Friday, June 8, 2012

Apples That Fall Miles Away From the Tree

When I was born my *mother oftentimes joked that I must have been the result of an unconscious affair with a foreign milkman because my palate was decidedly non-American. I always preferred Indian and Middle Eastern fare to American white bread and casserole culture. And when I was in my early twenties and on my own, my palate happily lapped up the discoveries of international cuisines, collecting new favorites in Thai, French, Italian Mediterranean and many more.

So when my own daughter was growing up, with that American girl palate that preferred red meat and potatoes, I always made her partake in the “one bite rule” wherein she had to taste everything at least once before deciding whether she liked it or not. This is what led her to like things like sushi and Thai sticky rice and some other dishes that she would never have known about had she not tried.

Recently, I hoped to introduce her to my love of dim sum. Whereas I grew up knowing things like tator tot casserole, Swedish pot roast and scalloped potatoes and ham were considered comfort food to my family, the more my palate explored as an adult, the more comfort food for me shifted into the doughy, steamed and sweet world of the Chinese. 

So this past weekend while my daughter was visiting, the Cute Gardener and I took her and a friend into the bowels of Los Angeles’ Chinatown for a dim sum brunch at Ocean SeaFood Restaurant. I could tell she was way out of her familiar zone as we walked up the red, ornate staircase to the place where large, tanks of massive crabs and lobsters and other shelled sea creatures welcomed us with waving claws and tentacles. 

We started rapidly ordering dishes from the carts of the more tame variety like chicken and pork filled sweet and savory buns, bok choy, honey and walnut shrimp, pork shu mei, and various other stuffed dumplings. My daughter and her friend took a few bites of a few things and then spent the rest of the time enjoying the chatter of the carts, the swirling patterns of the place and people watching the other diners. Even though they enjoyed the scene, they were too mystified to want to eat.

I loved the place, and stuffed myself more than normal. Dim Sum is something that should only be eaten about once a year to truly engage in the experience and appreciate the food that arrives in mass doses. 

I realized that I have always been a person who feels more comfortable in a crazy, swirling, Chinese place then in the hearth of an American restaurant where things are more familiar. For me, disappearing into the atmosphere of an entirely different culture has always been a joyous thing; one in which has fed my lifelong feelings of being foreign in my own world.

*My mother reads this blog, and nine times out of ten she will leave some comment or call and leave a message on the phone. “You are brave,” she will say; or, “Glad I am only reading about your adventures and not eating them.” This past week, her quote was: “Sushi and sausages, gross! What’s wrong with a good old fashioned potato?”

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