cook's privilege

I come from a food-obsessed family.

Growing up it wasn't always clear that was how it would pan out. My mum was a great educator in all things culinary (not to mention the Chinese cooking classes she ran) and her talent for this is obvious when you meet our family - our 21st birthday parties are still talked about in some suburbs of Sydney!

Her greatest achievement in this realm however, has been with my dad. Food for dad was a necessity - gobbled as quickly as possible before the 6 brothers and sisters had an opportunity to start tucking in to his share. Mum grew up on a farm with one brother; food was their livelihood and valued.

When my parents met (in the early 1970's) my dad was yet to sample a pizza and his idea of chinese food was the chop suey grandma would get in a pot from down the road! My mother, a country lass, was far more cosmopolitan. Within 5 years the two would be married and living in Tokyo!

As I was growing up, dad continued to be a fussy bugger when it came to food. Fortunately he traveled a lot for work, so mum flexed her culinary mastery in his absence and we traveled the world at dinner time.

Over the years dad must have become suspicious of the food choices the rest of were making as he started trying some of them. We now wish he had never been introduced to some - an extra rocket salad must be ordered these days if anyone else wants a look-in! He's now mastered not only eating but preparing many cuisines, an expert at gyoza and sui mai, home made flour tortilla and pizza, not to mention his life long passion with fire (the barbecue of course!).

Back then however, dinner when dad was in residence was much more anglo and conservative - roasts, corned beef, grilled chops, steak, etc.

Mum and dad had common ground when it came to food - it had to be fresh, natural and good quality, so it was always good, even if we complained it was boring. I get great amusement that these dinners we moaned about as kids now fetch big bucks at slick city diners - you won't see me shelling out $35 for corned beef!

Lamb shanks are another restaurant anomaly for me. Back in the olden days, the shank was left attached to the leg, and as the lamb roast was nearing readiness and left to rest, the cook or, at least in our house, the carver, devoured the juicy, tender shank. Nowadays the shank has usually been removed from the lamb leg, reserved for sale in its own right.

I was reminded of all this last night as I cooked Thit Heo Kho (Braised Pork with Egg and Coconut Juice) from SBS food safari's Vietnam episode. As the pork belly bubbled away, and the husband was out with the dog, I tucked into the 3 tiny ribs that had been attached to the belly and cooked in the "sealing" stage of the recipe. I didn't tell them - that's my little cook's privilege!

slideshow from animal vegetable mineral


purple goddess said...

My Mum used to keep a list at the back of the diary as to whose "turn" it was to have the shank!!

Bloody things are like $2.50 EACH these days.. I am so old, I can remember getting a bag of fresh shanks from the butcher for $2.00 for about 6. They were considered dog food!

Anonymous said...

Very entertaining and interesting.
Think you have exaggerated my cooking a wee bit!

Do you remember when living in Bowen shanks were 25c at the meatworks butcher shops? *[name edited]* thought was thrilled when she got a job out there. Meat for all 5 of the family for a $1.25!

They are really a sweet piece of meat.

Interestingly enough we had pork belly with black bean sauce last night which was delicious.


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t h e - g o b b l e r said...

Grocer-You are priviliged to have those foodie memories & the family history to remember them.
Also I liked this notion of the cooks privilige! Its a bit sneaky, a bit on the hush hush & every bit about why we, you & I love to cook, To get the BEST bits! LOL.