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  • Writer's pictureJennifer

...Neon "The Great Omsom Sampler"

In Vietnamese, Om Som means "noisy, rambunctious, riotous, most often used by parents to scold unruly children in the back of the car." And that's what yours truly has been these past few weeks after being fully vaxxed. I've been a tad rambunctious.

Evidence: I've gone on unruly little road trips with friends to pick up spiritual trinkets like sage and jade – our car windows and moon roof open, letting that spring breeze run through our hair, we without a care. I've also been to the beach at sunset – the burning yellow blasting up on the horizon, peeking up through the trees like an anthem of hope for a happy tomorrow. "Is this pandemic really and truly over?"

Moving on, I've given a heartfelt Flickside "The Toast" tribute on Olivia de Havilland to a good friend and her 88-year-old dad. Wow! After the reading, her dad regaled his first experience going to the movies. It was way back in 1939. And the film? "Gone With the Wind" (which incidentally starred the great Olivia).

And lastly, I've eaten out at my first restaurant in over a year. My outdoor dining experience was beyond fun with my friend. We took selfies, admired the ambiance, and ordered salmon salads. YUM.

It is with excitement then, but also a smidge of sadness, that I bid farewell to my homebound cooking days. Homecooked meals were truly my best friend this past pandemic year, and I relished composing my two COVID blog posts last spring.

This last year, I've adored learning new recipes. I even vowed to myself at the beginning of the pandemic, "I will find something new to cook EVERY time I replenish my food stash." It helped keep me sane through all the madness. Whether braving a double-masked trip to the grocery store, or instead ordering online with Instacart, this chick was determined to eat well. And that I did.

Think Italian sausage and apples, and Tuscan soup slow roasted all day in the crock pot. Think Colombian arepas con pollo, and more. And then, when I received two magnificent Omsom Samplers for Christmas? Heavenly. Let the Southeast and East Asian cooking fun begin.

So far I've made the Thai larb salad and Vietnamese lemongrass barbecue. Both were amazingly tasty, and the recipes were spot-on. For the larb salad, we're talking a ground chicken salad on a bed of iceberg lettuce – highly non-Western to have a salad where the main ingredient is the meat. So good! And for the lemongrass barbecue, it was my first time cooking pork shoulder. It was surprisingly easy, and if you're a pork lover (as I am), pork shoulder is out of this world. It's like a very "hip" bacon.

I highly recommend these brilliant samplers. They come with two sauce packs for each country, so if you mess up on your first try – no biggie! You can do better on your second.

These samplers also come with sweet, easy-to-use recipe cards. Finally, if you're a sucker for packaging and marketing (as I am), the package and vessel design is unique and bold. What better way for me to say "sayonara" to my lockdown cooking days?

The moral: I hope to continue my love of cooking post-pandemic. And while I'm back in the office five days a week, and without the extra time to cook my lunches, and without the extra weekend time to sit around and do nothing like a hermit, I'll always fondly remember my healthy, delicious homecooked meals. I learned about super-spices, ethnic dishes, and oh yeah, that awesome Vietnamese word Om Som.



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