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.

 

 

 

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.

Asian Squat Bombs

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A while ago my sister and I decided to start taking #AsianSquatBombs because it cracks us up.  Here are 24 photos, mostly of me. Some are of my sister and parents, and two are with my coworker MY.

Shall we remember this day?

It’s Thursday, June 8th, 2017, a little before 9am.  I’m sitting in my mama’s freshly-watered backyard garden. There is a pair of small birds flirting with each other, carving the desert air as they dash  from plant to plant, winding through the tree blossoms; white, pink, and red.

It’s my first Wednesday of summer break. As soon as I put my grade book to bed the other day I packed up my suitcases and drove across the desert to my folk’s place in the north of Las Vegas. So far, for the last few days, it’s been an alarming routine of eating, napping, and checking my phone. Occasionally I drive my mama to the grocery store or to the veterinarian; practice my asian squat and my standing forward fold.  At one point I created a quest to buy a new aloha shirt.

Former FBI director James Comey is currently testifying before a Senate committee; I watched a little of it until I got bored.  I hope it leads to the early demise of the DJT presidency, and the oligarchy that has taken over the Republic. People have taken off work to watch this testimony, eagerly gotten up early on the West Coast, and made this an event, complete with the hashtag #ComeyDay, like it’s a holiday.  If Comey’s testimony does bring down the president, today will be a day to remember in American history.

This summer break, besides Las Vegas, I’ll spend time in Seattle and Kauai, and probably LA.  I hope I start blogging more.  I’ve been thinking about blogging about Racial Imposter Syndrome, Gringo Pronunciation Enforcement, and weapons-grade ratatouille. My hope is that this summer I’ll blog, stick to my nutrition program, write my book “Memoirs of Becoming Multilingual,” get a book deal, and become the wealthy and culturally influential language teacher I aspire to be.

Or or or, alternatively I could win the Powerball; that would be awesome too.  It would certainly make today a day to remember.

My Dim Sum Spots in Seattle

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Happy Mothers’ Day from Las Vegas.  I used a personal day so I can be with my mama today.  I popped popcorn last night and my parents and I watched SNL together.  This morning I made strawberry/blueberry buckwheat pancakes for breakfast.  Mama used to tell stories of her father Tatang Maël making popcorn, making pancakes in the afternoon for snack, picking pineapple out of the yard for breakfast, and stealing chunks of Cougar Gold cheese that Tatang bought at the Commissary.

I’m grading papers and planning classes all this weekend, but I’m taking a little break to blog.  My boy BM texted me this morning for dim sum recommendations in Seattle, which… I haven’t lived in Seattle for two years! But of course I have a list.  I don’t know if these places are still there, but they are still fresh in my mind.

Dim sum for one/I’m in a hurry

  • Dim Sum King Order at the counter.  Get it to go if you want.
  • Dim Sum House Up on Beacon Ave. This is the greasy spoon for dim sum.
  • Duk Li Dim Sum Probably the best variety of the Dim Sum For One category.

Old School Dim Sum

  • Harbor City This has been the it-place for a while now; a shoebox shaped, mildly noisy, wait-for-30-min during Sunday Brunch kind of place. This is where I would take Chinese people.
  • Jade Garden This was once the it-place, maybe ten years ago. Still good, but not the same spectacular food it once was back in the day. There is often still a wait, and it’s got a lot of non-Chinese buzz.
  • Joyale Seafood This place has had two other names, but they were all good. There has been ownership drama, I think; an ugly divorce, etc. The food is good, service is good; free parking is nice, usually no wait time. This is a wedding banquet hall.  The only thing I don’t like so much about it is the lack of natural light; otherwise it’s good.
  • Honeycourt Maybe twenty years ago, this was the it-place.  Still popular among old people and Filipinos of all ages. A student messaged me recently to tell me they had renovated. When I still lived in Seattle, the buzz was that Honeycourt was a place for old people, which means absolutely nothing to me.
  • Ocean Star This is the old Sun Ya, which was a way old school place that I didn’t like. A friend of mine, the Transit Tzar, asked me to meet him there a couple years ago, and I was blown away by how good it was. Also, free parking (tight, limited) and natural light. This place is the new hotness to me.
  • New Hong Kong Way down in Rainier Beach.  Nothing to sneeze at; jammed with Chinese Americans. Parking is a piece of cake.
  • Regent Bakery and Café This place has high quality food and is on the fancy end of the dim sum spectrum. Service was a little weird the times I went there, in that the servers were not Asian and were not really acquainted with the way that Asian people eat. For example, they weren’t very quick on the draw when it came to a big pot of rice and a whole bunch of rice bowls for everybody at the table. But my complaints about this place are cultural, not food-based.
  • House of Hong Ok, look; I don’t go here anymore. It’s not that it’s bad; in fact, it’s nice inside, and it’s the place where a lot of us non-Chinese people first learned about dim sum. You will see the whole ethnic spectrum of Seattle in the dining room, and it feels good. This used to be my go-to place, until I started realizing I was seeing the same shrimp ball cooked 15 different ways, and I kept falling for it. I didn’t mind, until I started going to other places and seeing other things; then I never wanted to go back to HOH. Still, I’m thankful for all the meals there.

If I wanted to impress my Chinese friends, I’d go to Harbor City.  Left to my own devices, I’d be at Ocean Star. My sister and I often end up at Joyale because of parking.  慢吃吧。

 

 

Wrapping up 2016

Here are some posts I haven’t written yet.

  • George Michael has passed away
  • My mama is making crusty bread rolls in the toaster oven in 15 to 20 minutes.  We are eating them greedily.
  • Fitness check-in: dropping meds, dropping carbs, making clothes fit
  • More laser eye surgery
  • I became a bow tie person.
  • Maybe Japanese is next.  I’ve been learning kana on the side.

I’ve gotten out of the habit of regular posting, which is tough, but I’m working on it.

Right now I’m in Vegas with the family.  Last week was finals week at work; we had our faculty Christmas dinner on a Thursday night and I was on the road to Vegas on Friday morning.  I took my parents to Rogue One, swanky bingo, and lunch at KJ Kitchen (a pretty good Cantonese seafood place).

A Crossfit Addendum

This is an addendum to the Crossfit post I wrote over here, since apparently there were a few people who thought I talked too little about Crossfit.  I’ll do it in FAQ format in an effort to keep my answers focused.

How is Crossfit different than a traditional gym? I’ve said that Crossfit feels like the opposite of going to a gym to me, and I think they key word is “isolation.”

First of all “isolation” in the sense that at the traditional gym the exercises are meant to separate cardio from strength, biceps from quadriceps; there’s a machine that’s just for pecs.  In language learning terms, it’s like flash cards: one skill, again and again.

Second, there’s “isolation” in the sense that in a traditional gym, I feel alone. That’s awesome when I want to hide my fat rolls and lack of strength, but less awesome when I’m bored and I don’t know what to do, so I quit and go home.  It’s not just doing flash cards, it’s doing flash cards at the library.

To me, isolation is boring, unrealistic, and unsustainable.

Why does Crossfit feel like “the opposite of a traditional gym” to me? The key word is “integration.”  I’m doing very few moves that isolate muscles and more moves that try to integrate everything; upper and lower, strength and heart rate. Burpees, thrusters, farmers carries, muscle ups; things that feel accomplishy. You know, accomplishy, rather than endless and monotonous.

Another sense of “integration” is that I’m there with people.  I’m there with coaches, coaches who I’m comfortable working with, who know me personally, and who can offer me a huge variety of exercises at different strength levels so that I don’t have to keep that information in my head, I can just do it.  I’m there with classmates who encourage me and who don’t seem to give a single crap about my fat rolls or my lack of strength; people with weight, strength, health, and injury histories of their own. It feels, frankly, they way I want my Spanish classes to feel, where community and cooperation are much more important that individual achievement and competition.

What was wrong with my traditional gym experience? For years I thought I wanted free access to a traditional gym where I could go any time I wanted, so I could go when it was empty, and no one would have to witness my fat rolls and lack of strength.  I would go and do the eliptical trainer for a few minutes, watching a rerun of the Golden Girls on TV, and then do the freeweights or circuit machines that I remembered from 8th grade PE.  I had this kind of access in New York because there was a gym in my building.  When I moved back to Seattle, I joined a gym and paid $40 per month.  When I moved to LA, I picked an another apartment building with a gym.

The problem with this traditional gym plan is that I never talked to anyone, always did the same workout, never learned anything new, got bored with what I was doing, and didn’t want to go; it was a horrible chore to make a habit of going.

For crossfit, it’s different:  it’s a different workout every day, I’m learning new moves and new skills, and I don’t mind going. I have a habit of going.  I sass the coaches and sometimes cuss them out, and they keep teaching me new things and being encouraging.  I haven’t done a handstand pushup yet, or toes-to-bar, or climbed the rope, but nobody’s yelling at me or making me feel bad about it; I’ll just start at Level 1 and stay there until I’m strong enough for Level 2… Maybe it will take years to reach Level 3 or Rx, but who cares?  That’s the attitude my crossfit coaches have; I keep improving over time and they keep getting paid. Everybody’s happy.

 

 

 

The Road Again: Back to LA

There are a couple of more selfies to share from my time in Vegas.  Mama and I went to Downtown Vegas on my last night there; played some video poker at a bar, and then walked along Fremont Street.  Then we drove down Fremont street, which used to be dangerous, but it was several blocks before we saw any police activity!

The next morning I started my drive back to LA.  I stopped in Baker to clean my windshield, and in Barstow for a double-double animal style.


  
Driving in the Mojave desert is a trip.  There are parts of the drive where your windshield is a huge view of a desert planet, and you’re just skimming across a narrow ribbon of engineering.  Sometimes your on a flat, and the mountians ring the horizon, and the road looks like it goes to the edge of the earth.  Other times you’re in the mountain passes and you can see for sixty miles; so far that the distance starts to fade into the vapor mirage.

The high desert ends with Victorville, and then it’s the San Bernadino Forest.  After that it’s Planet Freeway.

I have to end this blog post because the picture above is making me hungry.