San Francisco Mission District

We got off bart and walked a ways down 24th street of the Mission District in San Francisco. Going into it I was excited. I had never been to that part of town, only heard the bits and pieces from my classmates. When we arrived to La Victoria we all sat down in the back area and listened to our tour guides talk a little bit about the history of that part of San Francisco. As we listened to them talk, we were able to try the Mexican bread that was being passed around. This wasn’t the first time I have had that. My sister and I grew up with a Mexican family (who we consider our second family) and I remember always having Conchas. It’s a traditional mexican sweat bread.

After about twenty minutes we split up into two groups. My group went to Mr. Pollo first. The restaurant was tiny but cozy, there was probably seating for fifteen people. The cook made us chicken empanadas in about five minutes. This was probably my favorite thing that we ate that trip. The texture reminded me of tamales but they were a little more crunchy. Salsa dialo, made of cilantro, mayo and salt was  drizzled over the empanada but didn’t over power it. Once you bit through the empanada the inside became softer.  The inside was soft and tasted like mashed potato.

Mission Mini’s Cupcakes was our next stop. The cupcakes were probably an inch and a half tall with the frosting. I tried the coconut swiss almond one. I could taste the cinnamon inside the cupcake along with the almost paste. The frosting left a sweat after taste but almost seemed a little flavorless when I tasted it by itself. All together the frosting seemed to overpower the cupcake itself but it all mixed well together.

I would have to say that the empanadas were my favorite but the next two things were tried, definitely came close. The Haurache we tried was really good. It was filled with beans and topped off with cabbage, ricatta cheese and salsa. The spicy was a little two spicy for me but it didn’t stop me from eating it. The beans in it added a nice touch. Al Pastor was the last thing we tried. It’s pork that has been marinated for thirty-six hours. This was the first I ever tried it. I was skeptical at first because I never really eat pork. This was something I will definitely have again. The pork seemed to be marinated for the perfect amount of time and the onion and salsa added flavor to the taco. 

Interview with a Family Member

1. Favorite food memories or certain meals that make you think of us? One thing that comes to mind right away is when you guys were eating oysters in New Zealand. Both you and Niki were never big on stuff like that.. But we were in New Zealand and your dad had you guys try them and you loved them. The next day you guys came back with 25 or so of them and kept eating them and eating them. (I still have that picture). I was surprised with both of you but I was more impressed with Niki because she was a lot pickier. Another thing was we only had bacon when we were camping. It was a special treat. It never occurred to you guys to ask us it for it when we were at home.

2. Were we picky? You weren’t picky at all, you were pretty adventurous. Niki on the other hand only liked white foods. We couldn’t get her to like anything else she was stuck in her own mindset.

3. What did you do if we didn’t like something? Would you make us something else..? If you didn’t like something I would ask you guys to make it before we sat down. If you didn’t you would have to eat what I had made. I would always make you two take a no thank you bite. You were pretty good though, you never really complained what we had to eat. If you did though you would just quietly make your own thing.. that was pretty rarely though. Niki on the other hand would make herself something else quite a bit.

4. What were our favorite foods? I remember feeding you this meal called angry red planet.. It had beats in it and I put it in the blender and fed it to you. You were one… I was pretty amazed that you liked it, I figured it was a long shot. Also I remember you hated polenta (you still do) and you and your sister got in a huge fight about it. I can’t remember what it exactly was about… You should ask your dad.   (Niki) We would never have polenta cause you hated it and would throw a fit if mom tried to make it. You would always get your way *laughs* so mom never made it.

5. Manners as Kids?  I was always working on them with you guys. Your grandma (my mom) always was so intense with them.. she still is. That’s the way she grew up. We always told you that you needed to have great manners because one day you would be eating with the queen. When we went to Mexico, you were in 8th grade I think I remember Romi got really annoyed with something you did. You might have talked with your mouthful?.. Anyways she made you feel so bad and you left crying. The conversation ended up going on forever about manners. Your uncle Michael made a point, because Romi was so hard on them as kids now that’s all he can think of when eating with people… Like if the people he is eating with don’t have good manners he gets stuck on it. It’s because Romi grilled us so much. I was on both sides, but I agreed that having good manners is important. You always felt like Romi picked on you with that and never with Niki. You were always convinced she had something against you…  (Niki) They lied to us when Romi came over one time saying they hid a camera in the lightbulb and that they were gonna send it to Miss Manners. If Ms. Manners didn’t approve we would get send off to manners school.. they were lying. It don’t remember it scaring us that much.Also when we went to Europe and went to the castle we got to lick our plates. It was funny because all this time we had been taught to eat with good manners and here we are with our grandmas friend who lives in a castle and she let us lick our plates after dessert.

6. Funny moments or kitchen disasters? (Niki) There were times where I tried to make mom mad with my bad manners. I just remember that so many of our memories happened in the kitchen/dinning room. It was the happening place… we would always put on shows with our friends, laugh so hard you (me) would fall off your chair, or we would have arguments.

I originally wanted to interview my mom because I have the most memories of her cooking even though she was a worked full time. She is in Europe right now so I emailed her a few of the questions and then she called me early Sunday morning to answer them. Unfortunately we got disconnected after only five minutes. I typed up what I had and then decided to get some input from my sister. Most of the things that my mom and sister said talked about were things that I had remembered.  There were a few things though that I had forgotten about and it wasn’t until they mentioned them that made me think of it. The part about the bacon made me smile. I had totally forgotten that memory. Also the manners thing in our house was a pretty big deal. It was interesting hearing my sisters memories and my moms because they were pretty different.

Mushrooms, Pineapple & Cinnamon… What?

Three thoughts came to my head when I found out we had a cooking assignment as homework for the weekend. My first thought was, “How am I going to do this assignment when I don’t have a kitchen?” The second, (after I pulled the three ingredients out of the bag) “How am I supposed to come up with a dish that includes pineapple, mushrooms and cinnamon..” And the third thing that came to mind was, “Maybe I’ll go home for the long weekend because we don’t have Monday practice and my mom can help me with the creativity.” I called my mom up right after class and told her about the assignment and sure enough I was heading back home to Santa Cruz after Saturday morning practice.

I kept brainstorming but wasn’t coming up with great ideas. I did find one recipe that did look kind of good. The problem was it only included mushrooms and pineapple… I closed the lid to my computer and went and sat on my moms bed while I watched her pack. A few minutes later we kept thinking of ideas but were unsuccessful. We would think of recipes with two of the ingredients but couldn’t think of something to make with all three of the ingredients.

Me: “How about the peanut stir fry Aunt Jenny made when they came during Thanksgiving?” Mom: “Well that only has one of your ingredients-” Oh right I thought as I looked at her defeated. “Unless you add pineapple to it?”

Me: “Pineapple to that recipe? Yuck!”

Mom: “What? It could be good..?”

I agreed. It was an adventure why not be open minded. We were still missing cinnamon though. My mom came up with this idea. (A little back round info about my mom is that she likes to put cinnamon on her vanilla ice cream… weird right? Trust me, I know. I have tried it though and I admit it’s pretty good) Sure enough that’s what we decided we were going to have for dessert. “You can do that right?! It’s not like all the ingredients needs to be included into one dish..” 

“I think that should be fine” I replied. “I am being creative, so that should count for something. I don’t there are certain rules or anything.” I wasn’t really sure how to answer that question. We both seemed to shrug our shoulders and continued talking about other things.

At 6pm that night I began to make dinner. The white rice was about half way done when I  began chopping the onion, mushrooms, carrots, ginger root, bell peppers, broccoli and chicken. The pineapple chunks from the can were added in the middle once the vegetables had been cooked for a little. I only added about half a cup because I wasn’t sure how it would taste with everything else. I stirred in the peanut butter, chicken broth and soy sauce. Once the rice was done we each served ourselves.

Dinner was a success, that’s all I really need to say. And sure enough we had the vanilla ice cream with a little bit of cinnamon as our dessert.

Chinatown, SF

My eyes grew wide as the deep fried vegetable spring rolls were brought to our table. I took one from the plate and dipped it into the sweet and sour sauce before taking a bite. The outside was crunchy but it immediately got softer the more I bit into it. I could taste the vegetables inside and the sauce left a sweet taste but didn’t overpower the spring roll itself.

The food kept coming and coming, dish after dish. (I’m only going to mention my favorites) My next favorite thing was the shrimp Dim-Sum. It was something new, that I have never heard about or tried before. The outside was covered in some sort of rice noodle. It was a clear-white color with hardly any taste. The texture was soft and chewy. The shrimp in the middle added more flavor. It was an interesting combination but really good.

Chow-Fun, similar to chow-mein seemed to be the main dish. It was brought on a big plate. It has thick rice noodles, instead of thin and is a little less flavorful but not by much. The rice noodles didn’t seem to leave an after taste. They seemed to slide down my throat and almost dissolve in my mouth after I took a few bites. The beef was chewy, the bean sprouts were crunchy and the onions added a sweet taste to the chow-fun.

The last thing I am going to talk about is the sesame balls. They were so good! The outside was hard it was a perfect ball but I could feel the slight mountain and valleys from the sesame seeds. As soon as I began to squeeze the ball it began to grumble and deflated from the squishy/gooey inside. It reminded me of a stress ball that deflates when you squeeze and expands when you you let go. The middle part was white and sticky and the inside was a purple color that was sweet. When you first bite down it feels crunchy but the more you chew, the more the flavors mix together. The sesame balls ended up having just the perfect amount of sweetness.

The Best German Chocolate Cake Ever!

The shell of the egg broke perfectly as I tapped it against the side of the bowl. I watched the yellow yolks fall onto the butter and sugar mixture as I transferred the egg whites from one half of the shell to the other. The chocolate had just been heated and the rest of the ingredients were spread around the counter waiting to get added into the bowl. This was the first time my sister and I attempted to make german chocolate cake.

Our kitchen was a mess, but the raw ingredients of the german chocolate cake looked delicious. I slyly put my finger in the bowl and scooped a little bit of the mixture up. The smell of the chocolate filled my nose and as I tasted it, I felt the mixture slightly sticking in my mouth. All of the wet ingredients had been mixed together and I slowly began stirring in the flour mixture with buttermilk. My sister added 1/3 of the egg whites (which had been beaten until peaks had been formed) into the mixture and then everything was added to 9 inch greased pan. It took thirty minutes to bake, so my sister and I decided to start making the coconut topping. When the filling was done it looked better than the cake mixture, we had made a little extra because that was always our favorite part. Both of us had spoons in our hands, ready to taste it. Our eyes grew wide and our mouths watered a little bit as our mouths closed down on the coconut filling. The texture was creamy and smooth but there was a hardness to it from the shredded coconut. That one bite made us hungry for more, it was hard to resist not eating the rest of it right there. Once the cake had been taken out of the oven and cooled, we spread the coconut mixture all over it making sure not to leave any brown spots.

The chocolaty finish of the cake along with the sticky, sugary taste of the coconut filling was the perfect combination. Each bite I took left a never-ending sweet taste in my mouth wanting more.

Paella, from Majorca Spain

The first time I ever ate Paella was when I was fourteen years old. It’s a traditional Spanish dish that can be cooked in many ways, with seafood, chicken or rabbit or just plain vegetarian. I was in Majorca Spain, at the house my family and I were staying at for five days. Every night the cook made something new, but this night was especially memorable because it was one of our last nights there. The sun was still in the sky, and the light displayed reds, yellows and oranges through the house.  The smells of the seafood filled my nose and made me curious to peak inside the kitchen.

We sat down at the table and stared at the green salad with bright red tomatoes, the fresh bread with the steam still coming off it and the huge dish of paella with the different colors of seafood, rice and seasonings. The colors from the dish reminded me of the last bit of summer right as the leaves change colors in fall. The textures changed in my mouth. I could taste the graininess of the rice, and the hardness of the shellfish and shrimp but the gooeyness over powered the different textures from everything bound together. There were endless kinds of seafood, like shellfish, shrimp and clams to name a few. The seasoning added flavor, and color: Saffron, fresh parsley tarragon and paprika.

For The Rest Summer, That Was Our Thing

It was the middle of July, when my sister and I were running laps around our yard every time we dunked our heads in the water. I was about seven or eight years old and my sister was five. We were cracking up and had too much energy, my dad and mom had the video camera out. After what seemed like forever I became thirsty and specifically asked my parents for apple juice, which is weird because usually I asked for orange juice or milk. My dad disappeared for a little, and my sister and I continued running our laps around the year. When my dad came back, all he had in his hand was an apple and a straw I looked at him a little confused but didn’t question it. He said he had an idea. I took a little bite of the apple and he stuck the straw in the place I had bitten. It was brilliant, the sweat and bitter taste filled my mouth little bits at a time. I held the apple with both my hands it felt cool even though it was so hot and it was perfectly round. The taste was refreshing. Tart at first but refreshing, it left a sweat taste in my mouth wanting more. I could feel little bubbles from the juice coming slowly up the straw.

My dads idea was brilliant. I was skeptical at first but then it worked and the juice kept coming. The smiles stretched across our faces, and my parents caught it on camera. For the rest of the summer, that was our thing. Now every time I taste the juice after biting into a crisp apple I think of the bubbles that filled my mouth from the tart but sweet juice on that warm summer day.