East Bay Ethnic Eats happily celebrates its first birthday.
In the past year, this blog has provided me a ticket to explore my passion: the intersection of food and culture. With this forum to share my discoveries, I let my curiosity lead me on little local expeditions to examine the layers of meaning behind our daily bread (or naan, tortillas, injera, pan dulce).
Thanks to all my supportive readers for joining me on the journey and for your words of encouragement. As a small thank-you, one of you will receive a book that exemplifies this quest for the stories behind what we cook and eat, Grace Young’s The Wisdom of the Chinese Kitchen. More about this giveaway in a moment.
First, a small re-cap: I began this year with an intimate focus, searching the East Bay for the best fish taco, falafel and halvah. I also investigated lucky foods from around the world and highlighted some local treasures, including Oasis’ freshly made filo dough and Gum Kuo’s 20 kinds of jook. Along the way, what I found most satisfying was getting to know people from other lands, whose stories of their immigration journeys — when seen through a food lens — shed special light on some universal themes of loss, identity, comfort and adaptation.
Not surprisingly, I discovered that the food-ways of one’s homeland are not only meaningful to immigrants; they often serve as the portal through which members of the second-generation begin to explore and reclaim their cultural heritage. I have been fortunate to meet some intriguing individuals who have generously shared their experiences with me.
I met Jane Lin when she presented at an event on food and healing sponsored by the Asian Culinary Forum. The former urban planner changed her life course when, after the birth of her two children, her mother came over and made her traditional Chinese soups for the “period of confinement” – the first 30 days after giving birth. These nourishing soups inspired Jane to immerse herself in this aspect of her culinary culture. She now makes these healing soups for other new mothers under the name Mama Tong.
Jane was kind enough to let me follow her around on a shopping trip in Chinatown (for an upcoming Oakland Magazine article) and graciously invited me over while she cooked a couple of these classic soups. I watched her prepare a pork and black rice vinegar soup using pig “trotters” and a black chicken soup containing several dried ingredients renown for their healing properties (red dates, longan, goji berries, wood ears, and snow fungus).
Resonating with a similar theme, two weeks ago, I attended the Greenbrier Symposium for Professional Food Writers and was delighted to meet Grace Young, one of the presenters and author of several widely respected books on Chinese cuisine. Grace is known as the “poet laureate of the wok” and has traveled the world to collect stories and recipes from members of the Chinese diaspora from India to Trinidad. Her first book, The Wisdom of the Chinese Kitchen, is a tribute to her family’s culinary nurturing and also includes many recipes for dishes that promote “optimum well-being.” Her poignant stories and clear explanations are like having a knowledgeable, kindly aunt at your side in the kitchen. I look forward to cooking my way through Grace’s books, gaining personal and collective knowledge, plus a wealth of delicious dining experiences.
For the giveaway: I will send a copy of Grace Young’s Wisdom of the Chinese Kitchen to a reader who answers the following in a comment:
Describe a meal or dish from another culture that provided you with a new perspective?
(For me, it might be something as simple as mastering the daily ritual of buying fresh baguettes in Paris or the revelation that breakfast in Japan contains nothing sweet, yet the fish and vegetables sustained me with hours of energy.)
What’s your illuminating food memory?