It seems crazy to enter the world of blogging in the midst of final packing and moving out of the village in the next 7 days. After a year of encouragement from friends, I thought today during my break, why not take the plunge? These three years of making a kingdom out of my kitchen has been challenging but immensely rewarding in ways beyond measure! Honestly, when I first arrived in 2009, I did not log many hours in the kitchen. I usually cooked one proper meal at dinner and didn’t have to worry about cooking lunch for a family of 5. Jonathan ate at work and my kids were little and did not need much elaborate cooking. I could get away with bread with ham and cheese.
As we settled into village life where the culture is everyone goes home for lunch and dinner, I realized something had to change: Me! There was little instant food and processed foods to depend on. Cheese was precious and expensive, my kids were hitting growth spurs with voracious appetites, and my husband was having gall stone issues and had to eat non greasy, low sodium diet, whatever worked before was not anymore. With little choices of restaurants and food variety, my only option was learn how to cook to satisfy our food cravings and physical needs.
I grew up in Toronto, Taiwan and Vancouver having access to all kinds of cuisines: Taiwanese, Cantonese, Shanghai, Greek, Indian, Japanese, French, German, Italian, Singaporean, Malaysian and much more. My parents use to own a grocery store when I was growing up in Toronto. Our snack would be olives and feta cheese from the Greek store near our shop…my love for Greek and Mediterranean food began in my childhood. My dad use to shop frequently at Korean shops in down town Toronto…ginseng candy, ginseng tea and the vibrant colors of Korea painted a corner of my taste for Korean culture. At home, my dad loved Scottish shortbread, Scottish tunes and anything Plaid. I don’t know where the Scottish streak came from but it lasted his entire life and became a part of my identity. When I am homesick for my dad, I bake Scottish short bread in the village. My mom fed us all kinds of snacks: cheese whiz on celery sticks, cheese and crackers, peanut butter and honey toast, rice crackers, potato chips, and our favorite comfort food, cold soba noodles in a sweet savory garlic soya sauce dip. I can’t even remember how meatballs, tomato sauce and pasta became a part of my childhood in Toronto. My childhood best friend was from Portugal. I remember enjoying the aroma of her grandmother’s cooking and the interesting blends that reminded me of my own mom’s Asian cooking at home….they cooked seafood, had seaweed in their soup and tantalizing spices that invited people to take a bite.
When we moved to Taiwan, I was 8 years old and an entire new world of taste and snacks changed my life. The plethora of Taiwanese delicacies introduced the world of fusion cuisine to me. Taiwanese snacks were a blend of Fujian concepts with Portuguese and Japanese influences, a faithful recording of the island, Formosa’s history. It is only now in my adult life, as I travel around the world, I can identify the roots of each Taiwanese snack from its country of origin and trace how the dishes evolved over generations. For fun, I would read up the history of my favorite dishes and study its roots, how people made it in the villages, the cities and how it got transported to Asia, the other colonies and nations. I like to break things down to the most basic ingredients, understand the regional spices that makes the same dish distinctly different from place to place and see what a person can do with what they have at home.
The adventures of taste buds continued after I dated my husband and married him. Jonathan and I loved traveling and trying out different things. We love street food because it is very local, authentic and close to the masses at every social level. No food is too simple, too provincial, or too strange for us to try. Jonathan’s motto: ” As long as people consider something as food, we will try it!”
We enjoyed exotic tastes, things that were adventurous and different…yet at the end of the day, a simple bowl of rice and soya sauce or rice with fish floss was comfort food. For me, I will always gravitate back to my childhood comfort foods: mash potatoes, pasta, tomato soup, cream of mushroom soup, cheese and bread…the things my mom fed me. In the village, peanut butter on toast with a cup of milk tea is a special treat.
Moving to the village where everything had to be made from scratch to satisfy our food cravings, visiting food sites in Chinese and English became my favorite pass time. I would read up Chinese search engines to find recipes for our favorite dishes…and google recipes for pasta, pizza, sauces, cakes, cookies, pies to learn how to make things we took for granted living in big cities. I learned to dig into flour and make things from dough and fresh batter. I had no bakery to find apple pie in the remote villages of China. There were apples, brown sugar, eggs, flour, and an oven in my village kitchen, so the adventure began.
Now, after 3 years of logging in extensive hours in the kitchen hosting all kinds of guests and high volume cooking to feed 10 plus people on a regular basis, my pots and pans began to sing a tune of its own: lets explore and have some fun, lets taste and try something different…lets experiment and create a new world…just follow the food cravings and make something delicious and live giving! And so, the adventure begins and keeps going.