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Spinach and Sweet Potato curry


Another week immersed in the restaurant world, sipping gorgeous wines, noshing on excellently-prepared cuisine, taking in a suave cigar room in L.A.'s most popular speakeasy, relaxing with a glass of cognac at 4 in the morning after a glorious evening with similarly-minded people. Guess what, I'm only 25 years old, probably 15 to 20 years too young for this kind of behaviour. But what tips me off as a potential sham might be that I fashion myself as a food writer.

I know, for those in the industry, those seasoned professionals, there's no way I really know what I'm talking about. I couldn't possibly have the experience to justify any conclusions I make. To those that have been doing this for up to twice as long as I've lived, I might have no right being a bon vivant at such a young age, enjoying the good life that a baby boomer (or late Gen-Xer) has every right to live in the 2010s. At this point, I should be happy trying to smooth-talk my way into some Hollywood lounge or bask on the cabanas of Vegas. Or better yet, I should sit quietly, observe, learn, listen, and when decades of experience can validate my opinion, I will finally be able to have an ounce of authority in my opinion and my voice. With all of this, I humbly and assuredly concur.

The Internet generation is too entitled, too spoiled, and too precocious to believe otherwise, unless they are so lost in their delusion that they'll be stuck in their mindset for the rest of their lives. I do pity our generation when they're suddenly 45 and can't believe how little they've accomplished because they've been handed so much on a silver platter. We don't know how to work for our status, pay our dues, like the other generations have known.

Being a budding food writer is no easy business in the media swell that is Web 2.0, social networks, and blogs. Traditional media's already taken a nosedive for the worst, and I fear that soon enough all major food publications close up their print shops and live like the rest of us on the web. If the iPad were any better, this downfall would be even more precipitous (thankfully the device doesn't merit the cost). The web has equalized all voices, making any haphazard Yelper or blogger a sudden competitor to the established regimes of print media. Twitter has made instant what previously took weeks or months to percolate into the masses.

I could remain on the sidelines. I could stay in my stucco tower and read all the food books, dictionaries, cookbooks, memoirs, and encyclopaedias until my contact lenses dry out in an stinging, tearful mess. I could eat out every other day at fine dining restaurant, and on other nights stay home to cook bourgeois fare in the comfort of my own kitchen, testing recipes from classics such as Mastering the Art of French Cooking, Beard on Food, Larousse, heck even Pepin's La Technique and Escoffier himself! I could amass a body of food experiences that could rival anyone else's in the world, and it still wouldn't be enough. There will still be those whose memories and palates and writing skills would surpass mine, because they've done it bigger, better, more efficiently, and with more aplomb than myself.

I don't know when the food world became such a competitive sport. I don't know when the food media became a winner-take-all system that elevates those with the right connections or unique backstory.

Instead of competition, instead of trying to prove who's right or wrong, maybe it would be better if we minded our own business, showing ourselves that we're satisfied enough with what we know and experience. Sure it's aggravating when people who don't know the correct preparation of a dish are the arbiters. Even I got mad watching Gourmet's Diary of a Foodie watching some two-bit trying to explain kimchi preparation on their Korea episode before thinking...do I really know that much more than that guy? Who cares? Good for him and good for Korea that they got such a nice feature.

What ultimately makes a good food writer is the outpouring of one's knowledge, experience, and passion. All three play a part in instilling the culture with what makes food important - that it's a human endeavour whose story deserves to be told. Sometimes the person that isn't most qualified tells this story, but at least someone is telling it.

I'm sure in Curnonsky's day there were dozens of other competitors in the food cognoscenti, vying for their special seat in restaurants and the opportunity to hobnob with chefs. I'm certain Lucullus wasn't the only Roman who endeavoured to tell the stories of those extravagant parties. Fisher, Wechsberg, Liebling, and Olney weren't the only food writers in our country three generations ago. There are countless other examples, but time shows that greatness rises to the top, after the other voices are whittled away like chaff.

In the meantime, I think it's best for me to keep writing. I'll have detractors. That's okay, because there are more important things in my life than food writing. There are more important things in the world than food (shocking!). I follow a passion for writing that's continued for the last 8 years, and persist with my passion for food running 4 years (in the serious sense). I've been eating well since my earliest memories, thanks to a comfortable upbringing by food-centric parents (I can thank their Brazilian background for that).

I'll continue to eat well thanks to many friends in the food world - cooks, chefs, restaurateurs, writers. I'll scale mountains and brave valleys to find that perfect fruit or meal or dish. Perhaps by then I will have sat in the temples of gastronomy that ultimately fade into memory as many do (consider L'Pyramide, and decades from now, The French Laundry or El Bulli). Like my parents, who've dined with European royalty, fought through Amazonian jungles, watched volcanoes erupt while enjoying a meal, I will get around to seeing the breadth and depth of God's creation that is this world, to say that this life has been to the full. And hopefully, in my last days, people might consider something I had to say about food, and life itself. I will be thankful for that.

Thai Spinach and Sweet Potato curry

3/4 cup raw peanuts cooked until soft
3 large sweet potatoes cut into 1/2 inch pieces
1 pkt of spinach leaves cut into small pieces (about 9 oz/ 225 gms)
1 onion cut fine

2 tbsp oil
2 Thai or Indian variety green chilies
2 inch piece of ginger minced fine
1 tsp minced garlic
approx 10 Thai basil leaves cut fine (optional)
1 tbsp vegan Thai red curry paste ( I used Thai Kitchen brand) (or to taste)
1/2 tsp red chili powder (or to taste)
salt to taste
 

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