We Live to Eat, We Don’t Eat to Live

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I watch all of my TV shows online, but when I physically turn on my TV, it’s gonna be Food Network or nothing at all.

You see, like many other kids, I grew up on the Food Network, aka I adored Giada, Paula, Bobby, Rachel, and Emeril.

I wondered about cooking shows; how did they film everything? What did they do with the food after it was made picture perfect for a show?

That sort of experience shaped my approach to food and still resonates with the way I eat and cook today.

As a Chinese American, it’s inevitable that Chinese food is going to play a large role in my culinary experiences. I felt guilty enjoying the greasiness of Americanized Chinese food, while simultaneously relishing its saucy-deliciousness.

So imagine flying across the world to mainland China, where the cuisine ranges from authentic street food to high-end restaurant eats. Even the simplest of street foods (breakfast crepes) gave me a true sense of what people eat on a day to day basis, and the fancy dining showed me what Chinese food was truly capable of.

Back in the States, I found replicate food in the few genuine restaurants around Chinatown that my family has discovered, and within this vicinity I go back to my roots; that’s why I always tell people that my favorite aspect of China is the food. Always. Not the pollution or the lack of public bathroom sanitation or the dearth of public air-conditioning, the food.

Regardless of my Asian heritage, living in a cultural metropolis has afforded me the privilege of trying lots of different foods; thus, I always find it really funny when people ask me what I eat on a regular basis. It’s as simple as this:

For breakfast, I’ll most often eat some conventional American breakfast. Chocolate-flavored oatmeal with tea/coffee and half a apple is ideal.

For lunch, I’ll have whatever my school serves. They have really good pretzel buns that satisfy my salty desires.

For dinner, my parents normally cook Chinese food. As stereotypical as it may seem to some, this commonly entails…you guessed it…rice…and stir-fry.

Stir-fries are so efficient and simple. Chinese food at its essence is very simple.

But don’t paint a picture of my family as staying in with rice at the table every night. We commonly go out to all sorts of restaurants (think global in perspective).

When I’m in charge of dinner, it’s a completely different story. Game-changing, really. I love experimenting with new foods but I also have a bunch of fall-back options when I’m feeling lazy and just want to get something in my belly.

When I was young, baking was my forte. It’s mainly the concept of being able to stick an ugly wreckage in the oven and pull out something beautiful and steaming hot.

When you’re young, you can’t drive, and on the weekdays, what more is there to do than go grocery shopping with your parents? And this I looked forward to a great deal. Costco was the best; they always handed out free samples. Most recently however, I’ve been loving Trader Joe’s.

Here is where you can buy a few simple ingredients, bring them home and create a mess in your kitchen.

Cooking, the activity, is a very special past time for me. I don’t really like cooking with other people, in the same way that I don’t like team sports or group projects. I shoo everyone out of the kitchen, bring my speakers down, and blast music while dancing around the stove or countertop. It’s de-stressing…until something burns :)

I’m one of those people who eats when they are bored. I don’t exercise much, so I don’t need a lot of energy in my body.

I’ve got a natural affinity for fruits and vegetables (thank the Lord) but I’ve also got a serious sweet tooth.

As a result of this unhealthy fondness for food, I’ve had my fair share of diet attempts and vegetarian stints, and I’ve tried counting calories a bunch of times, but I’ve always resumed a role of mild appreciation of food in my life. 

Diets, to me, are like religion. It requires thinking such extensive thinking that it wears me out, and for what good reason? I find no use in counting calories or putting extreme detail into what I consume.

Sometimes a meal is a meal and nothing more. It’s an action that we go through, a line on a checklist in our daily routine that we check off. That’s healthy, I think. We should let other things take the stage and let our relationship with food fade into the background once in a while. 

Other people have much more extreme relationships with food; sometimes they are healthy, sometimes they aren’t. Each individual’s approach will be based on a myriad of factors. 

Today, I think a lot of people associate food with their bodily health. This is true, especially since lots of studies dispel the conventional belief that exercise directly correlates to body health.

What about you? Some people don’t give it a second thought; some people take the concept of food and turn it into something really special. They put it on Youtube, they start a blog, and they document the progress they make in their love of eating.

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