I am currently diving into, well perhaps I should rephrase that given the laborious pace at which I am reading, a book that focuses on the role that big business is playing in the global world of food production, processing and ultimately on food supplies. Once I complete getting through it, I might put up a post about it and share what I took out of it.
But for now, let me turn to another related topic, that of food sustainability and more about the very basic function of food in our lives. I am positive that those of us who actually devote our personal time to writing these kinds of blogs hold food in high regard, truly enjoy it and are adventurous in our exploration of what is out there to eat.
While the simplest of the day’s standard trio of meals, it is often my favorite time to eat when I’m traveling internationally. Reasons why include its generally easy, I can enjoy it on my own (if I am with others who are not as inclined for morning walkabouts, and the reasonable charges for morning meals makes wonderful meals all the more appreciated (or in the case they bomb, not too hard on the pocketbook, so regrets are tempered).
I don’t know about you, but it seems to me that more often than not, something interesting to eat always lurks around the corner not long after the sun has come up and when I’m abroad in unfamiliar surroundings. I look at these impromptu discoveries as my personal reward. For taking the time and effort to traverse a new locale on foot. Meandering down random streets and alleys taking in the native sights, sounds and often smells, in my never-ending quest to learn more about where I am and this beautiful world in which we live.
My usual wandering (aimlessly and map-less) when I explore a new village, town, or city for the first time can lead me to interact with unknown strangers on the street – language and sometimes cultural barriers included. At times they are helpful. Especially with suggestions about what I might enjoy trying to eat. Local, with some variety, and a “what would you have?” are my usual parameters that I try to get across to my sometimes puzzled conversation mates, achieved in part with some physical gestures and drastically simplified English.
“I’m sorry sir, it is illegal to serve medium-rare burgers in this city.”
I can’t really fault my waitress for uttering this common misconception. Like many, I used to think that it is illegal to serve hamburgers that are raw in the middle. It is not. The health authorities do not have such a law in the books. What is stopping most restaurants from giving you the option of ordering a rare or medium-rare burger has nothing to do with the legality of the act, but from their own distrust of their source of ground beef. Most burger joints will not take chances as they get their ground meat from large factory operations whose quality control is beyond their reach.
A lot of time spent in airports usually means one of two things for me. Either i get caught up on my music by tuning out the world and listening to my iPod, or I spend a lot of time thinking. Lately, it’s been the latter.
I’ve noticed lately some interesting trends in how taste continues to evolve – both personally, and culturally. In part one, I discussed the personal, as i shared my thoughts on some things that have been bothering me lately. Specifically, how information I had posted a few years ago has gotten stale, partly due because my tastes have continued to evolve and change. Trying to think of ways to manage this has left me with nothing but a headache, but discussions about this are ongoing and i feel hopeful that someone has an ideal solution!
Today, i want to discuss the idea of a cultural evolution of taste. What im referring to specifically is how a culture’s culinary traditions and tastes continue to change, and how that impacts how we look at food experiences, especially when it comes to the idea of “authenticity”.
Why do i care and what does this have to do with Foodosophy? Well, when sharing experiences, providing context is an important part of what you are describing. They are like signposts for the reader – identification of things that are important to them, and things that they don’t value. Adjectives all have some personal meaning to readers. So does the word authentic. I wonder though, should the word authentic never be used when discussing food?
First off Happy New Year to everyone. Secondly a very big very thank you to Shokutsu et al. for keeping things moving in my protracted absence. I’d change the blog to be called shokutsuosophy, but it doesnt quite have the same ring. Hope you’re ok with that 🙂
Unfortunately, without a good internet connection, im not able to post anything with pictures, but i wanted to discuss a topic that’s been on my mind recently. It’s about the evolution of taste. What does it mean for people who blog, and how does it shape how we view food?
Let’s start with the definition of evolution: “a gradual process in which something changes into a different and usually more complex or better form”.
What im referring to is the natural propensity of taste to change over time. I feel this happens personally, as in to individuals, and it happens culturally as well. Today, i want to address the personal aspect.
Personally, i’ve noticed that my own tastes change and evolve quite often. The more repeated exposure i get to certain types of foods, and really, the more exposure to different tastes (in wine, coffee, food), the more what constitutes my “ideal taste” changes.
I hate to use the term “reviews” in this case, as frankly I don’t think that’s what we’re really doing here on this site that is being used by our crew of writers to rather just share experiences and ideas more than anything else. They just happen to take place most of the time in places to eat or where one can purchase food and drink for basic sustenance our just outright pleasure. But the triple-R alliteration was just too hard to pass up…
A reason for me drafting this commentary today is that I noticed that yet another active restaurant with its very own online presence has linked back to one of our previous posts by one of our stronger and frankly more food knowledgeable writers. I think you’ll see a trend in this regard when we continue to see who’s posts have gained some external recognition. No shokutsu in sight. 🙂
This post is another reflection from my summer travels to Asia and in particular the two weeks I spent in South Korea.
The tradition of bringing back some local treats and gifts when one travels in an Asian country, especially when you have been to a more rural area and the city folk you left behind want to know what’s there, is one that I enjoy. Especially when I’m one of those who are stuck in the rat race and urban jungle, and get to taste some goodies brought back from someone’s travels. On this particular trip, it was the other way around, as I decided to purchase some sweet snacks that were reputed to be the best representation of what Gyeongju has, and I was told, would be appreciated by the Seoulites who would be on the receiving end of my generosity.
As with many food gifts, packaging is key, especially when one is challenged by a large display full of various types. As people “eat with their eyes”, I can see why so much effort is spent on making the containers, boxes, etc. as appealing as possible and thus help boost sales. Convenience for me is often key (especially when I’m traveling by air) and so a slim package such as the one above is much favored. This particular pair of items was bought in a gift shop just before departing Gyeongju city. A last stop kind of place to get your fill of this resort area before returning to the more populous (and non-touristy) places around the peninsula.
Taking a cueonce again from my colleague aka the Foodosopher, I thought I’d jot down some random thoughts from my past two weeks of eating in South Korea, as I slowly begin the process of recovering from the time zone switch as I’ve landed back on North American soil.
I was fortunate to have the opportunity to travel throughout the country this time (and not just bogged down in Seoul), hitting the metropolitan area of Seoul and neighboring province of Gyeonggi-do, as well as venturing through the central parts of the country (Chungcheongbuk-do), and the eastern province of Gyeongsangbuk-do. Almost made it down to the major southern city of Busan, but with the havoc being raged by Typhoon Dianmu, we elected to retreat northward.
I was bitten by the photographic food blogging bug when I was given a Blackberry by my former employers about two years ago. It had a crappy built-in camera which took equally crappy pictures – but the Blackberry was enough to get the ball rolling. (The Blackberry has a lo-fi aesthetic that I really like, actually. The images are grainy and washed out, yet there is something very “immediate” about them:)
It’s quite funny looking back how I never really considered taking photos of food until that time. In my travels through Asia many years ago, I carried an inexpensive pre-digital Point and Shoot camera and the only real pictures I had of food were of food stalls and markets. I took hundreds of shots…and the photos were mostly of the typical “tourist” shot. (I have since been back through Asia a few times for business, but my photography was limited due to my obligations).
While I wish I had a stunning review (there are many new restaurants out there worth talking about), a topical subject (the failure to ban Bluefin Tuna exports from the Atlantic for example), or something really interesting to share with you this weekend, I don’t. What I have for you is the gift of perspective.
You see, I’ve temporarily lost my sense of taste. When it will come back, doctors have no idea. 5 days? 10 days? Weeks? Some people report a year or two!
Food has pretty much no appeal to me. I can’t taste anything. I can’t tell if something is salty, or flavourful. I couldnt tell the difference between Batali and Olivieri. Between the tenderness of calf moose, or rotting beef. I can feel textures and acidity – astringent, “warmth”, mushy, firm but there is no taste. I thought i tasted banana today, but i think it was taste memory playing tricks on me. I tried eating garlic – to see if it would kick start my tastebuds. Now the people around me suffer as well.
So appreciate what you have. Great food, or slightly mediocre, a shared meal, or a quiet moment alone with a bowl of soup – appreciate the smell of roasting meat, the freshness of greenery, the warmth of a simmering pot, the bright smells of citrus, and the lowly smells of compost. Because without a sense of smell or taste, there is no enjoyment in food at all. And without enjoyment in food, this bond we all share, whether we agree or disagree on a given review, doesn’t exist. It’s a lonely place, feeling disconnected from something we’re all so passionate about. May you never have to experience it.
Quickly now, what comes to your mind when you hear the words French Cuisine?
For me, fine dining, regional, and an assortment of French translations for common ingredients that are clearly the fading remnants of my eight plus years of childhood education in the language come rushing out at me.
Now do the same for say, Italian or Chinese. I’m sure strong images pop into your mind, mainly of the favorable variety, including some great dishes or full meals you’ve had associated with the countries from which they came.
Sadly, yours truly is currently on forced exiled in the wintery tundra of Alberta, specifically the freezing cold city of Calgary where a few minutes of prolonged exposure to the outside elements can result in some unpleasant, numbing sensations on your skin and extremities. Winter in the prairies is not my cup of tea, despite my past of living in these brutal winter conditions for many, many years.
Perhaps taking a cue from the stalled offensive machine of the local National Hockey League club that is mired in a seven game winless streak, the below zero temperatures have seriously stunted my drive to explore the city’s culinary scene, and the changes wrought since I last lived here. But as fate would have it, sitting on the top of a pile of magazines in my hotel room was one that had the bold faced text trumpeting “Calgary’s Best Restaurants”. With a publication date of January/February 2010, it was fortunately not an out of date rag. Exploration in the comfort of my hotel room – perfect!
As I settled in, I began perusing the magazine, beginning with this note from the editor. Again, the mention of a respectable crew of commentators from the city was noted as those being responsible for the rankings inside. Fair enough, “let’s hear it” I thought, and I moved to the pages deeper in the approximately 80-page piece, seeking the wisdom of those “people who know Calgary’s restaurants inside and out”, and read about their choices for the “establishments that they felt would make a lasting impression of Calgary for visitors like (me)”.
In looking back over the past year, I realize that in pursuit of my passion on a day to day basis, that I am always learning. Eating out, discussing food, sourcing ingredients, cooking, it all affords us the opportunity to learn. But while i learn something every day, there are those “A-ha!” moments that you have that stick with you. That change how you look at a cuisine, an ingredient, or a dish.
We started Foodosophy 18 months ago for a variety of reasons, but one of the primary ones was to learn from other people, and to share what we learn. I thought it would be a nice way to end the year by sharing, and encouraging everyone else to share things that they’ve learned.
So without further adieu, I would like to present my Top 5 things I learned in 2009.
There are three names that usually come up when Vancouverites talk about their favourite banh mi: Au Petit Cafe, Ba Le, and Tung Hing . I needed to grab a quick lunch from my kids and their friends one day after school. I was going to drive right past these three restaurants so I thought I would take this opportunity to do a side-by-side photo-essay.
I ordered the “Special” at each place to set a base-line comparison. Having ordered the Specials at all three spots over the years, I know how consistent they all are with their production – in other words, what you see here is what you would typically get.
From the left to right: Au Petit Cafe, Ba Le (Kingsway), Tung Hing.
As you can see, Tung Hing’s banh mi is at least 2″ longer than the other two – 10″ vs 8″. Au Petit Cafe has their bread specially made by La Baguette et L’echalotte which has a storefront on Granville Island. Ba Le currently sources from Empress Bakery (I incorrectly attributed their source as Paris Bakery in my earlier post here), but are about to embark on their own baking operation in-house with the installation of some new ovens at the Kingsway location.