Wednesday, June 21, 2006

Happy Hug-A-Tonto Day!

Happy Summer Solstice to everyone. It’s the longest day of the year and the start of summer. It’s all downhill from here.

It’s also National Aboriginal Day up here in Canuckland. In anticipation of this day, the Harper government has decided to join the US, New Zealand and Australia in their stand to stop the United Nations from passing a declaration on the rights of indigenous peoples. I mean, they have they’re own freaking day, who needs basic human rights?!?! Dreamcatchers and fry bread for everyone!

To make natives even more nostalgic for the good old days, the Harper government has pretty much raindanced the life out of the the Kelowna Accord, a plan laid out by the previous Liberal government and the provincial leaders to provide $5 billion over five years to address many of the inequities facing Canada's aboriginal population.

Thanks to a cold, my body has been under the control of Captain Mucus and his sidekick Boy Phlegm for the last few days. I’ve managed to shake most of it off. Unfortunately, most of it shook off onto my DH. As long as he gets a steady supply of canned chicken noodle soup, Ho Yan Hor cha and PS2, he’ll be ok. Consider it part Jewish, part Chinese, part pubescent boy medicine.

What do you mean, 'What is Ho Yan Hor cha?'

Seriously, get a Chinese friend.

They'll tell you that Ho Yan Hor cha is a magical herbal tea that can cure everything from the flu to dandruff to a New Year's Eve hangover. It has stuff like double golden rabbit bile powder and red phoenix flower stamen and ear of ginseng monkeys in it. (I've got no idea what's in it but it makes DH feel better.)

Today I picked up my box of organic produce from Nanoose Edibles, a local farm. Each week I get a box of fresh veggies and fruit as part of their produce box program. There was enough stuff to fill a whole shelf in my fridge. Amongst the crazy lettuces, English peas, baby beets, local strawberries, purple kohlrabi (picture above) and other goodies was a tomato plant and a stash of chamomile-lemon balm tea. It’s going to be grand playing with these ingredients. Considering how cool it has been this spring, I’m amazed at how awesome of a bounty we’re already getting from them.

We’ve definitely into salad season. I’m thinking of digging right into my produce box and making a mixed green salad with strawberries with orange-poppy seed dressing. I have a piece of smoked salmon from our neighbourhood fishmonger that will pair up nicely with some homemade bread and the last of a wedge of pepper crusted brie that I picked up the last time I was in Vancouver. The bread I made is the Wheat-Nut Anise bread from ‘Laurel’s Kitchen Bread Book’ by Laurel Robertson. It’s a sweet, nutty bread that has managed to stay moist for 4 days so far. There is a hum of licorice from the anise seeds and the cooked bulgur has created a chewy but still light texture. So far it has held up well to a Spicy Nutty Squash soup and a picnic lunch or cheese, real salami and olives.

Here’s my recipe for Spicy Nutty Squash soup. It’s an easy soup (only 4 ingredients!!) that requires almost no prep except for chopping and disemboweling a couple of squashes. It’s also a great way to use up cooked winter squashes. I prefer roasted squash since roasting caramelizes the squash but you can use any plain cooked squash. It’s also a vegan dish.

1 large or 2 small winter squashes (or 4-5 cups of already cooked squash). Any orange flesh squash like butternut, acorn, Japanese pumpkin/kabocha etc. Some are starchier than others. Some have more flavour. Just experiment. Pick a heavy squash with few blemishes and a nice solid flesh.

*2-3 tsp of peanut butter or another other nut butter

1/8 tsp of sambal oelek or any other chili sauce

2-4 cups of water or diluted veggie broth (1:1 broth to water)

1- Preheat oven to 325F. Line roasting pan with parchment paper or lightly oil with vegetable oil.

2- Slice squashes in halve lengthwise and scoop out the seeds.

3- Place squashes cut side down onto prepared pan.

4- Throw it onto the middle rack of the oven. Bake for 30-40 mins or until flesh is soft and cooked through. Let cool until able to handle with bare hands

5- Scoop out all the flesh from the squash with a large spoon into a blender.

6- Add other ingredients and 2 cups of water or veggie broth.

7- Blend on high until nice and smooth.

8- Dump it in a pot and add enough of the remaining liquid until it reaches the consistency you want. I prefer mine a bit on the thick side, other’s like it a bit thinner. It’s up to you.

9- Simmer pot over low heat until soup is just heated through. Stir consistently.

*For those with nut allergies, replace the nut butters with a couple cloves of roasted garlic. Just throw a couple of cloves of garlic with only the papery skin removed into the roasting pan along with squashes. They ought to be soft in about 15 mins. Remove from pan before they start to burn.

This soup freezes nicely. It will separate a bit once thawed but a bit of stirring will have it back as new. The smooth, thick mouth-feel (there's something quite obscene about that word, 'mouth-feel') of the soup makes it seem richer than it really is.

Things you can add to this soup (add only 1 or 2 additions):

-a squeeze of lime

-a sprinkle of chopped cilantro

-splash of good balsamic vinegar

-roasted veggies (think eggplant, carrots, parsnips, or more squash)

-ginger-soy or teriyaki marinated tofu

-a sprinkle of chopped smoked bacon, pancetta or chorizo (If you happen to have some leftover from a previous meal.)

-a sprinkle toasted breadcrumbs or a homemade croutons.

-freshly ground pepper

Or just quit screwing around and leave it as it is.

I'll be back with more installments of my China trip. Right now I'm going to enjoy what's left of the longest day of the year.


Thursday, June 01, 2006

Made in China

I've been MIA for a while. But I have a really, really good excuse this time. Really, I do. I got kidnapped by the cyber-terrorist group, Goodbye Pussy, and sent off to work for a Chinese ganglord. They were running a counterfeit cellphone ringtone factory built underneath a Ming Temple, the Altar of Everprocreating Sons. They needed my nimble fingers and ability to muzak on the spot. After weeks of forging ringtones of the whole Billboard 100 List with a Lilliputian-sized synthesizer, I managed to bribe the the night-shift guard, Shen-Shen, for safe passage to the nearest Special Hypocrisy Zone. After a few nights in a Chinese gulag and a short stint in a Shanghai massage parlour, I managed to make it home with a few bruises, 2 missing internal organs and a suitcase of fake Rolexes.

OK. So that's not exactly what has been happening. But I did go to China with my family. I would have popped stuff into the blog while I was travelling but at each internet terminal I used, there was a nice little note reminding me that that any statements made against the Chinese government would be considered a crime against the state and once their cyber-filters discovered my criminal acts, they would string me up by my toes and stick bamboo needles under my fingernails and rub snake piss into my eyes. So I figured I'd just keep a journal and puke it all out once I got back to where the soil was only semi-fascist. I'll be adding entries harvested from my journal whenever I have a chance. The journal, BTW, is a little red book. How very Mao of me.

PS - Shen-Shen your Yao Ming pubic hair clippings are in the mail. Thanks for everything!

May 12, 2006 – Vancouver Airport – 9:17 am

Waiting for Pat, John & Dad to show up (John’s brother, Andrew, is driving them here) so we can get going to the Air Canada check-in counter for our CHINA TRIP!!!! Beyond excited about seeing China & all the relatives that we have never met. It’s all very strange to think of these people as family. Not sure what to even call them. Thanks to the Chinese obsession with familial taxonomy, each relative has a title that reflects a multiple of things including maternal or paternal lineage and birth order. This means each relative has a specific specification of their special post as speciated member of this family. In other words, each family reunion is half joyful celebration, half imperial exam.

I stayed up pretty much all of last night watching ‘Return of the King’ then ‘Connie & Carla’. After almost 4 hours of the epic battle over Middle Earth, my brain could only handle an early morning wallowing of show tunes & drag queens. Anything more substantial would have blown a fuse and rendered me useless for today’s travel.

I stayed awake for a reason. Though, I don’t really need a reason to watch ‘Return of the King’ for the 32nd time. The plan is to sleep most of the 11 plus hour flight to Beijing. Now, as I’m writing this, I realize that my brain is fallen into a bucket of stupid. My efforts to trick my body into Beijing time has left my brain dumber than my body. Considering how goofy my body is, this is definitely not a good thing.

That familiar tinny ‘ all-nighter’ feeling that accompanied me through most of my college days has taken over my body and is thick on my tongue and throat. Mom keeps asking me if I’ve eaten. It’s her default mode. When she has nothing to say to me, she asks if I’ve eaten yet. In fact, it’s the general Chinese default mode. We greet one another with ‘Have you eaten yet?’ upon meeting not because we’re concerned about one another’s state of hunger but because we have nothing better to say. But now, each time Mom asks me, it’s brings attention to my stomach, which at this moment in time, is very confused. It’s saying to me, ‘What were you thinking? Am I supposed to want breakfast or dinner now?’ I have a feeling that my stomach will not be happy for a while, especially once it gets a whiff of airplane food. I can only hope that the bounty that awaits us on the other side of the plane trip will appease it.

Part of me is so present for all of this trip. I’m a sponge (a sleep-deprived sponge). I’m taking in all the sounds and sights, the feeling of crisp pages of my passport, the cavernous airport and all the cheesy Canadian paraphernalia stores, the already dog-eared itinerary that I keep checking to see when I’m going to see what, and the speeding baggage carts and their drivers as people rush for their flights. Another part of me isn’t going to register it at all until I’m standing in Tianamen Square.

Oh fuck! I’m going to be in Tianamen Square. And I’m going to see the Terracotta Army and the Great-Freaking-Wall of China and those glorious limestone mountains of Li River and, and, and…OK…breathe. There’s a table of airport workers that are given this bug-eyed yellow gal strange looks.

Airports are strange places. They are not so much a place but a space that operates as a vehicle. Nobody comes here to be here. Well, except for that Christmas when our family came to the airport just to hang out because there was nowhere else that was opened. We hung out at the arrivals gate, waving at all the holiday-weary travelers as they arrived through the magical arrival’s door. The door that signals that ‘Ah-ha’ you’re finally here, you’ve passed through all the 9 gates of hell. Your swarthy eyes and 5 full sets of hotel toiletry sets haven’t set off any security alarms. You meet the minimal requirements in order to step onto this soil. You may go join the rest of the peons.'

Airports are transition spaces, spaces built simply to move people in a physical way. Some are good at this, other’s are human-size equivalents of sadistic rat maze experiments.

The souvenir stores are a countdown of Canada’s greatest hits: First Nation doo-dads and thingamabobs, 63 manipulations of maple syrup, smoked salmon in a bag- in a box- in a tin- wrapped in cedar bough and stuffed into the nether-regions of a beaver. There are tins upon tins of animal droppings which gives tourists the false impression that Canadians have a coprolite fetish. Disappointingly, they are merely fruits or nuts covered in chocolate, thown into a tin and slapped with an absurdly high price tag and a cute cartoon of the animal that the product supposedly was expelled from. Yummy.

We’re waiting in the food court by Bill Reid's 'First Folks in a Jade Canoe' statue. It’s a shame that most locals don’t get a chance to see this beautiful work until they leave this city. We’re still waiting for the others. It’s all fine since we’ve got a ton of time before our plane leaves. Anyways, I’m still mentally deciding what to pack. Should I have brought more underwear? Should I have brought fewer skirts? Should I have brought more t-shirts and fewer tanks? (a moot point since I only own 2 t-shirts and 28 tank tops) Should I have bothered bringing a pair of jeans? It’s amazing how much space a pair of jeans takes. I could have packed 6 more tank tops in space of one pair of jeans. Should I have brought another book just in case I don’t feel like reading the one I have. What are the chances of finding a English-language bookstore in Xi’an? Should I have brought more sunscreen? I had brought three bottles, one spray-on, one purse size spray-on and a regular smear all over yourself type.

There they are! We’re now off to the first of the treacherous nine gates of security.

10:53am -The bastards won’t let me carry on my knitting!!!! They’re freaking 6mm plastic knitting needles. There are baby toys that are more dangerous than these mammoth needles. So I’m stuck with 11 plus hours to fill up sans knitting. Provided that I sleep for about 6 of those hours, that still leaves over 5 hours. Hopefully the inflight movies will be good. If not, then I may have to talk to my family or whatever poor sap has their seat next to me. Thank goodness for Sudoku!