Food Politics

After reading an excerpt from Jonathan Safran Foer’s Eating Animal, I feel that I am more educated on the politics of vegetarianism and the issues that come from farming. The excerpt allows you to read different perspectives of people who are the farming side of the industry and people who are against it. I was never really passionate about farming and vegetarianism, but I feel that after reading this excerpt, I am more well informed about the issues and the tough decisions that people have to make.

I was most compelled by the factory farmer from the interview, “I am a Factory Farmer.” His voice and his valid points really made me feel for what he was trying to convey. Some people don’t realize that the farming industry provides food (meat) for the people in our country. It also provides jobs for many of our citizens. Some people don’t understand that these farmers are ordinary people, just like us. They may not agree with what they’re doing, but they may have to do it because it provides their income for them and their families. They, too, have to put food on the table. I am not condoning the way some farmers treat the animals and the bad hormones and antibiotics they inject in them. But there is always two sides to a story, and through reading this, I have really learned a lot. The farmer suggested to educate yourself before you start judging people, and that is what I plan to do. 

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Bonding through Food

When thinking about who fed and cooked for me when I was a child, the obvious person that came to mind was my mother. After interviewing my mother, I not only learned more about my mother and the food she cooked, but I learned more about myself. Our conversation is displayed below.

Me: “What did I hate eating when I was younger? How did you deal with that?”

Mom: “You were not a picky eater. You ate almost anything that was fed to you, which made my life easier. The only thing that I can remember that you hated was oatmeal. You would refuse to finish your bowl no matter what I said. It’s strange because you just started to eat oatmeal a couple months ago, not that I’m complaining because it is good for you.”

Me: “What did I love eating?”

Mom: “Carrots, rice, steamed egg with chicken or pork, steamed fish, rice porridge, spare rib soup, miso soup, Japanese chicken wings, fried rice, udon noodles, japanese curry with rice.

Me: “Did you cook different things before you were married than after?”

Mom: “Yes, before I was married, I cooked mainly Japanese food. When I married your father, my recipes had to be altered because he was Chinese. I had to make my dishes a mixture of both cultures so that it could please everyone.”

Me: “How has your relationship with food changed over the years?”

Mom: “I have loved cooking since I was younger. I cooked for my parents and siblings, your father, and than you kids. What I cooked depended on you and your siblings’ taste. Sometimes your sister would want something, your brother would want another thing, and you would want something different as well. Those were the tough days, but I didn’t mind cooking. You were able to try a lot of things because I was Japanese and your father was Chinese, which allowed you to be exposed to all kinds of foods and flavors.”

Me: “How did you start cooking? What made you want to start?”

Mom: “My mother taught me how to cook. I was always watching her and helping cut and prepare the food. I watched her and my grandmother prepare dinner whenever I was able to. My mother never really had recipes, she just told me by voice and I tried to remember them. My mother was always a great cook and I wanted to be like her.”

Me: “What is your favorite meal to make?”

Mom: “My favorite meal to make is the Steamed Sweet Meat that my mother made. You won’t find this at a restaurant and it makes you really feel at home. It is steamed pork with ginger and daikon radish. This Steamed Sweet Meat recipe has been passed down for generations and it really represents family tradition. You know how to make this dish and I hope you will teach it to your future children.”

Me: “What were my table manners like as a kid?”

Mom: “They were ok, you never really misbehaved at the dinner table. I never taught you how to use chop sticks but somehow you learned by yourself. Then, when you would get frustrated, you would just use your hands. You would get food all over your face and it would be a disaster.”

Me: “How was your parents cooking?”

Mom: “My father didn’t know how to cook very well. He only knew how to make a sunny side egg. My grandma never let him in the kitchen. My great grandma and grandma were always in the kitchen cooking. My mother cooked breakfast, lunch, and dinner everyday no matter how busy she was. She did not like to eat out in a restaurant unless it was a special occasion.”

Me: “What did your parents cook?”

Mom: “My mother cooked manju (Japanese dough buns), mochi, congee rice porridge, steamed buns, steamed meat, pies, all kinds of meats and vegetables.”

Me: “What are your favorite food memories of me growing up?”

Mom: “I forget how old you were, but you woke up early all by yourself, and made me pancakes, egg and ham and brought it to me in bed for Mother’s Day one year. I still remember how happy I was and how proud I was of you that you didn’t hurt yourself or burn down the house.”

Me: “Why did you cook more than Dad?”

Mom: “Your father was always traveling for his businesses so I was the one always cooking. But Dad would cook two times a year or so and when he did, he would make like a 5 course meal, but he never liked doing the dishes.”

Me: “Do you regret cooking or feeding me anything?”

Mom: “No, I never fed you anything bad. I fed you everything that was fresh. I didn’t kill you, did I? You seem live and well to me right now.” (laughing)

Me: “Is there a special food that reminds you of me?”

Mom: “Spare rib soup because you would pour so much soy sauce in it that it became soy sauce soup. I always joked to you that you would turn as dark as soy sauce, but that still never stopped you.”

Me: “Did you cook for me or for yourself?”

Mom: “I mainly cooked for you and your siblings. I sacrificed what I liked to make what you kids wanted to eat. But as you got older, you were easier to cook for and I got to cook more food that I wanted to eat. The best example is my love for making and eating apple pie. But you really dislike pie and so I stopped making it.”

Me: “What foods did you stop cooking once you started a family?”

Mom: “I stopped making fried food because it wasn’t very healthy. I stopped making pie and other sweets unless it was a special occasion.”

Me: “How did you think you’d feed me when I was little, and did that change?”

Mom: “Since you were the youngest child, I fed you the same things I fed your older siblings. Since you grew up in Japan, I tried to get fresh food and no frozen food. The preschool you went to in Japan gave us tips on what is good to feed your child. This was nice to have and allowed me to try new things to feed you.”

Me: “How would you rate yourself as a cook?”

Mom: “I would say I’m an 88% out of 100%. I’m humble because sometimes I make mistakes. I’m only human. (laughing)

Me: “Did you have any kitchen disasters?”

Mom: “Well you know the Steamed Sweet Meat disaster where I accidentally put cups of vinegar instead of cups of Japanese sake. That was so embarrassing. I’ve burned my pot many times because I got caught up with other things and forgot I was cooking. You don’t know how mnay pots I’ve destroyed in my lifetime.”

Me: “What do you hope I’ll cook when I have my own family?”

Mom: “I hope you’ll make the food you grew up eating, like steamed fish, fried rice, pork dumplings, Japanese curry, steamed sweet meat with daikon. I want you to remember your Japanese and Chinese culture, and I hope you share that with your family.”

Me: “Do you wish you made more of something that you don’t cook very often?”

Mom: “I wish I made more pasta. I love it but in the end, it’s easier to make food from my culture. I want to eat it but I always end up doing Asian style food because it’s the norm.”

Me: “If you could have any meal (the ultimate meal) what would it be?”

Mom: “I would want Japanese style beef stew also known as Kobe wagyu. My father used to take me to this restaurant to eat their famous beef stew. I haven’t been able to go back in years. I have made it myself plenty of times, but it is still not as good as that place.”

Me: “Do you enjoy cooking, or do you do it because you have to?”

Mom: “You know I enjoy cooking. I love cooking for others because it makes me more happy to cook when others appreciate it and say it’s delicious. I love seeing people being happy because of my cooking. It makes me feel great.”

My mother is my best friend. We are so similar in so many ways. Bonding through food lasts generations, and for that, I am so thankful.

Gourmet Ghetto Field Trip

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After moving from Japan when I was 5 years old, my family and I lived throughout the East Bay in the Bay Area. I went to middle and high school in Albany, which is the city next to Berkeley. Berkeley was always the typical hang out spot to eat, shop, and be with friends. Through years of growing up around Berkeley, I have been fortunate to eat a lot of amazing food. Guessing that we would probably visit restaurants that I had been to, I was still excited about the Gourmet Ghetto field trip, hoping that I would possibly find some knew eateries in a city I know pretty well.

Now on the day of our field trip, I was sadly fighting the flu and a sinus infection, which caused me to be unable to smell or taste barely anything. I kept trying to blow my nose to clear my sinuses so I could taste the delicious food we were going to consume, but it was just not my day. Our first stop was a nice little restaurant called Poulet, which I have been to before. There chicken is always so moist and juicy, and they have many different styles and flavors for their chicken. When we sat at our tables, there was a plate of their Adobo chicken, a bowl of their shaved brussels sprout salad, and a bowl of their quinoa salad. I have had the Filipino adobo chicken and was wondering whether this would taste just like it. I couldn’t really taste much due to my sickness, but there was some kind of spiciness and smokiness to it. I am normally not a fan of brussels sprout, but for some reason, I thoroughly enjoyed the salad. Maybe it was because I could not really taste that it was brussels sprout that I was consuming. It had a lemony vinaigrette taste to it that I really enjoyed. The quinoa salad was my favorite. It was grainy but soft and delicate at the same time. I like couscous so that added more texture to the very healthy salad.

Next, we arrived at the Epicurious Garden, which is a little mini food court type of place. Here, we were trying one of my favorite things to eat; chocolate. First, we tried a chocolate bean that had no sugar or any additives in it. I couldn’t really get any flavors out of it because of my sickness but from the faces of my classmates, it did not seem very appetizing. I heard my friend say it was bitter and disgusting, and I was kind of thankful that I couldn’t taste anything. After this bad experience, we were able to taste five different types of chocolate and a chocolate covered coffee bean. To tell you the truth, I couldn’t taste the difference between any of the chocolates because of my congestion, which definitely saddened my sweet tooth.

After my failed chocolate adventure, we made out way to Soop, which is an eatery that serves all kinds of soup, which sounded amazing for my sore throat. We tried a Thai Red Lentil soup, which was a vegan soup made from coconut milk, lentils, red curry, green onions and spices. I tried to smell the soup, but nothing was coming to me. When I put a spoonful in my mouth, I could taste the coconut milk slightly and the green onions. It felt so good going down my sore throat and I finished the soup so quickly, that I was yearning for more. I could taste the texture of the lentils with their grainy and squishy texture. I contemplated coming back after the tour to get a bowl of soup to take home for dinner.

After drinking our soup, we went up Vine Street and into the first and original Peet’s Coffee and Tea. Our tour guide took us into their museum, which was filled with pictures and old artifacts. We were given samples of Major Dickason’s coffee and Oolong tea. I did not try the coffee because of my sickness, but I did try the tea because it sounded perfect for me and my sore throat. The Oolong tea was so smooth and rich with flavor. The tea leaves were so strong, but refreshing. In my family, we drink fresh Oolong tea from China and Japan, and it reminded me of my mother always brewing Oolong tea after dinner to cleanse the stomach. When nobody was grabbing second samples of the tea, I made my way to the teapot and poured myself 3 more cups of it.

Next, we made our way up to Love At First Bite, a cute little bakery on Vine Street. The proprietor gave us a history of the bakery and told us how they make their cupcakes. We were able to taste a mini cupcake, in which I got a red velvet cupcake. At first bite, you really taste the moistness of the cake, and the proprietor explains that they use canola oil which allows the cake to become that wet and moist. The cream cheese frosting was sweet. but not overbearing. It was funny how after not being able to taste much of any of the first few places, I was somehow able to taste the cupcake. I guess my sweet tooth was trying to tell me something.

After our cupcake experience, we returned to the Epicurious Garden where we arrived at Lush Gelato & Cafe. They offered Argentinean gelato, which was a little different from the typical Italian gelato. I was excited to get something cool and soothing for my throat and set out to try a few flavors. After a few samples, I decided to get a cup of the Madagascar Vanilla gelato. It was so rich and creamy and really tasted similar to vanilla bean. I really enjoyed this type of vanilla and kept it in mind for next time. This type of gelato seemed more like ice cream, because Italian gelato seemed to be more liquidy and easy to melt.

Next, we made our way up a slightly steep street to Gregoire, which was this little shoebox of a place. Our tour guide passed around a box of these little potato puffs that were extremely hot and adorable looking. They were these round golden puff balls that were fried. I dipped my puff in the aiolo sauce and took a bite. I burned the roof of my mouth as steam came out of the half bit potato puff. The aioli sauce was very interesting because it tasted like straight vinegar. The potato was very pleasant and it reminded me of balls of mashed potatoes that had been fried, and anything fried always tastes good.

After our hot and burning experience with the puffs, we walked to The Local Butcher Shop, where we had samples of their ham and gruyere sandwich. I normally do not eat ham veyr much, but wanted to try this neatly made sandwich. I took a bite and the first flavor that came to my mouth was the fat from the ham. It left an icky taste in my mouth, but the cheese and the salad saved the day. It allowed me to forget the taste of the fatty ham that I had just experiences. The ciabatta bread was hard and crunchy on the outside, and soft on the inside.

Our last stop was Cheeseboard, which is by far one of my favorite eateries in Berkeley. In high school, I would drive here to get a whole box of pizza and share it with my friends for lunch. I love their fresh ingredients and that they rarely ever use tomato sauce which makes them so unique. I also love that everyday, they have a new pizza. Today’s pizza was one with cremini mushrooms, mozzarella cheese, parmesan cheese, basil, pine nuts, garlic, and olive oil. When you took a slice of the pizza, the olive oil dripped onto your hands and napkin. The cheese was melted and in some areas, the cheese was almost burnt, which added to the flavors. My first bite was filled with mushrooms and cheese. The cheese was not overwhelming which allowed the mushrooms engulf your mouth. I was so delighted that we were able to go to Cheeseboard because it is, to this day, still my family and I’s go to pizza place.

Although for the majority of the field trip, I was fighting my sinuses, I was able to check out some new places in Berkeley that I had not gotten to try out. I thought I knew Berkeley, but this tour made me realize that there are so many places that I have been missing out on.

Butternut-schetta – My Chopped Cooking Adventure

ImageButternut Squash, Swiss Cheese, Sugar. These random ingredients are pretty common in anybody’s kitchen, and if not, your local grocery store would definitely carry them. I thought for hours on how to use all three ingredients in a dish, and some wild ideas came up. I did not want to do a typical butternut squash soup or a typical cheese dish, so I decided to think a little outside of the box. Not knowing how this would go, I decided to make a way different version of the Italian appetizer Bruschetta, but instead of the typical tomatoes, I would use a caramelized butternut squash mixture.

I grabbed all the ingredients I would need to make my butternut squash bruschetta. This included butternut squash, brown sugar, swiss cheese, olive oil, balsamic vinegar, maple syrup, and a baguette. I preheated the oven to 300 degrees while I prepared everything. I chopped the butternut squash into little cubes and cut half a sweet yellow onion into pieces. I heated some olive oil in a pan and sauteed the onions until they were soft. Then I added the cubes of butternut squash and sauteed them until they got soft. I added a tablespoon of maple syrup and 1/2 a tablespoon of brown sugar. I mixed it until the sugar and syrup were equally spread throughout the pan of onions and butternut squash. After the onions and butternut squash were soft, I added a tablespoon of balsamic vinegar and stirred. I let the caramelized onions and butternut squash simmer in the pan, while I prepared the bread.

I cut slim 1 cm slices of a rustic baguette and laid them on a cookie sheet. I then cut thin slices of swiss cheese and placed them on top of the bread. I popped the bread in the oven for about 4 minutes and took out the bread when the cheese was melted on the bread. I grabbed a piece of the hot toasted bread and placed it on a plate. I took a spoonful of the caramelized onions and butternut squash and put it on top of the cheese and bread. Voila! A caramelized butternut squash and onion Bruschetta! I was nervous as to how it was going to taste, and it was a surprising ending. It was delicious! The caramelized onion and butternut squash was sweet and soft, while the swiss cheese gave it the saltiness. The bread was crispy and toasted perfectly. I was so surprised that it had not turned into a kitchen disaster. I wanted to see if it would be a hit with other people, so I had my roommate and boyfriend try my concoction. They loved it as well! My roommate said, “The sweetness of the butternut squash, the savory flavor of the cheese, and the crunchiness of the toast made for an interesting, but delicious combination”. I was so relieved that my dish was not a complete fail. My boyfriend even recommended me to make this as an appetizer for a future party. If you enjoy a sweet, salty, and savory appetizer, try my easy to make Butternut-schetta.

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Japantown: A Taste of Home

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Being born and raised in Japan, it is very difficult to find a place that is similar to the crowded streets and bright lights of Tokyo. But coming to the couple streets that make up San Francisco’s Japantown allows me to experience the culture that I so greatly miss. Seeing the many elderly Japanese people walking along the street speaking my native tongue reminded me of my grandparents, while seeing the familiar foods and delicacies in the shops and markets reminded me of my mother’s cooking and food that you can only truly find in Japan. Every time I go to Japantown, it gives me a little piece of home in both my mind, my heart, and my stomach.

We arrived at this cute little cafe and my eyes automatically went to the sign that said “Sweet Potato Latte”. I was a little hesitant because I have had many things made from sweet potato, but a drink, especially a latte, was not one of them. I was used to sweet potato fries and mashed sweet potatoes, but an espresso drink? When we walked into the cafe, there was pastries and cakes showcased on little plates along the counter. The staff greeted us with such a warm welcome. Once we were seated, the waiter brought us our sweet potato lattes and right away, you could smell the scent of sweet potatoes. We were told that the lattes actually had no espresso in them, just milk, some sweetener, and sweet potato puree. I put the tea cup up to my mouth and took a generous sip. The sweet potato and milk blended strangely together, while small bits of sweet potato lingered in your mouth. The taste was strange and interesting, and I contemplated whether a shot of espresso would make my coffee loving self like this latte better.

Our next stop was a shop that makes fresh mochi by the name of Benkyodo. when you first walk in, you see a small diner like set up as elderly people were eating mochi and drinking coffee. You turn to the other side and you see the beautiful assortment of mochi and other Japanese style desserts. My mother is a very talented mochi maker and the assortment in the store reminded me of how time consuming it is to make mochi. As my peers were picking a mochi to try, I automatically saw my favorite kind of mochi. It is called Kinako, which is a green mochi filled with red bean paste sprinkled with soy bean powder. After ordering it, I admired the well made mochi and licked some of the soy bean powder. The light soy bean taste reminded me of this little mochi shop in Tokyo that would go to all the time. I would order 3 Kinako mochis and would eat them all by the end of the day. When you first take a bite, you taste the sweet red bean paste and then the gooey mochi. The red bean paste has a smooth consistency, while the mochi gives you a stickier texture. I thought about buying a mochi to take home, but then I thought, why buy one when my mother can make dozens for me when I get home.

We then made our way to a small market by the name of Super Mira Market. We were told that this market offers all organic products along with hot food that you can order and eat right away. We sat at some tables in the corner of the market and Mr. Miura came out with plates of food. We were given a plate with Hijiki, a potato croquette, and pickled radish and carrots. Hijiki is seaweed and carrots in a light sauce, which I was used to eating. My mother always makes this as a side dish, and is a typical dish in Japanese households. The potato croquette is a popular dish in Japan, and is actually one of my favorite things to eat. The pickled radish and carrot is another popular side dish because Japanese people love pickled vegetables. The Hijiki was very yummy and tasted just like how my mother makes it. The potato croquette was also very appetizing with the crispy fried panko breadcrumbs on the outside and the soft creamy potato in the inside. I love Japanese pickled vegetables, but the radish and carrots were not as pickled and crunchy as I wanted it to be. Mr. Miura then brought out bowls of “Soba” which is a buckwheat noodle in a light broth. This reminded me of the soba my mother makes for me when I am sick or when the weather is cold. I first drank the broth and it was cooked to perfection. It was the perfect amount of saltiness and the right amount of soy sauce. I grabbed my chopstick, picked up some noodles, and slurped the noodles into my mouth like a true Japanese native. I imagined myself in a Ramen shop in Tokyo, slurping away like nobody’s business.

When we arrived at our next stop, I was puzzled as to what we were going to try here. From the outside, it looked like a shopping store, and I was right. We were at a shop where they sell Japanese style clothing, but we were there to try their “Onigiri” at their little cafe. Onigiri is a rice ball that is wrapped in seaweed. It is a very typical snack or meal in Japan. Growing up, my mother used to make me 3 Onigiri’s for my lunch along with a salad or pickled vegetables. Onigiri’s are very easy to make, therefore it is a very popular lunch or snack for both children and adults in Japan. The server brought us three kinds of Onigiri, which were Hijiki, Kale, and Spicy Shrimp. I tried the Hijiki Onigiri and it was just like the ones in Japan or the ones my mother makes. The only difference was that the seaweed that was wrapped around was soggy because it had been on the rice for too long. Normally, you wrap the fresh seaweed on the Onigiri right before you eat it so the seaweed is fresh and crispy. There was fresh pickled ginger and Edameme soybeans to accompany the rice.

Our next stop was May’s Coffee Shop, which was located inside the Japantown mall. It was a nice little place with tables and benches. We were going to try Taiyaki which is a Japanese style waffle shaped like a Tai fish that was normally filled with red bean paste. In Japan, they are normally filled with a red bean paste or a cream custard filling. They are both absolutely delicious. But today, we were trying one filled with chocolate and banana. I had never heard of Taiyaki being filled with chocolate and banana and was excited to see how that would taste. When the plate of Taiyaki arrived, it looked a little different than the Taiyaki that I am used to from Japan, but it sure smelled good. I grabbed one and quickly dropped it onto my napkin because it was so hot. I picked it up and took a bite and you could automatically taste the chocolate. The banana taste came a little later, but it was a nice mixture of chocolate and fruit. I was a little disappointed because the chocolate slightly overpowered the waffle taste that I was looking forward to. In Japan, the waffle is normally more thick and fluffy, but it was interesting to have a different, American style Taiyaki.

As we made our way to the other side of the Japantown mall, we stopped at a little restaurant called Mifune Don. Alice, our tour guide, explained that we were going to try Okonomiyaki, which is a Japanese style pancake that is made with pork, shrimp, vegetables, and topped with Japanese style mayonnaise, tonkatsu sauce, and fish flakes. When the steaming hot pan arrived, your eye automatically goes to the moving fish flakes. My peers and I were astonished as to how this dish we were about to consume was “moving”. After we each took a piece, I smelled the sweet yet salty scent of the pancake. I took a mouthful and tasted the pork and shrimp, along with the sweet mayonnaise and tonkatsu sauce. The only thing that I could do without was the fish flakes because they added an odd flavor to the tasty pancake, plus it looked a little creepy when it was moving on top of our dish.

Our last stop was actually outside of Japantown in the corner of Fillmore Street. We were in front of Dosa which was an Indian Restaurant. When we walked in, I was not expecting it to be how it was. There was chandeliers and an exquisite bar, with beautiful set tables. This restaurant was so fancy looking and I definitely felt underdressed. We were taken upstairs to our tables and I saw that our food was already on the tables. The smell of spices and curry rushed through my nostrils as I smelled the plate in front of me. We were tasting a Masala Dosa and chutney, which was a crepe like exterior with this potato curry filling in the interior. You were to dip it in the masala curry and the chutney or coconut sauce. I first took a spoon and tasted the masala curry by itself. It was delicious, but very spicy. Since I was dealing with a cold, my sinuses were definitely woken up with the hot and spicy masala. I dipped the crepe into the masala, and then into the coconut and chutney sauce. The coconut was sweet, while the chutney was very tangy. I actually preferred just the masala so I continued to dip my crepe in the curry. It was nice to end our tour with a different kind of Asian flavor. I loved the decor of Dosa and I cannot wait to come back and try more curries.

This trip to Japantown was very nice because we not only got to try some delicious food, but we also learned about the history of Japantown. It was nice to be able to relate to the food and culture, being from Japan, but also being an observer at the same time and seeing others trying and enjoying food that you are familiar in eating

Yikes! Cooking Disaster!!!

This memorable kitchen disaster that I am sharing is not one that involves my culinary skills, thank goodness! This hilarious, yet embarrassing disaster happened to my mother. Now, before I get into this disaster, let me just tell you that my mother is an excellent cook, despite this minor mishap. Yes, I may be a little biased, but our family and friends always want her to cook for every occasion because she is the best. Some family and friends will ask her to cater for their dinners or parties, unprofessionally of course, but that’s a little hint as to how great of a cook she is. Her talent of being able to cook the most amazing Japanese and Chinese dishes is mouth watering just thinking about it.

So on one Saturday night many years ago, my mother had invited some family and friends over to our house for dinner. My mom had been cooking all day in preparation for this big feast for our guests. My brother and I had been helping by polishing wine glasses and preparing the silverware, while my mom was cooking up a storm in the kitchen. I remember asking if she needed help and my stubborn mother would always so no. Hours passed and our guests had arrived. As we all sat around the table, my mother brought all the dishes that she had prepared all day. There was a dish of beef and vegetables, fried rice, Japanese fried chicken, potato croquettes, handmade sushi rolls, and sashimi. But my eye went straight to my mother’s famous “Sweet Meat”. Everyone knows about my mother’s infamous Sweet Meat dish and our guests that day were trying it for their first time. They were so excited and anxious to try this dish that was so popular and raved about from my mother’s kitchen. The Sweet Meat dish was actually my grandmother’s recipe from Japan. She had created this dish on a whim and taught it to my mother and it has been a popular dish in our family since. The dish consists of cut pieces of pork being slowly cooked for hours in a broth of soy sauce, Japanese sake, garlic, and a ton of ginger. My mother puts a special ingredient that, to this day, she still won’t tell me what it is. The pork is first lightly seared in some oil and once all the meat is seared, you add the water, soy sauce, garlic and ginger. You let the pork and broth cook for a minimum of 5 hours. The longer the pork stays in the broth, the better your meat will taste.

Well on this particular day, my mother served all her dishes and plated the Sweet Meat last because everyone was looking forward to that dish the most. As the steaming hot bowl of Sweet Meat arrived at the table, everyone was ready to dig in. My mom put some pieces of Sweet Meat on each person’s plate. Everyone went for the Sweet Meat first. I glanced at our guest’s expressions because everyone is always so in awe with my mother’s infamous dish. But when I looed at the expression of the guests, all I saw was dismay and this look of disgust. My mother, my brother, and I were so confused! We wondered what was going on. Did they not like my mother’s Sweet Meat? I picked up my chopstick and took a bite of the Sweet Meat. With a few bites, I made the same horrifying expression on my face. I whispered to my mother that something went wrong because this did not taste anything like her Sweet Meat. The pork was hard and very sour that it was hardly eatable. The texture of the meat was no close to any meat that I have ever had. My mother’s eyes widened as she took a bite. She automatically spit out the meat and started apologizing to our guests. She tried to explain how she did not know what went wrong. She had made this dish hundreds of times and she had never made a mistake. Everybody at the table started laughing, but there was disappointment in everybody’s face. My mom got up from the table and walk into the kitchen. She looks around and tries to figure out what exactly had gone wrong.

My mother later discovered that by mistake, she had used rice vinegar instead of Japanese sake! She was supposed to use 2 cups of sake and instead, she poured 2 cups of the sour rice vinegar. My mother confused the bottles because they were both green colored and about the same size. My mother was horrified and embarrassed because she rarely makes mistakes in the kitchen, especially a recipe she has made over and over again. Although my mother was not able to serve her famous Sweet Meat that night, the next day, my mom gave every guest a container of her Sweet Meat. This time, she made sure she grabbed the sake and tasted it before it left the kitchen.

Recipe for Mama Kaku’s “Sweet Meat”

Ingredients:

4 whole ginger with the skin off

1 whole garlic peeled

1 ½ cup of Soy Sauce

2 cups of Japanese Sake

7-8 cups of water (depending on how much pork)

2 lbs of pork

Salt and Pepper

* Mama Kaku’s special ingredient

  1. Peel the garlic and cut each piece of garlic in half.
  2. Peel the skin of the ginger and cut each ginger into many slices
  3. Cut the pork into 1 ½ inch cubes and put into a bowl.
  4. Sprinkle some salt and pepper and 2 tablespoons of soy sauce and mix the pork with your hands.
  5. Heat a wok or a large pan with oil and let the oil get hot.
  6. Add the garlic and ginger stir.
  7. After 2 minutes, put the pork in the wok or pan and sear all sides of the pork.
  8. Once all the pork is seared, pour in the soy sauce and sake.
  9. Let simmer for 10 minutes and then pour in the water.
  10. Let this broth and pork simmer in low heat for about 5 hours, depending on how much pork you are making. Mixing the broth is needed every half hour.
  11. After a minimum of 5 hours (the longer the cooking time, the better the taste), put the meat in a bowl with the borth. Serve over rice and enjoy!

My experience in the Mission

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Knowing that I was going to the Mission for the fourth time had me feeling a little skeptical because of the feeling that I had experienced the Mission already, through my three past field trips. Boy, was I wrong! As we began to walk along the Mission, I began to feel the strong Latin culture. Many of the signs and names of stores and restaurants were in Spanish and the people around were speaking their native tongues. Your eye automatically goes to the bright colored murals that infested the walls of streets, alleys, and garages, but accompanying those beautiful and artistic murals were the common graffiti that surrounded the city. The murals created this sense of peace and purpose because every mural had a story behind the layers of paint. As we walked along the cold wind and breathed in the chilly air, I took a step back and took in the atmosphere of this widely known area of the beautiful city of San Francisco.

We arrived in front of a neat restaurant by the name of Wise Sons Delicatessen. It was a Jewish deli where all of their products and ingredients are fresh and hand made, except for their mustard. After hearing about more of their history, two waiters came out with plates of pastrami sandwiches and pickles. I had never had pastrami before in my life, so I was a little caught off guard with how red the meat looked. I always had the impression that meat that was red was not eatable. But, putting my fears aside, I decided to try the pastrami sandwich with the mustard that they were passing around. The first flavor that came to my senses was the strong, bitter but sour, mustard. I was never a fan of mustard, but for some reason this mustard had an interesting flavor to it, that I happened to enjoy. The bread was very delicious because of its soft interior, but crunchy crust. The pastrami was very different than any other sandwich meat I have had before. It was soft, but had that meaty consistency to it. It was cooked well because the meat was not chewy. I did not appreciate the fat that I was chewing that accompanied the pastrami because it was very gelatin like and left an icky feeling in my mouth. But aside from that, I would say it was nice to try a sandwich that I have never dared trying before, but that a lot of people order for themselves.

Next, we were walking to Roxy’s Café, whose chef used to be the owner of a well known eatery called Mr. Pollos. As we walked into the café, I noticed that it was a very small place because it had very few tables and chairs. We were introduced to the owner and chef Manny as he was cooking us our samples. It was amazing to hear that he is the only person that works in his café. He takes the orders, cooks, cleans, washes the dishes, etc. I wondered to myself, how in the world does one person do everything at a restaurant? As the plate came around with the samples, I could smell the Bolognese sauce, my favorite pasta sauce of all. I grabbed the plastic spoon and admired the beautiful little sample in my hand. The two pieces of gnocci were completely surrounded with the meaty Bolognese sauce and the fresh cut basil and grated Parmesan were beautifully put on top. The smell just took me back to Italy and my summer trip to Europe. I put the spoon in my mouth and slurped the gnocci into my mouth. It was absolutely delicious! You could not notice that the gnocci was made out of a yucca root and not potato because the consistency felt just like a potato gnocci. The sweet Bolognese sauce accompanied the gnocci so well. All I needed was a plate of that gnocci and a glass of wine and I’d be good!

Next on our agenda, Cupcakes! Now, having a big sweet tooth can be your worst enemy sometimes, but I can’t help it. I was most excited for Mission Minis because I love sweets. When we arrived at Mission Minis, I noticed the cute little shop with cases of mini cupcakes. I ordered a Red Velvet cupcake and smiled because the cupcake was so mini and adorable. As I bit into the cupcake, I tasted the cream cheese frosting that accompanied the red cake so nicely. After I engulfed the mini cupcake, I automatically wanted another one, but I told myself to stray away. I walked away from Mission Minis, licking the frosting off my fingers and the wrapper, and also looking at the street at which it was on so I could come back.

We then arrived at this nice little place called Local Mission Eatery. The atmosphere was very clean and modern. When we entered, the first thing we see are the chefs cooking. I thought it was nice how open the kitchen was because you could smell the food that they were preparing. We were sampling their grilled cheese with apple butter and carmelized onions. Now, let me tell you, I am a big fan of gilled cheese, but apples in a grilled cheese? I was worried, but it was incredible. The salty cheese was delicious with the sweetness of the apple butter and the carmelized onions, and the bread was toasted to perfection. As I scarfed it down, I grabbed for a second sample because I was amazed at how delicious apple and cheese go together. It struck me as to how much I loved this grilled cheese, and as we left, I grabbed their business card knowing that I would come back one day. The only let down was that one order of this grilled cheese was $10, but knowing me, I would pay anyways.

Next, we were going to a place I was familiar with, El Farolito. This was a popular Mexican taqueria that was crowded all the time. I had been there on a previous field trip and had their delicious chicken quesadilla. This time, we were trying a pork taco. When it first came, the smell of the hot pork was mouth watering. Even though it was hot, I grabbed the taco rolled it up and took a bite. The salty and spicy pork was delicious accompanied by the corn taco. It felt as if the pork just metled in your mouth because it was so soft and tender. The onions and salsa on top added a nice kick to it. Add some chips and salsa, and you’re good to go!

Our next stop was the ice cream shop Humphry Slocombe. Now being the proud owner of a sweet tooth, I was excited for some delicious ice cream, my favorite sweet of all. Upon entering, you see this big painting of Campbell Soup Cans with weird flavors painted on them. But then I looked at the ice cream flavors and I clearly understood. There was a selection of some of the wackiest flavors I have ever heard of. From Chocolate Sea Salt to Mulled Wine Sorbet to Special Breakfast to Basil Lime Sorbet. Being a chocolate lover, I had a sample of the Chocolate Sea Salt and I was horrified. I hated the taste of salt trying to blend in with chocolate. I thought it defeated the purpose of chocolate being sweet. I drank some water to try and cleanse that terrible experience. I then had a sample of the Basil Lime Sorbet and decided to get a cup of it. The flavor of the Basil really stood out and complimented the flavor of the lime. It was tart, yet very fresh tasting because of the basil. But after a few spoonfuls, the flavor became very overwhelming, and sadly, I did not finish that cup of ice cream.

Our last stop was Pig and Pie, which sold sausages and pies. I was a little hesitant because I am not a fan of sausage and I wondered how this would go. Sadly, it went exactly as I thought. The chef prepared us a Bratwurst sausage with bread, sauerkraut, and homemade mustard. He explained to us that the sausage was made from pork, veal and back fat. I automatically felt a little sick at the hearing of back fat, plus I don’t eat veal. But I did not want to be rude, so I took the smallest bite, but could take no more bites after that. All I tasted was the sauerkraut and the strong mustard. I started eating the bread just so I could try and take those flavors out of my mouth. I felt bad for not eating much of the hot dog, but my stomach was already turning.

Overall, my fourth time experiencing the Mission was very different from the past times. I was given the opportunity to try restaurants that might have never walked into before this tour. Except for a few samples, most of the food I ate was delicious. I enjoyed the variety of food that we were able to sample, and I know I’ll be coming back for that gnocci and grilled cheese soon!

My Most Memorable Meal

One of my most memorable meals was this past summer in the beautiful and iconic city of Rome, Italy. It was July of 2012, and my mother and I had been taking a two-week long vacation starting in France, moving on to Spain, and ending in Italy. We had just arrived at our hotel in Rome and decided to walk around the streets and browse the city. The weather was hot and humid, which showed through the sweat dripping down my face and back. As we were walking, we heard our stomachs growling with hunger and discovered that it was way past dinnertime. As we kept walking, we passed by a crowded brasserie and thought that this restaurant must be good because it is so packed. When we walked into the restaurant, a waiter greeted us in Italian and asked how many people were in our party. I put two fingers up and he led us to a small table in the corner of the small, but cozy restaurant. As we got the menus, I looked around to see that the crowd was not only there to eat, but to also watch the European Soccer Championships between Italy and Spain. It was a great atmosphere to be around such devout soccer fans, knowing how important soccer is to the Europeans.

When the waiter returned, my mother ordered a Margherita pizza and I ordered Spaghetti Bolognese. We ordered two glasses of Chardonnay to accompany our pasta and pizza. As we were waiting for our food, I could smell the fresh herbs from the kitchen and the delicious smelling pasta that our neighbors were currently devouring. Minutes passed and our food and wine had come to the table. The moment my Spaghetti Bolognese reached the table, I could smell the big, juicy tomatoes, the ground up beef, the fresh basil, and the grated Parmesan cheese. For a minute, I just inhaled the tasty scent of this freshly made, true Italian dish that I was about to experience. I grabbed my fork and started twirling the spaghetti. As I brought the fork to my mouth, I could feel the hot steam coming from the spaghetti. Without hesitation, I scarfed down the spaghetti as it burned my tongue and cheek as I tried to chew. I laughed as I tried to fan my mouth off because of the hot noodles currently broiling and tingling the inside of my mouth.

The explosion of flavors melted in my mouth and for a second, I thought to myself, how in the world did they make this dish? The ripe, sweet tomatoes that were slowly cooked to make this incredible tomato sauce lingered at the tip of my tongue. The ground beef was perfectly cooked because the beef did not bunch together like a big meatball. There was a slight spiciness that was not too hot, but gave the sauce a little kick and the heat that it needed. The fresh cut basil and the grated Parmesan accompanied the spaghetti so beautifully. The basil gave the spaghetti the right amount of leafy flavor and texture, as I tried to tell myself that I was eating my vegetables for the day. The Parmesan cheese allowed a saltiness to compliment the sweetness of the tomato sauce. The Chardonnay mixed perfectly with the Bolognese sauce because the wine had a sweet, but bitter taste, and blended well with the sweet tomato sauce. I finished my spaghetti in such a short amount of time, and contemplated ordering another order of it, even though my stomach was beyond content as it started to poke out of my shirt. It was, by far, the best meal I had had on this European vacation. People aren’t lying when they say the best pasta comes from Italy.

After dinner, my mother and I sat inside the restaurant and just observed the people sitting and standing around us. They were so excited about the soccer game and were just enjoying each other’s company with wine and food. My mother told me that this was her first time back in Rome in 40 years. She came to Rome around my age with her father, my grandfather, as a father-daughter trip. She explained that when she and her father came 40 years ago, they made a wish at the famous Fontana di Trevi (Fountain of Trevi) that one day, they would come back to Rome together. Unfortunately, my grandfather passed away before he could come back to Rome, but my mother told me that it was just as special being able to come back with me and have our own mother-daughter trip. She said, although she and her father could not come back, it was a sign that her and I were able to travel to Rome to help make that wish come true.