Thoughts From My Mommy’s Stomach

In thinking about all the meals that I can remember having as a child, I narrowed it down to four prominent family members that provided me with such meals, my mommy, daddy, grandma, and granny. Immediately ruling out both of my grandmothers due to their long windedness and lack of technological use, it came down to my parents. I have to say, I really don’t remember much in terms of food from my younger years so I had to go straight to the source, my mother, and ask her who cooked more meals for me, and of no surprise to me she replied herself. Now, when I think about it I have to believe her on this one because I know that my father always worked the graveyard shifts when we all lived together, so I’m sure he probably didn’t have time to prepare a lot of my meals. So the last woman standing by a default of numbers takes to trophy of having cooked the most meals for me as a child and gets to be interviewed about it. Here goes nothing.

Q: Who taught you how to cook?

A: Both my maternal grandmother and mother taught me how to cook.

Q: How did you start cooking—what made you want to start?

A: I started cooking in my grandmother’s kitchen at the age of ten years. When I was younger I spent a lot more time with my grandmother than I did my own mother. I remember my grandmother always being in the kitchen preparing meals for the family and one day, though I don’t really remember which, I decided to start helping her. From then on out, I would always offer to help my grandmother with every meal she made. I started to learn a lot of techniques and recipes from her. Though our time together was short lived, she passed when I was sixteen; I have never forgotten the things she taught me. As I grew older, I added my grandmother’s techniques in with what I learned from my mother and that’s really it.

Q: Do you use family recipes or do you create your own dishes?

A: I continue to use my family’s recipes. Seeing as though they are a part of my family, being passed down from generation to generation, I consider them to be my own recipes. There are times when I add in something new, take something out, or follow the recipe word for word. It really just depends on what I like and if I think it need a personal touch.

Q: Did recipes change with relationships and/or marriages?

A: My relationship with your dad changed my recipes because he was raised adding sugar to everything.

Q: What sort of things did you eat when you were a kid?

A: The same type of soul food I prepare for my family. More often than not, the food is heavily seasoned and fried in vegetable oil. I guess it’s like the old saying, everything taste better fried.

Q: What is your favorite meal to make?

A: My favorite meal to make for my family consists of red beans, white rice, fried chicken and oven baked corn bread. I soak the dried red bean in a bowl of water over night. In the morning I season them up and throw them in the crock pot with a ham shank, more than likely left over from our holiday ham. Then I let the bean cook all day. I prepare the chicken by wasting it really good, seasoning it up, coating in an egg wash, tossing in it all purpose flour, and deep frying it. While the chicken is frying, I stick the corn meal mixture in the oven and start the rice.

Q: Is there a special dish that reminds you of me?

A: Not one exactly, because whenever I make a dessert I think of you, mommy’s honey-bunny.

Q: What were your goals regarding food for me prior to my birth, and how did they change?

A: When I found out I was pregnant with you I stopped drinking coffee and began to consume lots of milk because while carrying you I felt the need to take care of the love I had inside of me.  And once I gave birth, I started back to drinking very strong coffee and eating fast food again.

Q: What were the trials of cooking for me (what I liked, funny moments, etc.)

A: You loved cheesecake from Nations Hamburgers. The funniest moment I experienced with you in the kitchen was trying to prepare a cake for your Dad’s birthday.  It was fun, but boy was it messy.

Q: Do you wish you had the opportunity to cook more?

A: I do wish I had more time to cook for you when you come home from school on the weekend.  I do not like the fact that you always have to purchase fast food and rarely have a home cooked meal. It’s just so hard for me to prepare anything taking care of Andre and Ashtin (my little cousins), grandma and pawpaw, working full time, and going to school at night. That’s why I have been preparing a lot more meals (red beans and greens) in the crock pot than I used to, so they can cook while I’m away and you can just serve yourself when you get hungry.

Q: Do you enjoy cooking, or do you do it because you have to?

A: I truly enjoy cooking.  I just wish I had the energy to take care of the boys, do everything for grandma and pawpaw, attend school, work a full time job and still be able to cook for you on the weekends.

Q: How has your relationship with food changed over the years?

A: After finding out that I now have diabetes, I am much more aware of what I place in my body.  I want to live a long healthy life and not leave you to worry about me not taking my disease seriously. I feel there are many people depending on me to stay healthy, so I try to eat more chicken, fruits, and vegetables so I can maintain my weight and not inject insulin into my body.

 

After doing this interview with my mommy, I discovered a new bond with her through food. We had very similar childhood experiences in that our cooking adventures began not our mothers but with older women in our family. While she cooked with her grandmother until her death, I cooked with my great-grandmother until her death. Even though, it wasn’t stated in her interview I truly believe that like myself, cooking is something she continues to do because it reminds her of the time spent with her grandmother. I also learned that my mother truly does have a passion for cooking and it saddens me that she doesn’t get the opportunity to fulfill her passion that often in her current stage in life. My hope is that she will be able to reconnect with foods the way that I am learning too.

The overall experience of conducting the interview was nothing new to me. I have done several interviews within my sociology minor in many different forms. For this interview in particular, I knew based on past experiences that I didn’t want to just record and then transcribe. So I tried to type as she spoke but it then I kept pausing the conversation and asking her to slow down and repeat everything a thousand times just to get one sentences down. I finally ended with having her type her answers as she said them, partly because she is much faster than I am and she could take more natural pauses. I think for the little amount of questions that we had it worked, but I just really can’t find the naturalness in conducting interviews. I feel like it almost just has to be a video recorded conversation that you just have to play live and edit if you have to so that you don’t stop the flow. Though, that probably still wouldn’t work for me. I guess I’m just not a fan of interviews altogether.

Advertisements
This entry was posted on January 25, 2012. 2 Comments

Does the Mission District have a NEW Mission?

Seeing that I grew up in the Bay Area, the Mission District is not an unfamiliar place to me. I have been into the city, including the Mission District, numerous times but have never experienced it in the way that I did during our tour. Even though, I found myself questioning the credibility of our tour guide, seeing that she was constantly being corrected by the owners and even went as far as looking towards the students who grew up in the area for answers, that fact of the matter is that I did learn something, to appreciate the small businesses around me for their authenticity.

The first stop on our tour of the Mission District was La Victoria Mexican Bakery and Café which screamed Mexican authenticity from the moment we walked through the door. The store front was filled with both traditional Mexican breads and modern pastries. The décor consists of both Mexican paintings and paper banners. The feel of the bakery was very warm, making it comforting, home-like. We were offered coffee (which sucks because I had just purchased a caramel frappe from McDonalds of all places) and an assortment of sweet breads. While feasting on the samples breads we were accompanied by an explanation of both history of the bakery and the concepts behind the breads by one of the infamous bakers. It was interesting to hear the ways in which the breads had been created, particularly their design, and what events served as inspiration.

At our next stop, La Palma Mexicatessen, we were met by La Victoria Mexican Bakery and Café owner, Jaime Maldonado, where he basically took over our tour in describing our meal provided for us. Our tour guide had already pre-ordered oval-shaped masa stuffed with black beans referred to as huaraches. The huaraches were topped with shredded cabbage, onions, cilantro, salsa, and a Mexican-cheese. I have to say, biting into the huarache took me back about ten years, I imagined myself sitting at the kitchen table of my uncle’s house, prior to his divorce that is. My aunt at the time, Maria, and her mother, would make authentic Mexican dishes all the time, especially around the holidays, when I would visit. It’s not too often that I can go into a Mexican restaurant, even if they claim to be authentic, and be reminded of the home cooked meals I ate a long time ago. For this reason alone, I have to say this was my favorite meal of the day, for the obvious authenticity of the dish was nothing less of a staple Mexican traditional dish.

From there we would adventure on to a number of local businesses that although were good at their individual crafts, didn’t represent the Mission District to me. When I think of the Mission, I automatically think of authentic Mexican (or Latino) culture, traditions, and foods. Though, Humphry Slocombe Ice Cream, Mission Minis, and Mr. Pollo, did indeed provide me with a tasty treat, I didn’t feel connected to the Mission eating them. In fact, towards the end of the tour I got the vibe that we were moving away from the learning about how the Mission District came to be and started focusing more on how modern independent business have started to pop up around the neighborhood. For me, seeing these restaurants within the Mission District makes me question whether or not the authenticity of the Latino culture is being bought out and will eventually die out.

Coconut Milk, Brown Sugar, & Pickle Juice = CHOPPED

Coconut milk. Brown sugar. Pickle juice. All together in one dish.

First thought: Impossible.

Second thought: You want me to do what, again?

Third thought: What Would the Chopped Gods Make.

Now, I watch Chopped religiously, and I know the chefs on the show would probably be laughing that I was stomped by my ingredients, but I’m not afraid to say that I am an amateur. I have never even seen a can of coconut milk (and now I know why) let alone cook with it and the closest I’ve come to cooking with just pickle juice is it rolling off of a pickle. Luckily, LaMario was just as lost with his ingredients and willing to partner up. (Though, I’m still not sure if that made it any easier, but at least I had some since of direction now with his soba noodles, tilapia, and sugar.) So off to the store we went, not knowing that we would have to go to four different stores before finding everything. After five minutes of staring at the ingredients before us and still no ideas how to make this dish even remotely appetizing, we decided on: Soba Noodles topped with Lemon, Pickle, and Garlic Baked Tilapia drizzled with a coconut milk, brown sugar, and honey glaze. Trust me, it taste just as good as it sounds.

Lemon, Pickle, & Garlic Baked Tilapia

2 filets of fresh tilapia

2 pinches of salt

2 pinches of black pepper

2 pinches of garlic powder

4 slices of lemon, juice of the rest

A spritz of cooking spray

A splash of pickle juice

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Rinse the tilapia under cold water. Pat it dry. Place the fish in a greased, glass Pyrex. Coat the fish with one pinch of salt, black pepper, & garlic powder on each side. Mix the lemon juice and pickle juice in a separate bowl. Pour the mixture into the Pyrex surrounding the fish. Place two lemon slice on top of each filet of fish. Cover with foil and let bake for 30 minutes. When you remove the fish it should be a white, a flakey to the touch of the fork, a smell of pickles.

Coconut Milk, Brown Sugar, & Honey Glaze

1 can of coconut milk

1 package of brown sugar

I bottle of honey

Grab a small bowl. Pour about ¼ cup of brown sugar into the bowl. Coat the brown sugar with a few squirts of honey and cream them together. Pour about ¼ cup of coconut milk in and mix it all together. After that, all I can say is I’m sorry. Add more of whatever you think will make it taste better.

Soba Noodles

1 tbsp. oil

¼ cup water

1 package of soba noodles

Follow the directions of the back. Heat oil in a frying pan over medium heat. Throw soba noodles in a stir in oil for 30 seconds. After 30 second add in water and separate noodles as the water slowly dissolves. Add in special seasoning. Again, I’m sorry, but there is nothing left to add here.

Plate it all up and hope you don’t get chopped too.

A Taste of Chinatown SF

For the first time in my life I can say I have been out of the country, and I didn’t even need a passport. While traveling through the heart of San Francisco, I stumbled upon China. Not literally, but Chinatown of San Francisco is probably the closest I will ever come to an authentic Chinese experience. From the disgusting smell of garbage in the air, to the overcrowded streets filled with both disrespectful drivers and pedestrians alike, to the terrible parking, to the authentic Chinese signs and light post, to uniquely horrific sights of butchered animals hanging in the windows; Chinatown has proven to be a world in its own.

The streets are filled with serious shoppers. Though, ironically, no one is pushing a shopping cart or carrying a credit card. Everything is fast pace, no time to stop and sign for a receipt. The shops consists of floors and floors of item filled to the brim of the ceiling with only enough space for a one way single file line of customers. Merchants utilize every square foot of their store space stacking boxes of fruits and vegetables out onto the sidewalk. Most of the proteins, primarily ducks, pigs, and fish, are hanging all around the store ti

ed from head to toe on big metal hooks, with the finer attractions front and center in the window. Though, the stench is somewhat off putting, if you are able to stomach up the courage to actually order something, the butchers have no problem pulling it down and chopping it up into bite size pieces with huge cleavers for you, all for around five bucks.
Places like this is what our Chinatown native tour guide, Herman, described as a hole in the wall. Although, it does indeed sound like a place with lousy service, Herman guarantees that both the quality of the food and inexpensive prices will make up for the unappealing shack in which it operates. Herman goes on to explain that even if you only speak English, you must ask for the Chinese menu but not to worry, the server will definitely provide you with a simple menu and help you through it. In an authentic Chinese restaurant, any item can be ordered in multiple ways and the price is depicted by how many menu items ordered; a great way to feed a family on a budget.

However, the restaurant that we attended for lunch, Four Seas, is not one that I would label as a hole in the wall, but the food was still amazing. Seated at a rounded table plated for ten guests, we began our din sum meal with classic appetizers, spring rolls and pot stickers. Next, we were served with what I would label the highlight of the entire meal, wonton soup. I know what you’re thinking; you can get wonton soup anywhere, but no, you cannot get wonton soup like this anywhere. The base of the soup is a broth steeped from broiling shrimp shells and pork bones for hours on end. Then a combination of shrimp wontons, a ball of shrimp mixture enclosed in a wonton wrapper, bok choy, julienned beef and carrots, and green onions which have all absorbed the flavors of the broth by the time it’s brought to the table. Seems simple enough, right? No. The flavors exuded from broth are so strong that it complements all the other added ingredients in its own unique way. But even if you remove all the other ingredients, although I don’t suggest you do, the broth is so palatable that you could drink it on its own. There really is no other way to explain it but sinfully flavorful.

Having not yet gotten over the wonton soup, by the time the other course can around I could barely enjoy them because all I could think about was getting more soup. Though, from what I saw on the plates around me we finished off with w shrimp dumpling, chicken meatball, beef egg noodles, and a sesame ball for dessert. The perfect ending to a day in China, well, Chinatown that is.

An Egg Where The Sun Never Sleeps

Credit: Ron Leishman, ClipartOf.com

It’s a scorching summer day and not a drop of water in sight, “what’s an eight year old girl to do”. Although, it may be much cooler indoors, staying in the house is completely forbidden for young children during summer vacation. Besides, you’ll create more body heat for yourself fighting over the fan than actually staying cool standing in front of it. So another day of exploring the great outdoors accompanied by my cousins it is. Though, once I step outside I realize that it is too hot to jump rope, too much of a hassle to roller blade, and an absolutely a death sentence waiting to happen in any attempts to play tag. So what else comes to mind you ask, cooking?

If you’ve ever watched a great cartoon series there has been a scene where a character is so boiling mad that a raw egg could be fried on top of his head. In my mind, that is just how hot it is outside; hot enough to fry an egg right on the sidewalk. Besides, I’m not allowed to use the stove and plastic kitchens are beneath me at this point in my life. There was no doubt in my mind with the way the sun was beaming the concrete has sure to have risen to temperatures way above a man with a fever.

So I ran in the house and grabbed an egg. Then, I softly tapped the egg of the ground, careful not to just smash it. Regaining my grip on the egg I slowly pulled the two shell-halves apart, as if I was standing over a hot skillet. Splat, the egg splatters all over the ground. You can only imagine the disappointing look on my face when I did not hear that initial sizzling sound an egg makes, when it first comes in contact with a hot skillet. Instead, the egg hits the ground only to run in all sorts of directions before finally heating up. For a brief moment, I’m convinced the egg is actually cooking, but after only a few seconds realize that the temperature on my homemade frying pan has dropped. Lifting the egg up off the ground with a stick I decided to call it an egg where the sun never sleeps. I dare you to try it.

This entry was posted on January 9, 2012. 2 Comments

Complementary Biscuits Worth Dining For

Red Lobster Cheddar Bay Biscuits

I couldn’t help but roll my eyes as our server walked up to our table empty handed. As many times as I have been to this restaurant, the server has always greeted my party with a basket holding a napkin filled with buttery cheddar bay biscuits; it’s the norm. Though, I have to say I was pleased with her apologetic sigh, as she nervously looked towards the ceiling having realized her mistake. Having placed our waters on the table, she rushed off, leaving the arrival of our basket a mystery. Left only to sit in my thoughts, I could barely hear myself breathe over the argument taking place between my mouth and my stomach. Having lost the war, I found myself anxiously biting my fingernails as a last resort. Luck for my fingers, I was abruptly interrupted by the mind blowing aroma of the biscuits finally set in front of me. My eyes lit up with joy as my stomach gave a rumble of approval. In that moment, I was reunited with the explosive taste I crave between visits.

At first glance, I think this just another biscuit, but believe me this is so much more. Though, the top of the biscuit resembles bumpy mountain peaks alluding to a hard texture, once it reaches my mouth it transforms to nothing less of a savory morsel of cake, drizzled with a light cheddar and herb glaze. With every chew its’ flavors are enhanced by the warming sensation of steam that is released into my mouth after every bite. Seconds later, looking down at my plate, only a crumb remains.

With my stomach screaming for more I went to reach back into the napkin, it was empty. The agony of blindly feeling around within the napkin to only feel a never ending cycle of air was unfair. In that moment, I began to despise the whispers and laughs around me. If only I had been alone, my thoughts of devouring the entire basket would have surely been realized. Pitted with anger, I closed my eyes hearing only another roar from my stomach. Though, just as I went for my fingernails again I was greeted by the actions of our server. Yet another basket lay in front of me.

Whole Fruit in a Doughnut, Who Knew!

As I walk up to the counter where my cousins have left their bags I hesitantly place my doughnut next to theirs. Every Sunday morning, my grandma, cousins and I stop by Mr. Chow’s Doughnut Shop on our way to church in her efforts to treat us for serving the Lord with her as junior usher board members. Though, this particular Sunday I am forced to select from a limited amount of pasries. I break off one of the bumps. By this time the glaze has set and hardened all around it. It cracks into pieces as I pull off a tiny crumble. The inside is golden brown with black freckles scattered throughout. The center consists of a thin cube of apple surrounded by another glaze, apple marmalade to be exact. Running my fingers across the bottom, I cannot help but close my eyes as if I were reading Braille. The smell of cinnamon apple fills my nostrils as if it were an apple pie fresh out of the oven, giving me hope that my grandma and Mr. Chow may have actually been right.

As I bring the morsel to my lips, I paused for just a second, as the soft texture of the inside meets my lip. I stick out my tongue rather hesitantly, to taste the marmalade. Having found no flaws, I place the whole piece in my mouth. I was taken aback; I had just bit into euphoria. The contrasting textures of the crunchy outer crust and gooey filling marry well together. As a sweet surprise, there is a hint of cinnamon in every bites but not so much so that it over powered the taste of the apple. After savoring my tiny piece of doughnut for as long as I could, I finally swallow it. From the moment it leaves my tongue I feel an instant craving for more. Just as I go to grab another piece my grandmother walks through the kitchen door ordering me to take my seat in church. Letting out a heavy sigh I realized just how right she and Mr. Chow were, apple fritters are the best doughnuts.