If you could live anywhere, where would it be?
Sometimes I do feel like I live anywhere in the world. The word that often comes to mind is “untethered.” Most people come from somewhere, and some people dream about living somewhere else, but I have always lived somewhere else.
I was born in Canada, grew up in Oklahoma and Texas, went to school in New England, had a career in New York, and now find myself living in Singapore.
I am also a second-generation North American. My grandparents were from the old country, as it used to be called–Dutch, German, Irish, and Italian, respectively–making me a seemingly impossible product of WWII.
When it comes to food, where does that leave me? The idea of authenticity pervades discussions of food culture: local, seasonal, traditional. But what if you live somewhere where the majority of the food is imported, there are 2 seasons (hot and wet, or hotter and less wet), and while it is a nexus of cultures, none of them are yours, and you have no particular personal food tradition to fall back on?
It’s not a theoretical concern. I have a deep, daily, and sometimes difficult relationship with the food I eat. Migraines and food allergies are really just the beginning. When people get homesick, they usually start talking about food. And the news from back home is about pumpkins and pot roast (and I suppose we’ll have to discuss Thanksgiving at some point). Meanwhile, I have not turned on my oven for over 6 months. It’s around 90 degrees here every day and my kitchen has no air con. Although I have no authentic claim to curries and noodles, they just make more sense. Braising and stir fries better suit the climate. Ingredients like ginger and chilies help regulate body temperature and are anti-microbial. And many recipes are authentically allergy-friendly and undeniably tasty.
So I’m playing the role of intrepid explorer, embracing where I am, not where I once was. But I can’t help but wonder, what treasures will I bring back with me, and what will I need to leave behind?