Actually, it was last week. (And who doesn't want to work a night shift on her birthday?)
Possibly because this is a somewhat big birthday (or are they all "important" after a certain point?) or possibly because I spent a lot of time with my family at the end of last year, but I've been all nostalgic about childhood food lately.
Eating Chinese food is sort of a weird activity for me. See, I stopped eating most meat when I left home for college, at 18. And I never learned to cook at home, so most of my meals as an adult have not only been vegetarian, but also Western. But I love the food of my childhood. I love chicken just barely cooked, chopped up on the bone and eaten with dipping sauce. I love whole steamed fish. I love the triangular pieces of tofu that my mother used to stuff with minced pork. And above all, I love noodle soups. So basically, I haven't eaten the stuff I've most missed for nearly two decades.
I started eating all kinds of meat again, a couple of years ago. But only happy meat. So I can get good stuff from the butcher, but I still don't eat most of the meat at restaurants. Some restaurants are very proud of their local sourcing, of using free-range chickens and ethically reared pork, or game. But I haven't found this to be true for Chinese or other Asian restaurants.
Now, of course, it's possible for me to buy the happy meat, and cook the stuff myself. (By "myself," I mean, "have The Limey cook while I hover and tell him whether it smells right yet.") So this is what will happen this year: 2012 will be the Year of Nostalgic Cooking 'round ours.
I started it off right.
My birthday cake this year is a Chinese bakery cake, made by amalgamating a bunch of different recipes from Googling "Chinese bakery cake." I'm convinced the Chinese, collectively, have no sweet tooth, and this is why they feel it's perfectly reasonable to make sweets from things like rice, tofu and - for the love of God- beans. My mother used to say my chocolate chip cookies would have been perfect if only I didn't insist on putting the chocolate chips in. So the cakes we used to get at home were not very sweet at all, but were very, very light, and stuffed with fruit. You can buy them in all the Chinese bakeries around San Francisco. They smell of fruit, rather than sugary frosting.
And mine smelled perfect.