Tuesday, February 21, 2012

A Taste of Adventure

Maybe it’s my delirious state that has given me the audacity to be something I don’t encourage on this blog: a Doubtful Darcy. (This in no way judges the ladies of the world named Darcy, nor do I believe they are more or less likely to be more doubtful than a David, say, or a Dolores… or a Dan.)

My getting sick started out as a wave of nausea on Saturday morning, and completely took the winds from my sails by the early afternoon. Then the coughing started, followed by the rise and fall of body temperature, a raw throat, and a Rudolph the red-nosed reindeer mouth. I’m better today, though I’m rather unsettled with the whole thing, partially because I was in bed most of the day, thinking. And when your heart rate is going at a runner’s pace simply because you’re standing or lying down, your thoughts become anxious and fragmented.

Now, I’m a Doubtful Darcy (or a David, a Dolores, or a Dan) because of this blog. I believe in it with all my heart, and I know I’m making progress with my recipe making, my fitness, and my photography, but I want to go the next level.

Since I haven’t been able to focus my attention more than a few minutes before getting lightheaded, I’ve just been looking over my old blog posts and old blog posts of foodies and health enthusiasts I respect. These people have beautiful photos from the very get-go of their blogging careers, have amazing recipes that are well thought out and restaurant-worthy, and beautiful site layouts. I have a yearning to have something just as perfect in my neck of the woods in cyber space.

In short, I want to be taken seriously.

Delirium and sickness has made me a deep thinker, I know. I’ve been looking into various organizations on idealist.org that are doing what I want to do for the world. And believe me, there are many. I feel stagnated, because I know what my potential is, and I’m not certain how to go about it. Do I want to apply for a Masters program for 2013? Am I willing to move away from Virginia in order to follow my dreams? Do I need to get some sort of Culinary Degree to open a community-oriented place to begin a movement of food security? How do I change the world for the better?

All of this Doubtful Darcy stuff came about from my old photos, when I was (and still am) getting used to using a DSLR. Part of me wants to delete the old photos, the ones that are grainy because of the ISO I used, or the ones that are out of focus, have a low shutter speed and a small aperture setting, or were taken in awful lighting. I’ve learned quite a bit since April 2011, and the other half wants me to hold on to the physical evidence that shows my progress. My other idea is to recreate my early works, edit the recipes, and take new photos this April but keep the old posts the way they were written. Somehow, I am uncertain how I would feel about it – maybe even feel a little hypocritical – though I’m sure none of my readers would mind very much.  

It occurs to me that the bloggers I respect so highly, the ones with phenomenal photos, stories, recipes, and sites, worked their butts off for it. They paid for quality and received the fruits of their labor with the same eminence. If I’m going to get to their level, I’m going to have to work hard, be patient, and follow my heart.

My heart has led me down many paths in the past. It is a lot more spontaneous and daring than it used to be. Besides rock climbing, I want to take a class that works on digital photography techniques, maybe buy one or two lenses to really enhance the images (especially for low/no light, moving subjects, outdoor, and non-food) I post. Perhaps I can go into a culinary program at a community college, look into molecular gastronomy or focus on a kind of cuisine (gluten free and holistic, naturally).

The details are unknown, but I do know what I want as far as the big picture is concerned: I know that I want to work with/for the community, the word ranging from a group of people to every single sentient being on this planet; I know that I want to work with food, empowering the relationship of what comes from the ground and what goes into our mouths; I know that I want to end food insecurity, world hunger, and I want to be part of a nonprofit or movement that is just as passionate about it as I am; and lastly, I want to make a place for people from all over the world to share their stories, eat great food, and take that happiness back home with them.

Over the next for days/weeks/months, certain changes will be happening, both to the blog as well as the blogger. In the meantime, to all you fellow bloggers and readers out there, I’d love to hear from you:

  • What are your thoughts of me editing old posts, particularly recipes and photos?
  • Where did following your dreams in the culinary arts (or whatever it is you are passionate about) take you?
  • Would you continue to follow Meals with Morri if: it changed its blog host, its domain name, or if less than satisfactory food photos disappeared from old posts?
  • How can Meals with Morri be taken more seriously?

Feel free to email me or to comment on this post directly.

As always, I want to thank you so much for being part of my life. 

To stop myself from getting too mopey, I thought I’d share with you a recipe. It’s one that a Morri, in sickness and in health, can make in less than forty-five minutes, is dense in nutrients as it is with flavor, and is easier to make than you know. Tom yum is a clear spicy soup that hails from Laos and Thailand. Along with the Peruvian pollo a la brasa restaurants that are popular in northern Virginia, Thai food is another cuisine that’s trendy in the area and also very near and dear to my heart. I can remember drinking Thai iced tea until my mouth was coated in the sweetened condensed milk and sugar and getting brain freezes while I waited for my order.

Mama Dazz, the Burt-man, and I usually shared an entrée such as the Pad Thai or the drunken noodles, and we each had an appetizer of soup of some kind. Depending if the Pad Thai was made with chicken, I ordered tom (soup) yum (spicy/sour salad) goong, or tom yum with shrimp. And if the entrée had shrimp, I had tom yum gai, or tom yum with chicken. Chili infused sesame seed oil droplets scattered along the surface, and the spices were perfectly balanced. The spicier it was, thought Mama Dazz and the younger me, the better. Then I had tom yam nam khon, similar to the previous soups only the broth is opaque from the coconut milk, and it became on of my favorite soups of all time.

This particular recipe is similar to my beloved tom yum nam khon, though it should not be confused with tom khai gai, or chicken galangal soup, simply because it has chicken as the main protein. Looking back, I’m surprised I didn’t use galangal for this recipe. We still have a vial of the powdered stuff we purchased from Penzeys Spices way back when and I think it would have brought a nice peppery fragrance to the broth.

What I love most about this soup is how simple and forgiving it is if you don’t have all of the ingredients. Since we frequent the international market every week, we typically have ingredients on hand for Asian, Hispanic, and Indian dishes that is typical in our household (concentrated fish extract or “fish sauce”, curry leaves, organ meats and pork belly, and more spices than you would believe). So if you don’t have particular ingredients on hand, that’s okay. The only thing you really need to consider is balancing hot with sour. If you don’t have kaffir lime leaves or tamarind paste, you can substitute it with lime juice, curry leaves, and apple cider vinegar, as I did. Any kind of dark and fleshy mushroom will work, but I’d recommend a species that has a meaty cap, minimal gills, and a slender stalk.

The only ingredient I was unsure about was how to prepare the lemongrass. I simply removed the outer layer of two stalks and thinly sliced the yellow bulbs, thinking it would soften. It added remarkable flavor… but I wouldn’t recommend trying to eat it unless you know how to cook it correctly. I didn't; and let me tell you, it’s extremely fibrous if you don’t.

All in all, it’s a taste-as-you-go kind of soup, and goes well with sticky rice, cellophane noodles, and a spicy marinated salad. Next time I'll make it just as any respectable lover of Thai food would, and I'll post the results.  

Tom Yum Nam Khan with Chicken

1 qt./946 ml Veggie stock or water
240 ml Coconut milk
5 ml Sand lance fish extract
15 ml Unrefined apple cider vinegar
Juice of 1/2 lime (save the remaining half for later)
2 Stalks Lemongrass, washed with outer layer and lower part of bulbs removed, then halved vertically
1 White onion, finely chopped
6 Curry leaves (or kaffir lime leaves)
82 g Maitake mushrooms, gently pulled apart and left whole
1 Jalapeño, seeded and finely chopped
1 lb Boneless and skinless chicken breast, cut into small slivers
16 Frozen shrimp, thawed
1 tsp. Red chili pepper flakes
1/4 tsp. Galangal, optional (but suggested)

Combine all of the ingredients into a large pot (except for the shrimp) and cook on medium heat until the chicken is fully cooked.
Remove the lemongrass stocks from the soup and discard.
Even pour out four servings into bowls and top with four shrimp, a quarter wedge from the remaining lime half, and carefully sprinkle the chili-infused sesame oil onto the surface. (The curry leaves are edible, but you can set them aside on the edges of the bowl if you wish.)
 Makes 4 servings.

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