Hot Pot: Proof That We’re Social Animals

August 13, 2009 at 12:03 am 3 comments

The hot pot feast at Jeff's house

The hot pot feast at Jeff's house

When I first decided that I was only going to eat food made from scratch for over a month, I was worried that at worst, I’d be constantly hungry and cranky, and at best, maybe I’d manage to lose a few pounds.  Well, the way things are going, I’m not exactly on track for a dieter of the year award.

Take a moment and look this picture.  No, I didn’t cave in and call all the Asian restaurants in the greater Seattle area and ask them to deliver every single item on their hot pot menus.

This was a meal fit for an emperor (or empress, as it were) that I ate at the home of Jeff’s parents, who happen to be from Taiwan.  I don’t know if they knew about my experiment, but throwing raw meat and vegetables into a giant pot of fresh boiling  broth certainly counts as cooking from scratch … and believe me, it’s delicious.

One one level, I suppose there’s something animalistic about it.  But as Michael Pollan writes in his recent New York Times Magazine piece, the act of cooking (and of coming together for the sake of eating) is what distinguishes us from other animals.  We dress our food up, make it look pretty, and then watch TV shows about it on the Food Network.

But more than that, the experience of eating hot pot is really what food is all about — gathering around a fire (okay, a gas-heated hot plate) while cooking and eating communally.  You know the expression “Home is where the heart is”?  Well, add an “h” at the end of “heart” — because before central heating, the hearth was really the central point of every home.

Without a doubt, the social aspect of eating has been the most interesting part of this experiment so far.  Since telling my friends about this blog, a few of them have started similar projects of their own, while others have been coming over and helping me with cooking … and eating, of course.

I’m already someone who enjoys cooking and throwing dinner parties for friends.  But there’s something really beautiful about coming home on a weekday just like any other day, cooking a simple meal, and enjoying it with friends.  (Note: If you’re going to be eating dinner with me , please don’t kill my idyllic musings by whipping out your smartphone at the table … :))


Entry filed under: Asian Food, Food Anthropology. Tags: , , .

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3 Comments Add your own

  • 1. sudha  |  August 14, 2009 at 4:08 am

    for you, i’ll put away the blackberry 🙂

  • 2. jules  |  August 15, 2009 at 1:42 am

    OMG! I haven’t had a traditional pot luck in soooooooo long. I’m so jealous! Did Jeff’s family show you the dipping sauce made from raw egg, soy sauce & chili? Sounds gross? Tastes like childhood to me!

    • 3. shiwanis  |  August 15, 2009 at 4:41 am

      Yes! I was a little skeptical of the raw egg dipping sauce, but it was soooo delicious 🙂


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