A Spanish saying has it that "in order to be a whole person one must fight a bull, write a book, have a son and plant a tree." Doreen Feng de Badell, the sportswoman and Chinese diplomat's daughter shown at the left, has done everything the Spanish dictum calls for, and more. Mrs. Badell, who was born in Peru and now lives in New York, has distinguished herself as a golfer and horsewoman in Mexico, as a skier in California and Canada, as a teen-age table tennis whiz in India and as an amateur bullfighter in the practice rings of Mexico and Spain. Moreover, she can cook.
Doreen Badell became a practiced world traveler as a result of the fact that her father, His Excellency Chih-Tsing Feng, recently retired as Chiang Kai-shek's ambassador to Mexico, was a career diplomat. Along the way she has also become an artist of accomplishment and the author of a book entitled The Joy of Chinese Cooking.
In Mexico, Doreen's enthusiasm for bullfighting—not just as an aficionado but as a painter who wanted to depict the action of the corrida—led her to a year of cape-work lessons from the matador Jesus Cordoba and eventually to a chance to fight brave cattle at Pastejé, the 4,000-acre breeding ranch owned since his retirement by Carlos Arruza. Afterward, on a visit to Spain, the great Juan Belmonte became her tutor. In horsemanship her teacher was Mexico's incomparable General Humberto Mariles. Until their meeting, Doreen says, she "couldn't feed sugar to a horse," but she soon became one of the most active riders in the Mexican National Equestrian Association. Still a member of the board of the association, she devotes a good deal of time to arranging courses that take American youngsters to Mexico for instruction by the general.
"I've always been lucky in the training I've had," Doreen Badell said the other day. "I couldn't help but learn about horses from General Mariles or about bulls from a matador like Belmonte, could I?" She pays the same tribute to the Chinese cook who prepared embassy dinners for her family in Mexico City. "He is a Cantonese who has earned the title of Daai See Fooh, which means Grand Maestro of the Culinary Arts, and he was as fine a teacher as any of those who coached me in sports."
For Chinese food as it should taste, she emphasizes that good soy sauce is essential. A second important accent is a mixture of powdered spices called heung lew fun ("spices of the five fragrances"), which combines two kinds of anise, fennel, clove and cinnamon. Such ingredients are not too difficult to find because "wherever there is more than one Chinese family there is almost inevitably a Chinese restaurant or grocery shop." Here is Doreen's recipe for a delicious version of Chinese duck.
TAIWAN DUCK (serves four)
1 large duck (about 5 pounds)
2 Spanish onions, coarsely chopped
1 medium-size fresh ginger root, minced
1 clove garlic, minced
2 teaspoons sugar
salt and pepper
¼ cup good sherry
1 teaspoon heung lew fun
2 tablespoons cornstarch
1 pound spinach
Fry the onions in vegetable oil with the minced ginger and garlic until golden. Add the sugar, 1 tablespoon soy sauce, salt and pepper, the sherry and heung lew fun. Cook until onions are tender. Use this mixture to stuff the duck.
Sew up the duck (but do not truss) and rub it with soy sauce. Brown it in oil on all sides until it is caramel-colored, using a deep, heavy pan just large enough for the duck. Pour off the fat and add enough boiling water to cover all but about ¾ inch of the duck's topside (pour the water in against the side of the pot; don't slosh it over the bird). Add 1 teaspoon salt, and when the water returns to the boil cover the pot and simmer slowly for at least 3 hours. After 2 hours' cooking, taste sauce for seasoning, adding more salt if necessary.
When the duck is really tender, remove it carefully and put it in a warm oven. Skim fat from sauce, which will have reduced by about two-thirds. Take ½ cup sauce and braise the spinach in it for 10 to 12 minutes. Meanwhile, add enough water to 2 tablespoons cornstarch to make a smooth paste and add this to the remaining duck sauce. Cook until the sauce thickens. To serve, lay the spinach in a ring on a platter and place the duck in the center. Pour the sauce over the duck.
When in season, fresh snow peas (available at Chinese groceries) may be used to garnish Taiwan duck. Prepare the peas for cooking by removing the strings on the pods. Bring a pan of water to a rolling boil. Add 1 teaspoon salt, 1 tablespoon oil and ½ teaspoon sugar. Toss in the snow peas, and as soon as the water returns to a rolling boil (a matter of seconds) drain the peas and serve; they should be crisp and beautifully green.
EXOTIC DISH served by Mrs. Doreen Feng de Badell in her New York City apartment is duck with spinach, snow peas and rice.