Friday, June 30, 2023


Word has reached me that my frequent slagging of the rest of the USA and other Americans doesn't sit well. Some of my readers are ired by it, and one of them suggested that if I didn't like living in the same nation as a bunch of turdbrain red-state Karens I should just up and leave. Go, in her words, back to Europe.

Erm, I'm sorry?

Look, I know how painful it is for y'all to live in the same country as a nasty smart-aleck Dutch American, but my ancestors came over in 1630, and the place has gone to hell since we let the rest of you in. Oops, sorry. What I meant was: since you drunken illegals stormed the beaches and started killing people. But I actually belong here.

Look, I genuinely apologize if recent statements calling y'all Karens didn't please you.
I honestly had no idea you could read! Was one of my essays cited in your church newsletter? Did your local preacher wish to whip you into a frenzy?

Nothing I have written is in your local library.
Nor is it ever likely to be there.
Be reassured.

By the way, how did your recent book burning go? Was it well attended? Was there sprightly music? Perhaps the Königgrätzer march, played by Hank Williams or Kid Rock? Was Ted Nugent there? Was it sponsored by the Proud Boys and a Southern Baptist Klaven?

You know what goes well with a bonfire? Marshmallows and weenies!

Nothing to see here, just move along.
Have some nice Pepto Bismol.
Enjoy your boogers!

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Thursday, June 29, 2023


For the past three weeks I've been living off noodles with soup or stew, sambal, and either coffee or milk tea. Most of the time. The noodle thing is because wether I'm eating out or in, it's easy, comforting (especially in the cold weather we've had all month), and it accords with my own style of cooking. There are plenty of places within reasonable distance (Chinatown) which provide a variety, and when at home I have a very large selection of noodles of various kinds to choose from. And as you would expect I have hot condiments coming out of the wazzoo. You should see what's in my refrigerator.

Today I only had a pastry in Chinatown preparatory to a mid afternoon pipe smoked while sauntering about avoiding tourists. I finished and returned home before the evening rush hour. Whereupon I had some more hot caffeine. It's not so much a rut as laziness driven by a slow recovery from covid (finally tested negative over a week ago), and the fact that my feet are cold. That's probably a circulatory issue, which predates covid by a couple of years; in the words of one of my cardioligists, "there is no ulceration, that's good!"

If I write an autobiography, that may be the title.
There is NO ulceration! Good!
Broad noodles with red-stew beef, hot douban paste (辣豆瓣醬 'laat dau
baan jeung
'), hot chili oil (辣椒油 'laat jiu yau'), plus greens and an egg.

It's been cold and windy every day this week by late afternoon. The fog blows in well before sundown, and sensible people are wearing sweaters or thick coats. Except for many twenty-somethings, who go around in tee-shirts to show off their belly pudge and tattoos, even when walking their dogs. I marvel at them; how wonderful to be insensitive and not fully alert.

According tho the weather reports, there is the beginning of a heatwave further inland, and parts of the country have been sweltering (!) under oppressive temperatures, in addition to breathing pollution because Canada really should have raked their forests (Republican wildfire theory), but didn't.

High nineties in parts of the south. Far too hot to eat.
Maybe some of them will trim up a bit now.
They're all diabetics there.
Or borderline.

And apparently also Karens.
Especially when they sweat.

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It is lunchtime in Singapore. Assuming that you are working the night shift. Alas, most food courts are closed, there is no where to get samosas or roti chanai with mutton curry.
Try the Newton Centre. Kopi tarek, laksa, and a soccer match on the telly.
It's around eighty plus degrees (27°C - 30°C), and quite humid.
It will be more or less the same when you go home.

Here in San Francisco it's only 63 degrees (18°C). Far less humid. And absolutely no food courts at all. So the prospect of lunch does not even involve roti chanai -- the only place that had that nearby closed about two months ago, their chicken curry (gulai ayam) was pretty good -- as far as samosas are concerned there are three Muslim dabbas not too far away in the demilitarized zone (borderline Tenderloin district) where I damned well refuse to venture. Apparently the style of wearing your trousers down around your thighs has gotten so bad there that some fellows don't even have fancy boxers to show off. No underpants at all.
Per multiple reports. It's "prison gangsta" taken to the furthest extreme.

Imagine seeing that walking by when you're eating lunch.
Several blocks further south, quite near the Federal Building, there used to be a Chiu Chow seafood noodle soup place, but I doubt they still exist. The last time I went there I had actually wanted to have a banh mi at a coffee shop I liked, but there were several juvenile Viet thugs infesting the place, and the sidewalk outside smelled like a crime scene. The Tenderloin used to be an interesting "colourful" immigrant neighborhood during daylight hours, it seems to have become a part of Oakland or San Rafael in the last decade.

Too many suburbanites scoring various substances, inner city trash happily selling it to them. Or tourists getting robbed. Except for when Ron De Santis visited and was "disappointed" that not one person admired his Guantanamo "interrogation" heroism.
He brought a film crew and spent five minutes there.
Discovered it was not Disneyland.

Probably going to end up in Chinatown again, noodles, with sambal.
Hot Hong Kong milk tea, and smoke a pipe afterwards.
Late lunch, when it's quieted down.
I hate crowds.

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Wednesday, June 28, 2023


A very good day ending in a hot cup of mandarin ducks (鴛鴦 'yuen yeung'; mixed strong coffee and milk tea). Which I made at home. It's a very HK thing, and quite suitable, seeing as I started the day with a tasty meal at a chachanteng with a very Hong Kong name. Where the table behind me was speaking Toishanese, to which I listened in without understanding much seeing as all my Cantonese is basically movie-learned, and there are no movies in Toishan dialect.

After my post-meal pipe I headed over to Walgreens where the nice home town girl asked me whether I needed a monthly pass or ready cash on my transit card. Ready cash (現金 'yin kam'), because I use it to get outside the city. She's one of two exceptionally patient and extremely capable young ladies there, who put up with all kinds of stuff from the local elderly Cantonese, querulous Mandarin speakers, high wired white meth freaks, and dense tourists who are upset that this isn't like they expect in Kansas, Paris, or Milan, sorry.

That particular Walgreens is probably the best in the city. Most of Chinatown probably shops there or relies on it for snacks, medications, and certain essential supplies, and those people outnumber the problem cases from the drug-infested "hotels" in North Beach. That store is a pillar of the community. They tend to employ people who are quite capable of understanding me when I speak Cantonese, which, in a way, is essential. As I'm sure you'll agree. Being able to clearly grasp what middle-aged Dutch American eccentrics are saying is something which many more establishments should concentrate on. Even though in this city we're a demographic of maybe one. We're never-the-less important! All one of us.

Yeah, um.

Further up the street I purchased some high quality salt fish (梅香鹹魚 'mui heung haam yü'). Which is also important. Though I didn't really need it, but at some point maybe soon I'll want to do steamed pork patty or Hokkien-style stirfry vegetables at home, or something stronger flavoured which will demand a very hot sambal. Fried rice is also a distinct likelihood. The shop lady and I discussed all the wonderful things one can do with salt fish, why, it's almost like the Wizard of Oz in a small stinky lump! It's wonderful! This is something I might not mention to my doctor at Chinese Hospital, because of well, things.
Salt fish (鹹魚) is also a pillar of the community.
Precisely like Dutch Americans.
Much of what I like to eat is not approved of by members of the medical profession, strictly speaking. Salt fish, fatty pork, layers of cheese or rashers of bacon, red-stewed meats, delicious pastries, snacky things ...

Hokkien lor mee, Penang style, is a strongly flavoured noodle dish which is excellent in a hot climate. Enough flavour to excite the heat-exhausted palate. As a snarky poster in Chinatown states, "no salt, no sugar, no msg, no tasty!" The amount of soy sauce, dried and fermented seafoods, and high-cholesterol fatty meats, AND shrimp AND a hard-boiled egg, pretty much guarantees that your doctor will question your sanity. If not your very understandable appetites.


Claiming that the chilipaste you added is a vegetable high in fibre and vitamin C will not assuage his or her concern. I have yet to meet a doctor who accepts that assertion as medically sound. American medical schools are rather backward in that regard.

The key to Penang style lor mee, by the way, is both tamarind pulp and thickening, which is usually cornstarch, in the soy based sauce that the meats were simmered in. That's why you can't see the garlicky chilipaste that's also in there. Adding fresh sambal on top of your serving is still recommended. Abundantly. Hou chiak e!

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First time in three weeks that we had our regular pub-crawl (one whiskey, one hot tea). Also, last time till two weeks hence, because we aren't crazy enough to head into North Beach on July Fourth, that's when the place will be crawling with yutzes, rednecks, and marketing department bros. As well as dearly beloved tourists from Mississippi or Arkansas.

Which means that the singing at the karaoke joint will be awful.

And every dive will be crowded.

Bellying up to the bar is fine in theory, but rubbing elbows with sweaty drunks is, in practice, the stuff of nightmares. Not everyone is redeemable or has 'worth'. Which, you understand, is why I rarely go to restaurants in Chinatown that appeal to visitors. Let's see, the choices are shrimp fried rice, sweet 'n sour pork, kung pao chicken, or beef chow mein.
Cola, 7-Up, Orange soda, or Boba tea.

Lunch was salt fish and chopped chicken fried rice (鹹魚雞粒炒飯 'haam yü gai naap chaau faan') with tonnes of chili paste dolloped onto the plate. And a cup of strong milk tea. In a place where everyone spoke Cantonese, and tourists for some reason fear to tread.
So it was delightful.

Can't claim that the fried rice was a high fallutin' exquisite rarety. It's just decent chow, good solid food, and an easy choice. Which very well might frighten the bejazus out of some people I know and make them think they were on Mars and getting anal-probed.

And they don't serve beer, so Northern Europeans don't go there.
This is a fried space alien. It is great with grits and red-eye gravy. As well as buckets of overly sweet ice tea and boiled peanuts. Welcome strangers! Please do your colourful native dances before we feed you! Sorry, no country music, John Denver, or Abba. If you sing "Hotel California" again, we will beat you.

Sadly, there are no places in Chinatown - North Beach - Nob Hill where hootenannies and square dancing are encouraged. Excepting a few gay bars. Where it's the theme.

This blogger surely does appreciate banjos and accordions, which are justly beloved in the great American Heartland, and dominate the airwaves leading up to the holiday.
It's "finger-picking" good.

As usual, I have no plans for July Fourth, will not be going anywhere, and shan't watch the fireworks (giant glowing pastel-hued poofballs in the fog, because this is San Francisco). No one ever invites me to barbecues, perhaps I'm not "Independentz-Tag fähig". Or maybe it's because I know all the words to Yankee Doodle and The Camptown Races.
Which is psychologically traumatizing.

I might grill up an all-beef frank or two in the skillet that evening.
While singing "traditional airs" softly to myself.
No red-white-blue bunting.

Anyhow, had a lovely smoke in the Comoy Sunrise pipe (110 B) before meeting up with the bookseller and going to listen to boyish voices screaming off-tune something ghastly. Everyone in Marketing is Kahn Souphanousinphone. Sales too. Everyone.
You all need to be kept away from Microphones. They are high tech precision instruments that can commit crimes in the wrong hands. And you guys are evil. Totally.

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Tuesday, June 27, 2023


Yeah, okay, sometimes Vietnamese beef noodle soup doesn't cut it. In a city where everyone worships that, and ramen, it can eventually become boring. Sorry, Uncle Roger and all of you hipsters, it's a fact. So then, a simple red-stew beef in broth, Northern wheat noodles, and a fresh vegetable like yau choi added for taste and texture.

The broth is best made a day in advance, and that meat can be discarded. Use lumps or hunks on the bone. After the first boil skim off scum and impurities, add a few slices of ginger, one or two cloves garlic, one or two star anise, a stick of cinnamon, bay leaves, a teaspoon of fennel seeds, a tablespoon of peppercorns, and a large piece of dried tangerine peel, plus a dash of soy sauce and a generous jigger of sherry or rice wine. A lump of crystal rock sugar can also be added. Plus half a dozen whole green cardamom pods. Simmer for half a day, skim occasionally. I also throw in two or three shallots and a carrot.
And some people add a slice or two of licorice root.

Strain through cheesecloth and reserve overnight in the refrigerator.

Then, fresh meat, well marbled, big chunks. What you will do is boil the meat very briefly to lift the scum and foam, then rinse the meat. Sear ginger slices and scallion (white parts) in the bottom of the stock pot, add the beef and colour it. Pour in the reserved broth and a small jigger of soy. Simmer gently for two or so hours, turn off the heat and let it stand for an hour. Remove the ginger and scallion.

Cook the noodles appropriately, rinse and drain.
Blanch the veggies in boiling water, ditto.
When ready, reheat the soup.

Put the soup and meat in the bowl, add noodles and veggies.
Top with chopped chives or scallions.
Since the Vietnamese American community en masse backed that criminal Trump and the Republicans in the last election I'm kind of avoiding their businesses. Screw them.
Excepting, of course, Chinese Vietnamese shops and restaurants.
If they can speak Cantonese they're probably okay.
And it's easy enough to find out.

Republicans are an existential threat.
So are Christians.

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According to the calendar this is the middle of the warm season. Before the hot season strikes and the skies turn orange. You'd be forgiven if you hunted down a seal wearing your parka and mukluks in the foggy chill on Nob Hill this morning, however. And disparaged the twenty something year olds out there picking up their dog's offerings in their thin sportive shorts and tee-shirts from tech companies. Baby pudge beasts.

The old lady wearing fuzzy pajamas, a bathrobe, and an overcoat, while walking behind her yipping tea cup was perfectly sensible, however. She had probably also protectively rubbed all exposed skin surfaces with rendered bear fat.

There were no tourists about just after dawn. They come out to poo on the street much later, like they do in Europe or Mississippi.

At that time most sensible people are back indoors with their second hot cup of coffee and another pipeful. My apartment mate has left for the day, her bedroom door is firmly shut, and three windows are open. I'm breaking the household law in perfect freezing comfort, and smoking inside, which I can only do at home when she is at work. Fortunately her work schedule and mine are at complete odds.
Presently it's fifty four degrees outside and overcast. That's fifteen degrees or more colder than Valkenswaard and Dommelen, where the local highschool kids are probably starting to congregate on cafe terraces after dinner. I seldom think of the area where I used to live as "tropic", but they have real seasons there. In San Francisco, we've got cold and wet, cold and not wet, mostly overcast, warmish, too bloody hot, fading into mild warm, and the first rains. Half a dozen seasons, during any one of which tourists will be walking around wearing shorts because this is California and they've seen Baywatch. There is no one, absolutely no one, running toward the surf in slow motion wearing a red bikini! What is wrong with us?

Perhaps you should go to Mississippi? It's nearly ninety degrees there. It's kind of like Marrakesh. And culturally very similar, trust me. Fabulous weather and colourful!
And, if you've never had grits, you'll love it!

There was a bin of grits in the kitchen for several years.
I threw it out I don't know how long ago.
The thrill had faded.

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Monday, June 26, 2023


All of us have obsessions. Years ago I waffled on about Balkan Sobranie Original Mixture, to the exhasperation of several readers who could not grasp my fondness for pipe tobaccos and that one (a medium full English) in particular. I endeavored to explain that smells help revive memories and moods. Tis is something my regular care physician three years ago only half-way understood, having grown up with the aromas of certain cooking ingredients common where he spent his childhood and mostly quite absent here, he probably also had the bug, but as a doctor he professionally abjured the use of tobacco, and recommended among other things nicotine patches instead.

A nicotine patch does NOT smell like my misspent adolescence, and does NOT bring back fond recollections. Those things are strictly for kiddie-winkies kicking vapes, or Europeans who keep lamenting that we don't have Cuban cigars here blimey how primitive how can anyone stand to live in this country?!?

W wrote: "I was curious to know if you have a particular brand and blend of pipe tobaccos that is easier to find than the long lost Sullivan's Gentleman's mixture?" Well, yes and also no. Gentleman's Mixture was a good solid Virginia and Oriental compound, with, if I recall correctly both black Virginia ribbon and perhaps Kentucky firecured in very minor proportion to broaden the taste. Planta's version of Presbyterian is not dissimilar, though much more stringy, and there are several blends from Greg Pease that are in the same ballpark.
Cairo, for instance. And PS.: ALL of Greg's blends benefit from age.

Among the medium English available today I highly recommend, in no particular order, Greg Pease's Westminster, which is one of the very best things he's ever done; Arango's Balkan Supreme, sold as a house blend under various names nationwide, and Cornell & Diehl's Red Odessa, which is a sterling old-fashioned English that induces reverie, far better than their original Odessa (more commonly found).

To a large extent, finding a replacement for a long discontinued tobacco is like trying to find a replacement for Huy Fong's fabled Sriracha. On the one hand, it's impossible, as every purist will agree. On the other, these are the best of times. More is available now than ever before, there are multiple possible substitutes, some of exceptional quality, and there is so much that is worthwhile that needs to be sampled.
The place where I had lunch today had a new hot sauce in lieu of Sriracha, but they've stopped stocking it. Probably because there was a reproductive harm warning on the label. Now they have a pleasant jar sambal in its place. Altogether I must have dumped four tablespoons on my plate. So yes, lunch was excellent, despite the absence of my specific favourite condiment. Left happy as a clam -- mmmm, proteins and chili sauce -- and lit up right outside. When I noticed a whole bunch of schoolkids a few feet away I moved further down the block. Partly so as not to infect the little dears with an early love of fine tobacco, partly so that their minders would not make themselves visible and squawk at me.

I can still remember being squawked at by teacher-type people.

Those aren't memories I wish to revisit especially.

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Their skin is all one colour and it has that plastic look. This from a commercial for a skin care unguent for the over forty crowd (specifically women). Suggesting that if you have that glow you will be fullfilled and radiant and deserving of respect. Because society has zero estimation for women over forty and men over fifty. Per Youtube ads.

Someone asked me the other day what I thought of their new "look". In the most diplomatic way possible I told him that it made him look like an elderly parolee. Skeevy, totally untrustworthy, and possibly a psychopath. Rabid drug zombie.

Apparently, because he kept attracting the wrong kind of women -- succesful doctors with major psychological issues who were all messed up -- he decided to go for something different. Of course he also keeps meeting them at yoga classes, which tells me I should never, EVER, visit a yoga studio. Something I had already resolved to not do.

I did not mention to him that the HR person at a computer company met the love of his life at a martial arts class. She beat the crap out of him. He loves her, she likes "playing".
Last time I saw him he was somewhat bruised. And still an idiot.
Second note to self: avoid martial arts.

If you want to meet the right woman, sign up for a geology class.
Women who are into yoga or "martial-arts-for-white-women" are probably artistic, spiritual, and into healthy life style choices, and will strongly disapprove of anyone who eats meat, smokes a pipe, and reads actual books. Whereas it stand to reason that a female geologist would, after ten months out in the desert with her sunhat, Mohs hardness testing kit, and rock hammer, passionately want a smoke and a cocktail, coffee, something deepfried, fresh hot chilies, the smell of human civilization, and the company of a creature who has more emotional resonance than a lizard sunning its scaly self on a rock.

I can safely say that I have more personality than a lizard.
Not so sure about my yoga-class acquaintance.
He's more like a gila monster.

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Sunday, June 25, 2023


Even thought symptoms have been quite mild, I might as well stop pretending that having Covid was 'no biggie'. The truth is, it walloped me. And it still is doing so. The vertigo was in retrospect and seen with perspective a fairly minor situation, the lack of energy has been far more of a clop upside the head. Maybe I just hadn't read enough about covid to fully understand all the effects; effort drains me.

Like many people, I subconsciously measure my worth as a human being by my mork.
Seen in that light, I'm not at the price for organs and body parts.
More like the value of elements in the body.
Appropriately I feel like compost.
Rotted manure.

Trust me, gentlemen, I am the best thing for your rosebushes. Assuming that your rosebushes need fertilizer, and are looking a wee bit sickly.
Nice roses need to be coddled.

In actual fact I know beans about roses.
Not going to google it.

Instead, the obsession with food continues.
Pretty much every meal I've had at home for the past two weeks has involved noodles, of which there is a plentiful supply on hand. I made sure of that years ago, and have continued to augment as necessary. Same with hot condiments and chilipaste. Which latter must be seen as mother's milk. Assuming that one's maternal relative was a capsicum.

Obviously my taste buds have not been affected. My apartment mate experienced a lack of taste for a bit, which fortunately did not last more than a day or two, fading after a while into full deliciousness, experienced when eating her own cooking and feeding the turkey vulture. Who was entirely unaffected, and loved the attention that two adults at home afforded him.
As well as the food. Which was copious.
Two full servings of dinner!
Hog heaven.

The turky vulture has tonnes of energy. I don't. It may take a while before I'm full of beans again. I'm sure you know where exactly this is a pain in.

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One of my favourite video bloggers talks lovingly about béchamel sauce, a mixture of flour, butter, and milk, that is the fundament of Chicken à la King. Diced or ripped chicken in a cream sauce enriched with sherry, with often vegetable material added. Which, of course, you fondly remember from that chachanteng near Prince Edward, where they also have toasted piggy buns. With a pat of melting butter.

A pinch of nutmeg is essential.

The vegetable matter isn't.

Many cooks are somewhat slapdash about vegetable matter, adding such peculiarities as broccoli or frozen peas and canned corn. Or coarse chopped bellpepper. More acceptable choices are fresh parsley, chives, and mushrooms. Even carrots or potatoes. If using the latter, also include some grease-frazzled anchovy mashed up.

Crumbled up bacon is also good. Heresy, but good.
If you pretend that bacon is a vegetable your life will be so much better.

As you would expect, I eat this with sambal (mashed chili paste). Anything gravy and rice requires sambal. It's a classic chachanteng favourite. I'll have to check wether any of my favourite CCTs have it on their menus. They really should.

This could be the breakfast of champions.

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Saturday, June 24, 2023


There are times when one wants comfort food. And, if one is in a metropolis with siu mei establishments, comfort food takes on certain characteristics. In Hong Kong roast goose is more easily found than here, but roast duck is all over the place. There is no need to do the bird at home, just purchase a half or a whole one across the hill in Chinatown, ask them to chop it, and reserve the juice.

Yau choi is something that one should usually have in the vegetable bin in the fridge, fresh ginger in a basket on top, and rice stick noodles over on the shelf. Chives or scallion. Superior stock frozen in the fridge. Cilantro is available two blocks away.

All of this is purely hypothetical, of course, seeing as I haven't quite got the old spring in my step back after covid. I'm somewhat lacking in energy.

While the symptoms weren't a horror show, the infection took a lot out of me.

The symptoms were mild. Vertigo was the worst part.

I am presently imagining whole swarms of rhinolophids zooming about crashing into walls, their echo-locative abilities hampered even darn well hamstrung by the infection, and their hunting effectiveness pretty much nixed. Their prey easily evades them.
Roast duck and broad rice noodles in a gingery broth. With some yau choi added. Ginger is good for the stomach and counteracts inflammation. Rice noodles are easy on the digestion.

A severely spartan looking dish, but quite luxurious.
And roast duck is great with some chili paste.
Which, you know, is good for the soul.

Next week sometime.

It's the middle of summer, and mostly sunny.
Can't understand why it feels so cold.

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Friday, June 23, 2023


Upon due and mature consideration, I think that I would be horrible at interrogating Eastern European baddies. Of which there must be an awful lot, because all the television shows from the sixties that weren't Westerns or Coming Of Age dramas were filled with them.

Seemingly they had taken over Hollywood.
Slinking around in trenchcoats.
Or comic opera uniforms.

We can probably blame Bela Lugosi and Boris Karloff for that.
In order to counter vampires, we learn from Hong Kong movies to spread glutinous rice grains around on the floor. It burns them, you see.

"But what if they're different vampires?"

Well, okay, if they're Irish, spread sweet potatoes around.

"Yeah no, I'm not gonna carry around an entire produce market."

I'd probably be hell to have around for vampires or Eastern European baddies.
I would keep making fun of their ridiculous accents.

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Thursday, June 22, 2023


Once again, I am reminded that any medical matters I post on Facebook are material that may confuse people, and be held against me. Reason being that A) some people cannot read carefully or critically, and B) vocabulary is a vast and deep ocean of confusing terms, best not speak English, it's too difficult. Consequently I wish to affirm that my fifth eye itches, and my chelicerae hurt, particularly because the semi-softened keratin and cartilegenous parts of my dinner irritated both my labrum and my labium. Oh, the haemolymph ache!

Lets see if that gets an idiot reaction.

It's not just the idiots.
Sometimes it's good people with a reasonable level of intelligence who, bless them, are quite incapable of accurate interpretations of text. Years ago a good friend, military veteran and all-round decent perspicacious guy, misinterpreted a statement I made and had kittens.

I didn't bother correcting him, and never tried to mend the relationship.

Perhaps if he read the first paragraph here he'd be confused.

Might even call the authorities on me.

"There's a transgender liberal Muslim groomer loose in your city. He's armed with hard bitey bits, and wants to infect everybody with laborits and purpliums! And he's probably African American and/or lesbian!"

In other news, I shall henceforth identify as a vampire bat.
And insist on overhead bars in all restrooms.
Suitable for my kind.

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My apartment mate's cough is getting far better. Last night the barking dog sounds coming from her room were far less, and that's a very good thing. She needed a good night's rest. Her improvement is not only the to-be-expected lessening of symptoms, but also the positive effect of several of her coworkers being scarce yesterday. We'll ascribe this to bureaucratic laziness and lack of work ethic. Which normally irritates her, but she doesn't particularly like their company, and what with being painfully detail conscious, she despises how they do what they're allegedly doing.

This is not unusual. Some of the best people have the same issue. The remarkable thing about modern technology is that it's made the total imcompetents among us twice as ineffective at double the speed. It's mostly the semi-illiterates who are like that.
They're far less literate and far less able than they ever thought possible.
Assuming that their dull grunting of inanities counts as thinking.

In San Francisco this may be particularly evident.
We are a bureaucrat heavy metropolis.
Very civil serving.
One imagines whole hordes of gentlemen with starched shirts sitting around drinking tea while fanning themselves, doing absolutely nothing useful, occasionally stamping a form in purple-blue ink from a pad that remains remarkably moist -- probably because it is used so rarely -- and langourously hollering for that file clerk to come around, but of course that describes what it was like half a century ago, when they all felt much more important.
And, therefore, absolutely justified in their inefficiency.
In this day and age they feel entitled.
It's different.

The higher up in the hierarchy, the bigger the stamp pad.
Or, nowadays, the computer monitor.

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Wednesday, June 21, 2023


On Facebook somebody posted a photo of a very dear friend reading the newspaper at the Caffè Trieste this morning. Naturally it awakened memories. I myself used to go there a lot, but unlike him I do not have the ability to tell pretentious artistic type diplomatically but in no uncertain terms where they can shove their uniqueness.

Yes, I can tell them. But either I'm too diplomatic or not diplomatic in the slightest. And some of those "poets" and "philosophers" are remarkably dense. Which makes me glad I am not a woman, because types like that are even more oblivious to women's desire to be left alone, go away, I'm not interested, you're a turd, piss off.

[My apartment mate, a remarkable woman, would tell them bluntly what to do. And, if necessary, damage them. A small slight woman, with proficiency in martial arts, an intense desire to be left  alone, and a really bad case of Asperger's syndrome. Don't mess with ladies on the spectrum. If you know what's good for you. Do you want to live?]

The photo shows a distinguished looking youngish middle-aged chap at a round tile topped table with a cappucino, in the middle distance, reading waht I presume is the San Frncisco Chronicle (probably doing the sudoku and the crossword puzzles), looking content. His spectacles glisten in the morning sunlight drenching the place.

This is not that place.
This shows the front restaurant at Eindhoven Central Station overlooking the 18 September Square, afternoon sunlight streaming in, in Spring or Summer. I have always enjoyed train station coffee shops and restaurants. There's something magical there. And often the food and beverages were quick and excellent. Reason to dawdle, if waiting for a later train.

Also a good place to read the newspapers.

At the rear exit of the station in fall and winter you can buy beignets or frikandel from vans while heading toward the buses. Sheer heaven when it's freezing outside. Dutch beignets (oliebollen) are dusted with confectioners sugar; you'll look like a coke fiend afterwards while boarding the bus. You won't be the only one.

The coffee shops on the platforms used to be filled with high school students and factory workers smoking handrolled dark shag cigarettes with their coffee while waiting for their trains. Pungent! But since Brussels forbade smoking everywhere, that's a thing of the past.
I would imagine that they've all been replaced by vegetarians and anti-vaxxers since then, enjoying delicious soy milk beverages.

From what I hear you can still smoke at on the terraces of cafés in the Netherlands. That's because the inside is clean and tobacco-free, reserved for the non-smokers. Also, empty. Non-smokers.

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A friend asks what we remember from our high school graduations. And he speculates that it includes pompous music, academic gowns, and proud relatives. Which, of course, is entirely wrong. One person I know remembers, acutely and in very great detail, that he was stoned out of his gourd the entire time. Here it is, decades later, and every detail is etched in his memory. And it lasted for hours!

No, he didn't grow up on Holland, where weed is a thing.

However, I did grow up over there -- we moved to Europe when I was a tyke -- and quite remarkably I do not remember drugs being used at our high school at all. Tobacco was, not surprisingly, a thing. Both Eindhoven and Valkenswaard had a rich history in cigars, which were manufactured there in great number and kept our sailors and captains of industry despoiling the colonial world richly wreathed in comforting smoke.

Several of us graduated three months later than everyone else, due to reasons. No, we hadn't knocked over the local friet-kot; medical, or family tragedies. Reasons.
Imagine a table, with gentlemen between teenage years and nearly a century of age sitting around it, smoking cigars and drinking coffee. It was very dignified. Lasted about an hour and a half. No music -- although one of us did sing a couple of verses from Gaudeamus Igitur, because of tradition -- and the clinking of coffee cups.

In conversation one chap did bring up sports, but he got shouted down by the adults. We were all adults. Some of us freshly minted. But the gravitas of adult conversation does not encourage silly boys games, and we were conscious of that.

When the cigars and coffee were done, we took our diplomas, shook the hands of the headmaster and other teachers present, and left.

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Years ago you could stroll down the street from the theatre after the movies let out and feast upon braised eels at a Shanghainese restaurant that no longer exists. Or lovely pork cutlets, which aren't really Shanghainese, more International Settlement. Then fill your pipe with a Latakia mixture and head out into the cold, cold night, still aglow from the hero film and all the tea you had drunk.

That movie theatre shut down a while back, and I've moved out of the neighborhood since then. I seldom smoke Latakia mixtures any more, prefering Virginia blends with a touch of Perique or Firecured. Still have my pipes. Evenings in the city tended often towards chilly.

The sound of Shanghainese has always seemed more sibelant than Cantonese to my ear. And it's so different that one seldom understands it. There was also a Shanghainese soup kitchen nearby, open for breakfast and lunch. Red soup noodles. No, not 羅宋湯 ('lo sung tong'), which is a version of borscht, but 紅湯麵 ('hung tong min'), wheat noodles in a red broth. With stuff added according to a limited selection.

There were more Shanghainese in the area then, though soup dumplings were still unknown. Or at least they had not cropped up on my horizon yet.

There was also a Hakka restaurant, where in the evening you could have salt-baked chicken ((鹽焗雞 'yim guk kai') or stewed fatty pork with salt vegetables (梅菜扣肉 'mui choi kau yiuk'). Delicious. The neighborhood was more prosperous then, and more self-contained.
There no movie theatres there anymore. Video tape rental places, and later DVDs changed that dynamic, and nowadays you can download films for a nominal fee. The bars largely cater to white people slumming. The bakeries have improved, and HK milk tea plus chachanteng dishes caught on. In some ways things have improved.
In some ways not.

Since Uncle's and Sun Wah Kueh closed, pie has become harder to find.
But that's also the case in the rest of the city.
The Chinatown crust was wonderful.

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Tuesday, June 20, 2023


On one of the pipe smokers pages there's the usual waffling about Tolkien and Lord Of The Rings. Which is slightly peeving, because sheer repetition does not make me any fonder of that author and that book. My mother admired him, so I read two thirds of my way through the monumental work, before deciding that all in all it didn't quite interest me. Did the same with Salman Rushdie's most infamous work. Yes yes, quite brilliant, but, um, bleh.

Seizing on familiar themes and repeating them has the effect of lessening their appeal. Mark Twain and Rudyard Kipling were also pipe smokers. And we should be grateful that the pipe smoking community has not child-like fixated on those balls and bounced them all over till they deflated. Jean - Paul Sartre likewise smoked a pipe.

No one models themselves on the man.

Personally, I very much like the books by Georges Joseph Christian Simenon. Also a pipe man. But when I read them as a teenager I took pipe smoking quite for granted -- very many people smoked pipes then -- and what struck me most particularly was the frequent lyrical mention of food. His heroes liked to eat.
The Maigret novels would be far less without the Chief Inspector's taking lunch at bistros or having supper at home cooked by his admirable spouse. In this we see a fascination with tasty dishes which is utterly Belgian, though naturally shared by the french.

I had already spent many happy hours browsing through cookbooks and the Larousse Gastronomique before I picked up my first Simenon book. And as I now remember those days, I am flabbergasted that my mother wasn't as in love with the bistros and dining tables of that world as I became.

Fictional food made the real tobacco in my pipe taste better.

Valkenswaard, where we lived when we were in Europe, did not have the Frenchified culinary attractions of Belgium, nor did Eindhoven, the nearest metropole. But I fondly remember the various lovely things that were locally available: fried foods, beautiful patat frites, seafoods, refined pastries. And Dutch-Indonesian dishes cooked by family friends, and later by myself. Plus there were trips to Paris, Antwerp, and Brussels. I think I would have died inside if I had been stuck in some place like Kansas or Detroit.

When I returned to the United States there was more food to discover. For the past several years I have been near Chinatown and North Beach. And San Francisco, though sometimes snootily precious and pretentious, is no culinary backwater.

One of my favourite Chinese chefs on the internet reawakend an appreciation for béchamel, key to several chachanteng specialities. I wonder if Maigret would have enjoyed Chicken à la King. I'm sure he would have. Good chicken, lovely porcini and chantarelles, plus minced fresh chives. Over white rice. Or, perhaps heretically, with lovely crisp fries.

What is this juvenile love of Hobbits, second breakfast, and long churchwarden pipes?
How about fixating on Sesame Ginger Chicken, and Pork Balichao instead?
Jordalu Sali Margi, or Boeuf Bourguignonne?

Bacon and eggs if you must.

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"Come along, little dingus, it's lunch time." "Yeh yeh yeh yeh yeh!" "Noodles!" "Yeh yeh yeh!" "With roast turkey, yau choi, scallions, peanut sauce, and chili paste." "Yeh yeh yeh yeh?" "And a splash of stock to make it soupy." "yay!"

That was the gist of the conversation I had with the turkey vulture, who had been sleeping on my apartment mate's bed. He lives for his food, and dreams of being fed. So the little fellah ended up happy. For some strange reason I cannot fathom, his gustatory preferences encompass both her tastes (no chili at all) and mine (plenty hot).
A cheerful little fellow.

He's enthusiastic, but unrefined.
Not a gourmet, but a gourmand.

Last night he was happily speculating about 'little hamster on buttered toast'.
Which no one here eats and we'd all be horrified by.
The monkey clouted him.
It was, as often happens, the "long arm of righteousness". Which whenever it reaches out to swat upside the head surprises the living bejayzus out of him. He has not as yet wigged on to the fact that some of his appetites are uncivilized. And do not meet our approval.

That roast turkey would have benefitted from some shrimp paste.
And much more of the sambal.

Perhaps tomorrow I shall venture out of the house after lunch. My bout of Covid should definetly be over by then, and I need to restock on some supplies. Plus I've run out of those delightful mango-flavoured fungleisou (鳳梨酥), which both I and Sydney Fylbert (the turkey vulture) think are scrumptious, but my apartment mate is rather apathetic about.

I also need another jar of chili paste.

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The two best examples of Southern Womanhood are Lauren Boebert and Marjorie Taylor Greene. They're also the worst. So they're perfect. Almost more than anyone else possibly could, they represent why visiting the region between the Oakland Hills and Brooklyn is a bad idea. People like that cook, have menfolk who are accustomed to their social and cultural environments, and shoot blacks and foreigners driving through town.

Not being black, I suppose I could risk it. But I would probably ask some one there "good lord you're dumb as a brick, how did you ever figger out how to operate the meat grinder, Bubba", and the jig would be up.

Besides, the constant banjo music and junkfood would get to me.

As well as all that festering Christianity.

Sweet Jayzus.

A friend who lives in the West Bank is originally from there, the area between the Oakland Hills and Brooklyn. He loves the place, and banjo music has entered his soul. Remarkably he's also a hippie pothead in some ways, and, I suspect, emotionally attached to junkfood. Nice chap, but an example of how cultural rot affects the mind. We first encountered each other when he disputed the proper method of rubbing turkey skin prior to roasting.
At the time I may have suggested that roast turkey looked like nothing so much as a tanned elderly playboy's rear end, and that in any case the flavour left a lot to be desired, even if the stuffing was basically glutinous rice, black mushroom, and lap cheung, after which he gibbered a bit about Jerusalem if I remember correctly.

Remember, he's from the centre of the country. Where I've got kinfolk, seeing as my earliest American ancestors came here when the Dutch still owned New York, and by the time of the revolution we had spread to New England, Virginia, and the Carolinas.

Undoubtedly, some of my (now very) distant kin play banjos.

I might even be related to Boebert and Greene.

Family reunions must be hell.


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In another few days, when I'm convinced I'm not Typhoid Mary -- that is to say, not likely to infect anyone with Covid -- some beer will be purchased. Specifically a dark brown ale. Not for drinking. There is an urgent need for Belgian-type meatballs. Fatty ground meat, chopped shallot, breadcrumbs, egg as a binder, salt, pepper, pinch nutmeg. Browned, then simmered in a sauce made of caramelized chopped shallot and dark beer. Eaten with hot garlic bread.

Plus, very likely, a chilipaste with minced garlic, touch sugar.

Might simply acquire ready-made meatballs at one of the Chinatown shops that caters to Vietnamese. None of which have a selection of beers. A beer sauce requires a heavier sweeter beer than the typical American muck at the corner liquoreteria.

Not today though. I still have a mild cough, and the sounds coming from my apartment mate's room last night reminded me of the neighbor's angry dog across the street.
And I swear I heard her growling too, though that may be "incorrect".
But both of us are on the way to full recovery.

The other reason it will have to wait is that a nice meal demands a good smoke afterwards, and I couldn't even finish the bowl I tried late last week, which was disappointing.
A spectrum of aged Virginias with a small amount of Smyrna leaf, altogether quite pleasing. Complex, subtle, sweetish. Reminiscent of that old-fashioned incense-like fragrance one associates with libraries and the deep veranda around tea-time.

The reason for garlic bread instead of frites, which would be better, is that there is no decent friet-kot around the corner to pick up a huge bag of fresh hot fries, Americans don't know how to make them in any case (clarified beef fat, deepfried twice for perfection) and usually have limp greasy long potato lumps instead of actual patat friet.

[Sorry, but y'all never learned how to cook properly. It must have been that broomstick-up-the-arse Puritan disapproval combined with the Great Depression that did it. Cookbooks for the newly middle class from the nineteen fifties and sixties are both hysterically funny and horrifying, and apparently they still "cook" like that in the Midwest and much of Texas.]

As you can tell, Anglo "cuisine" does not have a place in my heart. Or stomach.
I've seen what y'all do to pasta. Wars are started that way.
Oh, and your cheese. Sweet Jesus almighty.
Plus that awful beer!

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Several years ago I had a coworker down the peninsula who would leave work related voicemails on people's answering machines all weekend...