Monday, June 6, 2011

Food for Thought

If I were a different kind of writer and a different kind of Mom I could turn this into into a cool food blog about feeding American kids in a place where what you’ve been confidentially told is baking powder actually turns out to be lye and where the spices look and smell like narcotics. It’s also a place where every recipe anyone gives you resembles the instructions my grandmother once gave me for making Chicken Soup. “put a chicken in a pot, toss some onions and carrots in the pot and say a barucha.” The blog would include snap shots of me on daily bike rides on a pimped out no speed purple bike to the grocery store or market. It would also include scrumptious pictures of elegant Reeces sticky rice balls and an artful shot of the fish heads that came off of the tilapia Manuel fried up the other night. That would be the tilapia whom I fished out of the water, looked in the eye, and said “ok buddy you are dinner.” He was fried in batter made with eggs that had cracked on the way home when my egg carton was confiscated by the supermarket. We thought it was a brilliant idea to bring our own egg carton. Unfortunately, I stupidly put the eggs in it before I purchased them, which prompted three people to yell at me, take my cartoon, and hand me ten eggs in a plastic bag.

A food blog would also have a fine series of photos dedicated to globalization and product placement that would show various products in containers that mimic the American counterpart [my personal favorites are the Oreos—in a little carton that looks like an Oreo-stuffed with blueberry and strawberry centers]. However, I generally look sweaty and confused on the bike, my rice balls and other treats look like Eli made them in Preschool, the whole fish escapade left even a committed biologist like Manuel a little quesy, and I can’t possibly capture the nasty plastic scrumptiousness of the multicolored oreos, so no pics. Bonnie-the-FoodBlogger would then return to Charlottesville anxious to be an EarthMother and ready to explain the virtues of low-tech food prep. While food prep here is an interesting experiment and provides infinite lessons in mathematics and fine motor skills for me and my family, the second we get back to Charlottesville I will embrace the fabulous Retail Relay delivery service where I can purchase already-made bread, a full gallon of milk, very dead (& filleted) fish, and eggs that come in a carton. They can expect a several orders a day from me, which will include every possible convenience item. I’m seriously fantasizing about grocery delivery, ovens, microwaves, and take out. Heck, I’d settle for a fridge that was not sized based on the One-Child Policy.

Today’s lunch was a feat. I actually spent an entire hour preparing quesadillas from scratch. Thanks to Kristen for the Tortilla idea. I first had to go get a vat of Baking Soda from Summi, who has a FIVE-pound container of it. Apparently that’s the only quantity you can buy it in here. Then I found a recipe, transferred it to my ipad and hit the kitchen. The kids had, fortunately, gone next door for their daily infusion of screen time because the recipe is alarmingly similar to play doh and they would have no doubt wanted to add food coloring and play with it. I fried them (quesadillas, not the spawn) up in the wok and then topped them with tiny pieces of the cheddar cheese that was specially flown in. (that would be the cheese that our British neighbor picked up on his way home from Japan when he stopped in Kunming. Cheese is, indeed, a plane flight away). The kids then asked if we could have this every day for lunch. And it’s the happiest Jonathan has been about lunch since we got here.

The kids are for the most part doing pretty well with the food considering that almost nothing is familiar. Of the ex-pat kids here they are the only ones with two American parents who have grown up entirely in the West. That means they are the only ones who are not comfortable with rice for breakfast and very hot chili sauce as garnish. And they are the only ones whose mother did not know what to do with a banana leaf until last week and is afraid of the meat section. Jonathan is our weak link of the food thing though even he is doing better than I might have expected. The saving grace is that he adapted very easily to the boxed milk. Those who know our family well and have any recollection of the first four years of Jonathan and Rebecca’s life will recall that I’m talking about feeding a kid who had diagnosed feeding problems, went to a feeding therapist, and was chronically puny. His current violin teacher, the infamous Jomamma, is one of the few non-family members who had the patience to spend forty-five minutes feeding him ONE OUNCE of high calorie formula. I’m not going to try to tally up how much time I’ve spent reading about feeding problems, failure to thrive, etc.. And Rebecca whispered to me after dinner the other night, “I told you we should have put him back in feeding therapy before we came here. Let me see what I can do with him.” So this is a test for all of us……

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