Friday, January 29, 2010

What Foods Do You Love/Hate?

In my capacity as a teaching consultant, I worked with a group of TFs today in an Anthropology course on Food and Culture.  We came up with a great question for them to use as an icebreaker at their first section:

  1. What food do you think of (or reach for) when you want a taste of home?  
  2. And what food do you find repulsive or disgusting?  
The idea is that these questions are a window into one's ethnicity, culture, and identity.

I was thinking that these would be a great icebreaker for us too, as I'm eager to get to know those of you who are lovely enough to look at my blog every once in a while.  ;-)

Let's start with question #1.  For me, the food I think of when I dream of home are gai dan jai (literally "little eggs") -- waffle-like egg puffs that are sold on the street in Hong Kong.

Image Source: HK LightBox

Even now, seeking those warm eggy snacks -- crisp on the outside, chewy on the inside -- I see Causeway Bay from the perspective of a seven-year-old primly dressed in a plaid school uniform, strolling the teeming thoroughfares of the big city hand-in-hand with Sam Po, our housekeeper.

Image Source: Flickr

There is a crumb of Proust in all of us.  But for those who grew up eating – literally – on the streets, those whose experience of the city is organized not merely by sight or sound, but, most intensely, by taste and smell, a bite of the simplest of street foods conjures forth a memory-laden topography.  When my mom, my sister, and I travel to Southeast Asia, we go to visit with family, to shop, to see the sights.  But we know that to return is to eat.  Or, rather, to eat is to return.  Cities change.  Food, however, does not.  Through street foods we become intimate with the cities of our childhoods; in following the trail of the things we used to eat or in searching for new things to eat, we reacquaint ourselves with the terrain.

Sorry . . . give me a street food, and I wax poetic.  Your turn: what food reminds you of home?

P.S. Love street foods too?  My sister has a post on Hong Kong street foods that you shouldn't miss.


The Bride Concierge January 29, 2010 at 1:09 AM  

Om nom nom, they make my mouth water!!

Geek in Heels January 29, 2010 at 9:13 AM  

I LOVE those! My husband is from Hong Kong and whenever we see them on the streets of NYC Chinatown we always buy a bunch.

I'm not too familiar with other HK street food but I remember while growing up in Korea, street vendors always made the best food. My friends and I agree that they can't be recreated — it has to be the pollution that makes the food taste so good!

Em January 29, 2010 at 9:16 AM  

Hmm what food reminds me of home? Well, I'm a big meat and potatoes kind of gal, so I'm going to say roast beef w/ mashed potatoes and gravy. I remember my mom making it all the time growing up. My mom is an amazing cook and I'm really trying to be like her in that sense. I hope you ask what food we hate...bc that's the easy one for me!

sassandpancakes January 29, 2010 at 12:39 PM  

Great question (and that course sounds like something I need to take, or teach, immediately).

I'm going to go with malasathas: the Portuguese version of fried dough/doughnut/beignet. We used to get them every Sunday in the summer, greasy and covered in powdered sugar. Yum.

Mrs. Hot Cocoa January 29, 2010 at 5:27 PM  

@ Geek in Heels: I agree -- it's totally the pollution that makes the food taste good. I often think our coffee would taste better if it were brewed next to an exhaust pipe.

@ Em: Yum, mashed potatoes. Reminds me that I've got a frozen bag of TJ's mashed potatoes in the freezer!!

@ Sassandpancakes: Those sound delicious. I'll be home this Sunday, if you want to swing by with some. ;-)

JB February 1, 2010 at 10:08 AM  

I know I am a couple of days late but when we went down to miami I was soooo craving my cuban pastries, guava, cheese or churros(completely separate food lol). Definitely I would reach for those if they were available, or pork. Pork always reminds me of home.

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