Hello! I know my blog has been around for a few months now, but I’ve decided to participate in the “Zero to Hero” wordpress challenge this month. I’m hoping to improve my blogging and gain some new blogger friends!
So for today, an introduction.
My name is Gina, and I’m a senior in high school in the South bay of California. The area I live in is rather diverse – we have a great mix of immigrants from many parts of Asia as well as lots of people who have come from a long line of Californians. As a result, there is a huge variety of cuisines in the area (Chinese, Mexican, Vietnamese, Korean, Indian, Persian, Thai), so any eager eater is welcome! As for my own ethnicity, my mother is Vietnamese, and my father is Mexican-American. I have one twin sister, and lots of cousins and relatives.
As I mentioned earlier, my mother is Vietnamese. She immigrated to California when she was just fifteen years old to escape the war with all five of her siblings, her mother, and many of her relatives. When my mom came here, her family spoke no English – at school she had trouble understanding. The house they eventually moved to was a three-bedroom that was configured to sleep eight; crowded, right? The house still stands, today. My mom and all her siblings lived in it until they were married, and my grandmother kept it until she died.
Life at home was an odd fusion of American-Vietnamese cultures. My uncles, when they were in high school, sat around and watched MTV and Bruce Lee movies, while my grandmother cooked up Vietnamese feasts, scenting the entire house of roasted peanuts, or ginger, or garlic. As a result, my mom and all her siblings are well seasoned in the kitchen, but also struggle to find a balance between giving their children more independence then their own mother, and acting nurturing and protective.
My dad is Mexican American. His mother was no chef – canned vegetables and microwave TV dinners were all the rage in his house. He probably ate a lot of potatoes and pasta, too. His dad, while he was Mexican, didn’t want him to learn much about his heritage. As a result, my dad’s non-spanish speaking and doesn’t know a lot about mexican tradition. He didn’t really learn how to cook, either; just how to survive in college. He can roast a chicken, bake potatoes, cook pasta, steam broccoli, but in the end he’s just not that interested.
My sister and I were picky kids. I distinctly remember many of our meals. There must have been only, 10 things we would eat? Crazy how we’ve changed. Some of our favorites included:
- Cheese Ravioli
- Grilled cheese sandwiches (We used to go to McDonald’s and order a cheeseburger with just cheese & bread… weird)
- Mac and Cheese
- Cheese Quesadillas (Clearly cheese is a thing)
- Pasta with tomato sauce
- Fried Rice
- Pho without meat
- Steamed Carrots, Broccoli, or Green Beans (we ate our veggies, though!)
- Chicken McNuggets (Fast food was a bi-monthly treat)
With age, we grew out of it. By the time we were in middle school we were much more conventional preteen eaters. However, freshman year I really tried to branch out and taste as much as I could. One of the main reasons I started cooking!
Freshman year of high school, I still ate a lot without being conscious. White bread, cheese, processed foods, candy. I didn’t realize how badly I was affecting my health until I started gaining weight. Most girls fill out during puberty – but I was gaining a bit too fast; my jeans weren’t fitting, shopping trips were more frequent. At this point I started embracing a healthier lifestyle. I paid attention to the calories, stopped drinking juice, ate more vegetables and less white carbs.
I will admit I took it a bit far. To anyone, please don’t count calories. I became obsessed with the numbers. Now I know most foods’ calorie counts – it’s weird. It used to stress me out at restaurants and parties when I couldn’t know how many calories were in a dish. It must’ve taken, like, two years to get over that phase. Don’t stress yourself when you’re eating the right foods. Be conscious of higher-calorie foods, like truffles, and mayonnaise, and be aware of lower-calorie foods, like vegetables, but otherwise, your body will tell you when you’re full.
Anyway, so with this new interest in what was going in my body, I started helping my mom cook dinner. We cooked mostly healthy stuff, in the beginning. Lots of vegetables, stir fries, roast zucchini, grilled chicken. Easy stuff. Days, weeks, months, and I was pretty well-trained, and I wanted to learn more. I started to watch cooking shows – Food Network, The Cooking Channel, Chopped, Iron Chef, Anthony Bourdain, Bizarre Foods with Andrew Zimmerman. I picked up new skills and ideas, and started to get adventurous with my eating. Living in the bay area, I already had a playground of ethnic food around me. I could try Korean, Japanese, Chinese, Indian. I had a lot of fun at restaurants I didn’t even know existed, or that I used to turn my nose up to. Also, my mom started teaching me more traditional Vietnamese cooking- like Pho, Caramelized Pork (Thit Heo Kho), salads (Goi Ga is my favorite), and many more. I was inspired to try cooking everything I had a restaurants, as well as try using new ingredients I’d see on Iron Chef, Chopped, and other shows.
My Cooking Style
So, what kind of food do I cook? I tend to have a heavy influence on vegetables. Don’t get me wrong, I love my meat and would NEVER go vegetarian or vegan (I’m allergic to tree nuts so it would be too difficult), but vegetables are what I started cooking and there is just so much more I can do with them.
As for the style, I like fresh tasting, exotic flavors. I love what Vietnamese cooking has given me – fish sauce, herbs, sweet/savory/sour complexity, contrasting textures. As a result my cooking kind of reflects this attention to the five flavors (sour, sweet, salty, bitter, umami). I love when dishes are sweet and savory at the same time, and when I’m cooking I’m always looking for new ways to add an umami punch, whether it be with fish sauce, fermented beans, or anchovies.
The problem with this type of cooking, however, is that everything is to taste! My mom, her grandmother, etc, didn’t use measurements when they cooked, so I don’t really either! As a result I don’t post Vietnamese recipes often 😦
I tend to shy away from cheese, butter, and creams, since I’m not really used to cooking with them (though I did grow up eating them). When I do have cheese, I typically just like eating it paired simply with bread and some jam or spread.
Also, I like to create healthier baked goods. My mom doesn’t buy any processed granola bars, cereal, crackers, whatever, so I’m always looking for a recipe that I can use as a quick snack for myself. Bonus if it’ll double as a dessert! Bread-making is also a hobby of mine, but due to lack of time, ingredients, and patience, I don’t make it that often. Yeast is so darn finicky!
Well, I think that sums up all I have to say for now about myself, the blog, etc. Hope I didn’t bore you, and chocolate chip cookies to whoever read this to the end, hahaha!