Thanksgiving Break 2018 and my bread recipe

I’m back in the desert after Thanksgiving in Vegas with my family. We went and saw Fantastic Beasts II, went to bingo, ate at my favorite Chinese restaurant Bund Shanghai, went grocery shopping at both the Mexican supermarket and the Filipino supermarket. What else is there?

Our family’s T-day menu was an 8 lb turkey roasted beer-can style; a roast lamb, shrimp pansit, tarragon mashed potatoes, slow-cooker dressing, stir-fried brussels sprouts, roasted brocoli, fresh baguettes. K made gallo pinto. The guests brought a not-that-sweet bibinka and some goat caldereta.

We failed to make the salmon, totally forgot about anything cranberry. For dessert, we got two free pumpkin pies from the casino, and the dessert eaters declared them disgusting. The guests brought another free casino pumpkin pie. My dad proposed giving them to the poor, but my mama vetoed cursing the poor with something that was not good enough to serve to her own family.  I think those pies got junked. The dessert eaters were in heaven sucking on some sugar cane that my mama bought at the supermarket.

K wants to make bread, so here’s my recipe:

  • 3 cups all purpose flour
  • 1.5 teaspoons salt
  • 0.5 teaspoons active dry yeast
  • 1.5 cup water

Stir the dry ingredients together in a big bowl. Add the water and stir with the back of a wooden spoon until all the dry flour is gone; you’ll have a shaggy mass. Clean all the scraps from the sides of the bowl and dump it into the mass of flour. Cover and leave it alone until the next day, up to 48 hours. At the very least, give it eight hours. It will transform itself into a wet, sticky pool.

It’s ready to bake after that, but if you want to work it a little, you can fold it, let it rest, fold it again, let it rest… whatever.  Cook a round loaf in a Dutch oven with or without parchment; or  with a little more work you can shape baguettes.

So here’s the minimum gear you need for the dough: measuring cups, measuring spoons, big mixing bowl, something to cover it with.  Optional: silicone spatula, bench scraper.

Here’s the minimum gear you need for the round loaf: Dutch oven. Optional: parchment paper.  I’ve made a round loaf in K’s apartment before so I know he has all these things.

Here’s the minimum gear you need for baguettes:  baking sheet.  Optional: Silpat liner, sharp knife for slashing, little container for steam bath.  You can buy the baguette cradle if you’re into it; I would buy this one because it will make larger loaves. The one that I bought really makes ficelles, which are delicious but should be eaten hot and fresh… they get hard and crusty if you let them wait.

I enjoy hard and crusty but my mama adds stuff like flax and chia to her recipe and the finished product turns out softer. The last round of baguettes I made were yellow from turmeric.

October Break 2018; Tomato Sauce Recipe

  1. I drove through the desert at night, from the Coachella Valley to Las Vegas. It was a full moon in the Mohave National Reserve.
  2. Selfie with mama.
  3. Selfie with dad.
  4. This is my new soap. The pour was a fail, but the color and the formula was perfect. I was going to try dancing tunnels but the batter thickened up and I was lucky to get it into the mold with a spoon. I’m getting close to perfecting my signature soap.
  5. I discovered these beans in my mama’s fridge, labeled ‘betswelas,” a borrowing from Spanish “habichuelas.” I’m surprised that they didn’t get the Mexican word (ejotes) or the European Spanish word (judías verdes). Habichuelas reminds me of Caribbean, Andean, or maybe Central American Spanish.
  6. I made pansit. It was really good, and the key was the broth. But also I burned the veggies in the wok, which makes them taste better.  The whole time I was thinking about that America’s Ethnocentric Test Kitchen, where they decided definitively that woks don’t work for stir fry.
  7. The next morning for breakfast I baked baguettes and made a tortilla de patatas.
  8. That night for dinner I made pupusas, curtido, and even that thin tomato salsa that they serve with pupusas. The pupusas were loroco y queso, and my mama recognized the loroco and identified it as bagbagkong, or sabidukong.  It’s good in Ilocano garden vegetable recipes, and it’s available at the Mexican supermarket.
  9. I made bread with my mama’s dough.  I was trying to slash a star. There was an issue of the paper sticking.
  10. My mama says the bunot (coconut husk) polishes the floor better than the electric polisher the bought. Added bonuses, she gets her exercise, and also the dogs don’t lose their minds with the bunot.
  11. My mama helps me with my sewing project.
  12. She sewed me a Möbius Strap for my ukulele!  Apologies to the inventor.
  13. My mama tested out her new pasta making extruder by making bucatini from scratch!
  14. I made a tomato sauce from scratch. It was spectacular.

JP’s Tomato Sauce Recipe

Toast some black pepper in a pan over medium.  Douse with olive oil and start roasting your garlic in there. Don’t wait for it to finish, just get it started. Add in some oregano.

Dump in half of a little thang of anchovy filets in olive oil and crush them into the oil with your stirring spoon. Don’t tell skittish people about the anchovies, they will be annoying.  Drop in some chopped onions and get them to translucent.

Drop in a bunch of chopped tomatoes. Add salt, more oregano, thyme, bay leaf, whatever you find.

Stew it for half an hour over medium low. If you need more umami, splash in a dash of soy sauce and don’t tell Italian people; they will talk about their nonna as if that’s relevant to the situation, nun me ne frega, mi hai capito?  Eu! Anyway I forgot to add the soy sauce, but I did add some red pepper paste.

Tell your guests to wash their hands and sit down at the table.

Boil the water off. Then add the hot pasta and spoonful of the pasta water.  Crank the flame up to high and then toss the pasta into the sauce until that water has boiled off again and the stewed tomatoes are clinging to the pasta for dear life.  Turn the heat off and drizzle with more olive oil.

That’s eat. Serve it hot with grated parmesan.

There are a few things that add umami to any dish (besides just adding MSG). They are cooked tomatoes, parmesan cheese, soy sauce, and anchovies.  The reason pasta in tomato sauce is appealing is because it’s super umami.  I’m so, so sorry for all that sour tomato sauce you’ve eaten over your life. For the Filipinos, that half cup of sugar in your tomato sauce is why we’re all overweight and diabetic.

I drive back to the desert tomorrow.

 

 

 

Maybe I Should Hoard Fish Oil Pills

This post is for Bocatas, who didn’t ask for my advice.

So for my second round of laser eye surgery, the guy who was helping the doctor prep me for the procedure (I’m not sure if he is a nurse or an expeditor of some sort) told me to take flax seed oil pills.  He said they’ll help keep my eyeball tissues juicy and that will stave off dryness.

Off-handedly, he mentioned that fish oil pills were actually the best, but that most people were grossed out by fish.

I was like, listen dude, I have been Filipino a long time and I’m not afraid of no fish.  I chuckled to myself and muttered, “… desert people.” He looked up at me and said, oh, ok, with a look on his face like, “wow, that’s never happened before.” He told me that I’d be taking these pills for the rest of my life.

The time I ran out. Ever since the procedure, I’ve taken my 1000 IUs of fish oil pills twice a day. One time, I was driving to Vegas through the Mojave National Preserve and my eyes hurt, a stingy, stabby hurt. It took me another day or two to remember that I had let my bottle of fish oil pills run out, and that I needed to buy another. I bought the pills in Vegas, and my eyes went back to being juicy and stab-free.

The lady at work. One of my coworkers had the procedure done a few months before me, and I was picking her brain for information. She said the whole experience was great, which made me feel better about getting my own procedure done. Later, after the surgery, she complained to me that her eyes felt dry, and that drops didn’t help, and that sometimes her eyes felt stabby.  I asked her what kind of fish oil pills she was taking, and she said, “What are you talking about?” Apparently the nurse/expeditor didn’t tell her to take the flax seed oil pills. So I told her the whole flax seed oil/fish oil pill story, and she said, oh, I’ll take fish oil pills.

I checked back with her a week later, as she passed me in the hallway. Did the fish oil pills work?  Yep, she said, fixed everything, that was it. I’m fine now, she said, and then disappeared down the hallway.

Check-up.  I did a one year post procedure check-up with my ophthalmologist. I mentioned that I was taking the fish oil pills and told him about the lady at work. He didn’t seem that impressed; maybe he thinks fish oil pills are not that necessary.  He asked me if I ate fish at least once a week, and I was like, chuckle, “… what is it with these desert people?  I eat fish minimum fifty times a week!  He looked at me and said, you know you’re probably getting enough fish oil through your diet. And then he took a harder look and said, “I would worry about mercury poisoning, if you’re eating that much fish.”

Listen, if I die from eating too much fish, I will die satisfied. If I die from anything, please let it be from eating too much fish.  Also, I reduced my intake of top predator fish like tuna down to once a month, and now I eat lower mercury fish like salmon and sardines.

The Dreaded Yellow Bottle.  So another time my bottle of fish oil pills ran out, and I bought the yellow bottle instead of the green bottle because it was on sale.  I took it for about three days, and then drove back to the pharmacy and bought the green bottle at full price. I don’t know whether the yellow bottle was lower quality or bad product or what, but I felt the stabby eye pain and I didn’t like it.

Text message panic.  Another friend from work texted me very early in the morning complaining of stabby eye pain. I told her to wash her eyeballs out and see the doctor.  Later I checked back with her; she did see the doctor, and he told her to take some drops. Dryness. At that point I remembered OH RIGHT she had had the procedure too.  So I told her about fish oil pills in a series of several detailed messages. I checked back with her a few days later, and she said, yep, all better.

1400 IUs.  I emptied out another bottle of fish oil pills, and coincidentally I was in Vegas again.  I went with my mama to Costco and I saw that the green bottle was on sale, but not at 1000 IUs; only at 1400 IUs.  So I bought it, and took the pills and everything was fine.  Once that bottle was empty, I went back to my regular pharmacy in the desert and bought the 1000 IUs bottle.  I didn’t feel stabby pain, but I did feel a little dry and my focus was not as sharp.  It’s not bad enough for me to go back up to 1400 IUs, but it’s clear to me at this point that I actually need fish oil pills for now.

Maybe I’ll try to wean myself away from fish oil pills gradually, lowering the dose until I stop needing them. When the economy crashes and the republic falls, I don’t want to be caught dependent on these pills without a reliable of supply. Who knows when order will be restored;  it might take years for society to recover steady distribution. Maybe I should just start hoarding them.

Secret Chicken Stories

For the record, I only called it “secret chicken” because it was a mysterious place and people were more drawn to it that way.  I never actually kept it a secret.

Secret Chicken.jpgOrigin.  I was rehearsing the Shades of Praise Gospel Choir, for a baccalaureate mass ceremony.  I told them that I’d see them at regular 11am mass, then there would be time to eat a piece of chicken and then call time for baccalaureate was soon after.  K asks me, “wait a second, where are you going to get chicken?”  When I answer that I was just going to stop at Ezell’s, K tells me, “you know the best chicken is at the corner of MLK and Jackson.”  He was one thousand percent correct.  It must have been in June of 2000.

By the way, my order is seven wings, and as soon as I get them in the car I pop open the styrofoam clamshell so that the breading doesn’t get soggy with the steam.  The wings are not in segments; they are whole wings from drumette, to flat, to tip.  The breading was crunchy and peppery, and the meat was juicy and perfect.

Secret Chicken. One time after a Christmas caroling with students, I told my coworker L that we should stop for fried chicken wings. Immediately someone said “Ezell’s?” and I said, no, I have another place. The interrogation was swift and merciless.  WHAT IS THIS PLACE, WHAT’S THE NAME OF IT, WHERE IS IT, IS IT AS GOOD AS EZELL’S?  I had to confess, I didn’t know the name of the place.  At the time they didn’t have the sign, and the place needed a coat of paint. I said I didn’t know the name of the place, and somebody yelled IS IT A SECRET?  And from that point on, I called it “Secret Chicken.”  I bought two orders of seven wings and we sat inside the school van and ate it in the parking lot. The students and my coworker L marveled at the flavor, saying things like, “oh my God,” “I love secret chicken,” and, “it’s a secret.”

What is this chicken? One time I went to visit an elderly relative in the hospital, where about a dozen family members were keeping vigil.  I brought two orders of seven wings, and when I walked in they hugged me and were glad to see me.  I said, I brought fried chicken and my auntie said, oh that is so sweet honey, I couldn’t possibly eat, they’ve been bringing in so much food…  I opened the styrofoam clamshell and immediately everyone stopped what they were doing and turned their heads.  Not hungry auntie was suddenly hungry, and a few bites into it, she said, “WHAT IS THIS CHICKEN?!” While her mouth was full, she was asking me, “Honey where did you get this chicken?! This is my favorite chicken!”

Whenever I describe the place, I say, “it’s at the corner of Jackson and MLK, and there’s no sign, and I don’t know what it’s called.” Invariably people ask me what it’s called even after I tell them, and then they try to picture the place in their minds, which they can’t because it’s so nondescript.

Back then they only sold chicken under a heat lamp; there were wings, and other parts that weren’t as good as the wings. There might have been a hot link.  There were drinks on the shelves and in the coolers. That’s about it; I don’t think they even had chips. They had a big bottle of Tapatio that you could dress your chicken with. Now they sell jojos as well.  Fyi, jojos are fried potato wedges for you sukkaz that are not from the 206.

Yelp review.  One time I looked at the Yelp review of the place, and noticed one of the photos was gorgeous. GORGEOUS. Then I noticed there was a scoop of rice in the background, which I instantly identified as Niko Niko Calrose Rice.  I thought, did I take that picture?  I can’t have taken it, I’ve never written a yelp review in my life.  I looked at the name, and realized it was my cowsin M, who was still going there years after introduced him to it.  The photo does not seem to be there anymore.

She made it best. For a long time when I first stated going there, the lady behind the counter was a very kind Eritrean lady who seemed exhausted all the time.  The chicken was always perfect. A friend of mine asked her what the secret was, and she said it was just the recipe she makes for her family, nothing special. My friend didn’t believe her, but I believed it; salt, pepper, corn flour, fried perfectly without over-frying. Another friend of mine asked for the recipe, they told him no-wheat flour, so it’s gluten free, no extra carbs!  He owned rental houses in the area, so he stopped there all the time. Anyway, I started noticing that the wings were getting over-fried, and it wasn’t as good. I also realized the kind lady wasn’t there anymore. So finally I asked the man selling me the chicken; what happened to the kind lady who always used to work here?  Oh, said the man, she passed away about a year ago. I was so sorry to hear that. I also thought, she was the one who made the chicken the best.

A few years ago, they gave the place a purple paint job and replaced the sign. Now it says “Quick Pack Food Mart” which is still too nondescript to remember. I’m not a meat eater anymore, but I have fond memories of that place. I wrote this post because I saw a Seattle Weekly article.

The other places I liked to get fried chicken were: Ezell’s, Heaven Sent (basically Ezell’s), Chicken Express (more kind Eritrean ladies), and the old Takohachi, where the Stranger reporter went to get karaage after CD Ezell’s burned down in 2000. Seattle was really a wonderful place for fried chicken. There was an Ezell’s in the UDistrict when I was in college; the Hawaiians used to buy extra dinners for the homeless people. There was a time when my neighborhood seemed to be the epicenter of Seattle fried chicken, with three of my favorite spots only blocks away.

 

So I licked all the soaps in my house

I made four batches of soap this weekend, and learned a lot. I made a travel sized grapefruit shampoo; it didn’t reach gel stage and when it I cut it, it looked like white cheddar cheese, specifically Beecher’s. I tested it with phenolphthalein solution, and it turned danger pink! So I put that on the shelf to mellow for 6 weeks. What a bummer.

My second soap was a shave soap. These ones did reach gel stage, and I got a picture of it. The secret was wrapping the mold in towels and stuffing it in a beer cooler. When I tested it with phenolphthalein solution, it turned pink again. Dang it! Another soap in soap jail.

I tried making a second batch of the shampoo soap, and this time I made a rookie mistake; I didn’t stir the lye water enough, because I was afraid of it. When I dumped the lye water into the oil, I discovered a precipitate; a lye puck at the bottom of the container. It was stuck there. Shrug. So I just kept going, knowing that this batch would be oily and have a short shelf life. It turned out soft and translucent, but passed the phenolphthalein solution test.

Finally I made a 40 oz loaf of coffee/cocoa butter soap. It was perfect, a perfect soaping experience, and all my soap is going into the beer cooler from now on; it gelled up beautifully. And when I tested it with phenolphthalein solution, I got danger pink again.

Listen, most people make soap from recipes and then have to let them mellow in soap jail for 4 to 6 weeks. I am trying to go a different road; I have Certified Laboratory Reports of all my oils and I do the chemistry to make sure the water is adequate to saponify my oils by the next day. My soap coach said that it should be safe to use immediately. So I was disappointed that the soaps I did without mistakes were turning danger pink.

Then I thought, wait a minute, phenolphthalein solution tests for alkalinity, and all soaps should be alkaline, right? That’s why it removes grease from your skin. I must be reading the “danger pink” wrong. So then I tested all the soaps in the house with phenolphthalein solution, and guess what… none of the commercial soaps contained any alkalinity. But all of the homemade soaps I tested, including the one from my soap coach, turned pink under the phenolphthalein! I must be reading the results wrong. I googled to see if I can get a better idea of the spectrum, maybe danger pink was not really danger.

What I found was that people don’t really test with phenolphthalein solution anymore, apparently it’s hard to read and some people say it’s wholly unreliable. I mean, finding un-saponified lye crystals is alarming, but just because the surface of the soap gives a pink reading doesn’t mean that the soap is dangerously alkaline. So I resorted to something I had hoped to avoid: I did the old fashioned test, the test that soap makers without the benefit of chemistry have been doing for centuries; I licked the soap to see if the lye would zap me.

The first soap I licked was my original shampoo bar. It didn’t taste bad; it tasted like all the oils and fats I used and a little bit soapy. Most importantly, the lye didn’t zap me. That soap is safe to use today.

So then I went around the house and licked all the soap. Soap soap soap, lick lick lick. It’s all safe.

I used the shave soap to shave my face yesterday. It was fine, it didn’t burn me. This morning I used the grapefruit shampoo bar, it was fine, I didn’t get burned or lose my eyesight. I’m going to try the cocoa butter coffee soap in the shower tomorrow. It all seems safe.

Yes I will keep trying to figure out how to use phenolphthalein solution properly, I need to get to the bottom of that. But the good news is that all my soaps pass the old fashioned zap test. I can lick them all. I’m a soap licker.

Of course, yuck. But it’s not as bad as I thought it would be.

I Make Soap Now

I am trying to de-industrialize my life; stop relying so much on big corporations.  I’m also trying to stop using disposable plastics where I can, and to stop washing so many chemicals down the drain to pollute the water supply.

So I decided to make my own soap. I took a soap making class at the Soapmaking Studio in Lemon Grove, CA. The class was at capacity with a dozen people. I was the only dude, and the only one there for hippy moonbeam reasons; I think the rest of the class was there to learn a craft and maybe start a home business.

I’m glad I took the class. I showed up with a bunch of constraints in my head; no industrial detergents, colors, or scents; no palm oil. Keep it natural; I was probably the hardline extremist compared to some of my classmates, who want to make pretty, fragrant, and therapeutic products. I just want to wash my greasy hair.

We learned the chemistry of formulating recipes based on certified laboratory analysis, which gives us safe soap right away. People who don’t do the chemistry, and just use recipes and procedures that are passed down to them or found on the internet, they run the risk of dangerous soaps, that might burn skin and eyes and cause permanent damage, even blindness. To compensate for these wonky recipes, homegrown soap makers have to let their soaps cure for weeks or months in order for stray sodium hydroxide to neutralize itself. My class taught me that with the proper chemistry and certified laboratory analyses, we can make soaps that are safe to use the next day.  Isn’t that nicer?

The shampoo bar I had been using finally ran out this morning, so it seems that my first soap must necessarily be a shampoo bar.  Soapmakers are a little bit secretive about their secret recipes, so it’s hard for me to tell what to look for in a shampoo bar. It might the case that I make a crappy shampoo bar but a good bath bar. We’ll see how it goes.

I used coconut oil, cocoa butter, castor oil, olive oil pomace, argan oil, and grapefruit essential oils, and no colors.  The only preservative I used was rosemary oleoresin extract.  It’s a test batch, so I made it in the 10 oz mold that makes travel sized bars.

Small test batches are kind of a pain to measure out, probably due to my kitchen scale. I melted the cocoanut butter in the polypropylene pitcher using a water bath. The mix came to a thick pudding stage rather quickly; only two rounds of whizzing with the stick blender.  It’s now wrapped in towels and baking itself on the counter. I’ll publish updates as events occur.

In the days to come, I hope to formulate the following soaps:

  • A grapefruit shampoo bar (the one I made tonight)
  • A shave soap with kaolin clay
  • A bath soap made with coffee
  • A face soap made with activated charcoal

Update:

I unmolded my soap after 12 or so hours, and cut it up.  It looks like my favorite cheddar cheese.  It’s still a little high on the phenolphthalein test so I will wait a while before trying it on my head.

Things I have to blog about

Oh my goodness, blogging is so old fashioned but I miss it.  I find myself writing long-form Facebook updates and Twitter threads, and thinking, wow back in the old days I might have blogged this.

Here are things that I’ve been thinking about but I might never get around to writing:

  • How to write a useful sample sentence for vocabulary learning.
  • Decolonizing & De-industrializing:
    • My diet: fresh/local food, plastics
    • My kitchen: pots & pans, knives, cutting boards, plastics
    • My bathroom: soap making! I’m making my own soap!
    • My language:  A Spanish teacher who never says “Hispanic.”
    • Other random policies.

There are other things going on in in my life, things that I might have blogged about ten years ago.  Like my movie-star ASL teacher saying that we have ESP, or me yelling at a UPS customer service rep to just fix the problem rather than sending me in circles.  There’s the political situation–I think this country is in decline and the republic is falling apart–but I have little to add to that discussion.

I might do another post about what my ideal life looks like now; it’s been a while since I’ve done one of those.

Goofing off is so satisfying; I suppose having my act together would be satisfying as well.  We’ll never know.

Recipe: Steamed Fish

Buy a fresh white fish that will fit whole in your steamer rig. Tell your fish guy to clean the fish but leave the head on.

Prep: Julienne some ginger and the whites of some green onions. Wash and trim some cilantro. The leafy green section of the green onion, you can give them a simple chop at several inches long. Peel a large garlic clove and slice it paper thin. Optional: make paper thin slices of chile serrano or Thai chiles.

Rinse and pat your fish dry, outside and in. Slice some vents into the side of the fish, down to the bone, but don’t slice the bone! Season with salt and black pepper, outside and in. Stuff cavity of the fish with ginger and lengths of green onion.

Cook: Steam your fish gently for 15 to 20 minutes.

While that’s happening, bloom some black pepper in a hot sauce pan.  Add soy sauce and seafood stock. Reduce the liquid to thicken a little, and pour into a small bowl or large ramekin.

Set the table.

The fish is done when the center is 145°F. It should be juicy and come easily off the bone. Move the whole fish to your serving plate and garnish with raw julienne of ginger, slices of garlic and chiles, and then finally the whites of green onion and the tender parts of the cilantro. Give the whole thing one last blessing of fresh cracked black pepper.

Call everybody to the table. Heat a quarter cup of oil in clean saucepan.

When everyone is seated, bring the fish to the dining table and carefully pour the hot oil over the garnish, making sure to hit the garlic slices. Stuff should sizzle and pop but not splash or jump; slow your roll if people start getting oil burns.

Finally, dress the fish with the soy sauce mixture.

Recipe: Basic Pansit

I spell it with an /s/. What’s the point of spelling it with a /c/?

Prep: Julienne some carrots and celery. What else do you want, bamboo strips? Green beans? Bell peppers? Now’s your chance. Sweet corn slice off the cob is nice.

Shred some cabbage. Crush and peel some garlic, chop your onions the way you want them. Slice a lime into squeezy slices, and prep cilantro and green onions or chives to garnish. Chop up some Thai chiles; one for garnish, one for your sofrito.

Liquid: Bring your stock to a boil in a small stock pot. A liter or two would work. I used powdered seafood stock and a bunch of mushroom powder, but a good veggie stock or some bonito flake broth or whatever. Make a couple liters of it, you can use the extra in other recipes. Once it’s at a boil, you can turn it off or keep it at a simmer. It doesn’t have to cook, it just needs to be hot.

Stir-fry: Put your wok over a high flame and bloom a lot of cracked black pepper; a lot. Stir-fry the veggies; start with the hard veggies first (carrots), then add the softer ones. I want to see some searing on the carrots. You can leave out the shredded cabbage for later. Remove the stir-fry mix and set aside. If you want a meaty and/or seafoody pansit, stir-fry it now and set it aside. Put a sear on your meat so people don’t think you boiled it.

Sofrito: Turn the flame down to medium; bloom some more black pepper. Then add oil and crushed garlic, one Thai chili, and some anchovy fillets. Add onions and stir-fry until soft. At this point if you want, you can add pepper paste or whatever secret pastey ingredient you want. This is a good time for patis.

At this point, bring your liquid back up to the boil.

Noodle time: The sofrito is at the bottom of your wok. Add DRY bihon (rice stick noodles) and dry sotanghon (bean thread noodles). By the way, stop saying ‘vermicelli;’ it’s weird for you to speak Italian in this recipe. Also, I speak Italian, and when you say “vermicelli’ I hear “little worms;” not classy. If you’re speaking English, “noodles” is an appropriate word. If you’re speaking a Philippine language, we can say “pansit.”  Or “pancit” with a /c/, whatever, ma l’italiano, dai, loro non hanno nulla da fare qua, eo.

Anyway, add dry noodles on top  of your sofrito. Turn the flame up to all-the-way high. Pour the boiling liquid over the noodles, until the noodles are covered with liquid. It’s a scary amount of liquid. Drop in the cabbage and start tossing everything together with tongs.

You will notice that the noodles soften quickly and start drinking up the liquid. Your job is to keep tossing them, mixing them with tongs. Don’t stop. Lower the flame to medium-low. If you are a fan of the strong soy sauce taste, add it now, straight into the noodles, and keep tossing it.

When the liquid is gone, toss in the veggie and meaty stir-fry. Turn the heat off and keep mixing the ingredients in, tossing with tongs. If you want, you can toss in a little sesame oil at this point.

Garnish with green onions, cilantro, maybe toasted garlic or shallots.  Offer the following as condiments; soy sauce, patis, sliced chiles, lime squeezes, black pepper, sambal ulek (or whatever hot sauce you want).

This is my recipe, and I’m the only one who makes it this way, and I might never repeat it. Every pansit is different, and I’m sure a bunch of Filipinos will look at my recipe and call it wrong.

Whatever; here’s what you have to know. The stir-fried ingredients should have a sear on it, and shouldn’t look steamed or boiled. The noodles should soak up flavored liquid, not plain water. I want that base flavor to have all the chiles and aromatics; it shouldn’t taste like a can of low-sodium chicken broth. The top flavors in the noodles should be black pepper, and lime with the smell of soy sauce.

Eat it hot! It’s better that way.

 

 

 

Linguistic Autobiography, 2nd Update 2018

It’s been 12 years since my Linguistic Autobiography post, and 9 years since my first update.  I could probably stand to re-write the whole post. Maybe someday.  Here’s the current state of the languages I speak.

English: Native speaker/native fluency.

Spanish. I speak it every day at work, and out in the community. There are plenty of people in my life with whom I have code-switching English/Spanish relationships, and quite a few Spanish-only relationships. I still make language mistakes in Spanish, but I make mistakes in English, too; who cares. There’s still plenty I don’t know about Spanish, and I still learn something new about expressing myself every time I talk to one of my friends. I want to stress that; literally every time I talk to someone in a non-routine conversation, I learn something new; whether by intuition or by explicitly asking, “what does that word/expression mean?” At this point, learning things in Spanish feels effortless, as effortless as learning new slang or expressions in English.  But the point is, yes, I’m still learning.

French and Italian. Each of these two languages were my dominant second language at some point in my life, even though I got much further in my French studies than I did in Italian. There are a few people I can talk to in French, but not many, and not every day.  As for Italian, there’s really no one that I speak to anymore. I miss it. In the future, I’d like to spend a summer in Italy, and another summer somewhere in the Francophonie–maybe Martinique, Guadaloupe, or Québec–just to get those two languages back. I feel like I need two weeks of immersion in either of those languages to get back to speaking them transparently.

Mandarin Chinese. Rusty! I haven’t gotten to the point in my Chinese where I could speak as well as those European languages; I can speak less Chinese, but the little I do speak, I speak really well. I need another summer in Taiwan to get that ball rolling again. Going for two years without daily practice was not great for my fluency.

American Sign Language: This the new hotness on my list. I had a Deaf friend back in 1991 teaching me signs, and I took extension courses in ASL here and there, but I didn’t have the opportunity to really learn it until this summer.  I took a summer intensive at the local community college, and as a resident of the state of California the credits were cheap! $49 per credit! I aced the class and am going to all the Deaf events I catch word of: Deaf Meetup! Deaf Pizza! Deaf Bowling!  I want to be a signer and have Deaf people in my life! I would say my level at this point is Novice High, and climbing rapidly.

I’ve talked before about a two-week headache, not actual pain, but a dull soreness that tells me my brain is re-wiring itself for new language.  I did not feel this headache the same way with ASL; it only lasted for a few days.  I also found myself with no desire to speak English.  After three and a half hours of class, my friends and I seemed reluctant to switch to speaking; I found myself with zero desire to speak again. When I did, speaking English seemed noisy and chaotic, exactly how I felt at the end of my Chinese language pledge back in 2007.

Tagalog, Pangasinan, and Ilocano. These are my heritage languages, and I have made an effort to learn each of them. Tagalog, I think I got up to Intermediate Low, but I’ve lost interest in it for various reasons. I’ll regret it someday soon, I know, but nowadays when I look at Tagalog, all I can think about is Pangasinan.  I’m still all about Pangasinan, but I’m at Novice Mid and holding. I will practice more with my parents. Ilocano is still at Novice Low, and hope to spend a summer in Ilocandia someday.

Here are some other languages I’ve studied in my life; I’m at Novice-Mid, or Novice-Low in all of them at this point. Latin, German, Korean: I took classes in these languages, but I don’t retain much. I’d love to have the chance to study all of them. Hawaiian, Hindi; I’ve done some self-study but haven’t gotten very far. I get a crush on ʻŌlelo Hawaiʻi every time I go to Hawaii, and Hindi speakers are everywhere and I want to eat all of their veggies. 

Other languages that I haven’t studied but seem like fun:  Bahasa Indonesia, Kiswahili, Modern Standard Arabic, Guaraní, Portuguese, Catalan, Maltese. Xhosa seems cool doesn’t it? Japanese 100%!

The list is probably too long, but it would be cool. We’ll see; poco a poco.