Tanya Tandoc

Bocconcini

Oct 7, 2011

Italian food is almost universally accepted as America’s Favorite Ethnic Food. It’s so mainstream nowadays that we forget that as few as 50 years ago it was considered a very foreign cuisine. We are so saturated with pizza in Wichita (Italian cuisine’s gateway drug) that we have acquired a taste for tomato sauce, pepperoni and mozzarella. We love spaghetti and meatballs and lasagna. We want our pasta drenched in sauce and cheese. This Americanized Italian food is delicious, don’t get me wrong. I grew up on Ragu sauce with Kraft Parmesan cheese and ground beef meatballs.

Sushi has been the subject of many a dinner negotiation. I adore sushi and will bargain outrageously with my non-sushi-loving family to get to go eat it. I’ll promise to fold laundry, or dance a little jig, or even listen to Steely Dan to get to eat sushi. They have gamely tried to enjoy it but it’s just too weird for them. Too cold, too many textures, the unforgivable presence of seaweed…not to mention the raw fish part.  That just puts it over the edge.

Knolla's Pizza

Sep 9, 2011

We live in difficult times. Because we are wired the way we are, when we are stressed, we turn to foods that feel comfortable, reassuring and safe. Some people turn to soft, creamy things like macaroni and cheese, or ice cream, or oatmeal. “Mom Food” is what others want: meatloaf and mashed potatoes, or chicken and noodles, or chili. We turn to our country of origin when we need reassurance, as well.

Nifty Nut House

Aug 26, 2011

I was one of those kids whose craving for candy was so intense that I would search not only my own couch cushions for loose change to buy it, but the couches of waiting rooms, neighbors’ houses, and church as well.

Kababs

Aug 12, 2011

I have heard many Midwestern people complain that they don’t like the taste of curry, and therefore will not eat Indian food at all. I can relate to that, but I just find curry powder pretty boring. Curry powder itself isn’t Indian. It is an invention of the British that was made to export during their colonial occupation of India. It is a blend of coriander, turmeric, cumin, fenugreek, celery seed, and other spices. I think it’s the fenugreek that people respond negatively to—it has a weirdly earthy, sweaty smell that you either adore or find repellent.

Hot Food

Jul 29, 2011

Everything in my garden is dead. The tomatoes are crispy dead with a side of wilt. The pumpkin plants shriveled up and their lovely umbrella leaves melted away last week. This makes me really sad, because one of the only reasons to live in Kansas in the summer is eating our garden treasures. Our pug dog Lulu lives for tomato season, waiting for the blooms and little hard green tomatoes, which she harvests before they are ripe. We plant one grape tomato plant just for her. Olive, our other pug, will knock down corn plants and inch her body along the stalk to nibble the ears.

Real Chinese food is nearly impossible to find anywhere in the central United States. There is plenty of Americanized Chinese food around, most of it deep-fried, oily, and swimming in sticky sauce. Superbuffets overflowing with deep-fried meaty bits in sweet red sauce, weirdly soft beef bits in brown salty sauce, unidentifiable pork bits in clear salty goo, or broccoli, peas and carrots with tofu in spicy sweet-sour sauce sort of sum it up around here. No wonder the food police are out to get Chinese food—all that fried greasy saltiness is just irresistible to Americans.

Mouthfeel

Jul 1, 2011

Lots of people I know are texturally sensitive eaters.  They won’t eat anything slimy, bouncy, gummy, gelatinous, or spongy.  Even the idea of tapioca pudding gives them the shivers.  I once shared a meal with a friend who, on encountering a piece of sticky, chewy beef tendon in the soup, spat it out and spent the rest of the meal miserably shuddering while I ate the remainder of her pho.

Seasonal Eating

Jun 3, 2011

Our growing season in Kansas is brief and violent.  One month we have nothing but lettuce and radishes poking up through the snow and the next we are leaving giant baby-sized zucchini on the neighbor’s porch under cover of night. Eating seasonally in this area is challenging, since for eight months we have nothing at all and for four months we have too much of everything. Summer in Kansas is a tomato-basil-cucumber-pepper avalanche.  It’s fantastic for salsa lovers.

My Favorite Cookbooks

May 20, 2011

For as long as I have known how to read, I have been obsessed with cookbooks.  I read them everywhere, on the plane, in bed, and of course, by the stove.  My best cookbooks are dog-eared, splashed with sauce, and broken of spine.  They have a scratch-and-sniff quality that I find comforting. Here are a few of the books that inspire and teach me about cooking to this day.

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