I have always harboured an acute interest in food from all around the world, and the attendant customs. There is very little that I won’t eat – although I draw the line at anything with tentacles, and I can’t eat fish if it’s staring at me from my plate. D and I love to watch cooking shows that take us around the world and give us new inspiration for foods to try.
I also like to try and honour any rituals or traditions that go with the food in question. For instance, the nursing home I once worked in was staffed primarily by Filipinos from an agency. Many of them would work a twelve hour day and then also do a “sleeper” night shift, so they often had their dinner at work in the early evening before the residents’ supper time.
Filipinos eat with their hands, and my colleagues were amazed when I set aside the knife and fork that they had thoughtfully placed for me one evening when they had invited me to join them and got my hands well and truly dirty. They laughed and clapped, and even thanked me because they knew that a Westerner like myself would struggle to eat savoury foods with their fingers without wanting to wash their hands every few minutes – but I did it and I enjoyed the relaxed atmosphere of “togetherness” around the table that so many British households now lack.
I miss those Filipinos; they were all polite, sweet and welcoming. Some of them were qualified in the most amazing medical fields – one of my best Filipina friends was a neurosurgeon in her country – but their economy forces them to join agencies and work here to send money back to their families. They work hard and never stop smiling. Our residents adored them and their cheery sing-song accents.
I digress, as usual. However, there is a relevance to my mention of Filipinos as a people and culture because it was that meal years ago that fanned the flames of my current and continued interest in world food cultures and customs. I remember blowing up at my now ex-husband not long after that, because I’d taken the time to prepare a wonderful Chinese salmon stir-fry with a sesame and soy dressing… and he dumped mayonnaise all over it. I felt exactly as insulted and disrespected as an actual Chinese chef might have done.
Long-time followers will recall that I discovered the Chinese Tea Ceremony back in August – at a Discworld Convention of all places. On arriving home I studied everything I could find on the subject, bought a couple of Chinese tea sets and a wide selection of teas to try (green, red, scented and flavoured varieties). I have since learned to use (but have by no means mastered!) chopsticks, and have watched YouTube videos to learn the etiquette for eating with them. I’ve learned to make crab and sweetcorn soup, have asked for a set of Chinese soup spoons for Christmas and have bought a copy of Ching He-Huang’s Chinese Food In Minutes.
Now that I have my eating back under control (and also, it seems, my alcohol consumption – or I am at least getting there) I want to learn more about other cultures and their food. I am especially interested in Asian food (Chinese, Japanese, Vietnamese) but also interested in traditional Spanish, Mexican, and Sri Lankan along with wanting to learn more about food customs in the Phillipines.
Food is fun for me again, and I would like to keep it that way. I know that many of my followers are well-travelled and that some live in the countries that I am most interested in. One of our friends is a straight-edge vegan Buddhist and I’m interested in his lifestyle, but the Sri Lankan family who run the local shop and who were driven from their country because of the unrest don’t like to talk about their heritage very much – the sister, especially, becomes tearful if asked about her homeland and I respect both she and her brother far too much to go digging.
I could surf the web, but where’s the fun in that when I have all of you to drop by and go into specific detail with customs and recipes and rituals? Hit me up!