Since the Zhou Dynasty (周朝 about 3,000 years ago) the twelfth month of the Chinese calendar has been designated as a time for ritual sacrifice to honor the gods and ancestors. This ritual is known as “laji” (臘祭). Animals were hunted for offerings, and the meat consumed during the ceremony. Over time preservation techniques were developed to conserve the leftovers for winter consumption. One curing technique known as “la” (臘) consists of salting and drying of the meat. This brings me to the February challenge to make cured pork belly or bacon for Charcutepalooza.
Photography by Kim Foster
I am very fortunate to be living in the most wonderful building in the greatest city. This year my schedule around Chinese New Year was absolutely crazy. What with cooking classes, cooking demos, panel discussions and a guest chef event I had neglected preparations for my own family New Year dinner. The day before New Year’s Eve only four members of my family had been invited and confirmed. I was not looking forward to spending a quiet New Year’s Eve celebration with so few people. Determined to change this I turned it into a festive gathering of friends and neighbors.
This January whisked by at a breakneck pace without my realizing that it is over. During the month I taught cooking classes, consulted restaurant entrepreneurs, advised market researchers on Chinese sauces, and cooked a guest chef dinner at a restaurant. I am quite baffled by how cooking has turned into such a central role in my life. Yet for many years this is what I aspired to do. Three years ago this month I wrote my first post on Red Cook coaxed by my neighbor, Kim of The Yummy Mommy and Charcutepalooza fame. It has become a way for me to share my passion for Chinese cooking with others as well as to discover opportunities to work as a culinary professional. Thanks to my many enthusiastic supporters I am starting to do what I truly love.