The Girl Who Ate Everything

Blogging about food and whatever since 2004.

Chinatown and mooncakes

Sometimes food seems nothing but a problem; it consumes me, an endless source of pleasure and frustration, and indeed pain. Its endlessness is the problem - food is about boundaries, maps of the body, the outlines of social give and take. I wonder if I'll ever get into shape. Meanwhile, I love shopping for food; love finding and learning about new types of pasta, or cheeses; love the balancing act of cooking; and most of all, inexhaustively love eating.

- Susan Ardill, Turning the Tables

I got this passage out of Consuming Geographies by David Bell & Gill Valentine, a book for my "Essentials of Cusine" class. The name of my class is misleading since it probably sounds more like a cooking class than one that has to do with food theory. My teacher said if there were less bureaucracy to changing the name of a class, she'd call it "The Evolution of Cuisine".

I though that passage reflected my relationship with food pretty well, or at least more eloquently, as I'm more likely to say something along the lines of, "AHRRAGHR FOOD DOOM DOOM, EVIL, WHYYY" when frustrated with gluttonous occurences such as eating 500 or more calories of something delicious (like I'd want something that isn't delicious) in the same amount of time it takes the average person to exhale. Once. Instead of saying something like "I inexhaustively love cooking," I'd probably say, "Mmmm fooood mmmmm fooooood mrmaraah foood *sob*!" and watch as everyone within ear shot backs away, confusedly.

Today was one of those gluttonous days. It wasn't as indulgent as yesterday; I just happened to eat more than I should've. (Which happens a lot.)

Around 11 AM, not long after waking up (that's the latest I've gotten to sleep in all week; I like my sleep!), I ate a peach and the last fourth of the ginormous chocolate rice krispie treat I got from Veselka. I rarely eat rice krispie treats (that was probably the first one I've had in more than three years) but Veselka's looked too good to pass up (and most bakeries don't have rice krispie treats). Although I would've liked it to be sweeter and have more chocolate, it was pretty good. I mean, I did eat the whole thing, which was the size of a brick. (Now I'm imagining a house built with bricks of rice krispie treats...mmm, yum.) Also, I like rice krispie treats that are, crispier, as in drier and not the kind that you can pull apart with little piece of puffed rice holding onto marshmallow strands for dear life, like the one from Veselka. But both kinds are good.

vegetable dumplings
vegetable dumplings

I guess that was a pre-lunch snack. Oops. I ended up eating lunch at New Wonton Garden on Mott Street with Diana before going to the Res Fest. We almost ordered the same thing; Diana got vegetable dumplings in soup and I got the same dumplings in soup with Shanghai noodles. Not knowing what Shanghai noodles were, I figured that any noodle was good. And it was good (they're thick wheat noodles, kinda like udon), although I couldn't finish all the noodles. There's not much to complain about New Wonton Garden besides the same crampness and lack of decor you'd find at just about any restaurant in Chinatown; the food's really cheap, really fast, and always good. ("Always" out of the four times I've been there, at least.) Together, our food cost about

buns with stuff
I didn't eat this, but I would've liked to!

We smushed our way through the Mid-Autumn Festival crowd to Fay Da Bakery where Diana wanted some milk tea (she seriously needs to find a place that only gives shots of tea since she takes about 5 sips before feeling satisfied; damn, I need that ability). I though about getting a mooncake and was about to leave empty handed until I spotted some white mooncakes in the main display case. Out of the three flavors, I chose "Mango & Mung Bean Snowy Moon Cake", handing over $6.25 for a pack of two, probably the most money I'll ever spend in a Chinese bakery. Admittedly, I don't know how much effort it takes to make a snowy mooncake, but it seemed pretty expensive. ...but I really shouldn't say anything considering how much money I spend on food.

snowy mooncake
snowy mooncake
mooncake innards
mooncake innards (mung bean and mango)

Having no idea what a snowy mooncake tasted like, the first thought that came to mind was a very thin-skinned daifuku. The flavor wasn't very...well, flavorful, but I liked the texture. It was extremely soft and tasted fresh, not that I know what the taste of a fresh mooncake actually is. But...THAT'S MY DESCRIPTION.

And thus ended my afternoon of foods. What happened later? Um.

...on Friday I bought some kale from the Union Square Greenmarket with the intention of actually cooking, and beyond that first hurdle, cooking something pseudo-healthy. For whatever reason (perhaps from not cooking the kale long enough), I ended up with kale that tasted too kale-y. Obviously, kale isn't something that is inherently tasty, but I did cook it with salt and oil and a sprinkling of sesame seeds, all of which fell under the bitter sword/automatic machine gun weilded by THE KALE. My first thought after finish my bowl of kale (of course, I ate the whole thing) was, "Damn, I don't want to do that again."

So tonight, I cooked the other half of the bunch of kale. It came out better than before since I semi-steamed it before sauteing it (the first time, I just sauteed it). Of course, it didn't really taste good, it just came out more palatable. A passage about flavor, courtesy of Elizabeth Rozin in The Structure of Cuisine:

The definition that flavoring provides is both inclusionary and exclusionary; it imparts a culinary identification and a sense of familiarity for those individuals who create and share in the tradition, while providing as well a defining marker for those outside the group who do not participate in it or who do so only occasionally. ...Cover any food, no matter what, with a sauce made of tomatoes, olive oil, garlic and herbs, and we identify it as Italian; what is more, Italians will identify it as Italian.

I'm not going to disagree with Rozin, but in my head, flavoring...makes many foods that would be otherwise non-palatable palatable. Yes, I'm a master of the obvious. Of course I like certain flavors (curry, curry, curry!) but seasonings make us eat stuff that we may not otherwise want to eat. And maybe we shouldn't be eating certain things. Many people wouldn't eat plain spaghetti if it weren't seasoned with something (admittedly, I probably would eat plain, unseasoned spaghetti), so maybe it's not something we should be eating.

...err, nevermind. I'm not sure where I'm going with this. I'll still eat noodle-y things, of course.

miniature mooncake

Oh, I'm not done yet. Before the kale, I ate a peach, and after the kale I ate the other half of a container of Greek yogurt I had opened a few days ago, along with some honey. After that, I ate three miniature mooncakes. Yes, MINIATURE, as in two inches in diameter. I know three is still excessive, but all three were different and by now you shouldn't be surprised by my eating habits. The first one was my favorite and made of lotus seed paste, I THINK.. The second was black bean, which I liked, but not as much as the first. And the third...was just odd. It almost tasted savory, but I knew it wasn't. Um. Maybe that was wintermelon? Not good, man, not good. For some reason, I became slightly feverish after finishing that last mooncake. Interesting? My body immediately rejected it? Lovely. DAMN YOU, LAST MOONCAKE...OF DOOM.

AND...that concludes my day of eating. Thank god.


Re: Amy's commen on the previous entry: Il Laboratorio del Gelato seems to use "gelato" and "ice cream" interchangably. I know they're not the same thing, but...mrrh? What do they sell?


Nosher / September 19, 2005 12:20 PM

Hey-- Wonton Garden is our very favorite place in Chinatown. I've been going there for about 15 years, on and off, and you're right-- it's always good. Have the fried tofu sometime. It comes to the table practically on fire, it's so hot and fresh.

Love your pictures too!


Kathy / September 19, 2005 12:31 PM

I also did some mooncaking back in LA yesteday! (Though its much more inconvenient here as you can't simply walk from place to place...) I've never tried a snowy mango mooncake, although it sounds quite good. I sympathize with your lack of ability to control eating, esp when it comes to sweets. I had a mini durian with egg mooncake, a pineapple one, the "orginal" kind and a wintermelon one - all good! I've always wanted to try the rice krispes at Veselka, but I've missed my chance! (Perhaps I'll have to fly to nyc just to eat! :)

suze / December 30, 2005 3:32 PM

Hi, I'm the writer of the quote above - found it when googling my name! It's nice to see it used on a blog with such a great name.

Yvette Dobosz / June 20, 2007 11:50 PM

Dear Interesting food lady,
lol, exscuze my oddness,I was wondering where in china town I might daifuku, and bubble tea, as I live in CT, and I dont know that much about NY. I would like to kno because I also have a big interst in different kinds of foods.
Thankyou =)

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