Chicken feet & culinary curiosity
Tuesday, October 20, 2009 | 12:00 PM ET
By Andrea Chiu, CBC Radio Digital
When my parents first moved from Hong Kong to Canada in the late 1970s there were only a few restaurants and cafes offering Chinese food. Still, I grew up with a childhood rich with congee, dim sum and windows of hanging roasted animals — faces and all.
Food, then and now, plays a central role in our family. We love to cook and eat and while we do those things, we talk about it.
I can’t say with certainty that had I grown up in a family of a different heritage I wouldn’t appreciate food as much as I do. But I know that my Chinese roots have much to do with my foodie fascination.
China has a rich culinary history that may not be as well documented as French or Italian gastronomy, but is nonetheless significant. Food in Chinese culture is the centre of all gatherings. Wedding banquets seem endless with multiple courses of vegetables, meats, seafood, more meat, rice and noodles and finally dessert. Chinese New Year is celebrated with more banquets of equal excess, each dish signifying good luck, prosperity or health.
So when I’m asked why there is a recent surge of foodie-ism, I point to my childhood supper table. I can’t argue that the sexy food programming isn’t a major contributor to Canada’s interest in food, but we should also credit the diversification of our collective palette. Our interest in food would be much smaller today if we didn’t have an increasing number of Japanese restaurants, roti shops and Ethiopian joints to fuel new taste experiences.
Since my parents first arrived in Canada, there has been a great surge in the number of Chinese restaurants and cuisine available where we live in Toronto. But it’s not just Chinese food that helps Canadians develop their tastes.
Food is much more interesting when your co-worker has a lunch you’ve never tasted before. Suddenly, you’re curious about flavours from these new cuisines and how they could be incorporated into your cooking. How would smoked paprika or star anise taste in your favourite chili recipe?
While I’m still intimidated by the idea of cooking complicated Chinese dishes, it is my ancestry that has influenced my curiosity in love of food. I wasn’t restricted to chicken breast, I ate chicken feet, livers and stared down at chicken heads garnishing a restaurant plate. This unabashed love of all kinds of food has allowed me to maintain an open mind when it comes to gastronomy.
How has your family or heritage shaped the way you feel about food?
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About the blog
From trends and culture to politics and nutrition, Food Bytes serves up tasty tidbits about food and the issues surrounding it that flavour our everyday lives.
About the writers
Amber Hildebrandt writes for CBCNews.ca in Toronto. Growing up on a farm in Manitoba, she acquired an insatiable appetite, but it was during a stint in Japan that she developed her discerning tastebuds and "foodie" ways.
Andrea Chiu is an associate producer at CBC Radio Digital. Though she loves to eat, cook and discuss food, don't ask her to bake. It never turns out well. She tweets as @TOfoodie on Twitter and organizes food and wine events in Toronto called FoodieMeet.
Tara Kimura is the consumer life reporter for CBCNews.ca, covering a wide range of issues that range from rising food costs and the growing organic movement, to new trends in the marketplace.
Andree Lau is a CBC web reporter in Calgary. Her journalism career includes seven years as a CBC-TV reporter. Her own blog called "are you gonna eat that?" chronicles her eating adventures (including sampling snake and camel hoof tendon).
Jessica Wong is a CBCNews.ca writer who loves to eat and cook, as well as discuss, read and watch programming about food, sometimes all at once.
Kevin Yarr, CBCNews.ca's writer in Prince Edward Island, wrote about food and beer for national and regional magazines before joining the CBC. He acquired a desire for new tastes on his first trip to Europe, and an appreciation of eating locally and in season when he finally settled down on P.E.I.
Elizabeth Bridge is a writer with the CBC Digital Archives in Toronto. She first ventured into the kitchen as a child to indulge a sweet tooth by baking cookies and making fudge. A student budget compelled her to be a vegetarian (for a while) and instilled in her an ongoing curiosity about food and cooking.
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