The same thought might have crossed your mind, but I’m afraid someone else beat you to it. Yes, I do often get challenged to cook. In fact, these days, an invitation to cook is always laced with an underlying desire to examine my knife skills and whatnot. The boundary separating the kitchen from the newsroom is slowly being whittled down by readers who protest that those who can’t cook should just shut up. I don’t know if I agree with that completely, but I promise you—I do cook.
That’s what it boils down to, doesn’t it: beauty for women, and erections for men? I’m talking about Chinese medicine. That cornucopia of dried shells, herbs, and animal body parts spread out before shop fronts on Bonham Strand has long been the subject of mystique for visitors around the world, but I’ve always seen it simply as old-school Trimspa and Viagra. Kinda makes you wonder if our ancestors all had serious body image disorders or nothing but chronic erectile dysfunction problems.
The last time I was in Kyoto, I found myself running down a mountain as if my life depended on it.
The elevator door opened, and there was the locksmith staring back at me dumfounded. I was sitting cross-legged on the floor, looking every bit the poster child for someone who’s locked herself out of the apartment, except for one thing—I was transfixed by the silver spoon I was holding in my hands.
“Sorry,” he excused himself, embarrassed that he had just barged in on what was clearly a private moment. “Maybe I’ve got the wrong apartment.” But as he started to back away, I snapped into focus and started explaining my story.
Though a private magic show at the end of brunch is utterly unnecessary—in the same way that champagne is not technically a necessity either—one day at Sevva, I had the pleasure of both.
As my husband and I were eating our meal, Sean MacFarlane, who’s more correctly defined as a “sleight of hand artist” than a stage magician, began his act. “Think of a card as fast as you can—right now!” he said, deck of cards in hand. (Play along here—think of a card.)
When I was 16 years old, a soothsayer in Burma told me that a bunch of bananas and a can of condensed milk made as an offering to the Shwedagon Pagoda would guarantee me eternal bliss. For some reason, I passed on the offer. Postcards seemed to be a better use of my remaining rupees. In a strange way, I think I’ve been trying to make up for it ever since. For someone who’s not particularly religious, I’ve certainly done a lot of worshipping through food. I’ve gone vegetarian for Buddha and cooked for the spirit of my ancestors.
If anyone is up for a smell test, it would be Jordi Roca. The pastry chef of Spanish restaurant El Cellar de Can Roca not only wears Terre d’Hermes as his cologne of choice, he also manifests it as plated dessert: a chocolate covered patchouli ice cream with a hazelnut mousse and orange sauce that somehow “tastes” like the perfume.
The last time I saw him, we were only five years old. I remembered the boy’s feet kicking against my chair from the seat behind me in kindergarten class, but I could no longer remember his name. His nickname in class, on the other hand, stuck with me. We called him Red—not based on the color of his hair, but on the color of his food.
Even in the depths of the darkest forest, you can never be sure of who is listening. In the asses-to-elbows dining room of a restaurant on a Saturday night? It’s hard not to hear.
Especially when the dialogue starts off like this:
Girl: I’m so happy to be having dinner with my gay friend.
Boy: I’m not gay.
Girl: (awkward pause) Oh—but I just thought...it’s just that, well, you know so much about food, and...
It took me two years, 43 meals, and a shameless amount of sucking up before the owner of one of my favorite Korean restaurants in Kowloon told me the secret ingredient to her naeung myun. A bowl of perfect cold buckwheat noodles like the kind that’s made here deserves a respectful moment of silence. Like any good naeung myun, it comes garnished with half a boiled egg, a slice of pear, and shards of ice still floating atop the beef and turnip broth that I always spike liberally with vinegar and mustard.