1) my moms chicken noodle soup— Alyssa (@yes_thattoo) September 4, 2018
2) 拉面 (la/lo mian/mein), as done at small places in large Chinese cities
3) Mac and cheese with cayenne and tuna
4) Lamb vindaloo
5) Three layer chocolate cake with chocolate whipped cream frosting I make for my birthday https://t.co/X5xlOYRIOU
That's the short version. Food is an important part of culture, and of who we are. That's true of both the special foods (that cake!) and the everyday (mac and cheese). Here's the explained version of why I think each of these five dishes tells you something about me.
- Mom's chicken noodle soup means home, and it means comfort. When I get sick, this is what I want to be eating. It's a very concentrated broth (sometimes made by starting with store-bought chicken broth and then boiling the chicken in it) made entirely with legs and thighs instead of a whole chicken. Noodles are done separately so they don't get soggy, and so mom and I can have different soup:noodle ratios. I basically want a bowl of noodles and chicken with a few pieces of vegetables, barely covered by broth. (My non-Jewish stepmother actually makes a more "traditional" Jewish chicken noodle soup than my Jewish mother does, but that's because my mom modified the recipe so we'd like it better.)
- 拉面 is something I ate a lot of every time I studied in China. It's a noodle soup, but Chinese instead of traditionally Jewish. Long, thin noodles in broth, with some shaved meat (beef, where I got it), some vegetables, and a pot of spicy oil available somewhere if you wanted to make it spicy. At the place on campus at 浙江大学 (Zhejiang University), there were just the two options, a small bowl or a large bowl. Most other places where I ate this had a variety of noodle dishes, but this is the one that was already familiar. It was also the cheapest, and I was a student.
- Mac and cheese with cayenne and tuna: Think boxed macaroni and cheese, but we buy our own cheddar cheese powder in bulk so it's not technically box mac and cheese. It's the same basic recipe, but heavier on the cheese, butter, and milk (whole milk!), and then we add some extra spices and put tuna in it. Cayenne is the main extra spice. When I get queasy, this is one of my safe foods. I'm aware that's weird, but it works. (When I was in Tianjin and couldn't cook, I put noodles in my basket at local 麻辣烫 place for my safe option of "absurdly spicy noodles." At restaurants in the US that have it, a seafood alfredo is usually as close as I can get, and will be my order if I'm queasy.)
- Lamb vindaloo. From my sophomore through senior years of high school, I was on the Eastern Massachusetts team for American Regions Math League. (Well, the E team for it. We sent three teams and went A, E, B for some reason that I never understood and never really asked about.) While we were in Pennsylvania for the competition, I went to an Indian restaurant with some of my teammates. I forget what I got. A teammate with no spice tolerance got vindaloo. I finished his vindaloo, and it has been my favorite Indian dish since.
- Three layer chocolate cake with chocolate whipped cream frosting I make for my birthday. I got the recipe from my dad, who also makes it for his birthday. He makes it for one of my sister's birthdays too. We all have the same favorite chocolate cake. The recipe comes from a book of chocolate desserts. When I make it, I use a darker chocolate and slightly more of it than the recipe says, and we all take it out of the oven a bit earlier than the suggested time so as to get the suggested texture.