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.

Wednesday, April 30, 2014

SPLENDID MALE PULCHRITUDE

Personally, I think Daniel Craig looks too much like Vladimir Putin. I just don't get it. My apartment mate, on the other hand, avers that he's ultra-mega-hotstuff, totally dishy. Seeing as the dear girl also thinks that about her boyfriend ("Wheelie Boy"), we can ignore her opinion entirely.


Here's a passage from Wikipedia: "His appearances in the British films Love Is the Devil, The Trench and Some Voices attracted the industry's attention, leading to roles in bigger productions such as Lara Croft: Tomb Raider, Road to Perdition, Layer Cake and Munich. Craig achieved international fame when chosen as the sixth actor to play the role of James Bond in the official series, replacing Pierce Brosnan. Though he was initially greeted with skepticism, his debut in Casino Royale was highly acclaimed and earned him a BAFTA award nomination, with the film becoming the highest-grossing in the series at the time."

See, gibberish. It's completely unintelligible.
One rather wonders what it signifies.


On the other hand, I've been told that when I adjust my forelock, trying to make it all presentable, it might very well be earthshaking. If I were still in my twenties, women would want to leap me and snog me silly.
Someone else told me that; it wasn't the apartment mate.
A happily married woman. With grandchildren.
Someone who is equally insane.
In other words.

I'm not in my twenties, by the way.
Haven't been there in years.
Thanks for asking.

I have yet to see Skyfall, Daniel Craig's third movie as James Bond. The entire Bond franchise is rather silly, and I haven't been to movie theatres in several years. The odour of stale popcorn is rather unpleasant, and, in that my directional hearing is off, the ambient noise in a cavernous theatre makes the experience rather frustrating. I like subtitled movies, NOT because I'm intellectual, but because I'm slightly deaf.
Oh, and the ghastly smells.

The entire persona of James Bond, as shown in several movies and articles, is too much like Andy Lau, whose smirking "I'm hot stuff" poncing and glowering in movies and stage-shows tells you that he knows his audience consists of swooning girlies and Andy Lau wannabees.
They probably leave the seats damp.

Well, given that Andy Lau performs in Hong Kong, where the average temperature is 76 degrees Fahrenheit (25 Celcius), I'm sure they do.
Performance centre seating always brings out the sweat.
That's another reason to avoid movie theatres.
The cushiony materials absorb.


I've always rather liked the handsome charm and heartbreaking good looks of Leslie Cheung instead. Now that man had soul. When you watched him perform in any movie, you wanted to be in it.
No, I'm not into Hong Kong pop music.
But he sang well too.


It's a toss-up whether he was at his all time best in A Better Tomorrow 2 (英雄本色 2), Farewell My Concubine (霸王別姬), or the comedic romp A Chinese Ghost Story (倩女幽魂) where he plays debt-collector Ning Choi-san (寧采臣), who ends up falling in love with a beautiful ghost, represented by Joey Wong in one of her most alluring roles.

If you saw him in movies, you would remember him forever after.
I don't think any of the James Bond actors even come close.
Why my apartment mate likes Daniel Craig escapes me.

I'm rather glad I do not look like James Bond, in any iteration. Though some people have likened my accent to that Scottish fellow who played the part, and said I reminded them of some of the nicer villains.
Polished international criminals.
Dashingly evil.


Unfortunately, I do not look like Leslie Cheung either.
Instead, I sort of look like me.



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HERE, YOU DEAL WITH HIM! YOU'RE BETTER AT IT THAN I AM!

Days off are for hiding out, long baths, snacking, and just general comfy laziness. Surely you knew that? So the question might well be what this blogger did during his down-time. And was it worth it?

Answer to second question first: yes.

Generally speaking, I did next to nothing, and did it very well. Monday and Tuesday I read a lot, spent hours on Wikipedia finding out cool stuff, and smoked several pipes in the deserted apartment. I made tea, then went out and had even more tea. I wandered over Nob Hill and down into Chinatown for snackipoos.

And I twiddled my toes in hot soapy water.
Twiddle twiddle twiddle, splash.
I had a book with me.
And a cup.

You could have been there with me, quietly hiding out from your friends, neighbors, relatives, coworkers, and any crazy acquaintances.
Assuming that all you wished to do was eat, sleep, read.
I probably would've shoved the one-legged monkey at you, and told you to ignore his demands for a banana plantation. Then gone off into the teevee room to plonk a bit on the computer while you argued with a one-foot tall simian loony. Heck, he'd probably like you, and demand that I have you over every day.

See, I tend to ignore the busy social whirl during my days off.
The monkey, as well as the other stuffed animals.
Catering to them is a full-time job.

I'm sure that when I'm at work they plot insurrection. They aren't happy with my selfishness, and would gladly trade me in for a younger model.
Anybody, really. Preferably soft.



The only side of me they truly appreciate is the side with the yummy tea and cookies. They would really like more bananas and bacon -- except for the cat, who wants fresh salmon and caviar -- and they'd love a warm body to jump all over, but this man will NOT hide out in bed with fruits and raw fish.
I'm rather opposed to such stuff between the sheets.
There are better things.

The purple cat demands that I specify "sashimi-grade salmon" whenever mentioning her. Nothing else will do. She's rather insistent, and refuses to accept that I must go off and work.  She'll be waiting for my return.
My next day off promises to be a surreal nightmare.
Small fuzzy rebels demanding attention.
I quail at the prospect.
Hairballs!


Help.



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Tuesday, April 29, 2014

APARTHEID, ISRAEL, AND SEEING HOW THE SAUSAGE IS MADE

Here are quotes lifted from Facebook regarding the Kerry "apartheid" statement. You will note that quite unlike much of the internet discourse, there is a distinct hue of wry realism, and what the Dutch like to call 'nuancerings vermogen' (the ability to note detail and over-arching themes within a subject or discussion of an issue) in these remarks.

They are all from one person.
Coherent, and consistent.


"Ben Gurion commented that we could look like Apartheid were we not careful. As did Ehud Barak. Was it not his place? Sure. Out of line? Sure."

"Condoleeza "Proudest of Shutting Down Settlements" Rice? Not a friend of Israel? SHOCKED!"

"["This Administration is extremely one-sided in its distrust and bias against Israel"]
As long as they keep vetoing at the UN and sending cash, all is well. Every US Administration has taken a stance that hurts Israel in one way or another."

"I think Israel has *zero* obligation to negotiate with a non-functional entity, even forgetting that a huge segment of said entity wants Israel dead. That's not a "liberal" view."

"I will never get the taste of Bush campaigning on the Embassy move out of my mouth."

"The actual US position is "Here, take our money while we tsk tsk you.""


When I last checked, the discussion already included well over a hundred comments from various people. Many of whom were outraged that John Kerry had even brought up the subject of 'apartheid'.

Why, how dare he! It just goes to show that he's secretly an anti-Semite, a Freemason, a leftard commie pinko, a secret Stalinist, member of the Illuminati, and an outer space lizard monster!

Apartheid is bad, and the term cannot possibly be used in any rational discussion of the Israel-Palestine issue under any circumstances.

They insisted that Kerry was a heretic.

Burn him.


As a native speaker of Dutch, I'm rather pissed at the English-speaking world taking over that word, mis-appropriating it even, to label several reprehensible ideas, while completely ignoring that in effect all societies, even the United States, practice apartheid.

Apartheid is inherent in being human; everyone practises apartheid.

The moment you slam the door on anything different, you have done so.
When you refuse to listen to another point of view, you have done so.
If you object to people speaking their own language.
When you close your mind to them.
If you lack empathy.


On the other hand, I'm rather damned glad to live in the United States instead of Europe or Texas. And I will willingly refuse to associate with several people, whole groups even, for a variety of reasons, some of which qualify as little more than bias and distaste (or just revulsion and nausea) for them or their ideas.

That also is a form of 'apartheid'.

I will continue that practice.

There's us (usually meaning 'me').
And then there's 'them'.



Either there is one country, with two bantustans, or there will be two countries, which may or may not be in a state of constant war.
That's it. There are no other possibilities.



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MILITARY GRADE ALL-TERRAIN WEAR

While I was enjoying a smoke on Grant Avenue, a young lady wearing a black cartoon kitten sweatshirt and very short black leather hotpants passed by. All I could think was "oh you poor thing, those must be insufferably warm!" and "Do you need a place to change?"
Yes, I was moved solely by her perceived plight.
"You'd look much better with just the shirt".
Trust me. I know these things.
I am an expert.

Then I realized that, given the temperature, the term "insufferably warm" was not relevant. I felt cold, despite a sweater and a jacket. The miracle was that she did not appear to be suffering from the chill at all.
It must have been those very short leather hotpants.
A most marvelous garment, indeed.
Secret insulation.

Some people can wear hotpants. Most of us are not so lucky.

It's a question of age bracket and sleekness. Plus size and dimension. Hotpants by their very nature discriminate. This blogger, for instance, would look most inappropriate with that tight black leather thing and a cartoon cat sweatshirt. It wouldn't even look "gay", just demented.
A magnet for seventy two hour observation.
Not THAT kind of observation.
Padded cell.

Not all women can or should wear such garments either.

The little woman in question had very elegant legs.
I couldn't help but notice them.

Perhaps because it was so cold, those gams looked warm and inviting.
It was just the weather, I'm sure of it. Frigid weather does things to the perception, and alters reality.
I am not haamsap.

我眞唔係鹹濕佬!
[普通話:我不是一個變態。]

Normally, when I'm wandering around the neighborhood, my mind is filled with deep thoughts and philosophical questions. What is the meaning of life? Why am I here? Is that a twinge of gout?

Cold weather makes a man think of warmth.
And kittens. Wriggly little kittens.
It's very strange.


I should've lent her my coat.



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Monday, April 28, 2014

SMELLS LIKE FOREST FIRES

It started raining while I was contemplating my navel on Friday. Meaning that I was taking a long soak in the bath, with the window open for ventilation, when water began to precipitate from the sky. Which is disturbing only when you consider that it is already the end of April, not if you realize we need the rain.
This blogger encourages Mother Nature to continue taking a leak over Northern California; I am all about female empowerment.
Let it flow, so to speak.
Enough of drought.

I envisioned an afternoon of lurking in sheltered doorways with my pipe. Because my apartment mate comes home around seven on Friday, the place needs to start airing out at around two o'clock, so I cannot smoke while plonking on the computer in the afternoon. It's sad, but these days a pipe-habit is not considered über-cool anymore. Serious intellectuals and charming celebrities do not have pipes in their mouths.
Somebody's long-dead grandpa still does.
But he's out in the rain.

I blame armpit deodorant; it made us neurotic about smells.


THE TRAIN TO BATH

Mathilde had the railway carriage all to herself. Outside, the summer downpour cast a grey hue over the green of England, obscuring fields and copses of trees where there were flickering lights despite the time of day. It was not even teatime! But it seemed dark, dark and gloomy.

What a pity Rupert wasn't with her. His unit was somewhere in France, fighting the Beastly Hun, and while she hoped he would be home again soon it didn't look like it. It would have been so nice to sit down with him over porcelain cups, the clink of China and soft happy conversation in her ears instead of the drub of the downpour and the rumble-rumble of the train.

England was such a gloomy place without his company.
And he looked so very dashing in his uniform!
With a pipe jauntily sticking out.
She missed his stench.

Indeed, she would give anything in the world for a whisp of his Golden Virginia and grubby tweeds. Familiar smells gave great comfort.
The train simply whiffed of coal and armpits.
Bath, where she was going, was not a pleasant city. Bad buns, and dry crackers with Stilton. There was a reek of sulfur about the place. She supposed that was due to the elderly military men who had retired there. Too old to go to the front, not old enough to keep their hands to themselves.
Claret-sodden cigar smokers, with fits of groping.
Wolves amid the splendour.

Her Maiden aunt had requested that she come. There would be no gaiety while she stayed, as the woman disapproved of dances, dinner parties, smoking, and all manner of intemperance.
Her man Rupert was such a great dancer!
She hoped he didn't loose a leg.
That would be awful.



THOSE WICKED FRENCH AUTHORS!

Amelia didn't really like cocktail parties, the company was always so superficial! But the library of the Jambonne's country cottage was utterly splendid, and because it was on the third floor of the mansion, it would be a lovely place to hide while her parents socialized.
Far from the frenetic rowdiness.
And horrid noise.

She looked forward to reading some of the risqué French novels that old man Jambonne collected, while chainsmoking cigarettes. Lucy Jambonne was a college classmate, and so very very considerate. While the adults were downstairs jollifying over gin and vermouth, the two of them could quietly roam the library, not talking, just reading and systematically emptying the contents of the cigarette caskets filled with Khedive and Kyriazi Frères (both were Turkish ovals) that Lucy's grandpa like to have scattered about. There would be tea and scones, possibly even sweet buns, and perhaps later a bottle of Port or Bordeaux, sent up with some cheese and Bath Olivers to snack on.
Time would pass so quickly!

If she were a man, Amelia supposed she'd probably like Lucy even more. She always looked so dashing with her tight sweaters and plaid skirts. And always, always, those cigarettes. Very modern!
She envied Lucy's self-possession.
As well as her slimness.
Luscious!

Later both of them would fell asleep in armchairs near the fire, each covered with a throw rug. The housekeeper would discover them the next morning, snoring gently and still reeking of the cigarettes.
That, in all ways, would be a perfect party.
No Martinis or music, just books.
And enough to smoke.
Plus cheese.



WE SHOULD DO COCKTAILS!

Something about Thai cuisine always put her to sleep. Her coworkers would discover her slumped over her keyboard, drooling, and wonder if she had been up all night again. But no, it was merely a physiological reaction to dreary office luncheons, and the impossibility of juggling chili peppers in vinegar, coconut curries, and various oily red and green preparations while listening to them yacking over exercise clubs and stock-options. And whether Cindibelle had lost any weight, or Jennifer was seeing that hot hunk in Marketing. Such pedestrian subjects, and such glibly jejune commentary!

She actually enjoyed spicy curries, but she preferred places where there were fewer people like her colleagues. They were nice, well okay, sort of, but their mundane lives and interests did not in any way strike chords.
Healthnuts, wine drinkers, shopaholics, and sportsfiends.
Not a single one of them read anything at all!
They hadn't done so since college.
Textbooks only then.

She herself really liked trashy fiction. There was nothing better, Jennifer felt, than expecting some sweet young thing to be seduced by a leering rapscallion in a boîte. Or reading about a butchly named private eye sipping cheap Bourbon while waiting for a psychopathic stevedore in an alley near the docks. Her preferences ran towards gritty detective fiction.
Unfortunately every woman she knew at work was more fascinated by reality shows and the shopping channel, and all the men talked incessantly about sports.

She supposed that she did stay up late too often. It was easy to do, once she got home. The retired podiatrist downstairs played his collection of opera records on his 1970's turntable till the wee hours, his pipe-smoke would drift up through the airwell and suggest an earlier era when the smells of asphalt, machine oil, and hot tar were more common and less objectionable. She had never complained to the landlord; she didn't really know her neighbor, but she liked his smoky macho fragrance.
It suggested things; mysterious, delicious, and nicely wicked.
One of these days she'd compliment him on his tobacco.
Perhaps gift him an ashtray, to show sincerity.
She hoped he would still be around.
When she had the courage.
To talk to him.




The weather cleared up by tea-time. The apartment had already gotten over two hours of fresh air by then, and I resolved to open the windows wide again when I got back. Just to be on the safe side.
After an egg-tart and a steamed chicken bun.
Plus a hot cup of HK milk-tea.
And a pipe.




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Sunday, April 27, 2014

EATING LIKE IT'S SOME OTHER ERA

If you let the pei daan sau yiuk juk sit too long, it becomes bland. Especially if it wasn't haam enough to begin with. On the other hand, jaa wu tau gok can take a bit of hanging around, the lacy crust will support a big dollop of chili paste anyway.

[皮蛋瘦肉粥 pei daan sau yiuk juk: rice porridge with preserved egg and lean pork. 鹹 haam: salty, savoury. When combined with 'moist' (濕 sap) it becomes "lascivious" in Cantonese colloquial speech. 炸芋頭角 jaa wu tau gok: deep fried dumpling with a taro mash crust, which is a traditional and delicious dimsum item.]

It's a question of priorities. I had purchased snackipoos before shopping for dinner, and ended up visiting six different shops ere I found bitter melon (苦瓜 'fu gwaa'). For which apparently this isn't the season.
But I had an unspeakable yen for bitter melon.
It's one of my favourite vegetables.
So good with fatty meat.
And hot sauce.


MOMORDICA CHARANTIA

Bitter melon is alleged to be an extremely healthy foodstuff, but that may be putting the reputational cart before the horse. It tastes very crisp and bitter, therefore it just HAS to be good for you, right?
The main reason to eat it is that it tastes good.

Provided you aren't from a place where all vegetables are boiled to death. In which case it may give you the willies.

Because I am a single man, I do not have to worry about my cooking scaring people. It's just me for dinner, and I'm not easily scared.


炒肥肉凉瓜 CHAU FEI YIUK LEUNG GWAA

Sliced bitter melon, salted briefly, squeezed, rinsed, and drained.
Fatty meat, sliced and sprinkled with cornflour and sherry.
Garlic. Ginger. Fresh green chili.
Touch of shrimp paste.
Squeeze lime.
Oil.

Add items to the pan in the stages you are familiar with, when the bitter melon is nearly cooked, flame with a generous splash of sherry and decant to a serving plate. Squeeze the lime over.
Serve with steamed rice, and a dish of chilipaste.

And, if you are me, an egg barely hardboiled. Which is good for dipping in the remaining chilipaste after you've dumped much of it on your plate.

If that is a healthy repast, so be it.


The other vegetable I bought was long bean (豆角 'dau gok'), which is good just blanched, lightly salted, and dipped in a greasy hot sauce. Again, with rice. Some people simply stew them a bit with dry sausage (臘腸 'laap cheung'), or a piece of cured pork (臘肉 'laap yiuk').

They're also good with sliced chicken and fried dry chilies.


I have a nasty suspicion that my food preferences will ensure singularity ("bachelordom") for the rest of my life. Finding a woman who is actually able to stomach real food is probably quite impossible.

Especially here in the SF Bay Area, where the very rabbity population would rather eat rabbit food than consume the rabbits.

I do a nice rabbit curry, by the way.


KHARGOSH MASALA

One fine fat rabbit, sectioned.
One large onion, chopped.
One beefsteak tomato, skinned and seeded.
Three to five cloves garlic, minced.
A thumblength ginger, minced.
Two Tsp. ground coriander.
One Tsp. each: cumin, cayenne.
Half a Tsp. turmeric.
Four or five green chilies, chopped.
Three or four green cardamom pods.
Two or three whole cloves.
About a dozen whole peppercorns.
One or two bay leaves.
One stick cinnamon.
Juice of two limes.

Sauté the onion with the whole spices and plenty of oil till nicely browned. Add the garlic and ginger, gild a bit, add the ground spices and rabbit pieces, and cook, stirring, till the fragrance rises. Put in everything else plus water to cover, squeeze the lime over, simmer for forty minutes.
Remove the bay leaves and garnish with cilantro.

Serve with a heap of steamed rice.
And some chilipaste.




噢,加多啲辣椒!
['Add more cayenne already.']

Whether you call the beastie khargosh, arnab, kunil, kundelu, lapin, kutjing belanda, paashaas, kaninchen, knyn, cunny, tou-ji (兔子), gaa-lei tou-ji (咖喱兔子), jeng hou-mei heung-heung laat-laat ge yan-dou gaa-lei tou-ji (正好味香香辣辣嘅印度咖喱兔子), krolik, kanin, konyntje, kuneli, заек, trusis, kinigil, kuneho, зајакот, furball, or thumper, your family will be sure to appreciate this emmes tasty guest at the dinner table.

Trust me; I'm a carnivore, I can say these things.



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WHERE THE WARM THINGS ARE

There have been no pets in my living quarters for many years now, but when I was still growing up we had a number of animals living with us. One dog, and several cats. Plus a guinea pig. The canine and the assorted felines got along very well. They recognized each other as kindred spirits. Or members of a cross-cultural tribe. Don't think about it too much.
They happily slept together. Often on my bed.
Waking up with animals is something else.

For one thing, they're hard to move. They've staked out their space, and by weighing down the covers, they've neatly imprisoned a source of warmth. They're comfy. Supremely comfy. Just be quiet.
Of course I'd eventually disturb them.
They'd stretch, and amble away.
I had served my purpose.
Useless, awake.

Actually, during winter it was fun to have them on the bed. They never figured out how to get under the covers. But they were toasty and soft.


The guinea pig could often be found with cats curled around him. dozing. He calmly munched his lettuce while they slept. Clearly they would befriend anyone and anything that qualified as reasonably yielding and enjoyably warm. The dog joined them for company, but didn't know what to make of the guinea pig. Whose sole social gambit was to munch lettuce.

*      *      *      *      *

Here it is, Sunday morning. You wake up, stretch, and re-adjust your nightie. There's a large male tomcat on the coverlet next to you, purring. Rather than disturbing his repose, you decide to read to him, a volume from the bedside table. Perhaps one of the Beatrix Potter books. Peter Rabbit, Mrs. Tiggy-Winkle, Jeremy Fisher. Badgers, raccoons, bunnies, and field mice. A gentleman with sandy whiskers, and a duck.
The cat pretends it doesn't hear you, but secretly it enjoys these tales about food. So comforting to know that food has a life outside of the pan; he'd hate to think of them as just mono-dimensional, useful and edible but nothing more.
Your voice is girlish, soft, suggestive....
"Because the Mouse has teased Miss Moppet, Miss Moppet thinks she will tease the Mouse; which is not at all nice of Miss Moppet..."
Tom sympathises with both the mouse and the kitten.
He's a cat with great complexity.
Character, and soul.
Warmth.


After the cat has gone back to sleep, dreaming of the social life of wild game, you pad downstairs to fix a very tall glass of steaming milk-tea.
It is still early, very early.
Perhaps you also should doze a bit, there's so much free time, and very little that demands any attention when no one else is up yet.
Mmmm, milk-tea. Time to go back to bed.

Warm coverlet. Light streaming in. Cat at peace. Glass of milk-tea.
Set the alarm for seven thirty, that's another hour.
When it goes off, it will startle Tom.
Who will yowl and screech.
You can't wait.
Zzzz.

*      *      *      *      *

Why the heck am I up so early? Well, I've got things to do today. Leaving the house shortly after eight, probably won't be back until mid-evening.
But tomorrow I don't have to do a thing.
Planning to sleep in.




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Saturday, April 26, 2014

NEVER MIND, IT'S YOUR TURN TO DRIVE!

You're stuck inside on a lovely sunny day, hearing an academic droning. No, it isn't very interesting. At all. You twiddle your mechanical pencil absentmindedly, pretending to pay attention. There will be several more hours of this before you escape, by which time the fog will have rolled in, the light faded, and all the good eateries have shut their doors. The only things available will be pizza and burritos. Hardly happy snacking.
And let us forget entirely about beer.

Good food is NEVER accompanied by beer.
That is something frat boys drink.
Or people who watch sports.



Yes, you must resolve to take a day off next week. Play hooky, and go to that movie that you've been thinking about. Which is one of several that interest you.
The Grand Budapest Hotel. Warm, uplifting, and destined to become a cult classic.
Nymphomaniac: Volume II. Possibly a self-help for an in-law. Maybe even hysterically funny and depraved. Killer title. What was Volume One like?
The Lunchbox. Sad yet touching tale of an Indian widower and a housewife. Vulnerability, pathos, and subtlety. Sounds good.
Transcendence. Sci-fi, with Johnny Depp. Who is always hot and sexy, even when, especially when, he was playing Raoul Duke in Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas.

"There's nothing in the world more helpless and irresponsible and depraved, than a man in the depths of an ether binge."

You wonder what the people around you would be like whacked out.
Might prove incredibly "interesting".
Educational, too.

"Wait! We can't stop here; this is bat country!"

Yes, yes it is. Bat country. Nothing but mundane and rather pedestrian associates. As your attorney, I advise you to take a hit out of the little brown bottle in my shaving kit. You won't need much.

Say, what the heck is adrenochrome anyway?

Per Wikipedia, "several small-scale studies were done in the 50s and 60s, reporting that adrenochrome triggered psychotic reactions like thought disorder, derealization, and euphoria. It has never been scientifically accepted, however, that adrenochrome has psychedelic properties. Researchers Abram Hoffer and Humphry Osmond claimed that adrenochrome is a neurotoxic, psychotomimetic substance and may play a role in schizophrenia and other mental illnesses."
End quote.

Johnny Depp does a marvelous adrenochrome trip.

You can't help but wonder what he'd be like as the flippery amphibian criminal genius Constantine in 'Muppets Most Wanted'.
Which more than any other movie appeals to you.
You could fall in lust with a depraved frog.


Sadly, you acknowledge that there will be no zesty green evil in your life, not this evening. Maybe some other time, especially if the alternative is swilling beer and snarfing pizza with the sportsfans you know. But not at present. You hope that someday soon you will experience the delicious irresponsibility of exploiting a mysterious foreign swamp creature, and eating good food. During the day. While reclining naughtily nude.
Better not mention the salt and pepper frogs legs.
He's somewhat sensitive about that.
And far too quick.
Jumpy.


Looks like it will be warm next week.
Maybe even in the eighties.
Laziness weather.
Ribbit.



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Friday, April 25, 2014

PRESIDENTIAL PORK AND LEEK DUMPLINGS, STEWED OFFAL, AND MUSTARD

An article on the BBC website quirked my interest and my appetite. Albeit indirectly. It mentioned an incident that occured last December, when Chinese President Xi Jinping (習近平) had lunch among the masses, proving that he ate normally, and like every one else.

 Quote: "The meal of six pork and leek dumplings, two side dishes of mustard greens, and a stew made of pigs liver and intestines ... "

習近平的午餐. Photo: AP. Via BBC.
First reaction: Those dumplings look awfully doughy and dense.
On second thought, I realized that of course they do, they're not really dumplings.



Northerners are wheat eaters, consequently the meal-time starch will necessarily veer toward steamed bread (饅頭 'maan tou'), rather than rice or noodles. Dumplin skin is merely a thin wrapping.


The BBC got it all wrong. Those weren't dumplings -- 蒸餃 ('jing gaau') or 水餃 ('sui gaau') -- but buns (包子 'baau ji'). Had they been dumplings, the filling would likely be chopped small cabbage, chives, or scallion, that was mixed with the meat; what every one knows as "water dumpling" (水餃 'sui gaau'). Sui gaau are extremely tasty, especially when made with gau choi (韭菜). While gau choi can indeed be translated as "leek", and often is, that is quite utterly incorrect.
They are lovely fragrant thin jade-green garlic chives.
Which are frequently paired with pork.
Delightful.


菜肉包 CHOI YIUK BAO

The combination of garlic chives (韭菜) and minced or shredded pork (肉絲 'yiuk szi') will be mostly found in dumplings made by people who are not from Lingnan (嶺南 'leng naam'). The nearest commonly found Cantonese equivalent to what Xi Jinping ate that day is the meat and vegetable bun found at small eateries which is called a 'choi yiuk bao' (菜肉包). It is not at all chopstick-size, but a handful. Like it's close relatives the gaibao (雞包 chicken bun) and the charsiu bao (叉燒飽 barbecue meat bun), one of them is enough for elevenses, with a beverage.
It is, in fact, a snackypoo.
Only casual eating.
Not a lunch.

The vegetable and pork dumpling (豬肉水餃 'chu yiuk sui gaau'), when pan-fried, yields the typical American potsticker (鍋貼 'wo tip').
This too is a lovely snack, but not lunch.

豬肉大蔥包子、炒肝、芥菜。

What Xi Jinping actually had on that day was plate of six meat and leek buns (6個豬肉大蔥包子 'lok go chu yiuk daai chung baau ji'), plus one bowl of soupy sauteed liver (1碗炒肝 'yat wun chaau gon'), and a side of cooked mustard stalks (1碟芥菜 'yat dip gaai choi').
Truly a great man.




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Thursday, April 24, 2014

OYSTERS, VEGETABLE HAIR, SLUGS, CHICKEN FEET, AND FLYING ROAST GEESE

It's very hard to figure out my readers. Some of them are perverts, some not. Actually, most of them aren't. But the perverts remain very close to my heart, because they stood out like a mile of sore thumb when I first started paying attention to my blogstats. They looked for something nasty, they found herring. They searched for sparkling nudity of a scholastic nature, they found Bengali food and famous poet Bhuddadev Bhosu. They wished to know vastly more about the haunches of camels, they found frustrated women in burkas. It was all very educational!
They did not leave any comments.
I cannot figure them out.
It is very sad.

Obviously the pervert mob is not the chief demographic. Nor, really, a significant market I'm aiming for. If I had to define my ideal reader, she would be a brilliant but introverted local woman half my age with a fascination for Dutch-speaking pipesmokers. But, all unrealistic fantasies aside, most of my readers are precisely the people for whom this blog is written.

Some are pipe smokers.

Some are witty, even sarcastic.

Some are irascible, or opinionated.


A minor percentage are precisely those people out of whom the spit I do not mind irritating.


And some are just as obsessed with food as all Nellie.

For their benefit, obviously, here are the top five posts on my blog, judging by all-time readers and statistics.


HO SI FAT CHOI 好事發財 DRIED OYSTERS WITH BLACK MOSS
http://atthebackofthehill.blogspot.com/2011/02/ho-si-fat-choi-dried-oysters-with-black.html
FEBRUARY 01, 2011
[蠔豉髮菜]

CHINESE NEW YEAR - LUCKY WISHES, LUCKY FOODS
http://atthebackofthehill.blogspot.com/2011/01/chinese-new-year-lucky-wishes-lucky.html
JANUARY 30, 2011
[吉祥話 & 年夜飯]


DIM SUM: KINDS, NAMES, PRONUNCIAT​ION, DESCRIPTIO​N
http://atthebackofthehill.blogspot.com/2012/03/dim-sum-kinds-names-pronunciation.html
MARCH 28, 2012
[點心]


SEA CUCUMBER - SOAKING AND BRAISING A DELICIOUS SLUG
http://atthebackofthehill.blogspot.com/2011/10/sea-cucumber-soaking-and-braising.html
OCTOBER 01, 2011
[海參]


HONG KONG ROAST GOOSE IN SHAM TSENG
http://atthebackofthehill.blogspot.com/2011/10/hong-kong-roast-goose-in-sham-tseng.html
OCTOBER 05, 2011
[燒鵝:深井之裕記大飯店、陳記燒鵝酒家。 三藩市文仔記燒臘茶餐廳。]


It is a happy circumstance that these five are the all-time most sought-after essays, as in a large part I wrote them for myself. Certainly the perverts, tobacco-mavens, and opinionated people would have had other primary interests -- though maybe they also enjoyed the subject of Chinese food when it cropped up here -- and by the same regard the purely hypothetical ideal reader as described above would not have searched for these.

What brought you here may very well have been windmills.
But you smelled something good cooking.
And stayed a little while.

Thank you.


Tune in to this station tomorrow for more food.




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RAZZLE DAZZLE

There are things I wish I did not know. Many things, but today one in particular spectacularly stands out. A reader sent me information about it, and asked me what I would do if I came face to face with the subject.

I don't know.

Two options suggest themselves immediately: either run screaming for the bomb shelter, or stand staring transfixed.
While screaming.



AAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAACK!



Sweet JEEP ZITS, I never knew such a thing existed.

And apparently we Americans invented it.

We are almighty peculiar.


Vajazzle.

I had to look it up. As, being a middle-aged bachelor who hasn't had any action since Noah landed the Hindenburg, and not a television addict besides, there is no way on earth I could have known about it. Ever.
But we Yanks invented it, it's our contribution to world culture.
People all over the planet are doing it now.

Vajazzle.

The whole concept is praedicated upon making what should be private something to show off in public, like little Johnny's grammar-school craft project. Pimped out by means of tweezers, wax, depilatories, and hot glue.
Plus stencils, temporary tattoos, body paint, and "creative" inspiration.
So far thank heavens it's only and entirely a female thing.
It's only a matter of time before it crosses over.
That, too, is a traumatizing concept.

Vajazzle.

Would I run, or would I stand stock still? If I move, it might detect fear and pursue me, savagely howling and slobbering. At which point little sequins would shake loose in sensitive regions, and chafe something horrid.
This would shortly require a visit to the emergency room.
I can't be held responsible for laceration.
Or post-feminist scars and cuts.
Oh crap it's bleeding

Vajazzle.

Common sense suggests that vajazzling is not a good idea. Nor a valid aesthetic self-improvement. Yes, I suppose it's fun to play dress-up, and good to take pleasure in your self-image. Be comfortable with your body.
But gluing rhinestones and shiny crap to an area which discretion suggests should be only visible under certain circumstances is not the way to go.

Vajazzle.

Here's advice from someone who speaks common sense. Slightly raw -- do not read if you are prudish or at work -- but absolutely boffo.

Useful link: Don't vajazzle!

Do not jockewel or publingbling either.
Scrotinsel not at all.

I am as filthy-minded as any man, and will not deny that perhaps I might enjoy seeing pulchritudinous pudendalia. At some point, under the right circumstances, and in the fullness of time. However, I cannot think of anything less appealing than egomaniac circus-freak decoration.
I am a normal person; I like my naughtiness to be sane.
Not weirdly self-expressionistic.


It's raining all kinds of crazy out there.
Nasty batbrains.
Yep.




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Wednesday, April 23, 2014

FABULOUS FOOD! PASTRIES AND MILK-TEA IN CHINATOWN.

The other day I watched as a little girl reacted to the display of pastries. You could tell from her rapt fascination that it was an enchanting sight, so tempting, so delicious. Remarkably, she did not importune her parent, but calmly accepted the charsiu bun as sufficient delivery on the promise.
Evenso, the items with icing and chocolate still held her attention.

Perhaps she imagined a distant place, where there are palm trees, sunlight, a gently rolling surf, friendly seagulls, and absolutely NO glass barriers in front of slices of cake.

Nor the prospect of dinner to limit her.

I also think of such things.

Often.

Usually because when I wander into a bakery in Chinatown it is late in the day and I forgot all about breakfast and lunch. Low blood-sugar levels do things to the mind.
You've seen it here before: Hong Kong style milk-tea and a snacky-poo.
Followed by smoking a nice pipe-full of aged Virginia.
I am boring and regular in my habits.
As well as food-obsessed.

But I am easily distracted, which is why breakfast and lunch are irregular at best. I've probably had more ill-advised midnight snacks than actual decent breakfasts in the last few years, and I fervently wish that Chinese coffee shops were open late in the evening.

Milk-tea, yummy pastry, and a walk through quiet streets after darkness.
Yes, that is what the ideal tropical paradise would offer.


Here's a relatively full listing of bakeries in Chinatown.
Or leastways, places that offer one or the other.
Tea (港式奶茶), pastry (糕點同餅類).


好食嘢 GOOD EATING THING!


永興餅家茶餐廳 ('wing hing beng gaa chaa chaanteng')
AA BAKERY & CAFE
1068 Stockton Street
San Francisco, CA 94108.
415-981-0123
舊金山,市德頓街1068號。

Once saw some northern girls here with impossibly short skirts and curvy golden gams, but that is NOT the reason I like the place. It's frantic, crowded, has great pastries, and there's always a bunch of old men whose conversation I can listen in on.


ABC大餐廳 ('a-b-c daai chaanteng')
ABC BAKERY & CAFE
650 Jackson Street
San Francisco, CA 94133.
415-981-0685
舊金山,昃臣街650號。

The service can be slipshod, the pastries are reliably standard. Many locals go here, not only for bakery items but also quick no-thought meals. The milk-tea is not that good, and may have a swimming pool in the saucer.
It can be loud.
And odd.


幸福餅家 ('hang fuk beng gaa')
BLOSSOM BAKERY
133 Waverly Pl
San Francisco, CA 94108.
415-391-8088
舊金山,天后廟街133號。

Quite one of my favourite places. I love their charsiu sou, and they're always willing to make me a cup of milk-tea. Friendly and courteous people, mostly male customers having a cuppa after work.
It's often peaceful in late afternoon.
Very old-fashioned.
Nice.


新檀島咖啡餅店 ('san taan tou ka fei bing dim')
CAFE HONOLULU
888 Stockton Street
San Francisco, CA 94108.
415-982-6688
舊金山,市德頓街888號。

Open later than many other places, and a good selection of cha chanteng foods in addition to the bakery items. Older people and Mandarin speakers like this place, and it's a comfortable spot to while away some time while watching a Hong Kong soap opera on teevee. You could also read here.
Bittermelon and pork, spaghetti, and darn good milk-tea.


得利點心 ('dak lei dim sam')
DICK LEE PASTRY & DIM SUM
716 Jackson Street
San Francisco, CA 94133.
415-397-0788
舊金山,昃臣街716號。

They used to be much better, and less tourist-oriented.
I often wonder how they stay in business.
Perhaps it's just hard work.


東亞餅家 ('tung a beng gaa')
EASTERN BAKERY
720 Grant Ave
San Francisco, CA 94108.
415-982-5157
舊金山,都板街720號。

The classic. Coffee crunch cake, dow sa bing (豆沙餠) and several interesting well-made pastries to choose from. Famous for their mooncakes. Open till eight.


小麥田 ('siu mak tin')
FANCY WHEAT FIELD BAKERY
1362 Stockton Street
San Francisco, CA 94133.
415-982-1368
舊金山,市德頓街1362號。

Fast, frenetic, a frantic battlefield, forsooth. With absolutely some of the best HK baked goods on the planet. Lovely bread, divine little Portuguese custard tarts, and everything looks so beautiful and delicious.
No wonder people go mad in here.
Deservedly.


嘉頓餠家 ('gaa duen beng gaa')
GARDEN BAKERY
765 Jackson Street
San Francisco, CA 94133.
415-397-5838
舊金山,昃臣街765號。

Some good stuff. But you'll probably never get a seat near the window.
And for some reason my accent in Cantonese excites comment.
Consequently I do not go here often.
Sometimes not in months.
No milk-tea.


金門餅家 ('kam mun beng gaa')
GOLDEN GATE BAKERY
1029 Grant Ave
San Francisco, CA 94133.
415-781-2627
舊金山,都板街1029號。

They used to have tables and chairs, but their egg-tarts are now so popular that you can no longer sit there. It has a well-earned reputation.


好旺角包餅店 ('hou wong kok bao beng dim')
GOOD MONG KOK BAKERY
1039 Stockton Street
San Francisco, CA 94108.
415-397-2688
舊金山,市德頓街1039號。

Line out the door. Baked goods, steamed things.


iCAFE SAN FRANCISCO
57 Walter U. Lum Place
San Francisco, CA 94108.
415-392-2682
舊金山,花園街57號。

Milk-tea, espresso drinks, pastries of a non-Chinese variety. Friendly people, and a place to sit. A perfect place for hiding out. Portsmouth Square is just across the street, so there's always something interesting passing by.
Three enterprises pay the rent here: the cafe, a florist, and a maker of dynamite lap cheung ('dry pork sausages and preserved meats'). I bought some extremely nice pressed dry duck there when it was still just the sausage king (廣州皇上皇臘味). Yes, I like this shop.


MAGGIE'S CAFE
848 Grant Avenue
San Francisco, CA 94108.
415-986-6668
舊金山,都板街848號。

Fancy Euro pastries, espresso drinks, and also milk tea. Good place to sit watching tourists stumbling down Grant Avenue.
An oasis for scared foreigners.
Prices are too high.


美香餅家 ('mei heung beng gaa')
MEE HEONG BAKERY
1343 Powell Street
San Francisco, CA 94133.
415-781-3266
舊金山,跑華街1343號。

A bare-bonesy bakery with a neighborhood feel. Real people go here, to pick up something nice to nibble on. Kids come in and say 'hi' to the folks behind the counter.
Far from the madding crowd.


美美餅食公司 ('mei mei beng sik gungsi')
MEE MEE BAKERY
1328 Stockton Street
San Francisco, CA 94133.
415-362-3204
舊金山,市德頓街1328號。

Fortune cookies and mooncakes, and that is all.


拿破崙餠屋 ('na po luen beng uk')
NAPOLEON SUPER BAKERY
1049 Stockton Street
San Francisco, CA 94108
415-951-8133
舊金山,市德頓街1049號。

I used to go here more often, then the Filipinas discovered it and I can't even get in the door. But they do some very good stuff.


安娜閣 ('on naa gok')
NEW ANNA BAKERY
715 Clay Street
San Francisco, CA 94108.
415-989-8898
舊金山,企李街715號。

Small, with a fairly standard selection. But they also prepare hot food, and it's a good place to have a decent lunch with a friend or two. Soup, rice, three dishes, low price.
Nice people.


荷里活茶餐廳 ('ho lei wut chaa chanteng')
NEW HOLLYWOOD BAKERY & RESTAURANT
652 Pacific Avenue
San Francisco, CA 94133.
415-397-9919
舊金山,柏思域街652號。

Been going here for years. And old stand-by, with quality pastries, and a nice cosy atmosphere. Plus their cha-chanteng menu is appealing. The braised lamb with dried tofu over rice is one of my favourites.
Also think of ox tails.


富祥點心 ('fuk cheung dim sam')
NEW FORTUNE DIM SUM & COFFEE SHOP
815 Stockton Street, between Clay and Sacramento.
San Francisco, CA 94108.
415-399-1511
舊金山,市德頓街815號。

Not really a bakery. But they do have a small selection of baked goods.
Mostly cheap eats and dim sum. Very affordable.
I like the food, and I like the owners.
A frequent haunt.


好好味 ('hou hou mei')
SWEET MART
727 Washington Street
San Francisco, CA 94108.
415-788-5555
舊金山,華盛頓街727號。

Milk-tea to go, lots of candies, limited supply of baked goods, and souvenir tzatzkies for the tourists.
Plus stuffed animals.
No place to sit. But they wouldn't want you to do so anyway.


心意甜品 ('sam yi tim pan')
SWEETHEART CAFE
909 Grant Avenue
San Francisco, CA 94108.
415-262-9989
舊金山,都板街909號。

Tapioca teas and many strange snacks, including kaidanchai (雞蛋仔). Their sweet crepes are quite good. Popular among younger people.
Bubble drinks.


嘉賓閣咖啡餅店 ('gaa ban gok gaa fei beng dim')
VIP COFFEE & CAKES SHOP
671 Broadway
San Francisco, CA 94133.
415-989-7118
舊金山,布律威街671號。

Walnut tarts very good. Some excellent pastries. Sizzling platters.
I've never felt at home, possibly due to the clientele.
Perhaps because of the tables.
All sticky, lah.


華麗餠家 ('waa lai beng gaa')
WA LI BAKERY & CAFE
1249 Stockton Street
San Francisco, CA 94133.
415-986-1660
舊金山,市德頓街1249號。

Sometimes it's packed. Sometimes it's empty.
Just a normal bakery.


華盛頓茶餐廳 ('waa seng duen chaa chaanteng')
WASHINGTON BAKERY AND RESTAURANT
733 Washington Street
San Francisco, CA 94108.
415-397-3232
舊金山,華盛頓街733號。

I like this place. It often feels empty by the time I get here, but they also do hot food, and their milk-tea hits the spot. Their menu suits me. It's very much a cha chanteng, but quality.


好旺利 ('hou wong lei')
WONG LEE BAKERY
732 Jackson Street
San Francisco, CA 94133
415-986-3759.
舊金山,昃臣街732號。

No place to sit, everything to go. Large buns, lots of freshness, little English. The great big monstrous chicken bun is a marvelous thing. This location was where Yong Kee (容記糕粉 'yung gei kou fan') used to be.
You can also get bubble tea here.


人仁西餅麵包 ('yan yan sai beng min baau')
YUMMY BAKERY
607 Jackson Street
San Francisco, CA 94108.
415-989-8388
舊金山,昃臣街607號。

Open till nearly eight o'clock, good milk tea, fine cheesecake, and some altogether fun snacking.
Two tables only, but a splendid refuge for hiding-out late in the day.
They make several excellent and unusual items.
It's another favourite place.


金華點心快餐 ('gam waa dim sam faai chaan')
YUMMY DIM SUM & FAST FOOD
930 Stockton Street
San Francisco, CA 94108.
415-308-3819, 415-828-0856, 415-986-2783
舊金山,市德頓街930號。

Their bakery counter is small, as most of their business consists of hungry locals coming in for a cheap lunch. Good rice porridge (and they have oil-stick), some lovely dim sum items, and a decent selection of cheap steam table eats to dump over rice.
I think you get good value for your money.
There are hardly any white customers.
Tourists look around and leave.
These are good things.



To the best of my knowledge none of these places have a wine list.
They don't cater to an entitled crowd.
In any way at all.
Enjoy.




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HELLO KITTY BACKPACK

This blogger is now the proud possessor of an item of just the right size. That being a Hello Kitty backpack, suitable for carrying up to eight briars, three or four pipe tobaccos, a big bundle of cleaners (mixed: standard, bristly, and the tapered German jobbies that have both hard and absorbent cotton, and make your pipe a happy camper), plus two tampers, matches, and a small paperback book (trashy fiction). And a cigar sleeve.
I am, in fact, equipped to take on the wilderness.
Or Marin county; a wasteland.

There's even a side-pocket for water.
In case I get dehydrated.
In Marin.


So far the responses have been overwhelmingly positive. Most people appreciate the gestalt, and instantly grasp the bifurcated message.


Thus: 'What do you think when you see a middle-aged fellow with a Hello Kitty pursey? You think either he's a friendly old sort, good with kiddies and little animals, OR he's batshit crazy and packing a piece. But you just don't know.'


Please understand that a Hello Kitty backpack on a middle-aged male radiates self-confidence and maturity.
Bucket loads of it.

Conceivably it is also quite unlikely that anyone would steal this attractive item. Other than a three-foot tall person, that is, but I can easily outrun the little criminal. And at that age her nails aren't hard enough or sharpened, so she can't do much damage.

The contents of the bag will establish my innocence; would a six year old carry around a supply of smoking equipment and fine Virginians?

No, I really don't think so.
That's my man purse.
Now back off.











I feel empowered.


TOBACCO INDEX


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Tuesday, April 22, 2014

BIG PROBLEMS IN VENEZUELA

Due to a number of factors, Americans (id est: citizens of the United States) have issues with Venezuela. At present the situation has improved slightly, as that demented socialist Hugo Chavez has finally shuffled off this mortal coil, leading to a minor, albeit educational, alleviation of frost -- hey Cuba, deliver unto us the severed heads of Fidel and Raoul and we'll end the blockade; you too can come out into the sun again -- but Chavez's crazed acolyte still holds the reins of power, and maladministers the territory.

Perhaps symbolic of the national psychosis, Venezuelans have an insanity regarding their sit-upon.


Or rather, the sit-upons of their good ladies.

As detailed in this informative article on the BBC website: those asses in Caracas.

Key quote: "Buttock injections are one of many common cosmetic procedures Venezuelan women undergo to achieve what society deems to be beautiful."

Further quote: "There was a boom. In the office all the women had such nice buttocks. The last straw was when a judge I work with walked in, looking good. Her buttocks looked like two balloons, they were so beautiful."


Colour me heartless and culturally insensitive if you will, but I can be neither moved by the plight of Venezuelan women, nor the fervid fetishism of their men. Both genders in this equation are off their nut.

When it comes to sex-appeal, absolutely nothing is as attractive as a strong and well-developed mind. The bimbo may be eye-catching, much like a two-headed calf or a football player, but the intelligent woman fascinates.


It's as simple as that.


Societies that worship boobs and buts have their heads up their ass.

I still recall women I haven't seen in years because they were absorbing conversationally, whereas I cannot for the life of me remember the names of most celebrities or why they are famous.
I only found out recently that the Kardashians became notorious because of a sex tape; it came up in conversation. And I still don't know who Lumsey Lohan is.


Perhaps the most memorable women on television nowadays are the animated heroines of such shows as Bob's Burgers: vibrantly alive, idiosyncratic, obsessive, and just a tad neurotic.





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Monday, April 21, 2014

GOOD MAN, SINGLE, WITH LOW BLOOD SUGAR; ONLY SLIGHTLY ODD

Truly I am an idiot. I had been so busy during the day (Monday is a day off, so I do things) that I forgot entirely about eating. Up since six thirty, two cups of coffee during the morning along with a pipe (smoked Old Gowrie, which seems important to mention; it's a partially rubbed-out flake), bath, news, and things around the apartment that needed doing.
By the time I looked up long after noon, it was too late to go to the bakery on Waverly that I had intended to visit, and the only place left that was still open was the cha-chanteng that runs low on fine pastries by the evening.

Cup of milk-tea, and a charsiu bao. I normally don't eat charsiu bao, as it's such a tourist thing to do. But the sukmai foh tui bao looked quite a bit too elderly, and likewise the yiuk sung bao did not appeal.
The foh tui daan bao seemed like a bad idea.

It was a truly excellent cup of milk-tea.

The pipe afterward was lovely too.


奶茶、叉燒飽、粟米火腿飽、肉鬆飽、火腿雞蛋飽;重未飽啦


Now I'm thinking about what I should do for further sustenance. Given that I'm no longer ravenously hungry. And know that there are at present no vegetables in the apartment. Other than capers and pickled garlic. Something with rice-stick noodles and hot sauce I guess, prepared around ten o'clock; mixed un-identifiable substances chow fun.
What is that stuff in the freezer in unmarked bags anyhow?
And will it taste good with a fried egg on top?
Perhaps I should fix myself a cup of tea.
No, Easter was just another day.
No leftover roast ham.
Or chocolate.




If you are wondering why I am posting this, it is in hopes that a woman who likes Totoro and Wind in the Willows will recognize a kindred spirit, and realize that her mission in life is to get an eccentric bachelor to eat regularly. Perhaps she can come over with cake.

We could go out for a bite; there are three Indian restaurants a few blocks south of here, and some Middle-Eastern places.
We will save the cake for later.




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IT'S ALL IN YOUR HEAD

At the bus stop the other night a busybody insisted on informing me that what was in my pipe at the time was unpleasant to his delicate nostrils.
I moved away from him, and continued smoking.
It was an excellent aged Virginia.
Honey-like, and figgy.

"Gee that stinks ooh!"

So do many things about you, young fellow, but I'm keeping my mouth shut. Let's start with your horribly hip clothing choices, and end with your selfrighteously hatefilled superior attitude.
But as mentioned, I kept quiet.

"Why are you polluting this beautiful city?!?"

The ashes and remaining shreds are bio-degradable, the smoke is carried away on the breeze, and we're near a main road, which may explain the gasoline fumes. It's a mightily industrial reek.
And let us not forget the canine poo.

"You're just killing yourself!"

I may be in my fifties, but I look far less like the living-dead than you. And I'm vibrantly alive. Full of piss and vinegar. Beans. Zest and engagement. Pepper. Perkiness.
Besides, less than one out of ten smokers get lung cancer and more than 50% of lung cancer victims never smoked. Pipe and cigar aficionados are less cancer-prone than cigarette addicts or potheads. And the prospect that I might die should comfort you and all your kind.

"As well as everyone around you!!!"

Not true. You are still talking. And reports about second-hand smoke simply show that some scientists are easily swayed by missionary funding, and bent sideways by tofu-headed praeconceptiva. And there are interest groups who sponsor "research" to back their agendas.
I did not say this, merely thought it.
And resolutely ignored him.

He finally left, heading uphill.

And I enjoyed my pipe in peace.


It was a beautiful moonlit evening. Right around eleven o'clock. The only thing that could have possibly made it better would have been a reserved young female intellectual, perhaps slightly Asperger-Syndromy or shy and introverted, with a book, reading underneath the streetlight while smoking her own pipe. A nice Oriental mixture.


A night perfect for dreams.


Not sermons.




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Sunday, April 20, 2014

TIFFIN IN HONG KONG

On Tregunter Path, you might think yourself very far from elsewhere.
The highrises are less visible, if at all, and the trees and undergrowth are mighty impressive by comparison with all the loci where they are not, further down. Well, except for such places as the Aigburth, which one imagines may have a decent view of the Ladies Recreation Club. Where, in addition to tennis courts, a library, full bar, and noodles for your female snacking pleasure, there are two swimming pools.
One of them is indoors.

The other not.

An outdoor pool!

For the recreating ladies!

Located at 10 Old Peak Road.


A far better view of recreating ladies, if that truly is your thing, is further north, just before May Road pulls a complete loop and joins Old Peak Road. The Clovelly Court apartments.
It casts a shadow over the tennis courts in late afternoon.
Consider the excellent vantage.

[地利根德里 Tregunther Path ('dei lei gan tak lei': "local advantage foundation lane". 譽皇居 Aigburth ('jue wong geui': "reputation imperial domicile"). 女子俱樂部 Ladies' Recreation Club ('neui ji geui lok pou'). 梅道 May Road ('mui dou': "plum road"). 舊山頂道 Old Peak Road ('gau saan deng dou'). 嘉富麗苑 Clovelly Court '('gaa fu lai yuen': "excellent fortune beauty garden".]


太平山頂 VICTORIA PEAK

It's a little peculiar that the British named absolutely everything after their monarch during the nineteenth century. The real name of the place is taai ping saan deng (great level mountain top), and the name 'Mount Austin', after John Gardiner Austin, Colonial Secretary from 1868 to 1879, makes nearly as much sense. At least there's a local connection.
Queen Victoria, as far as is known, never visited.
I may be wrong, as I wasn't there at the time.
Short round white women were a rarity.
It would have excited comment.
In that place, then.

[柯士甸山 Mount Austin ('o si din saan': "axe-handle official outskirts mountain"). 維多利亞女皇 Queen Victoria ('wai do lei aa neui wong': "preserve more profit Asia woman imperial"). 短短圓圓哋嘅白女人 Short round white women ('duen duen yuen yuen dei-ge paak neui yan'). 肥嘟嘟 fay toot-toot: plump and pudgy.]

The best time to visit Victoria Peak on Hong Kong Island is early in the morning, before the sun has risen and the day warmed up. And, by equal logic, to ambulatorily descend rather than ascend. The Peak Tram operates from seven in the morning till midnight, however, so during much of the year you will get there when it's already light, unless you take a taxi.

[山頂纜車 Peak Tram ('saan deng laam che': "mountain peak rope-cart/cable-car"). 的士 Taxi ('dek si').]

The view from the Peak is spectacular, as dawn hits the harbour, and Kowloon across the water.

Wandering down via Old Peak Road will take you past some very nice scenery. You can probably understand why hiking up might be a sweaty and unpleasant business, especially given the Chinese tendency to liken overly aromatic Caucasians to rather pungent fruits or animalistic things.
And note that many East-Asians, though more perspirationally talented than white folks, have fewer apocrine sweat glands.

Which means "whitey pong a bit, lah".

[Relevant quote from a Wikipedia article: "The lack of ABCC11 function results in a decrease of the odorant compounds 3M2H, HMHA, and 3M3SH via a strongly reduced secretion of the precursor amino-acid conjugates 3M2H–Gln, HMHA–Gln, and Cys–Gly–(S) 3M3SH.[4] It also results in a decrease of odoriferous steroids androstenone and androstenol, which may be via the reduced secretion of DHEAS and DHEA (also decreased; possibly bacterial substrates for odoriferous steroids)."]

So stink!
Wah.


Old Peak Road eventually splits into Albany Road, crosses Robinson, and continues past the Hong Kong Zoological and Botanical Gardens.

[舊山頂道 Old Peak Road ('gau saan-deng dou'). 雅賓利道 Albany Road ('aa ban lei dou': "elegant visitor profits road"). 羅便臣道 Robinson Road ('lo pin san dou': "gauzy convenience statesman road"). 香港動植物公園 Hong Kong Zoological and Botanical Gardens ('heung-gong dung-jik-mat gung-yuen': "fragrant harbour animal and vegetable substances public park") .]

If you cross via the underpass at Upper Albert Road, Albany turns into Glenealy. Down Glenealy there's an intersection of five streets, which brings you to D'Aguilar Street and shortly onto Lan Kwai Fong. You don't want to be here. Too many drunken Brits and Aussies. Keep walking. Cross at Wellington Street, head to Queens Road. You are now in the heart of Central. This may very well be the busiest place on the planet.

[上亞厘畢道 Upper Albert Road ('seung aa lei bat dou': "upper Asia permille finish road"). 己連拿利 Glenealy ('gei lin naa lei': "oneself linked grasp profit"). 德忌笠街 D'Aguilar Street ('tak gei lap kai': "virtue envies a rainhat road"). 蘭桂坊 Lan Kwai Fong ("orchid laurel lane"). 威靈頓街 Wellington Street ('wai leng duen kai': "powerfully spiritual arranged street"). 皇后大道 Queen's Road ('wong-hau daai-dou': "imperial consort great road"). 中環 Central District ('jung waan': "middle ring").]


And by now it's either time for a late breakfast, or an early lunch. Instead of the predictable visit to a tea house or a cha chan-teng, why don't you have a spot of curry?

For crap's sakes, man, it's Hong Kong! There's Chinese food all over the place! Do something different!

There are roughly sixty thousand Indians and Pakistanis in this city.

Not all of them live in Chungking Mansions.

Some are right here.


There are, in fact, a number of excellent Indian Restaurants in Central, as well as further on towards Admiralty

[重慶大廈 Chungking Mansions ('chung hing daai haa': "weighty celebration big edifice"; a large building named after the metropole located on the 渝江 yue river in Szechuan). 尖沙嘴 Tsim Sha Tsui ("sharp sands nozzle"), the area of Kowloon where that named building is located. 彌敦道 Nathan Road ('nei duen dou': "extensive sincere road"; a street in Kowloon). 中區 Central District ('jung keui'). 金鐘 Admiralty ('kam jung': "golden bell", so-nicknamed after a famous bell that was there during early British times).]

Most Indian restaurants worldwide serve a very similar range of dishes.
No doubt you are familiar with them.

[General terminology: 印度 'Yan do': "print span"; India, Indian. 咖哩, 咖喱 Gaa lei: curry. 印度芝士 'yan do chi si': paneer. 串燒 'gwaan siu': skewer-roasted. 饢坑, 烤爐 'nang haang', 'haau lou': tandoor. 饢 'nang': a kind of flat bread; to eat greedily (extended or derived meaning). ]


印度菜 YAN-DO CHOI

Here's a list, more or less in the order you would find it on a menu.

Nibbles and sides:
薄脆 Papadum.
胡椒薄脆 Cracked pepper papad.
咖喱角 Samosa.
雜菜咖哩角 Mixed vegetable samosa.
炸芝士條 Fried paneer kofta.
燒焗芝士 Tandoori paneer tikka.
綠色薄荷醬 Mint chutney.
羅望子醬 Tamarind chutney.
青瓜乳酪 Cucumber raita.

Breads:
烤餅, 饢 Naan.
果仁烤餅 Kabuli naan.
洋蔥烤餅 Onion kulcha.
芝士烤餅 Paneer kulcha, Cheese kulcha.
連薄餅, 煎餅 Paratha.
薯餅 Alu paratha.

Rice:
黃飯 Plain pillao.
雞肉炒飯 Murgh biriani.

The Oven:
串燒拼盤 Assorted tandoori platter.
串燒雞塊 Tandoori chicken chunks.
串燒羊塊 Tandoori lamb chunks.
串燒大蝦 Tandoori king prawn.

Chicken:
無骨燒雞 Boneless tandoori chicken nibblets.
烤雞咖哩 Chicken tikka masala.
椰汁腰果雞肉咖哩 Coconut cashew chicken curry.
牛油雞 (茄醬牛油雞) Murgh makhni.
青咖哩雞 Chicken quorma.

Lamb (goat):
鑊仔羊肉 Balti lamb.
椰汁羊肉咖哩 Coconut lamb curry.
波菜燴羊肉 Lamb saag.
燴羊肉 Braised lamb.
青豆炒羊肉,青豆炒免治羊肉 Keema matar.
瑪沙拉羊肉 Masala gosht (rich curry lamb).

Seafood:
咖哩魚 Fish curry.
瑪沙拉大蝦 Prawn masala.
辣椒炒肉蟹 Chili crab.

Vegetable Specialties:
咖喱薯仔大豆 Alu channa.
燴免治茄子 Baingan bharta.
滑汁芝士球 Malai kofta.
菠菜芝士咖哩 Saag paneer.

Sweetie:
煉奶浸芝士球 Rasmalai.

Drinks:
芒果乳酪 Mango lassi.
印度奶茶 Masala chai.


[No, I shan't give 'translations' of the Chinese characters for Indian menu items listed above. As you may have already noticed, many terms unknown to the Chinese world often simply get transliterated ad hoc, sometimes yielding monumental surreality. I took a look at them and decided Gear Dog, no.
Some of it, however, does have relevance to the subject of food.
薄脆 'pok cheui': thin crispy. 胡椒 'wu chiu': pepper. 芝士 'chi si': cheese; literally "sesame scholar" or "miracle-fungus intellectualist", an idiom standardly used in HK Cantonese to transcribe fermented bovine lactic gland exudates. 薄荷 'bok ho': "barren lotus", the common term for peppermint. 羅望 'lo mong': "gauzy expectations"; name of the tamarind tree. 波菜 'po choi': "ripplish vegetable", meaning spinach. 等等 'dang dang': etcetera, and so forth and so on.]



Personally, I don't mind Desi Khana to start the day, but unfortunately most Indian restaurants do not open till noon time. The normal stomach doesn't wake up until then, so it does actually work out. Probably less so for the Australians and Englishmen, who are hungover from their long night of embarrassing behaviour in Lan Kwai Fong, but as they have a hard time with food anyhow, the Indian Restaurants are a slice of home.
And better than what's available in London or Sydney.

There are a few places over in Kowloon that cook Indian-flavour chow mein (saag paneer noodles, murgh makhni noodles, lamb tikka and chilies over noodles), as well as one or two eateries that claim to be Kashmiri or Nepali, though their menus will be substantially the same as the local curry house in Whitehead, Tilbury, or Maidenform.

If tiffin costs around seventy-five dollars ("wah, so expensive!"), just remember, that's only ten bucks U.S.


Bhojana da ananda mano.



==========================================================================
NOTE: Readers may contact me directly:
LETTER BOX.
All correspondence will be kept in confidence.
==========================================================================

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