By Brianna Chu
Before you start: I know it’s a dumb pun. I am indeed aware, as I was the idiot who came up with it.
So…hi! I’m Brianna, an early twenty-something, recent university graduate who was born and raised in Pasadena. As you might have guessed, I love food! I’ve been lucky to grow up trying and eating pretty much everything, and food is one of the things my family doesn’t skimp on! Food and family are core aspects of both Chinese and Filipino culture – my parents’ backgrounds – and meals are an integral communal activity. My mom affectionately but aggressively likes to feed anyone who comes into our house; and my fiancé has started to protest when she orders him to eat more. She’s always saying he’s skinny, but he just has a slim torso, okay? Jeez.
After growing up being able to access so many different cuisines, leaving the food haven of San Gabriel Valley was an eye-opener; I attended uni in St Andrews, Scotland, 5300 miles away from home. St Andrews, beyond being known as the home of golf and where Wills met Kate, is also well-known for being a “bubble” fairly far from any major city. St Andrews is a bonnie wee toun, and I love her dearly, but culinary diversity she has not. While my time in Britain has brought appreciation of a good fry-up (aka a “full English” – which can also be a full Scottish or a full Irish, etc….Google it! and you can thank me later for the great brunch ideas), the weirdly addictive Soreen, and the pseudo-sausage that is haggis, St Andrews in particular lacked variety of restaurants. Don’t get me started on their “Mexican food.” Britain? I love you, but please stay in your lane – you do Indian food pretty well, but please don’t touch Mexican food; you’ll only hurt yourself. You have to buy Tesco “ripe and ready” avocados a week before you use them for them to qualify as either “ripe” or “ready”…
I didn’t realize how lucky I was to be surrounded by almost every different culture of food constantly as a child; so, bereft of the food diversity I was so accustomed to, I had to learn how to make many of my favorites myself. I worked my way through some culinary staples and then eventually started moving to cooking all the foods I craved: I learned how to make congee, for instance, for when my fiancé or I was sick. I learned how to make biko, a Filipino coconut rice dessert, because there was obviously no way to access Filipino food in Scotland. As the years went by, I attempted increasingly time-consuming and complicated recipes. I started making and saying “red wine reduction,” and was way too proud of myself for that. Let’s be honest, I also got so much practice cooking because it was a great excuse to procrastinate writing my essays – a girl literally has to eat, right? In my last semester of university, I procrastinated my dissertation by learning how to make homemade carnitas and setting up a burrito buffet line in my cozy flat’s kitchen. For just two people. Don’t judge me.
I’m no professional – I’m not that technically skilled (I’m still afraid of hollandaise sauce, for instance, but I’m working up the courage to attempt it!), and while I recognize some ingredients, I don’t have a super-palate or anything like that. But that’s not what this column is for. This column is an exploration and a celebration of the amazing variety of cuisines we enjoy here in our local community! I can’t think of anything that can bring people together like food. Food is a necessity, but in every culture, the kitchen is a hub of life, love, and laughter. The multitude of different cuisines and cultures at our fingertips reflects the diversity of our community and I want to share the joys of food, culture, and community with the local restaurants that pour their hearts and souls into their businesses, as well as with you!
What’s a local treasure that you love and think I should try? Leave me a comment and share your recommendations!