suffer from more stomach and intestinal issues than people from most other countries, and that it is due to our varied diet. I believe that may be true, but for me it comes down to a cost-benefit analysis. And being that food is one of my life’s greatest pleasures, I’ll take the issues and keep on eating. I love what we call “ethnic” food that much. I guess this phrase means anything not meat and potatoes, or baked chicken and potatoes, or fish and potatoes. But that even depends how you make the potatoes. One of my childhood favs, thanks to my Oma, was stamppot, mashed potatoes with cabbage. Mmmmmm.
I love sushi. No, scratch that. I crave sushi. No, scratch that. I’m obsessed with sushi. I actually at one point believed that there is something in sushi that is addictive. I’ve had discussions with other like-minded people that think maybe it’s the pure, literally raw protein that my body demands. Maybe it’s because it is so fresh and sweet, and some of the rolls have such a nice melding of flavors. Whatever, I could eat it every day. I distinctly remember the first time I tried it. It did not end well. My brother convinced to me to put a shiny piece of raw fish into my mouth. I’m not sure how he did that, because at that point in history, raw and uncooked foods were in the news causing all kinds of damage to people. Previously, I loved the steak tartare my great-aunt Tante Kitty gave my for breakfast in Amsterdam. So it’s not that I had a problem with raw. But people were dying, man. Somehow he convinced me to go for it and I did. The taste was pretty good, once you got past the slightly slimy feel. I ate more than I should have, as evidenced later by how much came back up. All night long. It was a very long time before I would try it again; almost ten years. I’m not even sure why I did try again. But now I can’t get enough. And best thing for when you are sick: miso soup. It trumps chicken soup, that famous Jewish penicillin. Sorry, ma.
I love Indian food. The heat, the succulent spices, the variety of textures, so yummy! At the restaurants, I order samosas, those fried pockets filled with spicy veggies; and the saag, that amazing spinach dish; and a new discovery: biryani bowls, fried rice with all kinds of delish ingredients. Indian food is a challenge to make at home, although I make a very good saag, and wonderful curry dishes pretty regularly. I had to buy the spices for these dishes while on vacation in Jamaica.
I love Mexican food. This is one of the easiest foods to make well, and one of the cheapest. My children were weaned onto rice and beans at a very young age. It irks me no end to pay too much money at a Mexican restaurant. And when I do go out for Mexican, the test of a good restaurant is in the refried beans and the salsa. I am very very picky about my Mexican.
I love Italian food too. Italian is a cuisine that varies depending on its North or South origin. It’s easy to make things like pizza or meatballs or chicken parm at home. But veal scarpariello or penne vodka or fra diavolo; I’ll let someone else do the work. Best place for Italian food in New York? Either Little Italy in lower Manhattan or Arthur Avenue in the Bronx. No trip to the Bronx Zoo or the Botanical Gardens is complete without a meal on Arthur Avenue, followed by espresso and cannolis.
Chinese food is amazing! Not the Americanized crap we order at the tiny take-out places that litter every corner. But real Chinese food made in the kitchens of real Chinese women- unbelievable. Best breakfast ever was a Sunday morning at the home of one of my oldest friends. Broth with bowls and plates of add-ins so you could customize your own. That hangover just went poof!
A new fav cuisine: Korean. There is a burdgeoning area of Manhattan, 32nd Street east of 6th Ave and spreading, now known as Korea Town (“K-town” to us New Yawkers) that serves up this spicy and delectible repast 24 hours a day. You can sing karaoke all night and stop in for a treat at any time.
There is Cuban, Spanish, French, Jamaican, Colombian, and Vietnamese. I tasted Ethiopian food for the first time on Haight-Ashbury in San Francisco during a road trip a few years ago, and was delighted with the spongy bread used to pick up the piquant food out of the large shared bowl in the center of the table. Of course our own country has its share of cuisines, not the least of which is from good ol’ N’awlins. Po’ boys, crawfish, alligator on a stick, and gumbo! New England seafood; Southern Fried chicken or biscuits and gravy; midwestern corn-fed pork. So much food, so little time!
I’m making myself hungry. It’s only 9:30 in the morning, but I’m already thinking about dinner. This is probably not a good thing, considering my New Year’s resolution. Oh well, you only live once. Might as well enjoy it!