Friday, September 17, 2010

My life in 10 dishes

Posted by lea at 3:19 PM
A few weeks ago, Jill Dupleix did a piece in the Sydney Morning Herald about a food biography. I liked the idea so I've decided to make it the topic for my post today, tracing my history through the foods that defined certain periods of my life.

 #10: Sherbet straws and coffin candy
Sweets were a staple part of my diet as a kid, and half my pocket money used to go to feeding my sugar frenzy. I particularly loved those really big sherbet straws that would clog up from saliva halfway through, and the candy shaped like skulls and bones that came in a small plastic coffin.

#9 Canned spag bol
It's a poor start to my food biography, but I used to be addicted to Leggos bolognese in a can. As hungry kids, when the parents weren't around (they were often at work), we'd just pop open a can of spag bol and nuke it for sustenance. This was actually a treat amongst the other rubbish I used to eat, like tomato sauce spread on bread, mayo spread on bread, tomato sauce and mayo spread together on bread...

#8 Fried sashimi
I know, it's an oxymoron... but so was I (har har). When I was a teenager, on special occasions, my parents would go to the fish markets early in the morning and bring home a fresh kingfish or salmon and slice it into thin sashimi pieces (long before sashimi bars became the popular urban choice they are today) that they, my brother and sister would devour with wasabi and soy sauce. But me: raw fish? Yuck. I would fill my plate with sashimi, dip them in egg and flour and then fry them, much to the chagrin of my family.

#7 Proper spag bol
I think this was the first dish I learned to make properly when I moved out of home. What a revelation to discover that if you threw in garlic, sundried tomatoes and red wine, it tasted even better than the canned stuff! Needless to say, this dish ended up on rotation almost every week for the next 10 years.

#6 Vietnamese chicken rolls
I fell in LOVE with these simple rolls that you can buy at any Vietnamese bakery many many years ago, and the love affair hasn't ended yet. These rolls are AWESOME and come with the added bonus of being cheap. My favourite was from the bakery on Burwood Rd - just down the street from where I used to live in Burwood in our little flat with diarrhea-brown 70s carpet. Even now they remind me of those days of youthful poverty and make me smile.

#4 Roast beef
I felt like a 'real' cook when I conquered roast beef and three veg. It was so delicious I decided to follow up with an encore presentation, which flopped because I wrongly bought silverside, being on a budget and knowing nothing about beef cuts back then. Things haven't changed THAT much, but I do know now that silverside tastes like salty spam on steroids.

#5 Maccas french fries
Not only do I love these little strips of deep-fried deliciousness for the taste, but they also have a good connotation for me because I shared my first kiss with my now-husband over a pack of these. Was it the fries that made the kiss so delicious or the other way around? It's a matter of the chicken or the egg, really. Both were great :)

#4 Sticky-date pudding
The first time I tried it (the Sarah Lee version), I thought I'd died and ended up on a different astral plane. I have very strict ideas about vegetables sticking their nose in where they don't belong (carrot cake, I'm looking at you), and although dates aren't a vegetable, I hated them with an intensity that even celery can't muster in me. Yet, in a pudding... it was transformed. And so was I. I mark this as the occasion that my palate grew up.

#3 Koshary
Imagine this: two girls in the busy city of Cairo, wander into a local restaurant a day before their adventure tour begins and order a bowl of who-knows-what. What we ended up with was a delicious lesson in cultural discovery. A combination of macaroni, lentils, rice, fried onion and a mouth-watering, tangy tomato-based sauce, koshary introduced me to the delight that is Egyptian cooking, and now has a special place in my heart and my recipe folder.

#2 Dragonfruit
I love dragonfruit not only because they look so pretty, but I love their subtle-sweet taste, especially the red-flesh variety. It always reminds me of Cambodia, where I tried it for the first time, and I remember sitting in the tuk tuk with Jinah coming back from the Russian markets, each holding a big red dragonfruit and devouring it like a banana with their skins peeled and hanging off the side, with red juice dripping down our arms in the sweltering heat.

#1 Vietnamese rice paper rolls... Korean-style
The epitome of awesome, these rice paper rolls are healthy and delicious. Slam dunk.They're easy to make too, just time consuming because of all the vegetables you have to wash and cut up (Korean-style means you add vegetables of every colour plus a variety of meats and a kick-ass sauce). The crowning glory is the sauce - the best I've ever tasted and now continue to make goes like this: in a food processor, blend together coriander roots, raw garlic, small hot red chillis and canned pineapple. Once blended, add fish sauce, the juice from the canned pineapple and a good squeeze of lemon juice. It. Is. Di. Vine.

Do you have food that defines your life? Is this topic as fascinating as I think it is or am I just obsessed with food?


reality raver on September 20, 2010 at 12:03 PM said...

Oh I saw that Jill Dupleix article as well and really enjoyed it, as i have liked your list as well your Vietnamese Rice paper rolls - korean style looks fantastic.

snowdomes on September 20, 2010 at 12:52 PM said...

I remember I used to looooooove fried slices/discs of salami!

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