Keeping in the current theme of food, today I`d like to talk about my lack of knowledge of food when I first moved out of my parents` house, and how almost everything I know now of food is self-taught in the past five years.
My parents don`t care that much about food. Sure, my dad likes experimenting every once in a while, but my mother is a very lazy cook who throws together some instant stuff more often than not. As such, I (together with my brother and sister) grew up largely on vegetables that were either from a jar or from the freezer. Good fruit was a rarity, and very much a treat if we did have it.
In fact, to give you a better example, weekends at my parents` place often looks like this: I`ll arrive on Friday, on which my mom might make some spinach from a jar, make instant mashed potatoes, and put some ready-made fish dish in the oven. On Saturday, we`ll probably get fries at McDonalds or the local snackbar. On Sunday, we`ll likely get take-out Chinese. I have literally had several weekends like that. There will be pie or something similar on Friday as well, and cookies and crisps on all three consecutive days. Finding something else to drink than soda or chocolate milk is also a challenge in itself.
However, as I wrote in my previous blog post, I am quite the health nut by now. I avoid additives and other chemicals, dairy, meat, and sugar.
As a result, going back to my parents` for the weekend is incredibly frustrating. Their diet and mine are so completely opposite, it takes a lot of adjusting and compromising on both sides to find something for all of us to eat. Nowadays they try to cook a bit healthier when I`m around, with me suggesting recipes. Last time I was there, I suggested making mashed potatoes ourselves. We ended up adding some corn to it as well. In return, I compromise in not being quite as strict as I usually am, even though I know it means it`s going to take me a couple of days when I get back home to get my stomach back functioning normally. But it took me years of arguing and convincing to get to this point of mutual compromise in the first place, so I`m settling for this now.
Another result, is that there are a lot of vegetables, fruits, and dishes I`ve never had, even amongst the standard things sold in Dutch supermarkets. In fact, I took home several new things today, that I`ll be trying this week: parsnip, and fresh ginger. I`m also giving avocado another try, although I didn`t like it on previous occasions. Lately I`ve been making smoothies quite often, which is a new thing for me.
It also took me a while to find my bearing and my own style when I moved out. Coming from a slightly unconventional family, I had no idea what kind of combinations were usually done. In the first student dorm I lived in, the entire house often ate together. From Monday to Thursday on each day one of us would cook, and the rest would eat along. We had entire schedules worked out for it.
It was here that I got first exposed to different foods and recipes, as I suppose usually happens when one moves out. However, I did get a lot of comments, things like “can`t you cook normal”, “that`s a really weird combination” and “you`re really experimenting, aren`t you”.
And it was true, I was really still experimenting. I couldn`t cook “normal”, because I didn`t know what was considered normal in the first place.
I still do the experimenting thing. I`m someone who loves experimenting. I try weird combinations with food all the time, and I spend quite a large amount of my free time looking up recipes, watching cooking channels on YouTube (specifically Jamie Oliver`s Foodtube and Sorted Food), and learning about food in general.
Nowadays, I get compliments quite often on my cooking, and I`ve become quite versatile, if I dare say so myself. But it`s all a result of only the past five years.
Studying in a city known for its love of food definitely helped. People here care about food, they want their food to be done right, whereas I`m from a region that considers food something you need to keep going, fuel for the body, and they don`t care much beyond that. Sure it`s great if it tastes nice, but they`re not going to ask more than that. Most food there is pretty bland. I`m definitely more of a foodie now, and I owe a lot of that to the region I live in.
I also owe a lot to my friends here, who have introduced me to a lot of new and delicious foods and recipes. In fact, I have a couple of friends with just as strict (or even stricter) diets than I have, and with whom I often discuss foods, exchange recipes, and cook together.
All in all, if I look back on what I used to eat, and how I developed in the past years, I honestly think I`ve come a long way. It`s almost a small miracle how much my diet has changed, and how radically different it is from what I grew up with. But this does explain why I sometimes still make strange combinations, or why I have to look up how to prepare a certain vegetable. So if you see me talk excitedly about some weird concoction, or about finding a new fruit somewhere that you take for granted, you`ll know where I came from and why I`m so excited about it.
(Speaking of experimenting: this week I`ll be trying several of Sorted`s recipes, namely:
– chocolate macadamia muffins (the picture above). http://sortedfood.com/#!/choconutmuffins/
I made these tonight with a friend. We replaced the macadamia with walnuts though, and we replaced some of the other ingredients, but they were absolutely delicious.
– Broccoli peanutbutter soup.
I will probably make this on Friday.
– Huevos Rancheroz.
This one is planned for Saturday.
Follow me on Twitter (@kojitmal) or Instagram (@kojitmal) to see how they turned out!)