Friday, August 12, 2005

Childhood Meme-ories

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."

eat stuff
'Ono Kine Grindz
mmm-yoso!!!/Monster Munching
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.

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!


Kirk said...

Nice one Pam - I'm hungry, I've got frozen Man-tou and tater tots in the freezer, hmmmm, which do I choose??? Love the cream of wheat.

Daily Gluttony said...

Hey Kirk,

How about the man-tou AND tater tots? Put some ketchup on it and you've got yourself sort of a tater tot sammich!!! ha ha

tracinamarie said...

I am a child reared on Cream of Wheat also, and strangely enough, we always cooked ours with chicken broth too, but that's cause my dad is black and they made grits that way, so for him, anything mushy needed to taste like grits! Also, I looooooooove tater-tots! we rarely had them at school, but always had a stockpile of them at home!

BoLA said...

I loved Tater Tots!!! Mmmm!!! Those and the fries you could pop in the oven! Here are my top five memories of missed foods:

elmomonster said...

Never knew the superstition about the rice and the pock-marked face! Hilarious!

Daily Gluttony said...


WOW! I never ever thought I'd meet someone who made their Cream of Wheat with broth!!!


Aren't all of those frozen fried things wonderful??? And thanks for participating in this meme!


You'd better make sure you eat all your rice!!! It applies to guys too ya don't want a pock faced wife!

MEalCentric said...

damn, I am slow.

LACheesemonger said...

Alas, as with the RR on $40 a day, I don’t play games so well… hey I’m an adult now! Then again, I suppose I was never very good at being a ‘team player’ or bowing to peer pressure (which is why I liked Pam’s comment in DL’s Jennings tribute).

Umm, maybe I shouldn’t even post here…cause you know DL would be so jealous if she found out, which is why I waited until Sept ;).

From a recent DL entry that linked to this DL entry:
Shane rest
Sarah said: “There was a time when my friend and Stella were hanging out a lot. It made me very very jealous, because I am not ashamed to say it – I am a jealous, possessive girl. Well, his Stella-phase has long since ended, but my friend still continues to drink Stella and it reminds me of the other Stella. *grr*”

I think she would interpret this ‘cross-pollination’ thingy in the wrong way as ‘cheating’… hell hath no fury, like that of a woman scorned?

I don’t really have 5 items I miss from childhood, probably because my semi-photographic like memory (though DL would say ‘semi-pr0n’ memory…takes one to know one, lol) did not start to develop until I was in high-school. So I have very few memories from earlier childhood, save for those few most intense ones, the ordinary just vanished :( . IIRC, my family did not go out to restaurants very much, but I do recall as a young child, liking the Uncle John’s Pancake house's chocolate chip pancakes with whip cream on top…yummy. That restaurant used to be on Wilshire, somewhere near where Royal Star is now. I particularly hated the taste of cream of wheat, whenever my mother made it for breakfast. I do recall that in middle-school (*cough* junior-high *cough*) I used to walk home from school and by a whole glass bottle of Orange Crush soda on hot days, and guzzle that down, along with *yuck* Cheetos! But I certainly grew out of that by high-school. No, there's pretty much nothing I miss from childhood.

Pam is lucky to have known her Grandma (but the dough she made, I guess your relatives are not from the Canton region, and she did not make Char Siu Bao then? ), my grandmother was born, raised, and died in Hawaii, I only saw her when she visited the mainland on one week vacations, and she died when I was in high-school; so I have little memories of her and she did not do any cooking while visiting, IIRC. As an adult I do eat many of the Chinese items my mother ate while growing up as a child in Hawaii that she has exposed me too (hmm, maybe I've forgotten those from my childhood), but also some of the Hawaiian items. Lop Chong Cantonese style sausage (Dynasty brand, now only at the Murukai mkt in Torrance; tastes better than most of the other brands they have in the Chinese neighborhoods) and bowl of rice where what poor people like my grandmother served to my mother many nights a week. My mother’s father died when she was 8, so my grandmother had two jobs, one as an elementary school teacher, and then as manager of the corner gas station when her husband died. No time to fix fancy dinner for children when you have two full-time jobs (they actually had to move into the large house of my Chinese great grandmother’s for a short time) and you are just barely making do.

But it seems Pam’s grandmother made some fusion dishes, that if Pam where born and raised in China she would not have had in China. Yeah, so even as a child Pam was already being ‘Americanized’, if not quite as much as her other Asian friend. No disrespect, I’m born and 100% American junkfood raised myself. BTW, I love water chestnuts, crunchy semi-sweet, in just about anything; dim sum items; stir fried with Chinese peas…anything!

It is more important what your tastes develop into as an adult, no matter what country you are from. Which is kind of why I get so irritated about all the misinformation being tossed about on CHLA, with regards to so-called traditional/authentic/cultural food rants. It depends on your point of reference; HK had been under British rule for over a century, and being a center of commerce for the whole world even prior to that, there would obviously be influences from many regions. Therefore, HK style dim sum service is, depending on what time period you consider, a changing modernized, fancier, more sophisticated? version of very old school simpler dim sum of the Canton region..

So what are Pam’s true Chinese roots then, where did her families originate from? My great grandparents emigrated from the Canton region to a small Chinese community in Hawaii during the 19th century. But they were not native Cantonese, supposedly being of the Hakka tribe of nomadic Chinese… though historians do not agree on where Hakka came from, they could have been native to southern China also. Unfortunately, when I got my name chop made (kind of like a automobile vanity plate…which is sort of a vulgar poorly chosen comparison, so sue me); there was no way for me to know how the ancient surname of Ing/Eng/Ng was spelled in Chinese characters as there could be any number of spellings depending on local dialects in use at the time they moved to Hawaii, and none of the more current relatives had any record of this :(.

I can however, post a comment on the Jennings entry, with respect to food/cancer…but it’s kind of depressing.

Interesting link on the Hakka:

"The characteristics of Hakka people is they all claim to be Chinese and there is no provincial difference to divide them. All those who are fortunate to still master the tongue would find a lot of "Tziga Ngin" (our own people) anywhere in China. Hakka dialect (language) is the thread that holds people together. There is now an annual international Hakka conference held in different countries. The last one held in Longyan, Fujian had the biggest participation in years with many from Taiwan, showing that political issues cannot stop the root finding of Hakka people. At this conference, there was a moving piece of news. A Caucasian American adopted by a Hakka family during the war also participated the conference. He, speaking in fluent Hakka, proudly declared himself a Hakka.

There are roughly 50 million to 75 million Hakkas all over the world. Hakka Chinese probably can claim the widest coverage by a single people

Different theories about origin of Hakka-


I can’t speak any Chinese dialect, I’m American…but perhaps there lurks the inner soul of a ‘real’ Hakka; one of the 11 lost tribes of Israel ;-) ? Who knows, could have minute amounts of DNA from ‘royal bloods’ of the past, or that of a migrant ‘working girl’ lol. All I know is that from time to time, my mother reminds me of her uncle, that the parents sent back to southern China to get a university degree, but he just gambled, then got tuberculosis, came back to Hawaii, and generally amounted to no good before he died :P , so much for the Hakka tradition of hard work! And my mother reminds me that my demented/warped sense of humor at laughing at all manner miseries of news of the world, disasters, or the sad stories of despair they show on the LA18 Chinese and Korean dramas; reminds her of her uncle who she said I have exactly the same kind of ‘Beavous & Butthead’ “hehe, hehe” type of laugh (she doesn’t know what B&B is, just to give an ideal of kind of laugh) as he did. Oh man, that’s so cold, how could she say that of me… even if it’s true, hehe! Yes, the Chinese are very superstitious, it's a milleniums old tradition, but that is changing with the current, highly educated younger generation of today.

But see, what is important is that Pam has blossomed into a wicked, saucy, Thai goddess, lol. And if she likes ColdPlay (given her penchant for blogging you’d think Pam’s a big fan of their current hit Talk, which I always crank up to volume level 10 whenever I hear it on the radio while driving ),

and her ‘inner mom’ like Jessica Alba (I only have this pic for the bio text next to it, honestly), wishes to bake me some cookies…then. Pam, protests ‘but I have a fiancĂ©! And my response, ‘so did Jessica Alba!’; and now she’s a potty mouth ‘year of de Alba’ superstar, who gets smashed with her experienced palate, on fine wines and dreams of owning her own vineyards…ah, to be so young and wealthy! The Sinner

Now if I could only get DL off of her liver killing, gourmand liquor bar hopping tendencies; and turn her into a suave, sophisticated, advanced wine/food enthusiast :(

Daily Gluttony said...

Mr. Cheeze,

Man you always have alot to say. To clarify, my grandma was from the Toisan province, but she knew how to make everything--kind of a jack of all trades she was, and my family IS Canto, so no I am not Thai, even though I LOVE PAD THAI. Get it?

And you don't speak Chinese...WTF? ha ha