When I was about 16, my father brought some Chinese take-out home. It was lo-mein.
“Here, have some,” he said, handing me a pair of chopsticks.
I didn’t notice the strange look on his face. I wolfed the lo-mein down.
“Good, huh?” my dad said, red in the face.
“Uh…yes…” I replied hesitantly, wondering what his problem was.
“Guess where I got it from?” My dad cried excitedly. He didn’t wait for me to finish. “I got it at the Chinese restaurant that caters to our church…the same food that you refuse to eat because you think it’s nasty! Wahahaha!” He chortled triumphantly.
Jerk, I thought.
But my dad did make a point to me that afternoon. I wasn’t physically averse to certain food. I just had some mental prejudices towards them.
So. I guess I’m a food bigot. There are just certain foods against which I hold emotional prejudices, for reasons that may not make sense to most people.
For example, I cannot stand rice. Because for a very long time, people tried to force it down my throat, telling me I’m an Asian and thus must eat as Asians do.
During my more intense eating disorder recovery days, my parents would tell me, “You’ll be 100% recovered if only you’ll eat rice.” And then my parents will tell others that their daughter hates rice, and shocked gasps will ensue, and then everyone starts surreptitiously hinting to me that I should eat rice.
Thus, I detest rice. Moving on.
I also cannot stand eating a salad or cottage cheese as a meal, or subbing real flour and butter for weird carb-free/ sugar-free/ fat-free/ vegan ingredients, or subbing spaghetti squash for “pasta”, or any of that kind of diet shit.
Because it reminds me too much of my eating disordered days, and it bugs me. I have such a bitter hatred towards ED that any imitation of its behaviors sends allergic spasms up my spine.
I also cannot stand skinny noodles like vermicelli or angel hair. Their emaciation annoys me.
I can find all sorts of justifications for my food bigotry ways. And somehow, they can all be traced to my eating disorder history.
That used to make me so confused. Does that mean I still have hang-ups, to allow such fierce negative connotations towards certain foods? Or does that mean I just have a righteous reaction towards the evil memories of ED?
Regardless, I’m starting to realize that it doesn’t matter, so long as it doesn’t cripple my personal happiness or social life. If I freak out because I’m having dinner as a guest and the host serves me chow mein, then that is a serious problem.
But if not, time fixes things. I’m starting to realize more and more that food is just food. Not everything that enters my mouth needs to wow me. Not every meal needs to start from a specific craving.
For example, rice. And American-Chinese food. Those were two foods I intensely detested just a year ago. But now, hey, when a situation requires it, I’ve got no problem chowing down.
And that’s what I did for my Daily Trojan column. I wanted to write about the great take-out spots on the west side of campus, so that meant I had to test each of them out. And one of them is Hong Kong Express:
I got all of these for just $3.80. I know, it’s crazy.
The server just freaking piled everything in there, and my stomach was bursting at the seams as I struggled to finish this. A satisfying meal for under $5.
What I got here was the broccoli & beef, the kung pao shrimp, the fried rice, and the fried kway teow (flat rice noodles).
The shrimp was not the usual kung pao I know, but that served me well because I don’t like my shrimp fried. The meat was surprisingly juicy and tender.
My favorite part of the dish was the fried kway teow. Kway teow has always been one of my favorite noodles when I was in Singapore, so this brought back good memories. I miss the Singaporean chili sauce I would stir into it though.
Out of a whim, I added this duck because it is just…so…hilariously random.
It’s a rubber duck holding a Kikkoman Ponzu soy sauce and wearing a poncho and a sombrero. Talk about racially confused. Such as this Hong Kong Express lunch here, which is certainly not Hongkongese or Chinese. I think American-Chinese just needs another category name for its own.
But the other take-out spot I visited seems quite authentic. My second take-out option was Manas Indian Cuisine, but I got delivery because I happened to have a $20 Grubhub gift certificate that I won from Amy at The Roaming Belly’s giveaway.
I got Palak Paneer (my fave!!), the Peshawari Naan, and the Aloo Gobi Paratha.
Goddangit, it was GOOD. I blame this place for all the Indian cravings I’ve been having lately! And yes, I ate my Indian food with chopsticks. I suppose I should have added my racially confused rubber duck in this picture, too.
My absolute favorites were the bread. The Aloo Gobi paratha is a flat whole wheat bread stuffed with spiced potatoes and sprinkled with herbs.
I was a bit disappointed at how little and thin the potato was in there, though. But it was still chewy, warm, and flavorful with all the spices and herbs.
My other favorite was the Peshawari naan, which is a flat leavened bread stuffed with raisins, cherries, nuts and coconut powder.
I thought it was hilarious that the coconut powder is neon pink. Pretty, but unnecessary. Still, very very delicious with its mild sweetness and interesting textures.
And my other favorite was the Palak Paneer:
Cottage Cheese and Spinach Cooked With Spices & Herbs
Yeah, yeah, everything was my favorite. I just couldn’t decide which ones I liked better. I got cocky and ordered this in the spiciest level, and boy did I learn my lesson that the Indians don’t mess around with spice.
The spinach gravy was searing hot. Like, “burn down my gullet and explode in my stomach” hot. Translation: I bloody loved it.
And because of the spiciness, it just made the basmati rice that came with it taste so much better soaked in the warm sauce.
No, I didn’t eat both the meals on the same day. But I did for the other two take-out spots I featured in my column. More on that next time.
By the way, I’ve been thinking of starting a weekend series on eating disorders for a very long time: posts every weekend on my stories and experiences, my thoughts and questions, personal guidance, etc. I’d love to get any feedback, suggestions, and comments on this idea.
Question of the Day:
1) If you’re interested in the Weekend ED series I mentioned above, please let me know.
2) What are some odd aversions you have towards certain foods?