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Reason in the Kitchen

Glazed Chicken Livers

Cultural Perspectives

By Tim Hazell

Cooking is chemistry, culture, honesty, experimentation, learning, personal growth, and a global journey! Through the lens of food science we are provided with compelling glimpses of alluring dishes from around the world.

The results are a combination of fascinating traditions and some of the most exciting culinary trends, with a look at the development of food systems, heritage preservation, quotidian culture and life! Food offers us many opportunities to explore the ways in which we go about our daily routines. Food can also tell us about global interconnections.  Culinary research may include food traditions, eating and identity, dining, rationality and norms, vegetarianism and moral philosophy, aesthetics and concepts of deliciousness!

Food becomes a powerful icon, defining who we are and where we belong in our social hierarchy. Delineating what we may and may not eat has been a fundamental task of all religions. The taboos that are set up as a result of dogmas that become laws are as binding as other commandments such as “Thou shalt not covet, or kill.”  Many of us struggle in the process of gaining upward mobility to acquire tastes for delicacies we may loath such as caviar or snails.

Table etiquette includes how to shop for and prepare ingredients, kitchen utensils and techniques, artfulness in presentation, how to serve, eating implements and—most importantly—the rituals of proper eating habits. These have as many variations as there are ethnic groups.

Food and its consumption is an occasion for reinforcing ties between members of a family or community. To be memorable to most of us, important meals of the day are shared.

Food is the first and safest thing that a mother gives to her child, of her own body and chemistry; her mother’s milk. For an infant, food is the reality of love and security. All organisms must eat to survive, but we are the only one who cooks, elevating culinary arts and reason in the kitchen to a pinnacle of cultural expression over millennia. Understanding food science has always been a benchmark for evaluating communication and relativism.

Add this Chinese appetizer to your next communal table! Irene Kuo combines mellow-flavored, gleaming chicken livers with a whiff of vinegar and glaze that clings.

Glazed Chicken Livers


1 lb. chicken livers

2 quarter-sized slices peeled ginger

1 small spring onion, cut into three pieces

1 tbsp. dark soy sauce (at Bonanza or Mega)


2 tbsp. oil

2 tbsp. dark soy sauce

2 tbsp. sugar

1 tbsp. dry sherry or white wine

1 tbsp. sesame oil

1 tbsp. cider vinegar

Cut livers in half and place in a small pot with ginger, spring onion, and soy sauce. Pour boiling water over them to cover, return to the boil, cover and simmer for five minutes. Drain livers and discard the ginger and spring onion. Heat wok or heavy skillet over high heat until hot, add the oil, swirl and heat for thirty seconds. Toss in the chicken livers and stir rapidly for ten seconds. Add soy sauce, sugar, and sherry, stirring until sauce is all but absorbed by the livers. Sprinkle in sesame oil and stir once. Splash vinegar around the pan and as it sizzles into steam, give the livers a few fast turns. Pour them into a serving dish.


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