Food for thought

Having just finished smacking a god-like amount of meat into patties for a BBQ I’m hosting tomorrow, food isn’t exactly the topic I’m most excited to blog about.

However, a little vodka’n’cranberry therapy at hand, it’s time I tackle a topic I’ve been meaning to address for a while now – the biggest bone of contention between my wife and I. Yup, it’s food.

Coming from two wildly different cultures, it’s likely of little surprise that we differ quite a lot. I’m outgoing, she’s introverted; I joke, she scowls (even at my best material); she’s fit, I’m … not; I’m flexible mentally, she’s flexible physically; I’m creative, she’s practical; I grew up playing with Transformers, she grew up playing with dirt (a fact she loves to remind me of when I get a bit too bourgeois for her commie sensibilities).

But despite, or perhaps because of, all our differences we get along amazingly well – except when it comes to food.

You only need to take a quick look at me to realize I am a man that likes to eat. I really enjoy food. And because I enjoy food, I also enjoy the creation of food. I like the idea that I can go into the kitchen and make something that is nearly as decent to eat as a good restaurant. I like finishing putting together a meal, sitting down and enjoying it.

My wife is much more utilitarian when it comes to food. Whether she likes something or not is largely based on two factors – is it healthy, and therefore something she can use to benefit herself; or is it food she’s eaten all her life, and therefore unquestionably comfortable.

The first bit irritates me, but I could certainly lose a few pounds, so am not at all opposed to eating healthily. I, perhaps mistakenly, assume that healthy food can taste good as well.

But that second part – there’s no rationale.

This penchants for only eating that which is familiar is a trait I’ve seen wide-spread across China, and it’s a pain in the ass. Commonly, cuisine neatly falls into the well-worn structure that seems to permeate the entire country:

  • Home
  • Home Town
  • Province
  • Region
  • Country
  • Foreign

Allegiance, dialect, gastronomical preference… it all sits in the same framework.

For me, I look at food like I look at music. I enjoy music. I have my preferences, but because I appreciate music for music’s sake, I can easily recognize quality music even when it sits outside the sphere I’m comfortable with.

Good music is, quite simply, good music. And, I believe, good food is good food.

As such, I love eating all kinds of food, and all nations’ food. So, to me I look at a week and see an opportunity to try food from seven different places – each one unique from the last.

So when my wife suggests that eating so much “foreign food” is too much and feels we should do 50/50 Chinese/Foreign (to be fair) – I protest. I protest because I really don’t want to eat that much Chinese food, but I also protest on principle.

To me this doesn’t just boil down to “cultural differences”, it is just bad math. Thai food, or Indian food, or Japanese food are no closer to my “home town food” than Chinese food. It’s wrong that it be lumped in with it.

Fortunately the saving grace in all this is that more than health and comfort, my wife just loathes cooking. She does it, and she’s good at it, but she doesn’t take any joy from it. It’s a task that must be done and is not meant to be enjoyed.

And as I’ve stated, I quite like cooking. So, after months, years really, of arguing about this we’re shifting tactics. Whereas we’ve always split cooking duties, starting today I am our home’s sole chef.

I’ve free range to cook whatever I want, but must make a solid effort to cook Chinese dishes a couple times a week. I get to take the reigns in the kitchen, and as a trade off Maggie gets out of ever having to lift a spatula or learn the difference between tomato sauce and ketchup.

We’ll see how it goes. I can easily foresee some potholes in the path ahead, but I’m pretty excited to finally have an excuse to really explore cooking. All recipes graciously accepted.

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  1. Pingback: Living in China is Easy… | A China Blog on Suzhou Expat Life | The Humanaught

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