I recently had the pleasure of interviewing a talented fellow food blogger whose online projects 1. never fail to incite my inner gastronome, and 2. make me want to get better at food photography. Margaret C. Doughney of SavorySweetLiving.com was kind enough not long ago to take nine F.A.Qs (Food Adventurer Queries – See what I did there?) from yours truly.
Why nine? Maybe because it rhymes with “dine” and dining is one of my favorite activities. Or maybe because discovering new foods to love among dishes and cuisines I haven’t previously tried deposits me on cloud nine like few activities can. Or maybe because I’m just strange and I enjoy pulling random-but-somehow-significant-seeming ideas out of a hat from time to time just to confound those around me. At any rate, if you enjoy cooking and eating delicious food with strong Asian influences and you aren’t familiar with Margaret and her blog, then you should be, and I’m pleased to introduce you to the work of this great lady.
Flavorful World: What is your earliest memory of a food experience that you absolutely loved?
Margaret C. Doughney: It’s hard to choose just one since I loved so many of my childhood food experiences. My family loves to eat and we often dined out. One of my favorite earliest food memories was when my family and I went to one of our favorite restaurants in Hong Kong. I can’t recall exactly how old I was probably between 7-9 years old. I’ve always been a good eater. I love to try all types of food, and have always been an adventurous eater because of the diversity of food available in Hong Kong. This particular evening the waiter brought out a dish that was completely covered. My family took turn lifting up the lid and I caught a glimpse of the live shrimps dancing around. The dish came with some type of wine or alcohol. My mom didn’t want me to have any because you’re suppose to drink the alcohol after consuming these live shrimps; but I begged because I was really curious as to how it tasted. So finally after much pleading, my mom gave me one to eat and I was so excited to try. In retrospect I was probably more excited because I got what I wanted, but it was one of the sweetest shrimps I ever tasted. I’m not sure I would eat live shrimps now so I’m glad I did when I had a chance.
FW: Tell us about the versatility of a food item that you feel is unfairly underrated in the public consciousness and underrepresented on restaurant menus.
MCD: I think offal may be the most underrated food item in the public consciousness in the U.S. Though there are chefs that have been advocates for offal and believe in head to tail dining; it is still very much underrepresented. I was raised eating internal organs, tongues, feet of butchered animals such as chickens, pigs and cows because they are widely available. These parts are used in very popular dishes as well as soups and for medicinal purposes in many Asian countries. Many also believe by not wasting these parts of the animal is considered the ultimate in sustainable eating.
FW: What is the greatest edible extravagance that you allow yourself in your own kitchen?
MCD: I often use the freshest and/or organic ingredients as often as possible. Many people may view this as extravagant because they are usually more expensive; but to me it’s well worth it. I love organic or locally farmed produce, and try to buy my ingredients from local farmers or organic producers as much as possible.
FW: Chef Anthony Bourdain is among food industry professionals who have questioned whether in sharing knowledge of various global locales serving up traditional, unspoiled, often centuries-old recipes, they are contributing to the demise of these institutions, fearing the deleterious effect that increased visitor traffic from outsiders has wrought on more than one culture throughout history. Do you feel that increased tourism is more of a boon or a detriment to indigenous culinary cultures?
MCD: I am a huge fan of Chef Bourdain’s travel show. There have been many episodes where he visited indigenous cultures and shared meals with the people to get a sense of what they eat; but most importantly, he also shows us the heart and soul of a meal is simply sitting down with their families at the end of the day to catch up on their daily lives just like most of us. I trust the people who travel to these places often respect the indigenous people and their culture; and their intention is not to exploit or cause harm, but ultimately to experience their culture and learn from them. I think it would be a great learning experience for all.
FW: If your collection of original recipes could be said to possess a common and defining thread that runs through the entire assembly, what would it be?
MCD: I like to create recipes using Asian ingredients. I also like to add new ingredients to classic recipes. I recently posted my duck taco which was inspired by the classic Peking duck. I also post recipes of what I like to eat; and I think that’s the common thread that runs through my blog.
FW: Chef Greg Malouf of Hong Kong’s popular Olive restaurant famously banned the usage of tongs from his kitchen late last year, and is quoted as reasoning that “When people use tongs, they lose that connection between the food and yourself. They are no longer mindfully thinking about every step in handling the food.” Tell us your thoughts on this philosophy, and whether any items/utensils are verboten in your cooking arena.
MCD: I think every chef has the right to run their kitchens their way. I can empathize with Chef Malouf’s philosophy because every utensil or tool has its place in the kitchen. Tong has become one of those tools that people use for everything even when it may not be appropriate or suitable to use when cooking certain dishes. I admire that Chef Malouf has so much respect for the ingredients and the dishes that he puts out of his kitchen; he sets a certain standard for his team to follow. I’m sure if I were running a professional kitchen and if I see an ingredient is mishandled by the wrongful use of an utensil, I may feel the same way as Chef Malouf.
FW: In terms of innovation and daring, tell us about a cook or chef who you feel is bringing the most interesting things to the menu these days.
MCD: Recently I attended the Omnivore Master Classes in NYC that featured five amazing young chefs. There were two chefs from Paris, two from NYC and one from Denmark. I was so impressed with all five chefs but Chef Mads Refslund (co-founder of Noma) from Copenhagen was awe-inspiring. He demoed six dishes that used many local ingredients he brought with him from Denmark. I tasted ramp ash and dashi salt for the first time, and was amazed by his techniques and innovation.
FW: Excluding the name of any of your pre-existing blogs, websites, or print/online personas, tell us what name you would give to your memoir about your culinary exploits.
MCD: This is an interesting question as I never thought about writing a memoir of my culinary exploits so I have not thought about a title. Well, my mom always told me that I was always a good eater even when I was a baby. Even though you probably can’t tell by my size, but I have a huge appetite so maybe I’d call it “MY LARGER THAN LIFE APPETITE”.
FW: When you aren’t cooking and/or eating delicious foods, how do you most enjoy spending your time?
MCD: Other than eating and cooking with family and friends, I love to dance, and have taken dance classes on and off ever since I was a child. I’m also somewhat a thrill seeker as I love fast cars, roller coasters and skydiving.
Thanks so much for your time, Margaret, and for being a pleasure to talk with!
*Note To Readers: If you think this was entertaining, you ain’t seen nothin’ yet. To stay up on the best Asian and Asian-inspired recipes around, you need to seriously think about following this engaging food blogger’s culinary feats on Twitter. While you’re at it, you can go ahead and subscribe to SavorySweetLiving.com, too. And if you enjoyed this little glimpse into Margaret’s kitchen, then spread some “Like” around Savory Sweet Living’s Facebook page (tell her Flavorful World sent you.)