I have food issues.
Not the kind you might imagine I’d be talking about–issues of eating too much or body image-associated issues–although it’s true I’ve had my share of those.
I’m talking about the daily challenge of what on earth are we going to have for dinner (or breakfast and lunch for that matter–especially lunch).
Part of my problem I blame on my mother. Like her, I’m addicted to variety. I don’t want the same old thing every day. I don’t even want the same old 30 things every month. Shortly after we arrived here I sat down to make a list of the things we like to eat. This may sound strange, but the list of foods available to us here is different than what we would consume back in Canada, so after almost two years back “home,” it was time to get my head around my modified menu list again. I don’t eat pork, and I’m not sure whether I should trust the fish pulled out of the ocean here, although our city is somewhat renowned for its seafood, so my choices really boil down to chicken or beef. I made a list of about 35 possible meals.
The problem is, when I sit down to examine this list on a daily basis, almost nothing inspires me. So I branch out. I add a new meal to the menu list. But after that meal is consumed, I don’t want to eat it again for a while to come.
My family is no help at all. If I ask Sweetpea what she wants for dinner, her answer is always the same: spaghetti or sushi.
If I ask JavaMan for his input, again the answer is always the same. “Whatever you make is good, hon, I don’t care.” He regularly reminds me that we eat more variety than the average family likely does, so just cook something easy.
Thanks. (He obviously doesn’t understand my food issues.)
My parents recently embraced The Hallelujah Diet. Eating vegetarian has always interested me, but I’ve never figured it would work for my carnivorous bunch over the long haul. I have been interested, however, in having the occasional vegetarian meal.
With this thought in mind (and hoping for some potential variety for the cooking schedule), I headed to our local market. At one end of the market is a “grains lady,” or at least that’s what we call her. Her little shop is stuffed with big bags of grains and legumes of various descriptions. I long ago figured out which were black beans and which were kidney beans, so I could use them. I also buy my brown rice, cornmeal, sorghum, oat groats and buckwheat flour from this lady.
On this trip, I asked her if it would be all right for me to take one bean out of each of her bags and examine them to try to figure out what I could cook with them. She let me help myself.
Problem is, even though she taught me the names of some of them in Chinese, I haven’t been able to accurately identify them, even with my online Chinese dictionary or the help of my old friend Google.
I was able to figure out a number of the beans from the Chinese I was given and from referencing pictures on the internet. Some were a big surprise. What I assumed was a lima bean was actually a hyacinth bean!
I was told two of the beans are the same kind–one is the “white” variety and the other the “red” variety, so I grouped those two together as one “mystery bean.” The third “mystery bean” may or may not be a “mottled kidney bean,” which is a legitimate variety in China. The problem with all three beans is I couldn’t make out the scribbled Chinese characters on my cheat sheet with any confidence. The pinyin didn’t help either as a reference. One of them is a “红__圆“ (I think.) I’m missing the middle character. And for the final variety of bean, marked with a “???” I was able to make out the characters, but they don’t particularly make sense. My dictionary came up with nothing. The literal translation of the characters is “river bean.”
So I’m putting it out to the blogosphere: Can you name that bean? (And if you have any great recipes for any of them, I’d love to hear them.)
The future of dinner in our house depends upon you.
P.S. – No children were starved in the making of this blog post. I promise there’s dinner on the table every night, I’m just occasionally challenged about what it should be ;)