Published on January 26th, 201313
I Want AMERICAN Food, Dammit!
As most of you know by now, the TravelnLass is not likely to go down in history as even a remotely light-weight “foodie” (indeed, that would be my big Sister’s culinary domain). Though I love eating all manner of (even the most dubious) global eats, I’m hardly what you’d call a gourmet, nor most certainly no “gourmet cook” – even in the loosest definition of that phrase.
Still… I do fancy having my own bitty kitchen here in Vietnam (indeed, though the street food is utterly divine here – not to mention dirt-cheap, eating out every blessed meal is not my perpetual fancy, so I was overjoyed when I finally snagged my first full-blown apartment in HCMC with a sink and a hot-plate). And furthermore, though I fully ADORE the many and varied delectable Vietnamese dishes here, there comes a time in every expat’s life when… I want AMERICAN food dammit! And furthermore – I want HOME-COOKED AMERICAN FOOD – even if I have to cook it myself!
And so it was, that on a recent weekend I declared that Sunday morn would bring a traditional “American Sunday Brunch” to my fellow tenants of our dear L ‘Auberge Ami guesthouse. Actually, for folks like my Vietnamese landlady, along with the twin Japanese volunteers staying here – the first hurdle was to convey just what the English term “brunch” is exactly.
I’m not even sure if they use that term in other English-speaking nations, but suffice I had to first dissect the word by gently emphasizing the “br” in “breakfast”, and omitting the “l” in “lunch – to persuade them that yes indeed, there was such a meal that generally comes halfway between morning breakfast and noon-ish lunch called: BRRRRRRR-UNCH! (btw, the “br” sound in English is utterly unheard of in either Vietnamese or Japanese, so you can only imagine the variety of pronunciations I received as my fellow L’Auberege Ami-ians tried valiantly to say the new English word.
I opted for brunch ‘cuz with the dearth of recognizable ingredients here in Vietnam, I didn’t dare tackle anything too very complicated. But I figured I couldn’t go wrong whipping up a batch of banana pancakes and scrambled eggs, yes? Well yes, easy enough to find flour and eggs around here (indeed, in the alleyway market within steps of my place, the eggs – with feathers still sticking to them – are freshly laid, pretty much right there on the spot!) And of course plenty of fresh fruits, no problem. And milk – albeit questionably pasteurized in unrefrigerated paper packets – can do. Ah, but…
Just one biiittttty problem, that I didn’t discover until I was stirring up the pancake batter but an hour before my guests’ arrival: Uh… OMG, what do I use for “baking powder” to make the pancakes nice ‘n fluffy?? Suffice, one frantic facebook message to my foodie sister 8,000 miles away in Oregon and I had my answer: “Carbonated water” says she, “even BEER would work”. Whew! I just happened to have a can of “Tiger”, so I dumped a dollop of it into my pancake batter to give it “fizz”. Worked like charm – thanks Sis!
All served out in the lovely garden here at L’Auberge Ami, amid the dappled shade of poinsettias, morning glories and bougainvillaea. It really is like a little Eden out there. Mai invited her best friends (the Vietnamese couple across the street – she’s a naturopathic physician and her husband teaches physics at nearby Dalat University) plus the young lad (a university student) that helped her lay the stone patio for the new kitchen in the garden. So with the two Japanese lasses (Saika and Miki) we were a party of 7!
In short, my inaugural “American Brunch” was a hit. It all turned out easy-peasy, and by all the oh’s and ah’s (in 3 different languages) murmured ’round the table, apparently – delish!