Wednesday, October 05, 2016

Shock of the Day: Food is Home

I am currently chatting with a friend in Thailand and I made a realization that the concept of home has changed for me now that we are moving all over the place.  We'll it's more like my concept of home has evolved over the years.

I indefinitely consider Hawaii home.  It's where I grew up and lived most of my life.  My family is there and I've got a lot of memories invested in that place.

What has changed is it seems that now a days, especially since I'm moving more often and not making a firm home base as I did in Hawaii, I may have added a new criteria to the list.

FOOD (and drinks)!

Good food that make me feel at home.

Yes, I am now using a food as a way to feel anchored to my location.  It sounds weird but it's true.  At the rate that we are going at traveling and seeing new things, I won't have a new home home for a while and that fine.  I've now found that food is my way to connect myself to a place because it's as close to a feeling of home as I'll get on my fleeting visits or stay.

My first ever Flat White in Western Samoa in an Italian Restaurant of all places!
Best Flat white so far but whenever I drink it (now available at Starbucks) it takes me back to Samoa.

I guess you can say it all started with basing a good trip on the best food we can find in the region, but now it's come to the point where I miss food just as I would miss my home.  I get HOME SICK for food.  I can care less about the place as I've enjoyed my visiting and seeing new sites but food and drinks are where it's at!

YES, of course, meeting great people and seeing beautiful scenery is great but that in itself is an added bonus on top of the food.  I know it sounds a bit fucked up, me putting food over more tangible things like people and actual places but hear me out.

I miss people and associations and I also miss and yearn for those good times that we've had with them more than anything.  In fact, I still pine over my times with friends and family in Hawaii, Thailand, Japan and California even.  My separation from those people were really tough but I think once I left Thailand the first time, I may have mentally prepared myself for not coming back in a way I never did before.

Yes, I knew I wasn't going back to my other homes, but my leaving for Taiwan was different.  I knew I was leaving Taiwan in two months and then going back to Thailand for a week before heading for China.  That may have steeled me from getting too attached to people and places as I've done in the past.

Don't get me wrong, I made some really great friends there but in the back of my mind, I always knew I would leave so I lived more in the moment there than I did in most other places before hand because of that very finite end in sight.  Hence, why I've invested more into food and less into everything else.

I think that's why I really honed in on my need for food as not just a emotional crutch -which it really is - but also a thing to keep me grounded in my lofty state of carpe diem as I flit around like a butterfly moving from place to place.  My attachment to the places and people were just as fleeting as my attachment to the food but while I had it, I'm totally committed.

Doesn't this look amazing? Taiwan's famous Manguo Bing!  It tastes as good as it looks.

Once it was gone, it was gone.

Maybe I associate food as comfort and a way to feel safe and just....GOOD.

I really don't know, honestly!

Back to the ranch...

Maybe it's also because I can associate good food with great memories as well.  The cake below is my absolute favorite for it's subtle flavors and overall scrumptiousness may also be well loved because it was also the cake I chose to be my wedding cake.

Almond Teres Cake at my favorite baker in Hilo Hawaii (BI) at Moonstruck Patisserie
I just know that when I'm in Hawaii, I want good poke, kalua pig and go to my favorite Hilo dives to make me happy.  These foods reminds me of home and familiarity and brings me to my happy place.

I know that if I am in Thailand, I want to go to Salaya in Nakhon Pathom and eat at "Crazy Bird" - We named it that because I have NO IDEA what to call it and have my Tom Kha, Prikang, and Gai Pet Met Mamuang (I can't spell Thai stuff) and then go around the corner, get Cha Yen or Nam Manaow to drink or even eat Kao Soi Gai.  I love getting my fresh fruits and Mango with Jim Nam and oh, Muslim chicken.  These foods remind me of our time living in Thailand and how all I had to do was walk across the street from my old home to get great food and around the block to get everything else I'm hankering for.

Cooling off with Malaysia's version of shaved ice, Cendol

Unagi in Hiroshima or Miyajima Island on a nice rainy day
If I'm in Japan, I need to eat Matcha ANYTHING but I also want to eat Shabu Shabu, I love their bento boxes - don't judge me but I find bentos from the grocery store to be the best!  Buying sweets and getting just about anything from vending machines - I mainly LOVE cold season because then you can get hot cocoa in a can from vending machines.  Don't get me started on all-you-can-eat/drink buffets over there because the food is VERY good (nomi houdai and tabe houdai)!  These food remind me of the great time I've had in Japan and I can always aesthetically appreciate the presentation as well as the great taste.

When I'm in Taiwan, I want to eat Mango Bing, Niu Rou Mian, and drink Zhen Jiu Nai Cha and many other great street food delicacies at the night market.  I just think about the batered deep fried mushrooms, jipai, bacon wrapped grilled cheese, nai cha and so many more good foods!

Now here in China, I am associating Niu Rou Mian and Chou Doufu and Rou Jia Mo with Shaoxing.

I can be home everywhere and when I eat good food I can feel at home because it's like a security blanket.

The Golden Rule I did learn though, was not to eat a country's cuisine in another country.  If that Thai food isn't from Thailand (or in my case from a specific eatery within BKK) don't expect it to taste perfect because you'll most likely be disappointed.

It will NEVER be the SAME!

You're just setting yourself up for failure because you were jonesing for that perfect Prikang, well, save it for when you go back for a visit.  If you find something that is exact, you're VERY fortunate but honestly, the best way to feel at home in these new places is to find what food is their specialty and eat at that location.  It makes it a lot easier to transition to the new place you are visiting or living in by giving you something you can look forward to or rely on.

So instead of wishing to revisit that same exact experience, how about try something new until the next time you can say hello to that 'old friend' again in the future.

I promise it makes the wait that much more bearable.