Fish in parchment

I taught my mama how to cook fish in parchment a little while ago, and it blew her mind; this is her main way of cooking meaty fish now.  Of course, for bangus she sticks to pan roasting.

Anyway, “fish in parchment” is not an appetizing name. In French, it’s en papillote, in Italian it’s in cartoccio; in Spanish I’d probably say en paquete; all of these languages refer to the pouch. In English we refer to the paper apparently. Also, in a pinch you can use aluminium foil; I did that once on the beach in Kauai with some tuna. I try to avoid aluminium just in case it causes some Alzheimer’s. Also, some people refer to cooking in aluminium pouches as “hobo packets,” which is demeaning.

So rip out a big piece of parchment. The fancy people fold it in half and cut it into a cartoid, but ain’t nobody got time for that.

Lay down a little olive oil, or not. Put down some solid vegetables, like thin sliced potatoes or onions or whatever. Put the fish on top of that, salt and pepper, olive oil if you want; do whatever, it’s your packet. Top with herbs, crushed garlic, and thin sliced chiles. If you have a green veg, put it beside the fish. Or whatever; it’s all going to work.

You can get a little technique-y if you want when you fold it all shut.  I just start at one end and twist it up along the seam so that no steam will come out.  As you can see, I didn’t leave a lot of space for air. Your French culinary teacher will probably say to leave more room for air to puff up. Do what makes you happy; just make sure it’s folded or twisted up hard, so that the steam won’t explode your seam.  

At cooking school they will tell you to put it on a baking sheet and bake it off at 400º or 450º for 15 minutes. Of course I don’t do that, I just put it in a dry cast iron skillet and put the lid on, who cares; medium flame or whatever.  Somewhere after between 12 to 15 min, you’ll smell cooked fish, and you know it’s probably done, so you can turn it off and let it rest for a bit. Then spatula it onto a plate and let your guests tear into the paper at the table. The point is to give yourself a facial in the steam that escapes when your rip it open, and if your guests don’t ooh and ahh when they tear the hot packet open, drop them from your lives. People that pray until the food is cold are themselves a curse.  People that find other things to do once the hot food has hit the table are too stupid to eat this, send them to Burger King with a bus ticket. Idiots.

So I served mine with fried mushrooms and some jicama that I chopped up a week ago. This meal is ketogenic, even though I’m not.

If you’re grilling on the beach in Kauai, you can put these packets right on the grill, or on top of a sheet of foil.  I think I got impatient and put the foil right on top of the cooling coals.

If your fish is undercooked, cook it longer the next time. If your veggies are undercooked, chop them smaller the next time. Make stuff small enough to steam in the same amount of time that it takes fish to smell cooked. As long as you got a hard seal, this technique is going to work.

KonMari with Catholic Characteristics

Today was Tasks One and Two of my KonMari Festival.  Clothing and books. I got a jump start on papers, and if all goes right I might actually take care of papers tonight, which is Task Three.

So my Cowsin K was into KonMari back in Seattle, before I moved to California. I was intrigued enough to buy the book back then, but I wasn’t intrigued enough to actually read it. It sat in my kindle for four years.

Last month, my friend R started downsizing his life, preparing to move away and also take a vow of poverty, and from afar I saw him systematically squaring away his office and his apartment. I should also mention that he is a clean freak and a maniac. Anyway, he sold off, donated, recycled, gifted, sent home, and threw away most of his possessions weeks ago and drove off with just a suitcase in his trunk. What I noticed during the whole process is that he loved it; he did it joyfully, I think the activity actually calmed him.

In fact, I convinced him to help me pack up my classroom, which was a revelation. He suggested packing strategies, and crucially, he helped me think about what to throw away and what to take with me, listening carefully and affirming my decisions. This is exciting to me, because I stress out about packing. One time, 20 years ago, my sister let me sleep on the bean bag chair while she packed up my kitchen, knowing that I was worthless.

Anyway, I had an unpleasant “grind-it-out” attitude, while R was serene; he enjoys this work. As I said before, he is a maniac. He also made a smug comment that he didn’t read Marie Kondo and he doesn’t have to. Besides, her theories are based on Shintoism, and he can do it with a Catholic point of view. Regard each item as a blessing. Rather than asking if an item sparks joy, R asks if it brings him closer to God.

He bragged that he should write a book, or be a tidying consultant. I asked him if he’d like to write an article for this blog, and he sneered, “No,” disdainfully, and slowly turned his head to the side and play-acted vomiting in slow motion, audibly wretching.  Charming!

(Disclaimer: R did not, in actually, turn his head to the side and play-act vomiting. But the story is way better that way.)

I started watching some episodes of the Netflix series and taking mental notes about how it’s going to go. I reported to R that I was ready to convert to Shintoism. To his credit, he said he would support me.

Anyway, yesterday was the day I calendared to start with Task One: Clothing. Well, yesterday I blew it off. I took care of it this morning though, and the process was much faster than I thought; I’m sure I didn’t do it right. Still, I did pretty good.

I did try to follow a Catholic script, which I think R would appreciate. Rather than thanking items before discarding them, I thanked God for the blessing each item brought me. I haven’t figured out a way to work in Mary and the Saints, but I did deal with a little guilt. I recognized that some of my belongings had some original sin.

Anyway, the final score: I donated three bags of clothing, shoes, and towels to Martha’s Village and Kitchen, which is my donation center of choice, and to Goodwill, which is just closer.  I donated about ten books; but, truth be told, I have been loathe to accumulate books ever since I gave away hundreds of books before I moved to China in 2007.

So the t-shirts, I took a photo of them properly folded, and when I get to Seattle I will fold and file them properly. For right now, however, I put them in sardine mode so I can move. Underwear and socks: handled. A while ago I bought two dozen pairs of the same sock, and it’s the only sock I wear on all occasions, and since they all match, I don’t bother to pair them.  Shorts and pants are all sorted and I feel good about them.

Hanging clothes; I probably didn’t go at them hard enough, I still have too many. I can try again later.  One annoying thing: when I’m fatter, my neck measures 18.5, but since there was that period when I was losing weight I have a full set of work shirts that are 17.5 at the neck. For now, I’m keeping both sets of shirts. Obviously my goal is to transition to the smaller size full-time, but it’s not crucial at the moment; my next gig doesn’t have a necktie rule.

Next up:  Task Three: Papers.


Notes: Changing the Air

  • It’s currently 75º in the desert.  AC is off, doors and windows are wide open, ceiling fans are changing the air.  A neighbor walked by and saw me typing and said, “Hi, neighbor!” which surprised me. I thought she’d ignore me.  The high temp today will be 105º.
  • I got my phone screen repaired yesterday. Not my primary phone, an older phone that I plan to use in Hong Kong; I hope to drop a local SIM card in it and be super connected in a super connected city.  When I heard the news that Carrie Lam tabled the extradition proposal, I thought ok, the streets of Hong Kong will go back to normal for our visit. Oops, even more people have come out to demand her resignation. In any case I’m not nervous about massive protests while we go to visit. Even if they’re disruptive, we’re all going to learn a lot. I’m pretty fascinated how the official protest song is Sing Hallelujah to the Lord,  which was the Gospel Acclamation we used to sing at the UW Newman Center in the 90s.
  • LetGo‘ing my stuff is a weird experience. People are messaging me about my stuff, asking “what’s your lowest price?” No, people. No. If you want to haggle with me, you make an offer. If you’re not ready to make an offer, then shhhhh.
  • Today’s agenda: 9:15 workout, drop off some stuff at the donations center, drop off round two of postcards at the post office. When I get back, today will be day one of KonMari tidying:  Clothing. I can do it all in one day. Afterward, there are really no movies that I want to see, so maybe I’ll go bowling with a friend, or try to use up a gift card.
  • If I get all my KonMari‘ing done, Friday should be an LA day. Maybe I’ll try to go up on Thursday and crash with a friend.  We’ll see, I have to finish komono.
  • I shouldn’t be buying new stuff at the moment, but I bought some dollar store chanclas yesterday.

Move Out, Don’t Bring Me Down

So I’m starting to get ready to leave town.  I’m going to try to downsize as much as possible for the next two weeks, doing KonMarie, giving stuff away, and selling stuff on LetGo.  I sold my bed today, after listing it for six hours. I’m trying to sleep on my air mattress now but it’s a little difficult due to A/C holding steady at 81ª.

If I manage to get rid of the big stuff, I will downgrade the POD I reserved, and my move will be cheaper and easier.  It won’t be the first time for me to start over from scratch.

When I showed up in the desert three years ago, before I knew anybody, I would get an empty feeling when I saw the windmills. The desert was a place where I work but there’s nothing to discover, nothing to look forward to. Just work. Any discoveries I made were outside of this desert valley, on the coasts, in the big cities, or in México.

I started getting that empty feeling again after some of my friends moved away. Feeling that emptiness again after going a year or so without made me realize that I must have been doing ok here for a little bit. It was a rule of mine after Shanghai that I had to have non-work friends. That didn’t happen for me, here; all my friends were work friends.  Luckily, we all became outside-of-work friends as well, but I did get annoyed when we talked about work too much when we were off the clock.

Anyway, that empty feeling lasted for about a week, and I have new missions now; downsizing, Hong Kong, packing, driving to Seattle.  Just got an offer of free boxes, so I gotta post this and go.

Cruising the Strip

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Last night I cruised the Vegas Strip with T, who was on his long road trip back to Beantown. We met up at the Sign and had a quick dinner at skinnyFATS, which was the closest place on the short list I threw together of restaurants to that were quick, close to the strip, and not gross national fast food chains. I ordered a portobello sandwich. I didn’t propose a lot of Asian food, but in the end, T got a bowl of beef teriyaki.

On the way to the strip, we passed the site of the deadly mass shooting in 2017; local people refer to the tragedy as One October. I repeated the legend of Tupak getting shot on Las Vegas Blvd and E Flamingo (he did get shot on E Flamingo, but it was a block east of the strip on Kovar Drive). We cruised all the way up the strip to the Bonanza, shopped for refrigerator magnates, and then cruised all the way back down again and said goodbye as he continued his journey east.

Now that he’s gone, I will the last of the roadtrippers to escape the desert for good.

Yellow Brick Roadtrip

Here’s a preliminary schedule for my Great Northwestern Migration. My Yellow Brick Roadtrip. My Own Private Calexit. My Desert Escape. My Northwexodus. My Mount Rainier-I-Come.

Let me know if you’d like to join me for part or all of the drive!  I’ll pay for food, lodging, and gas.

  • 16 July, Tuesday. The POD arrives at my apartment in Palm Desert; we fill it with my boxes and furniture.
  • 17 July, Wednesday. The POD is spirited away. Last sleep in the desert, on air mattresses in an empty apartment.
  • 18 July, Thursday. Drive. Lunch in Bakersfield. Dinner in Elk Grover, short of Sacramento.  Crash at my friend’s cavernous palace, with a guest suite.
  • 19 July, Friday.  Drive. Lunch in Weed. Dinner and motel in Eugene.
  • 20 July, Saturday. Drive. Arrive in Seattle. Eat lunch. Go to a BBQ at Yones’ near Greenlake.

Update:  My route through Bakersfield will take me through Delano.  I wonder if I should do a UFW pilgrimage and photo essay,

Disappointment, Jury Duty, and Las Vegas

Yesterday I woke up in the desert, too late to go to the 5am workout. I got dressed in slacks and an aloha shirt, as I had been advised to do for jury duty, and left the house for breakfast around 6:30.

b8bde4ae-49fd-4690-bdf7-7fa9879824fcI got to the cafe and ordered a small americano for here, and a lox bagel. The owner happily made my americano and then cheerfully told me, “I’ll only charge you for the americano, since my kitchen guy hasn’t arrived yet.”

I wish he had given me that information before he had made my americano, I would have made a different choice. At the very least, I wished he had made some sort of apology, because I was really disappointed about not getting that lox bagel. I sat on the patio and quickly drank that non-great coffee and fumed about the non-bagel, the non-apology, and the non-information.

58187043467__5fbd9207-2092-4ce9-805d-892863a205f4-1As I drove to the courthouse I looked at my St. Benedict bracelet and wondered if I should go to the 7:30am Spanish mass on the day that I start my road trip, and ask Fr. Guido to bless me before I go.

There is a Del Taco across the street from the courthouse. I parked and went inside. A homeless man asked me to buy him breakfast, so I ordered myself an egg and cheese burrito for myself, and a chicken quesadilla for my new friend. After I had paid, he asked if I had ordered him a drink, and I just said, “no,” and didn’t apologize.

img_2704I moved my car to the courthouse parking lot and got in the long line for courthouse security, which stretched around the corner, and started texting M. The line moved fast, and soon enough I was scanning my badge and finding a seat in the jury lounge. I saw two former students but didn’t say hello.  My name was not called for the first trial, so when they gave us a break, I moved my car to another spot in the same parking lot.


After the break, I returned to the jury room, and waited for the second round. This time they did call my name, and when it came time to discuss hardships, I felt annoyed with people who thought they were there to give a sob story. The judge just wanted people to say the words “financial hardship.” Just say those words! I didn’t mouth off though, because even I have to behave in a courtroom. The judge dismissed me after I said I was leading a study abroad to Hong Kong and then had a moving van scheduled.

img_2708-1So after a morning of mostly sitting on a couch and texting my friends, I was free. I treated myself to a cauliflower-crust pizza. T came over and checked in with me; it wasn’t goodbye though.

After that, I got in my car and drove four hours to Las Vegas. I was feeling sleepy on the drive, so I ate a bunch of junky snacks and sang karaoke at the top of my lungs, and then next thing I knew, I was here. I kissed my mama and pet the dogs and ate hot rice and cold banana blossoms, later there was bangus and kamatis. Went to bed early.

I woke up this morning in Las Vegas at 3:30 am, hungry. While I’m here I will not go to the gym, I will not KonMari my apartment, I will not go to the few desert restaurants and cafés that I have worn out over my three years in the desert. Family time, I guess.

On Wednesday, T will pass through Vegas on his way back to New England.  I’ll help him get a sandwich and buy a refrigerator magnet.