One of my favorite meals in the “before times” was all-you-can-eat hot pot. One of our favorite chains was Spring Shabu, which has two locations in two of my most-frequented locations – Boston and New York – and has one of my favorite formats – all you can eat noodles, vegetables, dipping sauces, etc. with an extra charge for meat, which I used very sparingly anyway. My mouth is watering just thinking about going back! I can smell the broth, feel the warmth of it on my face, and even hear my friends chattering around me while we shuffle back and forth with plates piled high with more food.
One of the very! low-level! worries I have about life post-quarantine is the future of self-serve restaurants and buffets. I sincerely enjoy(ed) them a lot and am worried that they won’t survive in a culture that is more aware of spreading germs.
In the meantime, during a trip to H-Mart earlier this year, we decided to impulse buy an at-home hot pot so that we could recreate some of those happy memories at home.
We have since turned hot pot into a weekly tradition, trekking to a local Asian grocery store to get the goodies (which, it turns out, is a great excuse to leave the house). After a few weeks, we have settled into a pretty set menu of our favorites – a plate of meat, soy puffs, lots and lots of vegetables, including bok choy and napa cabbage. I love some well-cooked taro in my bowl, while my boyfriend indulges in udon noodles with his.
As I’ve mentioned many times before, rituals and habits have been the saving grace of my quarantine, and weekly hot pot is just one of many that keep me on track. I look forward to going to the grocery store to pick out our meal every week, then sharing that time with my boyfriend to talk and catch up on any TV shows or movies that we want to watch together.
Unlike ordering take-out, I am hoping that our regular hot pot dinners continue well past quarantine times, and I look forward to having them… for the rest of my life, hopefully!
I was never really a take-out person in the “before times”. The closest that I would ever get to “take out” was grabbing a slice of pizza or a sandwich on the go or on the way to a friend’s place to hang out. Other than that, I would never order food delivery to my house. I was very put off by the extra costs and waiting time to have someone bring food to my house. If I wanted to eat out, I would go to a restaurant!
However, times have changed! Instead of eating at all of the delicious restaurants down the street on the main road, my boyfriend and I have taken to grabbing take out on a regular basis. After getting a car, we’ve also expanded our horizons to driving a little further than usual to eat at restaurants we normally wouldn’t have gone to before.
Though we both love cooking, because we’re home a lot more often than usual, cooking fatigue sets in a lot more often. Though we used to feel bad about ordering take-out because of the extra costs, we’ve forgiven ourselves for it in quarantine. We want our local businesses to stay afloat and are making a conscious effort to order from them whenever possible. I’ve even taken to tipping much more than I usually would, just to spread the love.
I don’t think I’ll continue doing this when we can go back to safely eating at restaurants – whenever that will be – but it’s been a fun experiment so far and I’m excited to try new restaurants and cuisines!
I’ve been experimenting with eating a more vegetarian diet for the sake of my health and for the sake of the environment (I hear you, blah blah blah, individual consumption comes nowhere close to the emissions generated by corporations – OK – I’m a big believer that if everyone reduced their meat consumption, however small, the meat industry would be done! But anyway!)
One huge obstacle for me has been reconciling my Filipino heritage, especially Filipino food, with a vegetarian diet. I love Filipino food, but many classic dishes are not particularly healthy, like white rice often taking center stage. The idea of giving up meat entirely also goes hand-in-hand with not being able to participate in social events, where meat-forward food often plays a starring role (see: lechon), or I’d not want to cause a stir, especially with older generations who, frankly, will make you feel guilty for not wanting to eat their food. Finally, at the end of the day, I’m just not willing to give up the flavors, smells, and memories of my childhood! So how can this work out?
To “fix” this, I’ve been experimenting with incorporating Filipino tastes with vegetarian ingredients. It’s definitely not straightforward, but it’s a fun (and delicious!) project to take on!