Food in the East/West World
Glenn: Food is fundamental. It's a basic need for all animals.
Yet the food we eat couldn't vary more dramatically from culture to culture.
We eat different substances, prepared in different manners, taken in different surroundings, served in different vessals.
Some treat food as fuel. Some treat food as art. Some as religion.
For me, food is a window. Through it, we get a view of ourselves, our family, and on other people and cultures.
What does food mean to you?
Scott - an American male who has lived in Europe and Japan:
All of the above. However, I prefer to treat it as art. It is also a conversation piece.
Tsuji - a single Japanese male who lived in Texas and works for a Korean company:Desmond - a Singaporean male who lived in America:
I think it's fuel.
Depends on the person Im having the meal with, on the time I have on the activities after the meal..
Jetsada - a Thai male who has lived in Singapore, Britain, and America for months at a time.
Angie - a married American woman who has lived in Japan and Singapore:
Fuel, yes. Art, yes. Religion, yes.
How many meals do you eat in a day, and what do you call them (supper, dinner, tea, etc)?
Tsuji: Twice a day. Japanese men call it MESHI for breakfast, dinner, and lunch. MESHI means steamed rice.
Scott: Somewhere between 3 and five meals.
They are called 'coffee', 'are you buying?', 'I'm hungry', 'What's for dinner?' and 'just a little bit'.
Angie: As many as I can! No, I eat something in the morning - breakfast; around early mid-afternoon - lunch, and dinner around 6:30 - 8:00.
My parents in the midwest have dinner in the afternoon and supper at night.
Jetsada: 3 meals. Lunch ,Dinner, and a Late night meal.Desmond: Lunch.. dinner.. supper does potato chips at 11, 3, 8 etc.. count?
And which of these is your favorite meal of the day?Desmond: Dinner yum coz it normally comes with a date
Scott: The next one. Especially if I'm cooking it
Angie: It depends on the particular meal at the time.
To me, atmosphere is literally everything. I want to have all five senses engaged.
But I don't go as far as my friend who says he'll eat shit if it's served properly.
How important is atmosphere (music, setting, dishes, etc) to your meal?
Tsuji: If I'm having by myself, it doesn't matter.
But with a girlfrend, you need good music and clean underwear.
Angie: The food itself comes first. Atmosphere is secondary.
I like a more relaxed, even tranquil setting while eating. Too often the music is too loud, and/or fast and hard for me to fully enjoy the dining experience.
The place settings and dishes themselves can certainly add to the pleasure. Fingerprints or greasemarks on a black plate leaves something to be desired...
On the other hand; I've enjoyed meals using reused plastic chopsticks and eating from screached purple plastic bowls.
Jetsada: Not really important if I am alone. I have some lower limits such as cleanliness.Desmond: Important once in a while, coz atmosphere in most restuartants equates to mega bucks.. and with the downturn in economy + on my meager engineers pay.. I cant let it play too important a role.
Scott: It depends on the setting.
So what is the most memorable setting you've ever eaten in?
Scott: Oh, to choose just one...
A mango on the beach in the Maldives.
Squish pie while trekking near Jomson.
My first meal at Cha Cha Cha.
Picking black flies out of a sandwich in the Adirondacks.
Abusive burritos at the Omnivorium.
Tsuji: After eating tons of garlic, they gave us chewing gum at a Korean restaurant.
Jetsada: A Saturday in 1990. We were students. I went to pick up my girl friend at her home at 6:30am.
She prepared breakfast for me. It was Kaw-Krug-Ga-Pi, a kind of sweetened fried rice. We took that breakfast with us and went to a well in a village 20 miles away.
The well was very big, about a half mile diameter. It was a bit cold because it was morning. Fresh air, Clear sky. She put plastic cloth on the ground close to the well. We sat down and then she started to put the breakfast into my mouth.
The whole story is the most memorable setting.
Desmond: A romantic meal with a significant other in a wonderful atmosphere . On the flip side, bak tuk tehs in KL .. its dirty but delicious.
Angie: The first that pops into my mind is a meal I ate in a Vietnamese wet market. People bustling about, yells, smells, stares, and rats running around our feet and around the kitchen area.
My most memorable meals are almost always with good company. Who is your ideal dinner companion?
Scott: Someone who makes me squirt milk out my nose
Desmond: Havent found one yet
Angie: Anyone I like who loves good food and enjoys eating it. Of course, companionship and table manners count!
Tsuji: My glass of water gets about a half, bring to refuel soon. When we call to order something, she or he comes up soon.
Jetsada: My Girlfriend.
What would be your favorite cuisine?
Angie: Impossible to answer. japanese, italian, mexican, Pan Pacific, Thai....
I have some less favorites.
Tsuji: BBQ, Japanese food, Korean BBQ, Texmex.
Scott: Spicy. Hot. Karai. Scharf. Picoso. But, I imagine that this is not a surprise.
Desmond: Anything that doesnt need peptol bismol.
Time to make some choices. If you were on death row, what would be your last meal?
Jetsada: Tod-Mun (Thai fish cake)
Angie: A big buffet consisting of Japanese, Italian, Mexican, Pan Pacific and Thai. Also, some of my mothers' cooking and a couple dishes of my own.
Desmond: Hmm.. does it matter?
Tsuji: It would be something cooked by my wife or girlfriend.
Scott: 1000-year old egg. Laid tomorrow.
And f you had to eat the same food everyday of the rest of your life, what would it be?
Desmond: Ugh . It would be boring.
Scott: Avocados. Habaneros. Twinkies.
Angie: It would have to be pizza.
Tsuji: Chicken soft taco, TACO BELL.
Tell me about the most unusual food you've ever eaten. Did you like it?
Tsuji: Cow's womb. I liked it very much. Only few Korean BBQ restaurant serves it. It's very good with beer.
Angie: Maybe snake in Vietnam. Tasted like chicken....
Didn't thrill me - a bit tough.
Or raw horsemeat in Japan. Unusual for me as I never eat rare meat. I liked it. Tender and Tasty!
Scott: Marinated tapeworms. I'm not sure that I liked it, but I do enjoy telling the story.
Jetsada: Raw prawn. Yes, I liked it.
Desmond: Hahaha .. deer penis at least thats what they said it was . Yuck..
What's the worst tasting food you've ever eaten?
Angie: Natto. A strange Japanese bean dish that's about as putrid as any food gets.
Desmond: Deer penis
Scott: An unidentified spice in Indian cuisine which immediately hit the bleaaah nerve.
Jetsada: A kind of indian food. I don't remember the name.
Tsuji: Japanese pickles, it's pickled with fermented rice. It tasted like $hit. You may know of Japanese rotted and dried fish called KUSAYA. It smells like human's $hit and taste like $hit too.
Actually, I've never eaten $hit.
I'm glad you pointed that out. I was starting to wonder.
So, other than shit, what will you not eat?
Scott: Fish, seafood, rocks.
Desmond: Deer penis.. no ever, anyways.
Angie: Bugs (though I have licked an ant's abdomen) or anything still moving.
Licked an Ant? Did he laugh? Or moan with pleasure?
Nevermind, we'll save that story for 'Fetishes in the East/West World'.
Back to food...Is there any food you want to eat, that you haven't eaten yet?
Tsuji: BBQ of cow's heart.
Scott: I hate to be boring, but I've managed to try just about anything which. I've been tempted by. There might be particular recipes which sound good, but I don't manage to try.
Angie: Real Italian food, in Italy. The nabe that sumo wrestlers chow on.
I keep considering Fugu - just because.
A 'good' fresh durian. French food in France.
Desmond: Kangeroo meat
What is the cheapest meal you've ever eaten? The most expensive? Was it worth the difference?
Scott: In Israel (while a poor student), I had a falafel and coke and newspaper for about 35 cents. In Japan, I had a shabu-shabu for which I did not pay. Both were highlights, but the difference was worth it.
Tsuji: Instant noodle in the U.S. Only 23 cents. Expensive meals, I would say are not worth it, but maybe the service is good.
Angie: A large 25 cent bowl of noodle soup off a street cart in Bali. It was even in a glass bowl!
The most expensive was Teppan-yaki in Japan ($150), which sonsisted of an abalone that saw it's fate coming and tried to make a quick escape across the counter.
Both meals were wonderful.
Jetsada: Fried rice in primary school and Shark fin. Yes, it was worth the difference.
Desmond: cheapest .. instant noodles most expensive deer penis . Worth the difference? Well, instant noodles sure taste different . And Im sure Ill try instant noodles again.
There is NOT a reward for repeatedly mentioning deer penis, Desmond....
What and where is your favorite restaurant?
Tsuji: BBQ restaurant in Austin. Every BBQ is good at the restaurant.
Scott: Only one? Cha Cha Cha (Caribbean) in San Francisco.
Moti (Indian) in Roppongi.
La Fonda de la Madrugada (Mexican) in Harajuku (although I've heard that it has gone downhill).
Andechs (a brew monastery) in Starnberg, South of Munich.
Androuet (a cheese restaurant) in Paris.
La Hacienda (Mexican) in El Paso.
Angie: No way to say.
Jetsada: Bua restaurant. Bangkok.
Desmond: Pasir panjang chilli crabs and KLs buk tuk tehs stall.
I need to put in my vote for Garlic Jo's in Yokohama, Japan and Doc Chengs' at Raffles Hotel in Singapore.
Meat is a major favorite of mine. If I go too long without it, I get cravings.
Could you be a vegetarian?
Scott: I tend that way, but I still eat meat. BBQ is just not the same without it.
Desmond: Er and miss out on all those proteins? Nope.
Jetsada: Could be.
What would be your favorite eating utensil: fork, spoon, knife, chopstick, fingers, or something else?
Jetsada: 1. my girlfriend's hand. 2. fork and spoon.
Angie: Whatever the moment calls for. Some foods especially scream for chopsticks or fingers.
Desmond: Anything that is appropriate to the food and surroundings.
Tsuji: Fork and Chopsticks.
Scott: A straw.
What are your feelings about raw food?
Jetsada: Not healthy
Angie: It can be risky. I don't eat rare meat, I do medium well. I do love sashimi and sushi and get cravings for them. I've gotten sick from eating oysters, though.
Tsuji: Nothing, I'm used to eating it.
Desmond: Sushi? yummy
Scott: You mean, like, vegetables? Fruit? Yeeech!
Is durian the nectar of the gods, or unfit for dogs?
Tsuji: No, it's a $hit tasting ugly fruit.
Angie: The stench is unfit for man or beast. The juice is cost effective, like it or not. Just one sip can be relived throughout the day.
Jetsada: Depends on what kind.
Desmond: Nectar, as long as you dont get it in my new car.
Scott: Actually, it is the nectar of the dogs. But it does not beat a really good, true, muenster.
Thanks again, everyone. Bon Appetit!!