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Kim Jordan says if she’s being honest, she does not really like cooking. But the kind of food she likes — Japanese, Indian, Mediterranean — can't be made in a microwave. So she had to learn how to cook.
"I was an only child, and my parents weren't home often, so I had lots of Hamburger Helper," she said. "I developed a taste for foods that weren't easy to make, and you couldn't eat unless you learned to make it."
Growing up in a military family and being married to a psychiatrist in the Navy led Jordan to experience many different cuisines. She lived in Spain and the Middle East for several years and recently in Japan for five. When she moved to Athens in 2012 with her family, she brought those cuisines with her and shared them with others.
Jordan said she prefers the food culture in Athens to larger cities.
"We don't necessarily have standout chefs here," she said. "But we do have standout food."
Jordan said that what she cooks is often based on what is in season, and she will cook certain dishes only at certain times of the year. Earlier this week, Jordan prepared what she calls a cold-weather dish: anman, a type of street food popular in Japan. It is based on the Chinese dish baozi, but Jordan said she prefers the Japanese version because it is "lighter."
"There's a reason they sit around and take pictures of what they eat," Jordan said of the cuisine in Japan. "They're a food culture."
The anman are little balls of dough with a filling, which in her recipe included pork, locally grown Shiitake mushrooms and Chinese oyster sauce. After 20 minutes or so in a bamboo steamer, they're served with soy sauce and a dab of wasabi.
When Jordan first arrived with her family in Japan, she did not have a job or know many people. Kamakura, the town where she lived, did not have many English speakers. But it did have an abundance of fresh food.
"People would come to (Kamakura's) farmers market from Tokyo," Jordan said.
During her time there, she ended up taking classes under Aki Nansai. Nansai had traveled the world and put a Japanese spin on dishes from around the world. Jordan helped Nansai put together a book of recipes arranged by month, so fresh ingredients could be used.
Jordan said the classes were often demanding.
"In Japan, they never stop learning," she said. "Even those who have been working in a field for 40, 50 years will say 'I can't teach you. I haven't mastered it.' "
When she came to Athens, she taught cooking classes for a year, often focusing on Japanese dishes. But Jordan, who is also a professor at Ohio University's College of Business, stopped the classes because running them became too demanding.
Now she writes a blog where she often discusses cooking and arranges parties with her neighbors, during which they cook dishes like ramen noodles. Jordan said it makes her feel like Tom Sawyer, getting her friends to cook.
"I'll organize people, and they'll all be 'painting the fence,’ " she said with a laugh. "And then I'm happy because I get to eat ramen."
Jordan said those experiences — cooking with others, sharing food with others — have helped her connect with people from countries around the world.
"What's amazing about food is it takes away all the social ranking around it," she said. "Everybody can just like the food. The experience of (trying something) and going 'Yum,' that's universal."