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25 Things About Food and Me

Undoubtedly you or someone you know has participated in the “25 Random Things About Me” meme that’s been circulating on Facebook the last few weeks.  How could you not have heard about it?  The Times Style section even wrote an article on it, for Pete’s sake!

I’ve kind of refused to participate in this, mostly because I didn’t want random people that I’ve spoken with once in my life to read juicy, intimate details about my life and personality.  Which begs the question…why are they my Facebook friend if we’ve had only a brief, fleeting encounter at a friend of a friend’s house party?  Networking, I guess.

(Note: I just recently figured out how to reconfigure all my privacy settings with the use of Friends lists on Facebook…super nerdy, but valuable insight here if you’re interesting in finding out how your boss can still be your Facebook friend, but not have access to photos of you and the embarrassing things your friends write on your Wall.)

So all that being said, this week on Serious Eats there was a “25 Things About Food and Me” meme that circulated, and I had to admit, this was the kind of listage I could get into!  When it comes to food, I’m willing to divulge any number of facts about myself — not only with Facebook friends, but with the Internet at large!  And I’d rather all my friends did something like this, versus tell me about the name of their first pet, or how they wanted to be a firefighter when they were 5.  I mean, that stuff is interesting too, but I’d much rather know what they’d want their last meal to be.  Right?

Anyway, here are my top 25 random things about food and myself….  (Allow myself to introduce…myself.)  Okay, here we go:

1. I don’t drink milk.  Being an adopted Asian baby, my pediatrician told my parents to go easy on the animal milk with me.  I grew up mostly drinking soy milk and juice, although by a pretty young age I couldn’t stand drinking soy milk either.  For me, milk has a horribly disgusting texture.  If something’s going to be creamy, it better have a consistency thicker than milk, and a different flavor, too.  It’s strange.  I can eat creme anglaise sauce no problem, but a dish like peaches and fresh cream?  Blech.  I’ve tried chugging a glass of milk before, and it always makes me gag.  I don’t even use milk in my cereal, ever.  Which reminds me…

2. If you’re going to eat cereal dry, there’s a few really good ones to nosh on.  As a kid, I loved eating Frosted Flakes, Corn Pops, Cocoa Pebbles and Frosted Mini Wheats.  I still like the Mini Wheats, and also love dry Honey Nut Cheerios.  Things with plain, non-sweetened flakes aren’t so good.  It’s like eating thin shavings of cardboard.

3. Growing up, my mom used to take me to a good Korean restaurant in Austin, one of the few in that town.  We would gorge on bul go gi and in the winter, a thick stew filled with sliced dok (rice cakes).  My favorite part of the meal was invariably the banchan.  I adored the Ojingeochae bokkeum (salted dried squid mixed with spicy chili paste), the hot pickled cucumbers, and of course, the kimchi.  Let’s be honest, I could have kimchi and rice every day for lunch for the next year and be happy.  In any case, I like to think that my mom took me there so my palate could get to know my heritage.

4. My mom also used to take me to a dim sum place almost every weekend.  For all you who weren’t with VMAC + Cheese at its inception, there’s a good story about that here.

5. The first thing I ever learned to cook was a fried egg.  I was 7 years old.  My parents never had any qualms with me using the stove or oven.  I used to wake up every Saturday morning and make myself fried eggs before I went off to dance rehearsal.  Sometimes, my mom would get the pan started for me, and I would get miffed because I loved the smell of the melting butter.  I found out later that she loved that smell too, and that’s why she tried to beat me to it.

6. When I turned 6, my mother baked me a multi-tiered birthday cake and painted a picture of Ariel, the little mermaid, on the top of it.  I thought that was very special.

7. I used to love renting a series of VHS tapes called Faerie Tale Theater.  In the ‘Rapunzel‘ episode, Rapunzel’s mother, finally pregnant with her, longs for radishes from the next-door witch’s garden, and forces her husband to collect some for her each night, lest she DIE.  Of course, then the story goes that the witch doesn’t like this jerk off stealing her precious crop, and demands that their newborn be given to her.  Yadda yadda yadda, there’s some hair, a prince, crying, then everyone’s happy.  Anyway, watching this particular episode, I became very curious about radishes.  I asked my parents to buy them for me for a good month or two, and would snack on them every night, and demand they be put into our salads.  I can remember one evening, sitting at the table, munching on radishes…and then I looked down at them, spit out my mouthful of the root, decided I didn’t really care for them, and haven’t touched them since.  I’ll eat radishes if I have to, but they’re not my favorite vegetable.

8. Which is strange, because I really like daikon and therefore, turnip cakes.

9. One very Texan eating habit that I am guilty of doing (and loving): I adore dipping pepperoni pizza into ranch dressing.  Oh man.

10. For a few very scary months during my freshman year of college, I thought I had become lactose intolerant.  It turned out (we think) that I was just really stressed out, which was causing my body to reject certain foods I’d always eaten, but I can’t lie: the idea of not being able to enjoy cheese or ice cream again was very, very worrisome to me.

11. Joe and I have a favorite meal that we like to indulge in every now and again: my homemade pesto; good, crusty bread; two types of cheese (whatever looks good that day) and raw crudites.  Sometimes I’ll make a specialty dip, like a tomato/feta/basil spread or hummus.  We lay everything out on big plates, share a bottle of red wine, and hang out.  These are called our picnic nights.

12. I had my first sip of scotch whiskey when I was maybe 2 or 3.  At the time, I had a terrible habit of walking up to people’s glasses and drinking from them without asking permission or finding out what was in it.  Keen to break me of that habit, my mom let me approach her and take her tumbler of whiskey right out of her hand one night when we were all watching TV.  I took a huge swig and said, “YUCK!  What is this?  Medicine?”  I never drank out of someone’s glass without asking first (and also finding out what was in it) ever again.

13. The summer before I left for college, I worked at a Chili’s as a hostess.  Each shift you worked, you got a free meal.  Sometimes for my shift meal, I’d order the molten chocolate lava cake.  Best dinner ever.

14. I am in complete agreement with Anthony Bourdain’s food-trying policy.  He reasons that when he is someone’s guest, and they have gone out of their way to prepare a meal for you, you damn well better try everything they put in front of you.  One of my biggest pet peeves in life are people who refuse to even try a food, and have already determined they hate something.  That behavior while you’re a guest in someone’s home?  Biggest insult ever.

15. In the year after my dad passed, my grandmother had to come and stay with me a lot while my mom traveled for work.  Being a woman of the 1950s, she was determined that I should eat breakfast every single day.  Trouble is, breakfast foods are not my favorite, and I nearly refused to eat anything or even have a glass of juice before she sent me off to school.  The only thing she could get me to eat consistently was Jell-o.

16.  And soup.  My dad had learned years before that I loved eating soup for breakfast.  I remember the first morning he ever let me eat that way: I was in 2nd grade, and he wanted me to eat something.  We were standing in front of the pantry, and he pointed out option after option, all of which I refused.  “Well, what do YOU want then?” he asked me defiantly.  I pointed up to a can of Campbell’s CHUNKY sirloin burger and vegetable soup.  He immediately opened it for me and microwaved it.  I ate the whole can, and had CHUNKY soup for breakfast many days thereafter.

17. Around the age of 11 or 12, my mother bought me a Japanese tea set.  I used to brew tea and drink it by the potful out of the tiny little ceramic cups that came with the set.  I loved doing that.

18. The foods I dislike today are the same ones I disliked as a kid.  Black licorice.  Milk.  Raw celery sticks.  In fact, when I was a kid in after school care, I was always sad when our afternoon snack was a celery stick loaded up with peanut butter.  I used to lick the peanut butter off and throw away the celery.  The only food aversion I’ve added in the last 10 to 15 years is rau rum, also known as Vietnamese mint.  I can’t stand that stuff.  Now I understand why people get so fired up over their hate for cilantro.

19. I have a strange love of raw dough.  My culinary school friends can totally attest to this.  Knead out a ball of yeasted dough, and I’m likely to tear a piece off and eat it.  To me, it tastes like homey-ness.  Like warmth.

20. Sometimes, when I think back on what I would eat for lunch in middle school, I’m so grossed out.  A typical lunch for me was a huge pepperoni Hot Pocket, a bag of Doritos, a lemonade, and if I was feeling good, a chocolate chip cookie.  Thank goodness my mother cooked well-rounded meals at home.

21. My father, on the other hand, only cooked a few things at home: peanut butter cookies, grilled steak, and meatloaf.  I have very distinct associations with each.  For the cookies, I would always help him press the tines of the fork into the cut, about-to-be-baked rounds.  For the steak, my mom would always saute a bunch of sliced mushrooms in butter to serve over the top of the meat.  I loved the way those smelled, and tasted.  For the meatloaf, I would help my dad mix the meats with all the garnishes.  Our hands would get so cold from kneading together the ground pork and beef and ketchup.  I could only knead for a half a minute before I had to rinse my hands under warm water.  I thought my dad was a superhero for his ability to knead the meatloaf for as long as he could, no hand warming required.

22. I’m in a constant debate with myself over whether I’d enjoy a lengthy culinary tour of France or Italy more.  I really think it’s a toss up.

23. The only big “diet” I can ever remember my family going on was the cabbage soup diet.  I was probably 12 or 13.  My mother would make a huge vat of soup, made with several quarts of water, a few vegetable bouillon cubes, diced onion, potato, canned tomatoes, carrots, and cabbage.  There was no seasoning in it.  I love my mother, but it is by far the grossest thing she ever made (and repeatedly, at that!).  The only way I could give it any kind of flavor was by adding a bunch of garlic salt and sri racha to it.  Except that made it kind of grosser.  I was so happy when she gave that diet up.

24. Growing up, our family never watched TV while we ate dinner.  Ever.  It was a hard and fast rule.  Looking back, I’m really glad it was that way.  Family dinner time was integral to my early food experiences.

25. So here it is, my ever evolving Last Supper:

– 24 Kumamoto oysters, with a bit of mignonette on the side; pairing: a good Sancerre

– Freshly baked pain epi from Acme Bread, served with fresh-churned sweet butter

– Salade Lyonnaise: Frisee tossed with lardons and a dijon/bacon fat vinaigrette, topped with a poached egg; pairing: glass of Roederer Estate L’Hermitage Anderson Valley Sparkling

– Macaroni and cheese, made with gruyere, parmesan and good English white cheddar, garnished with big pieces of pancetta and hunks of lobster

– A glass or two of Pinot Noir; what producer depends on the day

– A plate of either fettuccine Alfredo (made the RIGHT way, with only butter and parmigiano), or a plate of spaghetti carbonara.  It’s a total toss up.

– The leg and thigh of a pasture raised chicken, baked with salted herb butter under the skin, so that the meat is ultra-moist and the skin salty and crisp.

– Stone fruit tart made with peaches, nectarines and apricots, served with some Mexican vanilla ice cream from Amy’s Ice Creams; pairing: glass of Sauternes

– Dolce gorgonzola and a glass of tawny port

Aaaaand now I’m hungry.  Joe and I have said that one day, we really ARE going to cook our Last Supper meals, just to do it.  I can hardly wait.

So hows about you?  What are 25 things about YOU and food?

One Response

  1. Anytime you wanna make me that last supper go right ahead – meat and all, that sounds well worth it.

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