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Thinking Food, Eating Ramen, Reading Eating Animals

I used to be able to walk from my apartment to eat really cheap, satisfying Salvadorean food at a place called Rincon Salvadoreno. This hole-in-the-wall is located in Silverlake, and you can get a filling sit-down-meal for $1.60 + tax and tip. I’m a fan of the Pupusa Revuelta (it’s a mixture of pork, cheese and beans, inside a very thick corn starchy covering that is neither tortilla nor tamale). Most of the pupusas on the menu contain meat, and come with a side of curtido, a spicy cabbage slaw. I can only eat there with people who really love food because it’s a hole-in-the-wall place, and I am there to eat messily.

On Tuesday, I bought the first issue of the Lucky Peach (yes, The New Food Quarterly from Momofuku’s David Chang), and I chowed down on cheap Korean ramen complete with an egg, scallions, some cabbage, radishes, and Shitake mushrooms.

Cheap Ramen with an egg, Shiitake, radish, cabbage, and scallion

I had the Shiitake mushrooms leftover from my visit to the farmer’s market in the Santa Clarita Valley. As it turns out, my eyes are bigger than my stomach generally speaking.

I felt weird about the egg because I just finished reading Jonathan Safran Foer’s Eating Animals, and Barbara Kingsolver’s Animal, Vegetable, Miracle. And I am in the middle of The Ethics of What We Eat. Foer’s book really makes one re-consider the egg. But then you are at the bookstore and Momofuku’s quarterly is staring at you. And it’s all these egg recipes. Seven egg recipes. And talk of ramen with pork belly.

I felt a little like the yogi smoking and flushing the toilet at the same time while eating a raw egg (gross, I know) in a Jivamukti’s yoga studio’s bathroom.

Okay, I didn’t really feel that bad. It has been interesting to look at veganism (as Foer is in favor of) and eating local (as Kingsolver lives and embodies). The most environmentally friendly thing for everyone to do it seems would be to live communally on small farms, and grow everything ourselves; and trade locally within a set range of miles. For great details, check out Kingsolver’s book. Her points are pretty sensical – getting pineapple from Hawaii just because you want pineapple isn’t the best thing for the environment. Eating local consumes less resources.

So I’m willing to consider eating differently, but I’m not yet ready for the no-egg-in-my-ramen.

One of the things I enjoyed about my recent read (Jonathan Safran Foer’s book Eating Animals), is he touches on food as community and culture. He’s the closest I’ve gotten to someone who actually enjoyed eating meat, and then gave it up. His conclusion is that in this day in age, in this time, there is no way to make a moral, justifiable decision for eating meat. It’s an interesting point as he highlights some very small farmers (Frank Reese is the most notable, and worth looking into right away if you are planning on eating turkey, or feeding it to your loved ones) who I think are worth buying meat from.

But the reason he comes to a different conclusion than I may is because he believes that “endorsing the exception is endorsing the rule.” Meaning, when someone sees you eating a turkey, they just see you eating a turkey. They see a meat-eater. They don’t see the farm the animal was raised in. How it was raised. How it died. They don’t see that you are choosing to eat this turkey because you know it lived a good life outdoors, and it is the exception.

Foer lives in the same neighborhood I used to live in. Park Slope I believe is one of the more progressive, and expensive neigborhoods in the country.

In Barbara Kingsolver’s Animal, Vegetable, Miracle, her family raises turkeys for the first time, and kills them to eat.

One story condones large-scale animal farming and omnivory, and the other book is more of a romantic story about farming. And eating local.

Books I'm reading on food

I love to eat with people who love to eat. And is it just coincidental that people who really love food seem to really love meat? Or at least cheese?

I know few yogis who like to eat the way people who eat like to eat.

My friend Karen could covet Bourdain’s title for loving to eat more, and my Mom could also be in the running.

Maybe it’s the words of Light on Yoga that have thrown us off. In Light on Yoga, B.K.S. Iyengar writes, “Food should be taken to promote health, strength, energy and life. It should be simple, nourishing, juicy and soothing. Avoid foods which are sour, bitter, salty, pungent, burning, stale, tasteless, heavy and unclean.”

“Eh, dear Mr. Iyengar – would you like me to give up all outings involving kimchi? Or pickled mango? Or the spicy curtido that comes with my pupusa? Or celebratory outings at Korean BBQ?”

You can’t easily tell a Western woman not to eat “sour, bitter, salty, pungent, burning…or heavy food” and think it just impacts her the same way it impacted an Indian Brahman in the 1960s. For one, we women have been told to restrict ourselves (if only indirectly by Western society) most of our lives, and many of our brethren are buying the message (otherwise, I wouldn’t see Cosmpolitan, Mademoiselle, Be-Prettier-Than-You-Are-In-Only-10-Minutes everywhere).

I agree that food should be nourishing. It should be so nourishing that we can sit down and talk about the different flavors of the heirloom tomatoes we grow in detail. It should be so nourishing that we eat it slowly, and begin to turn into people who love to eat food (I think there are some left in some parts of Europe and South America).  And we can describe the difference between shiitake and enoki the way we know the difference between holding a warrior and flowing from one to the next.  (Hah, we could even say the ‘enoki has a fluid, hah, taste to it, resembling the vinyasa.’ Okay, you probably should never say that in public.)

Enoki Mushroom

Shiitake Mushrooms

If I was taken off all “sour” or “salty” food, I’d probably write a monologue worthy of it’s own website, invent my own sausage called ‘sour raga,’ and run straight to the likes of anyone starting a low-brow version of David’s Chang’s The New Food Quarterly asking for a job.

Okay, you can tell me not eat anything that is stale or tasteless. That is just fine with me.

But if you take away my kimchi, you pull me away from some of my best friendships; if you take away my pickled mango you just leave me chewing on my fingernails; and if you take away Korean BBQ because it’s “heavy” or “pungent” or probably considered “burning,” you take away some of my community.

And while I bob back and forth towards moderation, and consider ways to eat more locally, I will consider Iyengar’s thoughts of course, and Foer’s book will remain a reference. I’m perhaps waiting for a witty woman, with Jonathan Safran Foer’s beauty with words and my love for food, to convince me,

Yeah, maybe that’s just me.

6 Responses to Thinking Food, Eating Ramen, Reading Eating Animals

  1. I love a cooking post! And yes I still have my fatty crush on Bourdain. Would taking kimchi away from you be like taking me away? :) I’m with ya on the pickled stuff

    • thursday says:

      I love pickled everything I think. I think I’d give up kimchi before you. It’s a close call, but less garlic and more you…eh, yes, okay, yes you.

  2. Stacy says:

    That looks yum, Renee. Would it bite me, though?

  3. Amanda says:

    I’m a huge foodie-I love food! One of my favorite things about the way I eat, is how it has opened my eyes to so many interesting, unusual, and delicious meals that I would have not otherwise eaten if I followed the standard American diet. In fact, I have so much fun playing around with the many options a plant based diet has to offer, that I don’t desire meat or cheese. It’s so fun to think outside the box when it comes to food! We should eat at Crū someday. It’s delicious and raw vegan. Itd blow your socks off.

    • thursday says:

      I don’t know about raw Amanda from a purely taste perspective, but I will give it a try. You’ve already convinced me to read and consider many things I wouldn’t have before.

      And I’m glad to hear that you love food. You’ve got the artichoke going on I know and I trust other veggies as well. It’s still a learning process for me.

      At this point, I’m considering many ways to make the way I eat more environmentally friendly. I haven’t come up with a plan yet. After reading “Animal, Vegetable, Miracle, I went through a wave of guilt because they way she and her family lives is ‘devoted’ to the land, ‘devoted’ to farming, and it’s something both unrealistic for me, and then there’s the ‘I don’t think farming is really my calling.”‘

      We will continue this conversation over the year and more I think.

      Renee

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