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Guess What We Can Never Agree on At Home…

Nuts for a Picky Squirrel, Ottawa

Some couples argue about money, religion or work.

We argue about food.

Food is deeply cultural and in our Chinese-French-Canadian household, we blend flavours. Some would call it “world cuisine”. I call it “a-compromise-so-that-we-don’t-kill-each-other”.

I’m a noodle/pasta person but Feng likes rice better. Feng likes meat but as a lapsed vegetarian, I can go weeks without eating meat. I bake or steam and he fries. He likes plain oil, lots of it, while I fancy butter or virgin olive oil. I can’t go without bread, he can’t go without fruits. He salts, I pepper. I like grapefruit juice, he likes orange juice. My weak spot is chocolate, he’d rather have ice cream.

We also have different ways of eating. I call Feng “the camel” because he can go the whole day without eating and only have one large meal. On the other side, I get full pretty fast and it’s usually pointless to drag me to a buffet since I won’t be able to sample half of the foods.

Whenever we travel, it’s easy: we both eat whatever is available. None of us has any allergy and we are not picky eaters overall. We had local food around the world from Central American “arroz” to Brazilian “brigadeiro”.

It gets a bit more complicated at home.

No matter how Canadian we both are, we sometimes need the comfort of the foods we ate when we were young. So we hit the Chinese supermarket to find Feng’s Chinese candies, and I bake French quiches or buy some tiny pieces of overpriced cheese. Canada is great for that, you can find food from all over the world. We even have a huge brand new Chinese supermarket in the suburb, T&T.

We usually take turns cooking. Invariably, I blame Feng for using too much oil and he claims my food isn’t salty enough. God forbid I cook something without meat… and on the other side, I pass when Feng makes one of his meat platters. Our respective tastes show whenever we order pizza: one side has olive, feta, tomatoes, pepper, onion and plenty of cheese and the other has at least two kinds of meat.

Both sets of parents raise their eyebrows at our respective culinary tastes. Whenever Feng’s parents come home and take over the kitchen, I lose two pounds and Feng gains two. Don’t get me wrong, my mother-in-law is a great cook and I like Chinese food. But I simply can’t stomach rice at breakfast, lunch and dinner, and 排骨 (páigǔ, spare ribs) are not exactly my favourite meal. A couple of years ago, during the Christmas holidays, we ate a whole bag of rice over the course of two weeks. A whole bag of rice. And I’m not talking about these little fancy 500 g rice boxes, I’m talking about the “Asian special” huge 10 kg bags!

When we were with my parents in France, our lunches puzzled Feng. “How can you just eat bread and cheese?”, he wondered. Such disregard for French food icons, such as the baguette and the stinky blue cheese! Although in all fairness, I get his point, it’s probably not the healthier lunch. Now you should have seen the look on my parents’ faces the day Feng grabbed some bread and put some Nutella on it at dinner! “How can he eat tartines de Nutella with pasta?”, my mum wondered. “He likes sweet and savoury I guess”, I shrugged.

Feng was also shocked that the French eat runny egg yolk, especially on crêpes. Retrospectively, I can understand why but I’m so used to it I barely notice it. And I don’t eat anything raw normally!

There are many upsides to our culinary wars. We both discovered a world of flavours that were foreign to us. By the time we left France last time, Feng was eating all the Comté (cheese made from unpasteurized cow’s milk). And I eventually got used to eating 酸菜 (suān cài, Chinese pickled Chinese cabbage).

So if you ever come by our place and it smells of 韭菜 (Jiǔcài, Chinese leek) and cheese… it’s normal.

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French woman in English Canada.

Exploring the world with my camera since 1999, translating sentences for a living, writing stories that may or may not get attention.

Firm believer that nobody is normal... and it’s better this way.

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