Recipe: Crab Pot

Fill the bottom of your biggest, deepest pot with potato chunks.  Big chunky ones.  Peel them or not, whatever. I don’t.

Cut a bunch of raw corn on the cob into two inch wheels.  Quantity: as much corn as you want to eat.

Throw in a peeled onion, sliced in half from pole to pole.  Maybe a whole serrano pepper or two, a jalapeño that you’ve split open.  Whatever.

Put in a layer of clean live Manila clams, medium small is ok. Quantity:  one or two fistfuls per person eating, plus an additional seven or eight fistfuls according to taste.

Put in a layer of clean mussels, medium sized, thin shells, live, preferably from the state of Washington.  Add to that a layer of raw shrimp or prawns. Quantities: you figure it out.

Put a crab or two in whole; live or freshly steamed.  Crack it before it goes in, or crack it hot later, or let people crack their own crab.  I don’t know, do what you think is right.

If the guests are new to eating crab, I’d advise getting the crab steamed at the fish counter and then cracking it when it has cooled. Here’s my standard procedure: pull the head off the body from the rear hinge, rip out the gills and the face and throw them away, separate the claws and crack them mid-segment with the back of your chef’s knife.  Now all that’s left are the legs attached at the body; slice to separate the right and left sides, and then slice to keep the pairs of legs together, attached with knuckle meat. You can crack the meaty segments of the leg with the back of your knife… or not.  Four pairs of legs go into the pot.  Two claws go into the pot.  Crab’s shell goes into the  pot, soup side up.

Dump a bottle of cheap American beer over the seafood and into the pot. Oops, forgot to add dry spices (whatever’s in your spice rack, or whatever spice mix someone brought you from New Orleans).  Dump your spices on top, and then wash in with a cup of water, letting them trickle into the mix.

Put the cover on and then cook it on high or medium high or medium or medium low, whatever. After the beer boils lower heat a little, come back in 10 or 15 minutes, and check to see that shrimps are pink all the way through, clams and mussels are open, corns are soft, and potatoes are tender.

Set the table:  newsprint or butcher paper to cover the table, a bucket for shells, a trivet for your crab pot. Big kitchen spoon to ladle out shellfish. Crusty bread sliced. Don’t get fussy about dishes or napkins or other pendejadas; it’s a crab pot, not a cotillion. Maybe set out some empty rice bowls for the Asians who want to drink the broth and slurp it with their chunks of crusty bread.

If it’s a lot of people eating, maybe you want to pour the seafood into some lasagna dishes for easier access. Tell your guests to start eating immediately, it’s really dumb to let this get cold. Like really, really dumb. Lose respect for people who get distracted and let it get cold. Cut them out of your life.  Inevitably someone will try to get up and serve everybody their drinks, yell at them to sit the hell down and eat it while it’s hot, and remind them that fussing about something other than hot food is some IRRITATING. SHIT. Should have taken care of that before hot food appeared, dummy. Honestly!

What else? Some people put chunks of cooked sausage in to their crab pot; you do you.  People from New Orleans will call it a seafood boil, and people from New England who did the twist at beach blanket parties in the 50s might call it a clam bake.  There will inevitably be someone who doesn’t like seafood; make sure they have some Creamy Jiff and Wonderbread for them.

Spread out some beach blankets and put on some surf rock. Stand next to the beach blankets and do the twist until the sun sets.  After sunset it’s cigarettes and crooners, bonus if you lean on the hood of a Cadillac with someone else’s letterman’s jacket. Wonder if man will ever walk on the moon or if we’ll have visual telephones someday.  Discuss if this beach party could be more fun if you played up some Polynesian stereotypes. Take the shells out to the trash when everyone’s done. Look up at the moon and wonder if some Soviet kids are taking out their crab pot shells, looking up at the same moon.

Slice an apple or an orange for dessert and pass them around on a plate. People will decline the fruit and then take one and eat it, and then take another one. People always think they don’t want fruit, but they do.

You Are Dismissed

You are dismissed

When your last class is over and you dismiss the students and tell them to GET OUT and you pull your bowtie open and then grow to the size of a five story apartment block, bursting through the science labs, the art room, through the spanish mission roof tiles and you start stepping through the crumbling building with your horned, green-scaled feet and unleashing murderous window-piercing reptilian screams and finally gathering speed, running through the sleepy town crushing each building as if they were paper nests in a meadow of tall grass, leaving footprints of destruction, death, sirens, burst fire hydrant geysers, and gas mains exploding into hot jets of flame; mountains of ruins where your armored tail swept city blocks aside as you turned to check your bearings, the smell of exhaust fumes and freedom.

Recipe: Spaghetti and a can of clams

Spaghettii Can of Clams

Step one:  put a pot of pasta water on to boil. 

Step two:  get stuff ready.  Prep your Italian parsley, mandolin your garlic, crush your whole black pepper corns in you mortar and pestle (if you’re not using dried chile flakes).  Open your can of clams; don’t lose a single drop of that clam juice.

Tell your dinner companions to wash their hands and set the table. NOW. Scream at them if they try to find something else to do.

Step three:  cook stuff. When your water boils, salt it with a fistful of salt, enough to make the water taste salty. Drop in your spaghetti. In a saucepan, toast the black pepper or chile flakes, add more olive oil than you think is necessary, and then drop in the garlic and clam juice (but not the clams).  Simmer it on medium low or whatever.

Step four:  marry it all together. When the spaghetti is al dente, pull it out of the water with some tongs or a spider strainer together and drop it into the saucy saucepan, along with a ladle or two of pasta water. (You’re done with that pasta water now, use it to boil something else). In the saucepan, turn the flame up to high and start stirring.  This is a good time to add a little more salt, if your water wasn’t salty enough.

So now you’ve got a saucepan full of all your ingredients over a screaming hot flame. Scream at your companions to sit down at the damn table. They might try to get everybody’s drink order, you tell them SIT THE /F/ DOWN and wait for their pasta.

Your job is to stir and reduce until that liquid has condensed into a thick film of a sauce.  Keep stirring, pulling the pan off the flame occasionally and blowing on it, releasing clouds of steam.  Keep stirring.  Keep stirring.  Stir until the sauce clings to the spaghetti; to the point that when your spatula scrapes the bottom of saucepan, the sauce is so thick that the spot where you scraped stays dry. Now drop the clams and half of the parsley into saucepan together and give the whole thing a final stir. Get it all nice and distributed.

Step five: dish it up.  Lift the finished spaghetti out of the saucepan with the tongs and lower it into the serving dishes, turning your plate with your free hand so that the spaghetti pile falls into a tall twist.  Finish the dish with a drizzle of expensive olive oil and a pinch of Italian parsley.

Tell your dining partners to eat NOW. If they do something stupid like try to start a prayer or something, slap them on the hand and tell them they should have prayed two minutes ago.  It is DISRESPECTFUL to let this get cold.  If they complain that it’s too hot to eat right away, GOOD, you have done your job.  They have to eat it at the exact moment that it’s tolerable for them to eat, and not after.

If they let your pasta get cold, ask them why they don’t respect your effort to get hot food in front of them.  Make a note to yourself never to make this dish for them again.  Let them reheat a slice of pizza or some garbage, they don’t deserve hot spaghetti with a can of clams. Don’t waste your effort on someone who lets your hot food get cold; give up on them.  Peanut butter and jelly next time.  Cold rice and ketchup. Soggy bowl of Cheerios.  Who cares, they don’t know how to act.

For Delia.

How I do #AsianSquatBombs

By request, I made a 60 second video showing how I do the #AsianSquatBombs.  Use a tripod or not; just make sure the selfie cam sees you.  After that it’s a matter of using the auto-timer.

Make sure your heels stay flat on the ground.  I think it’s considered more terrifying if you can keep your feet and knees together.  It’s considerably easier to do in shoes, especially if the heels rise at all.  It’s more challenging (for me at least) to go barefoot.

When you post your own, please use the hashtag #AsianSquatBombs (plural) and the more general #asiansquat.

Quality of Life

Right now:  sitting in Caffè Fiore at the top of Queen Anne.  I walked here, and it felt good and the neighborhood is awesome. I ordered an americano and a mini veggie quiche and paid with my phone, and tipped with cash. The americano was kick ass.  The quiche was delicious. Locals and tourists are rolling in with bed head. They are paying Stan Getz over the speakers. I have nothing to grade. The sun just broke through the clouds. Nobody is talking too loud.

A few years ago my friend Barcelona E was here to visit.  I had taken her to Columbia City Bakery, which was my neighborhood bakery at the time. Barcelona E was in the middle of picking up her croissant when she asked me the question, “JP, what is so special about Seattle?”

Back when I was in Michigan I used to my mouth about how Seattle was a better place, something which I still believe. I was fully aware that people found it obnoxious, but I just had a hard time believing that anyone would choose to live in other places. Honestly, I tried to be kind about it.

Anyway, Barcelona E was here, in Seattle with me, in my neighborhood bakery, about to take a bite of her croissant, asking me the question that probably had occured to her twenty years prior, before my diabetes diagnosis, before I spoke Mandarin, before her daughters were born, before she spoke German.

“JP, what is so special about Seattle?”

Before I could answer, she took a bite of her croissant, and put it back down on her plate, looking at it, and saying casually, “Oh, quality of life.  I understand now. ”

I didn’t have to explain anything to her with words. Not that I could, I was laughing pretty hard. Sometimes being friends with people from Spain is like living in a movie script.

Later on, Barcelona E scolded me for allowing her to put sugar in her coffee, she told me if she had known the coffee would be high quality, she wouldn’t have put sugar in it, and it was my fault. You gotta give people a heads up.

Anyway, back in the present:

  •  A dude just walked in and started talking scones with the barista, in a way that you know the man is obsessed with scone theory. People in this town go on obsessive inward journeys to make a perfect product. It seems unhealthy when you meet them, but then you taste their beer/coffee/bagel/liquor/croissant.
  • A dude sitting across from me is talking about his trip to China. He’s saying he can no longer 請 his family members (he can’t treat them to a meal) because they could all pay with their phones (they scan a QR code) where as he carried cash, like a chump. He’s also telling tales about how there are (rideshare?) bikes in China you lock with your phone, so you don’t need to chain them up to a post anymore, there are just bikes everywhere. I cannot imagine overhearing a conversation about the technological advances in Chinese society at the cafés I go to in California.

I don’t really live here anymore, and at the moment there’s not really a job for me here.  But it’s nice to be from here, and nice to be back.

A post shared by Jp Villanueva (@jpv206) on Jun 11, 2017 at 8:28am PDT

 

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.

Accent marks in Spanish

Sí lleva tilde.pngI feel like I have some students and friends whose policy is to ignore the accent marks in Spanish.  If I tell them, “copy this word:  más” they will write the letters “m.a.s.” When I ask them why they didn’t copy the á with a tilde over it, they will either burst into tears or immediately attack me with a punch to the neck.

Look, I don’t care about proper Spanish.  It is my job to teach it to students, but in life my friends write me however they want, I don’t go after them, they’re my friends.  I do, however tell my students they should learn how to write them, because a) it’s not hard and b) there are people who will write them off as pochos. I, as their teacher, wish them success and wish that other people didn’t write them off as pochos.

I tried to be gentle about it, but I had to start bringing the hammer down when they were writing like “mi familia es muy orgullosa de ser de Mexico” (sic).  Folks, you’re not really representing pride in Mexico if you’re writing me-HEE-co in Spanish.  In Spanish you have to write “México.”  A huevo.

I know that this is an issue with heritage Spanish speakers, the accent mark looks arbitrary to them, and they go into shame spirals when someone exposes them. I’m not trying to put them there.  So I tried to develop helpful graphics.  Here’s the latest.

OG tildes

Organizador gráfico: tildes

I’m not sure if they’ll find this helpful or if it will stress them out.

The following are two examples of flow charts that I made.  When I showed my latino friends, they told me, no, these two are way too stressful.

Tildes por sílaba

Tildes por tipo de sílaba

Tildes por tipo

Tildes por tipo de palabra

This final one is organized by final letter, and my latino friends were less stressed out by this one.  So I added sight gags to it and passed it out to my students. I also passed out little game chips to them, and forced them physically move the chippy along the arrows, and when they did, they got to the right answer. However they hated it (and me) with a passion and as soon as I wasn’t looking went right back to brute force guessing.  Baby steps I guess.

Tildes por asesino jaja.png

Tildes por letra final

If anybody wants these on PDF please email me and I’ll be happy to share; or find the links on my Spanish resources page.  If you’re using my material, I’d love to hear how it went over with your students.

By the way, when I learned these, it was three rules organized as bullet points in a paragraph. At this point in my career, I don’t have rules memorized, and I don’t need graphics; I just hear where accent marks are supposed to be written, even if it’s a word I never heard before.  I’m still trying to figure out how to teach my students to hear where an accent mark goes. I suspect the answer will have something to do with them listening.

“Proper Spanish?” That’s just my day job.

Somebody asked me the other day how to say “lunch” in Spanish.  Someone shouted “lonche” and someone else shouted “almuerzo.”  They looked at me, and I said, “la comida.”  Immediately one of the shouters snapped at me, “why do you always tell us different words?!”  It wasn’t a question, it was an accusation.

My best answer; my only answer:  “I’m not from here.”

Spanish in California is different from what I’m used to.  To my ear it sounds like northern Mexico, plus a distinct /b/ vs. /v/ distinction that just doesn’t exist in other varieties of Spanish, apart from maybe some Gloria Estefan songs.

And of course, my Spanish is different from theirs, and I know I sound weird to them.  I’m keeping a list of words that have stumped my Spanish speaking friends, colleagues, and students.  Some of the words are fancy and academic-sounding, like el simulacro and la tertulia.  Some are words that I know to be common in Mexico, like piropo, nefasto, but when I say them here, people blink at me.  In a conversation with my new colleagues I tried to refer to an all-boys school as todos varones, a term I learned from a colleague in 1998, and now I’m starting to think it was never the right term in the first place.  What do I know?

It’s not a nice feeling to use these words and have local people blink and squint at me. I’m trying to get them to like me, and here I am with these strange words they never heard of, I feel like a jerk.  Luckily my new friends are quickly getting used to me; instead of awkward vocabulary moments, they’re starting to just chuckle at me and ask me to explain my crazy word. This must be what it feels like for a speaker of  Australian English to be harassed by… me. By the way, if there is a contest for the nerdiest, most dorky way to explain the word tertulia, I won it this afternoon.

On the other hand, it’s a delight for me to learn local words.  The other day my friend used the word nortearse (which is definitely more charming when pronounced “nortiarse”).  I understood what it meant immediately (to get disoriented, discombobulated) but it was just agiphy surprise to hear it, because it sounds like the root word is “norte,” which cracked me up because it sounds like a comment on what happens when you go north… to the US.

My friend also took it upon herself to teach me the word chivearse, which, again, is more charming when pronounced “chiviarse” (to get embarrassed and go coy, to get flustered by a compliment).  The root word is “chivo,” a kid goat; which is adorable.

So my friend says she’s going to teach me the phrase “qué bolado” tomorrow.  I looked it up but I can’t wait to hear how she explains it.  I told her I would take notes.  She promised to teach me all of her slang, if I would teach her proper Spanish.

I’m told her I’m happy to teach her everything I know. You know, I’m thankful that I can speak Spanish and that people perceive it to be “proper.”  I, personally, don’t hear my own Spanish as proper; I hear a bunch of pronunciation and grammar mistakes, fumbling for words, and awkward expressions.  I think I’d much rather have native-speaker intuition and be able to tell a joke, to write a poem, to talk on the phone without anxiety, to  choose concise words and make powerful and moving statements, to understand stand-up comedy, or those adivinanzas, like this one:

Agua pasa por mi casa;
cate de mi corazón,
el que no me lo adivine
será un burro cabezón.

I understand all the words, but I don’t understand why those words are together, and I don’t get why when my coworker heard this one, she was delighted and said “that was a good one.”  The answer, by the way, is “aguacate…” high fives all around.

I would take slangy, colorful native-speaker intuition over “proper Spanish” any day of the week.  Besides, “proper Spanish” is just my day job; I want to leave it behind after the five o’clock whistle.

 

Locusts and Wild Honey

I have moved. To the desert.

Here’s the deal:  on July 1st, 2016, I quit my job at Age of Learning.  Since then, I’ve thrown a rooftop Fourth of July party, attended a teacher training workshop/surf vacation in San Diego, visited my parents in Las Vegas, found myself a place to live in Palm Desert, rented a truck and moved to the new apartment in Palm Desert…. Most of these things I did during the Great Sibling Sleepover; my sister tagged along with me for most of July and a couple of days in August. Having my sister with me was the best part! We spent a lot of time on the beach; siting on a sarong, watching the surfers.

Now I’m all moved in to my new apartment in Palm Desert. I’ve found a new Crossfit place to join, and I’ve found the Filipino grocery… which seems to be the grocery for the whole Asian communty.  I haven’t yet found a ukulele community, or a place to get my hair cut.

The nice lady at the Filipino market recommended a guy named Jesse, a Mexican, who cuts all their hair, “we all go to him.” She wrote down his number from memory on a slip of paper.  I might call him later, or I might just drive two hours back to LA so I can get my Koreatown haircut from the lady the calls me handsome and makes me look like I’m going to a gala.

I haven’t found a vegetarian Indian cafeteria in the desert like the one that was down the street from me in LA.  That was a big part of my nutrition program, that made eating a calorie deficit cheap, easy, and delicious.  Now I’m not sure what to do. I would eat locusts and honey out here in the desert… but actually both of those foods fall outside of my nutrition program.

*****

What I have found in the desert is a seafood restaurant which I refer to as Fisherman-thang since I can’t seem to remember the name of the place.  The first time my sister and I went there, we noticed that the staff was Mexican so we talked to them in Spanish. My sister ordered a campechana, and I ordered a big salad with grilled fish, grilled shrimp, and a handfull of crab on it.  It turns out my salad was super good and my sister’s campechana was super sugary and ketchupy.  I felt bad for her.

The next day our friend D drove out to visit, and we took her to Fisherman-thang for lunch, and this time D got the salmon salad, I got some mahi mahi tacos, and my sister got a bunch of fried things.  Their fried things are REALLY GOOD, they have it down.  The menu says that they beer-batter the fish but it’s tempura, I know.  Maybe they put beer in the tempura batter but it’s not that puffy ass beer batter that people think they like until they put it in their mouth and it tastes like puffy garbage.  Beer batter is the worst.  THE WORST.

We did some more casual hanging out in Palm Desert and then it was time to take my sister to the airport for her flight back to Seattle.  We dropped her off, there were hugs, and I was sad to see her go.  After that D and I went to the outlet mall, which is kind of spectacular.  I’m surprised to hear myself praising the outlet mall, but yah.

After the outlet mall it was time for dinner, and there was only one place that D and I wanted to go, and that was BACK TO FISHERMAN-THANG.  So to review, we ate there for dinner on one day, lunch the next day, and then dinner that same day.  YES it’s really good but don’t order anything Mexican from those guys, they’re cooking for gringos.

*****

I’ve had two days of new teacher orientation at my new place of work.  At the end of it our new teacher mentor told us to go out and do great work, “or however the kids are saying it these days.”  I immediately said, “slay,” and then regretted it, maybe I should have kept my mouth shut.  There was no time to explain the context and proper use of that word.  Then again maybe it will come out wrong and they’ll talk about it.

*****

People might not say “hella” here.  I mentioned to a younger woman working at Goodwill that smoking was “hella expensive” and she asked “did you say that smoking was hell of expensive?”  Maybe it’s a different population than I would expect.