If you haven't been paying attention, it's Baby Week here at The Delicious Life. There was a perfectly pink baby shower at La Terza complete with diaper cakes, my sado-masochistic foray into teeny tiny pink and white cupcakes, a Baby Q, a couple of pregnant lunches, and then...like a watermelon pops right out of a garden hose, we had the baby!
The little monkey made her week-early debut just before Thanksgiving, so technically, we're three months overdue with this whole Baby Week, but better late then never, right? Right. So we’re forging ahead with glorious post-natal rants and raves. Hey, it's me, so it’s mostly rants, and since this is post number 7, we can all beathe a collective *sigh* of relief for it marks the end of Baby Week. (But don’t think that there won’t be more mentions of the little monkey in the future – she is just way too effin’ cute.)
My sister and her husband and the little monkey stayed in the hospital for a few days for what the doctor called "observation." I don't know why on earth they would want to "observe" a tiny, wrinkly pink raisin of a baby that does nothing but sleep and a groggy, cranky, always-nauseated new mom. I suppose better the doctors and nurses running from the bed to the toilet to dump out the contents of the puke bowl than me, though I did do it a couple of times, too. A couple of times! You hear that, Jen? You owe me! You owe me big! I won't get into all the other wonderful details of after-birth, and I don't mean that stuff that comes shimmying out onto the delivery room floor right after the baby does. *shudders*
I will however, go into the details of a curious thing that happens when a fresh-out-of-the-oven baby’s grandmothers both live very nearby. It’s as if in all the thousands of years of human history, not one set of new parents was ever able to cook for themselves after their baby was born. Suddenly, both grandmothers feel this overwhelming grandmaternal instinctual need to bring food to the baby’s house and feed the parents since they are in their zombie-like states from waking up every two hours to nurse the baby. They call it “helping out.” I call it Iron Chef Delicious: Battle Baby.
There is no incumbent Iron Chef, just Challenger Maternal (that’s my sister’s and my Mom) with a deep understanding of homestyle Korean cuisine, and Challenger Paternal (that’s my sister’s mother-in-law) with years of experience in traditional Chinese cooking and specialty in Taiwanese dishes.
Challenger Maternal came over first, laden with department store shopping bags lined with alternating layers of plastic bags and paper bags from various local grocery stores to account for possible spillage in transit. One by one, she removed the plastic containers, unwrapped them from plastic cling wrap, again to protect them spillage, and an outer layer of yet more grocery store plastic bags, these to provide extra cushioning. If ever you need ground transport of fragile, valuable, possibly even toxic, flammable or liquid goods, make sure you have plenty of grocery store plastic bags because apparently, they do well as safe and careful packaging material. I found out later that for this reason, they are also widely used for individually wrapping and sealing up soiled diapers before throwing the little bundles of poop-joy into the diaper pail.
Presentation must contribute to the final scoring in Iron Chef Delicious, because Challenger Maternal didn’t let anyone touch the food until she had first “refreshed” a few things on the stove top – some bin-dae-dduk, ho-bahk jun, and jahp-chae, then second, transferred everything from the plastic transport containers to plates and dishes that she pulled from my sister’s cabinets. Challenger Maternal gets bonus points an especially artful presentation of gim-bahp, as well as the inclusion of various bahn-chan and kimchee.
My sister had previously never liked bin-dae-dduk, but throughout her pregnancy she acquired tastes for things, like bin dae dduk, that she never had before. I didn’t dare take more than one, but I certainly did my fair share of damage on the ho-bahk jun (zucchini slices dipped in an egg/flour batter and pan-fried, which is one of my favorites) and the gim-bahp. Gim-bahp is like a miniature portable version of bi-bim-bahp. Both are based on steamed white rice, with vegetables. Bi-bim-bahp is served in a bowl and mixed with goh-choo-jahng (spicy red pepper paste), and gim-bahp is a roll. Of course, gim-bahp also doesn’t have goh-choo-jahng in it, but I had to smear each piece of my gim-bahp with either goh-choo-jahng or a generous squueze from the sriracha bottle. That, and a piece of kimchee wrapped right around it.
Within the next few days, Challenger Paternal presented her dishes. Rather than bringing things that were prepared beforehand, she brought everything in parcels and did the final preparation in the kitchen. She stirred together a pale pinkish brown powder with a mix of water and broth, then pan-fried the batter into one large, thin, flat fishcake. She flamboyantly stir-fried snow pea shoots, known as dau miao, in a large wok with a swirl of olive oil, salt, pepper, and enough minced garlic to take down an army of angry vampires.
She decanted a large plastic jug of seafood-based broth into a stockpot, then added various vegetables, fish, other shellfish, and a levely tangle of thin, translucent angel hair-like noodles. The final result was an enormous cauldron of simmering seafood soup.
The only things she brought that were completely prepared and only needed to be plated were a firm, smoked tofu tossed with cilantro, and glossy meatballs in a light, thin sauce. She lost points from me with that cilantro, but everyone else seemed to love it.
Both meals were absolutely fantastic (somehow, I was invited to all of them). Which totally explains why both chefs faced off again in a serious Iron Chef overtime throughout the following few months, and are still happily battling it out today.