Friday, January 31, 2014


Yesterday, a long-time reader sent me the following message:
"Thought you would get a kick out of this. Apparently, paying to watch a pretty Asian woman eat with gusto is quite the trend in Korea:  "

Well now! I too could easily find myself paying to see a pretty Asian woman eat. It sounds delightful!

I had noticed mention of that subject elsewhere, but this time I decided to actually read about it.

Koreans hate eating alone.

"For Koreans, eating is an extremely social, communal activity, which is why even the Korean word 'family' means 'those who eat together,'" says Professor Sung-hee Park of Ewha University's Division of Media Studies. "
End quote.

The two dining parameters for human society are the urge to eat in a group -- our early Cro-Magnon ancestors became social animals because hunting is a co-operative enterprise, which inevitably must result in a division of food -- and the urge to scream: "mine, all mine, dammit, get yer own!"
All societies exist somewhere between these two extremes.

Some cultures stress the communal aspect much more than others.
When you share, greater variety is possible on the table.
Plus there's a sense of commonality.
Safety and good cheer.

The single male (the "rogue elephant") eats alone, though not usually by choice. But the urge to do so gregariously probably explains the plethora of public dining options in this city; we are very much a bachelor (and spinster) society.
Were he to have company, there's a good chance the single male would eat more privately. And actually take up cooking. Again.
Not sure about the single female. It's been far too long since I was near the type, so I couldn't possibly state any conclusion about them.
No observational data.

Perhaps I need binoculars.

NOTE: Readers may contact me directly:

All correspondence will be kept in confidence.

Thursday, January 30, 2014


Being a middle-aged man, I've probably seen it all. From ripped jeans and bell-bottoms to miniskirts, push-up bras, and eraser head tees. Boot-cut, low-cut, and super-tight. Wide lapels, and mother-of-pearl snaps. Apparently all of that stuff came back in the last decade, so you've seen it too.
Clothing, in any season, is frequently more about "attitude" than trying to create a favourable and not particularly glaring impression on strangers.

What I cannot fathom, however, are TWO things:
1. Young men who wear their pants so low that their baggy boxers are nearly fully exposed.
2. Women who have electric pink and black leopard spot leggings. Or any other kind of screaming in-your-face leggings.

For the first type, I would ask how they intend to run from the cops once they're caught committing petty vandalism or making a drug sale.

For the second, the question is "what?"

As in "what the heck?", or "what on earth?"

Especially if they do not have the physique and age appropriate to showing off their figure and curves. Sure, that's a sexist opinion, and people should be free to express themselves with any clothing that pleases them.
Which is why I just might wander around the city wearing only a lime green speedo and a batman cape.

What, you think that's a bad idea?

Freedom of expression has limits?

Common sense rears its ugly head?

Hmmmm, maybe we hadn't thought of it that way.

Best go with the lab coat and the clean, though rumpled, slacks.
Less likely to get picked up by the bomb-squad.


If you want to inspire an afternoon of mad, passionate love, it's probably far better not to dress in a way that suggests that you're just mad.
Personally, this particular old perv finds women who dress like well-brought-up young librarians incredibly attractive, but form-fitting leggings make me weep.
The great advantage of decent clothing is that there is so much that it doesn't say. You could be a secret nympho, OR you might be heading over to some soul-deadening bible-study with the stern elderly wife of the local Methodist pastor. The cops won't have an urge to arrest you for public indecency (manfully resisted; they know you're nuts), and the local yobbos won't mutter "hubba hubba hubba" under their breath.
You could even be heading to the nearby library to do research on the Venerable Bede. Either for a class on Anglo-Saxon history, or a dissertation. In the latter eventuality, think 'university press'.

If a saucy lace bra was slightly visible through the thin cotton of your blouse, I wouldn't think any less of you. It's obviously comfortable, and I really shouldn't be observing such details so keenly.
Because you are undoubtedly a good girl; you're dressed like one.

People with clean modest clothing are just so much more exciting.

Whereas those skin-tight glittery silver-tone zebra stripe yoga pants strongly suggest "crack ho". Even if, and perhaps especially if, you're a middle-aged housewife buying vegetables on Stockton Street.

NOTE: The title of this post is taken from a test I took on buzzfeed:
"Which Muppet Are You?".
It turns out that I am Doctor Bunsen Honeydew. Who is described as "smart, inventive, and stylish". Yep, that's me. Totally.

If you are also Dr. Bunsen Honeydew, we should meet. We have so much in common. We might even be a perfect couple.
You'd probably look stunning in a lab coat.

NOTE: Readers may contact me directly:

All correspondence will be kept in confidence.

Wednesday, January 29, 2014


This coming weekend marks the shift of years in the Chinese world. And, consequently, it is probably a lousy time to find something to eat in Chinatown. I suspect that many of my favourite restaurants will be closed, at least for one day, conceivably a full three days or even an entire week.

It will also be a crappy time to get a haircut; that's bad luck, and many barbers will not bother re-opening till the second week of February at the earliest.

Most bakeries won't start baking again till Tuesday or Wednesday.

These aren't fundaments of my belief-system, but as an inveterate Chinatown food-snarfer, I must perforce keep such matters in mind.
If I were an aficionado of Vietnamese food, the same would hold.

I am, in fact, a white guy.

Just in case you were wondering, white guys are described in this post: Chinese and Westerners.
It's a good guide to the genus, and you are encouraged to read it.

My long-time apartment mate is Chinese, and will, in consequence, be walking on eggshells. I suspect that her boyfriend may end up having a hard time of it, as he is not super diplomatic, and, being somewhat Asperger in his approach to life, the universe, and everything, tends toward literalism and blunt truth. So does she, but to a lesser extent. She's a little more normal.
I, on the other hand, am close to being neuro-typical.
And I'm a fairly subtle creature.
So I'm cool.

I also have no Chinese relatives to be concerned about, or to make me worry what the family plans are this year. Nor do I need to be apprehensive about surprise revelations -- who really must get married, which building is being sold, or where the family get together for the new year will be INSTEAD of where everyone was told to meet -- and, being white, it doesn't matter that I'm single; I shan't be getting any leisi anyway.

[Leisi 利是 (also called 利事),or hong bao 紅包 in Mandarin, are packets of lucky money which the older people give to the kiddiewinkies, and which married folk give to their not-yet matrimonized kin. Within the family it can be quite an amount, and it is as unsubtle a way of putting the young folks in their place as any. Sort of a "here, junior, you aren't married yet, and why not, please don't talk, you don't rank very highly" said with money. Little children love it. It's more cash than they had all year. Boys frequently get more than girls.]

If I were Chinese, I would be married by now, and have teenage kids. The house would have been thoroughly cleaned in preparation for the new year, matched scrolls would have been prepared for either side of the front door, and I would be worrying about where all the money is coming from. Because celebrations are always more expensive than planned, and there's always a relative who must be aided, so that he or she can also fulfill their obligations at this time.

My wife would probably be tense, seeing as a lot of cooking will have to be done for the end-of-year feast on the last night of the Snake, and that food will have to last into the new year (Horse), as one isn't supposed to cook on the first day.
And there's always a sister-in-law whose version of Buddha-Jumps-Wall ('fo tiu cheung' 佛跳墙) or Bhudda's Delight ('lo hon chai' 羅漢齋) is far more scrumptious than anyone else's...... which her mother-in-law will artlessly point out, in the spirit of prompting "necessary" self-improvement and trying harder next time.

By the end of the first week of the festival, my wife might be seething with resentment, which she would keep bottled up inside. Firstly, it's bad luck to say negative things (unless you are an elderly matriarch, in which case you can get away with darn well anything), and secondly, to whom could she speak of it?
Certainly not to me, because I would be expected to respect my parents.
I might even feel obliged to ignore all problems, and put my mind in a locked-down state of denial for the duration.
La la la I can't hear you.

A Caucasian wife would probably be sublimely oblivious to every intended "unintentional" slight or sneer from the old mother, which, contradictorily, would be a source of great frustration and irritation to me and mom.
I could even have to apologize for her ignorance.

But, as I stated, I am neither Chinese, nor married.
Which might be the very best of both worlds.
No obligations and complete freedom.
Instead, I get to observe.

No, I shan't frantically clean house. Might acquire some fruit or flowers before new-year's eve, and consider eating Mexican food on Saturday. Light a stick of incense close to midnight, just to clear the air, and as I may have mentioned a few weeks ago, take a short walk so that I am the first person entering my door in the new year.

For the rest of it, I'm taking it easy. If my apartment mate is out (as I expect her to be), I'll be reading and snacking. Probably won't smoke as much while at home, so that she has no cause to find fault or accidentally utter any bad luck remarks, but I'll make up for it by swilling tea like nobody's business. My home is a sanctuary.

Looking forward to wishing several people well in the first few days.

San nin faai lok, seui seui ping on, sang yi hing lung, maan si yü yi.

NOTE: Readers may contact me directly:

All correspondence will be kept in confidence.


Men do not admit vulnerability. Which is very irritating. There you have your opponent on the ground, with one of his arms pinned at an unnatural angle, and because he struggles so, inadvertently the ulna snaps. And, because it is a friendly match, perhaps engaged upon after several beers and pizza, he refuses to express either agony or defeat.
"Oh, pish-posh" he will say, "this happens all the time."
And you should think nothing of it.
Or any less of him.

Women, on the other hand, are liable to whack you over the head with a frypan if you did that.
Despite having to use another arm.

I realize that I am somewhat deficient in the societal indoctrination department. Not only would I probably express mild fury at the very least upon the snapping of an ulna (either arm), but I would probably seek to get to an emergency room before bashing someone's brains in with a frypan. Question of priorities. And careful planning.

On the other hand, being a very temperate sort, it is exceptionally unlikely that I would have consumed enough beer or pizza for the event described above to ever occur.

Although, if I were to pass a wrestling match between two drunken fratboys or graduates of a Marketing program on the street, such as one in which ulna might be snapped, there is a fairly decent chance I'd stop to observe, at a safe distance.

Which is the closest I'll come to watching sports.

No matter how much pizza is available.

The city should be very peaceful this coming Sunday afternoon. Men all over town will be absorbed in the game. I'll be back in the city by tea-time, and I'm looking forward to empty streets and quietness.
I will not be swilling beer or snarfing pizza.
Did I mention tea-time?

It will be a marvelous opportunity for a long walk, I should think, and perhaps a bite to eat somewhere. No one around. Timeless. Almost conducive to company, except for one crucial detail.
Still, it's a lovely hypotheticality.

NOTE: Readers may contact me directly:

All correspondence will be kept in confidence.

Tuesday, January 28, 2014


Chinese New Year is three days away. Which, as usual, means that some people are reading my blog for background on the festivities.
I've noticed that my readership in Malaysia, Singapore, the Philippines, and Hong Kong has gone through the roof. Which is nice, but they are only reading about a limited number of things. Specifically, dried oysters and black moss, sea cucumber, and lucky wishes for the new year.

One other post seems to have caught the imagination of people:

No comments yet, but LOTS of visitors.

I only wrote that only one day ago, but my blogstats indicate that it has proven fascinating. And I cannot figure out why. Perhaps it's the sheer honesty? Middle-aged men ARE wicked.

Maybe someone out there would prefer a middle-aged man to any amount of dried oysters and sea slugs.

Personally, I think I would rather have the dry oyster and black moss dish, as well as the braised sea slug. But I am a middle-aged man, and consequently already familiar with the type. For other folks, however, the concept of a middle-aged man, perverse or otherwise (gentle and bright-eyed, like myself), may be intoxicatingly delicious.
Oh the dash, oh the je ne sais quoi!
Such a dreamy old fart!

Trust me, my dear, middle-aged men are even better in person than they are as a subject of reportage.

But they're still wicked.

NOTE: Readers may contact me directly:

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The problem with 'breakfast' is that food is a social event, and the mind is not geared up for sociability that early. Unless, like so many Americans, you come down to bacon -- sausage -- eggs unwashed, flatulent, and in your underwear. Which has seen better days.

Civilized people, if they are sociable that early, wash and shave first.

Except if they are women.

It is perfectly acceptable for a civilized woman to sit at the breakfast table in her nightgown, pensively munching some buttered toast with marmalade while she reads the international papers; she need not wash beforehand. However, the chances of her being alone while she does so are very great indeed, because civilized woman do not gladly associate with strange flatulent types while eating.
Whether or not they are fully dressed at the time.
At breakfast, or any other meal.

I'm just guessing, as I have no actual experience to back it up. Seeing as breakfast, for me, involves a cup of strong coffee and a pipe.
Entirely without flatulence!

By the time I leave the building, I am washed, shaved, dressed.
Ready to socialize, and have another cup of coffee.

During my teens, my father would be up first, and by the time I came down for coffee shortly after seven o'clock, he would be reading either the Volkskrant or the Eindhovens Dagblad, fully dressed, with a clean shirt and a tie. I would have done a haphazard job of shaving (not enough fuzz yet to make a thorough attack on bristles worthwhile), but I would also be fully dressed. Albeit not so well.
I would devour whatever newspaper he had already finished while swilling strong coffee, and neither one of us would talk much.  Mornings, every civilized man knows, are for coffee. Newspapers. Perhaps a smoke. Quiet, and the occasional clinking sound.
And perhaps wishing that there were a civilized woman in a flannel nightgown pensively munching toast to observe out of the corner of one's eyes, while not really talking.

I do not know what women want at that hour. Maybe they would gladly trade in a blessedly silent male companion for a steaming plate of noodles. 
If I were a woman, the noodles would probably give me a far happier feeling, no matter how clean and crisp the man. Because noodles nourish the soul.
Not entirely sure what a man does.

American television advertising is no help on that score. It suggests that the typical male dresses raggedy in the morning, eats greasy sh*t and stacks of sodden flapjacks, and allows an elderly matron to come waltzing in from a nearby farm to lecture him on Folgers Crystals.
Or recommend a brand of syrup.

I'm fairly certain that ain't right.

The only type of person who could propagandize to me at that hour would be a woman considerably younger and more vibrant, perhaps slim and small and intelligent, wearing a flannel nightgown (or cotton pajamas), who would far rather that a brand of good marmalade and strong real coffee were present, than grease-bombs and syrup.

And, if you think about it, the presence of such a person would be a much better breakfast, too.


I still wouldn't eat anything. But I would ask if she minded me smoking a pipe. She'd probably indicate that by her it was okay, just open the window a tad.

We would drink our coffee in the quiet of early morning, and devour the newspapers. The only sound would be contemplative munching, and the occasional clink of cups.

And we'd lock the door, so that busybodies or irritating matrons busking products we do not need cannot bust in on us.

We do not wish to be disturbed.

I'm not complaining, though. I've got three of the four.

I've got coffee, marmalade, and pipe tobacco.
A lovely jar of Coopers' Original Oxford.
It's thick cut, and intensely good.

Breakfast is anytime.

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Monday, January 27, 2014


Here it is, Monday morning, and you're wondering what to do today. Perhaps something depraved?  No, that's impossible. The folks with whom you share a residence would be shocked, horrified, and quite appalled!

The nerve! The effrontery! Oh horrors!

Well, perhaps not that bad. But you would far rather they didn't know about it at all. Even if your depravity was totally innocent and natural.

All depravity, with the possible exception of snarfing down dim sum, requires privacy.

Like dim sum, however, tea is an absolute must.

Even if all you plan to do is recline upon the sofa in your underwear reading trashy novels and munching crisp green apples all day.

Apples that remarkably are the same hue as your panties.

You need that cup of tea. It's the condicio sine qua non. A nice cup of tea just adds so much to life, don't you agree?

All of this is assuming that you are female. I have no interest in conceiving of this imaginary scene if the person wearing the French cuts, bikini briefs, or high cuts is male; I am not that depraved.
Nor do I wish to make a cup of tea if this is the case.

In actual fact, I am a very innocent person. While I can well imagine what someone suitable might look like, bathed in the sunlight of an early Monday morning while wearing only panties and munching apples (or a big plate of eggs, bacon, and hash-browns) and lazing about on the sofa, this is not likely to ever take place in my vicinity.
Seeing as I have no sofa, and it would therefore be on the bed.
Where the stuffed animals would demand their share.

"Feed us, strange person, and pet us too!"

They'd probably spill the tea.

Entirely aside from which, while the concept of a pleasingly unclothed (except for one or two scraps of material) person with qualities that I find charming invading my space for the express purpose of reclining and reading paperbacks is infinitely appealing, I know of none such.
It is, as you can guess, a fond fantasy.


There are almost insurmountable difficulties that would have to be overcome to make it happen.

Finding a candidate, plus verification of "conducive suitability".
Think of it as either due-diligence or expressions of interest.

The very first question would probably get me in trouble, and each subsequent question would only make it worse.

1) "Do you have nice cotton panties?"

2) "Do you like to read cheap literature?"

3) "Do you nibble on fruit while nearly nude?"
Fierce kick!

4) "Would you like me to make you a cup of tea while you relax in your high cuts, bikini briefs, or French cuts?"

And at this point, whoever it is will haul the pepperspray out of her purse and make my life a living hell. Everything else was just an hors d'oeuvre, this is the entrée.

The other obstacle is that the sunlight doesn't hit my window till the afternoon. So any languor would necessarily take place while my side of the building is shaded. There would be no sunlight dappling golden skin through the blinds till lunch time. Bit of a downer, I would think.

Besides, I'd probably say something wicked, or act like a hamsap.
Couldn't help myself, but it would destroy the mood.
I'm just a wee bit dirty minded.

It's a handicap.

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Sunday, January 26, 2014


At some point the old abandoned church at the corner of Larkin and Clay will be torn down, and replaced with a multi-storey condo building, with on-site parking for tenants. Which is sad, because I can remember when every Sunday the grim Lutheran congregation would populate the place. And tie up street parking.

Every neighborhood needs an abandoned church.
Lutherans, not so much.

"Where will you be this evening?"

"Near the old church, loudly smoking a pipe filled with a stinky Latakia mixture. Which keeps away the young layabouts with the cans of American beer, as they are non-smoking vegetarians, and, generally speaking, a bunch of wusses, easily scared by adult smells and sounds."

Well, that's not a conversation that ever could happen, as I usually ambulate around the neighborhood, and the young wusses would probably be scared of an abandoned church building anyway.
What with having read vampire comics as little children.
And being sensitive and modern and all that.
They've seen what's on television.
Wildlife frightens them.
As do smokers.

When I enjoy a pipe in the evening it's usually outdoors, as my long-time apartment mate is a non-smoker. And one must be considerate of good apartment-mates, they are incredibly hard to find.
I like her, and more crucially, I trust her.
She isn't around during the day, and doesn't come home until after six. Except for those evenings when she's seeing Dingus (a.k.a "Wheelie Boy", who is her love interest). But I often let the place air out for a minimum of three hours so that she won't notice anything when she returns. Often, between four and six PM, I head over to Chinatown for a snack and an hour of people watching. Or I'll end up at Sue Bierman Park listening to the parrots racketing in the tall trees for a while.
There are also crows in parts of the city. I like crows.
I have, perforce, become somewhat solitary.
Not entirely by choice.

One of these days I should hang out in front of the church, before they tear it down. They'll probably rip out the trees next to it too, and then put up large signs saying "no smoking within twenty feet of building".
So that whoever occupies the condominiums won't be offended.
And come screaming out, waving civic statutes.
Or be scared by the local wildlife.
Which includes me.

Enjoying tobacco is horrendously anti-social.
Just like clubbing baby harp seals.
Did you know that?


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I am an unabashed cynic. As well as an incurable romantic. Which both my readers and my friends may not entirely realize, as I am reasonably good at keeping my mouth shut. The civilized man does not wear his heart on his sleeve, lest it frighten away people afraid of moist and palpitating internal organs, and does not exhibit his emotions in public, because it might scare horses, little old ladies, and vegans.

We have to live with the horses and little old ladies, and we don't want them to bolt. If they did, that would be bad. Hooves and teeth.
Not so sure about vegans, however.
Are they any use?

When I woke up this morning, a scene from Whisper of the Heart was replaying in my head. It's one of my favourite movies, and one of the very best that Studio Ghibli ever produced.

[Definitely the nicest thing any song by John Denver was ever involved in.]

Basically, I'm a sucker for innocent romance and fairy-tale fantasy. Plus sensitivity, insight, and wit. Studio Ghibli caters to all of those weaknesses, and naturally I have seen almost everything they've done. The one movie that I resist, and probably will never watch, is Grave of the Fireflies; it is far too sad.

There is a keen difference between the mindless drivel most American animators produce and the thoughtful intro-spective stimuli that we exepct from Hayao Miyazaki and his friends. Part of it is the believability of his protagonists; they seem like the kind of person one would like to be, or like to know.

After a while, the green-haired monsters and ultra-busty femme-fatales of Disney and Pixar pall; the heroes and heroines of Ghibli live on, and invade one's dreams. Where they are always welcome guests.

What was it that I dreamt of, you ask?

It involved ramen noodles.

Don't know why.

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Saturday, January 25, 2014


The other evening K-chai and I left the Occidental early, as it was getting too crowded for conversation, and he needed to get up at a reasonable hour the next morning. While walking toward the metro station, I asked him if he had ever been in a particular drinking establishment that we just passed.

He indicated he had, but it was not his kind of place.

Which I can well understand. It isn't my kind of place either. It's a meat rack. Shallow and aggressive college grads go there in hopes of finding someone to boff.

Which, you will understand, is a lousy reason to go to a bar.
And alcohol is a perfectly idiotic reason for boffing.

I've always liked peaceful well-lit bars, but those are getting harder to find.
A place where one can simply read the papers while enjoying a pipe is almost entirely a thing of the past. Primarily because one cannot smoke in bars anymore, secondarily because people are just not used to or tolerant of non-social relaxation.
This is also why visiting my formerly favourite coffee shops in North Beach has disappeared from the plate. In one of them, I'm guaranteed inane chatterments with "artistic" types. Or maybe they're just skeevy;
there seems to be an enormous overlap there.
Skeevy bohemians.

Most other coffee shops are similar, and Starbucks doesn't appeal.

Besides, there aren't too many places where on can curl up and read for several hours anyway. Coffee shops just aren't particularly quiet now that everyone has ego problems and cell-phones.

The Occidental, on a quiet night, is a very pleasant place. Frequently one can have a worthwhile discussion about subjects other than sports, and no one in their right mind goes there to pick up sexual partners. Sure, occasionally one of the desperate pudgy middle-aged single-men might strike up a conversation with an unattached woman with precisely that goal in mind, but the rational patron will naturally assume that she's there NOT in hopes of random anonymous sex, but would appreciate semi-random semi-anonymous evidence of common humanity while she enjoys her smoke.

It is, as perhaps you know, the last place in San Francisco where one can smoke indoors. Consequently there is a reasonable presumption that the clientele are there primarily for that purpose.
Any desperation should be left outside.
We expect civilized behavior.

There aren't a lot of women who visit, because bars are often more of a man thing as one gets older. And many women do not appreciate cigars or even pipes.

Most Saturday evenings I will end up there after work, having stopped in Chinatown beforehand for a bite to eat. It used to be almost empty at that time, but the economy is improving, and recently young urban professionals have learned that cigars are a mighty cool thing. So sometimes they'll stop by on their way to the pick-up joint on Kearney Street, in order to compose their nasty minds beforehand, and get a head-start on the intoxication needed for random anonymous coupling.
On the whole, we are glad to see them leave.
Conversationally they offer little.
Plus they come in groups.
Male bonding.


Sex and alcohol should never be combined. If either party to the event needs Dutch courage (or the support of their peers), they probably shouldn't go forward. Sex, always, should be something you want to do while sober, with someone you actually like, whom you have seen in good light. And then only discreetly; not as the result of a social scene.
Are they a nice person; intelligent, decent, clean, and sane?
Could you ever introduce them to your friends?
Are they kind to your stuffed animals?
Can you trust them?

Personally, I cannot imagine bringing up the stuffed animals in a bar, and certainly not with someone tipsy. The chance of everything heading south at a rapid clip is far too great.

Stuffed animals can ONLY be discussed in private.

And then ONLY with nice people.

Final note: ALWAYS introduce your dates to your stuffed animals. But NEVER rely on the furballs for recommendations and romantic advice; they'll usually get it wrong. They're stuffed animals.

If you read this on Saturday evening, I may be at the Oxxy.

The stuffed animals wait disapprovingly at home.

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Friday, January 24, 2014


The furballs are getting out of hand! Not only do they try to steal my wallet while I'm asleep, they are now also assaulting each other with metal objects like ladles and scissors. This is what happens when you have stuffed animals.

Both the headsheep and the one legged monkey insist that they need the credit card ("plasticky thing") in my wallet. The intent is to phone in an order, for immediate delivery. The monkey wishes to purchase a banana plantation on which he will let his obedient white pickaninnies toil in the hot sun, the headsheep needs a parade and a whole bunch of grass suckies.
Good thing neither one of them has leverage.
A telephone requires moveable digits.
And they are stuffed animals.
As I mentioned.

The same logistical problems exist when they steal the ladle from each other and try to commit mayhem. Far too often I wake up to find one of them grunting because of the weight. They have no leverage. And it is bigger than they are. The spirit is willing, but the flesh is weak.
What with being mostly cotton wool.
Or something in that vein.

The other day the weird green flippery guy was over in my apartment mate's room, fondling a glittery thing. Which was in her jewelry box. She nearly flipped a lid, and threatened to murder him when she came home and caught him red handed in her bling. Green handed. He's a cross between a frog, a toad, and a ball of silky plush, so he's green.
The aura of menace nearly floored him.
He has been hiding out ever since.
With all the other criminals.
Fuzzy miscreants.
On my side.

In all honesty, I don't mind the furballs. One of the Totoro dolls was happily grinning and singing that he liked bikini time the other day. "I like bikini time, I like biniki time, I really really like bikini time, itsy bitsy witsy titsy zippity nickity lickity bikini time!" At first I thought it was his subtle and snarky comment on global warning, but when I asked him, it turned out that he particularly liked bikini time because everyone else would show goose-bumps and pimples, whereas he's quite covered with fur.
Can't see either of those things on him.
He looks GOOD in swimwear.
Gender bent & rotund.
But dashing.

As I said, the furballs are getting out of hand. I am surrounded by small insane entities. They are brazenly batty anarchists, and I need help keeping them in line. Which is why I am now taking applications for 'stuffed animal control officers'. Please forward your curriculum vitae and contact data by utilizing the handy clickable-link letterbox below.
No Viagra or Cialis spam, please.

Experience is not necessary.

Refreshment will be provided.

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Thursday, January 23, 2014


The selection of things that can be eaten in San Francisco after dark is more limited as the night progresses, and the callow young yuppie mob, driven to desperation, will finally feast upon bacon-wrapped hot dogs after two o'clock on weekends. Given that they are drunk at the time, and all their attempts to find happy procreative exercise with a mindless member of whatever gender is appropriate for their peculiarity have come to naught, it seems fitting that the dog be smothered, with grilled onion, chiles en escabeche, and three high-caloric condiments.
Soft, disguised; a hidden ground turkey.

Physically deprived yet stomach-satisfied, they will at last fall asleep on stained mattresses in the code-monkey barracoons they call home.
All of this is very reminiscent of some of the more frightening scenes of geekitude in Big Bang Theory, though the cast is different, and not so intelligent.

As both the bookseller and several of my Punjabi friends would say
"it is buggery sad!"

Their frantic glandular questing has stumbled over mediocre tiffin.

If better food post-midnight were available, they might get some.

What the poor dears need is some nicely grilled animal protein, spicy and redolent of a caravan sarai north of Samarkhand. Or perhaps of a thriving camel market somewhere between Jullunder and Peshawar.
You know, exotic. That inevitably leads to romance.
Two pairs of befuddled eyes meet over a plate of juicy chunks, two greasy hands reach out for a touch of spice, two hot bodies mingle in the perfume of a distant fire..........

Actually, they need to cut out the liquor; it affects performance.
And makes for some really bad 'spontaneous' decisions.

Grilled chicken pieces.

One cup fresh yoghurt.
One cup chopped fresh coriander leaves (cilantro).
Thumb-length ginger, chopped.
Half dozen cloves garlic, chopped.
1-2 TBS ground coriander.
½ TBS ground cumin.
½ TBS cayenne.
1 Tsp. dry ginger.
½ Tsp. turmeric.
½ Tsp. cinnamon powder.
½ Tsp ground black pepper.
½ Tsp. salt.
½ Tsp. orange food coloring.
Two TBS lime juice.

2 Lbs. chicken, boned and skinned, large chunk cut.

One onion sliced into very thin rings.
Fresh green chilies, sliced.
Lime wedges for squeezing.
Generous pinches of amchoor.
Pinch of salt.

Dump all marinade ingredients except the yoghurt into the food processor, grind smooth. Mix with the yoghurt, and marinate the chicken for several hours therein inside the refrigerator.

Spear the chicken chunks on skewers and grill over red hot coals. Brush with ghee two or three times, allowing the excess to drip into the fire and flare up.

Once the chicken is cooked, put it on a heated platter and set it aside temporarily.

Put the onion rings and sliced chilies in a bowl, squeeze the lime over, and sprinkle with the amchoor and the pinch of salt. Mix well. Strew some over the chicken, and dump the rest next to it.

Best served with fresh buttery naan, of course, but rice pilaf and a crisp salad also can. If you are English, make an emulsified sauce using butter, heavy cream, tomato paste, and a touch of coconut milk, with generous pinches of cayenne and ground cumin.

Obviously I like the concept of street-side chicken tikka, available in late evenings. However the realization that this would likely encourage rutting behaviours among the youthful Midwesterners recently swarmed to our city frightens me. Perhaps the grill-wallahs should set up under the trees on Hyde Street instead of Polk. Migrant waspy vodka-jugend don't travel uphill; they never developed those muscles while they were at Cow-town State.
So it would, without a doubt, attract a far better class of people.
Fewer individuals so "white" that they glow in the dark.
More mature San Franciscans, of any age.
Better brighter eyes.

Actually, I can imagine myself there someday, reaching out across a plate of zesty grilled meat and 'accidentally' stroking the warm velvety skin of a soft soft arm.....

Hand me that bowl of lime-chili-onions, my dear.

All we need afterwards is masala chai.

Mmm, you smell good.


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Wednesday, January 22, 2014


As some of you are aware, this blogger joined OK Cupid a while back. Many years ago, when I signed up on a dating site as Borat Sagdaiev, the results were stellar. Every week someone new deeply desired to meet an ultra butch and sweatily masculine demon lover. I never responded to any of them, of course, because it had been meant as a joke, and at the time I was in a relationship which I hoped would last forever. No doubt they've all found the Kazakh husband of their dreams by now.
When I signed up for OK Cupid, I did not have any expectation that much would come of it, as I realized that Borat was in all ways a more exciting person than I could ever be.
Even if entirely fictional.
Mmmm, mankini!

Recently I browsed through profiles.

Nobody on OK Cupid is even remotely interesting.

They've all written the same boring inoffensive bland stuff.

I have too, but we're not talking about me.

Everybody on OK Cupid is a keen traveler who loves food and movies or music, cares deeply about her job, friends, and family, and has or doesn't have a dog and a cat. They're committed, loyal, and are fascinated by different cultures, languages, and hanging out on Friday night with co-workers, homies, and fellow members of the choral society.
Or watching teevee with someone special.
Some of them drink (socially), smoke (never), and have one coy little secret that they are embarrassed to share with everyone on OK Cupid (which they do). OMG.

They like (or don't) Chinese food, Thai food, Korean food, Italian food, French food, Japanese food, Vegetarian muck, Vietnamese noodle soup, and anything ethnic. Including Mexican. Or not.

Some of them have jobs they hate. Some of them just love their work.
A number of them are thinking of going back to school. Either before they ever have kids, or after the grandchildren move out.

Quite a few are spiritual, funny, and creative.
Many of them have favourite teams.
And a number love to laugh.

They are ALL undoubtedly nice likable people, and very unremarkable.
This is uninspiring! There is not a single one whose profile is actually compelling enough that I would ever want to meet them (other than perhaps the tattooed Slavic single mother with a dog).

Or the bespectacled person committing a very proper act with a large stuffed Totoro doll, but I'm not sure she really exists.

4. 3. 5. 1. 2. 6.

So I've taken it upon myself to write some imaginary profiles that show possibly intriguing aspects of single women. Different personalities, with far more interesting details than ninety nine out of ten people on OK Cupid. But I'll simply name them all "Somethingsaurus", because you wouldn't believe how many woman are something plus saurus.
Snackasaurus, Laughasaurus, Joggasaurus, Teddybearosaurus.

"I'll do nearly anything for sushi! Including unspeakable acts and watching your damned Forty Niners, even though I absolutely HATE football. Though if you force me, it will cost you A LOT of fish!
All I want is a neatly dressed recently bathed man who can sit at the sushi counter with me while I stuff my face, who won't say "I'll simply have some of yours". Get your own. And on second thought, screw the Niners.

Let's eat."

"We shall galumph over the hills and wastelands of San Francisco, howling at the moon! We are the wolves of inner-city decay, we are the rampaging beasts of suburban nightmare. Let us chivy tourists and snap at their heels. Then let us passionately undulate and wriggle like sex-starved weasels, if the time seems opportune for that kind of stuff.
And if it's not too beastly cold."

"F*ck travelling together to exotic lands. Let's read books instead. We'd do that in the air-conditioned hotel room in Buenos Aires anyway, might as well do exactly the same thing here. You quietly in your corner, and I in mine.
Then, innocently, we will snake out our legs, and twiddle and interlock naked toes."

"Help me mind this horrid cat. And bring over some fresh apples.
You get the lumpy chair. Thank you."

"Are your habits eccentric enough to appall my parents? Mom's a spiritual vegetarian, my dad is wishy-washy, politically correct, and grows his own wheatgrass. Both of them hate smoking, liquor, burgers, and caffeinated beverages. Pick me up for a date wearing a fur coat and smoking a cigar, and give me an extra tall double latte instead of flowers. We'll have the bestest time! No weirdoes, please."

"Morose antisocial person wishes to be left alone. Can you do that?
And can you also leave a bowl of soup outside my bedroom door?
I probably wouldn't mind exploiting your body until you fall asleep once in a blue moon, provided you don't bring up angst, existentialism, religion, or your job, while we have post-coitus cigarettes afterwards. I really don't want to hear about your job and your aspirations. Or butterflies. I hate butterflies.
Sometimes I'm affectionate."

Personally, I feel that these profiles are more honest and realistic than anything on the dating sites of the world. Not necessarily alluring and inviting, but never the less infinitely more enchanting than any amount of poofle on OK Cupid. These are women with whom one could easily get along, and if after hot beverages and bund cake down at the coffee shop nothing further happened, one might still be friends, and say something like "let's go eat" occasionally.

The first two impress as delightfully wicked, numbers three and four sound both practical-minded and extremely charming, and five and six are possibly dangerous, in an innocent girlish sort of way.

If I saw any of these profiles, I would definitely write.
And then hope that something good came of it.
I could even put up with the horrid cat.
Or the appalling parents.

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A few years ago, when I first posted a self-portrait as a badger with a pipe on this blog, one of my regular readers expressed concern. Not at my eccentric fantasy-identity, OR at the concept that a wild animal would be a tobacco maven. All reasonably intelligent people imagine themselves as animals at times, though it is mighty worrying if the beast is a cartoon kitty-cat or something equally inane, and everyone knows that some animals indulge in habits that up until the eighties were considered normal, like smoking.

Animals know that pipes inculcate calmness, worthwhile introspection, and a mastery of the civilized approach to life. Which is extremely important. If you see an animal with a pipe, don't even think of taking it away or remonstrating with him (her). He (she) is likely to snap and growl if you do.
Cartoon kitty-cats smoke big dumb-ass cheroots.
Feel free to remonstrate.

What my reader said was: "Mr. Badger looks a mite thin, though. I'm a Jewish mother; this concerns me."

Badgers, in case you didn't know, are supposed to be stocky and box-like, and resemble fuzzy Sherman tanks. However, underneath our gruff exterior we're actually fairly friendly, and like the appreciation of our peers.
Precisely like Jewish mothers.

"Mr. Badger looks a mite thin. I'm a Jewish mother; this concerns me."

Thank you for your concern. But please do not worry. Mr. Badger is presently fitter than he has been in years, and whenever he catches a glimpse of himself in the hallway mirror, as he marches off to the shower in little else but his birthday fur, he finds the view not too displeasing. Not exactly an athletic build -- have you EVER seen a badger do the hundred-yard dash? -- nor even Adonis-like by the standards of romance-novel dust-jackets, but on the whole not a fright-sight.

[In all honesty, somewhat more otter-like. Still, no 100 yard dash.]

Women, as is well-known, cannot judge fat and lean accurately.
The normal female always thinks herself too much of the first, and is programmed to consider all other people just about right, or too thin, enviably so. There may be a biological basis for this. Perhaps our early maternal ancestors were conditioned to fight other females for territory, scarce sources of food, and handbags.

Body fat, in the savage social world of the early feminine hominids, was a competitive disadvantage; it meant no Jimmy Choo shoes.
Or sago-palm grubs, if they were living in the tropics.

There's tonnes of valuable nutrition in sago-palm grubs.
Not so much in Hello Kitty handbags or expensive shoes, but they're good for clobbering other women, and asserting one's rightful place next to the fire where the tree-possum is roasting.

If you've ever been hit with Hello Kitty luggage, you know this.

Early man probably avoided Hello Kitty.

The Jewish mother cited above may rest easy. Mr. Badger is well-fed, living primarily on snackipoos and noodles, with the occasional dish of bittermelon and fish over rice. He gets enough exercise, and other than existential or romantic hunger-pangs, does not feel empty. He putters around his lair with a pipe in his mouth, and will often go into the kitchen to fix himself some milk-tea. Which, as everyone knows, means a cookie. Sometimes a cucumber sandwich.

Yep. Trimmer than I've been in years.

I look like a thirty-year old.

Non-Jewish mothers can stop laughing right now, it's a mature thirty-year old. One with gravitas and a pleasantly curious face.

Not some callow barely post-pubescent ex-highschool jock, but a bookish and articulate adult. I have keen questions, and can hold my own conversationally, without ever once mentioning sports.
About which I sneer.

The modern American woman, echoing her prehistoric ancestresses, considers fat on men a sign of success, and any scrap of it on herself a defect. She's perfectly all right with the appearance of other women, however. Exceptions being the frontal fetish thingies; many of them have bought into the infantile masculine obsession on that score. Consequently she will entirely overlook the aesthetic value of NOT looking like a bag of bones with two cumbrous flotation devices attached.
And praise her peers who are exactly thus.
While obsessing over food.
And starving.

In the world of pipe-smoking badgers, a woman who is rational and a realist, while imagining herself a fierce weasel or stoat, is, naturally, a worthwhile and desirable quantity. Especially if she likes rumpled sweaters, puttering around the den looking for tea and cookies, and prefers to read all day instead of galloping over the savannas in her high-heeled shoes looking for other women to clobber with her Hello Kitty handbag. A woman who does not eat sago grubs, burnt tree possum, or diet-salads with chunks of tofu.
And owns no Hello Kitty tat.

Weasels and stoats, like badgers, are solitary creatures, and rarely venture into the social cattle-pen. Alas, they seldom encounter one and other, being preternaturally adept at hiding, and often live entirely unaware of the other's presence. Perhaps they spend too much time in their dens, fixing themselves cups of tea and reading.

All mustelidae (weasels, stoats, badgers, and even otters) are nowhere near the sago-grubs, and often too far aways from the roasting tree-possum. Which is horribly greasy, and somewhat off; we probably wouldn't want a taste anyway, even if we could dart in and snatch it with all those other prehistoric personages about.

Have you SEEN that nasty thing?

It's positively grinning!

Sago grubs.


Roast duck, barbecued pork, noodles, and mustard stalks. Sole meuniere, boiled lobster, shrimp bisque, and crusty bread. Carbonadde Flammande, little pork chops with red cabbage, frites, and moules Bruxelloise. Sushi, sashimi, and shabu shabu. Hot pot, po chai faan, rice stick, and oyster sauce broccoli. Darjeeling tea, clotted cream and scones, preserves. Darling little meat balls and roast eggplant puree. Shrimp bonnets, black bean spare ribs, taro croquettes, and the big chicken bun. Pork vindaloo, sorpotel, Kabuli pilaf, and fresh buttery naan. Blinis with sour cream and jam, borsht, kapusniak, and kulebiak. Bami goreng, rending, and gulai ayam.
Boeuf Bourguignonne, coq au vin. Cioppino. Crab.

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Tuesday, January 21, 2014


Two Germans came into the dim sum eatery while I was dawdling over coffee, and one of them asked the counter-woman what they had that was vegetarian. At which point, had I been in a volunteerish mood, I would've spoken up and informed them that "nur wenig hier ist vegetarische kost, den die Kantonezen sind ein fleish-liebende volk" - 'there is very little here that is vegetarian, as the Cantonese are a meat-loving people'. But had I done so, I would have been involved in a three-way conversation between them and the counter-woman, who already knows that I speak enough of her language to order......

I am fluent in English, and also in Netherlandish.
Everything else fades into frustration.

…… 因為廣東人好鍾意食肉!

And by fluency I mean that I can discuss food, pipes and tobacco, history, and cultural-political factoids of the world. Plus serious literature like Wind in the Willows ("De Wind in de Wilgen"), a famous book by Kenneth Grahame ("een zeer geprezen boek geschreven door Kenneth Grahame"), and many of the works of Nabokov ("en vele van de romans van Vladimir Vladimirovitsj Nabokov"), who is mostly better known and appreciated in the English-speaking world than elsewhere ("die meer gewaardeerd word in de Engels-talig wereld dan elders").

All of my points of reference exist for me in English. This is natural, as it is the one language I have used multiple times a day for most of my life. Yet most of what I keenly appreciate exists in foreign terminology. And many of the words used to describe these things in English are also foreign.

柳林中的風聲 ……

For example, explaining that wu tau gok (芋頭角) is made from wu tau, which is taro, known to the Romans as Colocasia....... okay, none of those three names is a native English word. In Dutch we might describe it as "een knolleke uit de Aronskelk familie, als voedsel veelal gebruikt in Zuid-Oost Azië en de Polynesische eilanden".
A little tuber from the Arum family, used as food, commonly in South-East Asia and the Polynesian islands.

No, I will not attempt any of that in German.

It's hard enough speaking English to people who don't know what I am talking about. It would be both irresponsible and cruel to attempt that in languages that I've barely mastered.

Best to simply sit in the back, sipping my coffee and observing the happy chaos.

Caffeinated beverages, snacky things, smoking a pipe, and reading, are, perforce, solitary pursuits. Few people are avid about any of those things, fewer still all four.

It's very lonely out in the desert, gringo.


No wonder I'm not dating anyone. I haven't met a woman who has read both W.i.t.W. and Nabokov, or keeps her own list of interesting books that perhaps shows a quirky literary taste. The other three things seem to be mostly man habits in any case. Yet a tolerance for at least two of those peculiarities would be very nice.

I would place a personal ad if I thought it might work.

"Snarky badger seeks small furry companion."
"Must like meat!"

I'd probably get nothing but middle-aged gay men looking for daemon-lovers that snarl and bite. Or hate-mail from humourless activists outraged at my impugning the noble animal-Americans, who surely are all peaceful and spiritual, because only upright apes kill other creatures for food.
Most non-animal-Americans seem irony-impaired.
Many of them are somewhat witless too.
And obsessively dull.

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Monday, January 20, 2014


Per a BBC article, a bat travelled over six hundred miles, from England across the sea to Holland. The creature is quite utterly small, and such a journey is an incredible feat.

There are two ways of looking at this datum.

The alarmist paranoid panicky way: "Oh no, the invasion has begun! Run for your lives, aaaugh!" After screaming this balderdash, you start weeping like a teapartier, convinced that the bat will take away your gun.

The fairy-tale approach: "Oh hero bat! A famous Japanese animation artist needs to do a sensitive full-length feature about you! It will be heartwarming and poetic!"

When I was about ten or eleven years old, I started reading about bats.
I already knew that they were mammals ("creatures with a nipple thing"), and a very diverse set of species (over a thousand types), and I knew that most people were utterly terrified of them. But that wasn't what made them fascinating. It was seeing them flitting around at night, in the illumination zone of the streetlight on the Kerk Weg ("church road") that ran along our property. Holland is a very insect-rich country, what with being wet and temperate and fertile and all. There was plenty of food for insectivorous animals.

Plus it was a natural progression from mice and voles.
Start with Beatrix Potter at six, graduate to Wind in the Willows at eight, discover toads and forest frogs in Switzerland while on vacation, and before you know it, there are bats.

One of my mother's requisites for our vacation spots was that there should be a stream or brook there, and few or no other tourists. One can relax while soaking one's feet and rearranging rocks, or spend a summer afternoon reading in a quiet place where there is water and sun.
Switzerland meant aquatic creatures and upland pastures.

Switzerland at that time also had bats. They probably still do. Small winged fuzz balls flittering around street lights in the villages and above streams at twilight. Very nice.


The English bat mentioned in the BBC article is the Nathusius' Pipistrelle, a tiny vespertillionid. The body, including the tail, is about two inches, the wingspan no more than eight. When seen in flight, they may from a distance remind the observer of a butterfly, until what was silhouetted several yards away is distinguished at close range. They are a scarce presence, and among the most migratory of bats.

The night journey of the lone individual that went from England to Holland is an epic feat.

One can only wonder what it experienced, and what it thought of the newness.

A different place to roost, and other bats it did not know.

But such a nice wet smorgasbord!

So many bugs!

[Photo: D Hargreaves, British Conservation Trust]

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Sunday, January 19, 2014


The woman from Hoi Ping showed up at the bus stop with her twelve year old daughter. Whose appearance in all ways demonstrates how pretty her mom must have been when she was barely an adult. She's still an attractive woman. Pretty, in an intelligent kind of way.
Which is always the best kind.

And, unlike many teenagers, the girl seemed well-tempered.
Must be that excellent parentage.

I am, in all ways, most unsuitable company for a Hoipingese girl and her innocent little mom. Being, myself, a rancid Dutch American Gentleman. Middle aged. Daemonic. Reeking of tobacco. Given to hot sauce, and occasionally indulgent in a nip of whisky.
Cynical, and dry.

As I was that evening. I was heading into Chinatown for a spot to eat, after which I wandered over to the cigar bar for quiet introspection with a pipe filled with flake, plus a shot of Scotch.

The daughter seems quite sweet, still an unknowable subject at that age. But the mom has plenty of character, and a very likable personality.

I am a decade and a half older. And a sinful man.

Still, I know how to behave. Life is so much smoother and more enjoyable if at all times one can be gallant and considerate.
For all parties.
Both women should go to college . Maximize the potential which I notice is there. Adult education for one -- English better than my rotten Cantonese is a jolly good idea -- and Junior college very soon for the other.
She can probably handle the material.

While waiting for the bus, all three of us observed the loony nearby, who discoursed to an invisible person about her husband and her teacher.
And went over several numerical sequences, obsessively.
Some people ain't prepared for prime time.
Despite their mathematics.

I cannot remember what they were wearing. But their eyes were more than enough fancy.

This middle-aged goobus is a sucker for intelligent expressive eyes.

Provided there is an active mind behind.

At least.

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Game day. The San Francisco team is playing against some other team.
Oh the humanity and all that. We're quite excited.

The most important part of the event may be the pizza.

Good pizza requires a yeast dough.

Are you eating that?

As you may have guessed, I am not vested in the game.

What kind of skirt you wear is more important.

Provided you don't care also.

It's just a game.

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Saturday, January 18, 2014


Yesterday, in passing, I mentioned stuffed cabbage, while referring to a completely imaginary Romanian beauty queen. It could has easily been Miss Podgorika Light Industrial Zone of 1995, instead of Miss Sarmalute of 1995. The point is, she's a blowzy blonde and past her prime, and I was thinking of cabbage.
I've been doing that a lot lately. It's the strangest thing.
Cabbage has cropped up several times here.
Both crisp and limp.

[See: fatty meat and cabbage post January 13 and Sour Cabbage Soup January 10 for the embodiments of cabbage thought. Mui choi kau yuk, suen choi pak yuk, and kapusniak.]

However, having teased your mental taste buds with a hint of kapusta yaprak yesterday, it would be unfair not to dump an entire bucket of the stuff over you now.

Yes, I know, you'd probably far rather have Miss Slavyanka Steelworks 1995 instead, but we have cabbage. It's good for you.

[Golubtsi, Golumpki, Sarmale, Sarma.]

Two heads of cabbage.
Two pounds ground pork.
Two onions, finely chopped.
Two or three garlic cloves, finely chopped.
One cup of raw rice.
Two pounds of tomatoes.
Handful of fresh herbs.
Big pinch dried thyme.
One TBS paprika.
One Tsp. ground pepper.
Pinches salt, nutmeg, clove, and cinnamon.
Three or four bay leaves.
Jigger of sherry.
Juice of one lemon.

Chicken broth or good stock: 1½ - 2 cups.
Several rashers of smoked bacon, sliced.

Sautée the onions and garlic in a little olive oil. When they have become translucent and soft, add the paprika and cook for another minute or so, then set aside to cool.

Meanwhile, bring water to boil in a large pot . Core of the cabbages and when the water boils, dump the cabbage in. Peel off the leaves one by one as they start to get soft and put them on a plate. You need them soft and limp so that they can be rolled; this means painful fingertips. Trim off the stiffest parts.

When done, hold each tomato over an open flame with a fork, to char the skin and facilitate peeling, or blanch them in the boiling water to the same purpose. Personally, I prefer the fire method; it tastes better. Once peeled, core them and remove the pips. Then chop coarsely, and mix in whatever fresh herbs you judge suitable.

Mix the meat with the onions, garlic, rice, and powdered spices, plus a pinch of salt.

Put a spoonful of this mixture on a limp cabbage leaf and roll it up, tucking in the edges like a burrito or an eggroll. Whatever cabbage is left over should be chopped and put in the bottom of the pot. Arrange the cabbage rolls on top, add the bay leaves. Cover this with the chopped tomato, and add the stock, plus water to cover and the dash of sherry.
Dump the smoked bacon on top.
Squeeze the lemon over.

Place the vessel in the oven at 350 degrees for four hours, check on it occasionally.

A very large clay pot is perfect for making this, so is a large enameled Dutch oven or stew pot.

Two things to take note of: the rolls should be loose enough that the rice within can comfortably expand, and the pot should only be half-way filled for the same reason.
If the top surface of the tomato congeals a bit, that will concentrate the flavours, which is something you want.

Serve alongside potatoes or polenta, with some nice crusty fresh bread. A shot or two of plum brandy is traditional, but I rarely have that in the house. And actually, given that the recipe above is enough for half a dozen people I seldom make it like that anyway. There's only one of me, you see, and I'd have to eat sarma for the rest of the week if I did. My apartment mate is not exceptionally fond of such things, and is neurotic about her weight besides.

Hot peppers, fresh or pickled, also belong on the table.

*       *       *       *       *

These past few years, whenever a recipe calls for ground pork, I simply use Italian sausage, filling squooze out. The meat is already spiced a bit, and has the requisite balance of fattiness. And anything that requires cooking for longer than an hour, forget about it. There's little point in spending a whole heck of a lot of time in the kitchen when you're not cooking for other people.

I almost never buy European ball cabbages anymore.
There's always too much left over.

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Friday, January 17, 2014


Yesterday someone shook my hand three times because I was smoking a pipe. And, apparently, I totally rule. But I would have been a lot more charmed if he had been a woman.
And, if he had been a woman, I would have explained that instead of huffing cigars, which he-who-would-better-have-been-a-woman did, a pipe was within her reach. And provided an immeasurably broader spectrum of pleasure than a cheroot.

Though women will, like men, occasionally sport a cigar even if they aren't regular smokers, quite unlike men they will not acquire a pipe for that once every two or three weeks moment when they need time to themselves, indulging in a quiet hour with a cup of tea and a spot of resinous puffery.
That's very odd. It can't be the expense -- many women own shoes they haven't worn since that ghastly wedding of their third-cousin the failed real-estate developer to the Romanian beauty queen Miss Sarmalute (stuffed cabbage) of 1995 -- but the idea of having a secret object of delicious vice hidden in their clean underwear drawer disturbs them.
Somehow, it seems to suggest, they aren't wholly innocent.
It might be discovered, and require explanation.

Stuffed cabbage is sarmale, in case you were wondering. From Turkish 'sarma' ("rolled"). It's often served with peppers and polenta (mamaliga).
Romanians do fabulous pork dishes, and soups both hearty and satisfying. Frequently there is a haunting tanginess to their food.
They also have an array of sweet dishes.
As well as tripe.

The individual who so admired the fact that I smoked a pipe was the male equivalent of Miss Sarmalute 1995. Under no circumstances would one describe him as petite, trim, or vibrant. Though there may have been a perkiness still lurking within from long ago.

We judge people differently because of their gender. A man who yearns to smoke a pipe, we feel, is expressing an individuality, and doing the best he can to get in touch with repressed feelings.
Quite unfairly, a woman who would like to smoke a pipe is often considered to be a shoe-collector gone horribly wrong, and possibly a closet intellectual. With 'artistic' tendencies.

For my next project, I should like to instruct a young lady in the finer points of pipe smoking. Well-made briar objects, fine even grain, superlatively old wood, and a silky surface. Translucent patterning. What to look for in a sandblast, and why some shapes are classic.
Aged leaf, Latakia and Perique, and the numerous choices.

It's not just about indulgence or nicotine; it's also training for a lifetime of spotting aspects of quality, and making distinctions of taste.

Everyone experiments with aromatic mixtures for a while, but the educated palate eschews such perfumed trickery.

Above all, it's a learning process.

Continue to learn.
Avoid tripe.


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Sometimes, out of the corner of your ear, you hear something that tingles. While we were eating she mentioned that she admired crows because...