Sambar: A Shared Tradition (Suman Atluri – Blog 3)

Growing up and going to school and college in the South, I’m used to instinctively thinking of gravy, biscuits, fried chicken, and “mac’ n cheese” when I hear the term “comfort food.” However, when I think of what I’ve actually considered “comfort food,” throughout my life, one particular item comes to mind: sambar, served with warm basmati rice.

Sambar is a vegetable-based stew that is consumed primarily in South and Central India. The dish is a staple in many homes, but is made differently by families across the world. Vegetables used in the stew vary, but can include carrot, radish, pumpkin, potato, tomato, onions, and okra, among others. Many people eat sambar with rice, while others use it as a sort of dipping sauce for dosa, a crepe eaten through Southern India or ghare, a fried savory snack. My family’s traditional sambar recipe has been passed down from generation to generation, and while each family member that has cooked it has added their own flair to the dish, the basic ingredients have remained similar throughout the years.

When I was growing up and going to school, I felt a major disconnect between the school  I attended my family. I never felt comfortable about the foods my family ate at home while attending my very homogenous K-12 prep school. I refused to take any kind of lunch from home, worrying that even if the food wasn’t “Indian,” that there might be some sort of odor of the kitchen in my lunch. That being said, I was the first person to dig into bowls of piping sambar every night and at family gatherings.

This sort of “disconnect” continued until I came to Emory. My first year at the University was my first experience in a truly diverse community. For the first time, I had several other South Asian friends, who shared similar backgrounds and experiences. I felt comfortable talking about foods that I enjoyed, traditions that my family had, and more. One night, when discussing our favorite foods, several friends and I realized that we shared a “love” for sambar. We talked about how differently our families prepared the food, and decided that we could try it ourselves. Almost none of us had any sort of cooking experience, but we head to Patel Brothers, picked up the necessary ingredients, and returned to campus to cook in a communal kitchen.

While cooking the dish, it was so interesting to hear everyone’s feedback. Some insisted that we throw in okra, while others swore against putting too much carrot. Many thought that the thicker the stew, the better, while others preferred a broth-like dish. When we were finished cooking, we realized we had created a less-than optimal dish. However, it was one that was fused together with traditions and ingredients representing several families, cities, and regions in India.

This experience was special to me not only because it served as an opportunity to connect with my friends and culture, but also because it gave me more insight on how food can serve as a common connecting point. In addition, I gained significantly more appreciation for the process of cooking and specifically preparing ingredients.

Analysis Questions

  1. I chose to imitate “Ping An Mien, a Chinese Family Noodle Story” by Susannah Chen
  2. I chose this piece because I related well to the themes and broad ideas of cooking passed down through families, first-generation American experiences with food native to their family’s homeland, sharing food with others, and more. I also thought it was very well written and easy to read and understand.
  3. I learned that the culture of the author was very blended. While she identified as Chinese, she was able to blend her American identity into the way she cooked and served her food. In addition, I saw a similarity in that the author became closer to her culture through cooking and the sharing of her food.
  4. I realized that my culture is very comparable to others, especially surrounding stories about food. While all cultures have many things that are differents, there are common threads that food brings out. Some common themes included sharing, family, assimilation, immigration, and more.
  5. There are pieces of both Indian and Chinese cultural DNA and while different, I found many more similarities than differences.

Nostalgia and Pride: Who we Cook for

Take me on a journey

Show me how you got to the kitchen today

Take me from the fields in Italy

Take me from the farms in China

Take me to the fragrant smell of spices dancing together

Take me to the sounds of vegetables sizzling

Take me to the sounds of laughter and enjoyment

Show me how recipes were born of yesterday

Remember the days of being afraid of the flame,

unsure of the possibilities it held

Remember the time when the cutting board and knife were never yours to use

Remember the start, when you first cracked an egg

When you first licked batter off a spoon

When you first frosted a cake

When you first rolled some dough

Think of the teachers

Think of the ones who fought off your fear

Think of the ones who taught you to wield the knife

Think of the ones who introduced you to the possibilities of food

Think of the ones whose recipes you follow today

When you serve your dish, serve it with pride as a representation of those who cooked before

You.

 

What piece did you choose to imitate?

            I chose to imitate the style of The Exegesis of Eating, by Alane Salierno Mason. While this piece is not a poem, I chose to imitate the message and general feeling of the written piece through my poetry.

Why did you choose this piece?

            I chose this piece because I felt a personal connection to it. In the piece, the author engages the reader’s imagination with a rich description of her childhood in her grandmother’s kitchen. She describes how she would observe her grandmother cooking and how she would listen to her grandfather and learn from him about the world. This reminds me of when I was growing up. Often times I would go over to my grandparents’ house and experience exactly what the author experienced. My grandfather would tell me stories and while listening to them, my grandmother would be making delicious food. The author goes on to discuss how she lost touch with her Italian cooking roots when she became busy with adult life. I feel a connection to that sentiment as well. As I have become more and more involved in college with classes and other activities I find that eating has become something that I try to fit into my schedule so I can keep focus on my other commitments. These personal connections are why I chose to write a poem that imitates The Exegesis of Eating.

What did you learn about the culture of the original author through imitating his or her style?

            By imitating the author, I learned a lot about the Italian immigrant experience in New York City. One concept that has become apparent over the past five weeks is that Italians put time and effort into their food. No shortcuts are taken as hastily made food can be differentiated very easily from the high quality Italian food that we have come to expect. This piece taught me that this standard did not end when Italian immigrants left Italy but instead became even more apparent. The incredible effort and precision put into Italian food became readily apparent in comparison to the cheap and hastily made American counterparts. The piece showed me that the effort is what set Italian food apart and helped it become the world spanning cuisine we know and love today. The author’s grandfather is quoted saying, “Pizza is everything he doesn’t like about America: quick, sloppy, cheap, eaten on the run, away from home…”. This line illustrates some of the very qualities that are often associated with quality Italian food. It often comes with a rustic home-made vibe and is no small affair that is eaten quickly as an afterthought. It is the focus of attention and is held to the highest standard. By imitating her style of remembering the culture that made us who we are today through food, I was able to understand what set Italian cuisine apart from others. It is the precision and effort that is put into the dishes, a practice that is generations old and still apparent on the plate today. 

What did you learn about your own culture while writing?

            While writing this piece I learned quite a bit about my own culture. As mentioned above, this piece helped me to see what sets Italian cuisine apart. In imitating that style, I was forced to look inwards and analyze my own culture. In my first blog post I mentioned how I learned that my family is a mix between classics and modern new twists. In writing my poem I looked back at my childhood and learned about my family and others like mine. Growing up we always had the classic Indian dishes of dosas, idlis, curry, and so much more. As I went through middle school and high school however, my family started branch out more. My mom tried her hand at dishes from all different cuisines and my father and I loved them. This balance of classics and new age twists worked well for my family. When I went off to college, I was excited to eat whatever I want whenever I wanted it, but something changed. When I went home for break I craved those classics like my mom’s fish curry or my grandmother’s biryani. Come Thanksgiving time I would always be looking out for the famous soup that my aunt would make. Meanwhile in the summer I could not wait to eat the wings my mom would always makes. All these different dishes became my version of “classics”. In writing this piece I have realized that I have re-defined what classics mean to me. They are not the same classics of my parents’ or grandparents’ generation. Instead they are mine and they are different. This may not be the case for every Indian family, but it is what defines my family culture. This piece forced me to look inwards at my own family culture and I certainly learned a lot from it.

Is there cultural DNA embedded in the piece you read and in your piece? How does this DNA manifest in the texts?

            I definitely believe that there is a cultural DNA embedded in the piece I read and my own personal piece. I believer that DNA manifests itself as a sense of both nostalgia and pride. The readers of both pieces feel a sense of nostalgia while reading them as they are taken on a journey back to the culinary experiences of their youth. Both pieces aim to stimulate the senses to remind the readers of the time when they first experienced various culinary aspects and who they experienced them with. Whether it was a distant relative or a close family member, food helps tie people together. This nostalgia is an important element and helps to give rise to the pride. After experiencing all the emotions and sensations of their early culinary experiences, readers lead towards the life they are currently leading and the dishes they are currently serving. This ending point helps to tie together all the feelings from above as it gives the reader a path by which to go forward, which is by remembering those who cooked the same dishes before you. While we may stray from the path sometimes, in the end we will find out way back as it is culturally engrained in our DNA to cook with pride to represent those whose recipes we prepare.

 

Macarrão: A Perfeita Combinação do Passado e do Futuro

Macarrão: A Perfeita Combinação do Passado e do Futuro
Pasta: The Perfect Combination of the Past and the Future

In the glum kitchen table on a weeknight
I seldom thought about your reason

I assumed–carelessly, naively, mistakenly
from the beginning, I had you at will
every other evening, “ugh, not again,”
I would murmur to myself,
as my mom brought over a hearty plate
of course, macarrão
“Ninguem merece,” I would passive aggressively comment

Now, I wholeheartedly regret the resentment
Now, I understand your worth
The same God that made you, made me
Yet, I was too blind to see it–to see your worth

I think about your roots, your origin
How you came to be
How you will always come
Beautiful, astonishing, perplexing

I was fortunate to have you so early
I must apologize for my ignorance
I never want to leave you, because
Now, I understand your purpose

The farmers who cultivated you
Who made it all possible
Who made me know you, and now,
Absolutely, love you

Obrigado, macarrão

So much diligence
purpose
power
history
love
And, ultimately,
connection
In this very moment,
Between me and
My biteful of macarrão

  1. I chose this piece because it resonated with me greatly. In Saporoso, Jennifer Barone characterizes her relationship with zucchini so splendidly, while also coming to realize the importance of the roots of zucchini and how her connection with the ingredient was made possible. She concludes by citing a few attributes that describe her relationship with zucchini in a powerful, intriguing manner.
  2. Thus, throughout this class, I’ve had a couple of “lightbulb moments:” One of them happened to be the fact that I never consciously realized how much pasta has been part of my life journey. Throughout my upbringing, I would consistently have pasta be part of my everyday meal, but I never understood its values, its roots and ultimately, its effects on my happiness. As my love for pasta grew bigger and bigger throughout undergrad, I was prompted to take this course. It was just recently, as I was studying for my oral midterm that it all came together inside my head. Pasta connects me to some of my most fascinating moments of growing up in a Brazilian household. Now, when consuming pasta, I instantly feel the palpable connection with my past, and most importantly, I stop to think about how pasta came to be, how its creation manifested in my life, and how it will always have a piece of my heart moving forward.
  3. The culture of the original author is inquisitive, its intentional, and its quite mesmerizing. The deep layers of her words go beyond the physical and allows one to create their own picture of the story. The reflective attitude of the author also conveys a “lightbulb moment,” similar to mine, and it translates a certain, unique connection with the food item. Moreover, her ending portion illustrating her relationship with the food item conveys just how much power there is between humans and their food, especially when they stop to think about why that is.
  4. Through my own writing, I learned that I have tendency to describe certain things I find most salient in the most thoughtful way possible. Instead of just using one or two adjectives, I search for a combination of words that work in parallel to convey a critical point to the audience. For instance, together, I use the words “beautiful, astonishing, [and] perplexing.” The combination of these three words emphatically bring about light and spark a genuine interest–that is exactly how I feel when voicing my thoughts about pasta. Lastly, I learned how to use my linguistic abilities to better highlight my connection with the ingredient and with my own culture. When speaking about my family and my roots, I cannot help but utilize the words in the language they were spoken in.  In parallel with the author, I too, love to write poems with a reflective attitude embedded across each line. In my opinion, reflection is one of the most sincere ways to throw your thoughts into a captivating piece.
  5. Yes! The cultural DNA that is threaded across my piece is my Brazilian roots–through language, I (hopefully) convey the potent, powerful effects of pasta in my childhood. Additionally, I hypothesize that there is an element of culture tied into this poem. Her thought-provoking analysis leads me to conclude that there were many “why?” moments from her past that inspired her creation. Perhaps, it was a cultural tradition with zucchini in her life, or instead, it could be a family recipe that calls for zucchini. Uncovering what is under the hood would help readers recognize that culture is a broad concept that incorporates many everyday practices under one umbrella term. Hence, I decided to channel my “why?” moments and put them on paper, which correlated with my cultural identity, as a Brazilian, who never understood the meaning of pasta in my early days up until now. Lastly, I made it one of my goals to be as authentic as possible in conveying my message of enlightenment by utilizing concrete diction to characterize pasta, while also putting my Portuguese language to good use.

Thank you for reading and sharing a piece of my realization alongside me.

~Willi

Yangchun Noodles(阳春面)

When chef mom made Yangchun noodle in clear soup,

She would fry scallions in pig oil,

She would add boiling water with salt and soy sauce,

With a little spoon she would taste the soup.

She cooked the thin noodle using hot water,

Then she closed the fire and wash the noodles with cold water,

In thin strings,

Clean as the winter snow.

In the bowl of soup with scallions and garlic,

We would be attracted by the smell,

After two bowls of in a row,

A little fragment of onion will appear on the teeth and the stomach would be satisfied.

 

I chose to imitate Hong Junju’s Noodle in the Broth. I chose to imitate this poem because I want to write about Yangchun noodle(阳春面), which is a very simple kind of noodle with not much meat or vegetables in it. This poem is not very long, which is very suitable to describe the procedure of Yangchun noodle. Also, this poem describes the eagerness, enjoyment and satisfaction after people had the noodle, which resembles my satisfaction and love for Yangchun noodle made by my mom. Therefore, I chose to imitate this poem.

 

I learn that in ancient times, the noodles they eat are cooked very simply. And the ingredients for noodles are limited because there is just noodles and onions. However, different from our nowadays, in ancient times, they also add tea infusion into the noodle soup, so that maybe help the noodles taste better and make them more delicious. And most commonly, they will make the noodles themselves from dough while nowadays, we usually bought noodles from supermarkets.

 

Moreover, I also learned some knowledge for my own culture. For example, nowadays, we still follow the standard method of making noodles, like we would make noodles and soup separately because making soup takes more time to cook than making noodles do. Also, we would add the same ingredients into the noodle soup too, like onions or scallions. Therefore, nowadays, we definitely follow a lot of old method from ancient time. In addition, I think nowadays, we also add more ingredients into the noodle soup, like garlic. The reason behind the addition might be that nowadays, our taste changes a lot and adding garlic into the soup not only will make the body warmer, but also will add more nutrients to the body.

 

By comparing my poem and the old poem, I think there is cultural DNA embedded. Both poems describe the way of making noodles. The methods described in both poems are very Chinese. Firstly, in the old poem, Hong Junju mentions long strings, which a lot of Chinese like because long noodles can represent longevity and most of the noodles in China are in string shapes. Secondly, the way of making noodles are very Chinese. For example, in my poem, I mention that noodles have to be cooked with hot water and then use cold water to wash them afterwards. This is because Chinese people believe that only by this way, the noodles will become more stretchy and taste better. I think other countries might not cook their noodles like this. Therefore, there is definitely cultural DNA embedded in the texts.

 

Putting a Twist on It by Akshitha Adhiyaman

Green are the fresh coriander leaves,

Picked from our home-grown garden, sent straight into the kitchen. 

We rip open a box of penne pasta from the pantry,

And place them into a pot of boiling hot water with a sprinkle of salt. 

Black pepper, turmeric, ginger, garlic, and garam masala sizzle together in the pan,

Our mouths water at the aroma of traditional Indian spices.

The deep orange liquid stands out bright against the dull pots, 

the vegetables chopped in thin slices marinate in the bubbling sauce. 

Licking the ladle, my eyes widened in wonder, 

I urged my brothers to taste, shoving the spoon in their face with excitement. 

I wanted to run around to every house, 

So that everyone I knew could experience the dance of my taste buds. 

I knew my family would finish the meal in minutes if I went anywhere, 

So instead I gathered the plates and utensils to set up on the floor. 

In the midst of all the boxes from moving, 

The warmth of the food calmed our nerves down. 

We were miles away from our old home, 

But my family knew that all we needed was each other to get through the next couple of weeks. 

None of that mattered right now though, 

As we slurped up our Indian styled pasta in the company of one another. 

 

 

I chose to imitate the poem “Cold Noodle Soup with Sophora Leaves” by Du Fu. This poem truly resonated with me because it perfectly worded a plethora of emotions that I myself feel when eating one of my favorite meals. I loved the line, “I eat more, worrying that it will soon be gone.” It reminded me of meals with my brothers, when we always fought over the last lamb chops or the final bite of mangai pachadi. Though the final theme of Da Fu’s poem was a bit different than my own, I really liked the fact that the author used both objective (like particular ingredients and places) and subjective ideas (like emotions) to bring the whole recipe and noodle to life. I enjoyed reading the prose writing as well and I thought that it would be fun for me to try that type of writing style as well. 

Du Fu emphasized many of the themes that the class discussed involving Chinese food. The one that I noticed the most within this poem is this idea of balance. The structure of each sentence was perfectly balanced with a small detail, following with an explanation of what people are doing with that small detail. Each sentence has it’s balance and it tells the reader a lot about the Chinese focus on this aspect. Whether it is fan-cai, yin-yang, or just the balance of favors and aromas in each dish, the Chinese cultures makes sure to perfect this in order to create something harmonious and complementary. The importance of community and sharing is also clearly depicted in this poem as the author writes about wanting to share this special dish with other people, even if they are far away. From the first day of class, the class discussed how food to the Chinese was so valued because meals were a time of communion and spending quality time with one another. Each dish was always so representative of that. Finally, I have continued to learn about various types of noodles and how each one is associated with memories or events. In this case, the author is talking about eating this refreshing cold noodle soup on a special occasion. We have also seen this through the dan dan noodles, longevity noodles, etc. I attempted to imitate all three of these ideas in my own writing when discussing a type of pasta that was special to my family. 

Every time I write one of these blogs, I learn more and more about my own Indian culture. I never really embraced my culture until coming to college, but this class has continued to push my learning within my own home. When thinking of ideas of what to write for this poem, I asked my mother if there were any variations of noodles or pasta that are commonly eaten in India. She couldn’t think of anything native to India, but brought up many Chinese dishes that are quite popular. None of those dishes intrigued me or resonated with me. I then remembered a moment in my childhood: moving to my current home. I decided to run with the idea once I thought of it and that’s how I wrote the poem. This moment was when my family and I shared Indian styled pasta on the floor of our new home, since we didn’t have any furniture or barely anything within the house. Thinking about it now makes me feel so nostalgic.  Anyways, I realized that the Indian culture focuses much on creativity and family, and this is shown in my poem. At a time where my family didn’t have much, my dad cooked up some pasta, but instead used Indian spices and flavors to remind us of home. He was creative and made us a makeshift meal that warmed our hearts and filled our stomachs. Additionally, moving to a brand new place was difficult for all of us. Both my parents were going into new jobs, I was going to be attending a new schools, and my brothers were just a year old at this point. We all needed each other’s support in order to get through such a transition period and that is exactly what this dish represented. It was something new that was made to feel like home, which was exactly what we needed to do. 

It is clear that there are many common themes in both Chinese, Italian, and Indian cultures when it comes to food. The most obvious one I believe is this sense of community and wanting to share meals with one another. Meals are always an important time for loved ones to catch up with each other and just enjoy their time and company. I think that this cultural DNA can be found in almost every culture across the world. For hundreds of thousands of years, banquets and meals have been important times for leaders, friends, and family to get together and just share their opinions and ideas. Also, through all of the literature, we can truly see how versatile the noodle truly is. We have watched and read about many different types of people making many different types of noodles and it is honestly quite overwhelming. For the Chinese, there is a unique noodle dish for every celebration or occasion and for the Italians, there are so many interesting influences on how to make pasta from neighboring countries. The thing is that noodles can be made in the traditional Chinese or Italian way, but it can also be created into something new just like in my poem. There is much more to noodles than just a piece of dough; each dish carries its memories and stories along with it to be passed down along the generations. 

Sincerity Carried Through Noodles — Eunheh Koh

When my mother made knife-cut noodles,

She would add anchovies to the pot.

She would then make the noodles,

From flour and potato starch, not even needing to look at a recipe.

Her hands carried the magic to slowly create the noodles

One knead at a time.

Out came the powerful knife

And one by one, each noodle came to life

Every noodle was special in its own way

Each a different thickness and shape

And as white as the first snow.

The sweet aroma of home fills the kitchen

As my sister and I run to get our bowls.

After a sip of the warm broth,

The heart is full, the longing for home continues.

  • What piece did you choose to imitate?
    • I chose to imitate “Noodles in Broth” by Hong Junju.
  • Why did you choose this piece?
    • I chose this piece because the author describes so eloquently of the making of bing steeped in tea. As we learned in class, the bing in this poem refers to noodles (as bing was used to describe foods out of flour), whereas after the 10th century, bing only referred to the flat-pancake. I think this further demonstrates how food is always changing and contributes to the idea that food is fluid (it is not set in a distinctive category). This poem also indicates how much comfort the eating of a dish can truly be; eating is an universal experience that can be shared by everyone and something that is able to embody important memories and emotions with it, which we are reminded of every time we eat the food. Lastly, I think poems are very powerful, as they are often short but concise; each part of Junju’s words are an important part of the story they tell. I think this is something I personally struggled with while writing the paper; I did not want to be too wordy and tried to be as concise and descriptive as I could.
  • What did you learn about the culture of the original author through imitating his or her style?
    • In this piece, I learned about the importance of cooking in Chinese culture. Every step is intricate and complex in its own way, and plays a large role in the making of this dish. When writing poems, authors must be careful and emphasize what they view as the most important. Thus, I think that the process of cooking and eating together are what the author views as the most significant; his or her views were probably influenced by their culture and identity, which is how we can make the connection from the poem to Chinese culture. From this, I believe that the poem establishes the importance of community. The sense of community connected through noodles is particularly evident especially the last line, and demonstrates how much comfort we can feel through eating food. It is not necessary for the author to explicitly state it as the smile is sufficient to show this. In addition, it is clear how foods are passed on from generation to generation; the chef is cooking from memory by remembering how he would make it when he learned. Thus, it shows how important it is in Chinese culture to carry on your heritage and pass traditions (especially in terms of food) from generation to generation.
  • What did you learn about your own culture while writing?
    • I decided to write about 칼국수 (knife-cut noodles), a Korean dish where the noodles are knife-cut (which is why each noodle is unique and special in its own way). It is not made usually from noodles that are cut by a machine, which makes it more special in my opinion, considering many noodles after the industrial revolution have lost this handmade taste. I also believe that these noodles are able to symbolize how even though we are all from different identities (and thus, everyone is unique), we can all come together harmoniously and become an amazing entity. I particularly love eating these noodles because I can taste the amount of sincerity put into these noodles by my mother and grandmother, especially since I know how difficult it can be to make noodles. In my family, we eat this dish whenever we think of our home country, Korea. My dad is from Jeju Island (right off the coast of the Korean peninsula), and my grandmother always makes this dish with the freshest seafood ingredients, as these noodles are able to preserve both the savory broth and fresh seafood flavors. These days, I feel quite homesick as it has been a while since I have gone home, so I love eating this dish as it helps me feel connected to my family. It is hard to reproduce it the same way my grandma does, especially since we lack the fresh ingredients, but I really appreciate it whenever my mom makes it for me because it reminds me of so many good memories. This particular instance that I chose to write about in the poem was when my mom made these noodles for my sister and I; it was in the fall following the first summer I spent in Korea and the first time I had tasted these noodles from my grandmother. As soon as I ate the noodles, I was content, but also felt bittersweet, as I wished to go home (which is why I wrote “the longing for home continues”). Although food is a great way to feel connected to family and home, it sometimes makes me miss home more, because it reminds me of all of the memories of my hometown. However, while eating these noodles over the years, I have also been able to develop new memories here with my nuclear family, which I am also appreciative of.  All of these moments have been integral in shaping who I am, so I am grateful that I am able to retain these memories through food.
These are “knife-cut noodles” (칼국수). The noodles are of different thicknesses because they are made by hand.
  • Is there cultural DNA embedded in the piece you read and in your piece? How does this DNA manifest in the texts?
    • I think the main thing I realized about the cultural DNA in both pieces was the importance of family and community in both of our cultures. There is a big emphasis placed on family and the importance of spending time with our loved ones. Food is also evidently a big part of both of our cultures that connects us to our community. I think one of the largest aspects that is also evident in both of our cultures is how as we observe our elders, we begin to learn more about how to cook these dishes and this is how we, as the younger generation, learn how to make these foods, just as how my mother learned how to make it from my grandmother (the “magic” gets passed on through the generations). Through food, we are able to appreciate our rich cultural heritage, and it becomes an important aspect of who we are. The love and care put into these both of the noodle dishes are also evident, as it takes a great deal of work to make these noodles from scratch. Thus, it appears that in both Chinese and Korean culture, food is a great method to express genuine love for the people we love. We are also able to feel and appreciate that love when we eat it, as “the heart is full” (my poem) and “the body would relax” (Junju), which become important feelings for the foods we eat. These feelings are  what we remember as we age and continue to eat these dishes, and we will also put in the sincerity and care when we make the noodles for the younger generations. The legacy will live on through the noodles over time.

References:

Junju, Hong. “Noodles in Broth.” Chinese Poems of Food. 3rd Century AD. Online Access.

*photo credit given when you press the picture

Blog Post 3- ‘Holi-the festival of colors and exquisite dishes’

Holi- the festival of colors

When good reigns triumphant over evil,

And the cold winters die down,

The cheerful and rejuvenating air of spring is finally upon us.

The sky is painted in pastel shades of pink, green and blue,

And the mellifluous rhythm of the dholak and traditional ballads can be heard by all.

While malicious spirits are set ablaze in a bonfire,

People gather to eat scrumptious meals.

Saccharine deep fried dumplings stuffed with curd and dried fruits;1

Fragrant diamonds decorated with nuts2, doughy pancakes with a cardamom cream;3

Crispy circular wafers, served with chickpeas and potatoes;4

Oblong savory treats, enjoyed with spicy pickles;5

Peppery noodles in an onion and tomato gravy, flavored with an Indian spice mix:

Red chilies, coriander seeds, cinnamon sticks, cloves, cumin and black cardamom;6

Drinks made with milk, yoghurt and seasonings, at times laced with

cannabis leaves and flowers.7

The flames have burnt out and turned into ash,

And the once deafening music has died down to a faint hymn.

The colors have settled into heaps on the pavement,

Plates formerly brimming with food have been polished.

With well-fed belly’s and a full heart,

The festivities come to a sweet end.

What piece did you choose to imitate?

I chose to imitate two pieces ‘Dong Huang Taiyi (Grand Unity, Spirit of the Eastern Sky)’ and ‘The Summons of the Soul’ both from Chu Ci, by Qu Yuan.

Why did you choose this piece?

I felt nostalgic while reading Grand Unity as it talks about an ‘auspicious day’ with ‘singing’, food offerings and ‘priestesses’. This scene is reminiscent of many festivals celebrated in India which are renowned for their feasts, devotional activities and celebrations. I used the verse as inspiration to set the scene for the spring harvest carnival my poem is based on. I further enjoyed the detailed descriptions of the dishes in ‘The Summons of the souls’. I based the outlines of the foods eaten during the festival of Holi, on the style of this prose.

What did you learn about the culture of the original author through imitating his or her style?

The poem ‘Dong Huang Taiyi’ displays how Chinese food acts as a link to the spiritual world. ‘Take up the fragrant flower offerings, the meats cooked in melilotus, served on orchid mats, And libations of cinnamon wine and pepper sauces!’, ‘The five notes mingle in rich harmony, And the god is merry and takes his pleasure.’ Food offerings and songs are instruments used to please the holy spirits. The following lines from ‘The Summons of the Soul’ further bolster this idea ‘Oh Soul, come back! Why should you go far away? All your household has come to do you honor, all kinds of good foods are ready’. Food thus ventures beyond its conventional purpose of nutrition, and transcends into a symbol of reverence in Chinese culture.

What did you learn about your own culture while writing?

While writing and researching the food items eaten during Holi, I learnt that there are certain dishes which are associated with this Indian festival. I was curious to learn if other festivals celebrated here were accompanied by the same dishes or were characterized by a different assortment of foods. On further research I discovered that during Diwali deep fried vegetables and meats, samosas, potato patties, curdled milk dough balls and other dishes are served. On the auspicious day of Ram Navami rice puddings, spiced buttermilk, coconut dough balls, milk cakes and other food items are traditionally eaten. Sweet flatbread, coconut rice and sweet strained yoghurt with nuts are consumed during Ganesh Chaturthi. Many other festivals have distinct sweet and savory dishes linked to them. Therefore, in the Indian culture, certain food items have become synonymous with various festivals and auspicious occasions. Another thing I learnt is that Indian people love deep frying everything, even desserts!

Is there cultural DNA embedded in the piece you read and in your piece? How does this DNA manifest in the texts?

Methods of celebration – ‘Flourish the drumsticks, beat the drum!’, ‘The singing begins softly to a slow solemn measure’, ‘malicious spirits are set ablaze in a bonfire’, ‘…traditional ballads can be heard’, and food items eaten – ‘Stewed turtle and roast kid’, ‘Braised chicken, seethed tortoise…’, ‘Crispy circular wafers’, ‘Oblong savory treats’ are thoroughly documented in the pieces I read and in my poem. These actions and food items portray the culture and traditions deeply embedded  into Chinese and Indian festivals.

 1. Gujiya

 2. Barfi

 3. Ras Malai

 4. Papri Chaat

 5. Namak Paare

 6. Pav-Bhaji Noodles

 7.Bhaang/Thandai

 

 

 

 

 

Cha Siu Baozi

When my mom soaked whole grain dough in fresh milk,

She would add a few duck eggs to texturize the dough.

She then kneaded the dough and divided it into small chunks.

She would pour Liaojiu, Laochou and add sugar into a bowl of diced fatty pork.

With chopsticks she would make the filling by mixing them all.

Then she would scoop some, put into a piece of flattened dough and squeeze to seal the filling.

In pyramidal shapes

Yellow and rough like honeycomb.

In a Cha Siu Baozi,

We would have a huge bite and let the succulent filling flow out.

After a few buns in a row,

The stomach would be full, the mind would be satisfactory and happy.

 

I chose Hong Junju’s “Noodles in Broth”to imitate. I chose this piece because I shared the same passion for appreciating the beauty of the noodle dish preparing process with the author, as well as the tribute of the food itself. The comprehensive description of the chef’s cooking process echoes with my recent experience of watching my mom making Cha Siu Baozi (Steamed bun stuffed with barbecued roast pork) and me enjoying cooking myself. The culinary process is truly artistic enjoyment and spiritual nurture for not only the chef but also for people observing. The smooth progression of the cooking procedures leads to a colorful and flavorful bowl of noodles, which is a feast for both your vision and gustation. Although the taste of the noodles was not a main focus for the author, he still depicted the satisfaction of eating the noodles and being full of noodles and shed lights on the beauty of the silky noodles.

I learned about my own culture, which was a direct descendent of the author’s, by spotting cultural DNAs demonstrated in the author’s piece and minethrough imitating his writing,which are the great emphasis on the sophisticated process of making the noodles andthe valuing of the noodle dish itself. I realized that these two were important aspects of Chinese food culture and life philosophy. Appreciating and praising food is a traditional Chinese moral value and practice, which has influenced every generation of Chinese. By describing the transformation of the dough into fine long strings of noodles in metaphorical terms, the author expressed that he saw the noodles and the silk in the same way, which were both beautiful and precious similar to my relationship with Baozi and honey. If food is an admirable masterpiece, then the cooking is a ritual of self-actualization, from which you could derive nourishing pleasure and a sense of great achievement. People watching the ritual could also benefit from the aesthetics of cooking.

Blog 3 – Noodles: The Gourmet Meal

We would argue about what seasoning to put

And no this wasn’t pizza

To the days when satisfaction would come from a packet

And noodles were our gourmet meal

To the days we didn’t have much to deal with

And  growing up wasn’t part of this deal

Seven years later,

As I stand in front of the microwave

Me and my glass of wine,

I open the ramen packet –

Only to be taken back in time.

1. What piece did you choose to imitate? I chose the poem, “Noodles in Broth,” by Hong Junju.

2. Why did you choose this piece? I chose this piece, because I was fascinated by its story telling power. The personification of food depicted in a powerful narrative. The poem that I wrote relates to my time at boarding school where Maggi noodles used to be our staple late night diet. We were vey carefree at the time and these noodles were a part of endless conversations and memories.

3. What did you learn about the culture of the original author through imitating his or her style?  His poem depicts a huge sense of nostalgia and a feeling of coming home. It creates memories related to home and makes the reader think about old times. By using the medium of food to convey these feelings, it increases the magnitude of emotions in the words. The author comes from a place that is famous for tea. Add to that, he is hinting at the aspect of ‘familiarity’ in Chinese culture.

4. What did you learn about your own culture while writing?   To me, Maggi isn’t a packaged food product, it is associated with memories from childhood to right up until now.  They have played a significant role in my life and have been an essential part of me growing up. They signify everything from friends, family to love and affection.

5. Is there cultural DNA embedded in the piece you read and in your piece? How does this DNA manifest in the texts?  This has a lot to do with where the author of the piece is from and what his personal connections are. The DNA manifests in the texts in the form personal anecdotes in their written format along with the style of the poem itself. These hidden meanings [DNA] form the basis of the piece.

Noodles in Chicken Broth (Qiulun Li)

When my father cooked noodles steeped in chicken broth,

He would boil chicken in soup.

He would pour the broth into a bowl.

With a light feather he would brush the flour.

He kneaded the dough to the right consistency.

Then he would drop it into the water

In long strings

Slim like spring silk.

In half a bowl of broth,

He would gulp them down all at once.

After two bowls in a row,

A fullness would come to the heart.

What piece did you choose to imitate?

I choose to imitate the poem Noodles in Broth written by Hong Junju, and I call my own creative piece Noodles in Chicken Broth.

 Why did you choose this piece?

I choose to imitate this piece because this piece is my favorite one among all poems and stories assigned for reading. It is a very short poem and easily understandable. It described the process of making bing in tea and the way the poet and his friends eated it vividly. With this poem, I can easily imagine the artistry process of making bing and feelings of poets and his friends after eating. I recalled that my father always cooked noodles in chicken broth at home, and that is one of my favorite home-making food. Thus, I want to record the process how my father cooks noodles for me through imitating the poem from Hong Junju.

What did you learn about the culture of the original author through imitating his or her style?

Through imitating the poem from Hong Junju I was surprised how concise and vivid this poem is. He presented the whole process how chief Cui made bing steeped in tea in a few sentence. However, the actual process of making bing is very slow and complicated. The use of metaphor in the poem make the shape of noodles vividly out of the paper. Through a very concise description of the process, reader can have an overall image of making noodles, and then the author expressed his feelings through his actions vividly described in the poem. Through the words, he presented eating noodles as a very pleasurable process. At all, I can realize how important is noodles in ancient China and people’s feelings towards it while I am imitating this piece.

What did you learn about your own culture while writing?

Since ancient China when noodles first appeared, it has become the staple food of families and had different cultural significance. In my hometown, eating noodles has become a ritual when the whole family gathers together. My family always have noodles at home since it has become a sign of union and also it is not hard to cook at home. Every time after my family has chicken soup, my father will cook noodles in the chicken broth left with some vegetables. In my mind, noodles in chicken soup cooked by my father could represent the taste of my family’s home cooking.

Is there cultural DNA embedded in the piece you read and in your piece? How does this DNA manifest in the texts?

Both the poem by Hong Junju and my piece expressed the importance of noodles and presented the process of eating noodles as a pleasurable process. Through the vivid description of making noodles in both texts, for example “filter the tea infusion through silk”, “kneaded the dough to the right consistency” and “slim like a spring silk”, reader could feel that making noodles is a very careful process and people paid a lot of attention to this process. Thus, the texts implied that that making noodles is a very important process and needs a lot of attention. Besides, the texts showed people’s fond towards noodles through describing eating noodles as a pleasurable process. In the poem by Hong Junju, “a smile would come to lips” after people had noodles, and in my piece, “a fullness would come to the heart” after eating. Noodles is not only a food for nourishment, but people would get happiness through eating.