Friday, October 29

Dinner Party for Two

Recently, my friend Jarrett and I had a little dinner party. We made a nice salad with gorgonzola, walnuts, craisins and a raspberry vinaigrette, chicken glazed with balsamic vinegar and soy sauce, broccoli roasted with crushed walnuts, and some pork dumplings on the side (which of these doesn't belong?).

I'm posting the pictures of our dinner, along with a shout out to my friend Jarrett!

Sunday, October 24

Quick and Comforting Meals: Eggplant Parmesan

As the temperature begins to dip, the days get a little shorter, and the nights a little darker, there is nothing more I want to do than retreat to a warm meal that will comfort my stomach like a cashmere sweater for my deepest gastronomic sensibilities. These meals tend to be fattening, expensive and time-consuming, but I knew there had to be a better way. And so I developed this cheaper, quicker, healthier version of a classic.

The eggplant is baked, instead of fried, and the only oil used is in oiling the aluminum foil on the baking sheet and the inside of the baking dish. Eggplant is very standard, but I can imagine the addition of more vegetables would make this even more filing, and that much healthier.

Eggplant Parmesan

4-6 Servings (Nutrition Information is for 6)

1/2 eggplant, sliced (skin is option, but provides more vitamins if left on)
1 egg, beaten
1 cup breadcrumbs, spread onto a plate or in a bowl
Salt and pepper
Olive oil
2/3 jar (18 oz) tomato sauce
3/4 C Four Cheese Italian Blend (about 1/4 C per layer)

Cut the eggplant in half and slice width-wise (making circular slices). Salt each side of the eggplant and let it rest in a colander for 20-30 minutes. Rinse and pat dry.

Heat the (toaster) oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit. In a small bowl, beat the one egg. In a separate bowl or plate, spread out the breadcrumbs, adding salt and pepper.

Dip the eggplant into the egg with one hand, drop it into the breadcrumbs and use the other hand to bread. Place the breaded eggplant onto an oiled baking sheet. Repeat for all slices. Bake for 12 minutes or until golden brown.

Oil the inside of an oven-safe baking dish (I used a 4-Cup glass Pyrex bowl, as it lends hand to easy storage). Spread a thin layer of tomato sauce on the bottom of the dish, just a sprinkle of cheese, then begin layering the eggplant. Alternate tomato sauce, cheese and eggplant, ending with a top layer of cheese.

Bake in the oven at 350 for 30 minutes. Eat immediately, or portion and freeze for later.

Wednesday, October 20

No Nonsense Meals: Tortilla Soup

I developed this soup by accident. I had been craving shrimp fajitas, but I wanted to precede that meal with something warm, fragrant and full of flavor and in the genre.

Basic Tortilla Soup

Serves 6

1 T olive oil
1/2 red onion, diced
2 cloves garlic
2 C stock (1/2 vegetable, 1/2 chicken; or any kind of combination)
2 C water
1-15 oz can diced tomatoes
1 cup beans (pinto, black, cannellinni, or whatever you enjoy) (optional)
1/2 cup corn kernels (fresh or frozen) (optional)
1 diced jalapeño pepper (optional)

Sour Cream/Greek Yogurt
Queso Fresco (or other cheese)

Heat the pot over medium heat, then add the olive oil. Saute the onions for a few minutes, then add the garlic.

When fragrant, add the stock, tomatoes, beans, corn, jalapeño. Bring to a boil, then simmer over low heat for 20-30 minutes.

Serve warm, garnish to your discretion, and enjoy.

Note: If you would like a creamier soup without the cream, you can add cannellini (white) beans and blend either the entire soup, or half of it for a thicker, chunkier consistency.

Nutrition Facts
Serving Size 223 g
Amount Per Serving
Calories from Fat 
% Daily Value*
Total Fat 
Total Carbohydrates 
Dietary Fiber 
Vitamin A 1%Vitamin C 8%
Calcium 6%Iron 15%
Nutrition Grade A

Monday, October 18

Revolution of the Gourmets: How the Communists Failed to Politicize The Palate

It's funny how often we come across a coincidence. It seems like coincidences happen so often, they are better left just being called fate. So perhaps it's fate that a month after my last post I would be inspired to blog again. Maybe fate has kept me busy, stressed and searching since I've been back in school. Whatever it is, fate, coincidence, or something other, I feel like I have something to share.

I am currently a senior, and for most seniors, this means that I have begun work on my thesis, a culmination piece of my studies, and my experiences, since I have been at Georgetown. I had been thinking about a topic since my sophomore year. When applying to study at the Harbin Institute of Technology, you have to choose a topic to research one-on-one with a faculty member while abroad, and you are urged by your professors to choose a topic that you would likely want to use as your thesis topic. And so the idea of a thesis topic has been at the back of my mind for nearly two years. Of course, at the time that I was applying, I had taken a seminar in Chinese-US Relations and I thought that, after having studied the US angle of the relationship, it would make sense to explore the Chinese angle of the relationship while in China. It was an amazing experience, my faculty advisor was amazing, intelligent, and a woman (it's something you don't see enough of in higher education, particularly in China). However, Chinese-US relations didn't become my thesis topic.

I wanted to write about food. And I chose a topic with "lots of potential" according to the senior seminar (thesis workshop) professor. It's also very difficult to navigate, food being a very broad topic in itself. When you add on thousands of years of history to the very concept of food and cuisine and cookery, it becomes a veritable maze to navigate, and one that you aren't supposed to escape from. So I decided to narrow it down by choosing a time period and a book, that being post-Socialist China and the short story, "The Gourmet" by Lu Wenfu. Of course you can't talk about post-Socialist China without talking about Socialist China and Republican China before that, so I've stretched myself from 1920s to the 1980s, a time of massive social and cultural upheaval within one of the largest populations in the world. Frankly, it feels as though I have 1.3 billion people resting on my shoulders as I approach beginning writing this paper.

And so I've shared my feelings, my doubts, apprehensions about the paper. But I would also like to share my outline and my proposal. I don't expect comments, but I feel as though engaging myself on a more public forum in regards to my paper could be helpful in recognizing that this is not a lost cause, and even moreso if I manage to get meaningful dialogue. But I hoping more for the former.

Paper Proposal

Introduction: It has been determined that there are three classic requirements for the development of a great cuisine: 1) geographic variety; 2) a peasantry forced to use reasonable means of procuring and conserving food; and 3) a long established elite with the means to enhance one’s status and consolidate political power through the quantity and quality of food consumed. However the founding of the People’s Republic of China in 1949 brought about a political orientation that faced the “masses”. The Chinese Communist Party applied terms of “bourgeoisie” and “proletarian” depending on whether they were something accessible by all people or those things reserved for only a few. And so a rich food culture whose development depended on the consumer elites exploiting the workers who produced was essentially labeled a “bourgeoisie” institution.

Main Question: As seen through the lens of Lu Wenfu’s 美食家 meishijia or The Gourmet, given the political evolutions and socialist revolutions of China in the Twentieth century, has food been able to transcend politicization by the Chinese Communist Party and it’s overarching notions of the proletarian society?

Argument: Food has existed throughout the history of China as an aesthetic experience that is an art of the highest form. Confucius went so far as to say 食色性也, essentially meaning that food and sex are innate to humans. Thus, food serves a role not only as the fulfillment of a basic human need, but that of an innate quality of humanity that needs to be cultivated. Because of the aestheticism and literary nature that has become intrinsically tied to food, these conceptions are such that  they can not yield to the politicization of a proletarian notions of Socialist government.

Evidence: It is evident in all of the literature that a long history of food, food culture and cookery is widely accepted. It is also widely accepted that food has historically played a role in rituals that pay respect to other entities and the satisfaction of a biological need food and physiological preference for quality food. The writings of Confucius and Mencius include ideas about food that regard it as a means of social regulation and structuring, as well the notion that food has a role in the Confucian sense of the cultivation of a gentleman. Judith Farquhar’s Appetites: Food and Sex in Post Socialist China addresses the politics of food in Maoist China, particularly those within The Gourmet, a novella that infuses local Suzhou dishes with post-1949 political vissitudes, written by Lu Wenfu in the 1980s. “Hunger of the masses,” “gluttony of the powerful,” “Is eating and drinking a mere trifle? No. Class struggle exists even at the tips of your chopsticks.” These are all examples Farquhar gives of the attempted politicization of food language. However, she also goes on to point out that eating is a pleasure and food is grounded on the aesthetics of eating. And thus, the appeal of beautiful food can not be eliminated by Chinese Marxism’s attempts to eliminate notions of luxury and gluttony. In Culinary Nostalgia, Mark Swislocki notes that there is an enduring appeal to traditional foods during times of rapid and extreme social and cultural changes. These traditional foods are the core components of cultural identity and the satiation of a physiological need for these dishes. Thus, nostalgia is a reason for the quick rebound of the restaurant industry in Post-Mao China. All people recognize good quality food, and all people desire good quality food. As E. N. Anderson says in his definitive The Food of China, “Food is part of a system of belief in which quality, freshness, purity, high standards are matters of necessity if one is to remain in any way truly human.” This is the reason that Gao Xiaoting, the narrator of The Gourmet, is not successful as a restaurant manager, as even the proletarian masses strive for good food.  This seems to point to the idea that the producer-consumer continuum is one that will be maintained in regards to food, and such the great cuisine that is Chinese food will also remain, transcendent of politics.

  1. Introduction
    1. Introduce sources and question
    2. present my thesis, claim I hope to prove
  2. Food of China
    1. Background
      1. Eight Major Cuisines
      2. History of food rituals
        1. Zhou Li
        2. Li Chi
        3. Lunyu
  3. The Gourmet
    1. Food in literature and language
      1. food idioms (chengyu)
      2. provides an unabashed look into the sentiments of people toward food, sentiments that were highly emotional, passionate, and, best of all, uncensored.
      3. Jin Ping Mei
      4. Hong Lou Meng
      5. The Gourmet
        1. Lu Wenfu background
    2. Republican China
      1. Social Structures
      2. The Gourmet and his Kin
        1. Zhu Ziye
        2. Gao Xiaoting
      3. food language used
    3. Socialist China
      1. Marxist-Leninist Thought
        1. proletariat v bourgeoisie
        2. applications/politicization
          1. politics
          2. labor
          3. economics
          4. literature
          5. food
            1. the people fight back against this
            2. In “The Gourmet” people complain about the food at Gao Xiaoting’s restaurant
      2. The Gourmet and the Revolutionary
        1. Gao Xiaoting
        2. Zhu Ziye
    4. Post-Socialist China
      1. Resurgence of restaurants, haute cuisine
      2. lack of politicization of food
      3. The Gourmets are the Revolutionaries
        1. Gao Xiaoting
        2. Zhu Ziye
  4. Conclusion
    1. foreign elements are what influence China politically
      1. Marxism, Leninism, Communism, Socialism are all foreign schools of thought
    2. Food in China is domestic, ostensibly tied to it’s history and culture
      1. historical accounts of food rituals
      2. 8 major cuisines
      3. use of food in celebration
    3. Food and China can’t be politicized by foreign elements and are revered by domestic ones
      1. domestic schools of thought see food as an aspect of the self-cultivation of a gentleman
      2. foreign schools of thought weren’t able to undermine something so categorically important to people (high quality food)
      3. food is food, something completely other, something completely transcendent.


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