History in the Baking

Tanantha Couilliard July 7, 2010 2

Good conversation with friends and family over tea and homemade food is a great way to find your appetite.

Food is a huge part of Chinese culture. Today, many people can relate to the memory and simple pleasure of aromatic scents and smells when you enter your family’s home. Food in Chinese and Asian culture for that matter, have a deep sensibility and is personal. A history of our food is a history of our story.

Chinese and Chinese American cuisines are similar but the difference lies in its preparation methods and ingredients. Cuisine was once prepared with care from local produce and ingredients purchased from farmers. Undoubtedly, our changing lifestyles have an impact on the way we consume food and have altered to accommodate a fast-moving era.

Maxine Chan, a local food anthropologist and cultural specialist, said food is not a focal point with 20-30-something year-olds anymore. Authentic Chinese food is a cooking skill that should be passed on from generation to generation but has gradually disappeared. “Americanized” APIs now consume what retail and restaurants offer or give into buying pre-made meals.

“We have to work hard and have no time for cooking,” said Chan. “Eating-out and pre-made meals are an easy-way-out solution. You don’t really see an 8-course meal prepared for your friends when they come over. We are losing skills to cook.”

How can we reconnect with our food and culture? A culture can be learned through food. It has a connection from your past to present memories. It will pull you back to good times and help you appreciate both the memory and the food. To experience this in person, Chan is hosting an up-coming event.

In a partnership with the Wing Luke Asian Museum of the Pacific American Experience and the USDA Forest Service, they will host a Chinese American Heritage Dinner. The event offers a one-of-a-kind eating experience as guests learn about the food once eaten by everyday Chinese American pioneers of the American West, while enjoying an authentic meal.

The evening offers food exploration and includes a down-home 9-course meal and a special lecture by Chan.

Samples of dishes include classic Pigs Feet Stew that simmers for hours until tender, topped with dry tangerine peel and black olives steamed with seasonal fresh fish. The dessert is one of the highlights as Ellen Suzuki, IE Business Manager and former Seattle Japanese Community Queen, will create a delicious goodie to complete the meal.

“We like to give an experience attendees wouldn’t find anywhere else,” said Chan. “Ingredients that were used in the 1800s-1900s will be showcased at the event. There’s no cornstarch being used, as back in the day, people carried stuff in a wagon and had to pick ingredients that were multi-purpose like flour. No one carried cornstarch.”

Chan designed and developed the recipes for the down-home meals, which the Four Seas restaurant will cater that evening.

“We are getting fresh meat from a selected butcher, and no MSG will be used,” said Chan. “There won’t be Chop suey dishes— [it’s] authenthic Taishan-style. No fancy setting and presentation but terrific flavor to offer.”

Chan’s food philosophy is that while the dishes may be different from what we’re accustomed to, food is universal – a door to the heart and culture. Knowing where your food is coming from and knowing how to work at it are the values that make a culture alive.

“Come hungry!” said Chan. “Bring memories of what you have loved and the food you grew up with to the event. Come learn what kinds of dishes your grandma made for you that put a smile on your face. That’s what this event is for.”

To reserve a seat at the dinner table, contact the Wing Luke Asian Museum of the Asian Pacific American Experience at (206) 623-5125. Space is limited for this can’t-miss special evening of food and conversation. This special dinner is open to all. They also welcome participants of the Chinese Heritage Tour of the American West to start their tour experience with this pre-event dinner. (Fees are not included in the Tour Registration Fee.)

The evening will take place at the Four Seas Restaurant located at 714 South King Street, Seattle, WA 98104 on Monday, July 19, 2010 at 5:30 p.m. $40 general admission / $35 members.

2 Comments »

  1. Magic of Spice July 9, 2010 at 3:11 pm -

    Wonderful article! What a fantastic event, wish I were closer…

  2. Tanantha @ I Just Love My Apron July 9, 2010 at 6:43 pm -

    Thanks Alisha!