Tuesday, September 19, 2023

Schelpping through the swamp of sautéed mushrooms

For the life of me, I can't remember the title of this particular book...but years ago we read a story that talked about a child growing up and the changes that happened. One day this child "climbed the mountain of cooked carrots," meaning that they gained the ability to eat their vegetables without complaining. The book wasn't remotely about carrots, but this is the line that my kids clung to. Benjamin started ribbing Zoë about her dislike for cooked carrots (and pretty much everything on the face of the planet) and Zoë got upset that he was teasing her. 


And then one day she ate some roasted carrots and found them to be quite palatable and Benjamin exclaimed that she had finally "climbed the mountain of cooked carrots!"


That's precisely why it takes a lot of tasting to decide whether or not you actually like things. 


It was very convenient that—after 37 years or so of refusing to eat tomatoes—Andrew realized that tomatoes are good on some sandwiches. The kids learned that even grown ups can expand their preferences!


We've been trying all sorts of unusual (to us) foods: dragon fruit, star fruit, papaya, guava, eggplant. Mushrooms don't quite fall into the same kind of exotic categories these other foods might fall into, but it's also not something that typically lands on our weekly shopping list, either. Benjamin is always begging for mushrooms and sometimes Andrew will oblige him. This week was one of those weeks.


Benjamin was very excited. A few of our other kids—including Zoë—were not. 


For lunch the other day, Benjamin sautéed some mushrooms to put on his Ramen and I told him just to cook the entire package (because once you open a pack of mushrooms they tend to...wilt...or whatever...quite quickly). I had some with my noodles as well. And to my surprise when Benjamin offered Zoë some she said she would try one and then would see if she wanted more. 


So she ate one, declared it delicious, and then ate two servings of them! And not mixed in with her soup or anything, but just...plain, on a little plate. It was quite surprising! 


Today when Benjamin put the leftover sautéed mushrooms on some leftover "essential" birthday pizza...Zoë did the same thing. 


Not only has she climbed the mountain of cooked carrots, she's schlepped through the swamp of sautéed mushrooms as well!




Now I'm going to talk about soup for a minute because putting mushrooms into my soup at lunch the other day reminded me that mushroom flavoured Ramen used to be quite normal in my house growing up. Beef, chicken, mushroom, oriental...all normal flavours.


From what I'm reading, "oriental" flavour has—rightly—been changed to "soy sauce" flavoured. Calling a food oriental is a little...orientalistic. 


But I'm having a hard time rewiring my brain to stop calling Ramen "oriental noodles" since that is—by and large—still what Ramen is called in Canada (as evidence: this blog post from 2019 and this short film from 2018). That's what I grew up calling it, with an alternative being "ichiban" (which is part of a brand name for noodles, and which simply means 'the best' in Japanese (or, like, "first")).


I remember visiting my cousins in the states once and they asked if I wanted some Top Ramen for lucnh and I was like, "What is this thing of which you speak?"


I had no idea what they were talking about because I had never used the word "ramen" in my life. 


Sapporo Ichiban: Japanese-style Noodles? Yes. 

Mr. Noodles: Instant Noodles? Yes.

No Name Brand: Oriental Noodles? Yes.


But I had never come across the word "ramen." 


"You know—ramen! Like 'Top Ramen!'"


"Yeah, no...I don't know what 'Top Ramen' is, so..."


They produced a package and I was like, "Oh, you mean..." 


And then I'm sure I said "oriental noodles."


Now, to my mind these days, that title sounds far too orientalistic (as I mentioned) and I've largely adopted the use of "ramen noodles" instead, but I do wonder how to change an entire culture. Like, "oriental noodles" is printed on the food packages. There are many restaurants with "oriental noodles" in the name. Is it something that needs to be changed? Or is it, culturally, okay? I don't even know!


Where I grew up there was a rather large Asian population. Vancouver's population is about 20% Chinese (or Chinese-heritage). Combined with South Asian (14.2%), Filipino (5.5%), Korean (2.4%), West Asian (2.5%), Southeast Asian (2.2%) and Japanese (1.2%) populations, that puts the Asian population at 47.6% of Vancouver residents. 43% of Vancouver residents are considered "European" (which is how we would be identified if we lived there). So...there are a lot of Asians in that area of Canada and that's where I grew up with "oriental noodles."


To put that in perspective for my children, we feel like there is a large Asian population here in Atlanta (which is a pretty popular place for Korean diaspora to land), but Atlanta's population is only 5% Asian (a category containing Chinese (0.7%), Korean (0.8%), Vietnamese (0.7%) and Indian 1.5%). 


To be fair, in the mid-1990s, the European population in Vancouver was approximately 67%, while the Asian population was "merely" 27% or so. That still blows Atlanta's 5% out of the water.


And that's fine. I'm not calling Atlanta homogenous by any means. It just happens that the Pacific Northwest has a large population of Asian immigrants (so I grew up using chopsticks but, like, couldn't purchase tortillas in a grocery store because Vancouver has only 1.4% of a Latin American population today (and a mere 0.76% in mid-1990s)), whereas Atlanta's Hispanic population is about 10% (Salt Lake City is about 20%, Los Angeles is about 50%). And Atlanta is, you know, like 32% Black, whereas Vancouver is only 1.6% Black (today; but only 0.2% Black when I was growing up). 


All this is to say that somehow in a place with a relatively large Asian population, I grew up calling Ramen "oriental noodles" and I'm just not sure how I feel about that, precisely. 

1 comment:

  1. I read this post yesterday, and it dawned on me later what we usually called Ramen noodles when I was growing up: Oodles of Noodles. :D