BORT stands for Bites of the Round Table. It's an informal dinner club that we run most Sunday nights. It usually consists of three or four people cooking food and bringing it together. We’ve been doing this for over a year now, to the point where I've lost count a long time ago of how many of these we've done (and so, I’ve decided to arbitrarily decree that tonight's BORT was #46)! Some nights are themed, other nights are not. Some nights are elaborate with much preparing and planning, and other nights are slap-dash and last-minute. Regardless, we always have a great time. It has become a ritual that I love to have in my life.

Having a regimented time to cook for and with each other has given me pause to reflect on the food that I make and eat, on dining with friends and family, and on exploring new culinary regions and worlds.

A couple of weeks ago, Sal got two cookbooks from the library, one called Salad Freak and one called The Food of Sichuan by Fuschia Dunlop. My interest wasn't entirely piqued by the Szechuan cookbook, but that was for a lack of knowledge of that cuisine, or any experience with it in general. So, today we tried making Mapo Tofu with another salad, and our guests brought kimchi rice (a great recipe from the East cookbook by Meera Sodha).

Mapo translates to something like “pockmarked grandma’s tofu”. OKAY, sure! What was more fun and intriguing, though, was the journey to get the ingredients that we needed for it. I think I was partially intimidated by this new cookbook because there were several ingredients that I had both never heard of. There's something so intimidating about that for me, based on perhaps my upbringing or just my lack of exposure to new foods. Sal picked out “T & T” grocery store, and we got on our bikes, and we went to check it out. I think we were both just immediately delighted by this new space which was a departure from our regular grocery shopping. So, we filled our baskets up and with some regulars and some new arrivals:

As part of tonight’s initiation, our guests had to eat a fermented black bean. I actually liked the strong flavour—salty and sort of, dour (no not sour, but dour if it could be a flavour).

The recipe was fairly simple. We soaked some tofu in hot, salty water, we browned some pork, and then we mixed the new sauces and paste with lots of oil and threw everything together. The exciting thing was trying out Szechuan Peppercorn, which has a mouth-numbing tingly effect when you eat it. Earlier, I tried a kernel of it on my own and found it to be a really pleasant taste and sensation. But apparently we didn't use enough of it because I didn't really notice it when we actually had the dish.

I feel I lack the refined palate (and the words) to describe the flavour of it, but it turned out great.

Dishes for BORT #46:

  • Kimchi Rice with fried Egg
  • Mapo Tofu
  • Salad
  • Deserts courtesy of Alimentary