Exactly three years ago today I interviewed Mrs. Flavorful World here with the hope that doing so would provide our valued readers and followers a bit of insight into who we are and why Flavorful World does much of what it does. She kindly sat for a recent second interview wherein we talked a bit about her formative cooking years, what foods she ‘d choose to be stranded on a desert island with, the garden she started in our backyard this summer, and more.
Flavorful World: The holidays are coming. What is the least attractive and enjoyable aspect of holiday meal planning and preparation, and why? What aspect is most attractive and enjoyable, and why?
Mrs. Flavorful World: The most attractive and enjoyable is getting away with overeating just because it’s the holidays. The excuse to make five different side dishes for dinner because, “Hey, it’s Christmas!” is fun for a foodie. The least attractive and enjoyable is just not having enough time in the day. You want to make five different side dishes but you end up only making two or three because your kids are wanting your attention, and your house is a mess and you have no place to put the food because your table is full of other miscellaneous items.
FW: Tell us the most recent food you tasted for the first time and loved more than expected. What made it so appealing?
MFW: Beets. My very nice co-worker Stephanie had a garden of beets and brought in some beet risotto, which was amazing, with me not having enjoyed beets as a kid (or as an adult). I didn’t know I would enjoy them as much as I did.
FW: You started a greenhouse garden in our backyard this year. What has been the most challenging aspect of maintaining it, and what advice would you give to anyone thinking of starting a home garden?
MFW: The most challenging aspect of maintaining it is having the time to go into it daily, because when it rains outside, your plants get watered, but those in a greenhouse don’t get watered. I was surprised by how dry the soil got over a couple of days (I may not know what I’m doing.) As for advice, just pick plants that you think will thrive in there, because some plants do better than others.
FW: Fall is under way and that means that autumn foods and recipes return to kitchens and restaurant menus everywhere. What Fall/Winter foods are you most looking forward to tasting this season?
MFW: NOG! Why do we not have nog available all year long?! Being lactose-intolerant, soy nog is a dream, and as you know, I buy cartons of it that fill the refrigerator to the point where we have to put it in the crisper and it’s a wonderful surprise to find a hidden carton that’s been forgotten about.
FW: Cooking with my parents as a young boy was crucial in forming my lifelong love of cooking exploration. Given that between your parents, your mother had the greater role in preparing meals for your family, what cooking habits, philosophies, etc. did you pick up when you were a child from watching her work in the kitchen, and how do they inform your cooking today?
MFW: As you know, my mother is Japanese, and my father is American, and my mom would make traditional “American” food like pot roast, meatloaf, and stews for my dad. She would also make other types of food like Mexican and Italian, because she liked trying to cook new and different kinds of foods and it made the rest of my family happy. But I was happiest when she made Japanese food because it tasted the best, not that her other food didn’t taste good, and I enjoyed everything she made, but the Japanese food just seemed so much easier, not only in prep but in whatever new creative thing she would come up with. So my philosophy is cooking should be fun, it shouldn’t feel like a chore. It should come easily to you. The best things you can make sometimes come from whatever you have leftover in your refrigerator. And of course, don’t measure a thing! (though this makes it really hard to re-create something you made that was amazing.)
FW: Despite the pleasures of experimenting with countless tastes and textures presented by all the edibles present in the world around us, some people will never view food and eating as anything more than a source of sustenance. If pressed to sustain yourself for one year on an unalterable diet made up of only three dishes, what would you choose and why?
MFW: You’ve made a few foods that I’ve always said are “Desert island foods” as in, I could enjoy them every day if I were stranded on a desert island with nothing else to eat. One of these is your Sweet Chili Beef. Your Hot Madras Curry Chicken with Spinach and Tomatoes was my first desert island food. The answer to this question changes daily, though, so for today, the three foods are gyoza (Japanese dumplings), murg saagwala (Indian spinach with chicken), and some kind of sushi. Today, it would be saba (mackerel) nigiri.
FW: In our 2011 interview, you waxed nostalgic about the pleasurable texture of tuna sushi you enjoyed many years ago in Yokohama, Japan. Excluding Japanese cuisine, tell us about the single meal that you would choose to experience from start to finish all over again if you could, and why you chose that one.
MFW: When my friend Hue got married years ago, we were at her house with her whole family and they had her kitchen covered with Vietnamese and Chinese food and it was nothing fancy, just fresh vegetables with noodles and chicken, but just the way it was prepared in Vietnamese style was so good. And of course, the experience of being with my friend who I hadn’t seen in a while and celebrating her wedding added to the experience. Vietnamese food made by Vietnamese people in a Vietnamese home is damn good!
FW: What holiday course are you most looking forward to preparing this year? What holiday course are you most looking forward to me preparing? In the past few years, we haven’t made a turkey, so I’m actually looking forward to going back to old-school classic turkey. I’m looking forward to preparing a kick-ass brine, and I’m looking forward to you doing all the heavy lifting (thanks, Hubby!)
FW: Sampling cuisine whose availability is specific to a given part of the world is a large part of what makes travel so attractive to me. Using food as your sole motivator, what U.S. destination would you choose for our next trip, and what would be your first meal once we arrived?
MFW: New Orleans, hoping there would be no hurricane like the last time we went. For my first meal, I want classic no-one-else-can-do-it-better-than-New-Orleans food: red beans and rice with étouffée, topped off with a beignet.
Bonus question from Mrs. Flavorful World to me, because she gets to:
Mrs. Flavorful World: What’s for dinner, Hubby?
Me: Well, October 31st is not only Halloween and both our favorite holiday, but also the anniversary of the day I proposed to you, so on this momentous night we shall dine on a sumptuous feast of Halloween candy and hard pear cider.
(Don’t worry, readers; I am of course, kidding. But you should have seen the look on her face…)
*Note to readers: As with the last time I interviewed my wife here, I’ll note that this is where I would ordinarily share links to an interviewee’s website(s) and social media accounts. Since that would again be redundant in this case, please instead accept Flavorful World’s best wishes to all for a safe and Happy Halloween!