Post #8: A new wok
As my taste buds shifted and my senses grew acclimated to Asian cuisine, my wanderings to eat Asian food now followed me back home and into the kitchen. I did not turn to cookbooks because they are filled with words. Youtube was a significant substitution, where I could watch and listen to people explain and demonstrate how to chop, season, and cook Asian dishes. Enough videos to outnumber the stars.
The language and ingredients of Asian cuisine were different from what I was used to but those I could figure out in my own online queries. What I learned through trial and error were the differences in the use of temperature and sequence in cooking. We wok-ed through many variations of success and failure. The wok gained a partner, a new wok. These two instruments bore the brunt of my experiments in first figuring out how a wok is different from a sauté pan, a frying pan, a saucepan, etc., and discovering the differences also involved some anthropological and historical pondering.
The cooking methods of the ancients evolved almost independently at some point; the East and the West made decisions about resources and gave meaning to everyday work that influenced even how cooking was to be done. And over time details were cemented and people broadened the menus of the emerging cuisines. In my experiments, my pantry expelled some inhabitants and new ones took their place. In the grocery cart, fresh foods made no room for pre-prepared foods, and in my mind, thoughts about texture and balance and contrast played. The writings of people like Michael Pollan and Anthony Bourdain, food writers I read long before the aneurysm also poked and prodded at me even at the grocery store.
And in a brain stuffed with fabulous ideas, I found I had difficulty separating ideas into distinct categories. I could not weigh the importance of one thought over others to effectively prioritize. I felt unable to make decisions at all. Cooking and food had brought me far in my recovery, but the higher-level brain functions still needed real experiences to work out the finer points. Even a year or more after the trauma, I would go to the grocery store fresh with inspiration and walk through to find what I needed and discover in the checkout line that a host of other foods had hitched a ride on the conveyor belt increasing the length of the receipt and adding to the dollars it cost. Then I would spend time wandering around the parking lot to find which car I brought to take me and the food back home.
The unsettling parts of grocery shopping were calmed by the peeling, by the chopping, and by the arranging of the next Asian-inspired dish I could whip up. And in the zen moments of making I considered how a lot of Asian dishes could be prepared in a half hour with proper prep work, but many French dishes would lose their brilliance if submitted to time-saving simplification. Some
cultures weighed their time and efforts in food prep by different standards.