What do you do on a long weekend when Valentine's Day and Dead Presidents Day coincide? Why, you jump in the car with your honey and head out of town. Tahoe, perhaps. Just you,him or her (whichever gender is appropriate) and a pot of mayonnaise.
Seeing as I am a single man, who does not use mayonnaise topically, that isn't part of my programme. Instead I am soon heading over to the cigar bar for a nice quiet smoke among the screaming cigar-huffing dipsomaniacs.
I'll be the one in the corner with a pipe.
The calm rational person.
Last Thursday I came home from the monthly meeting of the pipe club in a very good mood. After the meeting, during drinks at the Occidental, we had discussed ebola, the plague, pollution, cancer clusters, genetic defects, and repetitive toilet flushing, among other subjects.
Plus guns, ammo, and nearby shooting ranges.
When I walked through the door it was to discover that my apartment mate was still up, wandering around in her pajamas. If she and I were romantically linked, it might have been inconvenient to come waltzing in reeking of cigars, several conflicting pipe tobaccos, and whisky. Women tend to be displeased when men go out and do mannish things without them. It suggests that we are capable of having a good time without any helpful suggestions.
But, as I indicated, we are not a couple.
Just very good friends who live together.
There was only one awkward moment.
"What is that dead thing in the refrigerator?"
It's so inconvenient living with a Chinese woman who remembers the goat leg in her mom's deepfreeze, the precious live tonic frogs that escaped and hid under the stove (except for the one that committed sepuku by leaping out of the window -- they lived on the top floor of their building), and the distressed little birdies penned in near the kitchen closet, that disappeared one by one. Plus remains of the Thanksgiving turkey, left out on the fire-escape one year. There was also an animal that she couldn't identify.
Such a person will naturally be suspicious, even paranoid, about items that one should not normally find in the refrigerator.
She's scarred for life.
And she has never had laap mei po chai fan.
'PRESERVED FLAVOURS LITTLE POT RICE'
A very simple dish: parboil enough rice for a meal, drain, and dump it into a clay pot of suitable size. Then cover it with preserved duck, thick sliced Chinese sausage, and one or two rashers of smoked bacon. Dump in some slivered ginger, and add a splash of stock (not too much), then put it on the stove to steam for twenty minutes.
It is a good idea to rinse and cut the preserved duck first, and skin the Chinese sausage.
Some briefly cooked gai lan (芥蘭) or yau choi (油菜) on the side, plus a saucer of hot sauce, and you have yourself a feast.
Or both of you, if there are two.
Done properly, the rice will be light and fluffy, and flavoured with the fattiness that exuded from the meats. Except for a thin layer of crack-crack-crack where it came in contact with the pot.
That, too, is fine to eat.
[Preserved (dried) duck: 臘鴨 ('laap ngaap'). Air-dried after soaking in a pickling liquid that contains sugar, soy sauce, rice wine, and Prague powder. It is very delicious. Especially worth buying is preserved duck thigh: 臘鴨肶 ('laap ngaap pei'). Chinese sausage: 臘腸 ('laap cheung'); coarse minced fat and lean pork similarly treated, stuffed into a thumb-diameter casing and wind dried. I personally prefer "generous intestine" (膶腸 'yun cheung'), which is sausage made using duck liver. Very rich, very delightful. But you might want to use the regular kind instead. Bacon: 煙肉 ('yin yiuk'); American-style preserved meat.
Other ingredients that can also be included in laap mei po chai fan include preserved pork belly (臘肉 'laap yiuk'), re-humidified dried oysters (蠔豉 'hou si'), preserved chicken wings (臘雞翅 'laap kai chi'), even salt fish (鹹魚 'haam yü') and roast duck (燒鴨 'siu ngaap'). Some people even add fried tofu!]
If you cannot find a dried duck thigh, because you do not have access to my larder, an approximation may be achieved by using kielbasa instead. It won't be the same.
Anyhow, even after I explained what that object was (quaack quaack), and that because of pickling salts ('Prague powder') it was completely legit, she remained dubious.
Obviously quaack-quaack jerky is something only weird white guys eat.
At times she considers me a mighty fishy man.
As well as a bit foul-smelling.
Due to the pipe.
She's leery of the pipe and its aromas.
[Chinese women seldom smoke pipes, and perhaps consequently, perhaps not, many of them are suspicious of pipe-smokers. Pipe-smoking Chinese women are a rarity; if you find one, hold on fast. They are infinitely precious, what with being unique and independent minded.]
This is the same person who happily sings an ode to sausages upon returning from Trader Joe's, where I never shop.
"Sausages, sausages, sausages! Sausages, wonderful sohhhhhhhhh-sedge-uhz! Sausages! Oh, sausages, sausages, sausages! Sausages, sohhhhhhhhh-sedge-uhz! Sausages! Soh-soh-soh, soh-soh-soh, sausages!"
I too like sausages. But they seldom move me to song.
Chinese people can be very strange.
When I returned from Marin this evening, she was in the teevee room clutching a crazed simian (the gibbon whom I mentioned as having been tormented one Halloween years ago by Ralph the demented elf in the Marketing Department) while watching scandal-mongering. There was a small and very personable-looking great ape (Arabello Oyster, aka 'The Control Monkey', mentioned here
) sitting in my bed.
I find this division extremely significant.
I get the sane monkey.
By the way, I'm not sure, but I think I actually met a Chinese female pipe-aficionado today. Something she said indicated that the various tobaccos and other smokers requisites were for her. It was still early, and I was somewhat abstracted, so I'm not entirely certain.
But my interest is peaked, and I need to find out more.
She seemed decisive and clear-headed.
If indeed she is a pipe smoker, it would be both gracious and the proper thing to do to mention the pipe-club to her if/when we meet again, as the company and support of fellow pipe-smokers can be a mighty fine thing.
But I will do no such thing. They would go ape.
We absolutely cannot have that!
I recommended Vauen pipe cleaners
, in case you were wondering.
These are what keep your pipes happy and smiling.
You want them that way.
NOTE: Readers may contact me directly:
All correspondence will be kept in confidence.