Friday, August 12, 2005
If they only knew what I do to it. Read on...
Back in the fourth grade, our teacher assigned a project for health and science where we had to keep a food journal for a week so that we could see how much of each food group we were eating. Sounds easy enough, right? Doing such a project now would be a cinch. Hell, if anything, I'd even be glad to do a food journal if it meant getting a step closer to six-pack abs. But to a naive 9 year old who was only one of two Asian kids in class (the other kid having Americanized parents) and whose nightly dinner consisted of stuff like roast pork and tofu with fermented shrimp paste or stir fried pig stomach with pickled mustard greens, this project wasn't as easy as it sounded. To make matters worse, each student had to present his or her journal in front of the class. To think that somebody would eat tripe in black bean sauce and actually enjoy it??? I'd be the laughing stock of the school!
So little Pam faked her journal, taking out the breakfast of soup or porridge that Grandma lovingly prepared every morning and replaced it with bacon and eggs. Dinner of steamed pork with water chestnut became pork chops or fried chicken--you know, stuff that real Americans ate. I got through my project with out any embarrassment, but looking back, I am ashamed of myself that I was ashamed of my culture's food. I should have boasted about the foods that brought me so much joy everyday, not lied about the sheer fact that it even touches my lips!
Fortunately for me, I have been given another chance, not by my fourth grade teacher, but by Kirk of mmm-yoso!!! and Elmomonster of Monster Munching, who have both recently tagged me for the latest meme going around our food blogosphere. Of course it won't be complete redemption as the only way to get that would be to stand in front of an audience of my old fourth grade classmates and reveal what my daily diet really consisted of, but it will at least give me a chance to tell the world (or at least my small audience of readers) what foods truly floated my boat (and still do!) as a little tyke.
All I have to do is write about five fave foods from my childhood. For official rules and regulations, read on:
"The rules of this meme are simple. Write about five foods from your childhood that you miss...what's the catch? There is none, really. AND so that the people that started this darned thing can keep track of it, here's something else that you need to do:
Remove the blog at #1 from the following list and bump every one up one place; add your blog's name in the #5 spot; link to each of the other blogs for the desired cross-pollination effect. Then tag three people and you're over and done with it all."
2. eat stuff
3. 'Ono Kine Grindz
4. mmm-yoso!!!/Monster Munching
5. Daily Gluttony
OK, now that all the formalities are out of the way, let's get this show on the road:
1. Noodles in broth: This can be any type of noodle, but my favorites are rice noodles (either the stick kind or the wide kind used in chow fun) eaten with some kind of vegetable like napa cabbage, bok choy, or maybe even pickled turnips. My parents usually made this for me when I was sick, the steamy chicken broth soothing my runny nose and the hearty noodles soothing my stomach. I even have a soft spot for the "fusion" versions my Grandma made using whatever ingredients she could find in the cabinet--American macaroni, diced ham, and Chinese pickles in chicken broth, for example.
2. Steamed pork with preserved duck egg: Mixed together and steamed in a shallow dish to form a "cake", this dish is best eaten with a bowl of steamy white rice. My favorite part was always the bulbous, bright orange salty yolk, which I'd mash in with the bits of pork and custardy egg into my rice. Every grain of rice had to be eaten of course, because as all Chinese parents tell their daughters, I'd end up marrying a pock-faced man if I didn't. Isaac's face is pretty smooth, so I guess eating all my rice worked!
3. Man-tou, or any of the various steamed buns that my Grandma would make: my Grandma's hands were frail, but yet they were so strong. I'd love watching her pound and roll out dough for the steamy white buns that she'd always offer to us kids when we came to visit. Grandma's dough was really special to us, not only in the yummy Chinese treats she cooked, but also in the other ways she tried to use it in trying to please us kids. She tried to shape the dough into hot dog buns or pizza crust a couple of times and make us her versions of the American foods she knew we liked so much. Sometimes, she had extra dough left which she gave to us to play with...I guess it was Chinese Play-Doh! OK, I'm gonna cry...
4. Tater-Tots: So this is one thing that I wouldn't have been embarrased to say I ate in front of my fourth grade class. No, I never kept them in my pants pocket a la Napoleon Dynamite to snack on in class, but my best friend and I loved them so much that we used to intercom the lunch lady for seconds when we volunteered in the school office. And of course, no tater tot is complete without ketchup.
5. Cream of Wheat--the Chinese way: "What is this???" you're asking. Well, "regular" people make Cream of Wheat with milk or water and maybe a little butter or brown sugar. My family made it with chicken broth and soy sauce. It makes a porridge of sorts, thick and creamy like Cream of Wheat, but with a distinctive Asian flavor. I still make it sometimes, especially when I'm a little under the weather. It's goooood. (Really!)
I know I'd get some great childhood meme-ories out of these witty Angeleno food bloggers: Sarah from The Delicious Life, Pat of Eating L.A. and one of my newest food blogging reads, Kris of The Best of LA. Tag, you're it!