Tuesday, January 31, 2023

THAT ACTUALLY REMINDS ME

One of the characteristics of cigar smokers is an almost unbearable snooty one-upmanship. Everything they do is special. They have the best motorcars, the correctest political ideas, the most elite hiking shoes, and exquisite tastes, far better than yours. Their cheeses are well-chosen, their liquours oh my heavens how refined.

Great wine. Great shakes. Great Scotch.

It's one hundred dollars a pour.

Because it is noble.

As well as names almost entirely unpronouncable by commoners. Awesome.

Of course, after four fine cigars accompanied by one or two pours each, our happy snob is ready to rumble. Or slide off his silk-upholstered bar stool and call an Uber. Because he knows his insurance would go up if he crashed the Porsche.


I would like to claim that pipesmokers are not at all like that; except that we are. Some of us positively gloat over our fine briars carved by the virgin hands of master craftsmen, and our broad ranging stockpiles of blends, including rare Crimean Gavniyok, not produced since the time of the Czars. As well as this cunning antique pipe tamper that folds out to show Saint Anthony pierced by arrows! The perfectly calibrated prong is a scraper!


It's a bit hard to swallow. You've just set fire to some leaves, and will progressively sabotage your tastebuds for the next forty minutes. As well as social interactions, because people will avoid you. That latter is partly the point of the exercise.


Depending on the person, I do not mind being bothered while I smoke.
Especially if she is nice, and finds the pipe appealing.
But really, that never happens.



NOTE: Less than twenty minutes ago I was outside smoking a Dunhill shell billiard, bent, patent no. 417574/34, which Mark Kaufman used to have. Not a bad smoke, but I seldom take it outside the house. Mark passed away over four decades ago. So it's a memento.
No charming passer-by smiled in happiness at the sight or smell.




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DO YOU LIKE MY CRAVATTE?

As you probably know, much of my social life is virtual. Meaning that I interact with people thousands of miles away who share many of the same interests: food, kittens and other furry beasts, linguistics, South East Asian history, tea, and pipe smoking. Some of these fields are not quite fascinating in the same way to all of us. My linguistic interests are broad, but also narrow. Food-wise I'm variable in the extreme. The furry beasts must show quirky intelligence (so chihuahuas are right out, but meerkats are a distinct possibility). The Swedish Chef.
As regards pipe smoking, hobbits and pirates aren't part of the programme.
Tolkien and Sir Arthur Conan Doyle are not it.
Simenon is.

People will post pictures of themselves. "Here is me enjoying an obscure branch of the Ural Altaic language family." "This is a wet curry I made." "My dog has fleas; hi flea."
"A crow and my cat playing on my left foot."

So far this morning I've seen five pipe smoker selfies. Nice pictures of gentlemen exquisitely dressed, distinguished looking, at ease, and self-composed. So, happily joining in, here's a picture of me enjoying the second pipe of the day:
The pipe in this picture is a Dunhill Patent which I had during the Crimean War. I purchased it when on leave in Novo Nogaisk, at the famous old tobacco shop on Sanatornaya Ploshchad in the old city, near the delightful cafè where Sigmund Freud wrote The Silmarillion, and Ulysses, occupying a corner table looking out at the trams, which inspired him.
I am dressed as Lord Nelson.


Young people these days, what is this world coming to?


Among the things which Millenials don't know how to use are rotary phones, pencils, and mediaeval armour. It's so sad, they'll never know the joy we had as children.
Plus Wysushena Bobrovi Kozha Original Mixture.
Made by Sobranie of London.
Tragic.



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THIS SHOW IS A MUST-SEE!

Delightfully offbeat usually means 'pretentious dreck'. That is a conclusion to which I jumped while the advertisements on the rent-a-mystery ceedee were playing. The apartment mate is watching Columbo. She's rediscovering her childhood in a way. This is the same woman who memorized Valley Of The Dolls in its glorious stinking entirety. Words. Songs.
Dramatic over-acting, histrionics, and bathos.

Columbo.

I do not expect her to pick up cigars.
She hates the damned things.
Even the green ones.


"I have to maintain quality, that's what gives me control."


She does not like the character of Columbo, finds him rather odious. Which is thoroughly understandable. An icky irritating man, who probably stank of cheap candela cheroots and tuna fish sandwiches. Personal habits and character traits which grate. It is amazing to find him referencing his wife so often. Even more when you consider that in real life the actor who played the man is now in the slammer for whacking his spouse.
Let's hope she never wants to explore Kojak. Which made lollipops popular, and bald men seem exciting, in the person of an odious New Yorker. The world is filled with odious New Yorkers, and we've all heard about the damned pizza and bagels by now.

[Important correction as of 11:25 PM on Tuesday January 31: Peter Falk didn't off his wife. He passed away on June 23, 2011.
I may have been thinking of Robert Blake. I am sorry.]


Delightfully offbeat, quirky, and entertainment for the whole family.

The Seventies were a decade we were glad to see end.

Unfortunately the Reagan-era followed.

Hollywood needs to apologize.




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Monday, January 30, 2023

VALUABLE LIFE HACKS

Underneath something about chocolate, a reader (Alcyon) wrote: "I'm far from hip to what's going on, in any field, but I believe your situation was anticipated and accommodated for long, long ago: chocolate with chili. I'm sure you've encountered it; thoughts?

I think I enjoyed it. However, it's rather expensive and, more to the point, so exotic to my taste, that I couldn't feel comfortable consuming it regularly. Mind, I come from an Irish and French-Canadian background, both sides of a hardscrabble nature. A pepper-grinder is quite suspect, and dash of mustard on the corned beef is invigorating!

In other news, a sister returns today from a brief stay in France. She promises to bring back some Caporal tobacco. A most vile concoction I admit, but it will bring back memories; looking forward to it. If you had said twenty years ago that Mac Baren would be the makers of it...pfft! C'est impossible!
"

End cite.

Regarding chocolate with chili, yep, encountered it. I am not a fan. Contrast is nice, combo sometimes isn't. For instance, I also like coffee and hazelnut flavour. But not in the same vessel, bugger the tendency of Starbucks to bollix both up together.
One after the other. Not with.

Mention of French Canadians must always remind me of poutine, pursuant which the video clip of the Swedish Chef preparing that while in Montreal comes to mind. A classic. Please look it up on youtube. I like poutine, but as a complete barbarian I will add hot sauce to it.

Mention of caporal reminds me of smoking on the mezzanine at the Caffè Mediterraneum (Telegraph Avenue, Berkeley) during my college days. The air was blue up there, and packs of Gitanes and Gauloises were on every table. Sheer heaven. Nowadays that's verboten, and gluten-free non gmo low fat snacks are encouraged in such places; the air is filled with yoga pants and Guatamalan fabrics instead, and the reek of tofu dominates.
The Caffè Med apparently no longer exists.

Per Wikipedia: In July 2016, the French government considered a ban on both the Gauloises and Gitanes cigarette brands because they were deemed "too stylish and cool".

Godverdomme!

I have not been to Berkeley in years.
Or France.


Something that the good burgers of Berkeley would no doubt find ultra-objectionable is a life hack seen on social media, advising as a tip for tall people: "tie a balloon on your short friend so you can easily spot them from crowded places".
Personally, I think that's brilliant. The world is filled with short people who are lost, dwarfed and surrounded by tall glandular freaks from the MidWest, football players and similar types, whose sweaty armpits are at nose-level. We must save them from this horrible circumstance! If we can spot them, they can be rescued. We'll yank them away from the hordes of galloots, give them a nice hot cup of chocolate to help them recover, or a cappucino, plus a pack of Gitanes or Gauloises, and talk comfortingly of existentialism and poetry to them.

[Sadly, Gauloises and Gitanes are no longer imported into the United States. neither are tins of State Express 555 straights, or Player's Navy Cut. Nor Woodbines. But will a pack of Camel non-filters suffice?]


Life can only get better!

When I was still a young adult in North Brabant, I was considered tall average at five feet eight and a half inches. Since then, encouraged by high school and college sportscoaches and sundry misguided dieticians, American youth have been fed a surfeit of cheeseburgers and bovine growth hormones, and have ballooned to freakish heights. Especially in areas where junior executives and degrees in marketing are common. Can't get on an office building elevator anymore without all these mutant weirdoes surrounding one.
What is this world coming to?!?!

Yes, nurse Mak at the hospital gauged my height to be five foot seven when she put me up against the measuring markings, but she herself cannot have been taller than five feet, and could not see the top of my head. So she must have over-estimated my shoes and hair.
We compromised at five foot eight. Short people are cute that way.

My mother once informed me that smoking and drinking coffee would stunt my growth.
But I already towered over her when she said that. I think she was four foot ten.
I have NEVER needed a balloon.


Pepper grinders suspect? C'est incroyable! We Netherlanders have been accompanied by our trusty pepper grinders for four centuries, and we conquered the world! We gallavanted the heck out of Africa and South East Asia with them. Pepper grinders are good!

They're probably a symbol of oppression and colonial exploitation or something and banned in Berkeley because they trigger people. Everything is banned in Berkeley.
If you visit, best bring your own pepper grinder.
Flaunt it.



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CONSIDERING A BOTTLE

There is a great similarity among some pipe smokers, hot pepper fiends, elderly gay men, and Christian true believers: we like fresh meat. When we see some bright young person thoroughly enjoying our own depravity, it gives us a warm feeling and we feel soft inside.
It's perverse, but extraordinarily innocent. I had lovely discussions with not one but two extremely nice youthful intelligent fellows this past weekend with excellent taste in briars and high quality tobaccos (Flue-cured leaf, both men). It did my shrivelled heart good.
Welcome to the dark side, you sweet young things.
We have cookies!

Such rosy cheeks!

Neither one of them gave any indication of a hobbit thing or pirate sensibility. So I expect that in a few years they'll be wearing tweeds, visiting museums when on vaction, and whacking the tall grasses with blackthorn walking sticks while avoiding other people and cell phones out in the country side. Or gloating over their vast but peculiar libraries with odd areas of intense depth and specialization.

Not inclined toward pipesmoking because of image, but having gravitated toward it quite naturally, because they are civilized.

Years ago a friend overseas retired from a career in Hong Kong and retired to the depths of England, where he does not indulge in drunken benders involving stale beer and greasy fish and chips, like so many of the natives there, but walks his dogs on the moorlands, takes pictures of animals, and has the occasional glass of sherry or cup of tea in his study. His children are at university and scarcely bother him. Except to encourage those pursuits.
I expect his daughters will follow in his muddy foot steps (it rains a lot over there).


Somewhat related thereto, some friends dropped by my work, and I now have another bottle of home made ghost pepper sauce and a bag of delicious shortbread cookies. The latter will be great with tea, and I'm thinking I should buy a bottle of sherry.


Totally not related to anything, I will now share something said to me a year ago. "I always listen to you, even when you babble the most inane shit, old geezer."
This from the apartment mate.



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Sunday, January 29, 2023

THE SCORE

When I got home, I noticed that the apartment mate had cleared space in the refrigerator. And I asked her where the second bottle of my praescription eye-drops was. "Right there!" Where? "Right there on the shelf! Moments later, she told me "move it, fat boy!" and located it immediately. The two things we learn from this are that I couldn't see the trees for the forest (I mistook the bag for a bakery bag which might have contained part of a batard), and she really needs her own eyes checked, as the term 'fat boy' does not apply in the slightest.
I am, if anything, scrawny.

It had been a long day. Three of the elderly delinquents were absent from the backroom during today's game, for various idiotic reasons, and I'll be sure to let them know that today's monumental defeat, downfall, going down in flames, was entirely due to them not being there to cheer on the home team. They failed everyone. Hubris cometh to a fall. Losers. Traitors.

The home team being that numeric bunch of losers from Santa Clara.
Who lost monumentally, couldn't be any more lost.
Failed utterly, spectacularly.
Oh boy.

In any case, it may be time to rub cheesesteak on your wounds.
Imagine sauteed onions, and maybe bellpeppers, grilled meat, stuffed into a toasted long bun ("hoagie roll") and slathered with melted cheese goo. Dinner of champions. Washed down with a fine champagne in celebration.


Optional: a small bowl of cioppino on the side.


Would you also like some Rice-a-roni?
It's a regional treat!



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THE LIMITS OF CIVILIZED LIVING

Sadly, there are no 24-hour chocolate dispensaries at set distances all over the civilized world and Marin. One must make do with the offerings available at drug and convenience stores during their regular hours of business. This shows a lack of planning. What do late night drunks and potheads near a marijuana emporium crave? Chocolate! What would be a great follow-up to the bacon cheeseburger or plate of Thai stir-fry? Chocolate! What would satisfy the inner man disappointed with the world and its berserk fascination with American football during the darkness before dawn? Chocolate!

Dinner last night was good. But jalapeño chips dipped in Sriracha is not a wise late night snack. Though delicious. And even though chili sauce is a vegetable, and part of every sensible diet, chocolate would have been better.

Good lord, why am I living like a grad school bachelor? At my age I need a sensible woman to advise me against regrettable gustatory courses of action. "Do not do that so late at night", she will say, "but leave that for breakfast!"

"Here, have some chocolate!"


It's far less likely to cause funky dreams.


The primary reason I mentioned football is because that is on everyone's minds lately. The Forty Niners are playing the Eagles today, which means that I've finally been able to tell everyone "not the Eagles, man, I hate the f**king Eagles!" Repeatedly.

Which is the extent of my interest in today's game.

Absolutely and precisely.


A sensible woman would reward that with chocolate.



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Saturday, January 28, 2023

THINK OF IT AS 'HUTSPOT'

Unfortunately the Spanish were awful cooks. What they left behind in their camp once they fled was unimaginative, and, truth be told, not even very good. Never-the-less we Dutch survived. It's been 349 years since we stole the Spaniards' supper.

Boiled mashed potatoes, carrots, and onions, with meaty grease and a porkchop. Not bad if dolled up with some nutmeg, a dash of soy sauce, and a sploodge of sambal. But I'm not that fond of it that I have carrots and potatoes on hand at all times, and sometimes a porkchop is hard to find in the fridge. Actually I dislike carrots, so there have not been any here in years. And no potatoes this week, I didn't buy any in Chinatown.

What I had available was stalky mustard greens and a juicy bratwurst. Plus wide rice stick noodles, of which I'm quite fond.


So I grilled the bratwurst, and cooked the mustard greens and rice sticks in the pan grease, stirring in two chilipastes, crab paste, and green curry paste, before adding stock and water. Plus some nutmeg, a dash of soy sauce, and another sploodge of sambal.
Yeah, okay, substitutions. But sensible ones.
It was delicious.


The Spanish siege of Leiden occured during the Eighty Years War (1566 – 1648) between the Dutch and the repulsive bandy legged barbarians (Spanish). At the beginning the Dutch were a motley collection of cities and provinces in a bunch of damp and muddy bogs and tidal flats, and the Spanish were the European superpower. When it was all over, the Dutch were a force to be reckoned with, awash with power and prosperity, and the most advanced nation on the continent. And the Spanish were kind of broken.

In all honesty, Spanish cuisine IS far more interesting than Dutch food.
Dutch food is by no means everything cooked by a Dutchman.
Nor is everything a Dutchman eats Dutch food.

It's been ages since I prepared a proper 'hutspot'.

Belgian hutspot is more exciting. A stew of meat and vegetables containing mutton gilded in bacon fat with parsnips, onions, and leek. Some versions have too many different things, which leads to a disappointing fustercludge. It benefits from the addition of good dark beer for part of the liquid. Also add cloves, pepper, and nutmeg or mace. The term hutspot basically means chopsuey.


As always, serve with sambal.



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Friday, January 27, 2023

IT'S DISTINCTLY A HONG KONG THING

In retrospect I got there just in time. The egg tarts were fresh out of the oven (蛋撻啱啱出爐 'daan taat ngaam ngaam chut lou'), so I had one with my tea. Shortly afterwards, two people came in and between them snagged sixty others. Two whole baking trays, still hot. When did egg tarts (蛋撻 'daan taat') become a New Year's treat? A generation ago egg tarts were almost nowhere to be found, now people fight over their favourite places!

One person was also desperate to find taro new years cake (芋頭年糕 'wu tau nin gou'), of which a tonne were sold last week, but she may have been out of luck. Behind the curve. Demand can not be predicted. Personally, I am not a great fan.
Fortunately little egg tarts are made frequently.
Flaky crust, sweet custard filling.
They're delicious.

It's a Hong Kong thing. But it's not strictly a Hong Kong thing. Even Mandarin speakers and other mainlanders are addicted. As are many others.

But their popularity began in Hong Kong.
Along with milk tea (奶茶 'naai chaa').
And little chicken pies.
雞批 ('gai pai').
For several reasons -- mostly egg tarts and little chicken pies -- that place is a constant favourite on my list of regular places to visit. Their egg tarts are stellar, and at least once a week I must surround myself with a Toishanese racket; it keeps me grounded.


THE AA BAKERY & CAFÉ
永興餅家茶餐廳 ('wing hing bing kaa cha chan teng')
1068 Stockton Street
San Francisco, CA 94108
(415) 981-0123


Pastry, a hot beverage, chit-chat, and hubbub. The staff are nice people. Followed by a pipe smoked while perambulating the neighborhood. Yesterday's briar was one I associate with a different bakery, for complex and not entirely logical reasons.
Pipes are obviously NOT a Hong Kong thing. In fact there is almost nowhere there where pipes or appropriate tobaccos may be found. The Dunhill branch now specializes mostly in designer schmatte. And while they smoke like chimneys, the locals prefer ciggies.

Mr. Eager, who spent the first dozen years of his life there (some of them interned at Stanley Fort), did indeed smoke a pipe. But he probably picked that up at school in England.


Only slightly related thereto, I have two staved teak tobacco boxes from Dunhill in Hong Kong in my bookcase, next to a set of the classics and a dictionary of Chữ Nôm.



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Thursday, January 26, 2023

PROBABLY OCD

Whenever I leave the building, irrespective of where I'm going, there are several things I will count. Dogs. Streetpeople. Loonies. And Moppets. How many in each category? Mind you, this is San Francisco, so the first three in decreasing number are prevalent. And will do their business on the street. Also keep in mind that Chinese moppets are far preferable, because unlike Caucasian moppets their personalities are NOT solidly composed of "I'm precious and adorable". There is in consequence often more intelligence there, and less of that innocent childlike insufferability.


"I'm precious, I'm adorable! Gimme candy, bitches!"


Okay, in that respect I'm probably a bigot.
A reverse racist.

Karen and Kevin, your brat is incredibly nasty.

Another category I count is frogs. Now it may be that there are too many Karens and Kevins here, but there are NO frogs in my neighborhood.
This place is defective. Not even one.
What is wrong with you people?
Why on earth not?


I expected frogs. I'll settle for toads.



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DO NOT DREAM OF SAUSALITO

Sometimes, because of the effects of bloodpressure pills, there are strange intense dreams. Often they involve food and places I've been. I've always had somewhat odd dreams -- no, none of them have ever come true -- but in the past four years they've more often been exceptional. The things that go bump in the night are in my head.

And given that often my lower extremities hurt (see aforementioned blood pressure meds) it is wondrous that to the best of my recollection none of the dreams have involved running.

In real life I don't like to run -- it's undignified -- how awful it would be if I did so while asleep?

No, I do not run for the bus. There will always be another one, and if you keep an eye on the time there will be scant reason to hurry. It is better to show up early rather than late.

Missing the bus after work is nightmarish, because quite frankly I tolerate Marin till the end of my shift, and after that I loathe and despise the place utterly. Hottubistan is the festering tumour on the diseased rump of bourgeois superficiality, it's denizens mostly shiftless pretendeurs and sell-outs. Feh. Urgh. And gadzooks.
Drug-addled wankers.

I do not dream about Marin.
If I did, I'd wake up worried that there was someone behind me. A corpse come to life, or bigfoot's highschool delinquent little brother. Something ghastly that reeked of Aramis and new car. And very likely marijuana, because that is the dominant smell on the Golden Gate Transit buses, those suburbanites can't do without it, and huff it at the drop of a hat.
Because it's "therepeutic".

It accounts for why so many of them are weak-moralled kankers.

Marin is the pit of complete mediocrity.

A compost heap.

Very few of my memories of time spent in Marin involve good food. None running.
Running would be a very bad memory and a horrible dream.
In that sense at least Marin is okay.
Not good, but okay.



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Wednesday, January 25, 2023

START WITH THE PLUCKS -- BURNS NIGHT

Tonight we celebrate Bobby Burns Night. With indigestion. But rather than getting that roaring indigestion naturally, by consuming haggis, neeps, taties, and whiskey, we shall speed up the process by reading that other great Scottish poet, William McGonagall, and thus achieve the desired result much faster.

The Scots are to poetry what the Scandinavians are to popular music.
Makes you want to rip your ear hairs out.

People who like haggis, neeps, and taties probably also love second breakfast, and are deeply into that hobbit crap. Listen, boyo, a boiled sheeps stomach filled with garbage is NOT a meal, and instead of single malt you need pepto bismol and psychotherapy. If your mom said you were a failure, she was right. She was too, because she spat you out of her wattled loins and didn't choke you at birth.

Haggis.

Fiend food.
Those who like haggis have never made it; those who have made it, would rather listen to a recital by William McConagall than ever touch it again.

If there is a hell, the chief torturers will be Scottish versifiers like Bobby Burns and William McConagall. Ewan McTeagle, however, is not among them. "Lend us a couple of bob till Thursday; I am absolutely skint, but I'm expecting a postal order ... " (E.Mc.T., 1969).
Lyrical. It rejects all the clichés of modern poetry.
Ewan is in a much better place.
Dibley Road.


"Wen is das nunstuck geht und slotermeyer?"

"Ja, bayerhund das oder die flipperwaldt gespuhrt!"



In 1950, peace broke out and Scottish Poetry was banned by a special session of the Geneva convention. Nastly smelly dirty fork! It's like a mountain, a vast bowl of pus!

One of the crossbeams has gone out of skew on the treddle.


Look, all I'm saying is that reciting Scottish poetry at the Germans would have ended the war in months, rather than the long slow haul it took, with the entire country forced to eat haggis, neeps, and taties, because there was nothing else!

Scottish "poetry" and Scottish "cuisine" are the direct cause of country music, and haggis with tikka masala sauce, oh horrors.
Nothing is sacred anymore.

Damned hobbits.



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FRANK WITH ALARM SAFE HATES MY GUTS

At least, that is what I hope. I told him when he called that I did not have alarms, didn't want alarms, and didn't need them. Now kindly piss off and goodbye. But that's a new one. What on earth makes that man think that invading my privacy with his phone call will persuade me to buy his product?

My relationship with the cell phone is tense. Almost always the ringing represents sales calls which I don't want, from people I do not wish to hear from. In the morning that is the extent of my social contact once my apartment mate has left for the day. The turkey vulture on my pile of clothes doesn't say much, save for telling me that my wallet which he grabbed is his baby, and that I should go out there and clop some old geezers over the noggin so that I can harvest their fatty inner thighs to feed him.
Now piss off, inferior human.
My baby!

When Frank called I was busy with a painting. I find myself falling into the same neurotic and obsessive pattern as when I still worked in oils and acrylics, namely fussing with the hues and depth. It's not as intense on the computer, but a whole lot faster.
In a way I'm spinning my gears more efficiently now.

The computer painting below reflects insanity.
There should be bunny rabbits in the picture. New year and all that. But bunny rabbits on a beach would be odd, and actually this painting represents a mental state more than anything soft and furry. Imagine a grumpy forest creature, half daemon, plodding along with a pipe in it's mouth, wondering why on earth he woke up so early.

Cold.

Heck might freeze over before I venture to the headlands on only one cup of coffee.

Do they have a bakery there? A warm inviting place with no people? Distant hubbub but not in the same room? Electronic hot beverage equipment and ventilation?

Old geezers with fatty inner thighs?

Frank?



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OBSESSING OVER DELICIOUS BAKED GOODS

We discussed croissants. There's a place near his work that has excellent ones, another place that ranges erratically between splendid and okay. There is nowhere within walking distance of where I am presently at or where I work that has decent croissants.
So in a sense I am envious.

Chinatown, as you probably realize, is not croissant territory.

It's an egg tart kind of place.

It's been two weeks since I had an egg tart. Which is depressing. What is this world coming to when a man has not had an egg tart in so long?

When I arrived at the bakery last week, the egg tarts were all sold out. They had probably made far fewer, because New Year was coming up, which necessitates closing for two or three days, and they probably didn't want a batch of stale egg tarts staring at them when they reopened. Understandable. I also think that stale egg tarts are bad luck.

Also bad luck would be gastric disaster. It is axiomatic that egg tarts that are five days old will almost certainly cause that. Stay away from the five day old egg tarts. Yes, they are delicious, but restrain yourself. Still your bestial pangs.
Fresh out of the oven is perfect.


Sometime this week I will have an egg tart.
Finished my pipe quite a while before the bus dropped him off. At the burger joint a man with an irritating voice kept talking about tips, credit cards, and fried chicken. I fervently hope his bestial pangs cause him frequent gastric disaster, because I am an unpleasant man and my right leg hurts like heck.

At the karaoke place we got to hear way too much jiggy lofan shiznit.
Scandinavian musicians are quite possibly a plague.
Abba, Aha, oh jayzus, damn.



White people should not sing karaoke.
Or songs that can be karaokified.
Scandinavians especially.




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Tuesday, January 24, 2023

SNOW CABBAGE AND PORK SOUP

In the late forties and early fifties Shanghainese bailed out from the mainland for Hong Kong. Shanghai had been taken over by Hunanese peasants, and what had been till then the most cosmopolitan city east of Suez was turned into a cultural wasteland filled with tortured people all forced to dance like happy farmers while building revolutionary pig sties, or something.
Movie people were made to sing songs about soviet workers and the sun in the east.
College professors where shoveling shit in factory dormitories.
Everyone wore baggy blue pants and tunics.
Well, you get the idea.


藍蘋

Imported Russian dance instructors eventually helped the white boned demon create a new form of stage production born from the struggle of the masses against the landlords, in which trim army women in uniform pranced across the stage, pirouetting with rifles to martial music, saving the proletariat from bourgeois recidivism. The entire nation suffered because little blue apple was taking revenge for all of the imagined slights she had suffered in show business. Since the failure of her movie career she became a pissy drama queen of monumental proportions. Oh, and the wife of a communist big wig.


And while China shivered, starved, and sent literate people to the countryside, Hong Kong provided a refuge. North Point became Little Shanghai. Nightclubs, Cafés, theatres, tailors, fashionable shops, and restaurants. Upscale dining. Dishes marked by the generous use of soy sauce, sugar, and rice wine. Sliced eel with noodles, vinegar carp, soused fried fish, lion's head meatballs, red stew pork, tomato borscht.

And a classic: snow cabbage and pork sliver soup (雪菜肉絲湯).

Along with the borscht (long divorced from its Slavic composition due to the unavailability of Russian ingredients, and now gone interestingly native using tomatoes), pork shred snow cabbage soup, potstickers, and porkchop noodles have become transcendantly universal. That last is available on practically every block in Hong Kong and Kowloon, and potstickers can be got even at the local chopsuey shack in Bongo Flats, Arkansas. Borscht is a classic chachanteng offering, and everyone's aunties will make pork shred snow cabbage soup when the kiddies are a little hungry.
Other than senescent European communists, no one watches revolutionary opera movies or whatever crappy flicks the little blue apple starred in anymore. The white boned demon and her ghastly legacy have been consigned to the dustbin. Mercifully.

雪菜肉絲湯
SUET CHOI YIUK SI TONG
For two people (夠兩個人)

Half pound of lean pork (瘦豬肉), slivered.
One cup chicken stock (雞湯).
One cup water (水).
Quarter cup pickled snow cabbage (雪菜).
Handful noodles (麵).
Gailan (芥蘭) or bokchoi (小白菜).
A few slices of ginger (姜).
Clove garlic (大蒜).
One TBS Shaohsing rice wine or sherry (紹興酒).
A dash of sesame oil (麻油).

Marinate the slivered pork for ten to twenty minutes in a little soy sauce and vegetable oil with corn flour and sugar whisked in.
Soak the pickled snow cabbage for about fifteen minutes in cold water, squeeze, rinse, and squeeze again. Chop.
Cook the noodles in boiling water. Rinse in cold, set aside.
Rinse and chop the gailan or bokchoi.

Gild the garlic and ginger briefly at the bottom of a deep pot with scant oil. Then add the water and chicken stock, and bring to a boil. Dump the pickled snow cabbage, chopped gailan, and slivered pork into the pot. When it boils, add the noodles and rice wine.

Add a drop or two of sesame oil, divide over four bowls and serve.

Chili flakes or a teaspoon hot oil are optional.


I am quite fond of snow cabbage pork shreds noodle soup. It's one of those dishes you can get at many restaurants, but you should really make at home.



It is, as you would naturally expect from my previous writings, best followed by a pipe filled with aged red Virginia or a similar compound, while taking a walk around the neighborhood because the person with whom I live, though she tolerates my cooking smells (mostly), positively hates the reek of my tobacco. Which is very sad.
But we can't all live in Shanghai or North Point.



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HERE TO OBSERVE

Left late in the afternoon yesterday for a plate of dumplings. Which are perfect winter food, as well as good luck around Chinese New Year. And I love dumplings.

It's more subdued down in Tongyanfao than it used to be at this time. Not as many people about, fewer signs of festivity. On the edge of Portsmouth Square a father lit sparklers for his todler, a few old women walked up the street toward Grant. Most shops and restaurants were open. Unusual for the second day. Only a few years ago most places would close down for the first three days, even up to a week. But things were quite different then.

It is probably a bit difficult to celebrate as was once the norm.
These are still unusual times, nothing is the same.
The mainland is getting whacked by Covid.
And travel is a thing of the past.

I myself don't feel any different. But it's starting to drag on me. My tolerance for my fellow humans is considerably less than it used to be. As a species we don't seem to have an intelligent design. Much of what we've done in the past three years has been rather dumb, and our leaders have often made fools of themselves. Plus much of the country has their heads up their rears.

Maintain. Maintain. Maintain.
But those dumplings were very delicious. And I enjoyed watching a happy bustling in the restaurant, with not too many non-Chinese in the place. Over the past few months it has become obvious that most non-Chinese have given up on masks, and I suspect that in the US those nearly six hundred Covid fatalities a day are overwhelmingly among the deniers and Christians. No vax, no brains, no distance, and no masks. No clue.

You know, I'm okay with that.



One does not need Christians to enjoy dumplings at New Year.
They are at that time, and in general, superfluous.
And I for one am happy with fewer.



I've noticed that for many women the dangling cross pendant serves little other purpose than to point the eye toward exposed cleavage. That's just an observation, not a value judgement. Intellectually I like the idea of cleavage.



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Monday, January 23, 2023

BLEAKNESS

He gazed out over the vast bleakness, disheartened because the hamsters no longer visited. In his nightmare Miss Bruin and the she-sheep had lectured him severely about his urge to eat their guests. And morning, in the cold waste lands of San Francisco (Nob Hill) was dark indeed, depressing. Even the thought of temporarily stealing the briar pipe that badger had been fiddling with -- a rather elegant Vernon tenon Dunhill made in 1932 -- did not cheer him up. Hamsters, so like tender juicy meatballs. But no. Scared away by the turkey vulture's horrible gustatory instincts.

He burrowed deeper into the pile of laundry.
So warm, so toasty, so richly perfumed.

Should he reform? Should he radiate a comforting vegetarian attitude toward the small furry meatball-like creatures, so that they would feel safe dropping by again? Should he repress his perfectly natural tendency to look upon them as ambulatory food?

He considered breakfast.
I myself have never been a breakfast person. It takes a while to get the juices flowing in the morning, more so as I've gotten older. It isn't until the first load of caffeine has hit cruising altitude that I can even contemplate solid food. On my work days I'll have a small pastry, maybe three and a half hours after getting up.

On days off the appetite might not arise till after the second or third pipe of the day.

On winter mornings the blood flows sluggishly and I wonder why I even bothered stepping out of the house at that depressing hour with a smoke. Oh yes, I remember, swallow pills at dawn. The ordered routine. Put on the water for coffee, take pills, go pee. After which the water is boiling and a refreshing cup of the dastardly Turk may be had. Go out and blearily stare at people pooing their dogs. Bark sotto voce at them to see if they respond.
Is it only their rear ends which are alert, or also the head?


I am not a morning person. My apartment mate and the roomies are. They come bounding out of her room full of piss and vinegar, wide awake, while I am getting ready to load up a pipe and stumble out of the house for a walk around the block, and when I return, there is evidence that in the intervening hour they have already had a full day before she heads off to work. The turkey vulture is perched on top of my clothes, holding on to my wallet and insisting that it's his 'baby". Sometimes it's a pipe I've been fussing with recently.

Or he's leering at one of the other small critters insisting that they would be happier dating him, why he's such a handsome fellow, the very best bird ever!


Don't mind the evil grumpus; he's not human yet.
He needs his second cup of coffee.



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Sunday, January 22, 2023

CHALLENGING THE PHYSICALITIES

Due to circumstances beyond my control, I have been exposed to televised sports. Mayhem. Today I overheard a talking rump on teevee stating pontifically that the Fortyniners challenge the physicality. Which, if you ask me, is a paradigm shift. And redefines the gestalt. I do not know if this applies to the whole city or just the numeric sports unit. It all sounds mighty karmic to me, I need to hug my dolphin now.

Somewhere a gluten is weeping.
It's positively existential.

Other than that, I paid no attention to the game. I am very glad that I do not have to clean the chair where the retired member of the judicial branch may have shat himself from excessive excitement, as I will not be in tomorrow. Apparently we've sufficiently challenged physicalities and triumphed, which means something. Probably postponement of the end times and the apocalypse, or an escape of gluten.

Look, I don't know. America's absurd fascination with "football" is baffling.
Beer and cheese covered nachos are good for you.
It's brainfood.
The apocalypse will probably occur next Sunday. These end-times opportunities occur on a weekly basis. When I got home my apartment mate was in front of her computer and proudly informed me that she had spent the entire day in her pajamas and had done absolutely nothing, it had been wonderful. Which sounds great. We didn't discuss the game at all.
It is likely that she doesn't even know it was on, or who the hell the Fortyniners are.



If I ever become involved in a romantic relationship, it will have to be a woman with an equal disinterest in football. The three of us will discuss cheez whiz, barbecue sauce, and jalapeños, without any recourse to idiotic spectacles.

No damned pigskins.



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HAPPY NEW YEAR


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Saturday, January 21, 2023

NOT SUITABLE FOR CHILDREN

One must NOT fall asleep with a turkey vulture nestled on one's chest; they've got strange agendas, and, if peckish might be tempted to explore for fatty inner thigh. Which it is a good thing I don't have, being rather a scrawny old bird myself. Also, Sydney Fylbert (the turkey vulture in question) thinks that if he tells nice bed time stories (about Vlad Tepes and Elizabeth Bathory) to the imaginary little girl hamster she will fall asleep and sleepwalk right into his mouth.


"Once upon a time there was a beautiful Hungarian noblewoman ... "


Yeh, um, no. You're a twisted little freak, my avian friend, and little girls do not want to hear about beautiful Hungarian noblewomen known to later generations as serial killers. And Hungarian history is NOT a suitable subject for the edification of the young.
Or damned well anybody.


"Let us now consider the national hero of Wallachia ... "


Let us not. After due consideration, let us drop Eastern European History from the curriculum entirely, until they're at an age where they can handle it without getting sick. Fourteen, I think. Early teens. After that we'll bring up CRT and also start dissecting frogs. Then, at least two or three years later, we'lll give them Shakespeare.
There are many good reasons why you don't want a turkey vulture anywhere near your precious kiddie-winkies. The fact that they consider everything food is just one of them.
If your offspring are rotund, like so many American children are, they are especially in danger. Little dumplings.

I, personally, benefit from not being edible.
It's a blessing.



Drop that bottle of Sweet Baby Ray's right now!
Despite the name, it's NOT perfect.
Not for your plans.


Incorrigible!



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Friday, January 20, 2023

NO SWASH WILL BE BUCKLED

At the ripe old age of well past thirty, I may have achieved a certain amount of 'gravitas'. Which I've always associated with 'defitgheid', that being a Dutch word for stuck up poncy people and their haute bourgeois pretensions, the type who don't associate with you or me and you're glad of that. The English word lacks those connotations, and is far more favourably slanted. But still.

Three times yesterday I was addressed as 'sir'.
I still instinctively look around.

And apparently I look and act like a gentleman, instead of the devilish ruffian I still see in my mind's eye. Four people wished to affirm that. One of them being an elderly lady of scarce four feet tall, who could barely walk -- it had taken her ten minutes to get up to the bus stop, twenty feet -- to whom I pointed out a nearby seat, which she declined because she was only going two blocks. And she also complimented me on my Chinese. Gentlemen are not risky business, and do not buckle swash. In my mind I'm still like Captain Jack Sparrow, though. Pipe after tea in C'town later. Red Virginia flake.
And my Chinese is crappy.
Tea: one cup of yuen yeung (鴛鴦) and a po lo naai wong baau (菠蘿奶黃包). That bakery has ramped up for the holiday, a vast selection of sweet New Years cakes (年糕) covered the central table. Pipe: a Comoy sandblast stack which I associate with Hong Kong for complex reasons. Even though the downness of the old neighborhood is a bit depressing, I was in a much more upbeat mood than I've been for several days afterwards.

Let's hope that carries through while dealing with the repellent right wing fossils in Marin at work today. I don't want to chop off heads. It would be undignified.



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Thursday, January 19, 2023

IT'S DELICIOUS IF YOU CAN NAME IT

Underneath a food picture I posted on Facebook one of my friends wrote a short comment: "Not that". Reason being that he didn't know what it was, it looked like muck. As in fact a lot of food pictures do. Muck is not appetizing, you want something solid and identifiable. That's the reason why the mediaeval Dutch diet never caught on, I expect. Porridge, with or without dried fruits, is altogether unappealing in appearance. You need to throw some hefty chunks of ham or goat in there. Same reason why white folks aren't attracted to congee; it looks like paperhangers paste.

Though I can trace my descent all the way back to a late fourteenth century Dutch peasant named Gompert, I eschew mediaeval Dutch porridge. Folks who died of the plague ate that. But I am quite fond of congee. Dried fish and fried peanuts congee (柴魚花生粥 'chai-yü faa-sang juk') is miraculous. It looks remarkably like paperhangers paste with things in it.

In any case, for my friend's benefit, I labelled the latest food drawing on FB.
He likes German food, so a schweinshaxe should appeal to him.
Most Americans perhaps not so much.

It's traditional as part of the New Year's evening feast if you are Cantonese, because of the name which suggests wealth and good luck falling right into your hand.
FAT CHOI JAU SAU 發財就手
Pig's trotters with black moss and dried oyster.

Two pig's trotters, rinsed, scalded, and scrubbed.
A dozen dried oysters (蠔豉 'hou si'), soaked and cleaned.
A very small handful (about a quarter of a 兩) of black moss (髮菜 'fat choi').
Six to ten baby bokchoy.
A few slices of ginger.
One or two star anise (whole).
Quarter cup sherry or rice wine.
Quarter cup superior stock.
Two TBS oyster sauce.
One TBS soy sauce.
One Tsp. sugar.

[Soak the black moss and dried oysters separately for an hour or so. Rinse them to remove sand or grit.]


Place the trotter with some salt and a little oil in a wok, and tumble-fry it till it is well coloured and aromatic. Remove from pan and set aside. Wipe pan, add a little oil, and gild the ginger. Add the oysters, stir-fry briefly, seethe with the sherry. Add the trotter, stock, sugar, whole star anise, and some water to keep it fairly soupy. Decant to a clay pot and simmer for two hours.
Add the black moss, oyster sauce, soy sauce, and cook for another fifteen or twenty minutes.
Rinse and blanch the baby bokchoy, use them to rim a serving plate. Scoop the stew into the centre of the plate. Garnish with cilantro or spring onion.

Note: personally I don't use black moss (hair vegetable; 'fat choi'). It's not very good for you, and has no appeal other than the name, which sounds the same as 'striking it rich' (發財).
But traditionalists will squawk if it is left out.


By the way, I thought the picture which prompted his comment looked very nice.
DAHI NU GOSHT WITH PALAK OR SORSON

It's a curry dish. Mutton in mustard leaf puree with yogurt. Quite tasty. Notice the chili peppers, and there is also a star anise pod in there. Great with some rumali roti.


Fresh pork trotters are usually sold in packs of two.
Wich is approximately one pound of feet.
Haxe are a good substitute.
The hocks.



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