Saturday, September 18, 2010

Adventures in Fruit

Have there been no adventures of late? I think not. I think if there is ever a lack in adventures being reported it cannot mean an actual lack of adventure, but merely a lack of man's ability to report adventures and still do all the educational research that is due and that doesn't, frustratingly, write itself.

One of the many adventures in which our brave explorers have been engaged of late is the adventure, that great sweet adventure, the adventure of Fruit.

Tuesday, June 29, 2010

Culinary Adventures in Hong Kong, Part 3

Monday morning, the sun shone in Hong Kong for at least six and a half minutes. I have photographic evidence:

It was glorious. But then we were back to the monsoons. I realize now, however, that mysterious powers were at work. Powers that would combine to bring us the best culinary adventure we had ever been privy to. And the rain was all part of the magic.

Culinary Adventures in Hong Kong, Part 2

We next set out to plunder the local markets. The foodstuffs were plentiful, and not just barrels full of hardtack!

Culinary Adventures in Hong Kong, Part 1

Culinary adventures have been few and far between of late. Not because life is any less adventurous, but because life is a lot busier and cameras less handy. Also, there are only so many times your friends will let you sing the praises of cong you bing before they run you out of town.

But do not despair, for I am pleased to bring you some new adventures. This weekend the fair lass Josephine and I went on a pillaging raid upon the high seas. In our sights? The opulent port city of Hong Kong.

Sunday, June 6, 2010

Going out to lunch... ON JAPANESE TV!

Demi took Hui Lian and I out to lunch a few days ago. It was a restaurant owned by one of our student's parents so she worked the connections to get us a discount. Because that's what you do when you're Chinese - you work your connections. It was amazing.

But let's not go for everyday run-of-the-mill amazing food narration. That gets old. Let's instead describe this meal like we would on JAPANESE TV!

(Imagine, if you will, a 10-second clip of a very grand European orchestral theme. Ride of the Valkyries, perhaps. Yes, that will do nicely. Now, play that intermittently throughout the narration - always the same 10 second clip. Ah, yes, that will set the mood. Thanks for your help - remember... I can only be so multimedia here.)

Now let's start out with our introduction:


Monday, May 24, 2010

Green Onion Pancakes: a love story

Divided by fate and longitude, these two lovers grew up in different worlds. She, a wild, independent spirit from the untamed American West; he, a silent, strong but tender warrior from the rugged shores of Formosa. But fate could not long separate two souls whose heartflames had been kindled in the same primordial love furnace.

And so it was that Montana Rose crossed an ocean, embarking on a new life for herself and destiny threw her in the path of Cong Zhua Bing, the passionate mute warrior of the Far East.

Taiwan Birthday

There are different love languages. Maybe you've heard of these - you know. Some people show their love with words of affirmation, some with quality time, some with physical affection. Some people show their love with giant mountains of food.

Taiwanese people and I speak the same language.

Sunday, May 16, 2010

Banana-Cacao Heavy Mushipan Torte with Okinawan Black Sugar Glaze

Doesn't it sound totally exquisite when I call it that? Actually what it was was something I made up because I bought too many bananas and they were ripening faster than I could use them. The title is just to be pretentious.

Wednesday, May 12, 2010

Adventures in Processed Food

I'm a very healthy eater. Right? Yes. I'm very 養身, which is a word that Clark and Claudie taught me on the way to school yesterday when I was asking them about whether or not Taiwanese people eat whole wheat bread. They told me that 養身 people do, and then explained what that meant, and then asked how we say that in English and the closest I could come up with was "health nut." I told them that I like to be pretty 養身 myself. And then I went shopping when I got home that afternoon and decided that it was time to try all of the weird processed food I could find.

(How do you say "hypocrite" in Chinese?)

Wednesday, May 5, 2010

Sunday Night Outing and a Dangerous New Degree of Freedom

I'm starting to get a little better at figuring out what's going on around me. And I feel like my communication skills are getting better all the time. I haven't, for instance, accidentally used the word wife when I meant to say grandmother in at least 48 hours.

My host family, Clark and Claudie, are kind of fantastic. They teach me all sorts of handy vocabulary, like the name for the hussies who sell addictive palm nuts out by the highway. They also keep buying me food, which I'm trying to put a stop to. They can't let me live in their house for free for four months and also buy me food all the time. Even if it is in a particularly delicious effort to feed me the weirdest creature in the sea.

Saturday, May 1, 2010

If you're gonna be friends with me, you're gonna get fat

I started out this morning without any plans but I ended up with a new friend and a stomach filled to bursting. My host family had to go to work this morning (we have school on Saturday mornings too?) and I was planning to just hang out until they got back and just play it by ear. I ate my leftover salty fish and vegetables for breakfast and I had started some rice before I found out I'd be eating alone so I had to eat it all because I didn't know the protocol on leaving leftover rice. But it's OK to overeat a little for breakfast, right? Because I have the rest of the day to work it off and I just won't eat very much else.

This is when my new friend called. Her English name is Demi, and she teaches at the same school I'll be at and is also a church member. Today her kids were visiting their grandparents and so she had the whole day to take me out and do things. When I got in the car she warned, "Are you hungry? If you're gonna be friends with me, you're gonna get fat." I had no idea.

Friday, April 30, 2010

Culinary adventures in an ACTUAL Chinese house

This blog is taking a new adventure, along with me, as I spend the summer in the Republic of China. I've got an internship teaching English at Zhong Xin High School and I'm ready and willing to tackle whatever that involves. Especially if that involves crazy Chinese food.

Sunday, April 18, 2010

Your mission, should you choose to accept it....

Agent 1275, we have disturbing reports coming in from our operatives. We need a good man to go in and confirm for us. We're hearing that . . . and these are just allegations, mind you, but we are hearing that the best Chinese food in the world might actually be found at a location in Sandy, Utah, in the United States. While this threatens the cultural supremacy of the most serene People's Republic of China, we can take comfort in the fact that it may just be more capitalist lies.

Chinese Dinner for 1.3 Billion

Back when I lived in the French house, I had a calling. It was a very special calling. I was the ward dinner chairman. I moved out after a couple months because they didn't have a spot for me in the fall and while I missed everyone dearly I had a little spot in my heart that was rejoicing because: ward dinner chairman is the hardest calling ever.

Once a month, you get to coordinate a meal for 150 people. Now, I like meals, and I like people, and I probably even like all 150 of these people but seriously. I had to sleep for 3 days straight just to recover every time.

Now that I live in the Chinese house I am on the beneficiary end of ward dinner - I show up to eat and someone else has done all the hard work.

This month, though, we had a very special ward dinner. The best ward dinner of all: Chinese ward dinner. And I volunteered to be the Chinese food consultant. (Do you think I could be a professional Chinese food consultant? If so, actually, I'm dropping out of college right now.) And so the planning and the coordination of the shopping and the coordination of the cooking was under my supervision. That's right: plan Chinese dinner for 1.3 billion people.

So here we go!

Koko Chan's First Artichoke

My little friend Yoyo is one of those people you'll never forget. You know how Japanese women are just sweet, timid, blushing little flowers who never utter a disharmonious note? Yes. Yoyo is absolutely none of the above.

She and I were mission companions. We shared all sorts of tender moments. We'd be walking down the street in a little town in Shizuoka Ken and the public announce system would start informing us that a little old lady had gone missing. Yoyo would pause, grab my arm dramatically and start humming the theme to X-Files. Or there was the time that she was rather upset at a decision our zone leader had made, incensed that such a young American boy thought he knew best. She called him and when he answered, she said in very dramatic accented English: "When you were 12, I LIVED BY MYSELF." And then promptly hung up.

She is probably one of my favorite people in the world. And last fall, she made the world that much better: she brought Koko Chan into it. Koko Chan is the fattest little half Japanese baby I've ever seen, and utterly adorable. I don't get to see them nearly often enough so I invited them over to dinner a couple weeks ago.

Wednesday, March 24, 2010

Emotional Validation Through Pie

He Never Called Back Pie

I've never participated in Pi Day festivities before, but it was social pressure to cook something delicious so of course my pride made me participate. Unfortunately, my pride forgot to go shopping on Saturday so there we were, Sunday afternoon, staring at a frozen pâte brisée with looks of consternation on our faces.

"I have all of the ingredients we would need for a pecan pie except for the pecans," I told Hui Lian.

"Well, we'll just add something else," she suggested.

"What are our assets?"

"I have oatmeal and apples."


I fished out my famous family pecan pie recipe and got to work.

Sunday, March 21, 2010

Dancing, Flapping and Indian Mystique

You know what I love and hate about Provo? Endlessly tempting social events. On the one hand, you're totally broke and you have way more homework to do than time to do it. On the other hand, they're putting on a ladies' choice dance and the theme is THE GREAT GATSBY and they're going to have a LIVE SWING BAND. What are you even supposed to do? Protest? Pretend like it's even a choice?

Sigh. No, the only choice is to get out all those Indian spices you bought at Many Lands and call up the most talented dancers you know before the other girls ask them because if you're the one responsible for once for making the casual date night into an Epic Night to Remember, the reputation of the entire female gender is on the line and you're gonna do it right.

Saturday, March 13, 2010

Ash Wednesday

I realize that Ash Wednesday was... at a point in the past. But it's the sort of holiday that lasts all year through, right? The Ash Wednesday spirit can be with us even when the store displays are gone, the lights are down, and we've been frantically working on school and life instead of blogging and wishing each other Ash Wednesday cheer. So in that spirit, I present to you: Ash Wednesday, or, Jimmy Rings in Lent with Baked Ziti.

Thursday, February 11, 2010


I'm afraid to admit that I seem like a fun international gourmet only because I know a few tired tricks. I don't actually have any deep underlying expertise. Usually I don't need it because you can eat Mexican, Chinese, French and Japanese food and then start over and the world keeps revolving just fine. But throw a curve ball at me and I'm going to have to do something drastic. Something like... wildly and irresponsibly making stuff up!

Whose idea was it anyway to make Fish & Chips for dinner? I think it must have been my roommate Julia Child. She's cosmopolitan as all get out. But she's classy cosmopolitan, like the British Empire. Maybe that's because she studied in England and then served a mission in Hong Kong. The sun never sets on Julia Child's travel experience. Anyway. She was my inspiration, and the sheer empirical beauty of hot oil and corn batter was my impetus.

Tuesday, February 9, 2010

Une Soirée Française

I imagine there are some days you wake up and say to yourself, "I'm feeling a little... je ne sais quoi. It's just a lack of Gallic adventure in my life. What could I do to make myself feel just a little more French?"

Well, since we all have those days, it would sure be helpful if we all knew how to make crêpes. (And yes, I'm going to be an annoying little pedant and keep using the diacritical marks throughout this entry. Because I'm on a Mac, you see, and it's too easy!)

French night!

Monday, February 1, 2010

Veggin' Out

I used to live in Tree-Hugging Hippietown, Montana. Then I moved to Utah. While some things haven't changed, like the legal currency and the native language and the prevalent species of coniferous trees, some things are indeed quite different. The most recent shocking realization that I have come to is this: there are no decent veggie burgers in this county. Things that do not count as a decent veggie burger include: 1) The "Meatless Wonder" at Chadder's. It's a white bun with shredded iceberg lettuce, onions and a vaguely orange sauce that calls itself "special" because it's actually salad dressing. It's identical to their hamburger except they took the meat off. 2) That freezer-burned box of Boca Burgers buried in the back of the freezer aisle at the BYU Creamery on 9th behind two Hungry Man Dinners. 3) A hamburger with extra pickles. (Though extra pickles are always a good idea, this one loses on a technicality.)

I admire these folks for trying. I don't even think they know what they've done wrong - they're just trying to be diverse and inclusive, right? They have merely fallen victim to the myths surrounding vegetarian food that plague so many in our nation. There's this mistaken idea that eating food without any meat in it is an ascetic penance that you inflict upon yourself in some sort of attempt to punish your weak mortal flesh. This is untrue! I am now going to take it upon myself to dispel three common myths about vegetarian food.

Sunday, January 31, 2010

The Great Eggsperiment; or, one hundred million Mexicans can't be wrong

This was an experiment that began over Christmas break, but I've been dragging out the stages and trials because it was so darn interesting. And because I wanted to take more cool pictures.

How this experiment began was with five dozen eggs in December. Two of our roommates were heading out of town for Christmas break and they left the two of us, Julia Child and I, to care for/dispose of all of the leftover eggs. Why are we all buying separate eggs anyway? I'm not sure. We love eggs. And with the number of breakfasts I like to have with scrambled eggs and the frequency of fried rice days, it's never been a problem before. But when it's two of you and an empty apartment and five dozen leftover eggs, you have to get to work.

Julia Child ponders the existential properties of the egg.

So much time, so little to do...

Wait... strike that; reverse it.

We've been having more culinary adventures than we can handle of late. I'm working on two big posts for you, but meanwhile here is a handful of snapshots from recent moments of awesomeness.

The night French House Friend and I talked about what they do in France with pears in chocolate and made mischief of one kind and another:

Wednesday, January 20, 2010

Rock the Casbah

I was lucky enough to be born into a family that ate weird food. My family was unlucky enough to get a child who was the pickiest eater in the world. I wouldn't eat onions, I wouldn't eat mushrooms, I wouldn't eat peppers, okra was the most terrifying creature on the planet, I wouldn't eat ketchup or mayonnaise or mustard, I wouldn't eat peanut butter, I wouldn't eat anything spicy, I wouldn't eat fish, I wouldn't eat any sort of dressing or sauce - I made my mother wash the gravy off the meat.

One day she sat me down and told me "When you're an adult, you're going to like all of this. You're going to like spicy food, you're going to like fish. You're even going to like onions." I told her she was crazy. My mother, however, ends up being right about everything.

Wednesday, January 6, 2010


In Japan, the biggest holiday of the year is New Year's, or oshogatsu. It's the time of year when your family gathers home from all corners of the country (or the world... Hi Yuko! How are your parents?) and spends a week together. It's about tradition, it's about family, it's about love. It's about cold, slimy, sweet foods. And in that holiday spirit, this year I decided to make my own おせち料理 - the ancient Japanese sweet, slimy, cold tradition.

せち料理 (osechi ryōri) involves a lot of foods that we eat because they're puns. I only understood a couple of them, and I still haven't been able to figure out which characters they refer to, but it's okay because neither was the Japanese friend who came over. So even though we don't know why, we know that we eat black beans (kuromame) because mame also means "health" and kuro... I don't know. An old Japanese lady explained it to me once but I forgot. And we eat chestnuts (kuri) because kuri means "success" and we eat kelp (konbu) because konbu means "joy." And also because it's tradition, and a little bit of marketing.