Food choices

[Update: FYI]

I’ve finally worked my way through The Omnivore’s Dilemma, a “must read” for anyone seriously serious about food.  While well-written, insightful, and informative, I often found myself struggling to get through some chapters, as evidenced by my taking almost two months to complete the book.  At the end, I simply resorted to skimming the parts that weighed down my eyelids, which in all likelihood, singlehandedly accounted for the anticlimactic sense of accomplishment of turning the final page.  Upon reflection, the big points Pollan makes seem to me worth digesting: respecting the beautifully interwoven nature of the food chain and recognizing that food choice is dictated by multitudinous factors both within and without our control.

Since graduating from college, I have thought often about the food-related choices I make: what I eat, how often and with whom, where and why, and so on.  As a consumer, I’m the first to admit that words like “organic”, “free-range”, and “local” strike a positive chord in me: I inherently associate them with plus value.  What’s fuzzy for me, and for most I imagine, is exactly how much more valuable organic eggs are than regular ones.  Is an organic egg worth three times more money than a nonorganic one (because that’s how much more it would cost to go organic with my egg consumption here in Hong Kong)?.  Do I, in refusing to buy organic eggs, set an economic value on my health?  Should I feel guilty about this?  How would I even be sure that my health benefits from the organic-ness of the eggs I eat?  The questions seem endless, and I don’t have good answers. What I do know is that my desire to eat healthfully and enjoyably is moderated by the fact that I live on a budget, one both economically and pscyhologically imposed.  So I while may pause at them, I won’t buy the organic eggs at three times the price of regular ones — that goes against my sense of reason, and I value my ability to think rationally.  On the other hand, show me a good tea time buffet deal at a fancypants hotel, and I’m there — talk about reason. Proof forthcoming 🙂

simplylife

For dinner tonight, a few of us trekked out to Festival Walk, a humongous shopping plaza in Kowloon Tong. I was eager to share with them a wonderful restaurant I myself was introduced to only two days prior called simplylife, a bakery/cafe that dishes out simple, health-conscious, and affordable Western fare. Since being inundated with Chinese food since my arrival (not that I’m complaining), simplylife was a welcome change of pace for my palate. The place is small and has an adorable bistro-like ambience, and Carla Bruni (!) was playing in the background — damn, that girl can sing.

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From left to right: strawberry custard tarts, blueberry danish, peach danish, apple danish, and apricot danish. I have never come across a gleaming fruit danish I didn’t like admire.

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Bread! A raisin loaf and a standard baguette type, I think. Both were awesome and declared ‘real bread’ by one of our resident food connoiseurs.

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In the rear, Erik’s iced apple tea. In the foreground, my iced chrysanthemum tea. One sip of Stephanie’s and I nearly shouted at the waiter to get me one as well.

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I was pretty adamant that we split this enormous appetizer: lump crab meat over mesclun salad with a sesame-soy-peanut dressing. I haven’t eaten much salad since getting here, and this one is killer. The dressing was present but not overpowering and the fresh greens did everyone good.

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For my main course, I chose the organic tagliatelle with beef and pork sausage. Al dente pasta + grainy, salty, and fresh sheets of parmesan is nothing spectacular, just dependably good food.

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Stephanie got the organic linguine with prawns.

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George went with the organic fettucine and mushrooms in a truffle sauce. He did a man shriek when he found a coin-sized truffle in his pasta.

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Erik’s dish, organic brown rice with peas, spinach, and goat cheese, was delicious. GOAT CHEESE…slobber. I heart goat cheese.

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Another compadre got the organic brown rice with oxtail braised in red wine, red onions, and spinach. I ordered it the last time I was here and was very happy with it. Now that I think about it, I do believe that on the whole, simplylife’s rice dishes are better than their pastas. Those glutinous carb-y pearls seem to absorb so much more flavor and I love it when they burst in your mouth.

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Before coming over from the States, I generally equated mall food with poor-quality, unhealthy fast food, which generally still holds true in the U.S. But Hong Kongers (and people in other countries, no doubt) have taken the concept of ‘mall food’ and transformed it into a first-rate dining experience. People come to malls expressly to dine, and I don’t blame them when there are restaurants like simplylife available. I’ve noticed that the same phenomenon occurs with instant foods, which are insanely popular here. In the U.S., I tend to think that instant stuff is almost inherently of inferior quality and that people who prepare instant foods sacrifice taste for time (like instant coffee, for example). But I’m not sure that’s true in HK because they seem to take their instant foods very seriously. There is are entire shelves in the supermarket devoted to instant milk tea/coffee and other such food products, and everyone seems to use them religiously. I’m tempted to think that eating and drinking the instant stuff is part of what it means to eat and drink Hong Kong…though I’ll stick with my coffee press 🙂