I come from a line of cooks. My mom cooks, my dad cooks (like his parents before him), and even my brother – who rarely picks up a pot or pan – makes a mean dish of Zuppa de Clams. It’s as if we were all born to cook, and yet, none of us does so by trade. We also all bring very different dishes to the table.
Mom sticks to things she knows: chocolate chip muffins, strawberry pie, candied yams, shrimp scampi, macaroni ‘n’ cheese, plantains and tapioca pudding (the latter of which are my brother’s favorites – and the rest of which are mine). She is the most delicate of cooks; she doesn’t rush through preparations, and when the dish is done, it is more than ready for its Martha Stewart close-up.
My dad’s cooking, on the other hand, is all about speed and quantity. He prides himself on cooking for the masses and replicating any dish found in any restaurant, from pan-seared tuna to Philly cheese steak sandwiches. His kitchen is always open, and anything and everything could be wafting out of the oven doors and simmering on the stovetop. More often than not though, as an avid fisherman, he has a Catch of the Day to serve as an entrée. He is also always ready with his wok, just in case I bring home a few friends with a hankering for his famous lo mein.
I, too, have inherited a love of cooking, though my homemade specialties pale in comparison to my parents’. I thrive on crafting pure, basic items from scratch, like caramelized apple pancakes, focaccia bread, hummus and French onion soup.
While our recipes span the continents and our methods differ greatly, it is clear that as a family, cooking carries more meaning than the simple joy of cooking. For us, a home-cooked meal is about making our guests feel at ease, and it is practically a rite of passage for someone graduating from friendship to family.
In Beijing, however, I must admit that there is little reason for me to set foot in the kitchen. I can easily leave the home cooking (and dishwashing) to the experts. There is no limit to the variety of cuisines available, including favorites from my homeland. This month, we invite you and your family to feast in the city’s most family-oriented restaurants. As an expat, displacement is an all-too-familiar feeling, but these Beijing restaurants – like my parent’s kitchen – are warm, welcoming, and ready to serve you. With one bite, you’ll feel right at home.
This article originally appeared on p11 of the beijingkids January/February 2013 issue.
Click here to see the Jan/Feb issue in full.