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August 31, 2008

the omnivore's hundred

last night, over a lovely meal that Ms. Jen made (involving an heirloom tomato, dates and manchego, and an '06 Zinfandel), we discussed Michael Pollan's excellent book The Omnivore's Dilemma. this morning, i saw this meme on Maki's excellent blog, Just Hungry. here's the idea:

-take this list of one hundred edibles and boldface the ones you've eaten.
-cross off the ones you'd never consider eating for whatever reason.
-Maki put the ones she loves in red. i think this is an excellent idea. i'm going to put the ones i love in a slightly larger font.
-you can then link to your list at Very Good Taste, where this meme originated, check out the initial follow-up of results, and have all questions related to it answered. yes, it's kind of Anglo-centric; it was meant to be. no, i did not know what all these foods were, and that's part of the fun! so here goes:

1. Venison. i lived in Oregon for a few years, during my miserable junior high days. sometimes, during hunting season, neighbours would give us meat. my mother, very wisely, did not refuse and then did not inform us we were eating Bambi's mom. yes, Bambi's mom is pretty tasty.
2. Nettle tea.
3. Huevos rancheros. i live in L.A. this is ubiquitous on even the most non-Mexican breakfast menus.
4. Steak tartare. i guess it's essentially cow sushi. i considered crossing this out, but i'm undecided.
5. Crocodile. the first show i worked on in Australia had a segment shot on a crocodile ranch. of course they had croc burgers. people, crocodile is delicious, if (important) cooked correctly. it does not taste like chicken. it does not taste like fish. it's sort of halfway in between the two for texture.
6. Black pudding. the first time i had this was on an Aer Lingus flight, travelling to Amsterdam to visit Ms. Jen herself. i liked it. when i found out what it was, i still liked it.
7. Cheese fondue. i would give this the Larger Font Tasty Award simply for being melty cheese, except in the melty cheese category i love raclette so much more. raclette ROCKS.
8. Carp. if you've ever had a Chinese seafood dish that uses the word "bream," you've had carp.
9. Borscht. my Aunt Ginger made me borscht with fresh beets in her NYC apartment and the flavours were so clear and strong.
10. Baba ghanoush. due to an eggplant allergy i was afraid of this dish for a long time. but i recently had it in Turkey (i was in Turkey! i had to have some! damn the potential stomach cramps!) and all was well. recently, i had roasted organic farmer's market eggplants in an emboldened moment. all was well. hmmmm.
11. Calamari.
12. Pho. if this said "bun" i would totally give it the Larger Font Tasty Award (LFTA). pho is good. bun is awesome.
13. PB&J sandwich. i'm obviously a grown-up now because the last one i had was almond butter and Mediterranean fig jam on Ezekiel bread. geez, i'm so fancy pants.
14. Aloo gobi. if this was aloo paneer, it would be the LFTA!
15. Hot dog from a street cart. the best i ever had was a Thüringer wurst from a guy at a train station in Berlin. the "cart" was actually attached to his body as a wrap-around portable grill/sausage stand. amazing.
16. Epoisses. a stinky cheese. i shall try it someday.
17. Black truffle. working on Hell's Kitchen has its perks.
18. Fruit wine made from something other than grapes. my German in-laws have neighbours that are essentially local farmers. they brew some amazing concoctions from some amazing things. although the fruit wines are okay, it's the walnut liquour that is unbelievable. Nusslikor would totally get a LFTA.
19. Steamed pork buns. the first LFTA! this is my ultimate comfort food, perhaps. my Chinese grandmother would make a huge batch whenever the grandkids were around. in her dialect, it's called "mudoi." i've since learned to make it myself, based on her recipe with my modifications, and do so often. yesterday, my mother made a big batch of mudoi, from my recipe, for my grandmother's 99th birthday. three generations of Chan women, bound together by mudoi. yay mudoi. i love you.
20. Pistachio ice cream. you have not tasted pistachio ice cream until you have had it in Turkey. ice cream, called "mado," is made with goat's milk and holy non-cow, it's good.
21. Heirloom tomatoes. that was a great pasta sauce, Ms. Jen.
22. Fresh wild berries. as mentioned, i lived for a time in Oregon, where blackberries are not even sold because they're so plentiful in everyone's yards and bike paths. i was blessed enough to live at a house that had not just blackberries, but blueberries, boysenberries, raspberries, and loganberries. it is a small bit of paradise to put a sun-warmed, just-picked berry in your mouth and feel it explode.
23. Foie gras. not interested. especially knowing how those livers got so fatty. no thanks.
24. Rice and beans. almost every culture has some version of this. i probably like them all. Jamaica does a good one, but Puerto Rico's yellow rice & beans is the most memorable.
25. Brawn, or head cheese. the great thing about being an omnivore is that one has a lot of choice. and i do not choose this.
26. Raw Scotch Bonnet pepper. although i have made great strides in upping my spicy tolerance, i doubt i will ever eat one of these freakishly hot morsels. however, we did get these for my mother-in-law, who adores spicyness. she now grows these in her garden.
27. Dulce de leche. i remember a rainy night in San Jose, Puerto Rico, having a cup of coffee and some baked item that involved a dulce de leche sauce. the sheer caramelly kick of that sauce was enough to make me forget i was damp and cold.
28. Oysters.
29. Baklava. after eating quite a bit in Turkey, i am convinced that baklava is actually better-looking than tasting. it's quite yummy, but ogling trays of it in shop windows is somehow more enjoyable.
30. Bagna cauda. i would like to try this IN Piedmont, Italy. although i'm willing to find a good Italian restaurant for a sample.
31. Wasabi peas. such a good little snacky treat.
32. Clam chowder in a sourdough bowl. although i think there will be violent disagreement from many, i believe this is one of the most overrated dishes ever.
33. Salted lassi. but i like mango lassi better. because mango is totally a LFTA item in any form.
34. Sauerkraut. there is a giant container of this in the fridge right now. my husband is German. i have no choice.
35. Root beer float. one of my first real jobs was working at an A&W in Japan -- they needed a fluent English speaker to deal with all the homesick American customers and didn't care that my Japanese wasn't great. i served up a lot of root beer floats, and i have to say - -the Frosty Mug is pretty much the finest.
36. Cognac with a fat cigar.
37. Clotted cream tea this gets a LFTA because of all that is associated with actually having a high tea in which clotted cream plays a part: the friends, the atmosphere, the tiny sandwiches, the scones upon which said delicious yellow creaminess is... but then again, one of the best clotted cream teas i ever had was a tiny shop in Dublin called Queen of Tarts and i was by myself in full adventure mode.
38. Vodka jelly/Jell-O. is it so wrong of me to be proud of both non-bolding and striking this out? although i do admit to not only having, but making a lot of Gene George's Mystery Punch, which could potentially involve Jell-O (albeit in powder form). i preferred blue Kool-Aid.
39. Gumbo. preferably in a small Lousiana town in an even smaller restaurant.
40. Oxtail. in soup. not memorable.
41. Curried goat. i've had goat in a lot more forms than i ever thought i would. the best curried goat was Skippy IV, in Ethiopia, eaten around the very fire that roasted him whole.
42. Whole insects. have i? have i not? i've certainly had plenty of opportunity, and you'd think i'd remember, but i don't. for the sake of veracity, i will leave this un-bolded.
43. Phaal. see Scotch Bonnet entry. i don't do hurt-yourself spicy.
44. Goat's milk
45. Malt whisky from a bottle worth £60/$120 or more. i have, amazingly, had the opportunity more than once (thanks to my days of working in hip-hop music videos), but due to professional/personal dignity reasons, i declined.
46. Fugu. maybe. someday. not a big deal for me. i guess if one day Keizo-san at Sushi Zo serves it as part of his omakase.
47. Chicken tikka masala.
48. Eel.
49. Krispy Kreme original glazed doughnut. yes, it's worth the hype. but it MUST be super-duper fresh. as in just off the doughnut conveyor belt.
50. Sea urchin.
51. Prickly pear. again, living in L.A., nopales is a pretty common item on a Mexican, especially Oaxacan menu.
52. Umeboshi. sadly, i never learned to really like this. every other Asian person i know does, though. i do, however, like it when it's in the center of an onigiri (rice ball).
53. Abalone.
54. Paneer. ooh ooh ooh! and here it is! i love paneer in almost any dish it's put into.
55. McDonald's Big Mac Meal. luckily, this says "Meal." i've had the Big Mac, long ago as a child in Japan when McDonald's was a huge treat because that Big Mac cost something like $10 at the current yen rate. i can't remember the last time i ate McDonald's food, and i would like to keep it that way.
56. Spaetzle. i plead German husband again. you know, i got a spätzle maker as a wedding gift. i think it's still in my in-laws' basement.
57. Dirty gin martini. martini, yes. dirty gin, no.
58. Beer above 8% ABV. here's the deal. i have never liked beer. i have tried to, especially because if you live in England and you don't like beer, you are seriously socially hampered. luckily, i do like dry cider, so i survived. but even now, when people talk about a cold beer, i think "yuk!"
59. Poutine. i am sure the minute i go to Quebec or any bordering area thereof, i will immediately order this.
60. Carob chips. thanks to my mother, i was brought up believing that carob chips were actually a very superior type of chocolate chip. she was, in some ways, correct.
61. S'mores. i have to give this a LFTA simply for all that a s'more implies: campfire, friends/family, roasting marshies, the sticky finger leftovers. i am proud to have been the one to introduce T.T. (the husband) to s'mores. now he is the championest champion marshie roaster of all time.
62. Sweetbreads. here's the deal. i've had stuffing in the U.K. numerous times. chances are, i've had this. but i'll leave it unbolded anyway.
63. Kaolin. i'd try this, but i'm glad i don't HAVE to eat it.
64. Currywurst. i blame the German husband again, but holy moley, it's so addictive and deliciously bad for you and an awesome street food that i can never stop eating. i have a gigantor bottle of Curry Gewürz Ketchup in the fridge that i now put on any sausage to recreate the yumness. there's a currywurst stand next to my father-in-law's office called the Currysau ("the Curry Pig") and let's just say it gets a lot of business.
65. Durian. had it in Thailand. smelly, yes. surprisingly tasty, yes. i thought it was better than papaya.
66. Frogs' legs.
67. Beignets, churros, elephant ears or funnel cake. all of the above. but i do not think you can lump all these together. each has its own delicious merits.
68. Haggis. i wanted to try it in Scotland, but never got a chance. this will be remedied if i ever return.
69. Fried plantain. this deserves a LFTA as it is so often the accompaniment to a full LFTA-worthy meal. with Cuban slow-roasted pork. with Brazilian lamb chops. with the aforementioned Puerto Rican yellow rice & beans. etc.
70. Chitterlings, or andouillette. not a big soul food fan, especially when it comes to pig intestines.
71. Gazpacho.
72. Caviar and blini. but not at the same time. does it still count?
73. Louche absinthe. i don't know if it was "louche," but it was a bottle smuggled in from Morocco by my friend Gretchen. i was not at all excited about it.
74. Gjetost, or brunost. it's a cheese, so i would try it.
75. Roadkill. in my life of travels, it's possible i have. but don't tell me.
76. Baijiu. had a small sip in China, and i thought my lips were going to fall off.
77. Hostess Fruit Pie. i liked the lemon one. this was a HUGE treat in my childhood, and it still smacks of pure Americana to me.
78. Snail.
79. Lapsang souchong. the smoky warm goodness is not for everyone, but i love this tea. if looseleaf, mix 2 parts lapsang souchong with 1 part high-quality earl grey for an amazing cup of goodness. this was, thanks to a tea-loving craft service guy, how i got through as many seasons of Hell's Kitchen as i did.
80. Bellini. although i do not regularly have these (perhaps i should change that), the LFTA is awarded thanks to the one i had in Milan that made my eyeballs roll back in my head it was so earthshakingly good.
81. Tom yum. an LFTA if this was Tom Kah Kai.
82. Eggs Benedict. but not a fan, really.
83. Pocky. the LFTA must be awarded simply for the warm fuzzy childhood nostalgia of it all. nowadays there are so many varieties, it's almost impossible to choose one, so i seem to always just go for the original red box.
84. Tasting menu at a three-Michelin-star restaurant. if Gordon Ramsay makes food for you to taste, does that count? he has 12 Michelin stars... i will leave this unbolded anyway, and hope that one day someone will pay for me to do this.
85. Kobe beef. and then i found out how it gets to be Kobe beef. it sort of lessens the enjoyment.
86. Hare.
87. Goulash.
88. Flowers.
89. Horse. i'm pretty sure i've had opportunity. i'd try it.
90. Criollo chocolate.
91. Spam. an LFTA if this said "Spam musubi." i can't help it; i grew up on an island that consumes huge amounts of meat-in-a-can.
92. Soft shell crab.
93. Rose harissa. i know i had this in Ethiopia, but i don't know if it was rose.
94. Catfish. but not Southern-style -- steamed, Chinese-style.
95. Mole poblano. thankfully, the first time i had mole was in a small town outside of Chihuahua, Mexico. so it was authentic and unlike anything i'd ever tasted. in a good way.
96. Bagel and lox.
97. Lobster Thermidor. the Chan family, of which i am a part, loves lobster. we grill or steam it and eat it whole and then fall over in a food coma. Thermidor-style, while all fancy and stuff, seems to be a tragic waste of a lobster.
98. Polenta
99. Jamaican Blue Mountain coffee. so there i was, working for a little more than a month in Jamaica, with a camera crew originally from Seattle. do you really think i could have escaped having Blue Mountain coffee?
100. Snake. one of those things, like crocodile, that was better than i thought it would be...probably because i was in Australia again.

so there it is. i think i scored pretty high for someone who does not at all consider herself a "foodie." i've realised from doing this that i have a huge advantage from 1) having a German husband, 2) having an Asian mother/growing up in Asia, and 3) extensively travelling. (oh yeah, and 4) working on a show with Gordon Ramsay.) it makes me grateful for the opportunities i've had to put potentially bizarre and wholly delicious things in my mouth and eat my way into some fantastic memories.
however, the biggest lesson in this is that the ultimate LFTA would have to be:

101. any meal of any food shared with people you love.

Posted by hadashi at 3:45 PM | Comments (2)

August 12, 2008

maybe i need GPS

since the show i am currently working on is an NBC Universal property, we shoot quite a bit on the Universal Studios backlot. now, if you're a normal human, you probably would love being there -- you get to see cool things like the phenomenal carnage of the giant plane crash site from War of the Worlds, or the Bates Motel from Psycho, which, very oddly enough, immediately adjoins the cartoony marshmallow-looking snowy world of Whoville from How the Grinch Stole Christmas. however, if you're me, you do not love being there. no, i am not some crusty jaded below-the-line crew person who does not care about movie magic; it's because the place is best seen by professionally-driven Universal Studios Backlot Tour trams. it is not meant to be navigated by innocent non-crusty crew members in their own car, as i learned last night.
now, the last few times we have shot there, crew parking is at the gate, and we're shuttled in to location, usually becoming completely disoriented by the time we get there. however, for reasons still unknown to me, we were told this time to drive all the way into the depths of the backlot to "Falls Lake" (most recognizable as the giant artificial lake where Jim Carrey ends up at the conclusion of the The Truman Show), where our big nighttime shoot was going to be. the gate guard told me (and i quote) "follow James Stewart here straight into Six Points Texas, turn left at Steven Spielberg, and go up the hill to Falls Lake." um, okay. at this point i should explain that Universal Studios is huge (230 acres or so) and old (been there since 1915) and pretty much built into wilderness land (so it's an incredibly confusing, hilly, twisting layout that is random film sets surrounded by brush). so yeah, these directions were pretty much useless.
but off i went, hoping to actually just find "Steven Spielberg." luckily, a tour tram turned right in front of me. sweet! i thought, i'll just follow that! this turned out to be an amazingly bad idea, as it was only at the last second that i realized i was about to drive straight onto the Jaws dock and get attacked by a giant rubber shark. i awkwardly reversed, ignoring the stares of the tourists, and squeezed around the tram, humiliated.
T.T. will be the first to tell you that when it comes to being directionally challenged, i am VERY directionally challenged. i admit this freely. so is it so surprising that next, i managed to somehow get stuck driving in circles around Jurassic Park? when another tram passed me, i wretchedly hoped that it wasn't the same one that watched me almost follow them into the gaping maw of Jaws. quickly becoming a tragic tourist attraction myself, i finally found a nice security guard on Wisteria Lane at Desperate Housewives, who told me he'd been there only a few days, but that Rosa down the hill and to the right could help me. thankfully, Rosa did, and i managed to barely make my call time.

now, remember that i said this was a nighttime shoot ? we wrapped sometime around 3am, and boy was it DARK. you'd think i'd have been more nervous about finding my way out, given how much trouble I had getting in, but i was cold and tired and just wanted to go home. instead of waiting to follow a less directionally-challenged person out, i foolishly peeled out of the parking lot thinking of nothing but a hot shower.
had I been starring in a horror movie, this is where the menacing music would have started. there were no streetlights. a light fog blanketed the roads, reducing visibility to barely a few feet. condensation was obscuring my windshield faster than my defrost could keep up, and i almost immediately took a wrong turn. a very wrong turn, as i found myself suddenly trapped... in a tunnel.
not just any tunnel - a claustrophobic "stone" tunnel from The Mummy, only as wide as my car, with no way to turn around, and ditches on either side. i stopped the car in disbelief, thinking oh craptastic, i have to actually drive through this. i slowly crept forward.... and my headlamps illuminated NOT the end of the tunnel, but a huge, riveted iron door. great, i thought, if this was Indiana Jones, right now would be when the giant boulder would start rolling towards me and i'd be crushed in my faithful wee Honda and dear God how am i supposed to get out of here? i had to inch my way backwards, visibility almost zero, out of the evil tunnel. despite the cold, i was sweating when i finally emerged and turned around. and that's when the coyotes started howling.
no, seriously, there are packs of wild coyotes that roam free on the Universal backlot (remember this is wilderness land) and when they start baying, it pegs the creep-o-meter right off the scale. completely spooked and exhausted, i blindly drove ahead, just wanting to put the tunnel behind me. as I passed the massive wreckage of the crashed War of the Worlds 747, i thought oh please do not let me get lost near the Psycho house where is Rosa when you need her?!?! only there were no Rosas. not even at Desperate Housewives, which i thought ALWAYS had security around. apparently not tonight, because after aimlessly weaving around Wisteria Lane, i began to completely resent Universal Studios, all stupidly named roads of Universal Studios, and any show or film ever shot on Universal Studios. oh yeah, and all coyotes of Universal Studios.
somehow, thank God, i miraculously popped out into Six Points Texas, the western town, which blessedly signaled to me that I was close to the gate. after making my way through saloons, wooden clapboard houses, and hitching posts, i emerged, exultant, at the exit gate. i knew i had just escaped certain creepy death by fog tendrils and coyotes, and cheered quietly for myself.

too bad i then spent the next 35 minutes pathetically trying to find my way onto the correct freeway going the correct direction...

Posted by hadashi at 12:25 PM | Comments (3)