Thursday, January 6, 2011

A Little Off Topic

So, I am generally fascinated by food. Much more so than almost anyone else I know. I have 3 friends who are kitchen o philes, and they are each so in dramatically different ways from each other and from myself. I have been privileged enough to experience their food, to cook for each of them, and to cook with each of them. I know this is supposed to be a blog about restaurant reviews in Bloomington, but it's also a place to scratch my personal obsession itch, so I'm going to go off topic occasionally.

In this case, I was thinking about all the people I know who do not cook, who aren't fascinated by food. In all honesty it's most of the people I know. It's a state of being I cannot comprehend, and one that doesn't exist anywhere in my family. My background is German on my father's side of the family and Italian on my mother's side of the family. I have multiple relatives with culinary degrees and relatives who spend their entire vacation fishing in the pursuit of a freezer full of their own personally caught fish every year. Food is an anchor for my entire extended family. So I began to wonder about what causes that, if it's learned, if it's innate.

So here is my request to everyone. Please answer the following questions. Either in the comments here, or on facebook where I will be linking this post. I'm eternally curious. I'll be writing something about what I think of everyone's responses in this blog in a couple weeks (maybe sooner).

1) Do you love food? I'm talking about the crazy love of food. I don't necessarily mean making the food. The passion could be eating, or the growing, or maybe just a special torrid love affair with the nuances of desserts. It could be an obsession with new and exciting, or just a complete need to find that perfectly made comfort dish exactly like you had when you were a child. But do you have a love affair of some sort. And please please PLEASE answer this and the next question even if it's a "meh not really" response. If the answer is yes, I wouldn't mind some details about the nature of your particular love affair, if the answer is no then I'm especially interested in question 2.

2) What is your strongest memory of food? I'm curious about childhood, because I suspect that's where most people's strongest memory of food is, but I'm also hoping to be proven wrong, but because it will be interesting.

I hope to hear from people soon, and you'll all hear from me somewhat soon with my thoughts. :)


  1. 1) You already know the answer to this question for me but I'll answer it anyway, and yes I am crazy for food and I have an intensely personal relationship with sugar in all it's forms. I can't really tell you what caused it, but chemical processes aside, for some reason, the substance has just always made me happy. I can look in a window at pastries and be made happy. The texture of a well made marshmallow on my teeth is something imprinted on my mind. Whatever causes it, it's an integral part of my being *L*.

    2) This is an interesting question because I don't know if I really became aware of any intense likings of food until I was about six or seven (although there are stories from my family). But something that sticks out strongly is the rice my mother would make on the nights she would roast a chicken. She would take plain, converted rice and pour the drippings from the chicken over it right before she brought it to the table. There was something about the combination of the juices and seasonings that seemed to me to be in perfect balance and I just could not stop eating it. It was something that had a perfect (in my mind anyway) flavor profile and textural balance. It was something I looked forward to each time it was made and rue the loss of in my adult years because my mom no longer makes that dish and I've never been able to replicate it properly because she doesn't remember the combination of seasonings she used on the chicken.

  2. 1) I love cooking. It's a very transformative and meditative experience for me. I cook when I am sad and when I am happy. While I am cooking, I like to be by myself. I prefer not to talk to anyone or even have anyone in the space. It's just me and the elements. There is some sort of effortless meditative trance that happens which makes me feel calm, and in touch with myself when I am done. I mostly cook Indian food at home. Since I am well acquainted with the Indian spices, I do not follow recipes. It's a very organic dialogue. The only time I follow recipes is when I try out some other cuisine, or baking (since I am new to the elements of these). I am one of those people who likes everything to be fresh. I like to hand pick my spices, and clean my own meat and veggies (whenever possible). I shriek at canned, frozen or any other form of preprocessed food. I like to do things all by myself from the scratch (like buy a whole chicken and clean everything by myself). During summer, I try to grow my own vegetables (as much as my tiny patio allows). You get the idea.

    The process of cooking takes a higher priority than the actual end product itself. There are times when I would just cook a feast and then just shower and go to bed without eating anything. Which leads me to the next freaky thing - I like to cook for other people. There have been instances where my friends have knocked at my door at 2:00 am and I have gladly made them a meal. On the other hand, when my room mate is out of town and it's just me, I pretty much survive on fruits, Ramen and toast. It's hard for me to cook for myself. I have been trying consciously to change this habit though. I make huge batches of food when I am by myself so that I eat healthy.

    2) My strongest memory of food... Hmmm... Not sure what exactly you mean here. But I'll try. While I was growing up, both my parents were working. In the evening, both me and my younger brother would return from school. My mom would be back only 3 hours after we arrived. So I always used to make chai for me and my brother. That is my strongest childhood memory related to cooking. Somedays I would make pancakes for both of us since we would be hungry. Looking back, I actually enjoyed doing it and never thought of it as a chore. I think it made me feel all grown-up. We used to have gas in our kitchen and only adults were allowed to use gas. So the fact that I could use it definitely made me feel more empowered I guess. Soon I found out that I had a natural flair for cooking - something that even today men in India do not associate themselves with due to gender stereotypes. My work demanded that I move to places all around the world which demanded that I prepare my own food. My other Indian colleagues loved whatever I prepared and soon it became almost an identity.

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  4. 1.) I'm certain that I really do love food. It's one of the reasons that I love living in Philadelphia. It's easy to tell, especially when I go through grocery stores and other markets. I like looking and smelling and even touching if I can. Even when things look weird or smell unusual there will always be a part of me that will want to give it a chance, because I don't really want to miss out on something amazing. Food is one of those multi-sense experiences that you really have to take all facets of to appreciate fully. I believe my part 2 answer elucidates that.

    2.) My strongest memory of food came out of Germany. Well more that it was everything that I had the chance to eat there. The food was so different in comparison to any place I had lived previously. The fruit flavors that were emulated in juice drinks and yogurts (e.g. passion fruit) were not any kind I had tried before. I got to try spargle for the first time, where I had previously not liked asparagus much at all, you could always tell the fields that grew spargle because they had these odd mounds. Then there was brotchen, a crusty bread that rivaled any dinner roll that I had eaten in the United States. There were also various cheeses, rollmops, and other local savory foods that I really enjoyed getting the chance to try.

    Even more than that, there was candy. I had never eaten any kind of candy by Haribo prior to Germany, and in middle school there was a truck that sat just outside the regular parking lots and it sold various food, including Haribo gummy candy. The Haribo brand candy had the right consistency in terms of chewiness and flavor, and their sour candy just was more sour than anything I had eaten before, and I really grew to love that. The introduction to foods that were not part of the "typical" American diet has lead me to be far more adventurous in what I'm willing to try and what kind of flavors I prefer; in fact, I'd say I still seek out variety if only to not be stuck in the typical American food rut.

  5. 1) I'm not a food lover. My husband might say this is a dirty lie, but I assure you it's not. While I revel in the food others make and share, and while my collection of favorite recipes continues to grow, the passion just isn't there.

    2) Some of my strongest (and earliest) memories of food:
    -My mom frying hot dog slices and eggs. The eggs were great because they had crunchy brown edges! The hot dog Maybe I did have a love affair once.
    -Eating Honey Smacks (a cereal) and finding a dead cockroach in it.
    -My dad making chicken breast, frozen mixed veggies, and white rice. I remember he was very proud of making this simple, healthy meal for me, and I really liked the way it tasted.
    Unfortunately, the cockroach is the thing I remember the strongest. Ah well.