food is traditionally one of our greatest tools for sharing. we use it to show love & appreciation, to celebrate, to nourish, to engage in an unspoken dialogue with a new place/person. a single taste of food that we've never tried before is a perfect 'slap in the face', wake-up call, that we are pretty clueless about this world. it's too vast to pretend to know it all. but these tastes we collect can be a personal captain's log of our own life-experiences. whether they be from the comfort of our childhood homes or from a faraway land with flavors that are entirely foreign to us. they are all evidence of who we are now and where we came from.
when i cook food, i attempt to pull from those ethos and evoke the sensation of tasting something for the first time. so, let's all try to just cook for the person you were when you ate that thing. that thing that gave you that good feeling.
s c r o l l d o w n f o r s o m e s t o r i e s
Like many refugees, Righat came to us after having left her home in Eritrea in hopes of a better life elsewhere. After enduring a series of challenges that would ruin most people, Righat entered the XoHo family and started sharing her light with all of us. She let us into her world little by little, first by
When I travel to new places I like to eat indulge to the point of gluttony. Not because I'm compelled to eat more, but because traveling experiences are a culinary crash-course in the flavors, spices, sauces and methods of the place you are in. Eating new foods is my skydiving, my bungee jumping, my adrenalin rush for adrenalin's sake. From my perspective, eating great food is a high unlike any other. A morsel of food that is so good, so special, so unique, has the power to send me into a trance for a brief moment or two. So when I return from a trip, or get access to a kitchen whilst still traveling, I roll up my sleeps and do whatever I can to bring back that sensation that made me close my eyes in awe of what I was tasting.
showing us how to make homemade Ambasha bread, a traditional bread typically eaten in Eritrea. With great poise, Righat showed us how to mix the dough, flour, salt, water, yeast. While kneading it intensely with one hand deep in dough, she used her other hand to brace the edge of her bowl, using her own body as leverage. She demonstrated with great precision how to score and decorate the top of each bread before baking. As she tipped the now fully risen dough into a piping hot cast iron pan, it was easy to share a smile and laugh. This was something she makes nearly every day at home - and I was soaking it all in like she was making a masterpiece. To me, the love and care that goes into a bread like Ambasha is as good as it gets. So when we served it at Xoho; perfect little sandwiches stuffed with whole slices of meyer lemons, fresh za'atar pesto, runny eggs and spicy arugula, we gave the story new legs.
This take on a Vietnamese dish we had in Hanoi was an excercise in the purest form of joyous cooking. From an open kitchen deep in the jungles of the Philippines, with burners fed by cut bamboo, and fish we bought from a neighboring village, along with fresh vegetables and herbs hand-picked from the garden behind the kitchen, we lovingly put together our best recollection of a moment in time. No longer sitting on the bustling sidewalks of Hanoi, we were now in paradise cooking over open flames with gusto and eating up our memories bite by delicious bite. While it can take some effort to truly recall how herbaceous a dish was or how lemony or whether the vegetables had been blanched or sauteed. Or to attempt to get the crunchy texture, the warm and cool notes just right, or to match the seasoning exactly how you remembered it. In the end though, it is not about achieving perfection - it is about enjoying the process and letting that whisk you away to wherever you were when you ate it.
Cha - ca
" When your work is cooking food you can forget to love food, unless you keep cooking for the people you love and they help remind you." - me, again
As holidays go, Thanksgiving undoubtedly has the best food, hands down - no questions asked. While most families sit down to a lovely meal of turkey and stuffing, my Mom simply did it better. Just like most homecooks who make it a point to eat dinner together every night, my Mom's kitchen was her domain. She knew how to throw together big, gourmet feasts, without an ounce of pretension. Since her passing I have channelled
her through the process of my cooking, and Thanksgiving is a perfect example of that. My mom had an odd magic about her, a certain devotion to the classics. Though well-versed enough to know good flavors. Like her, I know that everything for Thanksgiving must be made from scratch in order to properly imbue it with love. The food at Thanksgiving should taste good from start to finish, juicy turkey included, It should get even better once those flavors begin their sensual dance on the plate. I live for the moment that the gravy spills over onto the potatoes, the cranberry sauce crashes into the brussel sprouts, and the saccharine marshmallows envelop everything in a sweet hug. In fact, to watch the food on our plates become better and better the more messy it becomes, should be a lesson to us all. Let go, do things from the heart, fill your gut with goodness and then nap to let the heft of it all sink in.