Sweet in hand

My new office is full of bakers. Not that I’m really complaining, being on the receiving end of such delicacies, but it’s ever so ridiculous walking out of the kitchen with cookie in hand every time I go to pour myself coffee, or hot water for tea, or for no good reason whatsoever. The holidays are over, largely, and the influx of delicious, fresh pastries is straggling to an end, but the stash I’ve managed to collect is larger than ever. Chocolates from the doctors, cookies from coordinators, and the most amazing cake bites from s5; I am just drowning in sweets. I’ve managed to pawn most of it off on roommates and family, but everyone’s sweet tooth seems to have met their match.

I secretly want to put everything into a shoe box and leave it in the basement for the dormice (they deserve a little reward too for braving subzero temperatures in their furry little blazers), but after learning the hard way with peanuts and crazed squirrels, I’d rather not invite an infestation into my house. So I nibble lazily between meals, trying to explain it off as fuel for handstands or whatever trouble I will get myself into later, and as much as I complain about it, I wouldn’t know what to do if my supply ran out.

Heading on back to Beijing

It’s official! Well, it’s been rather official in my mind for a while, but putting a signature down at the bottom of a page makes things real. I am moving back to Beijing for the next six months and working as part of the expat team of HHS center. This trip already feels so different. Instead of blindly traipsing across half the globe to an unknown place, I’m going to a city that I feel I am starting to know, filled with people, places, and things at once foreign and familiar. My excitement just cannot be suppressed.

This guy knows what I’m talking about.

In other news, temperatures in Ellicott City have been above 50F/10C every day this week (I guess I don’t hate this place too much), and I’ve branched out a new food blog, dubbed Another Bite. I’ll be posting sloppy food photos, errant humor, reviews, slices of life, and other non-traveling/photography related news there. More to come soon, of course, you know, counting down those 7 days till my flight back to Beijing.

Location: Ellicott City, Maryland

Once in a while, one needs an invigorating scrub

Some ordinary morning, waking up lazily at a bit past nine in whatever timezone I happen to be, shuffle to the kitchen in bare feet in the middle of winter, albeit not cold at all, scarf done a feast of vegetables, raw, preserved, sauteed, boiled, all spicy, all delicious; greet a friend I haven’t seen in what feels like forever but has only really been a few months, and catch up on what it is to be friends again. I have to say it was worth the hectic <3 day trip, the mis-scheduled plane ticket, and all sorts of other comical travesties, like when that girl at the airport spilled an entire cup of coffee on my phone (which isn’t even really my phone) and tried to use her sweatshirt to mop it all up.

It felt nice to get away from a big, big city for a few days, and wax in the comfort of a friend’s house, feeling deliciously pampered and lazy. It was nice to take in an entire city from somewhere decently high up, and actually be able to see to its edges without all the buildings disappearing behind a cloudy wave of small particulates. Moments of immense immaturity were suffered over by speckles of emotional clarity. Ah, vacation! What you do to me.


Location: Cheongju, South Korea

Difficulties with food

The other night, Baofeng took me to Wangfujing (王府井), to gawk at and try the odd food items they have in the multiple vendors along the street. I didn’t end up trying anything too out of ordinary, just some fried dough and lamb kidneys. The spice from the sizzling kidneys and the ridiculous sauna weather drove us indoors before long. On the way out, we got to talking about street food and foreign diets.

I suppose it doesn’t surprise me too much, this lack of understanding of Western food. If I didn’t know better, I would probably think of Chinese food as General Gao’s Chicken and Kun Pow Beef. The equivalent is true here. People here comment a lot about my height, dismissing it as a product of growing up eating hamburgers. When I ask people what they think Americans eat, they answer: pizza, burgers, fries, and sandwiches. Yes, these are iconically American, in the same way that General Gao’s Chicken is iconically Chinese, or pasta is iconically Italian. It is true, we eat a lot of junk in the States, and lots of people have no idea what cooking is, but modern American food is so much more than a slew of cosmopolitan carbon copies.

Honestly, healthy eating is not defined by the food itself, but by the quality of ingredients, the full constituency, and the care taken in its creation. There is plenty of junk food eaten here: cookies, cakes, pastries, packaged and unpackaged, loaded fancifully with sugar instead of corn syrup, chips, greasy street snacks, deep fried anything and everythings. In fact, everything about my household’s eating habits goes against my personal beliefs about food. They get takeout a lot, and eat out a lot, and have lots of junky snacks throughout the day between consistent meal times. Just because the food is Chinese in nature does not make it any fresher, any more direct from the ground, or any more healthy.

I am slowly introducing them to aspects of my food philosophy: starting from as scratch as possible, as fresh as possible, and developing native flavors intensely and slowly. I cooked for them yesterday, starting with the simple things: fresh griddle cakes in the morning with honey and jam, mini meat patties, beef turnovers, tomato salad, and spaghetti at night with fresh tomato basil garlic sauce and a lightly dressed salad. Everything was eaten, everything was approved.

Location: Beijing, China