Stuff White People Ate

I thought we’d done well last weekend when our friend Andrew (Achilles to his mum) came around bearing an extremely impressive pastitsio.

However I think we may have just had a world record breaking weekend of eating Stuff White People Like.

First there was a cup of fair trade Ethiopian coffee (#1) and shopping at the non profit (#12) ANU Food Co-op (#48) for organic tempeh and the like (#6), followed by a trip to Choku Bai Jo (even whiter than the Farmers Market, #5). Then it was lunch at my sister’s house, a very glamourous version of surf’n'turf, fat slabs of steak from the organic butcher at Belconnen Markets, a coleslaw with homemade lime and chilli mayonnaise and a salad of prawns, avocado and kipflers:

… followed by hollowed out strawberries filled with a Campari jelly and topped with mint and lemon zest – white person heaven. The recipe is from Moveable Feast, but minus the wasabi because they’d forgotten. If only I’d known I could have bought the fresh horseradish root in the veggie crisper.

But that was just the beginning.  The peak of our weekend’s White Person experience isn’t on the Stuff White People Like site, but I heard founder Christian Lander on Radio National (#44) one day saying about the best thing you could do for a white person was cook them something from your culture and tell them it wasn’t available in restaurants or anywhere else.

Our next door neighbour, Ann, is a follower of Tibetan Buddhism (#2), and is one year away from finishing a three year meditation retreat in France. While she’s away, her house is used by Bhutanese students (who are generally either studying Buddhism or doing MBAs, as far as I could work out.)  On Friday afternoon Dogpa (a phonetic spelling) invited us to come on Saturday and celebrate the coronation of their new King, explaining that we could experience some Bhutanese culture as everyone would be wearing their national dress and there would be Bhutanese food.

They had set up a beautiful white marquee in the back yard, with a flagpole and the Bhutanese flag and thangkas and photographs of their beloved monarchs.  Their national dress is very handsome indeed, and the women in particular looked very beautiful (#11).

There were a  few brief and charming speeches explaining the significant current events in Bhutan (#18), and a including a passing reference to their happiness that Barack Obama (#8) had been elected in the US in the same week that they celebrated a hundred years of their monarchy, the achievements of the Fourth King, Jigme Singye Wangchuck (which include the peaceful transition from an absolute monarchy to a constitutional one with a democratically elected Parliament) and the coronation of the Fifth King, Jigme Khesar Namgyel Wangchuck.  There was butter tea and saffron rice, and advice that this was a ritual offering, and we should hang around for the feasting.

omg, the feasting. The community members had divided up the cooking, and there were about 15 or 20 different dishes. Tripe! Pig’s head! Dry beef! Ema-datsi, the national dish of chilli and cheese. People kept asking us how we coped with the chilli, but that was no problem for us. I’m not buying Ruth Reichl’s view that Bhutanese cuisine is “the worst in the world” – the food was delicious, and the tripe in particular was extraordinary; braised to a beautiful soft consistency and firey hot.

There’s not much information about Bhutanese food on the web – the country only began to use television and the internet in 1999 – but there’s a cultural overview here.

And yes, the White Folk joined in the Bhutanese dancing.


#1 kate on 09.11.08 at 9:47 pm

Well I’ve had a weekend of drinking East Timorese coffee, eating fair trade organic chocolate, and writing stuff no one much is ever going to read. I did it all on our Ikea couch, which is about as White Person as you can get.

While I was procrastinating on the writing thing a few weeks ago I re-read Baby in a Backpack to Bhutan, which was my first Mother’s Day present, and remembered the bit where, after months living in Bhutan and thinking she was very aclimatised and eating locally, Bunty discovers they’ve been making special much less chilli-laden food for her. She still thought it was hot.

#2 kate on 09.11.08 at 10:15 pm

The other stuff we White People had this weekend was hummus. A lot of hummus.

We kinda let down the side though, I didn’t read the label (it was hummus from the supermarket!) and none of us is gluten intolerant.

(Well done, Kate, #112 – Zoe)

#3 ampersand duck on 10.11.08 at 6:59 am

Heh, that SWPL list is very specific to Gen X, don’t you think?

#4 Dr Sister Outlaw on 10.11.08 at 9:08 am

Our white people weekend was roast chicken on Saturday night (the first time I’ve EVER roasted a chicken without a disaster. Yesterday the child made cinnamon french toast and home made hamburgers from his Kids Cookbook. The hamburgers were so good he was willing to accept tiny slices of tomato on them. But we were sorely lacking in Bhutanese, or any other cross-cultural experience.

#5 Zoe on 10.11.08 at 9:24 am

So what did you do differently with the chicken this time?

I too struggled with roast chicken until I read Simon Hopkinson and the Time Life Good Cook “Poultry”. I am now a Master Roaster of Chickens. And the secret ingredient is … about a gallon of butter.

#6 Francis Xavier Holden on 10.11.08 at 9:41 am

I only discovered Stephanie’s notes on How to Roast Chook about 6 months ago.

High heat for a start, on side 1 then side 2, then lower heat, then breast down then, back on high-ish heat and breast up.

I think that was it.

#7 Francis Xavier Holden on 10.11.08 at 9:41 am

I do fail to see how any nation that has tripe as its national dish could be that happy.

#8 Francis Xavier Holden on 10.11.08 at 9:43 am

Jamie Oliver has this thing where you put the chook on top of a bed of vegies and sort of leave it I think. Sounds like a pommie recipe for mushy roast veg to be. Never been game to try it.

#9 Dr Sister Outlaw on 10.11.08 at 9:59 am

Well, I tried the Stephanie tricks and they did not work. I also decided not to put on lashings of butter, because they are bad for the waistline (not mine, by my bloke’s, which is def not in the healthy range).

I rubbed a teaspoon of salt and a teaspoon of olive oil over the little chicky and put it in a tray with no fat whatsoever. I did not fret about which side to put it on, I just sat it there (I did stuff it with breadcrumbs and garlic chives).

It was 1.5kg, I put it in the oven at 200c for about 45 minutes until the skin had puffed up nice and brown, and then turned it down to about 160c for about 45 minutes until no juices ran out of it. It was absolutely awesomely tender, with just the right amount of moisture in the breast.

And thanks so much for the white people’s blog – is cracking me up during an otherwise dull day at work.

#10 rach on 10.11.08 at 10:13 am

Please to advise next time you have a white people weekend, kthxbye.

That said, I am the biggest chilli wuss in the world. I would be the one asking the Bhutanese people to make me chilli-free vegetarian food. Which is perhaps the whitest request of all.

#11 Zoe on 10.11.08 at 10:15 am

FX, are you a tripe doubter? This dish would convert anyone.

I haven’t tried the chook on veggies but I sometimes roast a joint of lamb on a bed of onion, tomato, capsicum and eggplant or beef (rubbed with miso and mustard seeds) on a bed of celery. Works a treat – I’ve got some photos at home which I’ll see if I can dig up.

DSO, I’m glad you like the White People site. Cooking with the kids from their special cookbook is very White.

rach, I was afraid that the whole shebang was going to be pulses due to some Buddhists abstaining from meat, but our hosts were seriously into the flesh foods, at least for big celebrations. There were lots of veggies, and noodles, and pulses, but these were all fearsomely hot also.

#12 Fyodor on 10.11.08 at 10:51 am

Everybody Wangchuck Tonight!

/stuff white people say at inappropriate moments

#13 Cristy on 10.11.08 at 12:04 pm

I am so very guilty of ‘white people eating’, but I have trouble feeling very guilty about it. It is yummy.

My birthday cupcakes were probably about as ‘white people food’ as you can get – vegan, pistachio & rosewater, and made with local organic flour & honey… They were very tasty though.

#14 Kirsty on 10.11.08 at 6:45 pm

Careful, FXH, all that talk about Jamie Oliver suggests you might be watching TV, unless you’ve only read the books ; )

#15 Kirsty on 10.11.08 at 6:48 pm

Forgot to say that all that food looks de-lish, Zoe.

#16 Kirsty on 10.11.08 at 6:53 pm

Jamie Oliver also has thing where you stuff the bird with a lemon you partially cooked along with the potatoes you boiled before roughing them up and chucking them in the roasting pan to make lots of crispy potatoey bits. The lemon makes the chook cook quicker and gives the flesh a lovely flavour and moistness.

Okay. Think I’m done.

#17 Francis Xavier Holden on 11.11.08 at 12:15 am

Kirsty – yes I’ve watched Jamie. My brother gave me one of his books. He swears by him. I just swear. I find his stuff a bit too english (not that theres anything wrong with that for his audience).

I realise its all edited and that but when I see him on tv all I can think of is he doesn’t wash his hands enough when cooking.

I’ve only caught bits and pieces of Ministry of Food but I did enjoy some of the elements of it.

#18 Georg on 11.11.08 at 6:57 pm

OMG surf ‘n’ turf. It’s been years. I know what I’ll be eating this weekend. I never ‘got’ why it worked but it does.

We also had roast chicken on the weekend and it was lovely. Not knowing how the lady cooked it, I just asked and she said that she used the Stephanie technique and it works. Except it’s hard to get the bird to stay in place with all the turning.

#19 Helen on 14.11.08 at 4:46 pm

My favourite roast chicken thing is to mix a bit of paprika (about half a tsp or so but is not exact) with a little bit of olive oil and brush the chook with this mixture. Oh and whack a lemon up its arse a la Jamie.

#20 Dr Sista Outlaw on 15.11.08 at 10:37 am

that sounds yum

#21 dylwah on 15.11.08 at 11:39 am

I’m putting in a good word for Jamie, and other tv chefs, i spent 5 1/2 years cooking for teenagers between ’98 and ’05 just as i was first noticing food prn was getting big on the tv. if the kids saw something on the telly they were more likely to eat it, i particularly remember making Jamie’s Carbonarra at about 2am one time for this rather strung out young lad. food prn books can be good engagement tools when working with the tv generations.

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