Food is not just enjoyment. It’s history, geography, emotion, environment, relationship, memory, creativity, dream, reality…
I’m privileged enough in life that I’ve never starved. It was very sad for me during the period of time when I only had food to avoid hunger, when I chose to eat little to avoid gaining weight.
It all changed for even worse when I discovered that my mother had cancer.
I had to eat. Food became my safety net. As long as I could get my hands on the things I liked to eat, I ate them all.
Food could save me. Because I had a wonderful relationship with it when i was a kid. Because my mother was the best cook in the whole world.
She made these hand-pulled noodles that were just “home” to me. There are only flour and water in the dough. So the proportion of it all is the most crucial. When it’s done well, a layer of cooked oil is brushed on it. Then we wait for ten to fifteen minutes. Then we can cut them into strips and start pulling…
The water boiling… first round was for Papa. Then for me. Then the last was for my mom.
Then we would take our bowl of noodles and mix them with some cooked dishes, like Chinese version of spaghetti. We call it “Gan Ban”. It means “dry stir”. We literally stir the noodles together with the vegetables and sometimes meat cubes that belong to the dish. Then we add some vinegar, a little soy sauce if needed, and chilli paste and chilli oil. Stir, stir, stir. If the end result is too dry, we add a little cooked noodle water. But be careful. We would never add too much noodle water until it became a soup.
Stir, stir, stir.
Then we taste our own noodles. If it’s good, we can start our meal. If something’s missing, we add it however we’d like.
For some mysterious reason, mom’s noodles always tasted better than mine. So we always exchanged our bowls in the end.
My mom was not “creative” in the kitchen in a traditional sense. She had mastered something and make a good eater out of me. I’m not a picky eater and I have never been. But I have a high standard for what I find tasty and satisfying.
The people who love food are the ones who love life. My mom made me into someone who loves life through food, experiences life through food, explores the world through food. My mom loved life. So do I.
What food is your home?