Tuesday, March 17, 2015

Yo, Veggies!

Saint Patrick's Day means something distinct to Irish Americans and anyone on a college campus where green beer is fun, but to me?  It means Kim Chi making time due to the deep discounts on cabbage.  Normal Kim Chi has Napa Cabbage but I actually prefer common white cabbage because it's much crunchier as it sits and ferments.  I like normal Kim Chi too but after a few months hanging around the back of my fridge it's so wilted there's no crunch left.  Mind you, it's still totally fine and edible as is the magical nature of Kim Chi, a food which hard core Koreans would dig holes in their backyard, throw their jars of Kim Chi into said holes and allow to ferment out where it wouldn't have to stink up their house. The only problem with making it involves cutting it up so it's a good chop stick consuming size because I am kind of unfocused now that I have two ankle biters running wild in my kitchen.  Today I tripped on a dump truck in the kitchen and almost died. Plus I'm the only person in my house who likes it so this is pretty much the one time of year I ever need to make it.  It takes all the rest of the year to make a dent in all of it since it is by all accords a very pungent food item and like with a lot of things, the first week or so that I have it available all I want to do is eat it but things calm down significantly thereafter.  Kim Chi is not a social food either since the smell is so offputting to so many people I can't bring it to work and therefore I can only consume it at home alone in a situation where my kids and husband have something else to consume. The first week is the best though. I think the raw garlic still has the right level of bite to it and it adds a fun dimension of heat that is not fiery but definitely resonates on your palate.

There are tons of blogs about being frugal and hunting for bargains and there are tons of cooking focused sites.  I am not one of them.  I have broken down and created a pinterest account and some of the recipes on there are disgusting sounding. So far I think it's junk. I truly enjoy reading cook books and recipes and once I jumped on the pinterest wagon a lot of it basically involves putting a really beautiful picture along with a sort of tossed together recipe that doesn't have the right balance to be good.  I have made...maybe two pinterest found recipes.  They were meh, nothing to write home about.  Far blander than I had anticipated from the long comments sections lauding how great it looked.  I guess none of those people actually prepared it. It's more about looks than any substance so I try not to get my hopes up. There's a reason #pinterestfail is such a popular trend. I will stick to just reading hundreds of pages of recipes until I find one that sounds good. Allrecipes.com is pretty good, but vast with tons of comments and reviews which I find really helpful in tweeking a recipe to my own personal taste and if I happen to want some more comfort type foods I go to thepioneerwoman.com.  I have a few others I frequent depending on if I want Vietnamese food or Korean food or to break out my crock pot and simmer something for 8 hours.  There are nuances to each kind of style of cooking so I prefer to treat them that way. e.g. I don't throw terikayi chicken in the crock pot because it's not a slow cooking food item. I know you can do it, but it seems unnatural to as it doesn't need to be rendered soft and mushy.

To touch back on produce, what's with the crazy love for zucchini?  Cauliflower I understand because it's so bland it can pretend to be a myriad of other things but zucchini always tastes like zucchini unless you bake it into a loaf cake and then it tastes like sweet.  I tried the whole zucchini noodle thing but it let off so much liquid once cooked it wasn't super appealing.  Perhaps next time salt it and allow to sweat? It's better really under cooked so it retains more texture but then it tastes like raw zucchini and in no way resembles a noodle. I suppose if you're celiac and have a good reason to avoid gluten then sure, go for the zoodles but everybody else? Be happy and dig in to some real pasta.  And maybe take a probiotic regularly to help your gut flora and aid whatever digestive issues you're having if eating "normal" foods is regularly causing you distress. 

On a side note, real sauerkraut is also fermented like my good friend kim chi.  Unfortunately if you get the canned stuff it's been canned and thus heat treated to the point where all the live cultures are gone. If you can find the barrel cured stuff at, say a local deli then you can be happily filled with healthy gut flora promoting wonder. Also that kombucha tea stuff?  It's fermented tea! By all means, guzzle that down if you're a tea fan and are not disgusted by the cost of buying bottled tea. 

I was reading an article that is now saying "by all means, feed your kid peanuts early" which is funny because with my first kid it was such a huge deal to avoid all allergen inducing things until he was like...a year old.  I'm not a Doctor, I just play one on the interwebs so I won't bother telling you things because you'll find 89 other websites to tell you the opposite thing if that's what you want to hear...but go with the flow.  Humans have lived a long time and our bodies have worked for a long time and you can point your fingers at GMOs or bacteria or Obama but we're all going to die one day.  Back in the past you would die from cholera at 30 and you certainly couldn't point your finger at GMOs and pesticides.  Now we live until 120 and complain about every damned little pain.  You know what dead cholera guy would say? "Shut up, at least thou art alive. When I was dying they put leeches on me. Twas a bad time, yo."  (Cholera guy would be trying to talk modern so obviously he'd be trying extra hard to fit in. I think this is the world's greatest representation of that.)

The article was saying third world countries who totally don't care what we're doing in the modern world feed their babies whatever they damned well feel like because the other option is their kids dying of hunger and the ones that fed their kids peanut snacks as part of their cultural norm had like 0.05% (that's totally made up) peanut allergy kids versus here in America where like 20% (also totally made up) of all kids have some kind of peanut allergy.  At least that's what it feels like if you happen to have a child of school age. Only first world people have to worry about our kids dying from a legume.  (Contrary to popular opinion peanuts are not really nuts and that is not made up.)

I think it's interesting what other cultures do.  We all live in the same world and approach it so differently.  I feel like a permanent outsider in the world I live in so I muse at great length about both sides of the fence.  I grew up in suburbia but I didn't have a typical white family upbringing and I probably asked the dumbest questions of my "normal" friends who had normal lives. Like what is "stroganoff"? Is it like a sauce or is it a method of cooking? And what's that thing covering the tea pot? Oh...a cozy? What's that supposed to do?  What's that wood thing with a hole in it for? To portion out spaghetti.  I asked all these things when I was a teenager.  I truly had no exposure to any of those elements of life until I was practically grown and who else could I ask?  My parents didn't have any idea either. It's adorable that I often introduce them to food like sushi and Indian curry because they never bothered to try it previously. To this day like 90% of what my parents eat is Vietnamese food because that's what they ate in Vietnam and that's what their bellies enjoy.

Conversely school friends that identified as Irish never lamented about the lack of amazing authentic Irish food.  If you were white you pretty much ate American food, whatever your definition of that is. Island people miss their native foods.  I've never met someone Jamaican who didn't lecture me about their favorite Beef Patty place. Latino people miss their native foods. Asian people miss their native foods. Italian Americans even 3, 4 or 5 generations removed will dish you out a mean Italian feast. A few Polish friends would talk about making pierogis from hand for special occasions but for the most part had few complaints about being "Americanized".  And never did they sadly lament any other food being unavailable or not-as-good as the motherland. Pierogis are pretty much the only thing that Eastern European cohorts have ever expressed great longing towards.  No one has ever gone on and on about the beauty of borscht even though I thought that was like, Russia's claim to fame food item.  I guess not?  All those Rocky and Bullwinkle cartoons must have brainwashed me.

Also really interesting is the advent of all these fad diets about eating like a caveman and eating like a French woman.  You know who eats the exact opposite of all those diets? Asian people. We LOVE carbs. I can't go no-carbs happily.  I did try for a short spell until my dietician said that's not the point of diabetic friendly eating. Dieticians must hate fad diets so bad.  Basically I was lectured that carbs=energy and your body needs energy to function efficiently.  It's not healthy to fully eliminate your body's source of energy but to choose whole grains and long lasting carbs and to consume them at regular intervals over the whole day instead of say binging on a bag of chips and passing out on the couch since your body will store up that unused energy as fat. Eating just enough carbs to create energy without creating fat was key. Three meals three snacks over the course of the day. No deviation. If you don't eat enough carbs yes your body will have no other choice but to burn other stuff, such as fat and yes you will lose weight but you're not going to feel that great as you dry out off of carbs and you're very likely to binge out later when no one's looking and gain all that lost weight back because you didn't really do anything to change your metabolism if you just sat around eating piles of bacon. I don't even really like bacon but I agree, total elimination is just a short term solution.  And who decided cave men had the right idea as far as dieting goes? I didn't think they were known for their rocking beach bodies with hard abs. Or their super long life spans. Seriously? What was going on for them that was so great? Being chased by wild animals out in nature? I guess that's good cardio but that has nothing to do with their eating habits. 

I think the only thing I didn't appreciate from my dietician lectures was they didn't seem to differentiate between how to count carbs differently.  I could eat half a cup of ice cream before bed as a snack or I could have like 2 graham crackers.  Somehow the graham crackers seemed like a more healthy choice over the sugar and fat laden ice cream but they had the same number of acceptable carbs.That's insane right?  My body agreed and every time I tried to have the ice cream I burned too many ketones and got lectured and eventually dodged my return visits to the dietician since I was fine.  I wasn't going to binge out and have a 15lb baby and I felt as though I were being treated as though I were a child for no reason at all.  Perhaps my Asian features confused them into thinking I was a teenager (it has happened before).  In any case, if you read the side of a package a carb is a carb.  There's nothing to differentiate it's glycemic index on there and thus reading the side of the carton is kind of useless.  I don't think it's all a conspiracy so Americans stay fat and dumb, but I do get annoyed that after eating food since the dawn of man we have to make it so overly complicated.

When I was growing up we had the food pyramid and everyone was freaked out about movie popcorn having coconut or palm oil in it because it was super saturated fats. Now we realize it's the "good fat" versus the "bad" fat all along and we could have just been happy with our coconut and palm oil. In fact now we pay a ton of money for coconut oil like it's tropical gold.  It's kind of funny how we flip flop every few years. At least Americans do.  I don't see Japanese people running out to buy random fancy oils and making sushi out of cauliflower but they're like the healthiest people in the world so they probably don't care what all the rest of us idiots do because they already have it figured out. Why mess with a good thing? I doubt those skinny wine soaked Parisian women are eating gluten free baguettes right now. It's just us fat Americans messing up our diets every few years and we're the ones who are fat after trying too many fad diets.