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.

Monday, June 30, 2014

A WALL

Cite: UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon has called on both sides to "refrain from any actions that could further escalate this highly tense situation". End cite.
Such as, for instance, wiping Hamas off the map. Or anything else that might upset the Europeans. Who, after all, are convinced that Hamas is a legitimate voice for the kind of people that Europeans don't want living in European cities.


Israel should build a wall around Halhul.


It should be a wall with no gates.



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CRISPY SKIN ROAST PORK -- 脆皮燒肉

Another U.S. holiday is coming up. This may surprise you, because the American capitalist classes are known for not wanting to give the serfs any slack, but we'd probably string the bastards up if they didn't give us off for July Fourth. Which celebrates our independence from tyranny.

What could be more American, on July Fourth, than crispy roast pork belly? Or, as you may know it, thịt heo quay (Vietnamese), cheui pei sui yiuk (Cantonese). Liyempo in Tagalog, or barriga de cerdo asada.
It is considerably better than burnt hotdogs.
Great in a burrito.

[脆 cheui: crispy. 皮 pei: skin, rind. 燒 siu: roast, barbecue. 肉 yiuk: meat, by which is almost always meant pork, unless some other animal is named.]


The recipe below uses terms like "a little", "some", "approximately", and other imprecise specifications. This presumes you know how to cook.
Feel the pork skin, be the pork skin.
Grasshopper.
Zen.


脆皮燒肉
CHEUI PEI SIU YIUK

Two LBS pork belly.

½ tsp salt.
3 tsp sugar.
1½ tsp five-spice powder.
½ tsp pepper.
1 tbsp 花雕 (fine rice wine).

Rinse the piece of pork belly well. Heat a little water to boiling in a shallow pan, put the meat skin side down in there to blanch; most of the flesh should be well clear of water. This will tighten the skin. Take it out, let it dry skin side up for an hour. Stab the skin very many times with an ice-pick. Flip it over, and jab at the meat fiercely with a knife to make shallow thin gashes. Mix the ingredients for the marinade together, and thoroughly rub it into the meat and the sides, keeping the skin clear. Place the pork meat side down in a dish with the rest of the marinade, rub some vinegar and a pinch of salt over the skin.

Place it in the refrigerator for several hours or overnight. This will dry out the skin, while the marinade flavours penetrate the meat.

Remove the meat from the fridge, and put it on a rack over a pan of water, skin up. Rub a little more vinegar into the skin. Preheat the oven to 400 - 425 degrees Fahrenheit (approximately 220 degrees Celsius), then bung the whole arrangement in to roast for forty to forty five minutes.

At this point the skin should be fairly crispy, but you can stick it under the broiler till the optimum degree of crispy-crackly has been achieved; the skin should be bubbling.

Take it out, let it cool for twenty minutes or so, and chop it up.

Serve it with rice and sploodge Sriracha, or roll it into a burrito with some crunchy herbs and vegetables, rice, and re-fried beans. Add salsa and a dash of soy sauce for extra goodness.



You will have noticed that I specified 花雕 ('faa diu'), which is a yellow rice wine from 紹興 ('siuheng'), a prefecture in 浙江 ('jitgong'), which you may know as Chekiang Province. That isn't very American, is it?
But if you're like me, you probably have a bottle of mediocre Bourbon somewhere in the apartment (look under the bed), and that works just as well. Besides, it's good for you; grows hair on your palms.

花雕 can be used in lieu of Vermouth if you're making a Manhattan. It's not as strong a flavour, rather more like sherry, and a bit sweet. Manhattan Cocktails are VERY festive!



COOL AND EVEN-TEMPERED AFTERTHOUGHT

Years ago, Savage Kitten and I would celebrate the Fourth by going to the top of a nearby hill, and watching the fireworks. I fully expect that she'll be off celebrating with her boyfriend, however, and I have no plans to do anything special. I'll probably head off into Chinatown for bittermelon and pork over rice, or something.

If I have any cheui pei siu yiuk at all, it will most likely have been from the Kam Po on Broadway and Powell. They do a stellar rendition, and the chap with the cleaver speaks not a word of English.

我好中意肥肉
['Ngo hou jung-yi fei yiuk!' (粵語:I really like fatty meat!).]

No, I shan't be cooking. Bugger the effort. It's just me.
It would be a pointless waste of time.
Happy Fourth.



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Sunday, June 29, 2014

SLAVES TO FASHIONABLE DISAPPROVAL

"Look, ma, there's a geezer smoking a pipe over there at the far end of the street." Not sure if the tyke said 'geezer', or 'goober'. Or even 'rancid old fart'. Nor that his utterance was so complex. It doesn't matter. To a person of those few years, I must look unimaginably elderly and antique, seeing as I'm at least twice their age, and enjoy a habit that they have been told is akin to witchcraft and devil worship.
No one does such things anymore, only ancient doddering wrecks.
No one they know smokes. Or does so when visible.
Perhaps they don't know many folks.
Or everyone hides.

His juvenile disapproval was obvious.

Let me juxtapose that with an attractive woman who wistfully said that she connected pipe smoking with elderly college professors back when she was at school. Which, I gather, was sometime before Kennedy.
It reminded her of the old days.
How sweet!

She then ruined the effect by mentioning cherry tobacco.


Since they outlawed smoking by mature adults on school grounds, an entire generation has grown up totally unaware of either the intellectual image of pipesmokers, or the boundless artistic creativity and existentialist despair connected with foreign cigarettes, particularly Gauloises and Gitanes.

Smoking is, nevertheless, a habit both dashing and masculine. It could also be feminine, but forcing women out onto the street to light up takes away a lot of the glamour. Men, however, can quietly bear the rudeness and inconsideration of society; we know we're uber-cool.


[William Faulkner]

Young men between fifteen and sixty actually don't really care what puritans think about the habit. We just enjoy the wonderful smell, and the tactile pleasure, of filling a pipe, lighting it, and carelessly looking pensive while enjoying our vice. Perhaps we remember something worthwhile we read recently. By authors like A. A. Milne, Charles Darwin, Sir Arthur Conan Doyle (T: Gold Block, Three Nuns), John R. R. Tolkien (T: Capstan Medium Navy Cut), Rudyard Kipling, W. Somerset Maugham, C. S. Lewis, Mark Twain, William Faulkner (T: Dunhill My Mixture 965), W. H. Auden, Robert Benchley, Pierre Boule, Andre Breton, Edgar Rice Burrows, Raymond Chandler, Stephen Crane, Theodor Geisel, Tristan Corbière, Günter Grass, ..............

[From this article: Will smoking a pipe enhance an IQ?.]

You know, kid, you might not even be around if it weren't for pipes and tobacco. Not only is our country founded upon the westward drang for new lands on which to grow what was our number one cash crop, but when your mom first saw your dad, he looked impossibly manly, with his pipe and his ready grin. She could not help but falling in love with so stalwart, adventurous, yet withal dignified a specimen.
Pipe smoking made him what he was today.
Until he had to give it up.

It wasn't just the 'disapprove-of-everything' prudes and anti-tobacco fiends, but also misguided medical professionals (many of whom also smoked), and above all American womankind, which decided en-masse that money spent on the habit could be far better spent on buying her the house she always wanted, a car, vacations, and your college fund.
As well as fripperies, fancy dinners, and handbags.
She stopped. And then bought shoes.
So he had to stop too.


Oh well. You can always start puffing electronic cigarettes when you turn eighteen. They look so hip and with-it, and all the other kids think so too.
E-cigarettes are the perfect nicotine delivery system, totally efficient, as well as painless and ultra-modern.
So sleek, so clean.
Soulless.



By the way: I am not a geezer. And I can outrun your slack junkfood-fed self. You should only hope you look like me when you're my age. Instead, you'll probably be a wrinkled middle-aged git with a pot-belly, saggy wattles, and drooping shoulders, slaving away endlessly in a cruel world entirely devoid of any permitted pleasures or bad habits.
The behavioural Nazis will make sure of that.
Resistance will be futile.





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TOFU-SNARFING FREAKS AND EARTHMOMS

It's been very long since I spent any time in Berkeley. The place has changed enormously since the eighties, at which time it was already becoming precious and insufferable. At present I do not know anyone there. Unless that's where Vikas lives, but I thought he lived in the city.

I can thoroughly understand why so many e-commerce yuppies want to live in San Francisco; the Eastbay is basically a toxic sludge-pit of tepid mediocrity and shallowness. Good lord, there is no "there" there. From the distant wastes of Hayward and Fremont to the shooting gallery of Richmond, it's all Oaklandish sprawl.


Other than the fact that the University has a splendid library, there is nothing positive I can say about the Eastbay. Oh, and the Berkeley Rose Garden; it's rather nice.


AN UNCIVIL PLACE

I do not miss Berkeley. When I left during the eighties, it was still a fairly nice college town, verging in some ways on innocent cosmopolitanism.
By the nineties it had become a vain, self-centered, bigoted cess-pool, overflowing with smarmy correct thought, food cults, and pretentious quasi-intellectualism.

Parts of the area are still beautiful.
Unfortunately, occupied.

Just saying.




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Saturday, June 28, 2014

CONSIDERING THE NOTORIOUS QUALITY OF SATURDAY NIGHT

The problem with Saturday night is that one would much prefer there to be unctuous bits. Instead, it's like a huge vat of crunchy peanut butter. That isn't nearly as much fun.

If you're Jewish, you've been waiting for the end of the sabbath, so that you can go out and snarf some pizza.
If you're Chinese American, you are probably at home with your family, watching a sixty part television series from the nineteen-eighties, with lots of weeping and wailing.
If you're Wasp, you may very well be drunk by now.
Uproariously stinko drunk.

I don't know about you Chinese and Jews, maybe you are too.
Or you wish you were.

Often, on a Saturday evening, I end up at the Occidental, where I will enjoy a pipe or two in relative quiet. Except that of late it's been more throngsome than would be usual for a weekend night, and much of the fun for me has dissipated. I really do not like crowds, much preferring the company of a few good people over the generic hullabaloo of a tipsy multitude.
Cigars have become the latest craze.
The Oxxy has them.

Upon reading this, somewhere, a tofu-snarfing Berkeleyite is weeping.
Tobacco is the bourgeois anti-christ, who must be fought.
Every time you light up, an earthmom dies.

This evening I left rather earlier than usual.

Noodles at home were calling my name.


Too many chupacabras.


[This evening I actually wasn't planning to go in the first place, but it was a mission of mercy. Needed to drop off some Davidoff Millenium Blend Piramides. It was a desperate situation.]


Years ago on Saturday evening I would go out for Indian food, then return home and doze the doze of the just. Then, after Savage Kitten and I broke up, I would spend it by having dinner in Chinatown, followed by a few hours at the Oxxy. At that time it was never busy, and some evenings there would be only four or five people there. One can have very good conversations when there are so few people around.
Only well-behaved thoughtful folks.

Nowadays the Oxxy gets fairly crowded by nine. I often don't get there in time, and the yowling savages abound when I've finished my dinner and head over. Having a decent conversation is absolutely impossible when everyone else is intent upon sports and drinking like salmon.

I'm fairly certain baseball was on. Not sure who.

I'm not really fond of heavy drinkers.
Even if they do tolerate smoke.
While shouting.

Besides, by the time I get back from Marin, I've been exposed to a large number of cigar-fans already, there is no novelty in the experience.
Yes, I still like the Oxxy, and I'm very glad it exists.
But I cannot hack a mob of yuppies.


Saturday night is for romance, furtive smoochies, handholding, kissy poo, and curry. Poached fish, fatty pork, or ginger-scallion clams and mussels. French fries with mayonnaise and SriRacha. Black bean spare ribs, fried chicken wings, and asparagus. Long walks across Nob and Russian hill, and a nightcap at a civilized tavern. Lovely company, nice conversations, and definitely intelligence. Tea or chocolate, and a good read.
Sixty-part weepy-waily television shows if forced.
Pizza too, but absolutely no beer.
A calm last pipe.


In the downtown, drunken orgiasts are leaping from building to building, swinging their dangly naked parts and howling at the moon. They've had Bourbon and strong cigars, they are indeed men to be reckoned with. Their charming blonde companions are down in the gutters, fighting over designer handbags and Christian Louboutin among the rotten fruit.
Everywhere there is madness and despair.
Despite the tipsy laughter.



If you would rather stroll across the moorlands smoking some Navy Cut, let me know. We can find a way to make that possible.




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Friday, June 27, 2014

春天裡來天真的好姑娘 —— IN SPRING COMES A FAIR MAIDEN

One of the very first Chinese movies I ever saw was the slanted yet cheerful film Intersection (十字街頭 'shi zi jie tou'), at the end of which four companions share the news that a fifth person, also a friend, has in despair committed suicide. They decide that that was the weak way out, and arm in arm with new resolve they stride forth from the Shanghai docks into the broad tumultuous city to go on living.

It is, of course, a love story. Zhao (played by Zhao Dan 趙丹) falls in love with Yang. Wet laundry is involved, along with factory work and trams.
All five people are, at times, unemployed.
They are poor, but they are chipper.

Sadness, heartache, pathos; good cheer, romance, and gumption!

Plus of course the fortuitous circumstance that the love interest, played by Bai Yang (白楊), rents the room next to where Zhao and Xu live.
Which, at first, neither realize.


Here's the scene where Zhao is deliriously happy about having met a charming young lady. He sings gaily as he spruces up.
La la la la la! Perhaps even hey tiddly hi ho!
Or, in Chinese, lang li ge lang.
朗里格朗。


春天裡 -- 趙丹歌詞
SPRINGTIME, BY ZHAO DAN

[Source: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=14zfvPyF2Mk


春天裡 - 趙丹歌詞

春天裡來百花香,郎里格朗里格朗里格朗,
和暖的太陽在天空照,照到了我的破衣裳,
朗里格朗格朗里格朗, 穿過了大街走小巷,
為了吃來為了穿, 晝夜都要忙。

朗里格朗, 朗里格朗, 沒有錢也得吃碗飯,
也得住間房, 哪怕老闆娘作那怪模樣,
里格朗里格朗, 朗里格朗, 朗里格朗。

朗里格朗, 朗里格朗, 貧窮不是從天降,
生鐵久煉也成鋼, 也成鋼;
只要努力向前進, 哪怕高山把路擋。

朗里格朗格朗里格朗, 遇見了一位好姑娘,
親愛的好姑娘, 天真的好姑娘!
不用悲, 不用傷, 人生好比戰場, 身體健, 氣力壯,
努力來乾一場;
身體健氣力壯大家努力干一場。

秋季裡來菊花黃, 朗里格朗里格朗里格朗,
陣陣的微風在迎面吹,吹動了我的破衣裳,
朗里格朗格朗里格朗,穿過了大街走小巷,
為了吃來為了穿, 晝夜都要忙。

朗里格朗, 朗里格朗,
沒工作也得吃碗飯,
也得住間房, 哪怕老闆娘作那怪模樣,
朗里格朗里格朗里格朗里格朗里格朗。

里格朗里格朗,
成敗不是從天降,生鐵久煉也成鋼, 也成鋼,
只要努力向前進哪怕高山把路擋。

朗里格朗里格朗里格朗,
遇見了一位好姑娘,
親愛的好姑娘,天真的好姑娘!
不用悲, 不用傷,
前途自有風和浪,穩把舵齊鼓槳哪怕是大海洋,
向前進, 莫徬徨, 黑暗盡處有曙光。

Chūntiān lǐ - Zhào Dān gēcí

Chūntiān lǐ lái bǎihuā xiāng, láng lǐ gé lǎng lǐ gé lǎng lǐ gé lǎng,
Hé nuǎn de tàiyáng zài tiānkōng zhào, zhào dàole wǒ de pò yīshang,
Lǎng lǐ gé lǎng gé lǎng lǐ gé lǎng, chuānguòle dàjiē zǒu xiǎo xiàng,
Wèile chī lái wèile chuān, zhòuyè dōu yào máng.

Lǎng lǐ gé lǎng, lǎng lǐ gé lǎng, méiyǒu qián yě dé chī wǎn fàn,
Yě dé zhù jiān fáng, nǎpà lǎobǎnniáng zuò nà guài múyàng,
Lǐ gé lǎng lǐ gé lǎng, lǎng lǐ gé lǎng, lǎng lǐ gé lǎng.

Lǎng lǐ gé lǎng, lǎng lǐ gé lǎng, pínqióng bùshì cóng tiān jiàng,
Shēng tiě jiǔ liàn yě chéng gāng, yě chéng gāng,
Zhǐyào nǔlì xiàng qiánjìn, nǎpà gāoshān bǎ lù dǎng.

Lǎng lǐ gé lǎng gé lǎng lǐ gé lǎng, yùjiànle yī wèi hǎo gūniáng,
Qīn'ài de hǎo gūniáng, tiānzhēn de hǎo gūniáng!
Bùyòng bēi, bùyòng shāng, rénshēng hǎobǐ zhànchǎng, shēntǐ jiàn, qìlì zhuàng,
Nǔlì lái gān yīchǎng;
Shēntǐ jiàn, qìlì zhuàng, dàjiā nǔlì gàn yīchǎng.

Qiūjì lǐ lái júhuā huáng, lǎng lǐ gé lǎng lǐ gé lǎng lǐ gé lǎng,
Zhèn zhèn de wéifēng zài yíngmiàn chuī, chuī dòngle wǒ de pò yīshang,
Lǎng lǐ gé lǎng gé lǎng lǐ gé lǎng, chuānguòle dàjiē zǒu xiǎo xiàng,
Wèile chī lái wèile chuān, zhòuyè dōu yào máng.

Lǎng lǐ gé lǎnglǎng lǐ gé lǎng,
Méi gōngzuò yě dé chī wǎn fàn,
Yě dé zhù jiān fáng, nǎpà lǎobǎnniáng zuò nà guài múyàng,
Lǎng lǐ gé lǎng lǐ gé lǎng lǐ gé lǎng lǐ gé lǎng lǐ gé lǎng.

Lǐ gé lǎng lǐ gé lǎng,
Chéngbài bùshì cóng tiān, jiàngshēng tiě jiǔ liàn, yě chéng gāng,
Zhǐyào nǔlì xiàng qiánjìn nǎpà gāoshān bǎ lù dǎng.

Lǎng lǐ gé lǎng lǐ gé lǎng lǐ gé lǎng,
Yùjiànle yī wèi hǎo gūniáng,
Qīn'ài de hǎo gūniáng, tiānzhēn de hǎo gū niáng,
Bùyòng bēi, bùyòng shāng,
Qiántú zì yǒu fēng hé làng, wěn bǎduò qí gǔ jiǎng nǎpà shì dà hǎiyáng,
Xiàng qiánjìn, mò páng huáng, hēi'àn jǐn chù yǒu shǔguāng.


Paraphrasis:

"In Springtime multitudes of flowers bloom, the sun lights the sky and warms my worn out clothing; I walk through the streets and alleyways, and I have to stay busy day and night to feed and clothe myself. Barely any money for a bowl of rice! I'm still housed, but the landlady gives me queer looks."

"Poverty is not necessarily fated, as long as you strive despite all obstacles; AND I have met a wonderful girl, a lovable and precious girl! What use is sadness, what use is heartache; life's travails require strength and determination, if one remains healthy one may build a family."

"In Autumn the chrysanthemums blossom, the wind rips at my face and tattered clothing; I walk through the streets and alleyways, and I have to keep busy day and night to feed and clothe myself .......

........ success has it's own wind and waves, together storms are drummed up; go forward without fear, the darkness yields to brilliant dawn."


It is a cheerfully optimistic song, perhaps even insanely so. At the time, China was reeling from the Japanese invasion, and the bandy-legged dwarf terrorists were riding high on the corpses of their victims; the poverty and economic hardship was at a peak in Shanghai, where the common people could not distinguish between gangsters and bankers, so intertwined had those two endeavors become, and politicians and activists were heading ever faster towards a bloody cataclysm.

Yet the protagonist played by Zhao Dan sees reason for hope. He can eat, despite having no job, and he has found the girl of his dreams.
He is strong, and determined that all will be well.
It bloody well has to be!
Never give up.


When I first saw this movie circumstances in San Francisco were by no means rosy. Ronald Reagan was in Washington, and the Republicans were intent on rolling back the tide of human progress. Employment skills such mechanical draughting and print-technology were being destroyed by technical advances, particularly CAD ('computer-aided design').
I'm sure you recall that it wasn't the best of times.
The movie spoke to me.

You'll note that that handsome devil Zhao Dan, when hanging his sopping laundry to dry, inadvertently places it so that by the time the young lady next door wakes up her pillow will be drenched. She and her friend get even by pushing the pole back over to his side, and then hammer his picture nails back too. A mini war is thus started, and one of the funny moments happens when in discussing their neighbor problems with each other they slowly realize that they're talking about the other person.

The entire movie can be seen here:

十字街頭

It is without subtitles.
But the Mandarin is very clear.

The singing scene takes place at the twenty fifth minute in. The dripping wakes up Yang in the next room, who reacts with indignation at the twenty eighth minute, just after Zhao has stepped out.

In the months after the release of the movie, things went from bad to very much worse. The Japanese war machine spun into high gear, and Shanghai bore the brunt of the madness. Tens, hundreds of thousands of civilians were slaughtered, and many artists, intellectuals, and university graduates undertook the arduous journey to the safe areas in Szechuan and Shensi, far behind the lines.

Twelve years later, the music finally played again in Shanghai, but not with the spirit it once had had.

The next several years were somewhat more silent.



Zhao Dan, original name 趙鳳翱 ('Zhao Feng-ao') was born in 1915. His career ended during the Cultural Revolution.
He passed away in 1980.
Miss Bai Yang (楊成芳 'Yang Chengfan'), who was a charming teenager when this movie was made (born April 22, 1920), lived until 1996. She continued making movies in Shanghai till 1961. Following a regrettable hiatus of over twenty years, she first performed again in 1989.
Intersection was his fourth film, her second.




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Thursday, June 26, 2014

SUITABLE MERCHANDISE FOR A DELHWI BRAHMIN

Two great things I found out from cruising into Facebook this evening. Neither is a datum that I can live without; it is a cause for celebration to have discovered both.

Number 1.:
There is a commercial product called 'boneless pig rectum'. It is sold in large boxes. Presumably it is edible. I stopped reading after that.

I shall have to ask the waitstaff if the b.p.r. is organic and hormone free.
Truly, I do not mind that the haunch, chops, liver, or hamsteaks are not organically reared and hormone free, but if I'm going to eat a nice big steaming plate of b.p.r., I feel I must insist that it be healthy.


Number 2.:
Some internet Brahmin (from Delhi) is posting videos of Irakis being shot in the head by ISIS, and blaming our president for that, stating that ISIS are Obama's friends. Which is not only a spurious, insulting, and completely reprehensible accusation, but it really gets my goat that people like that have the gall to make such assertions.

Surely there are plenty of desi politicians that ooloo could attack?
Assuredly there is no lack of scum in Delhi.


I wouldn't be surprised if the Delhi-ite is a wholesaler of boneless pig rectums. The more I think about it, the more I think it must be so.


HYPOTHETICAL FOOD CONVERSATION

Kindly imagine the following at some fine and pretentious food service establishment, at an unspecified time, somewhere in this wonderful city where everything is possible.

"Ohe bhai, mai boneless suara-guda ka korma chahiye, aur ek bara gilas thanda am-pani."
['Oh my brother, I should like some tasty boneless pig rectum korma, and a large glass of mango juice, please.']

"Pichale suara-guda bechaha-hai, ji, bilkul nahi hai. Kewala brahmana bhojana hai."
['We have no more pig rectum, sir, only Brahmin food.']

"Shitiya-Ram! Yaha mai nahi chahata hai! Voh bhayanakare Pakistani restoran-me jana hi hoga!"
['Oh shit! That isn't what I want at all! I shall have to go to the miserable Pakistani restaurant!']


Politely masking my bitter disappointment, I depart, and head towards Suleiman's horrid dabba in the Tenderloin. Life would be SO perfect if those damned northern Brahmins didn't run out of pig-rectum all the time!




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AN UMBRELLA IN THE MIND

Tomorrow I shall soak a long time in hot soapy water. As I did on Monday and Tuesday. When not required to work, a warm bath in the peace and quiet of a weekday morning is probably the perfect way to start the day. Clean, warm, caffeinated. It's very civilized.
Can't do that four days a week, when I barrel out of the house like a dizzy rocket in order not to miss the bus to Marin.

Nor could I do that if I had a normal schedule, with Saturday and Sunday off. My apartment mate might need to use the bathroom, or wish herself to do what I plan to do. She too likes a long soak.

Privacy is the key in this arrangement. I get to waltz around the apartment buck-naked on my days off, I'm not around during those times when she's swanning about in the nude.

We are otters with our own separate schedules.

Rather a pity, but highly visible nekkid ain't part of the programme.

A deliciously "brisk" beverage, however, is.

Must have a warm cup.

During.


Hot soapy water between the toes, bird sounds from the backyards behind the building, and other than that, complete quiet.

I revel in cleanliness.

And tea.


Yes, I like this arrangement. Over the past few years I've become a more solitary creature, and do a lot of things by myself that in the past seemed to require another person.


If I wish to pretend to be mister Badger puttering about in his digs, I can do that. Other than that the apartment must absolutely air out for a few hours before she returns in the evening, there are few if any limitations.
Open the windows, sneck the apartment mate's door firmly, and fill up the pipe; there's no one around to object to tobacco.
A bowl of brown flake, reference books, anthropology, South-East Asian studies or Medieaval history, dictionaries, cook books.

Curry or noodles around mid-day.

Read, write, and smoke.

Drink tea.


She's a good apartment mate; we respect each other's personality and have adapted to our different facets of Asperger syndrome. She uses the phone socially at times, which I find somewhat pointless, I occasionally need other people anonymously around me, which doesn't do much if anything for her.

We do not pry into each other's lives. I have no idea what her relationship with her boyfriend is like, she hasn't a clue that I am fixated on snackipoos at tea-time.

[The tea-time thing is an aspect of the anonymous other people thing. There are a few places I seldom go to nowadays because the anonymity was cracked. It's not that I can't handle that, but I'm a bit peculiar about it. I would not at all mind it if someone asked to join me for tea before I head off, but when I'm already by myself I prefer to observe other people around me, rather than being forced to interact.]

So set am I about tea-time that during the rainy season a few months ago I still headed over to C'town for pastries and a warm cuppa. I just found a nice quiet sheltered area afterward to smoke my pipe and watch the world go by from a discreet distance.


She retires to her room early. I'll frequently take a long walk around the neighborhood late at night with my pipe, enjoying the last smoke of the day while dreaming. All things are dream-worthy.
She tells me she doesn't dream.
I find that odd.


Habits and routines may change.
Sometimes gradually, sometimes spur of the moment.
Interests often remain constant.

Tea time is at or shortly after four P.M.
That is very important.
Essential.







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Wednesday, June 25, 2014

THE EMPEROR WANTS A CHEESEBURGER

Sometimes your mind gets preoccupied with problems of translation. Dutch, you realize, despite it's enormous similarity to English -- a hairball uphacking version of Saxon-speak -- is at times quite opaque.
The two languages are extremely close relatives.
But differ considerably in their eccentricities.


This bubbled to the forefront of the lobes upon seeing this illustration:



Better examples of Dinglish would be hard to find. Yet to a Dutchspeaker who understands some neighboring tongues, it is utterly transparent.


"Before halftime we rather cocked up, and that almost inexpressibly irritated the spit out of me; I was sitting on pins and needles the whole time."



"But in the second half we got our act together, ramping up the pressure with Depay, which was splendid; it's an immeasurable relief that we've advanced to the next round."



Translation back into Dungle, for the English-impaired: 'Voor de halve tijd hebben we het nogal op gehaand, en dat heeft me bijna spugloos geirriteerd; ik zat op pinnen en naalden de gehele tijd. Maar in de sekonde helft kregen we onze toneelstuk samen, en drukten wij voerend op met Depay, hetgeen prachtig was; het is een meetloze verluchting dat we naar de volgende ronde kunnen.'

[This cartoon comes from the fertile brains of soccer enthusiasts John le Noble ('Joop') and Toon van Driel ('Toon'), who are featured in the Algemeen Dagblad and other publications.
All hail Joop and Toon; Boffo stuff, guys.

F. C. Knudde.]


Key words


Legde uit; uitleggen: to lay out, to explain, to provide clarification. Haarfijn: precisely, in detail. Zooitje: a little mess. Broertje: little brother. Strot: gorge, throat; larynx. Billen: glutei maximi; the rump; posterior portions. Recht zetten: setting it right, straightening it out.
Potje: a little cauldron. Volgende: following.

There now. Doesn't that make everything clearer?

[The Dutch have a name for their own brand of our tongue: Steenkolen Engels; "stone coal English". That being what coal loaders in the port of Rotterdam might speak.It's not Double Dutch, more half cooked.]

Much of what people say in any language relies on the ability of the listener to contextualize for its comprehensibility and meaning, we seldom consider that what seems crystal clear to us might, if translated word for word, become sheer gibberish in another tongue.
Our own forms of expression depend upon our cultural environment and diverse unique knowledge sets for any clarity; all translation must necessarily involve paraphrasis.


Consider, for instance, the tattoo I saw on someone's arm the other day: 'Death before Dishonour'.

Problem was that it had been written in Chinese. As translated by a non-Chinese speaker.

死前羞辱

[Cantonese pronunciation: 'sei chin sau yuk'.]

What it says is "humiliating death". Which makes no sense, unless this is instruction to whoever wishes to whack the idiot.
In which case it's perfectly clear.
First abuse, then kill.


Translations, no matter how brilliant the scholar, need to pass the muster of a native speaker before they're set free. And sometimes things cannot be translated effectively at all.

Consider the captioned photo below, which probably only makes sense to a meme-savvy American of a certain age:

[Source: Memestache.com]


It helps if you are reasonable familiar with lolcats, Montgomery Burns, and the evil emperor Palpatine from the Star Wars series.
As well as down with junkfood.




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CHECK YOUR CHOLESTEROL AT THE DOOR: ARNOLD BENNET OMELETTE

On the BBC website, mention was made of an egg dish from the Savoy Hotel in London, named after a novelist.
Far be it from me to pass up an opportunity to waffle on about eggs.
Especially when they are combined with Hollandaise sauce.
Can I resist a condiment named after my distantly ancestral country?
Oh golly heck no.
Bring it on.
Butter!
Eggs.

The 'Omelette Arnold Bennet' is an open-faced dish consisting of œufs and smoked fish made dangerous with fromage and a butter sauce.
It is allegedly suitable for breakfast, but it actually makes a far better lunch, with a mound of steamed rice, some bokchoi or gailan, and a glob of sambal.


THE OMELETTE

Four to six ounces of smoked haddock.
Half a cup of half and half (American cream).
Half a cup of Hollandaise (see below).
Three eggs.
Two TBS butter.
Over a quarter cup of grated cheese.
Parsley, chives, cilantro, any or all, finely minced.

Poach the haddock for a few minutes in the half and half. Let it cool, then flake it. And note that if you cannot find British haddock, any smoked oily fish will do. Even snoek.

Whisk the three eggs with a little bit of the fishy half and half, once it has cooled enough. Melt the butter in a heavy bottomed pan which is suitable for omelettes, and pour in the egg mixture. When it starts to set, add the haddock, a liberal drooling of Hollandaise, and sprinkle the grated cheese over. Put it under the broiler until the cheese has melted and there are a few minor brown spots.

Garnish liberally with the minced green stuff.


HOLLANDAISE SAUCE

Two egg yolks.
Six TBS butter.
Two Tsp. lemon juice.
A few drops of wine vinegar.
A few drops of Worcestershire sauce.
Pinches of salt and white pepper.

Melt the butter in a saucepan, removing it from the heat before the last bit of butter has liquefied. Put the egg yolks in a clean metal bowl over a warm water bath. Whisk smoothly yet briskly with the lemon juice and vinegar till well-blended. Add the Worcestershire, then pour in a little of the melted butter, whisk to incorporate, and drizzle in a little more, whisking the while. Continue till all the butter has been incorporated and the sauce is creamy and velvety. Take care that it does not get warm enough to settle the yolks; that's very bad, and you won't like it.

If you are worried about raw yolks, cook them first, then moosh them very smooth. Blend in the lemon juice, vinegar, and Worcestershire, then include the melted butter while continuing to moosh, and pour the warm sauce through a tea strainer to ensure that there are no lumps.

Either way, finish with a pinch of salt and some finely ground white pepper.



Note that when making omelettes, I will usually add a teaspoon or two of tapioca flour to the eggs, which helps form a nicely set layer without any need for over-cooking. And, speaking of such things, why so many American restaurants whip the eggs and construct huge inedible fluffy dried-out omelettes filled with air baffles the crap out of me.
An omelette should be still runny or barely set.
Overcooked egg-poof is not an omelette.




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AND HOW ARE YOU?

Restatement for new readers: if you have any thoughts or remarks you wish to share with others who visit this blog, please use the clickable comment link that is underneath each post on the right-hand side.

That being this icon:   0 comments


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Which looks like this:

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I welcome feedback, provided you are not trying to sell something. Anything which starts non-sequitorially and finishes with an invite to view a payday loan site or mail-order prescription drug emporium, even if totally sincere -- which I have no doubt whatsoever it truly is -- will get short shrift.
No shrift at all, in fact.


I do screen comments, as a self-protective manoeuvre. So there may be a delay of several hours ere you see what you wrote in the comment string (if it is for public consumption), or receive a response to your private query (assuming that you require such, and have given your e-mail address).









Talk to me.


Tuesday, June 24, 2014

THE SEDUCTIVE WINKING OF BATS

In only two short blocks I saw five scenes which, taken together, show that while the drunken sex-crazed twenty-something drones of start-up industries rule the night in San Francisco, like e-vampyres and social-media zombies, the more standard dysfunctionals dominate the day.
At least in my neighborhood.


Item one.
Long-haired person of probably Asian ancestry kneeling by the corner and using the curb to place all of his credit cards in a neat line. Then rearranging them obsessively while muttering under his breath.
No, I didn't stop to observe further. I suspect he may have issues with the plastic life.

Item two.
Person of dishevelled chemical dependent appearance throwing chunks of bread at pigeons with murderous venom and force. Several times the missiles bounced off a feathered back, whereupon the target's companions started pecking fiercely at the ammunition. This did not entertain the man, but caused him to renew his bombardment with greater vigour.

Item three.
Bespectacled homeless person having an animated conversation with a rat outside Walgreens. Possibly the rat realized that he was the alpha-male. But the discourse indicated that the human being was still unclear.
It was, by the way, a personable looking rodent.
A vermin with gravitas.

Item four.
Women of ANY age should not wear canary-coloured yoga pants. Especially not if they have scuff marks around the haunch. The fur top garbing the withers and precious little else seemed out of place. More important even than that, wearing an expression of leering intoxication and trying to catch the eye of a passer-by spoke of abstraction.

Item five.
A man in a dress. Plus make-up. Lipstick. Big faux pearls. And a five-day growth of beard. He was trying to hand out flyers, but the little girls to whom he offered these shied away like frightened forest creatures.
The long-ashed cigarette dangling out of a corner of his mouth gave him a rakish air.



All of this was before tea-time (which, even in San Francisco, happens at or after four o'clock, more or less). I ventured forth to acquire canned tuna, mayonnaise, salami, chilipeppers, and bread. You can understand why I don't go in that direction more than once a week; trolls live there.
Normally I purchase my comestibles in Chinatown.
More crowded, but far less loopy.




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Monday, June 23, 2014

HANG AH ALLEYWAY IS A DUMP

There are benches there overlooking the tennis and volleyball courts, but you dare not sit there. They are the property of strange people camping out. I suspect that the city authorities deliberately ignore the squalor, as despite the colourful nature of the Chinatown neighborhood, and its magnetic ability to draw in morbidly obese tourists from the other states -- all of whom pay exorbitant prices for food, drink, and lodging in this city -- our benevolent real-estate mogul leadership is actually rather embarrassed about the Chinese, and would far rather that they go elsewhere. They are occupying valuable housing that could be more profitably rented to programmers and e-yuppies. And if Chinatown disappears, there will be no further justification for maintaining a height-limit on construction, in what is an area of prime real-estate right next to the financial district.


If a crazy recently released person gropes a little girl, that can only be good for business. Might persuade the non-fully Americanized to leave.
The more the merrier.

Or is that "the fewer, the better"?


Really, why are there so many non-Chinese loony tunes in the middle of Chinatown? Portsmouth Square this afternoon was awash with stark-raving mad white people. A rich slice of life if ever there was one. The combination of general grottiness -- because city services like sweeping and litter control are severely underfunded -- and insane asylum escapees, along with people sleeping off drug or alcohol induced stupors, in between having fits and shivers, was quite enough to frighten away even the visitors, whose only function is to marvel at the wondrousness of it all, while dropping piles of cash in the upscale hotels and boutiques near Union Square.
Look Mom, a filthy naked person drinking bubble tea!
Stand next to him, Hyacinth, we need a photo!
Hyacinth dutifully strikes a pose.
Smiling coyly.

CHEESE!

The folks back in Iowa City will be so impressed!

Shortly afterwards, the loony vomits.

Definitely the best shot.


香雅巷的垃圾

Anyway, back to the benches in Hang Ah Alley. Cardboard box hutments, with filthy extremities sticking out. A gibbering black man, angrily taking his luggage to pieces. A disheveled bag-woman animatedly arguing with a brick wall. Someone with long unkempt hair pawing at the air, bewildered by the invisible presences just beyond reach.

Downhill, on the other side of the Tennis and Volleybal courts, kids were happily playing. Yes, out of sight of the extreme examples of real world pathos in the alleyway, but still too close for comfort. Which is probably why their grandparents were keeping an eagle eye on everything, just in case.

The gates of the social clubs that line the alley were all shut, locked to keep the flotsam out.


Inspector Callahan: "Well, when an adult male is chasing a female with intent to commit rape, I shoot the bastard; that's my policy.
Mayor: "Intent? How do you establish that?" 
Inspector Callahan: "When a naked man is chasing a woman through an alley with a butcher knife and a hard-on, I figure he isn't out collecting for the Red Cross."

[From the movie 'Dirty Harry', made in 1971, starring Clint Eastwood.]


Normally I like Hang Ah Alley. Especially on a sunny day. But instead of lingering there, I strode through purposely, having recognized in seconds that it had been allowed to lapse. Again. Like all the back passages in Chinatown, it suffers from the malign neglect of a city administration that only listens to what they want to hear; that being the dulcet diction of nice middle-class people who speak excellent English and take pompous political hacks seriously.

You know, the folks who can be invited to cocktail parties.

And relied on to pay generously for the privilege.

With praise and campaign funding.

Brie eaters.




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NOW THAT THE WAR DRUMS ARE BEATING...

Sofar the gibbering heads are still urging us to go fight ISIS in Irak, conveniently forgetting that it was their war there that directly and indirectly drove our nation to the brink of bankruptcy, cost untold thousands of lives, and completely destroyed the country.

Perhaps they believe that Obama will do a better job than Bush?

Yes, that must be it.


Anybody, including my loopy cousin Gertrude, could do a better job. Admittedly, Dick Cheney would not benefit enormously from it, but that's a sacrifice we should all be willing to make.


Here's some appropriate music:

BITCHES, WE HOSED!

[Source: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=yZLvbUjhDUk.]

Here's another rendition, with singing:

THIS PLACE SUCKS!

[Source: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=aqjX1bQgKa8.]


The song is about fatalities during training for combat against the Russians over a century ago. Troops were sent into the snow-clad Hakkoda Mountains (八甲田山) in 1902. Of the two hundred and ten men that left Aomori (青森市), one hundred and ninety nine froze to death during a blizzard en-route.


YUKI NO SHINGUN
Romanized transcription:

Yuki no singun kori ko funde,
Dore ga kawa yarami chisae shirezu,
Uma wa tareru sutete mo okezu,
Kokowa izukozo mina teki no kuni;
Mama yo daitan ippuku yareba,
Tanomi sukuna ya tabako ga nihon.

Yakanu himononi han ni e meshi ni,
Namaji inochi no arutano uchi wa,
Korae kirenai samu-sa no takibi,
Kemure e hazuda yo namaki ga iburu;
Shibui kahoshite koumyou banashi,
Sui toyu-u no wa umeboshi hitotsu.

Kinomi-kinomama kiraku na fushido,
Hainou makura ni gaitou kaburiya,
Sena no nukumi de yukitoke kakaru,
Yagu no ki bigara shippori nurete;
Musubi kanetaru roei no yume wo,
Tsuki wa tsumetaku kaho nozoki komu.

Inochi sasagete dete kita miyuwe,
Shinuru kakugo de tokkan suredo,
Bu-un tsutana ku uchijini seneba,
Giri ni karameta juppei mawata;
Sorori sororito ku bishime kakaru,
Douse ikite wa karera nu tsumori.


Go ahead; sing along.

Yes, I think bringing up someone else's lives lost in discussing American imperial ambitions, braggadocio, and stupity, is extremely appropriate. The lyrics suggest uncaring authority, incompetent leadership, and resigned bitterness. It is, in many ways, one hundred percent fitting for a discussion of our involvement with Irak, and the draft-dodging robber barons who took us into that monumental mess.
Plus it's a rousing song.
We need that.




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Sunday, June 22, 2014

IN THE MOOD

Much has passed. I believe I may have been an irritating boy during my youth; it took until my mid-twenties before I quieted down. Tendencies and manners have changed even further over time, but certain ticks and details remain, crystal clear.

Something about summer evening light reminds me of Valkenswaard. Brightness in the western sky, colours intense yet muted. Often I would be in the hayloft (the upstairs living room) occupying the easy chair near my father's desk, reading and smoking my pipe, while he went through technical articles painstakingly marking them up in preparation for eventual publishing. It may have been mere engineerese, but that did not mean that slapdash English from his British colleagues, or twisted techno-Dinglish from Dutchmen had to be tolerated. I think he enjoyed his work; I certainly appreciated the wonderfully gibberant examples he read aloud.
It was an uphill battle; neither the English nor the Dutch would ever admit that their command of the language was less than perfect, and the very idea that an American had a better ear and eye appalled them.


My dad did not object to my smoke, but my brother did. Of us three he was the non-smoker. He would be at his desk at the far end, irritatedly clacking chess pieces while replaying the games of dead masters. At that age I had no patience for tobacco intolerance. Everyone smoked. That was the way it was supposed to be. There were several tobacconists I patronized, and the town had a history of cigar factories. Nonsmokers were a queer minority.
I have since then realized that abstinence from a fragrant habit does not necessarily indicate severe moral failings.

Summer in Brabant is an extremely pleasant time, and I still cannot fathom why so many locals headed south to Spain for six weeks. From everything I heard their vacations involve lying near-nude on hot sand, in between bouts of food-poisoning and overmuch uncleanliness.
It seems an absurd waste of effort.

I guess it is a needed breaking out of ruts. Life can be boring if every day, month after month, it remains exactly the same.
Societies need that change of pace too.
Much changes over time.


Valkenswaard no longer has any cigar factories, and smoking is not permitted in bars, cafes, or restaurants. One hundred years ago it was cigar-rolling that lifted the town out of the funk of utter poverty, now it is a bedroom community for the industries of Eindhoven, and a party venue for the entire region.
More bars per capita than any other place in the Netherlands.

[CIGARS: Hofnar cigars was founded around 1900, the name dates from 1919 when one of the owners (Alexander Wolters) attended the opera Rigoletto; hofnar means 'courtjester'. The factory closed in 1990. Willem II cigars still exist, but are now merely a trademark of Swedish Match. The company was founded in 1919, taken over by La Paz in 1989, and by 1999 the buildings had been torn down. Many other cigar factories had already started disappearing before WWII, other than Hofnar and Willem II none survived by the sixties. BARS: Drinking establishments are all over town, most concentrated near the Market Square, along the Luikerweg and Leenderweg, and near the intersection of the Frans van Best Straat where the trainstation once stood. The town has a hard working police department.
RESTAURANTS: Greek, Italian, steak house, and French bourgeois, along with local haute cuisine (so-called "Burgundian", because Brabant was once part of that realm), cheap Dutch fast food (also known as 'Vette Hap', which means 'greasy mouthful'), three very much beloved Chinese restaurants (Peking, Hong Kong, and China Garden). But the food scene too has changed, I believe there is now a Subway sandwich shop smack-dab in the city centre, along with the inevitable Palestinian Grillroom. There might even be an Indian vegetarian dabba somewhere, as well as a fish and chip shop for drunken English engineers.]


My brother and I were the only English-speakers in our grammar school, and likely represented the overwhelming majority of English speakers of our age in town. Naturally we spoke fluent Dutch.
Most Dutch people at that time were convinced that Americans spoke perfectly dreadful English, which many were at pains to let us know. But in Dutch, because their command of English was quite fragmentary.
I am still surprised that the Netherlanders are famous for multi-linguality; certainly there was little evidence for wide-spread linguistic talent then.
Although in all fairness I should mention that in those days I did know people who spoke German, French, English, Yiddish, Hebrew, Malay, and Italian, plus various dialects of Indonesian and Chinese. Several of whom actually lived in town.
Most of them identified themselves as Dutch.

We always identified ourselves as Americans, which must have been unendingly irritating to many of our associates. "What's they point", they might well have asked, "when you speak such perfect 'Nederlands', but are without doubt below par in English?" And that, precisely, was the reason.
If one assumes that Americans speak lousy English, and therefore my brother and myself must be quite unable to form complete and correct sentences in that language because of our regrettable background, that can only mean one thing.

[Quod erat demonstrandum (that's Gaelic for "you peasants are a bunch of idiots").]

We didn't have many friends during that period, but in retrospect it was more because of our cultivated otherness, odd interests, and stand-offishness, than any lack of social graces on the part of neighbors and acquaintances. Most Dutch, though unbearably stubborn and always right no matter what, are actually warm friendly people, and many of them have their own interesting peculiarities.
Living tightly packed in a small country inculcates a tolerant manner.
They'll happily ignore almost anything, if the company is agreeable.

I think I'd probably get along much better with those people now. I've changed in the intervening years, and I am not the same blister I once was. In honest retrospection, there was much that was solid there.

But I couldn't live there again; I have changed too much.

And they and their town have changed too.


AFTER-GLOW

The sunlight on Larkin Street near the corner of Clay, where St. John's Methodist Church stood until a few weeks ago, is quite beautiful in early evening. Slanted, bright, and inducive of a recollective mood. I've taken to smoking deep rich pipe tobaccos while walking after tea time. My dad used to smoke similar products, I believe. The hint of fire-cured Kentucky, and the fullness of brown medium Virginias, seems a memory that connects to him. There must have been something decent to smoke in the Netherlands in those days. The affectation for stinky aromatics had probably not come to dominate the market yet, and likely some of his English colleagues brought back tins of good stuff from Blighty.
Plus there was that excellent tobacco shop in Den Haag.
They had their pipes made in London.

I myself preferred Balkan Sobranie, though if I had spent too freely of my argent de poche, I would settle for a pouch of baai tabak (Vier Heeren Baai, Voortrekker, Coopvaert), sometimes even Porto Rico ('krulsnede').
I rarely smoked cigars in the house, except when the Mormon boys came around. It was clean tobacco, how could even they object?
Perfectos, half-coronas, and señoritas.
Stuff like that had built the town.
Good products to be proud of.
I knew it irritated them.




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RIJSTTAFEL -- YOUR INTRODUCTION TO FLAVOUR

Most Indonesians and Americans cannot grasp the concept. Forty or more dishes at one meal? Surely that's horrifically excessive? What IS it with you degenerate cheese-heads?!? Yet the Dutch feast known as a rijsttafel ("rice table") is actually not about excess. It's about moderation and texture. And nowadays, unless you have a whole bunch of people coming over, eight or ten dishes is more than enough.

Rice is essential, so is chilipaste. Gin (genever) or beer are quite optional. Cigars and coffee afterwards are up to you.


LIKELY DISHES:

Babi ketjap: Pork belly in a soy based sauce.
Rendang: Buffalo chunks seethed in coconut milk with turmeric, galangal, lemon grass, and enough chili to floor a battalion.
Gule ayam: Chicken in a mild coconut curry broth.
Korma kambing: Goat (or lamb) cooked in a rich coconut and candlenut sauce with chilies and ground coriander seed.
Rawon: Meat stewed black with keluak nuts to colour.
Gapok (empal): Spicy seethed meat sliced and slow-fried till crisp.
Tahu goreng: Fried tofu with a tangy-spicy peanutty sauce.
Empek-empek: Fried stuffed fish cakes.
Sayur asem: Sour tamarind vegetable soup.
Perkedel: Spicy potato croquettes.
Ikan tumis: Steamed fish with sliced chili and ginger.
Sambal goreng ikan: Fish stirfried with chili paste.
Sambal goreng buntjis: Haricots vert stirfried with garlic and chili.
Semur: Meat braised in dark sauce with onions.
Ketoprak: Vegetable salad with a spicy dressing.
Opor: Fowl in a rich coconut broth.
Sayor tjampur: Mixed vegetables with curry spices.
Atjar pedes tjampur: Chilis and other vegetables, pickled.
Sayor lodeh: Vegetables cooked pulpy with coconut milk.
Rujak: Unripe fruits with a sour-spicy-savoury dip.
Singgang: Tamarind and seafood flavoured broth.
Krupuk: Shrimp chips.
Emping: Pounded gnemon seed crackers.
Saté: Small barbecue skewers and peanut sauce.
Serundeng: Spicy crunchy toasted coconut shreds.
Kolak ubi: Yam chunks cooked in coconut milk and palm sugar.
Lemperan: Rice batter crepes with a crunchy vegetable filling.
Lumpia: Springrolls, mostly beansprout and shredded carrot.
Onde-onde: Glutinous rice balls with a sweet filling, deepfried.
Asinan timun: Lightly pickled cucumber.

En zo veel nog voorts.


Contrary to popular belief, fried battered bananas ('pisang goreng') are absolutely not an important part of this.


The key is coupling variety with restraint. Do not eat until you pop, but just sample a little bit of this and that. Augment your food with a little hot sauce (sambal), and alternate textures.


Kindly ignore any and all sneering comments from Indonesian nationalists and PC American puritans. Why did you invite either of those silly people anyhow? They don't have anything interesting to say, and they disapprove of everything.

The best Dutch Indonesian restaurants are in the Hague, but many fine establishments can also be found in Amsterdam. Ask local people for a recommendation. Yes, most native Dutch are heavy beer drinkers, but a rijst tafel eatery is usually a table cloth kind of place, so they'll behave.
Can't say as much for the visiting English and Germans.

There are no good places to enjoy a rijst tafel in the San Francisco area.
But there is indeed some excellent Indonesian food to be had.
Different audience, with different tastes.
Few Indos, also few Dutch.
It's not Batavia.



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Saturday, June 21, 2014

VAMPIRE NIGHT

In one of the x-files episodes, agents Fox Mulder and Dana Scully come into conflict with a nerdy teenage vampire pizza delivery boy in a Texas trailer park. Which describes night on Polk Street pretty accurately. But fortunately pizza isn't all that is available. There are also bacon-wrapped hotdogs possibly made of turkey-flavoured gluten or human body parts, delicious with mustard, mayo, ketchup, and pickled peppers.
Plus artistic West-Coast sushi, and doughnuts.
It's everything for a balanced diet.

Polk Street after dark is no place for a civilized woman.

The dominant theme seems to be getting drunk quickly, and playing in traffic once that has been accomplished.

Unfortunately, I do not know what IS the place for a civilized woman. After nightfall in San Francisco. Obviously NOT either of the environs where I am likely to be found at that time: in my bed with a book, or in a smoking environment with a pipe. My bed clearly doesn't count, because there is no room for her with all the stuffed animals, books half-finished, dictionaries, miscellaneous papers, tobacco tins, clean laundry, and me.
It's comfortable, but it's also a fortress of solitude.
There isn't enough space there.
None in years.

[Monkey, froad, fat degenerate weasel, a chicken, several assorted crazies of the six inch tall or less pursuasion, and a raccoon who thinks he's German. Damned nazi rodent.]


The civilized woman ain't gonna happen anytime soon, in any case.

Not unless some sweet thing for totally inexplicable reasons decides that she needs to commune with an evil stuffed amphibian and a monkey.

At that point I would have to bail out to another possible place, namely the great frigid outdoors of Nob Hill. Because there is just no room at present for two normal human individuals in my bed.

Especially not with the insane flippery green dude there.

[He's responsible for ninety percent of the mess, I swear. Him and the monkey. They're beasts.]


I could stroll down to Polk Street, but it's noisy and rather densely unclean. Zombies and pizza delivery boys.

Bat country, more or less.

Or, if I catch a bus, I might end up at the cigar bar down in the Financial District, just below Kearny Street.  Which is no place for a civilized woman either, unless she's accompanied by her husband Mark.

That's ONE civilized woman. An unusual specimen.
Statistically there have to be more.
Unless they've fled.


Not infrequently I end up at the cigar bar on a Saturday night. Despite there being NO civilized woman on my bed, discretely taking up space while arguing with an obsessive monkey and an unstable amphibian.

On Saturday night, the Occidental on Pine is the perfect sanctuary.
It's a place to smoke, and I like the one civilized woman there.
Along with the limited subset of other civilized people.
She and Mark leave when it gets too crowded.
Before the insane masses can rampage.

Often though, I end up roaming the streets between Polk and Chinatown of an evening, vampire-like. Though not because the occupants of my bed pushed me out and told me to go smoke elsewhere.. The cigar bar is mostly a Saturday thing, not so much weekdays. Despite or because there often being an uncivilized mob of both genders there.
Plus rutting, fetishisms, and whiskey.
Bars tend to be rather noisy.
I am a quiet type.


If I ever end up regularly enjoying the company of a civilized woman of my own, I shall take her there with me. I'm sure she'd like to meet the other civilized woman and her husband, Mark.

They'd shield her from the wankers and unsavoury business types.
As well as all the free-range lawyers, geeks, and jocks.
Just like I'd protect her from the amphibian.
Who is evil, yet so huggably soft.
A fuzzy green psycho.




This world needs more civilized women. Otherwise we will be overrun by crazed green flippery guys and bacon-dog snarfing zombies.
It's a matter of survival.
I am a vampire.




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Friday, June 20, 2014

FISH FRAGRANCE EGGPLANT -- 魚香茄子 -- IMAGINE WHAT A FISH WOULD TASTE LIKE

It's quintessentially Cantonese, and can be found in nearly every cheap eatery between here and Front Street. And yet, it's not Cantonese at all, being originally a Szechuanese dish. Yü-heung ke ji -- fish flavour sauce eggplant. In which the term 'fish flavour', or 'fish fragrance', has virtually no connection with actual fish. The name came about because the ingredients were popular for scaly things a while back and somewhere else.

Scallion, garlic, ginger, soy sauce, hot bean paste, and black vinegar.
Plus, in its native place, chili peppers.

Here in San Francisco it's soul food. It's what you eat over rice when you don't really feel like anything too complicated or fussy, and really would rather surreptitiously listen in on other people talking.
You'll sit at the counter, hunkered over your meal, adding spoons full of chilipaste to your plate, with ears agog.

It's the perky man's dinner.


魚香茄子 YÜ HEUNG KE JI


Two Chinese eggplants, cut into thick strips.
Two garlic cloves, minced.
Equivalent amount of ginger, ditto.
One scallion, also minced.
One fresh hot pepper, likewise.
Two TBS sherry or rice wine.
One TBS 豆瓣酱 ('dau-baan jeung': hot bean paste).
One TBS soy sauce.
One TBS fragrant black vinegar*.
A dab of chili-garlic sauce.
A pinch of sugar.
Cooking oil.
A few drops of dark sesame oil (芝麻油 'ji maa yau') or chili-oil (辣椒油 'laat chiu yau').

[Fragrant black vinegar: 鎮江香醋 ('jan-gong heung-cho': a flavourful dark rice vinegar produced in Jiangsu (江蘇 'gong sou') province, south-central China. 
FYI: Great for dipping dumplings.]


Heat oil in the pan to almost the smoking point, toss in the eggplant pieces and cook on high briefly, flipping and overturning them as you go.
Clear some space in the pan, add a little more oil, and dump the garlic, ginger, scallion, and chili in this space. Stirfry till the fragrance rises and the garlic is golden. Mix everything and continue, stirring and tossing as you go. Add everything else, stir to mix well, and decant it all to a serving plate.

You may dump a little more chopped scallion or cilantro on top for an artistic effect, but that really isn't necessary.
Rice to accompany it is.
Rice, and tea.


Watch out for middle-aged white men eating by themselves, my dear. They're actually listening in on you and your kinfolk having a fine old time with that nice steamed fish and the black bean crab.

BTW: 我識講廣東話。Just so you know.
Forewarned is foretongued.




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