Tuesday, November 13, 2012

FOOD...What is it good for? Absolutely Everything!

If feeding me and my brothers and sister as we were growing up had been left strictly to my mother then we would have eaten nothing but beans and tortillas morning, noon and night!! Ok, well maybe that’s a bit exaggerated, but seriously…if not for the fact that my dad was a meat and potatoes kind of man we would have starved!

See mom is a very picky eater, always has been, even as a child. Plus she doesn’t like to cook. She CAN cook…she can make some awesome dishes! She is a wonderful cook! Her chile colorado is to die for, as are her chili beans. But she dislikes cooking with a passion, probably because she dislikes eating. . .

Did your mouth just drop open in shock? How can anyone dislike eating? Well trust me she does. She eats because she has too. Food is not a big deal to her and she finds it frustrating to think of what to cook. And when she does cook she’s so sick of the smell of the food while it was cooking that she can barely manage to eat a bite or two. And leftovers?? Forget about it! She’s not touching leftovers!

My dad on the other hand will eat your arm if you don’t move it out of his way quick enough. I can remember him coming home in the mornings and my mom would make him breakfast. She would make him three or four pancakes slathered with butter and then she would fry an egg and put it on top. Dad would then smother it with maple syrup and joyfully break open the yoke and watch all the yellowy center mix with the syrup and he would scarf it down.

Dad loves food so much and eats with such relish and abandon that small children have been known to stop in restaurants to watch him eat. The way he moves his mouth and the joy in his eyes I guess are like magic and little kids can’t help but stare at him while he eats. He’s kind of gotten used to it. We have pictures of almost all the grandchildren sitting on his lap and staring up mesmerized by their Tata as he eats.

So suffice it to say that my brothers, sister and I were not brought up to be open to many kinds of foods. We didn’t have any idea when we were kids and up to young adulthood what tuna was, or onions, or fish, or beets, cauliflower, lobster, crab, shrimp, or even salads. We knew beans, tortillas, potatoes and always some kind of beef, cooked some kind of way.  We knew that dad would buy a small tin of something called sardines but we never knew what they were because he had to go outside to eat them as mom couldn’t stomach their smell!

I remember one of my first dates ever with a boy and they brought me a salad with garbanzo beans. I asked him what those were and he said, “Garbanzo beans” and I said, “No seriously…what are these?” I refused to believe him and he had to call the waitress over and ask her what they were and she said, “Garbanzo beans”, and looked at us both like we were space aliens!

So I’m reading this book for my From Left to Write book club called The Headmasters Wager by Vincent Lam and the author goes into detail about a lot of the food that was served in the home of the headmaster who was of Chinese descent living in Vietnam. I tell you what!!! Mom would sooner have died than to have lived in that home.

The food talked about in this book! Wow! Man oh man! My mom would be overwhelmed and disgusted by most of it. But some of it sounds so intriguing to me. For instance:

Squabs stuffed with cave swallow’s nests, scallops in a cognac reduction, braised and truffled lobsters, sharks fin soup, braised goose, giant abalones with fragrant mushrooms and freshly spiced jasmine flowers, giant chilled crabs, raw fish salad, kuay teow teng soup of egg noodles containing eight meats and sea foods, poached groupers, fresh sweet prawns live and wriggling in bowls to be cooked at the side of the table as each guest preferred, either deep-fried or dunked into boiling water.

I couldn't even find photos on the whole worldwideweb of most of these dishes. Here's a few that I did find.

Shark Fin Soup

Braised Goose - Photo Courtesy of Street Directory.com

Abalone with Mushrooms, I couldn't find the Jasmine Flowers. This photo courtesy of Yelp.com

Raw Fish Salad - Photo courtesy of Food Network

Kuey Teow Teng Soup - Photo Courtesy of Elizabeth Lin

Sweet Prawns - Photo Courtesy of the YapIsland Blog

And that was all for just one party held at Tet or Vietnamese New Year! What a way to start the New Year! I guess it's not that different than the way we always started the New Year as far as strange foods because I'm sure to many of you the idea of eating Menudo would be a bit disconcerting right?

Menudo - Photo Courtesy of Victoria blog
Menudo is a traditional New Years Day breakfast food that is supposed to have medicinal purposes in that it is the cure for hangovers.

I like the description of what Menudo is that I found at the Urban Dictionary: Awesome Mexican soup made with tripe (beef stomach,) hominy, chile peppers, onions, cilantro, oregano, and a splash of lime. Some like menudo served with tortilla and "con pata"--which means with a pig's foot in there too. Menudo is traditionally eaten on Saturday mornings and has been known to cure the common hangover.

What's the strangest food you've ever had? Have you ever tried any of the foods pictured above?

Headmaster Percivial Chen is a proud Chinese born man who runs English language school during the cusp of the Vietnam War. In his refusal to accept his adopted country's turbulent times, his gamble becomes a life changer. Join From Left to Write on November 15 as we discuss the The Headmaster's Wager. As a member, I received a copy of the book for review purposes.


Sextant said...

I believe I may be the 9 year old Irish American equivalent to your mother. I wouldn't touch any of the stuff you pictured on this page. Sketty, pizza, mac & cheese, hamburgers, and hotdogs. What else do you need?

Alicia said...

Oh c'mon Sextant! Seriously? Sketty? Pizza? Mac & Cheese? Burgers? Hotdogs? That stuff will kill ya man! And it's all carbs! Scares me just to read that!

I think of all the foods pictured I might...MIGHT...be talked into trying the braised goose, but I've had duck and it's pretty greasy and slimey and gamey if you ask me.

Thanks for commenting :)

Angie said...

Hmm Menudo. That was my dads favorite and he made it every Sunday. I got sick of it and that's why I don't eat it now, but it sounds good compared to the other dishes. The first one with Shark fin, looks like onion, yuck!

Lisa said...

Thank Goodness Mom never cooked any of that stuff. I would definately have starved in our household with food like that. I also refuse to eat cow tongue, mom likes that. The weirdest stuff I have eaten would be Tripas and Nopales. I was a bean and tortilla eater.

Alicia said...

I love menudo myself. But man does it stink while you are making it! I thought the Shark Fin looks weird.

Alicia said...

Hey my Sista! Mom probably wouldn't even look at these pictures if I showed them to her...lol. Good thing we weren't born in China or Vietnam, we would have starved. I don't like cow tongue either, altho I remember eating it growing up but we just didn't know what it was.

Emily Sovich said...

Except for the shark's fin soup (which I'd always meant to try until I learned it's in such high demand it's crippling the shark populations) all I can say is -- YUM!

Alicia said...

Wow Emily, you are a very brave eater then! I did read while searching for a photo of the shark fin soup that it is against the law to hunt them for that very reason. I wonder what the texture is like, but I wouldn't want to try it.

Thien-Kim aka Kim said...

I love to eat and would gladly try all of those dishes! I'm laughing at the image of your father and his waffles.

Nancy Cavillones said...

I pretend to be adventurous with food but when it comes down to it, give me a tuna melt and fries any day! :)

Eva said...

I'm not adventurous when it comes to food, so none of those would happen for me. My husband will eat just about anything though - so I'd be surprised if he hasn't already tried at least 5 out of 7 of those!

Alicia said...

Oh he really enjoyed them Kim, right up until our first trip to Disneyland when he had a panic attack on the submarine ride. My mom made him go to the doctor and that was when he found out how high his cholesterol was and the blood pressure was high and he was pre-diabetic. Those delicious breakfasts stopped real quick! But he's 81 now and still kicking and still enjoying life!

Alicia said...

I'm a chips & salsa kinda gal. Not very adventurous here and I wonder sometimes if my moms fear of food had anything to do with it?

Alicia said...

As I said above to Nancy, I'm pretty much just a chips and salsa kinda gal...lol. Those are my downfall! Oh and Cheetos, omgosh...I love them!

Emily said...

What a wonderful post! The strangest food I have ever eaten was Ethiopian mostly because you had to eat it with your hands and it was very "gloopy" and quite messy!

Michelle said...

There is so much different food out there. I love a lot of it, but... the tripe? That one I can't do. And there are several others that - if I ate them - I'd need to not know what I was eating. But I love how cultures take advantage of what is available to them!

Alicia said...

Yikes, that's kinda one of my pet peeves now that I've gotten older. I really dislike messy food. Like great big giant hamburgers that leave your hands and face all greasy and smelling of onion. Thanks for commenting!

Alicia said...

I know when we were kids we used to eat tongue, but we didn't know what it was. Once we realized we couldn't eat it anymore...and honestly I really loved it before I knew what it was! thanks for commenting.

Cathrine said...

Hello Alicia!
First of all I need to be honest and tell you I haven't followed your blog, and therefor apologize for not making a comment on some of your posts (which I guess would be interesting to read). Second of all I need to apologize for posting this comment here, where you write about food, while I want to ask about a totally different subject; I just don't know if you will see my comment if I post this one at something you wrote 3 years ago

It's in the middle of the night in Norway. I could not sleep, so I wanted to search for calender- and Christmas gifts for my daugther. As I googled "snow globe", I got to see a picture of the very beautiful Christmas globe your brother and his family gave as a birthday gift to your mom, in 2009. I have never seen anything like it - this is such a beautiful Christmas globe!

You may think it's a little bit crazy for me to ask what I'm about to (since this gift was bought a few years ago, and I obviously live far away from the store where it was purchased) - but I live by the rule "Only your thought is your limit!": I really want to buy this item for my daughter, and ask you kindly if it would be possible to ask your brother where he bought this Christmas globe. I only hope the store has an internet site, if not, I will consider to call. I hope your not offended by me asking you this, I just find this Nativity snow globe so special that I'm willing to make an effort to get one, as a gift for my daughter

Thanks for taking your time to read my "letter"
I'm looking forward to hear from you!

Sincerely, Cathrine (all the way from Norway)

DUTA said...

I like common, basic food,mainly of european and middle-eastern origin. I'm not familiar with far-asian food, or sea food dishes with crabs, lobsters, shark - and, honestly, I don't feel any urge to even try them.