I had never followed any cooking shows before taking on the role of being one of the judges for a cooking related award. The past two weeks, I watched dozens of food documentaries and cooking specials. I enjoyed all the documentaries. Whether or not they are well made, they brought me interesting characters and engaging stories. Cooking specials, on the other hand, were often boring or disturbing for me to watch. I now better understand why they are called food porn. Our hedonistic hunger is supposed to be satisfied by the cooking shows the same way our prurient thirst is quenched by porn films. We get off vicariously by watching dishes being cooked with so much butter, cream, salt and sugar by the most upbeat and cheery people, who exclaim nonstop how delicious everything smelled or tasted.
It seems that our natural relationship with food has somehow been ruined by the diet industry, its nutrition experts with their ever changing theories of what we can or cannot eat. Food has become less about enjoyment and contentment, and more associated with guilt. Hence we have food porn.
Answering the question of what we should eat, Michael Pollan, a renowned food author, said simply, “Eat food. Not too much. Mostly plants.” By food, he meant that something your great-grand mother would recognize as food — a piece of chicken, a bunch of greens, a bowl of oatmeal or a slice of pound cake. Energy bars with dozens of unpronounceable ingredients or Chicken McNuggets don’t count as food by his standard, I think.
I am not much of a food porn guzzler because I am quite content with what I eat. I don’t have restrictions or prohibitions. I cook what I want to eat. And cooking is a part of the enjoyment; it is the anticipation, the foreplay.
Today, I felt like eating a simple Chinese comfort food: cha siu, a sweet and savory roasted pork, on a bed of brown rice with stir fried bok choy. I discovered a great way to make cha siu — in the rice cooker for 12 minutes. It turned out tender, juicy and slightly charred at the bottom. It was delicious. (Am I not making my own version of food porn here? Am I not a nudist exhibitionist flaunting my food instead of my body?)
Ingredients for Cha Siu:
2 1/2 pounds pork shoulder, cut into long strips about 2 inches in diameter
Ingredients for the marinade:
1 1/2 to 2 tablespoon oyster sauce
1 1/2 tablespoon Shao Xing cooking wine
1 1/2 to 2 tablespoon Lee Kum Kee Cha Siu sauce (Chinese Barbecue Sauce)
5 to 6 slices of ginger
Marinate the meat for 4 to 8 hours. Lay meat in a single layer in the rice cooker and push“quick rice” button, or for about 12 minutes if you don’t have a “quick rice” button.