If you’re not Chinese, the thought of stir frying lettuce may send you into culinary arrest as it once did me. My grandmother would never be able to understand why on earth a person would put lettuce into a frying pan of hot oil under any circumstance.
But now, having lived in Asia for the past 11 years, I have done things in the kitchen that never even entered my imagination. I grew up in very white, very southern, very deep-fried community. I hardly ate rice. I never set foot in a Chinese restaurant until I was in university. Taco Bell was about as ethnic as our family ever got when it came to eating out.
There have been several moments of epiphany over the past 11 years in which I realized I turned a corner in cultural assimilation–one of them occurred in the kitchen just the other night.
I had a number of fresh vegetables that needed to be eaten–lettuce, baby spinach, celery, carrots, cucumbers. I looked the lot over, washed them, chopped them and thought “salad”. Just as was turning to get the oil and vinegar out of the refrigerator to make salad dressing I thought, “Ed will hate this.” He’s Chinese after all; he has this thing about eating vegetables raw. I’m not sure if it has more to do with the food being cold or the uncertainty as to whether the vegetables have been washed thoroughly enough to get all the soil and “fertilizer’ traces off. He does eat salad and knows it’s healthy, but I can tell it makes him uncomfortable at times.
Hmm. I could fry the spinach, but it’s really not enough to make a reasonable sized dish on its own. And then it hit me: Fry it all. Yes. Fried salad. A little oil, a little salt, some water later to make a little sauce. I used all my vegetables and Ed ate heartily.
I have entered a whole new cooking world.
Fried salad. I should write this down.