In case some of you were wondering why I've been silent this past week, I've been laid up in bed with a wicked cold of truly craptacular proportions. We're talking fever, coughing, congested sinuses, lungs swimming in fluid; the whole nine yards. I managed to drag myself into the office today for a half day, but was sent home by general consensus based on how bad I looked. I'll probably end up doing another half day tomorrow. On the "up" side, thanks to the wonders of modern technology, I've been able to do all of my work and run my department from my sickbed.
... I hate my laptop.
I didn't want to let a whole week go by without at least one entry to ye olde food blog. However, during the time I've been confined to the house and sick, I've completely lost my appetite. There's nothing under the sun that I've wanted to eat. The only thing I've wanted to do has been to curl up in a ball on my bed. (Stupid work laptop.)
Cat has done her best to minister to a sick panda. She's wonderful and I love her. But, in the end, whenever I'm ill, I just want my mommy. Silly, isn't it.
(We're big on hot pot.)
Since I'm feeling homesick, I thought I'd share with you all the most recent meal my mother made for me. It was the last time I visited, over the holidays. My father's birthday and mine are both in January and on consecutive days, so my mother always makes up a nice Huo Guo (Hot Pot) to celebrate.
(Cooks up healthy.)
Mom always starts with some thinly sliced meat to flavor the broth. Since pork is practically the national protein of Taiwan, that's what she usually uses. It may look really fatty, but since it's being boiled in light broth, it's not bad for you at all.
The bulk of the protein in one of our family's hot pot meals comes from fish meatballs, wontons, and fried tofu. They're low in fat and good for you. The meatballs represent the hope that the family will eat together again. The wontons symbolize prosperity. The fried tofu just makes a great sponge for the broth. Mom keeps this stuff on hand, so it tends to be whatever is in the fridge. Hot pots are a good way of using up leftover ingredients.
(Stringy yet satisfying.)
My family always has enoki mushrooms with our hot pots. Mushrooms are supposed to carry the wishes of their eaters up to Heaven. You may recognize some of these foods from my Chinese New Year hot pot. Although they're favored during colder months, hot pots are used to celebrate special occasions year-round.
(Tasty pea shoots.)
Gotta have lots of greens to round out the meal. Mom is a strong believer in the healthiness of leafy green veggies.
Mom and I love these things. They have a very special flavor that always reminds me of home. When I have time and health, I'll post my recipe for Braised Oxtail with Tomato and Chrysanthemum Risotto.
(When I was little, I pretended they were worms.)
Noodles are a traditional staple of both hot pots and birthday meal. They symbolize long life, and must be slurped whole when eating. Chewing once they're in your mouth is ok, but you shouldn't cut them or bite them in half, since that would represent severing the lifeline.
(They look red to me.)
Red eggs are another traditional item in birthday meals. Mom doesn't like artificial food coloring, so she uses light brown organic eggs from free-range hens and serves them on red paper to give them a reddish tint. The eggs symbolize fertility for the eater. Since I'm pretty sure Pops doesn't want any more kids (the youngest of us graduates college next year), I think the eggs were meant for me.
(Pops is a traditionalist.)
My dad favors chocolaty birthday cakes with a bit of fruit. He's also likes a bit of flan thrown in for good measure if he can get it. Pops is a man of truly sophisticated tastes.
(I'm a freak.)
While I like cakes too, I'm a bit more avante-guard. Nothing like a big bowl of birthday Jell-O to put a smile on my face. I think this lot was peach flavored, since peaches also represent prosperity.
I love you, mom. Wish you were here to make me rice gruel and scold me for getting sick.
I wanna get well.