Adventures in the Kitchen

I am cooking and eating at home more these days.  And I am thinking about my mom and all of the wonderful dishes she cooked for us growing up.  And I am thinking about my friend Shanti who travels throughout China learning and documenting favorite family recipes.  Shanti’s photographs and stories make me feel as though I am traveling along side her.  Both of these women inspire me to try new dishes and create my own adventures in the kitchen.

And since I’m thinking about food, I want to share a mini-book documenting a collection of our favorite family recipes.  I made this mini-book last summer using Green Tangerines’ April 2009 Kit and Heidi Swapp Memory Binder (which is an add-on to the basic kit).  (By the way, Green Tangerines Kit Club is on vacation until September as the owner is working on reopening the store.  I’ll keep y’all posted when the Kit Club is back in full swing!)

Section 1 : Mom’s traditional Vietnamese dishes that we love

JOURNALING : Memories of Mom

Mom loves the kitchen.  Growing up, I remember her fiddling away in the kitchen, experimenting with new recipes and ingredients, and cooking up our favorite dishes.

Mom loves kitchen gadgets.  For each holiday, we’d get her a new kitchen tool.  Kitchen Aid mixer.  Cruisenart food processor.  Coffee grinder.  Tupperware.  You name it, she’s got it.

Mom hates having us in the kitchen.  That is her space.  All we do is get in the way.

Mom loves to hear nice comments about her dishes.  You’ve got to please her by telling her how wonderful each dish is … more than once.  And if you don’t, she’ll want to know what is wrong … and you may never be invited back for another meal.

Mom spends most of the day in the kitchen.  Growing up, she’d prepare separate dishes for dad and us kids at every meal.  She never complained.  For her, it was a labor of love.  Looking back, I am amazed by her energy and willingness to go through so much trouble for us.  None of my friends’ mom did that.

Mom’s kitchen is in the garage.  Yep.  She preps the food in the kitchen and takes it out to the garage to cook.  Growing up, this embarrassed me because my friends thought my mom was odd.  Little did I know, Vietnamese people cook outside because they don’t want their home to smell of food, like nouc mam.  Mom is used to cooking outside even though we have a decent kitchen.  And I went to Vietnam several years ago, everyone cooked outside.  It is the Vietnamese way.

Mom makes our favorite dishes when we visit.  She believes in cooking and eating at home so she doesn’t like to eat out much.  If we want to take her out (for burgers or pizza, her favorites), we surprise her with a visit.  Otherwise, the table would be filled with mounds of food when we arrive.

Mom packs food for us every time we see her.  If she comes for a visit, she comes bearing plenty of Vietnamese food to satisfy our craving for weeks.

Mom is really that awesome.

Favorite Dish : Banh Xeo (Vietnamese Crepes).  The recipe is on the back of the right page (below).

Another favorite : Spring rolls

The crazy thing is — I did not have to take any food photos for this project.  All of the photos were taken previously — since I got my hands on my first camera. I have been taking food pictures for a very long time.

I can still remember the day I cooked a live lobster.  I love seafood but cooking it did not go over well with me …

And I still love baluts with salt + pepper + rau ram.

Thank you, mom, for exposing me to a plethora of foods and letting me try different things.

Mini-books

I love mini-books.  Here are a few that I made last year.

Tribeca Film Festival : In May of 2007, Hung’s film Going Home screened at the Tribeca Film Festival in NYC.  Since I’m his biggest fan, he flew me to New York for the week and we partied like superstars.

Girls Just Wanna Have Fun : Each summer, my girlfriends and I take a trip to Yosemite.  In 2008, Lisa joined us in the adventure.  The most memorable event of that trip was our attempt to climb Half Dome.  Here’s a look at our adventure …

Girls Just Wanna Have Fun : In May of 2009, I took two students on a trip of a lifetime.  We went to the Houston Space Center where the girls presented their research on potassium alum crystals to NASA engineers and other NES students.

Deep Freeze : In November 0f 2009, my students made ice cream in the classroom.  The ice cream lab is by far the most popular lab in 8th grade (well, next to eyeballs).