I cherished all the things you’d expect of a childhood in Vancouver — the yearly cherry blossoms, Whistler, the forever verdant Stanley Park, nice neighbors and the terrible hockey team. But my favorite part of growing up in Vancouver was its jubilating mix of cuisines. Vancouver has a quite vibrant immigrant presence. You’re bound to find any food you crave, whether it be traditional cuisine or a mesh between cultures, if you look hard enough.
My partner in exploration was my father.
When I first moved to Vancouver, my dad stayed behind to nurture his growing company. The few days we did get to see each other, our “talks” mainly comprised of him babbling to me about the importance of going to a good college while I daydreamed. Despite the fact that I loathed the lectures, I still looked forward to seeing him. I was desperate to find a way to connect with my dad. I finally found it in an issue of the popular magazine “Food & Beverages.”
Whenever my dad left Vancouver, he would always pick up an assortment of the latest and greatest food magazines for the flight home. According to him, the magazines were reminders of Vancouver, which, in turn, reminded him of me. One early Spring Break, he bought the magazines on the way to Vancouver rather than wait for the flight home. He’d decided he wanted me to someday also be known in my circle as the “food guy” and eagerly shared them with me.
Laying on my stomach and perusing the April edition of Food & Beverages, a mouth-watering photo caught my eye. At the number one spot under the “New” section was a large image of a sandwich called the Bigshot atop a plate of fries. So began an adored pastime that my dad and I still share today: the art of Food Hunting.
The misleadingly named “American Cheesesteak Co.” was a Canada-based cheesesteak shop boasting a wide variety of both innovative and classic cheesesteaks, from the New Yorker to the Vietsub. Although all of the cheesesteaks were quite scrumptious (arguably any would stand as a specialty elsewhere in their own right) the BigShot reigned supreme. The flavors were achieved naturally. For example, the dish used real truffles to complement the savory taste of the steak, crispy onions to give it its rich aroma, and the cow fat to fry the fries. In other words, they used all the good stuff.
Double beef, extra cheese, triple truffle and no mushrooms was how I liked it. Sautéed mushrooms, in my mind, were squishy miniature landmines lying in wait to snatch me out of cheesesteak bliss. My dad enjoyed the same order, but he insisted on ordering extra mushrooms just to see the look of horror on my face.
Growing up, I often felt alienated from the one person I was supposed to be close with. Unlike other families, we’ve never had a Friday Night Football or a weekend fishing trip. However, what we did have was a heartfelt Food Hunt where the Master Foodie passed down his taste and the art of food hunting to his eager apprentice. Over the years, we became more daring in choosing the prey for our Food Hunts — Beef Wellington in Dubai, ramen in Tokyo, a Gordon Ramsay steak in London. The Food Hunt slowly transformed into a quintessential experience, one that I cherish deeply. I can now see how conquering the worlds of both family and business was not quite facile for such a busy father. Looking back, the love of Food Hunting was not only an exuberant experience, but it also largely laid the groundwork for our relationship today, not as parent and child, but as partners journeying together through the adventure of life.
by Peter Yu