At the back of the hill

Warning: If you stay here long enough you will gain weight! Grazing here strongly suggests that you are either omnivorous, or a glutton. And you might like cheese-doodles.
BTW: I'm presently searching for another person who likes cheese-doodles.
Please form a caseophilic line to the right. Thank you.

Sunday, July 27, 2014

THE IMMODESTY OF SUMMER

On hot days, a man wants to swan around in his underwear. Or even entirely naked. Out of deepest respect for the cigar smoking fellows of Marin County I did not do so today. They would've gotten an eye-full that they did not deserve.

And they would have been jealous. Particularly the elderly gentleman who eats fried chicken from a bucket in between puffing.
Besides, he'd rather see girl's tennis or golf.

I spent all day wearing clothes.
Which is exhausting!


Tomorrow will be different. Once the other person who lives in this apartment heads off to work, I'm stripping down.
It will be a sight to behold.

There will be no tickets available.
I am a modest exhibitionist.
Shy and reserved.

Unless one is Japanese, the maximum number of naked people should be no more than two. In any given place or time. The Japanese, of course, bathe in large groups, though often segregated by gender.
Other than in Japan, collective nudity is not quite the done thing.
So again: as many as two, but no more than.



[Image from Thermae Romae by Mari Yamazaki. Lucius, an ancient Roman bath house architect, transports to modern Japan for investigative purposes.]

The concept of group ablutions does not thrill me. I'm rather a sexist pig, and large numbers of the male physique don't strike me as salutary.
Actually, large numbers of ANY physique.

Nudity is best savoured in small doses.
The largest possible number is two.
I'm pretty firm on that score.


During the day I will fix myself some noodle soup.
After that I shall definitely need a bath.
As it will have splattered.



Please do not imagine me eating slick rice-sticks in the buff.
It just wouldn't be proper, or modest.
For either of us.


I am quite looking forward to this.



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IT'S BLIZNOFEROUS -- HEAVENLY NOSTRILS

Courtesy of Mordechai L., who lives somewhere east of Oakland in the ROC ("rest of country"), this blogger is now gratefully familiar with a comic strip which I had never seen before: Heavenly Nostrils.

Years ago I read two newspapers a day. Not because I am a news-addict (umm, yes), but for the comics. Both the San Francisco Chronicle and the San Francisco Examiner strove to give their readers a complete world view by presenting edifying graphic narratives. In consequence of which I enjoyed Calvin and Hobbes, Bloom County, Frumpy the Clown, Funky Winkerbean, and Peanuts for several years.

Luann, of course, is not quite so worthwhile. And the less said about the Lockhorns the better. Cathy is irredeemably vile.

Pearls before Swine is sheer genius, and Stephan Pastis is a god.

In this blogger's weltanshauung, Family Circus also ranks.

As the one cartoon which will drive you mad.

Gibberingly insane, foaming.

Ghastly crap.


I hate cute. Icky little chubb-faced monsters with simplistic brains doing the kiddies-are-so-precious thing make me heave.
Enough said.


Slightly over a week ago Mordechai brought a series of episodes from Heavenly Nostrils to my attention. First I had ever seen of it.
I almost never read newspapers anymore, seeing as events of the world can be better perused on line. Why should I spend a dollar a day for a package that includes junkfood coupons, gossip, and sports?

Sports, including baseball, are for luftmenschen.

But anyhow.


HEAVENLY NOSTRILS

No, it isn't about divinely inspired boogers, but about a little girl and her unicorn. It strikes a fine balance between snarky, cynical, and sweet.
I could go all intellectual on you and explain in literary and sociological terms what it all means, but I would rather you read it yourself, and buy the book.


[Double click on each strip for greater clarity and sharper lines.]

Heavenly Nostrils by Dana Simpson








Charming.

Read more at SCANS_DAILY.

Come to think of it, divinely inspired boogers would be nice too.




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Saturday, July 26, 2014

MOVING TO SF? PLEASE RECONSIDER!

There are many reasons why no sane man should consider relocating to this city, not least being the amoral and violent hipsters, unstable street people (indistinguishable from real-estate moguls), and the sad fact that having had chicken pox does not safeguard you from the French pox.
All in all, I am baffled at the hordes of computer programmers, poets, and Oregonians who stumble around Polk Street and the south of Market clubs at all hours.

What is it with you people?

Don't you have some parents to abuse?

Go home. Please please please PLEASE go home!


And for crap's sakes, don't eat our food. There isn't enough.


AN ARM AND A LEG FOR NOODLES?

[SOURCE:https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=j3Asi-kxC-A#t=117.]


YOU CANNOT PARK HERE EITHER!

[SOURCE:https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=53GcLx1JLXY.]


Yeah, I suppose that San Francisco is cooler than New York. But that isn't saying much. That's like being ranked better than Vladivostok and Dhaka. Scant contest, and little comfort. We're really unpleasant people, and once we find out you're from back east we will drug you and harvest your organs. My god, our pizza is vile! Not deep dish at all!


Even if you survive the first year, you still won't belong.


By that time you will have lost weight, acquired a heroine addiction, and been brutalized on the sticky tile floor of an expensive restaurant by a waiter you forgot to tip.
Your best friend from college will have visited for six straight weeks, and brought home suburban floozies and six packs of malt liquor every night, plus given you the French Pox.
The cat will be eaten by a hyena that took up residence under the sink, you'll have a family of refugees from Detroit living in the hall closet, and your boyfriend has gone all Vegan on your ass.

And then we'll harvest your organs.


BEING BRUTALLY HONEST

No, realistically; that internet start-up that offered you a job ain't gonna pay you nearly enough, you'll be no closer to paying off your student loan, your credit cards will be maxed out, and without warning you may be out of a job. In one of the most expensive cities in the universe.
Where we hate you.

And you will discover that your landlord hates you too.

As well as the dude whose parking space you stole.

Plus local street people with vicious tendencies.


A number of diseases are endemic to the Bay Area, many of which are disfiguring. Medicine-resistant tuberculosis is common on buses, and acne medications are usually fake, besides costing an arm and a leg.

If Ebola or Marburg ever catch hold in the United States, it will happen here first; we're the probable port of first entry.

Malaria rages uncontrollably in the Richmond and Sunset Districts.

California ranks consistently high in venereal disease.


[Fun facts about the French Pox and other STDs, for the still-not convinced: STATISTICS ON SEXUALLY TRANSMITTED INFECTIONS.]


We don't need anymore Cis-Sierran carpetbaggers.

You can vote Democrat elsewhere.

You are not needed.




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Friday, July 25, 2014

FOR THOSE WHO DIDN'T GET THE MEMO: FERMENT YOURSELVES!

One of my correspondents asks, pursuant recent mentions of fish sauce and shrimp paste, what one should use in lieu thereof, if one lives in deepest Arkansas or Kentucky. "What", he asks, "can one do?"
One can move, is what. Why are you still there?

A place without Chinese, Vietnamese, or Philippinos is unlivable.

Any one of those three is the canary in the coalmine.

Consider it an acid test.

Case in point: Siberia. Drunken yobbos stumbling around the tundra as far as the eye can see, nothing but wilted cabbage, and freezing cold.
Not a single Chinese person, Vietnamese, or Philippino.
Because it's uninhabitable, is why.
Even Texas is better.

The second thing one can do is make your own fermented seafood products. In the same way that hairy hippy Oregonians started brewing their own beer -- because the big four are undrinkable, and kill plants when spilled on the lawn -- exquisite fish sauce and shrimp paste can be produced nearly everywhere near a coast, and as you experiment you will gain further knowledge and valuable experience.
Plus a potent addition to your larder.


FISH SAUCE

The process is rather like making saurkraut. Use small fish, rather than large. Gut them, and layer them in a barrel with salt. The proportion of salt to fish is between one to two and one to three. Place a perforated cover on top of the last layer, and weigh it down with rocks. The salt will cause the fish to release liquid, they will float in consequence, and the perforated cover prevents that. Cover the top of the barrel with gauze to keep out insects.

After about ten days the fish should have released their liquids and broken down considerably. At this point you can uncover the top and expose it to the warm sun to promote fermentative processes. Occasionally skim the top to remove bugs that stray.

Eighteen months later you can strain off the liquid, which will be a clear darkish amber, and have a robust fragrance. The remaining sludge can be mixed with salt water and toasted grains to make a secondary ferment. It is kind of pointless, as this results in an inferior fish sauce.

Far better to dry it spread out in the sun, and press it into gooey bricks. This can be used as a flavouring when sauteeing food.
The Filipinos call it bagoong.

The first culling can be used for both cooking and as a table condiment.

The secondary extract is acceptable if that is all there is.

Ignore what your neighbors think.



SHRIMP PASTE & FISH PASTE

Whether you use crustaceans or scaled creatures, mince them to a granular state without any large chunks. Mix in one and a half cups of sea salt to each kilo of fish. Press this into a tun overnight. The next day, spread it thinly on a bamboo mat or tarpaulin, and let it dry in the sun.
At nightfall scrap it back into the tun and cover.

Repeat this until it is dense and purply and the fish material has broken down, which takes about five days. After the first three days you may grind the sludge for uniformity, which will also speeds up the drying process, and produce a superior paste.

For Indonesian or Malay Trasi, repeat the sun-drying process until it becomes stiff and clay-like. It will eventually turn deep brown, and can be easily pressed into a brick shape. If dried till crumbly, it keeps for a very long time.



FERMENTED SEAFOOD PICKLE

Small shrimp or anchovies, chopped up and mixed with vegetable matter such as tomato, onion, chilies, and garlic, with enough salt to let it ferment. The proportions are one part salt to three or four parts everything else, the everything else being at least two parts non-vegetable in origin. After a few weeks it should be nicely pungent, and ginger can be added plus a little more salt.
Mix it with a squeeze of lime juice.
Serve as a condiment.



AFTER WORD

This blogger lives in San Francisco, fifteen minutes walk from either Little Saigon or Chinatown. Consequently I need not worry about finding all the fragrant seafood products my heart desires.

鹹魚 、鹹蝦醬 、魚露 、馬拉盞。

But if I ever move to New Jersey, heaven forefend, I will undoubtedly start manufacturing my own pastes and sauces again, out on the concrete covered back lot. I understand it's hot there, yes?
Perfect for eighteen months of fermentation.
Plus I hear the place smells already.
So no-one gonna notice.



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Thursday, July 24, 2014

HONEY WEST IS A LOUSY BACKROUND FOR EMOTIONS

My apartment mate has broken up with her boyfriend. Again. This has been one stormy relationship for her. But I believe it will be for the best. She's sitting across the table from me at her own computer, and we have a cd with Honey West on the vcr. Sweet Jeebus, that's some crappy acting.
Geert Wilders evil twin skippy appears in one of the episodes. This is an insight that, while utterly brilliant on my part, I shall not be sharing.
It seems somewhat beside point.

Glad I didn't spend any time in the kitchen fixing myself eaties.
Under the circumstances, not doing so was the kinder option.

Dinner tonight is two tall glasses of strong milky ice coffee.
There's tons of nutrition in ice coffee, right?
High in fibre and vitamins!


From Wikipedia: "Honey West is an American crime drama television series that aired on ABC during the 1965–1966 television season. Based upon a series of novels that had launched in 1957, the series starred Anne Francis as female private detective Honey West and John Ericson as her partner, Sam Bolt."

"OH MY G*D THAT WAS DICK CLARK! 
G*DDAMN I'VE GOT A GOOD EYE!"

Savage Kitten (my apartment mate) screamed this while momentarily distracted from being miserable. No, I haven't a clue who the heck Dick Clark is. Or, for that matter, Anne Francis. I am pathetically ignorant of American culture.

The last show I watched -- The X Files -- was also the first show I saw in many years. I enjoyed Barney Miller a long time ago, though. I style myself on Sergeant Yamada. And also somewhat on Detective Dietrich.
Who, as I'm sure we all remember, was from Mars.
The lie detector test proved it.


Miss Honey West is currently wearing something zebra-striped.
Thank heavens it isn't yoga pants.


Well, she isn't crying. She was earlier. Being all Asperger-ish, it would have freaked her out if I gave her a hug, so I simply shoved a stuffed gorilla into her arms ('Mr. Arabello Oyster'), made some comforting mumbly sounds, and am presently relying on the therapeutic influence of a warm and fuzzy great ape (who is less than a foot tall).
He's VERY soothing!

Occasionally I ask Mr. Oyster questions. This distracts Savage Kitten. It is a useful technique; she voices for all the small roomies, and while clearly it's a way of expressing aspects of her own personality in their words, she interprets true to their character. She makes them vibrant.
Mr. Oyster, who is the control monkey I brought home two years ago, is a stable and gentle sort. Sympathetic, sensible, and considerate.
As indeed all monkeys are.

Sheezus but the folks in the sixties dressed badly. Who said that era had style? And those icky bouffantish haircuts! What is that, a fat girl flip?
Nineteen sixties women had very pointed brassieres.
They were based on ice cream cones.
Sadistic creamery.

Shan't mention why they broke up. But I think this time it's permanent.
The poor girl is all torn up about it, but she's strong.
I think that she will be alright.


There's a monkey.




UPDATE AT 10:40 PM
Random relevant quote from my apartment mate: "my friend, you're going to have so many a$$holes that you'll be leaking from everywhere!"
Though shy she's expressive.




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SO ROUND, SO GREEN, SO FULLY PACKED

Holy crapp, there's mint flavoured m&m's! This is the new brainfood.
It is the breakfast of champions.

I am surprised at how utterly wonderful these little green gems are.
Nearly irresistable, as they lay there in their little package barely two feet away, softly whispering blandishments and allure in my direction.

Oh evil grass-green tempation!


"Come on over, big boy, you know you want to."


Shut up, small veridian hussies, shut up! I am supposed to be enjoying a cup of coffee at this early hour, especially because there are child-like cigar smokers out there I must tolerate later today!
I cannot have any sweetness!

It makes no difference. As if by an evil spell I come closer and closer to the package of sugared harlotry, I can smell the intoxicating perfume.
It beckons; a bracing blast.


Maybe if I had a cigarillo, those emerald delights would not shake their chubby thighs at me. At least I would not smell the minty freshness!

I need a wholesome morning snack, so that I do not succumb.

It's almost as bad as the zesty banana pudding.


Bruce Aidell's meatballs, a handful of sliced mushrooms, and spinach for colour; it's green. Oh crap, it looks like slick greeny-green sex-leaves! Quick, we must add some Sriracha to the pan, tame the savage beast.
Plus a squeeze of lime juice.

Toast will keep my mind off the bold trollops in the candy bag.
I also need toast.


Bruce Aidell's meatballs are yummy and delicious; all chicken. There is a perfect balance between their juicy goodness, and the textural effects of mushrooms and spinach. While I have shreds of leaf-vegetables stuck in my teeth, I cannot eat the green m&m's.
Conflict of interest.

Still, they just sit there, looking at me.
They are hurt by my lack of interest.
I swear I saw one of them winking.



I normally avoid breakfst.



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Wednesday, July 23, 2014

KARE KARE -- PARTY FOOD FROM THE NORTH

The driver in Manila was getting more and more antsy. Reason being that it had been several hours since breakfast, as it was likewise for everyone else on the road. Filipinos tend to be emotional about meals, especially when it's been too long since they ate. It's low blood sugar. Never interfere with a Filipino and food; it leads to very bad things.

We solved the problem by means of rice and skewered barbecue pork with garlic vinegar. Given that I'm a mukang-puti kano, I can do strange things like eating with the driver. Normally it isn't done. One breaks for lunch, and gives the other person time to squirrel-up their own chow.
But there were just two of us, and no one eats alone.
Single eating is just fuel.

There's always something tasty when there are Filipinos about. That's just the way it is. And Filipinos have an incredibly strong urge to eat companionably. The idea of stuffing one's own face and letting someone else go hungry nearby makes them uncomfortable, verging on nausea.
Here! You must eat!

Two and half hours later we needed some bihon.
It was a spontaneous decision.
Based on exposure.

There was an eatery he knew about five miles from where we had started talking about noodles.....


We backtracked from Balintawak to Caloocan. It rained heavily while we were eating, but by the time we finished, it had stopped and the fierce heat had driven all the moisture away. It barely even felt humid, and flies and dust intermingled in the blazing parking lot.
We were glad we had taken a break.


Filipinos eat a lot of rice, and consequently many dishes pack a bit of extra flavour, because the taste will be diluted by the starch. A little more salt (hot climate!), and little more sugar (brings out flavours), and a little more oil. It's still far far healthier than any part of the traditional American diet, and just tastes a heck of a lot better too.

For one thing, vegetables are not inevitably boiled limp and buttered.
That right there should get you rushing off to House of Lumpia!

One fast-food hot dog in downtown San Francisco is less digestible and more dangerous. A hamburger is worse for your heart than a large plate of pancit and inihaw na isda at a carinderia.
Lechon, longanisa, lumpia?
Talagang masarap!

The only problems with the Filipino diet are threefold: too much good stuff to eat, tea is only drunk when someone feels ill, and almost no hotsauce available everywhere!


A TASTE FROM PAMPANGA

Kapampangans are rice cultivators and fishermen, and the province is well-known for culinary creativity. Besides rice, sugar cane, vegetables, and fruits, are plentiful. Pampanga was one of the first Spanish territories in the islands, and also one of the first to revolt. It is part of the Philippine heartland, and well worth visiting.

A dish that frequently shows up when Filipinos get together is stewed oxtail with peanut sauce, which originated in Pampanga. Some recipes are complicated, others fairly simple. But it is quite unlike West-African, Indonesian, and Surinamese peanut sauce dishes, because there is no chili pepper heat.

Instead, the rich and savoury side is stressed.

The meat is simmered in its own broth for a few hours, then peanut butter or finely ground roasted peanuts are added to flavour and thicken the sauce, and subsequently vegetables put into the pot to contribute different textural elements. It is served with rice and fish-paste.
Most versions add achuete for colour, many use banana blossom (puso na saging) or bokchoy (petsay) as one of the vegetables, and several cooks thicken the sauce with fine-ground toasted glutinous rice.
Other meats are also used, not just ox-tail.
Heck, try it with brisket!



KARE KARE

Three pounds meat, preferably on the bone.
One bunch of long beans (sitaw).
Three Asian eggplants (talong).
One onion.
Eight TBS peanut butter.
Four or five cups water.
Half a cup Atsuete water.
Some minced garlic.

Chop the meat into chunks, cut the long beans into two inch lengths, chunk-cut the eggplants. The onion should be simply halved.
Fry the garlic golden, then pour the water into the pot and bring it to a boil. Simmer the meat in the water with the onion added, for about two hours or more; it should be tender and well-cooked.
Remove the meat from broth. Strain the broth and put it back on the stove. Ladle some out and blend with the peanut butter till smooth, pour this into the pot. Put the meat back in and add the Atsuete water.
Add the vegetables and simmer till tender.

Serve with a mound of white rice, a saucer of shrimp paste (bagoong), and quartered limes for squeezing. If you are me, you might want to fry the shrimp paste first in a little oil. While I love the taste of raw shrimp paste with very green mango, I prefer it cooked with hot food.
And yes, I would also add some chilipaste.
That's just the way I am.

All recipes are subject to modification and variance.

I should mention that I fry the onion in pork fat or clarified animal grease before the adding the garlic or anything else. I just like the extra oomph.
There's rice, remember?



Note: Achuete ('atsuete') is bixa orellana seed, also called achiote and annatto. There are two main ways of incorporating it for colour in your cooking. For achuete water, soak four tablespoons in a half a cup of hot water for an hour, then strain out the solids. The less-favoured method is to seethe it in three times the amount of oil, with some chopped garlic and a dried chili, then let the colour bleed into the oil for a few hours before straining. Either way, it adds only a very minor flavour, but a lovely glowing rust-red orange hue.


By the way, kare kare can also be made with pigs' trotters instead of ox-tail. Or even ribs.



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IN WHICH WE MEET KYLE'S MOM

Sometimes this blogger is not the most warm-hearted of people. Even remotely. Oh sure, I hope that most humans find satisfaction and fulfillment in their lives, plus good karma, delicious tofu, and puppies, but once in a blue moon I put that fervent wish on the backburner.
And then turn off the heat entirely.
It ain't even simmering.
Stone cold.


I AM A BITCH, AND SO ARE YOU!


My friend MK had given me a tin of pipe-tobacco, and I had filled a big bowl after enjoying tea-time snackipoos in Chinatown. Perhaps it was a mistake to then walk down Grant Avenue.

Grant Avenue is crowded during the tourist season, with slow moving pedestrians gawking at the colourful shops and strange native peoples. There are no paper parasols or off-duty frycooks where they come from, and the only non-whites are the Mexicans who keep everything running.

A large sour woman of a pinched wheatish complexion, very possibly from the People's Republic of Berkeley, saw me smoking and angrily informed me that I was a murderer.

"You kill children with that horrible habit!"

'No I don't, and you are taking up too much space.'

"People like you are destroying the world."

'Ma'am, kindly move your sanctimonious self aside. Life is far too short to deal with your type. You are loud and frumpily dressed, and you smell of bad karma.'
She seemed taken aback at my audacity, but then caught site of my Hello Kitty backpack. Which is the perfect size for half a dozen pipes, two or three tins of pipe tobacco, cleaners, tampers, matches, and a vitamin-packed energy drink if absolutely necessary.
Plus a small book.

"Hah, watcha got in there?!? Candy for tempting little kiddies?!?"

'A child's head, ma'am. We've got football practice this afternoon.'


I wish I could report that she fainted. Or plotzed. Instead she just looked daggers at me and left. The problem with white people like that is that they think they own the entire world. And Grant Avenue.
They block the sidewalk, say stupid things, and try on coolie hats.
Besides dressing funny, eating too much, and smelling bad.


It was an excellent smoke. Fairly robust, with Latakia pungency, and a nice undertone of decent Virginias. Precisely the kind of tobacco that makes me wish I had started smoking ten years earlier than I did, when I would still have been in my single digits. All children should learn to smoke fine pipe tobacco, as it inculcates good habits, dignity, and thoughtfulness.
And, with luck, they'll also avoid self-righteous pustules.
As well as loud frumps, possibly Berkeleyite.


If you see a mature man in San Francisco Chinatown with a Hello Kitty backpack, please don't stop to harass him. Unless you're fairly certain that the child's head in his bag is yours.
If you're polite, he'll give it back.




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Tuesday, July 22, 2014

A RATHER ZESTY PEOPLE

Monkey gonna end up trouble. The Head Roomie is VERY upset with his behaviour. And he cannot understand why that little sheep is so angry. When I told him to look within himself, his reaction was sheer pleasure at the concept.


"Oh, I is SO handsome! Like a Filipino!"


He probably patted himself on the back. I don't know, as I wasn't watching. He was in the other room.

There are two humans in this apartment, surrounded by an unruly mob of stuffed animals. Consequently we are stressed; it is hard to bear the fuzzy riotous mob.
One of whom imagines himself "like a Filipino".
You know. Humphrey Bogart.
Très suave.


During the nineties and early two thousands I regularly read Filipino newspapers, especially the local weekly. After a while I became aware of a pattern of articles which served no other purpose than to win friends and influence people among the advertisers.
In which certain individuals were praised highly.
For great achievements oh my!
The brilliance!

"Photo of miss Daisy ("Dinky") Katabangbang at her recent piano recital. The talented sixteen year old native of Matabongga City (The Flower Capital of Dinuguan Island) has been praised for her soulful renditions of romantic ballads, and comes from an illustrious family (here shown surrounding the Yamaha grand piano in their beautiful salon), which includes several senators, doctors, and intellectuals.
Her grandfather Apo' Katabangbang was a celebrated war hero and godfather to the son of Senator Aristotle "Dingus" Quirino.

The community of South San Francisco is justly proud of Dinky's laurels at the recent Tri-State Junior Miss Industrial Equipment Pagaent.
"

Two weeks later, another mention of miss Dinky, or of famed senator Dingus. As well as praise for some auntie who wrote a truly precious cook book ("The Culinary Treasures from Paradise Island"), and mention of yet another beauty pageant (Miss Flower Butterfly of Matabongga City 1962 - shown saluting First Lady Jacqueline Kennedy upon first setting foot in Dinuguan)."


If you believed the articles, all well-dressed Filipinos were well-educated and talented, and capable of notable achievements, talaga!
Mas-masyadong illustre.
At bantog.


Everything a Filipino does is fantastic, and just absolutely wonderful.
You didn't know that, did you? Well, now you do.


Yes, I tend to sneer at Filipinos. But in all honesty I wouldn't mind being one. They have a zest for life, and bold enthusiasm.
As well as staggering imagination.
And really good food.

Napaka ma-admirable, kanila.




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Monday, July 21, 2014

QUITE NICE WITH A SILLY LABEL

Late lunch: lo mai kai, charsiu sou, and jin dui. Plus a bowlful of Russ Ouellette's imitation of Balkan Sobranie 759 (Black House Pipe Tobacco, marketed by Hearth and Home).


糯米雞
Lo mai kai

Glutinous rice and chicken chunks, black mushrooms, and lapcheung, wrapped in a lotus leaf and steamed. The flavours meld magnificently, and the chicken-infused sticky rice is a comforting and hearty meal.
Very good with hot sauce.


叉燒酥
Chaa siu sou

A small flaky pastry filled with barbecued pork. Delicious, and available at dimsummeries and coffee shops all over Chinatown. Tourist do not know what it is, and consequently look at it without realizing that it is edible.
Very good with hot sauce.


煎堆
Jin deui

A glutinous rice flour dough ball filled with sweet lotus seed paste, rolled in sesame seeds, and plonked into a vat of hot oil. A mysterious fried object which any Dutchman would instinctively love. Except he would almost certainly call it onde onde, and buy it at the toko.
Not so good with hot sauce.
You knew that.


BALKAN SOBRANIE 759
An imitation of, acclaimed.

There was a competition in 2011 to duplicate, if possible, a legendary pipe tobacco blend which is no longer made. Personally I think such events are remarkably silly, as people's nasal-memories always shift over time, and consequently within only a few years each person remembers something different about a tobacco.

Black House Pipe Tobacco, by Hearth and Home

Like another praiseworthy contender ('Blue Mountain', by McClelland Tobacco Company of Kansas City), this mixture barely resembles the target, being not even faintly recollective, and barely even in the same ball park. And like that other one, it is a very enjoyable smoke, which is worth buying for its own sake. Whatever the heck goes on in Russ Ouellette's subconscious -- or his nose -- is a disturbing and profound mystery, and sometimes yields interesting and strange results.
I like it. But if I ever tell Greg that, he may think me queer.
So I shall keep diplomatically silent.


For some reason, many things I like go well with hot sauce. I'd go out on a limb and state that pipe tobacco probably doesn't, but before or after the hot sauce is fine. Many pipe smokers like hot sauce.
Those that don't are likely perverts.

Lo mai kai, charsiu sou, jin dui, hot sauce, and pipe tobacco.

If you like four out of those five you are probably great to hang around with, a remarkable person, and lovely company.
We can work on the fifth.



TOBACCO INDEX


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越香 -- VIET HUONG AND OTHER FLAVOURS

Several years ago, when Savage Kitten and I were still an item, she walked into the kitchen just after I had prepared myself a tasty snack.
I was reminded of this by a posting on the Facebook page of a friend, who praised Viet Huong Three Crabs Brand Premium Fish Sauce. What makes Viet Huong so special is that they use the first dewy extraction after eighteen months of slow fermentation, yielding an "all-purpose natural seasoning that enhances the flavor of your favorite dishes".

There's nothing like an authentic fish sauce for adding oomph to your food, and omitting it leads to empty lives and broken homes.

I heartily recommend Viet Huong's Three Crabs Brand.


越香三蟹嘜上等頭遍魚露
['yuet heung saam haai mak seung dang tau pin yü lou']

Savage Kitten, on the other hand, might have other thoughts. Her reaction upon entering that day was to recoil, shrieking "good Lord it smells of c*nt in here! Did you fry up a bucket of dead c**tchie?!?"

Even after I clarified that it was merely pork chunks, a little brown sugar, chilies, and garlic, with lime juice and fish sauce, to go with my rice, she ranted on about elderly Asian women in downtown clothing stores who stank of fish. "Take a bath sometime, auntie, and PLEASE use sponge on a stick for your hard to reach squidgy parts!"

My ex is Cantonese; she can say these things.

I still appreciate her eloquence.

She's quite remarkable.

Expressive.

But she is perhaps far too refined and genteel to thoroughly appreciate good fish sauce (魚露 'yü lou'). Which Three Crabs brand (三蟹嘜 'saam haai mak') by Viet Huong Company Limited (越香有限公司 'yuet heung yau haan gung si') most certainly is.

Well-bred Cantonese people have problems with assertive smells like durian, cheese, white people, and fish sauce.

For the interested, here are addresses for Viet Huong:


越香有限公司
越香大廈
香港,新界,
屯門,海華路28號。
[Viet Huong Company Ltd., Viet Huong Building, 28 Hoi Wah Road, Tuen Mun, Hong Kong.]

In the United States:

Viet Huong Fishsauce Company Inc.
5990, 3rd Street,San Francisco CA 94124 U.S.A
Tel: (415) 822 0612

Note: In the Netherlands, please contact: Mijnheer Herman Kuijper, Noorddammerweg 91b, 1187 ZS Amstelveen, The Nederlands. Tel: (31) 0206452988. OR: Nivo Im- en Export Beverwijk B.V., Schieland 8, 1948 RM Beverwijk, The Netherlands. Tel: (31) 0251215585.

[Viet Huong was founded in San Francisco in 1984. At present their main operation is based in Hong Kong, with factories in Vietnam and Thailand. In addition to the original Three Crabs, they make a range of other fish sauces.]


Savage Kitten (my ex) vociferously denies that she EVER said anything like what I quoted above. But I remember it quite well. It was the same week that she gave a durian to one of her white co-workers, perhaps to piss-off the Filippinas she works with.


HOLY CRAP, WHITE MAN!

Last week she walked into the kitchen after I had fixed myself something to eat, and said "hey why does it STINK of dead fish in here g*ddamn what have you been doing smelly old toad?" I believe she suspects me of perversion. Which, given that we have been merely apartment mates for four years now since our breakup, and I have been a single man all that time, is perhaps not an unnatural or unreasonable supposition.
Single men are known for eccentric behaviour.

In fact, I had not committed a perversion.

Not even close.

[Perversion: 變態的事 'pin taai dik si'. Perverted: 變態的 'pin taai dik'. Sexual perversion: 性變態 'sing pin taai'. Culinary perversion: 西方菜 'sai fong choi'.]

I had cooked up some meatballs (肉丸 'yiuk yuen') and spinach (菠菜 'po choi') with red curry paste(紅咖喱膏 'hung gaa lei gou'), shrimp sauce (鹹蝦醬 ' haahm haa jeung') from Lee Kum Kee (李錦記), and crumbled peanuts (碎花生 'suei faa sang'), over rice stick noodles (米粉 'mai fan'), chicken broth and lime juice added.
Repeat: not perversion.
Food.


Lee Kum Kee's Shrimp Sauce 李錦記的蝦醬 ('lei kam kei dik haa jeung') is velvety smooth-smooth and slickitty-slick (幼幼滑滑 'yau yau gwat gwat').
You need it for your healthy life style (健康嘅生活方式 'gin hong ge saang wut fong sik').


李錦記公司
香港,新界,
大埔工業村,大發街2-4號。

電話: 852-26603600
圖文傳真: 852-26658005

[Lee Kum Kee, 2-4 Dai Fat Street, Tai Po Industrial Estate, Hong Kong. Tel: 852-26603600. Fax: 852-26658005.]


Three Crabs Brand Fish Sauce and Lee Kum Kee Fine Shrimp Sauce can be found at quality stores all over the civilized world, and perhaps even in Europe, rather like Gentleman's Relish.

I suspect that both fish sauce and shrimp sauce may be too objectionable for many women. Too robust, even. Strictly hearty white bachelor stuff.
It's that refined Cantonese femininity; hard to live with.
Hard to live without.



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Sunday, July 20, 2014

MOTHERLESS MONKEYS AMONG THE CIGAR SMOKERS

I am in receipt of an unusual communication. It represents the response a cigar-smoking friend sent following a request to be added to someone's LinkedIn contact list. I shall reproduce it below, with edits to protect the innocent.

Dear Spanker,

Please tell those motherless f8ck monkeys in corporate syndication: "Enough already!"

Irregardlessly,

Dingo
Sent from my Verizon Wireless Blackberry


What makes it remarkable is that I know the man who sent it and therefore understand that at least forty other individuals were also courtesy-copied on this simple message.

Only two of those forty plus are NOT cigar smokers.
We are pipe smokers. Two exceptions.
Indeed, we are blessed.


Both mister Spanker and mister Dingo are cigar smokers.
As is the person who originated the LinkedIn request.
Memo to self: don't taunt cigar smokers; they bite.

I spend half of each week in the proximal vicinity of cigar smokers, and consequently fear for my own sanity. It cannot be healthy, never mind the hail-fellow-well-met character of their company.

Unlike pipes, cigars and their aficionados have scant appeal to the gentler sex. Possibly it is because of the misplaced machismo that most stogey-huffers radiate, more likely their lack of refinement plays a deciding part.
When women think of men with cheroots, they automatically envision hairy unshaven men with paunches, body lice, beer-bellies, and crotch odour. And rightly so!

Men with briars, on the other hand, make them remember their favourite fellow-students, plus handsome scholars, refined mature human beings, and just all-round decent chaps with sound morals, civilized habits, and realistic standards of personal hygiene.
In fact, rational women, and even daring young ladies, naturally prefer the company of pipe smokers over cigar smokers by at least twenty to one.
The exception, unlike the nineteen others, has a plumber fixation.
Perhaps she needs therapy, more likely de-programming.


AN OBVIOUS CHOICE!

An internet search for "cigar smoking women" turned up several hundred porno sites, plus numerous snuff films, and ranting teapartiers. Whereas "pipe smoking women" found a thesaurus, literary criticism, an article about lobster, eBay, and a badger.

The conclusion is clear: date a pipe smoker.
Contact me, I know how it's done.



POST SCRIPTUM

On Mondays and Tuesdays I am nowhere near cigar smokers. It is a welcome break, and I look forward to meeting real people.
Or washing my hair and doing laundry.




TOBACCO INDEX


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IGOR SHOOTS A PLANE

A bunch of vodka-sodden yobbos, while finishing the last of the home-brew, decide, "hey, let's see if this thing really works". Doesn't matter if they were Russians, Ukrainians, or tribal werewolves and rednecks from Donetsk. Moments later a Malaysian plane comes plummeting down. "Wow, Igor, look at what you've done!" "Yeah, but it worked, huh!?!"


I am not equitably minded about Igor.


It would be nice if whoever was responsible for this were drawn and quartered. Slowly.

At present, I cannot tell the difference between people speaking Russian and people speaking Ukranian. They are often on the bus at the same time as I am. I find their languages equally repulsive at the moment, and would rather not be forced to listen to them.

Must maintain calm, must maintain calm.

Not everyone speaking Russian or Ukranian is a vodka-drenched syphilitic subhuman gangster who dresses funny, eats too much, and smells bad.



Russian Cossacks in Donetsk, however, have a special place in hell. And it is a pity that the fires do not lick them yet.

I fervently hope that they soon outlive all their friends and kin.




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Saturday, July 19, 2014

A NATURALLY CURIOUS MAN

I had not been paying any attention to their conversation before, but the girl with the irritating voice finally uttered something that made me sit up and say 'howdy'. It was a magical sentence, one that would make any red-blooded man take notice.
An incantation that commanded complete concentration.


"And then he got peanut butter on my bra!"


Sweetheart, I am as "creative" as the next man. Adventurous too. But in my entire life I have never gotten peanut butter -- or any other delicious spread -- on anyone's mammary containment modules.

Maybe I am less of a man for that omission.

In any case, don't leave us hanging, tell us what happened next.
Did he lick it off? Offer to buy you a new one?
Bung it in the wash?

Unfortunately, I could not hear anymore of the conversation, as she and her friend spoke indistinctly, and I would have had to move back two or three seats to listen in.
Before I could do so, they exited the bus.

I cannot help but wonder how the peanut butter got on her brassiere. Peanut butter normally is a rather stiff gloop, and doesn't drizzle or drip unless it's warmed up. It is entirely possible that "he" smeared it on hot toast, which, as he was eating while leaning over her, warmed up the substance to the point that it escaped from between the two slices of bread. Which may or may not have been a buzz-kill. Women tend to treasure their brassieres, as a good fit is, so I've heard, hard to find. Quite likely she was ambivalent about him snacking while her bosom was in the line of fire. She may have had other things on her mind.

Note to self: make sure that brassieres are removed when eating a peanut butter sandwich. It's the gentlemanly thing to do.

Not that there is any connection, but since I became a bachelor again four years ago, exposed brassieres (or any other feminine under or support garments) have not been in the same room at the same time in this apartment as peanut butter, to the best of my knowledge. Maybe my apartment mate eats breakfast in her skivvies, I just don't know. She and I have different schedules. The only times we're in the kitchen together is in the evening, often when I am fixing myself some noodles while fully clothed. I am not a breakfast person.


"And then he got peanut butter on my bra!"


A truly scientific minded man would promptly ask questions. Is it still there? Natural fabric or synthetic? Does it smell?
And then, to show that I am not entirely insensitive, "how does that make you feel?"

Bra and peanut butter. What am I missing?

Crunchy? Or smooth?


I'm a practical man, I can't help thinking about these things.


Also, I really believe that whatever the situation was, the male person involved may have suffered a lapse of judgement. There was a woman present, with her upper-torso nether garment exposed to the elements, or leastways to a nutritious bread spread. How did that come about?
Would it not have been wiser to ascertain the circumstances before proceeding with the repast?
Postpone your nutritious snacking, if only for a little while.
Maybe she requires some assistance.
Feedback, or advice.
Support.

I'm sure there's a very good reason why someone is wandering around wearing a brassiere while there is peanut butter, but for the life of me I cannot think of one.

It's never happened to me.



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Friday, July 18, 2014

CHINESE GIRLS HAVE SHORT STUMPY LEGS

I was sitting in the teevee room happily cruising for kitten pictures, smut, and recipes on the internet, when the voice spoke: "Chinese girls have short stumpy legs".
This was not precisely the revelation I had been looking for.
Expecting felines, filth, or food, I was surprised.
But there it was. Short stumpy legs.
Under Chinese girls.

Ten minutes later, the voice informed me "lord, so much ugly crap out there!"

Just like with the first news flash, I did not know how to respond. What should one say when the person behind the other computer announces that she has long ago realized that Chinese girls had somewhat shorter legs than supermodels and angular Norwegians?

It's especially problematic when one should not go overboard on the "there there, you look fine" conversational tack.

My apartment mate is a Chinese girl.


"I've always thought your luscious shapely gams were worth committing war crimes over."

Erm, nope. Stay the heck away from that comment.

"'Strewth, your curvy thighs look fabulous. Verily."

Nah, that's dangerous too. Especially as I would never say something so creepy. And it might lead her to assume that I've been scoping out her two pedal appendages, and who knows what other stalkerish things my filthy eyes have been doing when nobody was watching?
I haven't actually seen any legs in years.

"Do your legs reach the ground? Well then!"

That, too, is not an entirely unproblematic approach.
Not reassuring at all.


So I went into the kitchen to make a cup of tea and smoke a cigarillo, instead of confronting the statement about Chinese legs head on.
Always avoid discussing one's apartment mate's physical attributes, especially if one is not romantically involved with them. It leads to discomfort. There are landmines all over that stretch of territory.
Diplomatically shutting the heck up seems a wise choice.
Let us therefore not mention her legs.
In any way at all.


The second comment, a complete non-sequitur to the first, indicated that she was internet shopping. That also is a patch of dangerous ice. I myself do not internet-shop, ever, seeing as I am a typical man and thus totally pre-occupied with cute kitten pix, high quality nastiness, and things to do with chilies, pork, and ginger. Men do not shop.

There's a lot of ugly crap out there.

I totally agree.




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Thursday, July 17, 2014

PINKY NEW FACE

Not entirely sure why he did it; it seems quite unrabbinic. But entirely in keeping with his character, given that he is the rosheshiva of the most influential academic environment in the five boroughs or the tri-tip area.

Seeing it has renewed my faith.

Ikh bin farklempt.


THE VISION!
















The faithless may not know his true face, or utter his name.

Ve ha meiven, yaivin.


This image MUST be used for our school jersey.
Es iz a riezige mitzvah.
Mamesh.




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Wednesday, July 16, 2014

SHREDDED GINGER, SHRIMP PASTE, AND PORK: 蝦醬蒸五花肉

A dish which will probably disturb very many people is actually quite delicious. And, if you are Chinese, it probably made you very happy. Not because you like disturbing people -- though when that happens, it's icing on the cake -- but because it was finger-licken' good.
Especially the juices.

One of the people it may disturb is your doctor, but only if he's very white.
It wouldn't disturb my doctor, because nothing fazes that man.
Most of his customers are elderly Cantonese.

Which means he's heard far, far worse than anything I could tell him.
The combination of incredible stubbornness, culinary adventurism, and near anarchic creativity with edible substances on the part of his patients has already added considerable surreality to his professional life.
Then he goes home and eats from that world.

Probably with moderation, but evenso.
It's home cooking.
Gusto.

Fatty pork. Ginger. Shrimp paste.


蝦醬蒸五花肉

STEAMED PORK BELLY WITH SHRIMP PASTE
['haa jeung jing ng faa yiuk']

One pound streaky pork belly.
One or two inches ginger, slivered.
Two TBS sherry.
One to two TBS shrimp paste.
Half Tsp. sugar.
A dash of Worcestershire sauce.
Minced scallion.

Cut the pork into chopstickable chunks, rub with the sugar and shrimp paste. Arrange in a flat bowl, add the slivered ginger, sherry, and Worcestershire sauce, and place in a steamer over a roiling boil.
Steam for an hour, then remove and strew scallion over.
Serve with white rice and vegetables.

Be sure to spoon the juices onto your plate.


If our own tribal ancestors had had chopsticks and steamers, history would have turned out very differently. This dish is a potent peace maker, darn well sacramental. So simple, so good.

I'd love to see Jews, Muslims, Buddhists, and Vegans, everyone in the Middle-East, sitting down and sharing this. It would change them profoundly. Improve their minds.

Betcha they'd all light up cigars afterwards, have coffee together, and change the world.


Sure, you could eat it with khubz baladi or lavash.....
But why?




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WORTHWHILE ADVICE ANENT MOSQUITOES; ASIAN AMERICANS, YOU'RE KINDA HOSED. SORRY.

Around this time of year, if you live in some parts of San Francisco, you become aware of something that surprises you: mosquitoes. You had happily forgotten about the little pests, because since you moved here from Alaska or Detroit, they weren't really on the radar. San Francisco is not prime malaria territory. And not really conducive to the mental or physical health of bloodsucking parasites. That's probably also the reason we have so few rightwing hose-bags, but that's a subject for a different post.

Parts of the Peninsula spray regularly at the height of summer to lessen the incidence of West Nile Fever, and Dengue is common in pockets of the Deep South, along with other mosquito-borne ailments.

Not San Francisco. We're moist, yes. But warm, no. Not usually.

Both fog and chill winds lead to torpidity.

Still, there are pockets.

Warm swamp.


BUZZ. BUZZ. BUZZ.

I haven't strung up my mosquito net in years. When I still had a steamy relationship going on, it was an essential item from June through November, as my significant other would otherwise refuse to sleep in the same room. She'd always get bitten, or one of the little buggers would fly around in the middle of the night and keep her up whacking at invisible daemons with a pillow. Which is exciting oh boy howdy yes but not at all conducive to a good night's rest.

There are several things you can do to diminish the mosquito problem in your bedroom.

Mosquito nets, kelambu or kulambo in various Indonesian languages, muskieten gordijnen in Dutch, are not very expensive, easy to repair and clean, and make the bed-zone otherworldly. Could be very romantic, definitely old-school. Well worth your consideration. They can be ordered from companies in England and the Netherlands.

["Maagang taon na nakabitin ang kulambo, maulang magkano sa maraming buwan, at sa gayong nito walang pagpapatapon na lumubog..."]

Potted chrysanthemums are an anti-magnet for many insects, along with marigolds and lemon grass. Added benefit: lemon grass is a wonderful addition to stews, soups, and curries.

A metal tray of smoldering spent tea-leaves half an hour before bedtime will also drive them out.

Snow pear incense (雪梨香 'suet lei heung') repells mosquitoes, and leaves a delicate bookish fragrance.

Lavender or rosemary oil dabbed onto the temples and wrists at night also works.

So does the analgesic balm white flower oil (白花油 'baak faa yau').

Also effective: eagle wood incense (沉香 'cham heung').


But above all, travel with a female person of East-Asian ancestry when you visit the tropics. Trust me, it's magic. Mosquitoes, given a choice between a smelly white male tobacco smoker and a juicy woman with yellow skin, will avoid you like the plague and bite her.

During my first trip to South-East Asia I visited Mindanao accompanied by a Chinese businessman and his adult daughter, whom I knew from Berkeley. The two of them had one room, I slept in another. Every morning she'd show up for breakfast with her wrists and ankles looking like hamburger from the previous night's terrors, a veritable feast for the mosquitoes, whereas her father would only sport a few bites.
I myself, if I was lucky, might have just one.
It became a bone of contention.
Resentment.

Matters would have been better if I had been more diplomatic.
Instead I kept boasting about my uninterrupted rest.

That may have been the first time I ever heard "tiu, sei baak gwai, m-hou sik ga!"

[For the curious: 屌,死白鬼,唔好食噶!]


My ex, whom I mentioned earlier, is also a woman of East-Asian ancestry. South-East Asia is no place for a woman, especially a tender American, so while she and I were together any trips we made were to Canada and Western Europe. But I was much tempted, because the idea of roaming around Indonesia, Malaysia, and the Philippines, with my own personal mosquito bait appealed to me immensely.
I fondly imagined comfortable repose.
But it never came to that.

Since we broke up, the mosquitoes have not visited me.
I haven't hung the net around my bed in years.

Her, they're still tormenting. She's never taken the net in her room down, and the vermin struggle to get in. They like her, they hate me. She lives in the other side of the apartment, and occasionally I am awakened in the middle of the night by loud thumps, as she combats their assault with her pillows, swearing ferociously.


屌,死白鬼,唔好食噶!


Hee hee hee. Yes, I still occasionally light up some snow pear incense (雪梨香), which guarantees that I will not be bothered by the pests. But that's primarily to disguise the fact that I've been smoking like a chimney on my days off, frequently till late in the afternoon. She gets back around seven in the evening, and I really should let the place air out for at least four hours before she returns.

The other day I lit some damp tea leaves to fumigate the place.
Also very effective.



I've still got a few coils of eagle wood incense left.
And I know where to purchase more of it.

No need to hang the net.








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Tuesday, July 15, 2014

CHINESE TEA EGGS: 茶葉蛋 CHA YE DAN

Friends have probably discerned that I like crackly things, particularly porcelain glazes. Often I will yearn for an object ONLY because of its fine tracing of hairline fractures that form an elegantly webbed visual.
I've got some oft-repaired bowls which speak to me, as well as a few celadons. On casual ceramics, the crackled pattern may be accented by melting sooty oil into the surface over a flame. Antique pieces often already have such an effect, due to age.

It should not surprise you that I am also fond of tea eggs.

Tea eggs are a convenient snack as well as a much better choice for picnics than devilled eggs, plus they keep better and are far less likely to queasify your digestive organ.
A wise choice.

Easy to make also.


TEA EGGS: 茶葉蛋
['chaa yip daan']

Six eggs.
Four TBS good black tea.
Six TBS soysauce.
One or two pieces dried orange peel.
A slice of ginger.
Two or three star anise.
One stick cinnamon.
Two or three whole cloves.
One TBS sugar.
Pinch of salt.

Put eggs in a pot with barely enough water to cover, bring to a boil, then turn low and simmer for two or three minutes. Place the lid on the pot and let it stand for over ten minutes more; the residual heat will further cook the eggs.
Remove the eggs, and rinse in cold water till they can be handled.

Tap the eggs all over with the back of a spoon to crack the shells, and roll them around a bit without loosing any pieces. This will allow colour and flavour to penetrate, and yields a lovely patterning.

Place the eggs back in a pot, add the four cups or more of water plus the various other ingredients, and simmer for about four hours. Turn off heat, let it cool, then put it overnight in the refrigerator.

They can be eaten cold, but you could also gently warm them up first.


CHUEN JIT 春節

Tea eggs are quite common during the Spring Festival (note the clickable label underneath this post), as they can be eaten on the first day, when people do not cook, but they are also available throughout the year.


Please note that it is a good idea to keep an eye on the pot, and not go off to do something else in the meantime. Otherwise you might return to the kitchen to find a charred mess. Protein-rich substances, such as, for instance, eggs, smell rather frightful when burnt.
As I have discovered.


GLOSSARY

Eggs: 蛋 'daan'. Black tea: 紅茶 'hung chaa' (red tea); in Hong Kong cooks use Pu Erh (普洱茶 'pou nei chaa') or tuo cha (沱茶 'to chaa') instead for tea leaf egg. Soysauce: 豉油 'si yau'. Dried orange peel: 陳皮 'chan pei'. Ginger: 生薑 'saang geung' (fresh ginger). Star anise: 八角 'baat gok'. Cinnamon: 香桂 'heung gwai', 肉桂 'yiuk gwai'. Cloves: 丁香 'ding heung'. Sugar: 糖 'tong'. Salt: 鹽 'yim'.




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Monday, July 14, 2014

IT SMELLS LIKE BADGER THERE

He left the table briefly after we finished dinner, and returned moments later. As we talked, I could see his fingers snaking across and picking up my tin of tobacco. Of course I let him do so. One does not deny one's own father a bowl. It was so rare that he smoked a pipe by then, and it was largely because he used to be a pipe smoker that I had acquired the habit.

By the time I was a teenager he no longer indulged as regularly. Good tobacco blends were nearly impossible to find in the Netherlands (which is still an issue), and his British co-workers didn't visit England often enough.
But he didn't mind my Balkan Sobranie, and I felt closer to him when he took some. There weren't that many things we could share.


From my early teens until a few years ago I smoked mostly Oriental mixtures, which are made of Latakia and Turkish on a basis of Virginias. Since late 2010 my preference has been for aged Virginias. Partly it's because the taste is softer, mellower. And partly, a calmer habitus.

Virginias take a slower approach, a different attitude.

Smell is a psychological stimulant.


When I was an infant, my father still smoked a pipe regularly. After we moved to Holland he experimented with various mixtures, including Baai Tabak (straight Maryland compounds), English flakes, and Dobie's Foursquare Blue. The mind still revives at such aromas.
I have a few tins of Foursquare Blue left.
It is no longer made.

I remember the fragrances from the past particularly fondly.

Sunday afternoon. Strong tea.
Pipes and books.


An entire generation has grown up since, whose nose-memories are formed by marijuana and bazooka-barfing fruity cocktails. They hate tobacco, and rarely drink tea. Their dull sensibilities have been formed by brutish and typically self-indulgent middle-class preferences.
That dividing line shows that I am older.
I completely disapprove of dope.
No, it's not therapeutic.
It's just pot.

The Grateful Dead were a bunch of untalented stoners, and their fans are braindead slackers.


My father passed away years ago. I don't think he would entirely recognize what I have become, but I think we would still have very much in common.
If he were alive, he would no doubt enjoy sitting down with a pot of rubinous brew on the table, a tin of pipe tobacco between us, and a stack of books.

I know we have similar values.
Definitely kindred tastes.


There's a stack of empty tobacco tins over by the window. Rattray's Old Gowrie and Marlin Flake, Escudo, Davidoff Flake Medallions, Orlik Golden Sliced, Samuel Gawith Best Brown, Full Virginia, Golden Glow, and St. James Flake.
This place is a mess, but there is much here that has memory attached.
Like friends and family, however, there is a slow flux.
Change is a constant.


MORE RECENT FOND MEMORIES

I've often advised other pipe smokers that if they want an old-fashioned full Latakia blend, especially if they liked what Dunhill and Balkan Sobranie produced years ago, there are four excellent newer products that they should keep in mind: Three Oaks Syrian, Wilderness, Legends, and Westminster.
That last mentioned is by Gregory Pease.
The others are McClelland.

All four of these are profoundly spiritual, truly classic tobacco mixtures. Indeed, their Latakia content is fairly close -- around forty five percent, probably -- but each one is different. and they induce shifting moods.
Imagine a forest in autumn with crunching leaves underfoot.
A train ride at night, while it rains outside.
Dwinelle Hall, many years ago.
Caffe Mediterraneum.
Cups of Ceylon.
Books.


AFTER THOUGHT

If your children do not develop good habits in their teenage years, there is something wrong with you. Perhaps you indulged the little brats too much? Far better that they should smoke a pipe instead of illicit substances, read rather than listen to rap, and for craps-sakes, smack those sickening Starbucks and McDonalds drinks out of their hands.


This message was brought to you by a fine British-style spun-cut, with a heart of Louisiana Perique. It's a darn good thing.


POST SCRIPTUM

Found a new pipe and pipe tobacco internet site today, which promises hours of solid pleasure browsing.

Pipe Village: 煙斗村

If you read Chinese, cruise on over.
They'll welcome you.




TOBACCO INDEX


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LETTER BOX.
All correspondence will be kept in confidence.
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