On The Gathering of Feasts

Thursday, January 15, 2009

I'll be completely open with you, 'cause we're cool, right? I dream of being a food connoisseur. One of my great passions is food. Not just eating it (although is there any other satisfaction so delightful? I mean, really? lol), but studying its creation, its history, its aromas, colors, and variations throughout the world... I adore food, and one day Travel Channel will be calling me up to say, "Hey, we want you to be our next Anthony Bourdain." (Can I get that gig already? :) I remember back to my first year in college, all I wanted was some cookware. I stalked Bed Bath and Beyond for weeks looking for the right pots and utensils, and I crossed my fingers that the quad where I was living had a kitchen.

But seriously, I have more food blogs bookmarked on my computer (at home and work...shh) than I can count, and the past few days I have been nearly salivating at my desk over the prospect of preparing some of the dishes I've come across and included images for here. One of my new absolutely favorite food blogs is Rasa Malaysia. Succulent and savory Asian recipes with tantalizing imagery to compliment them. I click over here at least ten times a day to jot down recipes like Panko-crusted soft shell crab with Ginger Ponzu Sauce, Malaysian-styled seafood curry, Capellini with Cockle Clams and Lemon, and Chili Crab. Hello! And thank you ma'am! The mastermind behind the blog writes with genuine love and detail about the recipes, and includes any anecdotes that may come along with them. Be sure to take a look for yourself.

Photos courtesy of Rasa Malaysia

There is an amazing Thai restaurant in D.C called Kanlaya that I was recently introduced to when a co-worker opted to go as part of her birthday lunch. Quite simply it was one of the most flavor-induced and satisfying culinary experiences I've had in awhile. For appetizers we ordered the papaya salad with peanuts and a spice I'm still trying to decipher. On my own I probably would not have ordered this dish, but on this occasion--and after a few bites--I fell in love and quickly overcame the shy, coy self that says "Don't take the last bit, even if someone offers it to you." Oh no. When that plate came around and my co-worker asked if anyone wanted the last bit, please believe Nicole's hand went up. But I made sure to say 'thank you' ;) For the entree I ordered something lighter: the Tom Yum Goong, a sweet and sour soup with shrimp and button mushrooms. Di-vine. Now for dessert two of my co-workers were going on about the sticky rice. One I actually believed was quite an expert on sticky rice. I had never tried it before, but I thought: when in Rome...The sticky rice arrives and it's a sea foam green and accompanied by pieces of Mango. The first bite is transcendent for a beginner sticky rice eater. It was sweet and warm and simply the best treat to help cleanse the palate after a spicy meal. Immediately, the day after this meal I tried coaxing a friend to go back to the restaurant with me.

I found out about another great restaurant via another beautiful food blog: Nordljus. Ottolenghi is officially at the top of my list for places to eat for my next trip to London. Chef Yotam Ottolenghi, hailing from Jerusalem and setting up shop (4 to be exact) in London creates a plethora of Mediterranean and Middle Eastern-inspired dishes that I won't even resist the urge to lust after. Yotam also runs a great blog for the Guardian website called The New Vegetarian. All of the proposed dishes sound so amazing, and I can't wait to try many of the recipes, either in my kitchen or someone else's.

Photos courtesy of Nordjlus and The New Vegetarian.

Speaking of vegetarianism, Michael Pollan's book The Omnivore's Dilemma constructs some excellent points for why vegetarianism--among other things--is a viable option to address today's economic, social, and politic dilemmas, but he doesn't advocate for the detestation of meat either. He had me contemplating the change for a good little while. However, in another commentary about vegetarianism that I came across via an article review on The Daily Beast (which, by the way is great for news junkies who love the truth without fluff. I'm addicted.) author Mike Tidwell offers a slightly more jaded view of animal's effect on global warming and climate change. I felt his article--advocating for more vegans and less meat consumption on the whole--could have been powerful, but instead came off as self-righteous. Sure we can consume less meat as you propose, but how do we stop animals from doing what they naturally do: emit greenhouse gases such as methane and nitrous oxide, which you claim are at the forefront to the cause of global warming? But I don't mind re-reading the article and addressing the issue at length over at Uptown Literatti. You can read it here for yourself as well.
Thanks for indulging me with this slightly more lengthy post, and I hope I've done the same for you with the photos above :D


  1. Oooh oooh oooh oooh oooh!! Me too! On my blogroll I had to list a few of my foodie blogs. Just can't live without them. Thanks for the new link to a great site. Must. Subscribe. Now.

  2. Ouuuuhhhh !
    Makes me hungry !!!

    Hi from Paris !

    Fred the Mole

  3. Thanks for the suggestion of the the great vegetarian site - I'll be hanging on to that one.

    As to the whole vegetarian thing - I was on the same page as you once - indisciriminately addicted to all food, regardless of plant or vegetable origin. Food is fabulous after all, and I wanted to try it all.

    However over time I came to realise that food that has come about as the result of the suffering or death of a conscious being can not really be healthy, on any level - physical, environmental, or spiritual. So I've gradually phased out all animal products from my diet - except for the odd teensy bit of especially good milk chocolate!

    I have found that I can make meals as rich and varied, exciting and tasty as any I made dependant on animal products, it sometimes needs a little more research but that simply adds to the challenge! Enjoying fabulous food while knowing that my meals are good for me, good for the planet and not responsible for adding to the toll of 60 BILLION lives slaughtered PER YEAR is something I am daily thankful for. Yes, that's an average of 10 animals per person, but given that about 1 billion people are starving and are lucky to get enough grain to survive, let alone decent vegetables or even one whole animal each, that means there are lot of wealthy westerners consuming more meat than the planet can currently sustain.

    Many of us are rightly concerned about the rate of increase of the human population, however few are making the connection with the food these people are consuming. Meat production is currently increasing - it has increased 5 fold in the last 50 years, while the population has only doubled! Unless we curb our meat consumption, or better still shift away from animal product consumption altogether, the fate of the human race will be dire indeed.
    Immediate Positive Physical Effects of Adoption of Plant Based Diets, (with references):
     1. Reduce methane, nitrous oxide and carbon dioxide production and thus immediately begin to curb dangerous global warming, this is a much cheaper, faster way to cut Greenhouse gases than waiting for massive infrastructure changes, so may help to buy the time for those other changes to come into effect.1,2.
    2. Mitigating climate change will thus reduce occurrence of drought, floods and cyclones ensuring greater food and water security for all nations sharing the planet. 1,2,3.
    3. Reduce rate of rise in sea level, reducing environmental refugees - predicted to be over 500 000 this coming year.1,2,3.
    4. Reduce land degradation through overgrazing by cattle; sustainably managed, organically grown plant crops, on the other hand, actually enhance the productivity of the soil 1.
    5. Reduce deforestation due to continued need for new grazing and feed cropping land, maintaining vital forests as carbon storage and temperature regulators of the environment.1.
    6. Release arable land for production of plant food for human consumption, as a remedy for undernourishment in poor countries, and for further re-vegetation and carbon storage.1.
    7. Avoid further water pollution contributing to degradation of coral reefs1,3 and decreased food security.3
    8. Save large amounts of water for human consumption and return to stressed natural environments.1,3.
    9. Reduce destruction of wildlife habitats and endangered species1.
    10. Reduce human health problems such as obesity, heart diseases, diabetes, hypertension, cancers and antibiotic resistance1.
    1. Food and Agriculture Organisation of the United Nations. 2006. Livestock’s Long Shadow
    – Environmental Issues and Options. Rome.
    2. Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change. 2007. Climate Change 2007: The Physical
    Science Basis. Summary for Policy makers.
    3. Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change. 2008. IPCC Technical Paper on Climate Change and Water.
    With all of these benefits to be gained from shifting to a plant based diet how can we continue to fool ourselves into thinking that eating meat is a good thing?

    Albert Einstein, one of the many brilliant minds who have seen the benefits, both physical and spiritual to gained by this shift in diet, famously said "Nothing will benefit human health and increase chances for survival of life on Earth as much as the evolution to a vegetarian diet"

    Even though he may not have been a strictly practicing vego for his entire life (people are still arguing about this) his words carry extra meaning in this time of global climate threat, and I can't help thinking that he would have made a much greater point of adhering to his own advice had he been alive today.

  4. oops....Correction : SECOND PARAGRAPH SHOULD READ: As to the whole vegetarian thing - I was on the same page as you once - indisciriminately addicted to all food, regardless of plant or ANIMAL origin. Food is fabulous after all, and I wanted to try it all.

  5. Wow, Jenny. Thanks for your thoughtful dissertation. And references, too? I love it. It'd be interesting to read Food and Agriculture Organisation of the United Nations...

    Your observation in point 6 is something I've been interested in studying for a long time, and is one of the reasons I'm currently reading "The End of Poverty" by economist Jeffrey Sachs.

    From a personal observation, I've grown up with an understanding that animals were created to serve a natural purpose, as they are part of the cycle of life: being used as means of food and nurishment, and in many cases spiritual entities (but that is another topic for a much better prepared scholar). A negative connotation is attached to that natural role of animals when that role is perverted or distorted. Thus, during my reading of the inhumane treament of pigs and other ruminants (pigs having their tales clipped so the pig behind them does not bite it as a result of being scared; the diet of chickens and cows being readjusted or inflated to satisfy the needs of speedy production and manufacture, etc), in The Omnivores Dilemma all led me to believe that vegetarians chose not to be apart of the perversion of nature or to global warming, and rightly so.

    However, this post, as I hope you don't come to misinterpret, does not advocate for the continuance of eating meat nor does it stress the value of vegetarianism. It simply emphasizes delicious meals are attainable in both the vegetarian and non-vegetarian vein. To call one "indiscrimantely addicted to all foods" is perhaps a strong and wrongful assumption, as my diet is already fairly low in meat ,though not void of it. But I am glad you have such a strong viewpoint on the matter. With all the facts there is no contention to the notion that meat-eating plays an incredibly powerful role in our climate change. Thank you again for sharing your comments, and please always feel free to come back and share :)

  6. Merci @ Fred the Mole! I love your blog, Easy Paris Fashion, by the way!


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