If there is ever a question about how I came to love food, you can look to my family for the answer. My brother and I grew up with two parents who unabashedly enjoy cooking, eating, and trying out new items, and by hanging out in the kitchen as they prepared our meals, we learned how to taste and to create. We learned how to steam, sauté, braise, and bake; we learned which elements would balance others, how particular ingredients should be prepared, and the ways in which to make a dish brighter or richer or earthier. And as my brother and I each cook more and more on our own, we bring our discoveries back to the table, sharing our knowledge with one another as we acquire it.
So of course, whenever my brother and I go home to hang out with our parents, food plays a big role. My mom always has a multi-course meal planned. My dad usually has several large batches of his excellent mantou already steamed, and different dry grains measured out into a healthy mix for us to use instead of white rice. In turn, my brother and I show up with dishes we've made on our own, or interesting treats we've picked up along the way. Food, without question, is one of our happiest connections.
The last time we visited our folks, my family and I made five dishes for dinner: julienned king mushrooms sautéed with garlic and black sesame seeds; stir-fried snow peas and carrots; bulgogi-style beef over steamed broccoli; sliced green papaya sautéed with dried shrimp and pork; and soy-braised buffalo fish and soft tofu (pictured above). On a holiday or a special occasion the number of dishes would probably be double, but for just a regular stop, this is all pretty normal. And as usual there was plenty left over. So my brother and I packed up the remainders to continue enjoying the food of our family, even away from home.