Get Creative in the Kitchen with Different Cuisines
Living with food allergies can sometimes feel restrictive when you have to stick to your known “safe foods”, but there are so many different cuisines in the world that you can borrow elements from and allow to inspire your cooking.
This is how excited I got about eating Chinese food for the first time. In Seinfeld and other shows, the characters were always ordering Chinese food and I wanted in! My dad loved eating in Chinatown during the week, and everything he described always sounded so good. When dining as a family, my parents mostly stuck to the same restaurants that we always ate at and were wary of trying something new (in regards to our food allergies), especially with a cuisine they were not very familiar with. But my mom wanted to make sure we tried everything, so she looked up some recipes and decided to make some Chinese food at home. I don’t remember exactly what it was, aside from being some type of stir-fry with delicious bean sprouts, but I do remember feeling elated at the prospect of trying a new food, and a new utensil to eat it with.
A few years later I went through a sushi and sashimi phase. My brother and I would bike to the small Japanese grocery store around the corner from our house and buy sushi-grade tuna and salmon, or whatever fish he had in stock. We’d also pick up rice, wasabi, ginger, and seaweed paper, then bike home to prepare for our feast. My parents bought me a bamboo rolling set from Costco and we settled into a nice little Friday night ritual of raw bar and a movie.
When our local grocery store started stocking caviar and authentic pumpernickel rounds, we dabbled in Russian-themed appetizers. These are just some examples of the ways we were able to get inspired by other cuisines and cultures, at home in our own kitchen.
Mixing up our routine in the comfort and safety of our own kitchen was a great way to excite the taste buds while learning about other cultures. Most of the time we ate Italian food, BBQ, or roast meals, but we liked to switch it up too.
There are so many different and incredible cuisines in the world, and it would be a shame not to try many of them. Although some are not particularly allergy-friendly, that doesn’t mean dishes can’t be recreated in an allergy-safe way at home. For example, my husband makes me amazing Persian kabob! I’ve always felt that because my diet is limited by means beyond my control, I should try to extend my diet and my palette within the means that I could control; cuisine.
Take a really basic example; a tomato. It’s good raw, on its own, but it can also be roasted, grilled, charred, pureed, stuffed, made into salsa, or turned into sauce. Every country around the world would prepare that tomato in their own way. There is so much we can do with ingredients that are familiar to us, and that are on our allergy-safe lists. Exploring diverse cuisines and learning about their methods of preparation and serving can teach us so much about how to make our meals more exciting.
But where do you start?
How about reading, watching, and listening.
I have tons of cookbooks on my bookshelf representing all kinds of cuisines, some general and some very specific. While I don’t cook the recipes exactly as they are in the books, I read through them and look at the pictures to learn about how other cultures structure their recipes and what types of ingredients they use. You never know what will inspire you.
Netflix and other streaming services have a vast plethora of food shows available, so try them out! It’s amazing how much information you can absorb by watching a documentary or a cooking show, and how it can inspire you to be creative in your own life.
Listen when others discuss food. I feel like I can’t go anywhere in Toronto without hearing someone talk about a restaurant meal or a home-cooked meal they had. Ask questions; what was it that appealed to them, what ingredients was it made of, how was it served? If I’m at a restaurant with Brandon or a friend, and I’m not comfortable eating there, I still want to know what their meal tastes like, ask them to bite it and show me the inside, and all sorts of other invasive questions. You never know from where you can glean new information and ideas.
It’s easy to feel limited by your food allergies or dietary restrictions, but it’s also easy to get inspired to try something new with the ingredients you know you can have, in the comfort of your kitchen. So go forth and explore! Research, pay attention, ask questions; you never know what delicious meal you’ll come up with.