Thursday, November 25, 2010

Food journey

No thanks!

When we first moved to China we stayed for one year straight before heading home for a holiday. It was a real roller-coaster year, that included everything from language barriers and culture differences, to getting used to life without an oven. I still remember how we desperately tried to be innovative in the kitchen in the beginning, until that day when we accidently bough stinky tofu from the supermarket, fried it in our kitchen, and had to live in a smelly shelter for one week. Food wise, life wasn’t that great.

We also had a hard time loving the Chinese food. We couldn’t speak any Chinese, hence why we never got what we wanted. Picture menus are only that great. The real nice food you don’t get through pointing, and more than once did we make the mistake of over-eating a dish that we enjoyed (dumplings, egg/tomato stir-fry, mapu tofu), and then not being able to order it again for some months (I sometimes still have a hard time with dumplings).

I had been an vegetarian for 8 years when I came here, but 1 month into living in China I gave up and started eating meat. The stomach didn’t hurt as much as I had read it would in the magazines. Meat tasted OK, but not that great. I still don't like steaks. Hamburgers, however: O la la! I actually had a Big Mac for the first time in my life here in Shanghai.

Then came the big day of “going home for a holiday,” and we were like children counting down to Christmas. We made long lists of food we wanted to eat in Scandinavia, and even longer list of the shopping we were going to make. At some point we even planned a “daily menu” for what we were going to put on the BBQ during our week in the summer cottage (but if someone back home would ask us about that today, we would probably deny it).

Food was amazing back home. None of us could get enough. We went crazy at the meat/fish counter in the grocery store. Everything looked so fresh. And we could communicate with the people behind the counter. For one month, we ate copious amounts of fish, cheese, avocados, Finnish bread and Fazer chocolate. Life was good. We probably gained some 5 kgs each but none of us cared. After all, we could go running and swimming every day too. Eating was no longer a must-do, but an enjoyment. And grocery shopping was more fun than shoe shopping (yes, dad, I swear!).

Back in China things were hard at first (no more fresh salmon!) but then slowly got better. We spent less time in the kitchen and more time at local restaurants. One year into living in Shanghai we managed to locate some places that we actually quite liked. And, we were getting used to eating spicy food. However, it wasn’t until my Chinese got better that eating in China turned from OK to good and then eventually from good to amazing.

Since then, we have both been in love with Chinese food.

Nowadays, we might be a bit too much in love. At least that’s what we realized when we yesterday decided to stay at home and cook, something that hasn’t happened for at least 3 months.

-So, what are we going to make?! We asked each other, realizing, that none of us had an answer.

-Pasta? Pizza? Chilli con carne? Salmon? Chicken? Mashed potato? Meatballs?

Hm… nothing felt appealing.

And then we realized, that we have gone from “making lists of what we are going to eat once we get back to Scandinavia/listing grocery shopping as one of the main activities during out summer holidays” to simply not being into Western food anymore (at least not the food we have to cook for ourselves, mom's or dad's food is a completely different story). Over here we rarely eat western food. It’s almost always Chinese or Japanese, and if we get sick of that we turn to Indian or Thai. I actually cannot remember the last time I had a sandwich. And then think, sandwiches used to be one of my main staples back home! (some of my old friends/siblings still call me "sandwich girl" because when I was young I would eat a loaf/day, shrugging my shoulders when someone questioned me, saying something like: "what? I was hungry so I had some sandwiches?!")

Funny how things sometimes change without you even noticing it.


Unknown said...

Guess the food journey will not end. The globe is shrinking and we develop new tastebuds and love them as they come along. How about char kuay teow, rojak, pie tee etc. from Malaysia?? Happy foodie day!

胡崧 said...

Welcome to the Dark Side, Jonna! Once you are used to Chinese food, nothing else feels as appealing. I spent 9 years in Canada and yet I ate very few western meals.

I blame it on the Chinese stomach!

Martin said...

Thanks a lot Jonna! Now I am hungry! I am blaming you!!! heehee

Mountaincat said...

Korean food is also pretty good in China. If you are eating out did you ever had food poisoning ? I have been many years in Asia, but always stick to home cooking.

Anonymous said...

mmmm...I love my chinese food bu the meal in that pic looks quite delicious. If you don't want it , ill have it.

anazei said...

Haha! This sounds so familiar to my experience. I went from never touching McDonalds fast food to eating McDonalds or KFC EVERY DAY STRAIGHT for a month. Then I found a restaurant run by an Italian and his Russian wife, thank god.

Real Chinese food in China isn't like any of the tasty dim sum Chinese food I find at home lol.

I never really found the good stuff where I stayed in southern China.

Jonna Wibelius said...

Keats -there are not heaps of Malaysian food over here.. but when I was in Malaysia for a holiday last year I really enjoyed the food over there!

胡崧 -hehe, I hear u. But Chi food is not good anywhere else but in China I think. U need some serious cooking skills to pull off the real taste while overseas.

Mountaincat -I forgot to mention Korean food. Silly me. It's the best!

Anonymous -It does actually. It's from a photo shoot I did for a magazine when I was living in SZ. It was going to become an article on different kinds of western restaurants, so yeah, the chefs at this place sure tried their best.

anazei -haha! Maccas -I hare u, but KFC? Yuk. I don't like it. But it's funny how junk food can have u hooked. No doubt.