Love is the most powerful force in this world, followed by music. And then? Then comes food. Food is the most powerful force for the body – so eat gratitude, eat what has been offered in thanks for it. Eat good clean food. Here at the nest, I’ll tell you what, we have been on a Thai food kick for a little bit now and it’s amazing how going deep with something can bring new experiences. I’ve eaten a lot of stuff… though the decisions made in this long mid chapter about what I will and won’t consume as food definitely narrow the options in the typical American restaurant (and honestly, though wonderful, how many Chili Rellenos can one eat either?), Asian & Indian food has amazing options. Growing up around Boston 40 years ago, “Mexican food” to me was Ortega tacos! Asian food I saw a little more of with Chinatown a subway ride away and a good Asian presence in the area, but I was still only getting the tiniest tip of its Americanized truth. To compare those dishes to what’s been on my plate recently… not even close.
Cooking is a passion – you can learn a lot about how an instrument generates its overall tone by participating in the experience of how a recipe ends up with its final flavor. King Trumpet mushrooms. Jackfruit. Kafir lime leaves. Lemongrass. Fry up a handful of Shishito peppers; cook your rice with coconut cream and thank me later. Even the dried red pepper flakes direct from a Thai grocery are different – the red looks a shade lighter than the stuff we’ve found on pizza tables, and is less harsh and forward – yes it’s hot, just use a light sprinkle, but there’s a floral warmth that just builds as a background. Similar, yet different. You might be doing yourself a favor walking right on past the durian and bitter melon – I probably would have. But any quest has its missteps and hey - that may be just the flavor YOU are looking for, and yours is the tongue that matters! Favorite side oils / sauces / seasonings to use in during or on after cooking? Mae Ploy, sesame oil, sambal oelek (an absolute taste overload) and something we call “Asian Lady” because there’s (no big shocker here) a picture of an Asian lady on the front and we can’t read a word on it except “Hot chili crisp.” Simply the best, richest tasting basic crunchy hot pepper oil you can spoon into your world.
Some we discovered in our continuing cuisinal quest for the new and exciting, leading us to an ingredient here or there after some great Thai restaurant experience, but there have been three main contributors that skyrocketed the understanding, enjoyment & level of what we’re now cooking. The first is Mark Wiens – probably the most gracious and respectful travel/food blogger on YouTube. He’s not looking to shock, just to enjoy food and share that. He knows about where he goes, shows some of the actual cooking and talks about the ingredients so we know why it tastes like it does. I’ve learned literally cooking classes worth about food from him, used a bunch of that directly or adapted into what I DO eat, and watching him enjoy it all and be among other people in their worlds makes ME excited about food and what it brings to the home and carries to others we share it with. He’s based in Thailand but travels the world with his family.
The second was the first trip to an Asian grocery store. There is a fine but small Thai grocery in San Marcos, Prik Nam Pla - which also cooks fantastic food. That was a mind blower itself, having access to such ingredients… it set us on the path. The #3 real mind blower was MT Supermarket in Austin. For me it was like walking into E.U. Wurlitzer music shop in Boston that first time. EUW was a huge place FULL of guitars & gear, and at that time most of what I was seeing I had no idea what I was looking at - but I knew my world had just gotten MUCH bigger. This was the food version of that. Some sections were not for me, again given deliberate food decisions I make for myself, so I just walked past those. But the produce? Seasonings? Canned goods? Noodle selection? Sauces? Un-freaking-believable. Literally a whole culture of food I had only merely pinky-toed into. It was like discovering jazz existed, or hearing what comes out of your instrument early on, the notes and sounds when it’s all new. Onward a ways into life it can be difficult to really feel like anything is all new again – that excitement at everything, that purity of the moment. I feel it in food and the many roads and mysteries it will show me as a seeker, and I find it in music and the roads of IT yet to walk and what new flavors wait there for me.
Go cook something up, my friends! Be reverent toward the ingredients, honor their sources, wish well on all who took a part in what makes it to your table, and share it with good people. It’s just another form for your song to take. As always, be inspired!
Listening to: Augustus Pablo East Of The River Nile. (On repeat. I love it.)