The Fake Food Industry

Living abroad comes with all sorts of wild and crazy twists & turns. I have thoroughly enjoyed our 3 years living here and look forward to many more to come. With the excitement and thrills of an expat life, come situations that just make you want to scratch you head and ask “but, why…” at least a hundred times if not more. The biggest issue that entertains my questioning at times is the export/import industry here, specifically for this post as it relates to food.

Perhaps because I have a baby now and choose to live as my husband says not “under a rock” I am more aware of what really happens in the food industry here. I have always been one to say the Father’s prayer “I will put it down, you please keep it down” when it comes to food while traveling abroad. This has always been of course chased by a dose of pepto-bismol LOL. In recent months however I have found myself among a close circle of expats in our country who seek to find verifiable, traceable, clean, safe, and fresh products for my family to consume.

Much like in the USA, I have visited a lot of bakeries, wet markets (not quite supermarket but most have produce, eggs, and meat available), and supermarkets both local & foreign chains alike looking for the best deals and the best quality. With the service of public transportation (bus and metro system) I manage to shop at 3-5 stores with each trip to stock up on groceries for my family. I like the import bulk food store METRO for beef, sausage, imported whole cream UHT milk, canned goods, Thai or Cambodian rice, and the occasional imported baking & cooking supplies like oil & flour. On occasion I will visit Ole, City Super, or City Shop which all carry various imported goods (at imported prices too so its more of a treat unless someone tells us of a sale on milk, cheese, and butter). For vegetables and fruit I prefer the wet markets and have come to find vendors who I trust for their produce (cleanliness, taste, price, color). Because I prefer free range eggs, my husband will often walk to a very local wet market for a dozen eggs fresh picked that morning.

You might find this to be a bit of overkill and think why can’t I just shop at one store for all of my families needs. Why bother with imported products and a hunt for deals when everything is made here anyways?! Food safety for products made here for the local consumer just doesn’t have the strictest of standards. In just the past few months, there have been more reports of fake eggs, fake rice, and toxic seasonings & sauces confiscated! Often times when trying to buy meat at a wet market, you won’t truly know what kind of meat you are getting (dog meat while highly illegal here is becoming a big problem, and the latest trend is to trick buyers with rat meat who thought they were buying lamb or goat). The same is true for fish & seafood – last year we saw a news posting about people injecting toxins into crabs to give them the vibrant orange/red color so that they would sell!

Who knows, maybe all of my efforts are for nothing and I am buying fake rice, dog meat, and fake eggs.Guess living here one will really never know.

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Alphabet Pasta in my Soup

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Another new priority I have for the new year is to make new meals. I want to learn how to cook more authentic meals with ingredients fresh from where we live. I also need to learn how to cut our monthly budget down but still provide wholesome, healthy, and SAFE meals for my family to enjoy. (check back for a blog post on food safety)

One new meal I made was just this week and both my husband and daughter LOVED it! I simply grabbed things I already had in our pantry and whipped together a wonderful Thai flavored creamy tomato soup! We aren’t really dairy free here though we tend to stick to verifiable imported UHT milk here for cooking & baking, so for this recipe I didn’t need one type of milk over the other. Coconut milk which I use for a lot of Thai dishes is cheaper than UHT milk by far when needed for cooking. I thought about the flavor of tomato and coconut milk together and decided the two would probably blend well together. I WAS RIGHT!

It turned my dinner into a wonderful creamy vegetable soup with tomato broth for the base, a good helping of fresh vegetables, some finely chopped up fresh beef, and a bit of ABC pasta (I have a baby in the house so naturally alphabet pasta is a staple in my pantry). Here is a picture of the finished product and a list of the essential ingredients needed:

  • 1 large can or jar tomato sauce (I used the traditional as I like to add my own spices)
  • 1 can of coconut milk (be sure to shake the can up well before adding it to the soup)
  • 1 8oz-10oz cut of beef (my favored cut from a Mongolian supplier is chuck tender)
  • 1-2 cups dry uncooked pasta of your choice (ABCs certainly make it a favorite for us)
  • an assortment of fresh vegetables chopped or sliced thin
    • 1 large carrot thinly sliced
    • ¬†1 regular size potato chopped
    • 1/2 zucchini thin sliced (skin on for more nutritional value)
    • 2 sliced tomatoes
    • 1 bunch of chopped spinach
    • Italian blend of seasonings (I like to use basil, parsley, and a bit of sea salt)

Directions: wash, slice, and chop all vegetables then add them to a pot. Fill pot with water until the vegetables are floating freely (you don’t want to crowd the vegetables in the pot) and not crowded. Add a splash of olive oil to the water and bring to a roiling boil. Once you’ve got a roiling boil, add the can of tomato sauce to the pot and seasoning. Cover the pot, reduce the heat and let simmer until the vegetables are just aldente. Stir Occasionally. Remove cover and add 1 can of coconut milk, your choice of pasta & 8-10oz of thinly chopped beef. The trick to cooking beef in the soup is to cut it up into small diced pieces or thin slices. This will allow the beef to evenly cook and soak up the broth into it while it cooks. Put cover back on and cook until pasta and beef are fully cooked. *For a thicker soup, you can add a tablespoon of flour.

This made enough soup for a family of 3 for two-three days! We had a good portion left over and had it the next day for lunch with a grilled cheese sandwich – yum.

Raising a TCK {part 1}

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What is a TCK?

TCK or Third Culture Kid, is a term to describe children who were raised during their prime developmental years in a culture different from that of their parents.

I won’t pretend to know anything on the subject as I am brand new to this type of parenting. Unlike many of our friends children and even our most recent niece who was born a few months after Ellenora, she will and has already experienced life as a TCK. Neither my husband Joel or I grew up outside of the USA, so for Ellenora she will be the first in our family to experience growing up in a culture completely not her own. I kind of have a feeling however that to Ellenora it will be her culture since it will be all that she has/will ever know(n).

How much preparation and thought needs to go into raising a TCK? I have absolutely no idea. This is new territory for me and I think a few books on the subject might be in order to help me better prepare as her mommy how to help her grow up in a culture that is not mine. Maybe no books are needed and simply being a part of the large population is all she and I will need to learn the ins and outs of life as a TCK.

Are you raising a TCK? Do you have any advice to share with me? Any suggestions on books to read? Experiences to share? Please leave me a comment and lets start the conversation! I need your help.

 

My Prayer Wall

During Christmas this past year, we traveled out west to another city roughly 14 hours away by train (with a 13month old, we took no chances and flew). Our friends were extremely hospitable, sharing their home and lives with us! Ellenora had someone to play with every day as their daughter is just 9 months older than her, and we had wonderful much needed fellowship with them.

While touring their home our first night there, I noticed that their kitchen is lined with sharpie writings! All of their regularly used family favorite recipes are written on their tile walls. I wish I had snapped a photo just to post on this blog but the idea never crossed my mind. After coming home and thinking about the New Year, I could not get that image out of my head. One thing I want to commit myself to this year is working on my prayer life. Seeing all of their recipes gave me a great idea Рwhy not use the tile space in my kitchen to write down the names of people  that I want to be praying for this year. I already spend a ton of time in the kitchen making meals and washing dishes that this would be a great way to remind myself every time I cook & clean to pray.

I used to think that my prayer life was this boring period of my day where I stop everything that I am doing, sit down with my bible, a notebook, and a pen and wait to see what comes to me. While I love to journal, this was not fun and most days boring. I could never get engaged in it fully and now having a toddler in the house, having even 2 minutes to sit down on the toilet is asking for a lot. I know that having a consistent prayer life is important for my own personal walk with the Lord. It is also vital for me as a wife & mother to have a consistent prayer life. I need, and they both need me to have, a strong prayer life so I can quickly call upon the Lord and intercede on their behalf. Prayer is also a vital part of our livelihood living abroad. Without a strong and favorable prayer life, I will never be an effective vessel or tool for His Kingdom and I will miss out on all that He has planned for my family.

In light of my strong conviction this season to develop a deeper prayer life with the Father, I wanted to dive into what His Word has to say about the life of a praying wife & mother.