The winter retreat happened. It rocked. The farm was pretty. The horses were chatty and welcoming. The rooms were turned upside down for maximum project space. The guests were as friendly and inspiring as ever. And the food. THE FOOD.
I realize I'm tooting my own horn when I talk about how delicious everything turned out. But I think it had more to do with five meals of comforting Asian cuisine, back to back (with a terribly non-asian chocolate cake squeezed in somewhere).
Obviously, I love asian food.
I grew up in a family of four kids, mostly isolated from my surrounding Canadian culture. My parents immigrated from Hong Kong and my mother spoke little English. If you judged my siblings and me by the quality of our Chinese, you'd think our Chinese upbringing had little impact. But interview us on our food preferences, and it would make any Chinese parent proud.
For almost two years, we lived in a small English village while my dad completed a Masters degree. Asian groceries were hard to find, so many of our Chinese favourites were replaced with lamb. And scones. I also remember a lot of potatoes. My brother (5 at the time) drew my mother a picture of noodles that we used to eat. Noodles with pork and pickled greens: Shute-Choy-Yuk-See-Meen. He wanted it so badly but didn't know what to call it (remember that part about our Chinese speaking skills?). My siblings and I aren't great at remembering the Chinese holidays (I can't even tell the mooncake story right anymore) and none of us can read Chinese, but we know and love our food. The winter retreat was a perfect time for me to share my comfort food roots with guests.
The western world is beginning to discover there is more to delicious Asian food than spring rolls and chicken balls. Foodies know all about dim sum, bipimbap, and Bahn mi. There are a lot of new fusion flavours out there (have you tried the kimchi fries from Bahn mi boys??) and although delicious, I had decided to stick with traditional meals with a comforting winter feel -- pouched chicken with ginger and green onions, garlic stir fried eggplant, Hong Kong style milk bread, dumplings, ramen.
It's always a juggling game for me at the retreats, bouncing back and forth between the kitchen and the sewing machines. I kinda love it, but it means a little patience from sewers and exceptional meal planning by me. Meals need to be simple, and prep work needs to be done as early as possible.
The draft chalkboard menu was quite accurate in what I served last weekend. I even remembered to snap a few pictures of the food. Experience and feedback has taught me that guests attend Purple Workbench retreats to be creative in an inspiring place, but indulging in home cooked meals is an incredible added bonus.
And so, I present to you a gallery of the weekend's meals. All home-cooked, organic and local wherever possible. Enjoy!
(I can be persuaded to post some recipes and literature used in my research... Write a nice comment :) I can't resist nice comments.)