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By David Ross
Mmmm. The sweet, spiced aroma of a freshly baked pumpkin pie wafting over the Thanksgiving table. A large bowl of chilled, sweetened cream is passed around the table, a cool dollop of cream cascading over a slice of “homemade” pumpkin pie. (In many households, removing a frozen pie from a box and putting it in a hot oven is considered “homemade.”).
Americans can’t seem to get enough pumpkin pie during the Holidays. Some 50 million pumpkin pies are sold for Thanksgiving dinner and according to astute company marketing executives, 1 million of the pies are sold at Costco. And Mrs. Smith sells a few million of her oven-ready, frozen pumpkin pie.
In August of 2013, we debuted the Summer Squash Cook-Off (http://forums.egullet.org/topic/145452-cook-off-63-summer-squash/)
where we presented a number of tasty zucchini and patty pan dishes showcasing summer squash. But our squash adventure wasn’t over. Today we expand our squash lexicon with the debut of eG Cook-Off #71: Winter Squash.
(Click here http://forums.egulle...cook-off-index/ for the complete eG Cook-Off Index).
Cut into jack-o-lanterns for Halloween and crafted into cheesecake for Thanksgiving, pumpkin reigns supreme each Fall. But pumpkin is just one variety of winter squash--squash that grows throughout the summer and is harvested in fall. The acorn, butternut, spaghetti, hubbard, kabocha, red kuri, delicata, calabaza and cushaw are but a few of the many winter squash cousins of the pumpkin.
Winter squash is not always the best looking vegetable in the produce section--knobby, gnarled and multi-colored, winter squash has a hard, tough skin. Peel back the unfashionable skin and sweet, rich squash meat is revealed.
Winter squash cookery doesn’t end after the last slice of pumpkin pie. You can stuff it with a forcemeat of duck confit and sautéed mushrooms, purée roasted squash into a creamy soup garnished with lardons or slowly braise squash with peppers and corn in a spicy Caribbean stew.
Please join us in sharing, learning and savoring winter squash.
Perhaps the food-related question I get asked most through my blog is “What's it like for vegetarians and vegans in China. The same question came up recently on another thread, so I put this together. Hope it's useful. It would also, be great to hear other people's experience and solutions.
For the sake of typing convenience I’m going to conflate 'vegetarians and vegan' into just 'vegetarian' except where strictly relevant.
First a declaration of non-interest. I am very carnivorous, but I have known vegetarians who have passed through China, some staying only a few weeks, others staying for years. Being vegetarian in China is a complicated issue. In some ways, China is probably one of the best countries in which to be vegetarian. In other ways, it is one of the worst.
I spent a couple of years in Gorbachev-era Russia and saw the empty supermarkets and markets. I saw people line up for hours to buy a bit of bread.. So, when I first came to China, I kind of expected the same. Instead, the first market I visited astounded me. The place was piled high with food, including around 30 different types of tofu, countless varieties of steamed buns and flat breads and scores of different vegetables, both fresh and preserved, most of which I didn't recognise. And so cheap I could hardly convert into any western currency. If you are able to self-cater then China is heaven for vegetarians. For short term visitors dependent on restaurants or street food, the story is very different.
Despite the perception of a Buddhist tradition (not that strong, actually), very few Chinese are vegetarian and many just do not understand the concept. Explaining in a restaurant that you don't eat meat is no guarantee that you won't be served meat.
Meat is seen in China as a status symbol. If you are rich, you eat more meat.And everyone knows all foreigners are rich, so of course they eat meat! Meat eating is very much on the rise as China gets more rich - even to the extent of worrying many economists, food scientists etc. who fear the demand is pushing up prices and is environmentally dangerous. But that's another issue. Obesity is also more and more of a problem.
Banquet meals as served in large hotels and banquet dedicated restaurants will typically have a lot more meat dishes than a smaller family restaurant. Also the amount of meat in any dish will be greater in the banquet style places.
Traditional Chinese cooking is/was very vegetable orientated. I still see my neighbours come home from the market with their catch of greenery every morning. However, whereas meat wasn't the central component of dinner, it was used almost as a condiment or seasoning. Your stir fried tofu dish may come with a scattering of ground pork on top, for example. This will not usually be mentioned on the menu.
Simple stir fried vegetables are often cooked in lard (pig fat) to 'improve' the flavour.
Another problem is that the Chinese word for meat (肉), when used on its own refers to pork. Other meats are specified, eg (beef) is 牛肉, literally cattle meat. What this means is that when you say you don't eat meat, they often think you mean you don't eat pork (something they do understand from the Chinese Muslim community), so they rush off to the kitchen and cook you up some stir fried chicken! I've actually heard a waitress saying to someone that chicken isn't meat. Also, few Chinese wait staff or cooks seem to know that ham is pig meat. I have also had a waitress argue ferociously with me that the unasked for ham in a dish of egg fried rice wasn't meat.
Also, Chinese restaurant dishes are often given have really flowery, poetic names which tell you nothing of the contents. Chinese speakers have to ask. One dish on my local restaurant menu reads “Maternal Grandmother's Fluttering Fragrance.” It is, of course, spicy pork ribs!
Away from the tourist places, where you probably don't want to be eating anyway, very few restaurants will have translations of any sort. Even the best places' translations will be indecipherable. I have been in restaurants where they have supplied an “English menu”, but if I didn't know Chinese would have been unable to order anything. It was gibberish.
To go back to Buddhism and Taoism, it is a mistake to assume that genuine followers of either (or more usually a mix of the two) are necessarily vegetarian. Many Chinese Buddhists are not. In fact, the Dalai Lama states in his autobiography that he is not vegetarian. It would be very difficult to survive in Tibet on a vegetarian diet.
There are vegetarian restaurants in many places (although the ones around where I am never seem to last more than six months). In the larger cities such as Beijing and Shanghai they are more easily findable.
Curiously, many of these restaurants make a point of emulating meat dishes. The menu reads like any meat using restaurant, but the “meat” is made from vegetable substitutes (often wheat gluten or konjac based).
To be continued
After a delightful brunch at Koslow's Sqirl restaurant in Los Angeles, I've decided to attempt to cook through her cookbook. I'll post my results here.
Please follow along and join in, if you're so inclined. Her food is wonderful, but I will surmise that her true deliciousness comes from using the best and freshest ingredients. I'll do my best to recreate the magic I felt at Sqirl.
Here's the link to her book at Eat Your Books.
Thanks to @blue_dolphin, I was forced to buy this cookbook and it was delivered today. No matter how hard I try, I just don't super enjoy cookbooks on my Kindle. Anyway, I'll most likely be alone on this thread due to low okra likability lol, but I'm an only child and I'm used to being alone 😁
First on the list will be the Kimchi Okra from page 100--as suggested by @blue_dolphin.
I'll be back on this thread soon
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