Thursday, 14 June 2012

Meet the Foodies

I figured that since starting this blog I have mentioned several different foods - delicious pops, cinnamon swirls and custard squares, red velvet swiss rolls, roast lamb and pudding - and waxed lyrical about them.  It's clear the food is a bit of a fixation for me.  I would go as far as tentatively describing myself as a Foodie.  The reason I do so tentatively as I find the label "Foodie" to be bandied about a little too easily these days.

To take an interest in food is, after all, a basic instinct of any growing species of plant, animal, or insect.  So to claim that you "love food" seems a little redundant to me.  Only those people who are unwell (literally) do not "love food", therefore to try and say you're a special kind of person who loves food seems a wee bit odd.  But it does appear that these days, there are a special kind of person.  So what is a foodie then?  They are so much more than a Goodie with a typo.  I googled it just to make sure.  Wikipedia says:
"foodies differ from gourmets in that gourmets are epicures of refined taste, whereas foodies are amateurs who simply love food for consumption, study, preparation, and news.[1] Gourmets simply want to eat the best food, whereas foodies want to learn everything about food, both the best and the ordinary, and about the science, industry, and personalities surrounding food.[2]"
Am I a foodie?  I'd perhaps call myself an amateur foodie.  An amateur amateur.  As with most other things in my life, I'm pretty lazy with food.  I am interested for sure.  I love cookbooks, cooking websites, cooking shows, and cooking magazines (I used to have a Taste subscription before I became a poor procreator).  I love trying new and interesting food and I am interested in processes and techniques in cooking.  I'm just not that interested in doing it in my own kitchen every day of my life.  I can cook and I do love to experiment but for the most part I tend to be a one-dish wonder kinda gal.  But just like the craft, I am surrounded by people who are so much more than an amateur amateur.  REAL foodies, and perhaps even the odd gourmet.  I could tell you about how much I love Heston Blumenthal or some other celebrity chef who I do not know from a bar of soap, but the real food inspirations in my life are people much closer to home.  Let me introduce you to the people who have taught me to love food.

One of my newer food inspirations is my friend Terry.  Terry is interesting.  In many ways, but we'll just keep it to a few reasons for brevity's sake.  She is of Vietnamese descent (her parents fled Vietnam to the States in the conflicts of the 70s), grew up in the States, married an American of Dutch descent, and moved to Dunedin, New Zealand a few years ago.  Terry and her husband, Jeff, happen to be two of the most social people I've ever encountered in my life.  I swear they host some sort of dinner party every night.  Having a 10 month old is only a minor obstacle in their varied social calendar.  In their brief time in Dunedin, they have befriended about half of the population and regularly enjoy inviting all of them over to their house.  At once.  One of the benefits of knowing half the world's population is that  they are really well connected and this transcends to food.  Or perhaps their good connections only go as far as food as this is what they base most of their friendships on - the ability to provide and appreciate good food.  Anyway, Terry's table is always laden with rabbit just shot by this friend, and kale just harvested by that friend, and special treats sent from the States by another.  She is so abundant with food ideas and advice that she has done what she should have done years ago and started a profile on facebook to share all these wonderful recipes and tips.  I know it will be a raving success because she knows half the world, after all.  Check it out if you happen to be the other half that hasn't met her yet - Phamily Cooking - Simple & Easy Family Recipes and Cooking Classes.  Oh and she loves to be talked about so leave her a message.  I'll know she'll be stoked that I mentioned her in my anonymous little blog :o)

Some of the deliciousness Terry served at a Peking Duck dinner (steamed buns at the back)

About as far away from Terry and her food fixation as one can be (while still being on my foodie list) is my Dad.  Food wasn't hugely varied and crazy and full of taste sensations when I was growing up.  Mum and Dad didn't have the funds or the energy to do that with 3 kids.  Having said that, we always ate well and food was well prepared.  We didn't have the typical disgusting batches of amorphous slop that was some amalgam of vegetables like some families did.  Things were rarely over or under cooked (except chops occasionally but I feel this was a reflection of the 80s rather than my parent's culinary skills), and they were basic but tasty.  Mum freely admits that cooking is not really her thing.  Not that she can't cook, she can.  Very well actually, but Mum lives life at a million miles an hour and food is the fuel that gets her from A to B.  It's kind of a pain to have to sit and savour anything at great length, let alone prepare it.  Mum has one of those asbestos gullets with which she is able to ingest steaming hot food and drink without a second thought.  Eat it and move on.  In truth, Mum does love food and she and I have had many fun times together in the kitchen, especially with baking.  I think her "just get it in" attitude towards food is a hang over of running a household with 3 kids for so long, and helping her Mum to run a household with 7 kids before that.
My father is the antithesis.  He takes so long to eat his food, half of it turns to a congealed lump by the time it reaches his mouth.  It doesn't help that he doesn't have that many teeth, but it's also in his nature. Dad does savour, he does enjoy.  He loves to think of himself as a foodie and eat good food.  It's all within fairly controlled boundaries (he's not a big fan of trying too many new recipes, just variations on the food he already knows he can cook) but he does try the new.  And he is awesome when it comes to trying wild food.  He's pretty competitive, my Dad, at least with things he think he can be good at.  So if it's spicy or weird, he'll gulp it down with a grin.  I remember as a kid that you earned some sort of imaginary "Dad Badge" if you sucked the marrow out of the bones of your meat, and extra credit if you enjoyed it.  He taught me to savour and enjoy food.  To appreciate all the things on the plate.  Even the weird stuff.

And the last food inspiration in my life is a significant one.  I've already mentioned my beautiful and talented cousins, Aja & Bianca, several times.  I've mentioned their food endeavour, Liana Raine Gourmet Artisan Pops, several times too.  It's a wonder it's taken these ladies as many years as it has to get into the food business.  What they don't know about food in Sydney isn't worth knowing.  A visit with them is an endless parade of visits to exquisite and eye-opening food experiences.  But the while they're inspirational, it's the reason behind their expertise that I'd like to talk about here.  Their mum, my Aunty Michele, is one of the most amazing people I know.  Full stop.  To talk about her only in relation to food seems a bit weak, but I'll contain my effusive praise of her to this one topic today.
Aunty Michele grew up in a pretty bloody shady part of Porirua (which is a pretty bloody shady place at the best of times), and came from a meat & 3 veg household.  If they were lucky.  When she met my Uncle, she and he ran as far away from Porirua as they could - they went to Africa.  And lived in a commune.  Seriously.  And so Aunty Michele's food adventure began in earnest.  By the time Aja and Bianca (and I) came along, Aunty Michele was well into creating and providing a vast of array of international cuisines as part of daily fare.  She fed us tabouleh, hummous, and curries in many forms, far before they became a cool part of food culture.  Aunty Michele finds inspiration for food from people.  She is a provider and a nurturer and food is one of the many ways she finds to do what comes to her naturally.  She looks to give the best of what she can to those who she loves.  I was lucky enough to live with Aunty Michele for a while and I can quite safely say that I have never eaten so well on a daily basis and probably never will again.  She showed (and continues to show) me that food is fuel but it's so much more than that.  It's connection.  I can't thank her enough for sharing this with me.

And so these are my Foodies.  The people who make me fall in love with the amazing variety and abundance of foods we have available to us in this lucky place.  It's nice to have people who remind you to be thankful for what you have and find the happiness in every morsel.

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