When I took on 365 consecutive days of eating in Richmond and writing about it, I learned things. Many things.
Here are some of them:
First and foremost, I learned far more about Asian food than I could have possibly anticipated. This job gave me a foundation for Asian cuisine that otherwise would have taken me years to establish, and I'm grateful for such a remarkable culinary education. I was exposed to so many new ingredients and dishes, and am now pretty darn capable with a pair of chopsticks.
Importantly, I also learned I have SO MUCH MORE to learn about Asian food.
I learned that Richmond is home to some of my favourite foods -- I just hadn't tried them yet. Tan tan noodles, XO sauce, pineapple cocktail buns, rousong, hot pot, fresh taro bubble tea, sticky rice rolls, miso black cod, black fungus, baked tapioca pudding, Peking crispy duck skin wraps, and bibimbap are now some of my most beloved comfort eats, and I can't believe I'd gone 28 years without them in my life.
I learned that with time, I could learn to like tripe and Hainan chicken, though I'm still deciding whether or not I can learn to like sea urchin. However, I do think I aptly described it when I called it "ocean-flavoured butter."
I learned that no matter how many times I try durian, it will never stop tasting like sulphurous eggs marinated in a stew of sweaty socks, and that maybe it's just a food to which I'll have to admit defeat. You win, durian, so take your sweaty sock stew and get outta here.
I learned it's not that hard to eat at a restaurant by yourself, and that if you don't have a common language with your server and/or fellow diners, it doesn't really matter. All that's required is a shared appreciation of food, the ability to point, a friendly smile, and a few enthusiastic head nods.
I learned that salmon fish and chips are AMAZING, and deserve just as much street cred as deep-fried halibut.
I learned it's possible to adore eating pure gluten, especially when it's soaked in sauce and served cold. It's also possible to find a flourless chocolate cookie that's so good, I've considered tattooing "I LOVE THIS COOKIE" down my forearm with an arrow pointing to my hand. That would mean I'd always need to be holding a cookie, otherwise people would be confused.
I learned that in Richmond, you can visit an awe-inspiring Buddhist Monastery, explore a century-old decaying Finnish fishing village, and fling yourself down a trampoline half-pipe all in the same day.
I've learned that Hurricane Potatoes at either of the Richmond night markets are worth the lineup and the money.
I learned it's possible to eat out every day for a year and still feel good. I didn't end up gaining weight, but even if I had, I promised myself I wouldn't obsess about the scale and instead focus on health. I strongly believe that physical and mental strength are far more empowering than feeling skinny, so I worked out, ate plenty of vegetables, pounded back ginger-fortified smoothies, and continued to eat cookies and cake with my usual enthusiasm.
Though I already knew it to a certain extent, I learned that food is truly an exceptional way to connect with strangers; I now have many wonderful friends and acquaintances in Richmond because of it.
Finally, I learned a great deal about myself. This job was my first foray into the public realm, and I discovered it's both an intimidating and extraordinary place to be. I learned I absolutely love writing and photography, and want to continue with both; this edible realm is truly where I'm meant to be.
I've learned a lot, and I've a lot to learn. Thanks for being an incredible teacher, Richmond.
Check out some of Lindsay's favourite dishes in the slideshow below:
Follow Lindsay Anderson on Twitter: www.twitter.com/365Richmond