Playing The Game

June 1, 2024 – Clearing out the fridge and freezer


“The game” is something that my mom would do when we were kids. Essentially, the goal is to get rid of all of the food in the fridge or freezer before going out and buying more food. The idea is to maximize the dollar, minimize food waste, and consume what was purchased. Makes sense, but I am unsure if I am good at this game. I come to the game with a lot of intentions (and memories) but my fridge and freezer often remain full. My brother, on the other hand, has an empty fridge (with exception to a few condiments and some frozen staples) and sister play this game religiously with specific rules (i.e., you can’t buy food to complement the food you’re trying to get rid of). Nope. I can see now that playing the game is not my strength. Let’s unpack why.

I just finished a CBC series call “House Special” that looks at Chinese-Canadian restaurants in BC and Alberta. The series went to Penticton, Vernon, Kelowna, Red Deer, and Grand Prairie. The stories told resonated with me. The host, Jackie Kai Ellis, is a second-generation Chinese woman and pastry chef. She tells her family’s stories and her relationships with her family and food throughout this series as she explores Chinese-Canadian food and Chinese-Canadian people living in these communities. Lots of what she shared resonated with me. I love how this series was able to articulate about what I’ve experienced through the lens of uncertainty and cultural assimilation. I felt that her voice and stories depicted much of what I’ve experienced.

Why does this matter? I just remember that we would eat what my mom made (often a stir fry with rice). There was not much food in the fridge. And, we would have the periodic “Canadian meal” which meant ham, mashed potatoes, and peas, or spaghetti made with ketchup. My most favourite meal was curry chicken and potatoes with rice. AMAZING… and I can not find anything like it. Trust me, I tried. Now in Prince George (as mentioned in previous blog posts), I spent a great amount of energy trying to find Chinese food that tasted much like my mom’s or what I used to eat in Vancouver. It’s super hard to find and what I have found is OK and it only represents a fraction of the Chinese food of what I would like to eat. Something is better than nothing.

At first, I thought that finding this food and having it was more about feeling close to my mom, which it is (and does). But after watching the CBC series, there is an episode that is titled, “Food is Love.” It’s so true. My mom never said “I love you” to me, but she showed her love to me and my family with food. I remember as a teenager going to family dinners to Galaxy Gardens with my family. These were special occasions. I don’t think we went every week, but at least once a month. We had family favourites like #25 (sweet and sour pork Cantonese style). The CBC series spoke about sweet and sour pork throughout the series saying that this is Chinese-Canadian food. This kind of food was created to meet the needs of the consumer (and make money).

The CBC series went to the place where ginger beef was created, Grand Prairie. Beef was Albertan and Albertans love gravy. The beef was sliced into strips to mimic french fries, but also be savoury to encourage folks to drink. The creation of ginger beef was economic, but it’s one of my brother’s favourite dishes. When my family moved away from Prince Rupert (where Galaxy Gardens is located), we went to various restaurants around the Burnaby area (i.e., where my parents built and moved into a condo near Metrotown). We were all adults and have graduated from university. We would often go for dim sum, congee, or “double duck” dinner. Eating around the table equated to family, connection, and LOVE. This is why food and eating out means a lot to me.

It’s love.