It all began with a book: Shark's Fin and Sichuan Pepper, A Sweet-Sour Memoir of Eating in China. I've been reading it with some friends and its author, Fuchsia Dunlop, has inspired a lot of conversation among us about how we cook and how we eat. This particular group of friends is largely food-centric: we eat for pleasure, we cook for creativity; when we're not cooking, we're eating (or talking about food, writing about food, photographing it, admiring fresh produce at the Farmer's Market, making a grocery list) and visa versa . We enjoy both of these things—the cooking and the eating—alone and together. But we've been challenged to consider how food is not only a delightful pastime, but that for some, [it is a refuge, a solace, a safe pleasure in which you could lose yourself without fear; it provides freedom.]* It's serious. Seriously delicious, but serious. As much as we joke about the pleasure we derive from bacon and foie gras, chocolate truffles and freshly picked asparagus, this book has served as a subtle but pressing reminder to me to be thankful for the splendor of each and every bite.
The memoir has also encouraged us to expand any food boundaries we might previously have had—my own boundaries opening wider to include a whole realm of unexplored, intoxicating Asian goodies. Firstly, The Dumpling:
Last night we made traditional Chinese dumplings at Ji Hye's house. Ji Hye spent her childhood in Seoul, so she likes to put a Korean spin on these dumplings, adding finely chopped pine nuts to them. Whatever you fill them with (veggies, meat, tofu or all) they are bound to be a delectable treat. They are simple to make and quicker to make with more hands, so invite your friends over and have a Dumpling Dinner Party. Check out my friend Corinna's blog for the recipe in case she posts it, or check out this link to a recipe online from Fine Cooking magazine, which, as always, provides user-friendly, thorough instructions.*
*Dunlop, Fuchsia. Shark's Fin and Sichuan Pepper, A Sweet-Sour Memoir of Eating in China. New York: Norton & Co., 2008. pp. 56.
*The recipe, along with a lot of other good recipes, tips and ideas can also be found in tangible form in the latest Fine Cooking magazine, FEB/MAR 2010, Issue No. 103, pp. 70-75.