Simply Veggies

•March 11, 2010 • Leave a Comment

I headed to the Farmers Market in San Mateo Yesterday.  I wish I could say that this was a weekly trip, but I must admit that it was for an assignment for a course I’m taking at USF called Green Media.  We’re studying seasonal foods and this week we were assigned to go to a farmers market, find some food, and prepare it to be eaten, and of course, share the experience with you!

The San Mateo farmers market is located in the lower parking lot of the College of San Mateo year round.  For more information click here.  I strolled from tent to tent, smelling the freshness and tasting some cuisine that was quite foreign to me.

I didn’t really know what I was looking for so I continued to walk back and forth a little more.  I was pretty sure I wanted to make a vegetable stir-fry so I zeroed in on the veggie tents.  I found Yu Choy

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and decided it was something that I’de never tried before.

I bought it and while looking for my next item I decided to try some sugar cane.  The farmer man sliced the outer part of the cane to reveal a white inner cane.  He instructed me to chew it, but not eat it.  It tasted like sugar water, which is exactly what it was essentially.  I miss real sugar.  High fructose corn syrup just isn’t the same.

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At the same tent I found my next item- Dai Kon, a type of Japanese radish.  I bought one.  I now possessed two vegetables, fresh from the SM Farmers Market, which were fresh from Fresno, CA.

I decided that I needed  a few more things for the stir-fry so on the way back to my car I stopped by one more tent, from Modesto, CA.  I grabbed some fresh spinach and a red onion.  I wanted a very simple stir-fry so I decided that was all I needed.

I headed home, pulled my Yu Choy, Dai Kon, Fresh Spinach, and Red Onion.  Grabbed a wok,  turned up the heat, poured some vegetable oil on it, sliced the onions, and cut up the Dai Kon.  As soon as the wok was hot I added the onions and let them cook for a little less than a minute.  I then added the Daikon and let them cook for another minute.  I then added the spinach and Yu Choy simultaneously.  I added a little more vegetable oil and stirred everything together.  I then added about a half of a cup of water and placed a lid over everything.  I let it sit for about one minute.  I took off the lid and put everything in my dish.  Lunch was ready.  Simply veggies and simply delicious.  This has probably been one on the first times in over twenty years that I’ve had only vegetables for a meal.  I never realized that I could be completely satisfied without eating some sort of meat or cheese or even peanut butter and jelly accompanied by vegetables or fruits.  But, it was good and damn healthy too.  Perhaps I’ll do this more often.

Turkey and Papas

•May 15, 2009 • 4 Comments

On my journey to find local food, I found myself at the Burlingame farmers market. For those of you who don’t know where Burlingame is, it’s about 25 minutes(without traffic) south of San Francisco on freeway 101. I arrived without any idea about what I was going to get for my ESF dish. Luckily I found a table that was selling baby red potatoes and fresh garlic from San Juan Bautista, which is about 20 minutes south of Gilroy. I decided to buy 2 cloves of garlic, and about 1 ½ Ibs of the potatoes.

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I decided that I would make a dish with some type of meat accompanied by baked garlic potatoes, so I headed to the Golden Gate Meat Company, located at the Ferry building in San Francisco.

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I wanted to find something that would still taste good after making the hour long trip from my house in Burlingame to my ESF class at USF. I went with turkey.  The particular turkey that I bought was a little under 3 Ibs. It was from the Diestel Family Turkey Ranch, which is about 2.5 hours east of San Francisco in a small town called Sonora. They’re turkeys are all natural– free from hormones and growth stimulants. They are fed a 100% vegetarian natural diet of corn and soybeans that are milled on their ranch.

So the following day at 2:45 pm on Wednesday May 13th, I was ready to begin prepping my turkey and potato dish. I turned the oven to 350 degrees to preheat, and started with the potatoes. I rinsed them thoroughly and cut them into quarters.

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I based my potato dish off a recipe at this site: recipezaar.com. I didn’t completely follow their directions, but for the most part I did what they told me. Unfortunately the salt, pepper, olive oil, basil and butter that I used were not local ingredients. I simply already had them in my kitchen while I was prepping, and I just sort of used them without even thinking about what I was doing, like I often do when I cook–Zoned out, or in the zone, either or.  I mixed everything together, and then started on the the turkey.

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Prepping the turkey was extremely easy. All I did was cut the strings that were holding the turkey together, rinse the turkey and then rub the turkey with a special dry rub that Golden Gate Meat Company had suggested I use. It consisted of onion, garlic, sea salt, pepper and rosemary. Unfortunately I was unable to find out whether these ingredients were local. They told me that they buy them in bulk from several different wholesale suppliers.

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At this moment I had forgotten to put aluminum foil over the turkey. Luckily I caught my mistake in time!

The oven was preheated and the time was right. I placed both the turkey and the potato dish in the oven and set the timer for ten minutes. After ten minutes I opened the oven, took out the potatoes, stirred them around a little bit, put aluminum over them and put them back in the oven. I reset the timer for 1 hour. The potato recipe said they would take about an hour to cook, but after taking them out for the third time to stir the potatoes I tasted one and it was done. I think that since my potatoes were smaller it took a shorter amount of time for them to cook—about 45 minutes in total. As for the turkey, it took a little longer. Originally I planned on cooking the turkey for about an hour because on several websites people say to cook the turkey 20 minutes for every Ib and since my turkey was a little under three Ibs I thought an hour would do the trick. Luckily I had my trusty meat thermometer placed in the turkey, and it didn’t reach the 170 degree mark until after about one hour and fifteen minutes.

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Success! I covered my dish with aluminum foil and headed to USF for a wonderful last ESF feast!

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Back to Nature

•May 14, 2009 • 3 Comments

I suppose when I decided to enroll in the course- Eating San Francisco (ESF), I should have known that I was destined to gain a better understanding about the food I eat. But honestly, I never thought that the perspective that I once had about food could change so drastically.

On our last field trip for ESF we travelled to Cole Valley. Considering that it’s so close to the USF campus, I’m surprised I’ve never been there. Like so many other neighborhoods in San Francisco it has its own personality. It just seems so chill. This may seem odd considering the entire city is pretty “chill,” but this so-called “valley” really has a laid back aura.

We dined at Zazie. It has a very warm and welcoming atmosphere with a great beer selection. After all, these are two of the things that one encounters upon entering any restaurant right? We sat around our 18 chair table chatting it up with each other.

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Picture taken by Professor David Silver

Our entrees arrived and the chatting quickly died. Everybody was focussed on their delicious meals. So far my opinion about the restaurant was very positive. What were other people’s reactions about Zazie, I wondered?

One week later:

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I sit here on my green couch in my living room. I have fond memories about our trip to Zazie, but I still don’t know what the general public thinks about the restaurant. Before the internet I would have to check out reviews from food critics in the newspaper, and this still wouldn’t give me a good idea about what regular people think about it. Now Yelp exists. At this moment it has 842 reviews for Zazie. I won’t read every one, but I think I can get an idea about people’s opinion of the place.

Jennie K., a 27 year old women from San Francisco wrote this on April 18th 2009:

The Niman Ranch burger: clearly the way that dead cow is meant to be cooked and served (on a rather delicious bun with aioli, white cheddar, grilled tomatoes, and arugula, served with potatoes and roasted garlic).



Hello, Zazie, my name is Jennie, and I would like to have ten million of your babies. We have so much in common: you like food, I like food, we both spell our names with an “ie” at the end…

Jennie seems very enthusiastic about Zazie.  Let’s check out another review!

On December 16th of 2005, Michael P. said this:

…We were there on a Tuesday night, when they charge no corkage fee, so you can bring your own bottle of wine (we chose a $4.99 Old Moon zinfandel from Trader Joe’s and were very pleased with it, especially for the money), which keeps the check down to a level calling for repeat visits.



Great atmosphere and service — a bistro feel that’s warm and lively as opposed to the old-school bistros that I find to be overly formal and lifeless. An added bonus: the manager (or owner?) followed us to the door and handed us a card to make sure we felt welcome to come back soon. That kind of little personal attention leaves a lasting good impression.

From just two reviews, written years apart from each other, it’s easy to get a good feeling about Zazie, as well as some great information. Today, most people are familiar with Yelp, but I think it’s important to really take into account, the fact that anybody can share their voice with the world, and actually be heard.

The second restaurant that our class visited last Wednesday night was McDonald’s. Perhaps restaurant is the wrong word. It’s a fast-food establishment. I had an oreo Mcflurry, which is basically vanilla ice cream mixed with oreos. There are 5 yelp reviews for this particular McDonald’s, none of which I will re-post for the simple fact that none of them have anything that interesting to say. The only common, positive remark that I noticed is that it has a good parking lot. Now that I think about it, it would seem funny if there were tons of reviews about how delicious the food is, or how the service is exceptional. This simply, is not what the place is about. People come to McDonald’s to either get a quick bite to eat, or just hang out like we did, or like many homeless people do at this location. Having a memorable meal at McD’s is not really in the cards.

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As our class comes to an end I can’t help but to look back on our trip to Zazie and McDonalds with a feeling of deep concern. Much of my concern stems directly from the words of Michael Pollan in his book The Omnivore’s Dilemma. I’m now much more aware about the foods that I’m eating. Or at least that is what I wish to believe. I now realize how difficult it is to really know where my food is actually coming from when I shop at a Lucky’s, Safeway, or even Trader Joe’s. And even if I do know where it’s coming from, it is even more difficult to know how it was grown, or raised. I used to think I was being a good citizen of the planet when I chose to eat organic food, but Pollan has taught me that this isn’t necessarily the case. The organic industry has been growing so fast that the traditional meaning of “organic” has also changed. An organic company, for instance, may slap a sticker on the chicken they are selling, stating that it is “natural,” but in reality this chicken is most likely one of thousands that lives the majority of its life in a building, inches away from several other chicken, which are surrounded by hundreds more. But since they are being fed organic grains everyday, the company can call their chicken natural. This doesn’t seem too natural to me.

 

We’re living in an industrial world, and perhaps there is no escaping it. Therefore I think it’s best to do what Pollan has done, and re-focus our minds on who we are. Like many people have said before, “we are what we eat!” A lot of food that we find in the supermarkets, and fast-food establishments like McDonald’s, is processed and consequently unnatural. Humans are omnivorous, and like Pollan explains, this makes it more possible for us to digest many different types of food. This has always had it’s benefits, but at the same time Pollan explains that this is the “dilemma,” and could be a main reason humans have bigger brains than other animals that are not omnivores. Humans have always had to ascertain which foods are edible, and which ones are not and in order to do this we have need more brain power. Thanks to many traditions and the establishment of cuisines around the world, the modern man no longer has to make these vital decisions. We have been able to trust what our ancestors have learned. But now that we live in an industrial society the food that we eat today is much different from what we ate in the past. We are, essentially, confronted again, with “the omnivore’s dilemma.” What we eat today might seem harmless, but how are we to know that it is truly harmless unless we know what it is that we are consuming. Like many other people, I’ve chosen to eat my food in ignorance for most of my life. I now understand why this is a mistake.  I think I can change my eating habits if I put my mind to it.  Zazie was a great place to start last week.  I got to really see the difference between their natural food, and the stuff that McDonald’s serves. My eyes are open.

 

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Thank you for the pictures Ali!  

 

Just a Tourist

•April 29, 2009 • 1 Comment

I’ve been to Chinatown several times before, but for some reason every time I revisit a place in the city with my Eating San Francisco(ESF) class, I feel that I regress to a time when I was a child.

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That’s me in the green sweater.  Thanks to this picture taken by our professor, David Silver, it’s not easy to miss the fact that I was quite excited to be exploring San Francisco‘s Chinatown.  But honestly, I believe I would be hard-pressed to find another student in my class who wasn’t enthusiastic about going to a class, which involves touring a place such as Chinatown and then eating Dim sum for lunch.  I can’t say that I’ve ever had a class where this is possible, and perhaps this is the root of the joy that I experience when going on these fieldtrips.

However, after our fieldtrips to North Beach, the Mission, and the Castro, I’ve learned that the exhilaration that I feel is much more than this.  Every other time that I’ve come to Chinatown, I’ve walked around, checked out some shops, and then left, much like any tourist might do.  But this time in Chinatown, like my other fieldtrips, I came with a different frame of mind.  I came to see more than your typical tourist might see on a given visit.  My little silver digital camera may have looked fairly generic when compared to the passing tourist‘s cameras, but as opposed to relying on it for all my memories and taking numerous pictures every few steps like I see many tourists do, I used my camera as a tool to help remind me of the bigger picture, which can always be found in my mind.

As we walked on the sidewalks, further into the heart of Chinatown a few of my classmates and I noted that we didn’t feel like we were in San Francisco anymore.  We had entered a world that somehow resembled a city in China.

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A description of Chinatown in the travel section at Sfgate explains that it is divided into two Chinatowns: “One belongs to the locals, the other charms the tourists. They overlap and dance with each other, drawing more visitors annually than the Golden Gate Bridge.”

I find this description interesting.  It makes me look at the term “tourism” in a different light.  I’m sure, in this description, “locals” represent the Chinese people who live in Chinatown, and that “tourists” refer to all the people who come to visit, but who do not reside within the district.  But, what about the Chinese people who visit Chinatown versus non-Chinese tourists? It seems that Chinese tourists might be able to fit in better with the local community of Chinatown than tourists who are not Chinese.  I wonder if a Chinese person from Hong Kong would feel as much like a tourist as someone like me- a Caucasian young man from Idaho?  In one respect, we could both be considered equal tourists in that we haven’t been to Chinatown in San Francisco.  In another regard, however, the fact that Chinatown is full of Chinese cuisine, Chinese commodities, Chinese culture, and tons of people speaking Chinese, somebody such as myself would feel much further from home than a “tourist” visiting from a city in China such as Hong Kong.  It appears that “tourism” is more complex than I once thought.  Nevertheless, at the time I was walking up and down the sidewalks of Chinatown, tourism was the last thing on my mind.  I was trying to immerse myself with everything that was going on around me.  I wanted to get a glimpse of the life that was taking place behind the ubiquitous veil of tourism.

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They are everywhere.  People just living their lives.  Tourism might be an industry that many of these Chinese Americans work in to make money, but beyond the tourism that we are often blinded by, these people are living normal lives.

When our class ate Dim sum at a place in Chinatown called New Asia, I felt particularly absorbed in the culture that surrounded us.  There were literally hundreds of people having lunch around us, while a flurry of servers rolled their Dim sum carts to each table, hoping to make a sale.  I never intended to eat beef stomach or chicken feet, but the occasion just seemed too interesting not to taste them. 

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I cannot say that I would try them again, but I definitely have a better appreciation for the recipes that were brought here by the Chinese people.

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The dumpling that you see above was the last of several in this basket.  They were my favorite. I ate them to fast, and mistakenly, without giving any thought about what they actually are.  Thanks to the Asia Times online,” in an article by Chawadee Nualkhair called “The mysterious art of dumping cuisine,” I now know that delicacies such as dumplings, as well as noodles, were not possible until around the 3rd century BCE, when the grindstone arrived by way of the Silk Road.  At this point the Chinese were then able to grind wheat into flour, add water, and essentially form dough.  Unlike the westerners, however, who were known to bake and fry the dough, the Chinese stayed true to their cooking methods of boiling and steaming.  This resulted, as Nualkhair points out, in the creation of “noodles, pancakes, steamed breads, and yes, dumplings, all called “ping” by the Chinese.”

This was my third time in Chinatown, yet I feel that there is still so much that I could learn about the people who live here, as well as the culture that they are a part of.  It would be nice to feel less like the tourist that I know I am now, and more like a tourist from Hong Kong.

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Earth day, Birthday, Seafood Fettuccine day

•April 23, 2009 • 3 Comments

I began this journey to make this delicious dish here:

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Located in San Bruno, California, this business has been operating for over one hundred years. It sells fresh and frozen seafood from all over the world. (click image to enter website)

While I didn’t manage to bring these guys home with me:   p4221095

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I did get my hands on some beautiful fresh scallops and shrimp.  I know the plastic bags don’t do them justice, but I had to keep them fresh!

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So let’s get down to business:

Of what you see I used ¼ cup butter or margarine, 2 cloves garlic, minced, 2 tablespoons all-purpose flour, ½ teaspoon salt, ½ cup half-and-half, 1 cup milk, 1/3 cup snipped fresh parsley, ¼ cup snipped fresh basil, 1 pound medium-sized shrimp, shelled and deveined, 1 pound sea scallop, 20 ounces fresh fettuccine, cooked and drained, freshly grated parmesan cheese.

Of what you see I used ¼ cup butter or margarine, 2 cloves garlic, minced, 2 tablespoons all-purpose flour, ½ teaspoon salt, ½ cup half-and-half, 1 cup milk, 1/3 cup snipped fresh parsley, ¼ cup snipped fresh basil, 1 pound medium-sized shrimp, shelled and deveined, 1 pound sea scallop, 20 ounces fresh fettuccine, cooked and drained, freshly grated parmesan cheese. I found this recipe in a book called Complete Cooking, Jenn-Air

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This is my assistant chef, Heather, who is also my girlfriend, as well as my main photographer.

Together we melted the butter, shelled and deveined the shrimp, added the garlic, stirred in the flour and salt, blended in the half-and-half and milk, stirred in the basil and cooked it for 5-10 minutes until it became a bubbly thick sauce.

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We then stirred in the shrimp and scallops and cooked everything for about 8 minutes.  After that we stirred in the fettuccine that we had already cooked.

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We tossed it so everything was well coated, heated, and…

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Beautiful!

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And Delicious

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It went very nicely with a nice glass of Chardonnay.

What I ate one day in March

•March 18, 2009 • 6 Comments

To be a little more specific, it was Monday March 16th.  Before this school year I hadn’t been eating breakfast, but I began to realize that my mind doesn’t work nearly as well in class without having eaten in the morning.  So this is what I had before I took my 40 minute commute from Burlingame to the USF campus.  

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Honey Nut Cheerios with a cut up Banana…. yummey!! Almost forgot to take a picture… Luckily I remembered just in time!
And I’m not the only one who enjoys this combination of sweetened whole grain oats, and  p31607481.  My son p1140071 Sebastian always loves the sweet milk that remains after I’ve eaten all the banana slices and cheerios.
    After Class I headed back to Burlingame where I picked up my girlfriend, Heather, and headed to Red Robin (one of our go-to spots).  I ordered a Coca-Cola, and a Jamaican Jerk’d Chicken burger with garlic fries. 
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Red Robin’s Description:  “a spicy Jamaican jerk’d chicken breast, topped with Pepper-Jack cheese, grilled pineapple, cool mango mayonnaise, lettuce and tomato.  Served on a jalapeño cornmeal Kaiser roll.”
I thought the description, as well as the picture on their menu of the burger made it very appealing to the eye.  It wasn’t quite as good as they made it look, but tasty nonetheless.  I left Red Robin feeling quite satisfied.  
    That night I decided to keep it cheap, and ate some left-over boxed pizza(I forgot the name of the company who makes the pizza) from the night before, and some green salad with balsamic dressing, accompanied by a sierra mist beverage.  It wasn’t the finest of meals, but it filled me up.  
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A little later that night, Heather and I shared an avocado p3160745, and before I headed to bed I took one more gulp of….
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There are so many different types of food to choose from in the world.  I often try to buy a week supply of groceries, but even then it is difficult for me to predict which foods I will be eating on a given day.  This post simply portrays what I ate one day in March. 

The Bigger Picture

•March 12, 2009 • 2 Comments

Throughout my life I’ve often found myself wondering if something is missing.  I can never quite put my finger on what key ingredient this is, but what I do know is that every year there are moments of realization.  Unfortunately these moments come and go like gusts of wind, and before I have the chance to comprehend what they mean, they are gone, in which case I move on with my life.  But today was different.  I spent the afternoon in the Mission district of San Francisco, strolling down the sidewalks and allies between 22nd and 25th street, taking numerous photos of little mercados filled with fruit, vegetables, meat, flowers, bread, and anything else that caught my eye.

 

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I had walked the streets for an hour or so, trying to take everything into my memory, as well as my convenient digital camera.  There was something that I was looking for, but at this point I had no idea what it was.  There was simply so much going on around me that I couldn’t focus my mind.  

And then I looked up to see this:

 

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I knew I had to find a way to get to that hill, so I unromantically jumped in my car and in less than five minutes I was standing at the base of this incredibly green grassy knoll.  Though it is surrounded by hundreds of buildings, apartments, and houses, it really seems to belong there.  I awkwardly stumbled up a little manmade dirt crevasse and turned around.  

This was it! I had found one of the unpredictable moments in which everything makes sense.

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This moment didn’t come about from nothingness.  Much like a head of lettuce or a vine that produces grapes which grows from a seed, it started small and grew into something special and unique.   This symbolic “seed” of mine began to sprout about a week ago, with a field trip in a media seminar course at the University of San Francisco called Eating San Francisco.  My class had the opportunity to explore the Mission, specifically in its relation to food.  We all met at Balmy Ally, where we had the chance to behold murals that no words can do justice:

 

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After this we made our way to a local Mexican restaurant called Taqueria Vallarta, where I enjoyed some amazing tacos, and a Chimichanga.  We then headed to a place called Mission Pie, where I tried their famous banana cream pie.  The night was a very rich and fulfilling experience, and I realized that there was so much going on with both food and culture, yet I had no idea where to focus my attention.  I wrestled with my mind for several days before deciding to head back to the Mission to look for something that I felt I could talk about.  After spending several hours walking around and driving to different places, I came across a spot called Rico Pan Bakery, which bakes bread, and many other delicacies from El Salvador.  Although I never was able to speak with the owner about the history of the place, I didn’t leave empty handed:

 

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But once again, I left the Mission, still not having any idea of a way in which I could share my experience.  All I knew is that I could honestly say that I had been surrounding myself with both food and the Mission.  Fortunately today I woke up with a voice in my head telling me to head back to the Mission one more time.  

 

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I was looking down from that hill when it hit me.  All of these individual experiences that I had over this past week were part of a greater story.  When I observed the murals at Balmy ally last week I saw scenes of pain, oppression, and ugliness for that is what I chose to see.  Today I choose to see the beauty that these murals portray.  I choose to look at them as a voice of the people who lived in the Mission, who wanted nothing more than to be heard and understood and recognized for who they are.

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Last week when I ate the Chimichanga at the taqueria, I really felt that I was eating something authentic to Mexico.  Now I realize that it was nothing more than a deep fried burrito without beans, which was most likely invented in Tucson, Arizona in the early 1920s by a family who owns a Mexican restaurant called El Charro Cafe.  Members of this family claim that the name “Chimichanga” came about when Monica Flin, the women who started the restaurant, was going to say the spanish swear word “chingada,” but didn’t want her nieces and nephews to hear her swear, so instead she said “Chimichanga,” which means “thingamagig” in spanish.  If it’s not really a burrito, and it was never invented in Mexico, then perhaps it is just that–A “thingamagig?”

 

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At Mission Pie last week, while I did enjoy the smooth sweet taste of the banana cream pie, I didn’t give any thought about the people that made this place possible.  I now know that it is a business venture that began at Pie Ranch, which is an organization located between San Francisco and Santa Cruz.  Pie ranch’s main goal is to educate the youth, and people in general about farming methods that will not only help them become more aware about the food that they eat, but also help them be aware of how to protect wild Nature, while producing this food.  At Pie Ranch in 2005 a high school student, who was visiting mentioned that it is difficult for people in San Francisco to understand the importance of the education that the ranch provides.  This comment helped form the idea of Mission Pie, and it wasn’t long until the project was underway.  Today Mission Pie is a successful establishment that helps connect the people of the city to the farm communities, and principals that Pie Ranch values.

 

 If I would have known this story at this point:  p3040646    not only would  I have slowed down to savor the flavor, I think it would have had a completely different taste!  

 

The experiences that I had this past week in the Mission didn’t really make sense to me when they occurred.  Most of the time I felt like I was walking around like any tourist would. But, while I was standing on the hill looking down at all the little food markets, restaurants, and bakeries I had been in or passed by, I felt as if I was looking at a familiar place.  I felt connected to it.  I had found a rare moment in my life where I felt truly appreciative.  Documenting this moment has been one of the most difficult things I have done, for it is impossible to completely relive it.  However, now that I have written about this experience, I am confident that I will always look at everything in a new light.  Instead of constantly searching for meaning in the food that I eat, the pictures that I take, or the people that I meet,  I will sit back and relax, with the wisdom that everything can be explained in one single moment.  

 

 

 

 

 

 
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