Tag: 2021 February Group Writing

Khmer Cuisine Part 1: An Introduction

 

Khmer cuisine refers to the cuisine of Cambodia. It’s not to be confused with Cambodian cuisine. The first is considered to be almost uniquely Khmer, the bits of influences it experienced came from India and Java. Whereas Cambodian cuisine is referred to what emerged after the 1700s, and is influenced by the cuisines of Portugal, China, Malaysia, France, Vietnam, and Thailand. The last two are two-way influences as Thai and Southern Vietnamese cuisines are heavily influenced by Khmer cuisine. 

Khmer cuisine is categorized by dishes as well as by tastes: sour, salty, bitter, and pungent (if pungent could be considered a taste). These four tastes are also applied to Cambodian cuisine as well. Although, a worrying trend toward sweeter taste has emerged recently among the younger generation. Our food is well balanced between those four tastes, and by that, I don’t mean balanced in a dish, but that there would be a dish of each taste at the dining table at mealtime. 

Eating Hats for the Holidays

 

Almost every Jewish festival has some kind of food or prepared dish associated with it: Chanukah has latkes, Sukkot has the citron and apples and honey are served at Rosh Hashanah. There are many other examples, and the foods usually have symbolism, too.

This week we celebrate Purim, a festival that honors Queen Esther’s saving the Jewish people from certain death. The wicked man in the story is Haman, who hated the Jews; his heritage was the Amalekites, a people who had been defeated by the Jews in the past, and the hatred from that experience never died. You can learn more about Purim here.

Nom Kom: A Simple Cake

 

Nom Kom is a very old, very traditional Khmer cake wrapped in banana leaves in a pyramid shape. It is a simple cake, made with glutinous rice flour and has coconut, palm sugar, and black sesame seed filling. All the ingredients you can easily find in your local supermarket. While banana leaves are available at the frozen aisle of Asian markets, fresh leaves can sometimes be found at Latin markets as well. Nom Kom is one of several traditional cakes my grandmother likes to serve at our family’s various religious ceremonies throughout the years.

It is a simple cake, as stated above, but nom kom also bears a religious connotation as well. It represents the yoni (vulva, womb), a personification of the divine feminine creative power, the mark of Mother Shakti. In Hinduism, the yoni is the counterpart to the linga, the symbol of Lord Shiva. So of course, num kom has its counterpart, num ansom. At engagement and wedding ceremonies, num kom and num ansom are always presented together to symbolize the union of the linga and the yoni, the representation of the eternal process of creation and regeneration, the union of male and female principles. In Khmer, that union is called mea ba (mother, father).

Chef’s Surprise: Food on the Go

 

The janitor for my VFW post hustled to finish the morning cleaning before dashing off to his second gig, a pizza and wings shop. He proudly announced that a local network affiliate had featured his pizza joint as a “hidden gem” among restaurants located inside gas stations. This prompted memories of food along the road map of memory. I remember hot dogs at Howard Johnson, fresh crusty rolls with cheese and meat in small Bavarian towns, and the Triple T truck stop restaurant in Tucson, Arizona.

Early in life, when my parents took me and then my first sister, on the road, Howard Johnson was known as a safe stop with clean restrooms. My memory is of a special toasted hot dog bun holding a thin hot dog in a paper tray. A quick search online confirms that HoJo had its own bun design, almost like a slice of bread formed into right angles.

Operation Floral Chef: Pizza, Banana Bread, & a Side of Pollen

 

I had heard that Saturday was going to be the worst day for deliveries, and the weather certainly lived up to that. Blowing snow and biting cold is a pain to drive in, and harsh on flowers. We need to warm up the van and make sure all the flowers were well wrapped, or we would not live up to our reputation for quality. Everyone knows you can get poor quality flowers at Walmart for cheap – we can only compete via quality. You could say the invisible hand is holding the bouquet…

Previous installment here and here.

Member Post

 

Flower shops are one of the businesses that directly profit from death.  Alongside weddings, funerals are major sources of income.  When important people die, that’s usually the source of huge orders for flowers.  As death is one of the constants of the world, there are no exceptions for holidays.   Thus, as I stumbled down the […]

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Member Post

 

Each month Ricochet has two group writing projects, intended to encourage the widest possible member participation. I have been the chief cat herder for the theme writing project for the past couple years. By way of exhorting and occasionally extorting participation, I have been known to threaten to fill white space with posts featuring bears, […]

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Member Post

 

Some of you may recall that I previously narrated the saga of my work in a northwestern Illinois flower shop – Operation Bloom. That was in the lead-up to Mother’s Day, one of the busiest times for a flower shop. This is about a colder holiday, where we deliver flowers to sweethearts through snow – […]

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Member Post

 

“Prince” has been on my mind lately. A prince among actors just left us. We’ve had discussion of Machiavelli’s The Prince. Superbowl this weekend has reminded me of another Prince who gave an iconic Superbowl half-time performance not so long ago in drenching rain. In keeping with this month’s writing theme “Chef’s Surprise”, ready to […]

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Chef’s Surprise: What doesn’t kill you might teach you something

 

Years ago, I was a consultant doing industrial data collection and control systems and one of my clients was IBM (Pro Tip – If you are a consultant, make sure your client is within at least two orders of magnitude of your size). This was back when there was a tax break for the production of pharmaceuticals in Puerto Rico and as a result, many pharmaceutical companies had a research facility in the States (usually either Pennsylvania or New Jersey) and a production facility in Puerto Rico.

As a consequence, I traveled multiple times to Puerto Rico with different IBM teams. We would spend nights on the coast where the hotels were and then travel to the plants which were inland. The plants got your attention – we were told to park with the front of the car towards the exit – “In case something bad happens at the plant”. The wrought iron fences around the plant had been eaten away at the bottom by some sort of acidic atmosphere.

Chef’s Surprise: The Movies

 

chef's surprise graphicTo kick off a month of posts by members on the theme “Chef’s Surprise,” let’s go to the movies. There have been a number of movies of varying quality made about or featuring chefs, cooks, cooking, restaurants, or eating. What follows is a summary of movies I have seen and enjoyed, to one degree or another. There are a number of critically acclaimed, and surely quite sumptuous, movies on the theme that I have not yet gotten around to viewing. This list is mostly middle to lower brow, but none will spoil your bowl of popcorn.

The finest film, and I mean that sincerely, on cooking, is Babette’s Feast (1987). Babbette is a Parisian woman, a great cook, who seeks refuge in a town on the Danish coast. There she serves and cooks very simple fare for many years in a very austere community and environment. Then news arrives that she has come into a small fortune, by a stroke of luck. A friend in her old life has renewed her subscription to a lottery each year and she has won.

She proceeds to throw a feast for the elderly community that has sheltered her. The preparations involve the arrival of all manner of supplies and Babette shows her full culinary mastery, enchanting the community. [Spoiler alert, read below the line at the bottom at your risk, if you have not seen the movie.*] This movie is also one of two G-rated movies on my list.

Member Post

 

Hey you! Yes, you. Each month, Ricochet members like you share a few thoughts, a bit of knowledge or creativity, playing off a theme. Sometimes it is no more than a concluding line or a throw-away to shoe horn their post into the theme. We are very casual about that. The whole point is for […]

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