Food politics is something that relates to everyone in the United States. In 2010, I watched a documentary called Food, Inc. that detailed some of the nuances of the food industry. In short, the food industry is just like any other industry and their main objective is to generate a profit. For some of those companies like Foster Farms and Tyson, that means producing lower quality food at a cheaper price in bulk. Another interesting tidbit that I learned from that documentary is that most food is derived from corn. Fructose syrup, for instance, is one of the main ingredients that is featured in most processed food. Corn is difficult to digest for humans and does not provide nutritional value, therefore, it does not help the average American diet. Food companies use corn to feed to cows instead of grass because it is cheaper and makes them fatter. Unfortunately, that does not provide any health benefits to humans.

Food politics are just like any other type of politics and citizens should take advantage of their ability to vote in the democratic process. Last year, prop 37 generated some controversy on Genetically Modified Organisms that are also known as GMOs. If voted “yes”, food labels would have to specify whether they utilized genetically modified foods. While most people would like to know what is in their food or not, others may have voted “no” because it will increase the price of certain foods because the labels would have to be changed. I personally voted “yes” because I am interested in knowing whether my food is natural or modified. Everyone should understand that if they would like change to occur, we must make our opinions known to the government.

I Interviewed my mother about certain topics related to cooking. These topics include foods that I liked and disliked as well as how and why my mother cooked. It was interesting for me to see what her answers were and compare them to how I thought she would respond.

 

Q1. What did I hate eating when I was younger? How did you deal with that?

When you were young, we didn’t feed you vegetables. We had to ease you into eating them by feeding you little by little until you started to like them better. There were also certain fishes that we didn’t feed you because you didn’t like the way it smelled. I don’t think we were able to get you to like these dishes so we fed you other things.

Q2. What did I love eating?

You liked eating chicken adobo, lumpia (egg rolls), and pancit (noodles). These are still some of the filipino dishes that we cook for you during the holidays knowing that you will eat them.

Q3. Why did you cook more than (other parent/person)?

I cooked more because I knew more techniques than dad did. He was also very busy running his real estate business so the time he had to cook was very limited.

Q4. Is there a special food that reminds you of me?

Macaroni and cheese because that was one of the things you liked the most. We would cook that for you the american way or the filipino way.

Q5. What foods did you stop cooking once you started a family?

Filipino dishes that were high in fats. I began to broil, boil, and bake dishes instead of frying food. Dad still ate foods that he fried but for the most part, we didn’t feed that to you.

Q6. What do you hope I’ll cook when I have my own family?

I hope that you will cook something that is really healthy. I hope that you are able to find dishes that you also enjoy eating.

Q7. If you could have any meal (the ultimate meal) what would it be?

I would like chicken tinola. This dish features garlic being sauteed with ginger and onions using extra virgin oil. After that, sauté the chicken until it simmers. Then add two cups of water to make the meat soften. The last things that are added are potatoes, cabbage, and lemon grass. This dish reminds me of my childhood.

Q8. Do you enjoy cooking, or do you do it because you have to?

It is a little bit of both but I enjoy cooking more than it is something that I do because I have to. When I used to be a nurse, it would be really stressful coming home from work and then cooking so I’d try to find things that are easy to cook for you guys. Other than that, if it weren’t for stress from work, I find it very enjoyable.

For the most part, I agree with all of her answers. I thought she would have mentioned some desserts that I particularly liked. Since I like to cook as well, I think it’ll be interesting to be mindful of what my children like eating if I have a family. Hopefully, I am able to cook dishes that  everyone likes without being stressed out about it all of the time.

My first time experiencing 70% chocolate from my coworker at Microsoft was terrible. I just couldn’t succumb to the bitterness of the small pieces he was handing me. He tried to convince me that dark chocolate is an acquired taste but the health benefits outweigh the fact that the chocolate is bitter. I responded by letting him know that I was happy to have tested it but it just wasn’t something that I could see myself getting used to.

If I couldn’t appreciate the taste and health benefits of 70% chocolate, why would I even think about trying 100% chocolate? However, that is exactly what I did in the Gourmet Ghetto neighborhood in Berkeley. At a small boutique shop called Alegio Chocolate, I made the leap to 100% chocolate in the form of a cocoa bean. The cocoa bean looked exactly like a peanut with its shell except it was several shades darker. I was instructed that I could eat the cocoa bean with or without the shell. Hastily, I ate the cocoa bean without peeling the shell and unsurprisingly, this was disgusting. This is probably what coal tastes like with the texture of chalk in your mouth. I probably should have rinsed out the horrendous taste with water but I told myself to suck it up because the employee was so happy to demonstrate the history of her company and show us what variety they had.

The next thing she handed us was a small piece of 80% chocolate. It looked like any other piece of dark chocolate but tasted just as bad as the 70% chocolate my coworker handed to me before. It was definitely better then the cocoa bean I just forced down my mouth but still something that I wouldn’t go out of my way to buy or enjoy. Surprisingly, the lady said that 80% chocolate is currently the most popular chocolate that this boutique sells.

The next three rounds consisted of 75%, 73.5% and 70% chocolate. The lower the percentage, the better the chocolate tasted. Even though there is such a slight variation in the percentages, I tasted more of a subtle sweetness as the chocolate became less pure. To my satisfaction, the 70% chocolate was actually pretty enjoyable considering I started out with a cocoa bean.

The last two rounds featured 70% chocolate with orange flavoring and 70% chocolate with coffee. The 70% chocolate with orange left a citrus aftertaste that I found very appealing as it reminded me of the 100% orange juice by Welch’s. I followed that up with the 70% chocolate with coffee and was somewhat let down that this ended the rounds of chocolate. The chocolate was decent, however, the coffee bean was so hard that I was scared I could have chipped my tooth if I wasn’t so careful when biting down on it.

This turned out to be an eye opening experience. My experience was completely different from eating 70% chocolate from my coworker the first time. Starting from the most bitter chocolate and then working down seemed to really help me appreciate darker chocolate. Although I probably wouldn’t go out of my way to purchase 100% chocolate, I am more open minded toward reaping the health benefits of 70% chocolate.

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I am not a chef by any means. So when I was assigned with three random ingredients to create a dish, I could almost guarantee you that I would have no idea what my finished product would look like.

Milk…not bad. Brown sugar…now I’m leaning towards some dessert. Pistachios…pistachios? I have never cooked with pistachios in my life. I always imagined they were the type of nuts that are eaten by themselves.

I slowly took the avocado green pistachios out of their wooden shells like I was opening up a clam. This left a chalky texture on my fingers as my pile of pistachios grew larger and larger inside my bowl. Once I was content with my pile, I placed the pistachios in my blender and ground them until it left a smooth consistency. Fragments of nuts were flying inside the blender like a tornado just came through. A quarter cup of milk was the first thing to be mixed with the pistachios. This made the texture smoother and a lot less granular. I decided midway through this process that I would be making some sort of smoothie so I looked for some ice. I scouted my freezer confused that I wouldn’t have something as simple as ice in my kitchen. I was too reluctant to drive to the grocery store just to buy ice so I added the next best thing, strawberry greek yogurt. I needed something other than the milk to liquify the dish and I hoped that the sweetness from the strawberry would offset the saltiness from the pistachios. Last, I added two tablespoons of brown sugar for good measure.

Let me reiterate, I am not a chef by any means but this actually turned out to be quite tasty. The pistachios don’t overpower the whole recipe but it is easy to note that this is the main ingredient. Then there is also a small aftertaste of strawberry from the greek yogurt. The two ingredients compliment each other in a way that makes me want to experiment more with these.

The last thing I added were some graham crackers into this strawberry pistachio puree. The puree soaked into the graham crackers making them soft and easy to bite. The graham crackers gave this dish something solid to eat with without being underwhelming.

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Sushi is typically the first thing that people think of when they hear the term “japanese food.” My first adventure to Japantown featured a wider range of foods other than sushi. I experienced different types of drinks, entrees, and desserts. Some of the dishes exemplify Japanese gourmet like Onigiri, which is seaweed that envelopes eggplant and shrimp. Others were very unique to Japanese culture like a Sweet Potato Latte that we tested at a small cafe. This experience gave me the opportunity to try new dishes in such a beautiful niche community.

There was a plethora of desserts that were offered on such a short trip. It had me hoping that the trip would last longer. May’s Coffee Shop was our second-to-last stop and they offered a dessert called taiyaki. In Japanese, “Tai” translates to snapper and “yaki” translates to grilled. At first sight, the taiyaki looked like a huge chicken nugget shaped like a fish. Our tour guide described the taiyaki as a pancake filled with chocolate and banana. I took one bite and my mouth was instantly filled with chocolate. I took a second bite right into the banana. My first impression was a banana split wrapped in an iHop pancake. Bite after bite, this dish easily became my favorite on the trip. It was light and sweet and was probably the perfect size for such a tour. The taiyaki served as an exclamation point to this tour and I felt like this should be our last stop.

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This wouldn’t be our last stop, however. We walked five minutes away toward the outskirts of Japan to an Indian restaurant called Dosa. I don’t have much experience eating Indian cuisine, so this would be a great experience for me to step outside of my comfort zone. The dish we were introduced to was a masala dosa. The term masala describes a mixture of spices and a dosa is a fermented crepe. The dosa was paired with a small cup of sambar (soup) and two different chutneys: tomato and coconut. I took my first bite of the dosa without any chutneys and was instantly impressed with the dish. Emily, the owner, explained that there is a potato inside the dosa and the dish is cooked with truffle oil. I experimented by dipping the dosa into the sambar first, and then into the tomato chutney, and finally into the coconut chutney. Having a multitude of sauces on my plate made me think of a restaurant called Boiling Crap in San Jose that has a special sauce called the Whole Shabang, which is three sauces mixed into one. I took another bite of my dosa with the sambar and two chutneys for my version of the Whole Shabang. After experimenting with different variations of condiments, I decided that my favorite was the coconut chutney. Sadly, I finished my dosa craving more but I decided I would come back to Japantown for this restaurant or their Mission District location in the near future with my girlfriend. One of the last things Emily said was that there were several other chutneys to select from other than tomato and coconut. My goal after going on this trip is to try every chutney that they have to offer.

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I plan on coming back to Japantown within the next two months to try one of the restaurants that were mentioned on the tour but we didn’t get the chance to sample. That restaurant is Kiss Seafood, which offers six-course meals with an option for sake at every meal. After eating at that restaurant, I plan on making a trip back to May’s Coffee Shop and Dosa so that my girlfriend can get the same opportunity to try dishes that I tested on this tour.

Baked chicken. Baked tilapia. Baked salmon. These are my bread and butter dishes when I am on a strict diet to lose weight or maintain a certain body fat percentage. Unfortunately, eating these recipes three to four times a day, seven days a week can easily make a good dish becomes bland after a couple of months. So after a while, I decided to switch things up.

 

Flank steak. I had learned from one of my closest high school friends that flank steak is a great source of protein that is very low in fat. In fact, flank steak originates from the leanest section of a cow. After diligently studying different methods to preparing flank steak, I proceeded with my recipe. I would apply one of my most basic baked chicken recipes but broil the flank stank instead. First, I cut one inch slits into the meat so that it could absorb the marinade that I would use. Then I marinaded it overnight with “Chaka’s” MMM Sauce. The meat slowly began to tenderize after swimming in the marinade for at least ten hours. Baking meat was something I had done this at least twice a week for three months with chicken and fish so I confident that broiling steak was going to be simple.

 

I placed the meat into the oven as instructed for nine minutes before flipping the meat on its other side. Every minute that passed built more anticipation in my appetite as this would be the first time that I tried this recipe. After four minutes of being cooked in the direction, I got very antsy and naively decided to take the steak out of the oven. As the steak was cooling off, I prepared my plate and utensils while hoping that this was as good as I expected. 

 

My first bite was delicious and I was very proud of what I cooked. The second bite was just as extraordinary. However, as I neared the center, the steak looked very red and bloody. I knew this couldn’t be right so I asked my mom if this was healthy to eat. She advised me to put it back in the oven for a couple of minutes so I followed suit. After broiling the steak for another five minutes, I prepared my second trial. I took a bite but this time it was too rough. The difficulty with preparing flank steak is that if it is overcooked, it becomes too tough to bite. Sadly, my dish fell into this category and I would have nothing to show for it. 

 

I asked my mom if she could resolve the issue but she had no clue what flank steak was in the first place. After a couple of failed attempts on my mom’s part, I decided to throw in the towel and scramble some eggs. This served as a learning experience for me and I was determined to conquer my problem the next time. 

On Thursday, January 10, 2013, I got the rare opportunity to travel to the Mission District in San Francisco and test some of the food from the local restaurants. In recent years the Mission District has typically been known for their Taqueria’s, however, there has been an influx of cultural diversity lately, which has expanded the variety of restaurants in this area. My class got the chance to try different types of food ranging from grilled cheese, cupcakes, venezuelan cuisine, pastrami sandwiches, ice cream, hot dogs, and tacos. Throughout my whole experience, I questioned whether I should eat every sample because I had a CrossFit class to attend to at 3:30 p.m. However, the opportunity to eat these dishes proved to be something that I couldn’t pass up as it was my first time traveling to the Mission District. 

During our tour, we stopped by restaurants with very creative flavors. For instance, there was a small cupcake shop called Mission Minis that specialized in creating one-dollar bite sized cupcakes. Today, the cupcake market seems to be hugely over saturated, however, when the owner came up with this concept for this restaurant, he envisioned truly unique cupcakes at an affordable price. Two of the flavors that stood out to me were the Aztec Chocolate and Cinnamon Horchata cupcakes. Ultimately, I decided to test the Cinnamon Horchata cupcake and I was not let down by my decision. This teeny cupcake, barely larger than a quarter, was like a squishy churro in my mouth. It was so small and sweet that it had be begging for more, however, we had to ration our appetites for other things on the tour. 

Another thing that really stood out to me was Humphry Slocombe Ice Cream. There was a huge selection of flavors here, and like Mission Minis, some that were really unique. For instance, they offered graham crackers. I would have never in my life imagined graham crackers melting in my mouth. However, here it was reminding me of my junior high school retreat where we ate s’mores at a campfire.  Then there was a wine flavored ice cream. It was sweet at the beginning but left a bitter aftertaste. Although I didn’t particularly like the taste, it did remind me of drinking Sangrias at Santana Row with my friends during the summer. In the end, I chose a blue bottle vietnamese coffee flavored ice cream. I don’t particularly know what blue bottle vietnamese coffee is, however, this was definitely my favorite flavor during the whole trip. It tasted a lot like traditional coffee ice cream except it seemed really light. I was definitely satisfied with my selection. 

Overall, I really enjoyed my trip to the Mission District. I used to watch Chopped on the Food Network a lot and really admired the chefs who had to work from the ground up. Going on this field trip gave me the opportunity to see what some chefs offer and hopefully I can support their businesses in the future as a customer. And although I had a CrossFit class later on in the day, i had just enough time to enjoy everything I sampled and digest my food without any troubles.

 

Mission Minis: Cinnamon HorchataImage

 

 

Humphry Slocombe: Blue Bottle Vietnamese CoffeeImage