Category Archives: Food and drink

Salad

One major food shock for me when I went to China was the lack of salad.  It makes sense, in a land where Hepatitis A and C is rampant, that folkways — cultural standards — require all food to be served cooked or peeled. 
 
But it was a shock to learn that, in China, baby romaine or leaf lettuce (sun cai) is first quickly parboiled and then coated with soy sauce.  It’s delicious this way.  Ideally, the lettuce remains crunchy enough to snap off when it’s bitten near the root and is very delicately flavored. 
But no matter how delicious, it’s still not a salad! 
 
Prior to living in China, lettuce had always been a salad vegetable for me.  And I supposed, at heart, it always will be. 
 
When I make salad in China, it’s a big deal because it’s so much trouble.  I first wash the lettuce to get the dirt off.  Most westerners also soak their vegetables in some sort of antibacterial solution, such as a bit of iodine or clorox in the water.  Then, I rinse the lettuce in filtered water to get the tap water and any chemicals off.  The final rinse is in bottled water to make sure there are no viruses or bacteria or chemicals. 
 
Being back in the USA has given me opportunity to indulge in salads again. 
 
My dinner last night: 
 
first course:  mixed salad greens (with cilantro, raddicio, and parsley), topped with dried cranberries, pecans (both unobtainable in China), feta cheese, fresh strawberry slices, and rasberry vinaigrette dressing (not low fat variety which has no flavor!).
 
Wow, this is such a good salad, you really should try it!!! 
 
second course:  a chicken thigh from a deli chicken
 
third course:  mixed salad greens with herbs, feta cheese, fresh strawberries, and rasberry vinaigrette dressing
 
fourth course:  fresh strawberries with feta cheese
 
fifth course:  another strawberry of course! 
 
There’s simply nothing like a good salad.  I’m sure I’ll be dreaming about that salad for months after I’m back in China! 
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Comfort Food

Our first year in China, we could never find decent beef. This is probably a reflection of resources and economics: in a land where every inch must be devoted to growing food for people, beef has far too low a conversion rate to be feasible for feeding people.

One time during our first year here, on a trip to Shanghai, we were a bit surprised when our Chinese host took us to an American steakhouse to eat. But that sirloin steak tasted so good I even ate the gristle! Later, back at the hotel, when I confessed what I had done, David grinned and replied, "Me, too."

Since then, we’ve had the good fortune of learning where to buy beef in our city. Good beef, even. So yesterday I bought some nice beef, and we had dinner together with some friends — steak, baked potato with all the fixin’s, salad, bread, good wine, brownies and milk. Comfort food! Something very quintessentially American.

Then today, I’m in Hong Kong. More American food! Lunch was salmon on salad at Hard Rock Cafe (fixed very nicely with herbs I might add); dinner was soup and salad at Outback. You don’t realize how nice a creamy soup can be until it’s been more than a year since you had one! More comfort food! Sometimes comfort food can be nachos with sour cream and homemade chili, too.

So, exactly, how would one define, "comfort food"? Food from one’s own culture, something that might be fixed in one’s own home. Yum. As much as I love cai xin, qezi bao and ma po dou fu — and even if I learn how to prepare them properly — they will never be comfort food for me.

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