Growing up, my mother always presented creative and fulfilling meals at the dinner table. With the exception of the occasional bowl of cereal, we were made dishes that allowed her to not only prepare food she had never made, but ones that most children typically never eat. And after she had labored all evening in the kitchen, we were consistently told that while we didn’t have to like the what we were given, it was mandatory that we at least try it. More often than not, it was a success.
From an early age, I was an adventurous eater. I would try just about anything and, following my first bite, would usually gobble up the whole portion. I loved eating and, soon enough, I was involved in the preparation. Like so many food lovers, this was the beginning of my culinary education.
I distinctly recall a day from my childhood when both of my parents took me to the grocery store to buy the ingredients for making homemade shu mai. I must have been ten years old and we brought the bags of fresh shrimp, green onion, soy sauce, and wrappers back to the house, where they taught me how to clean and peel the shrimp. We hand wrapped each of the tiny Chinese dumplings and placed them in the bamboo steamer, waiting eagerly for them to cook. They turned out to be, by far, the freshest shu mai I have ever had and it remains a meal that I have never forgotten, not only because of how delicious they were, but also because of the involvement I had in making them.
For as long as I can remember, food, the process and the culture behind it, have fascinated me. My husband and I will be leaving for France in a month and a half and the words that I want to learn the most deal with food. I’m sure I can find the bathroom just fine without knowing the proper phrase (or I’ll just have to find the nearest tree), but I fear that we will miss out on some great opportunities if we don’t know the words for all of their culinary treats.
Food can inspire, it can provoke, it can teach people about the world and about themselves. We sometimes forget the importance that food has on us as individuals and in the context of the society that we live in.
And that is what I hope to change through these postings, which will include recipes, along with personal anecdotes, and the historical/cultural context of different foods.
Keep checking back for more entries. And thank you for reading.