If I'm Deep Frying Your Food, That Means I Love You
And other ways I communicate with food
Whenever Easter rolls around I’d go to my Mom's and sister’s place to celebrate. We don’t make a big fuss over it. For us Easter is just another excuse to eat a nice meal on a day off.
But just like last year Easter 2021 was different. The pandemic kept us in our own bubbles and we decided to play it safe. I was, and still am, lucky to be living with my boyfriend so I had someone to share Easter with.
My plan was to make a simple fish dish and cook a few sides to go with it. My boyfriend didn’t mind as I can make a mean soy salmon with garlic beans or broccoli. But then his eyes lit up with an idea I should have seen coming.
“Babe, let’s make fish and chips!”
It’s a simple dish and, according to Allrecipies.com, very quick to make. I can cut the time down further by using frozen fries instead of making my own. There’s only one problem.
I hate deep frying.
But I love fried food.
Fried chicken, onion rings, fresh chicharon, tempura, you name it. If it’s battered and golden browned to perfection, I want it. But I hate deep frying.
Now I fry food all the time (eggs, meat, fried rice, etc.) and I don’t think much about it. But when the oil is doing more than just coating my pan, that means I’m deep frying and I do my best to avoid it. Why?:
- It’s messy. If you’re deep frying something, chances are you are using a lot of oil. It seems so wasteful, especially if it only produces one or two servings of food. I would then have to keep the oil somewhere nearby in order to use it again. That means less counter space and one less bowl, both of which could be put to better use. In the end I would have to clean everything that oil touched, including myself which brings us to reason number two.
- Oil splatters. Whenever I’m deep frying I have to make sure I’m wearing my junkiest shirt because oil stains are a bitch to get out. I also have to keep a towel wrapped around my arm because if a drop of hot oil lands on my skin, yeowch! But it doesn’t matter. I could be wearing a long sleeve shirt and a potholder and oil will still fly onto that one, unprotected spot. And while I'm doing my best to minimize the splatter I’m watching the cooking area like a hawk because of reason number three.
- Oil fire. Fires are absolutely devastating. Imagine becoming homeless, disfigured or worse because you wanted to make fried chicken wings. That’s what goes through my paranoid mind. At least with a regular fire I can turn the taps on and start tossing water. But an oil fire? I’d have to start thinking about where I put the baking soda and whether or not I’d have a home by the time I find it! It is for this reason alone that I avoid deep frying food.
But there are times when I find myself doing just that. When my boyfriend turned to me and said we should make fish and chips I hesitated. But after risking third degree burns, oil fires and ignoring the pool of oil in the pot, I found myself proudly serving up the fish and chips. Why?
Because I love him.
We all use food to communicate with each other and we all do it differently. You already know that if I’m deep frying food that means I love who I’m going to serve. Now, I say “I love you” in everything I cook, but not with the same punch as I do when I’m deep frying. Everyone has their own version of “I LOVE YOU” written in large caps on a plate. And then there are the other things we say with the food we make.
Using what I cook for my boyfriend as an example:
- If I’m cooking his favourite meal, that means I want him to be happy and that I pay attention to what he likes;
- If I’m cooking with an ingredient that he hates, that means I know exactly what I’m doing and we need to talk;
- If I’m cooking something fancy, that means company is coming over and I’m freaking out;
- If I’m cooking something rich or sweet, that means I want to treat us to something nice for the week, and;
- If I’m cooking something healthy, that means I decided that both my boyfriend and I need to go on a diet because I ain’t doing that sh*t alone.
While most of what this article talked about was how I communicate love and other sentiments through food, the response I get is just as important.
Whenever I make my boyfriend food, I’m saying “I care for you, I want you healthy and happy and I love you.” Whenever he receives it, he’s telling me “I appreciate you, I thank you and I love you.” And whenever he asks me to make a dish again, he says all that and more and the virtuous cycle continues.
Needless to say, anything I deep fry is a make-again dish, which fills me with equal parts happiness and despair. What about the mess deep frying makes? What about the oil that splatters everywhere? What about the risk of going up in flames?
But I make it anyway.
My sister and I are twins. Every time our birthday rolls around we would ask Mom if she could make us lumpia. Making that dish is hard work so we only have it once a year. Twice if we are lucky.
The day before our birthday, Mom would spend hours slicing cabbages, carrots and beans into thin slices before cooking it together with ground pork and seasoning. She would make a huge mound of it and would tuck it away into the fridge to cool. The next day, she would gather my sister and I around the wide wooden table. Together we would take the filling she made and roll it into large wonton wrappers. When all the wontons were used, Mom would take them with her to the kitchen, heat up a deep puddle of oil in her wok and deep fry each lumpia to perfection.
The first bite of crispy wontons, fresh vegetables and savoury pork fills me with comfort and pleasure. The next bite paired with a sauce of minced onion, soy and vinegar is pure delight. We would savour in silence eating that first perfect roll before reaching out for the second, then the third, then the fourth. While we ate we connected, sharing stories, recalling memories and bemoaning the fact that we’d have to run it all off the next day.
Lumpia never stayed in the house for very long and never for more than three days. Like most deep fried foods, they lost their crisp after a night in the fridge. But no matter how cold or limp they got they were still perfect to me. They were still delicious and every time I bit into one I looked forward to the day when I could have them again. I felt a mixture of joy, comfort, anticipation and gratitude.
I felt loved.