A poet, Irene Phuong Van, once told me, "Masturbation is the ultimate form of consent."
A Penny for your Thoughts
To taco, I say.
Though it may be risqué,
To bite into your hard shell,
So that your sauce and my tongue may meet.
A taste of your sauce is a treat.
Taco Bell is where I shall go.
I search the roads for this pseudo-Mexican food chateau.
Crumples and crunches.
Rips and tears.
I hear you my rumbling stomach.
I sit and I stare.
Hot sauce I squeeze onto my taco,
yes I do.
Oh Taco Bell,
I sure do love you.
I didn't step foot outside.
Canon EOS 60D, 75-300mm f/4-5.6 III Zoom Lens.
If I'm not taking photos of food for my portfolio or instagram (@goodgal.lili) then I'm probably hiking somewhere, taking blurry photographs with my outdated iPhone 4.
It's been quite a while since I've had the chance to update this site and my viewers (the handful that I have!) on what I've been working on lately.
I moved out of the duplex and on into my mother's home temporarily. I'm not one who is able to easily create art unless my surroundings are comfortable and relaxing, and the set up is convenient for me. Moving out had set me back in creating my paintings. I also had a focused moment to explore the Humboldt region a little bit more (but on to that in a different blog). Ramone's Bakery is also having quite a busy catering season so I've been busting my butt in the kitchen and helping artists set up for Ramone's walls.
Enough with excuses though, here are a few of the pieces I've created in the last couple of weeks!
I want a churro. But I can't have just any churro. The best and greatest churro (that I know of) is in a tiny cart, located in the Fruitvale neighborhood of Oakland, across from Bart. She stands in her metal enclave, steaming with frying oil and waits for you to choose between plain, chocolate, vanilla or strawberry filling. She fries it fresh and has ice cold Jarritos or Mexican Cola to wash it down with. I wish I could have her churros right now.
I'm trying to think of story pitches for The Cleaver Quarterly - which is an awesome new quarterly that focuses on Chinese food. Sadly, the Chinese food scene in Humboldt has grown dim (SUM!).
One of my favorite Bao moments was in Laos, where a street merchant on his bicycle rode up beside me and tried to sell me a coconut bao. It was a quarter or even less to buy, so whatever, I bought it. My little taste buds still remember that first fucking bite. I never understood the term "a taste of heaven" until that day. I was so enamored in that moment of eating my little sweet, steamy bun that I missed my boat ride down the Mekong River. No regrets.
Even if I don't get a story in with the The Cleaver Quarterly, I will absolutely devote once again, trying to make my own perfect bao bun!
One of the readings about bao that I was able to stumble upon was an LA TIMES article written by Andrea Nguyen, who's trick for the perfect bao is creating the perfect dough first. Though she doesn't have an active recipe on how to make the "perfect dough" she lists the main ingredients to create it. Just moderate gluten all-purpose flour (I've heard a lot about King Arthur's flour as one of the best to use), fast-acting yeast, canola oil, baking powder, sugar and water are the most basic ingredients to create a steamy, fluffy dough.
It's such a meticulous gathering and formulation of all ingredients that creates something so simple yet so delicious!
Oh to have that sweet, sweet yummy softness in my mouth once more!
Andy Roy's Sweet and Sour Pork (Prison Style) is totally what I meant when I said to utilize your resources. This guy is crazy funny. Kool Aid for a sweet and sour flavoring? Genius. Granted, it probably isn't a five fucking star meal, but fuck, motherfucker was in prison. You can't get authentic (whatever that means) sweet and sour pork in prison OK?!
Macaroon, macaron? Are we talking about those clusterfucks of grated coconut flakes or that precious hamburger looking delicacy? I tried googling (well, okay, I went to Pinterest first) macaroon and was hoping for the latter and all I got were french macaroons (which was an inspiration for my painting piece! see previous blog). There have been rounds of macaroon food photographs on Instagram and the bakery makes every time I'm at work. I had a lot of important work to do on Saturday, so what do I do instead? I made macaroons!
The smell of roasted coconut was sneaking out the front door; my next door neighbor popped in to see what I was making. She had never had a macaroon fresh out of the oven. I plopped two on a plate for her and she was pretty delighted. The salty crunch of the outer layer, then came the soft and moist coconut chunks.
I didn't have an ice cream scoop for a more traditional macaroon shape, so I went for the quenelle mold. Quenelle, is a poached meat dish but can also refer to the shape of an oval or egg. It being almost Easter, I found it quite fitting and appropriate. I always found the round shape of a macaroon too much to take in. To add a bit of an Asian punch to my macaroons, I folded in toasted sesame seeds and a bit of matcha powder. It inspired a future project on baking up savory macaroons. I was quite happy with the results of my delicacies. I think I'm going to grab one for a snack right about now.
This year has been such a roller coaster for me. One day I feel like I've triumphed my failures and mistakes, and I get hit again with another disaster. Yesterday, I decided, what the hell? Start painting again. It doesn't mean I need to go back to painting grandiose, large oil paintings. My relief from all my stress living in the South Bay was creating my food paintings. I started it as a small project to remember all the various sushi rolls while working at Zakuro.
After I got on a roll with creating a set up for myself in my room, I would venture to the farmers market across the street down Irvington Street in Fremont. Starting off with the most exotic herbs and vegetables I could find, I propped up still life settings for all my delightful finds. It was my first time really using gouache as a medium but it suited my food art style. Theres a simplicity to the medium, its obscure and matte, theres no shine or gloss to its end. I never considered my art very outstanding or yearning for too much attention. It just is what it is. Food Art. Its my art that I enjoy making.
Out of this years frustration, I finally gave in and pulled out all my tools and paints and just let my hands and eyes do all the work. Its funny how much I criticize myself on unrealistic my still life paintings are. Its been instilled in me to recreate things in a photorealistic manner, to achieve the perfect painting. Painting my little macaroon reminded me to just challenge the rules of how to use gouache and utilize my own experience and knowledge to create the image I wanted.
For now, I think Ill be sure to be less critical of myself and more encouraging in allowing myself to be the creative that I want to be.
Lately, I've been yearning for a new job that is not related to the food industry. I realized where this need has been coming from and that is the lack of fulfillment or love in what I do. Catering is a whole new industry for me and I have a great flexible schedule and can be creative at some points but I honestly haven't learned any new groundbreaking skills or strategies as a professional cook. I also don't see any happiness or enjoyment in my customers or clients, just a demand and need for food. I see lack of satisfaction in the meals I make, and with myself as well. I used to love cooking so much so its disappointing that that love is drifting away from me.
So, I've decided to put it upon myself to volunteer to share my cooking knowledge as a teacher at the local homeless youth center. I enjoyed teaching art to children during my time in the South Bay. Interaction with the youth and children is always fun and a great learning experience. They have greater range of imagination and are so honest unlike average, working adults whose creativity have been withdrawn and hidden for so long.
Lets hope I can keep this drive to find a great gig as a cooking or art teacher for the local homeless youth center. My strategy for cooking at the homeless youth center would revolve around resourcefulness and innovation. I had a lack of skills and parental guidance while trying to learn how to cook as a kid. My mother was limited in her skills, as she only knew how to cook Asian dishes, so I would watch the food network (when it still had real cooking shows), PBS, or HGTV to learn American cooking techniques and try to replicate it myself. I never went to culinary school but that never was an issue for me with getting jobs in the food industry. The best of cooks were determined and self-disciplined. They relied on themselves and learning through practice and experimenting, and knowledge of others. Asking for help never hurts too.
Back to resourcefulness and innovation. I didn't have the usual or typical ingredients of an American household. My condiments were soy sauce, fish sauce, and some exotic fresh herbs, not your usual ketchup, mayonaise (hell, i still can't spell it either) and mustard crap. So I had to work with what I had. Thats what built my ingenuity and creativity in my cooking. It was the lack of items I had. I used what was already there and I used ALL of it. Nothing was wasted.
The creative type of cooking skill can honestly only be learned through experience, not taught by me or some Michelin starred chef. Put yourself in the position of a foster child, a homeless youth, a teenager who needs to make a meal without parental supervision. This is why I feel this teaching workshop will be an important adventure for me. Its a reminder of how I came to love cooking and why I do it anymore.
With my seasoned experience in kitchens, my first digital storytelling project is about none other than food. I decided there needed to be a training manual for being a basic kitchen bitch. This training manual obvs does not cover EVERYTHING about cooking, or else the learner would be more than basic, right?! DUH.
It's not easy being a cook when you are literally being scorned and scorched every working day but god, is it fulfilling to see your results. May it be a good or bad end product; you made something with your bare hands.
I'll never tire of the culinary trade as much as it drives me insane sometimes.