Last fall m hay got a call from his mother, Judy. The timing of it suggested a family emergency. The volume on the phone was high enough that I could overhear a garbled introduction:
“I have a job in China.”
“What is this, April Fools?”
M hay and I were both stunned. Judy is a retired elementary school principal from a small town who had never gone overseas for any length of time. But she was moving to China for a year to teach at a private school in Szechuan province. Wow.
She was headhunted. Her main goal at the job was to Canadianize the classroom for her Chinese students, many of whom aim to apply to English-language universities in North-America. The students work a lot on their laptops, so their written English is excellent. But their spoken English, not so much. Their classroom was not oriented towards conversation. And so the goal was to get them talking and practicing their spoken English.
Judy had a rich cultural experience in China, as well as some colourful incidents of culture shock. Exhibit A: the fact that people spit everywhere over there. Exhibit B: no heating in winter.
To me, China used to evoke mostly images of food so good it need not be changed. Anti Asian-fusion. Tradition. Dim sum. Patterned plates are also on my periphery. I blame that on my mother’s china collection.
Buttermilk Panna Cotta
*adapted from The Last Course by Claudia Fleming
5.5 g unflavored gelatin
1 1/4 cups heavy cream
110 g sugar
1 vanilla pod, split lengthwise
1 3/4 cups buttermilk
3/4 cup raspberries + 3 tbsp sugar
salt, to taste
Soften gelatin in 1 tbsp cold water in a medium bowl for about 5 minutes. Meanwhile, put cream and sugar into a small saucepan. Scrape seeds from vanilla pod into pan, then add the pod, too. Heat cream mixture over medium heat, stirring until sugar dissolves, about 3–5 minutes, then stir into bowl with gelatin. Stir in buttermilk, then strain into another bowl.
Divide custard between six 8-oz. ramekins and refrigerate until set, about 3 hours. To unmold, dip ramekins into a dish of hot water, then invert custards onto plates. Garnish with tart fruit, such as raspberries or blackberries, that have been macerated with a bit of salt and sugar. Serve chilled.