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Tag Archives: Food

Hot Eats, Cool Treats

It’s springtime! For the most part, I’ve done what any sane person does during bouts of nice weather, and I’ve stayed inside watching back-to-back-to-back episodes of “Lost Girl” (season four can’t get here fast enough, by the way.) But on occasion, I have ventured out into the scary, pollen-filled outdoors.

I photo-bombed my own flowers picture.

Pretty things! And also, me.

More frequently, I have wandered into restaurants with friends, eager to satisfy our growling bellies with food that is usually some combination of rice or noodles. Let’s explore some of my latest food discoveries!

  • I’ve had 麻辣香锅 (Spicy Good-Smelly Pot) before, but ZOMG, there’s a restaurant nearby “Amelia’s” apartment that is absolutely divine. It’s one of those great “choose-your-own-ingredients” types of restaurant, so you can pick and choose all the yummy veggies, tofu, fungi,  and meat that you enjoy. It’s best to go easy on the fungi and meat, though, otherwise you’ll end up paying way too much money (like Amelia and I did the first time we went there.) Also, beware of accidentally eating one of the hot peppers. Mouth fire is real.
Get in my belly!

Get in my belly!

  • 肉夹馍  (meat bread thingie) and 酸梅汤 (plum juice): although I’ve traveled to Xi’an before, I somehow missed out on these distinctive Xi’an eats. Chopped-up beef sandwich, with a bowl of noodles and some juice? What’s not to like?
A balanced meal.

A balanced meal.

  • 烤面包 (toast): when some students and I ordered toast from a restaurant, I wasn’t quite sure what to expect. Bread on a stick, held over a fire for a while. Legit.
Ping Ping being a good toast model.

Ping Ping being a good toast model.

  • Last, but not least, 南瓜饼 (pumpkin yum yums). These are the sweetest thangs I’ve had in China! And they’re pumpkin!! They sadly lack cinnamon and nutmeg, but the abundance of sugar sprinkled over the top somewhat makes up for it.
When in doubt, dump sugar.

When in doubt, dump sugar on EVERYTHING.

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Posted by on May 21, 2013 in Food, Uncategorized

 

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Spring, Face Stuffings, and Uncivilized Behavior

Spring is here! Students congregate around the only pretty place at my school and admire the five or so goldfish in the pond. Flowers, tree buds, and enough pollen to make my nose run. Ahhh, spring!

Notice all the winter coats... despite temperatures pushing 70 degrees F.

Notice all the winter coats… despite temperatures pushing 70 degrees F.

This week I made the hour-plus trip out to Tianjin Normal University to sit in on my friend’s classes and throw in comments when appropriate (and especially when inappropriate). Since she was covering dating, I was able to share my abundant experience and knowledge, which oddly sounded like they came straight from romantic comedies. Probably because they did. Also, there was a fare bit of lazing around the university’s pond, which is bigger and better than my school’s. Look at the beautiful view! I love gazing at apartments.

Nothing is more romantic than this.

Nothing is more romantic than this.

There have been many exciting foods these past several days, including 京酱肉丝,which is a Beijing meat thing in a tasty sauce that you roll up in tofu skin to eat. As a side note, China has a huge variety of tofu, and it’s all good.

My student Summer showing me how it's done.

My student Summer showing me how it’s done.

Then, in random wanderings around the city, we found an Egyptian restaurant. Since it seemed we were the owner’s only customers for the night, he hooked us up with a three-course meal of amazingness. Hummus, salad, falafel, cookies, tea, and a lamb/rice thing that you eat with your hands? Yes please!

So many delicious things, all for about $10 per person.

So many delicious things, all for about $10 per person.

Past consuming delicious foods, we also painted the town red (communist red, mind you) when a group of Chinese folks invited us out to Top Club, a club that doesn’t exactly attract a foreigner crowd. My friend and I walked in as the only foreigners around and started a dance party on the empty stage. You’re welcome, Top Club.

In a taxi ride literally to the other side of the city to fetch our new dancing buddy’s car, my friend stuck her head out the window for about twenty minutes. One of the Chinese guys freaked out and said it was very unsafe for her to do this, but a few minutes later he gave it a try and decided it wasn’t so dangerous after all.

When we saw a lion statue right next to their car, obviously we had to climb it. The same Chinese guy said it was “very uncivilized,” but then he climbed the statue too when he saw how much fun being “uncivilized” could be. Sometimes people just need a little nudge to have a good time.

Bringing uncivilized back.

Gaze into the glowing eyes of uncivilizedness.

 
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Posted by on April 19, 2013 in Food, Night Life, Tianjin, University

 

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A Potpourri of Excitement

Hey, guys! Things are happening. THINGS!!

Last night marked my first foray into the world of Xinjiang food. Xinjiang is a province in westernmost China with a Muslim majority, so their food is quite different from the rest of China. Check it out–Xinjiang pizza! Naan, potatoes, peppers, and some kind of mystery meat.

Quite tricksy to eat with chopsticks.

Quite tricksy to eat with chopsticks.

My friend and I also made the mistake of ordering “beef waist” skewers, whatever part of the cow that’s supposed to be. Not recommended.

In other exciting news, I finally got my bike fixed for about $5. New tire, new pedals, and the guy even wiped all the dirt off. Unfortunately he couldn’t do anything about the rust.

See how the rust glitters in the sunlight?

See how the rust glitters in the sunlight?

I met another American teacher who is not a jerk (this is quite rare, actually. Foreigners here can really be assholes.) Also, one of my new students this semester is amazing and offered to take me to a section of the great wall that snakes through the Tianjin area. And somewhat less thrilling, I got yelled at in a bathroom. Again.

But this is a good story, so bear with me. So I went to my fancy new gym and walked into the girl’s locker room to drop off my jacket. As I walked in, I heard some lady yelling behind me. I couldn’t understand what she was saying, but I knew it was directed at me. But having been the victim of this so many times in China, I decided to ignore her and see what happened.

She ended up being one of the gym’s janitors and followed me into the locker room, yelling all the while. I turned to her, and she just looked at me for a second.

“This is the girl’s dressing room!” she said, predictably. Then, a moment of hesitation. “Are you a guy or girl?”

I gave her my best exasperated smile. “Actually, I’m a girl.”

She looked me up and down, sparing a long glance for my sports bra-smashed boobage. “Oh, I really couldn’t tell. I saw you walking, and you walked with such… confidence!”

Yes, that’s right. This lady said I walked with SWAGGER! So as embarrassing as it was to get yelled at once again, at least I got some kind of compliment out of it. Maybe the key to not attracting this sort of attention out here is to adopt the prevalent Chinese girl shuffle? I’d rather not.

On the school front, the upheaval I caused by failing some of my postgraduate oral English students has been resolved. I conducted a make-up test with two Chinese English teachers at my university. I asked the simplest questions I could think of, like “What did you do last weekend?” and “What is your favorite hobby?” But the other two teachers were RUTHLESS with their questions. “Do you think you are a successful person?” “How do you define happiness?” “How would you rate your English, and what are some ways you can improve?” I felt sorry for my poor students… but I’m sure the university will pass all of them.

In one of my shining moments as a teacher, I somehow skipped grading one of the students on my sheet… which meant we got to the last student, and I thought we still had one more student to grade. So for all I knew, I had given most of the students on my grading shot the wrong score. But the other teachers told me not to worry about it, which basically informed me that they were planning on ripping up my sheet or otherwise disregarding it completely. In this case, that might be for the best.

 
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Posted by on March 14, 2013 in Food, Life, Tianjin, University

 

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Holy Birth Day

Christmas in China! What a… subdued holiday. In fact, if I hadn’t constantly reminded myself all day that it was Christmas, I wouldn’t have known. The only places with decorations were a couple fancy places downtown and malls.

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I think there’s a monster on the chimney.

Hey look, one of my students gave me an apple! This is China’s only Christmas tradition… apples. Um, ok. On the plus side, it was really tasty.

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I will never turn down free food.

On Christmas Eve a couple of friends and I started our celebrations by going to a hip hop dance class, where I embarrassed myself badly. Then we hit up our fav bar Alibaba’s and tried to decide where to bring our festivities from there. As it turns out, one of my friends is part of the Tianjin archery club (random), and they were having a party to celebrate the Xmas.

The club was downtown, in a dark alleyway with no sign to tell curious people that anything existed there at all. But inside, Tianjin’s archery masters were already quite wasted, with a pile of empty wine bottles to prove it. Luckily, none of them were mixing their drunkenness with shooting arrows. Even though I had never seen these people before, they were quite friendly and shared their bounty of cognac, whiskey, wine, and beer. And, there were CASHEWS. Delicious.

On Christmas, my friend and I decided that we could get some legit American food at TGI Friday’s. After a little bit of wandering, we found the place and went inside, only to discover that they were having a special Christmas dinner, full of meats and other delicious things that my vegetarian friend couldn’t eat. To top it off, this set-meal was 300 RMB (quite expensive, especially if you can’t eat half the food they give you).

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Damn you and your special Christmas menu!

So we about-faced and went to our ol’ stand-by, Helen’s Bar. Unlike my last experience there, where I sat next to people who could only speak Japanese, stared at themselves in the mirror for an hour straight, or simply wanted nothing to do with me, my friend and I met some really cool foreigners (Americans and two guys from South Africa and Zambia) who were also trying to celebrate Christmas. So that, combined with the two free drinks and 15 RMB cups of wine, made for a solid evening 🙂

So despite all of my favorite Christmas traditions not happening (being at home with family, opening presents, engulfing a huge breakfast and later an equally huge dinner, hot cocoa, etc. etc.), it wasn’t too bad. But I did miss my family, and I missed watching endless Christmas movies on TV, even the bad ones. But hey, there’s always next year.

 
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Posted by on December 27, 2012 in Uncategorized

 

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Foreigner Rule Violation

The Foreigner Rule has been violated.

So here’s the deal: if you’re a foreigner in China in a city other than Beijing or Shanghai, you have a Special Bond with every other foreigner you meet. This may materialize as anything from a simple head nod in public to a full-blown conversation and exchange of phone numbers.

With this in mind, imagine you are on the line 1 subway from your outskirts-of-Tianjin school to downtown to get your party on on a Friday night. Keep in mind, you have NEVER seen another foreigner on this part of the subway. Then, out of the blue, a blond woman and her Chinese friend sit across from you and speak wonderful mish-mash of Chenglish.

Yes, this happened last night, and I was slightly excited–new friends maybe, oh boy! I introduced myself to the blonde woman and her friend, telling my name and what I was doing in China. But here’s the thing. The blonde woman said absolutely nothing. Nothing! She looked at me like I was delusional and let the silence drag on for what seemed eternity. So I leaned back in my seat and mumbled something like “Sorry to bother you… (bitch).”

Just to add to my confusion, a few minutes later the blonde woman got my attention, then,  I kid you not, wagged her finger at me to get me to come over to her and her friend. Against my better judgement, I sat down next to them. Her Chinese friend went off on this long-winded explanation of where she worked and a lot of things I didn’t care about, then oh-by-the-way offered me a job at her company’s kindergarten. I kindly informed her that I hate children and would rather wear underwear filled with burning coals than work with them. And that was that–I got to sit awkwardly next to them for the rest of the journey.

On the plus side, I met another Chinese girl on the subway who is applying to my university for school next year. She was much nicer. And didn’t make me feel like the outcast in a high school cafeteria.

So yes. The Foreigner Law was broken, and my pathetic attempts at being outgoing were stymied. But on the plus side, I have pictures from my last trip to Beijing in November! These pictures are not mine, but were instead stolen from my friend Helen (with her permission).

 
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Posted by on December 22, 2012 in Beijing, Food, Travel

 

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Battle of the Bands

This academic week was simultaneously satisfying and soul-crushing, full of ecstatic victory and sorrowful defeat. It all began with an oral English lesson about music.

I had prepared quite an astounding lesson (I thought). It began predictably enough with the usual brainstorming of music genres (I’m pretty sure they had never heard that word before,) instruments, and favorite bands (they had certainly never heard of Blind Guardian.) Then followed a nice partner thing where they discussed favorite types of music, bands, concerts, etc. I found out that going to concerts isn’t really a Thing here. And that their schools don’t usually have bands and orchestras.

But all of that is rather typical. Until we got to the role play: BATTLE OF THE BANDS. Here, I had students split up into groups and pretend they were in a band. They got to come up with a name, background for the band, emblem, and even some song lyrics. The possibilities were endless!

Unfortunately, the first class I taught this lesson to wasn’t so convinced. Most of the students were baffled as to what their band names should be, and asking them to come up with a history beyond “we are four students who met at university” was like pulling teeth.

Things got real when two students asked me, “But teacher, why aren’t we using our textbook?”

I gave them many valid reasons: it’s boring, the dialogue sounds unnatural, the pictures are horrific, and it’s boring. And it’s called “Oral English: Reproduction.” Awkward.  But the two students kept arguing why reading from the book would be soooo much more useful than an actually-fun activity involving creativity and drawing. Obviously, I crushed their dissent like it was 1989.

But that didn’t stop me from being extremely peeved.  I had spent a solid fifteen minutes making this amazing activity for them, and they would rather read a stuffy, useless textbook? I couldn’t believe it. And I doubted myself. What if they were right, and the Battle of the Bands wasn’t as wonderful as  I thought?

My doubts haunted me until the next morning, when I taught the same lesson again to a different class. Same lesson, completely different result. THEY LOVED IT. Most of the band names were four-letter abbreviations of their names, like a lot of Korean bands are doing these days (so they told me.) And two of the bands got in front of the class and performed songs. In other words, the creative juices flowed, and my self-confidence was restored.

The rest of the week had its ups-and-downs. I spent most of my classes with the grad students showing them music and failing to get Fallout: New Vegas to open on my laptop without crashing (damn you, Bethesdsa!) But the rest of my freshmen classes exceeded my expectations. My favorite band name was “Lawless,” with two lightning bolts curling jutting to the left and right.

As a side note, 100% of my students had never listened to metal, and they had no idea what Metallica and Iron Maiden were. As a crash course in metal, I let them listen to some Insomnium and Arch Enemy. Some of the students looked slightly terrified.

In other news, Chinese food is pretty amazing. As long as you accept the fact that most of your meals consist of something chopped up really small over rice or noodles, your tummy can be quite happy here! In the past week, I tried a super-spicy beef dish tasting strongly of paprika, 鱼香肉丝 (pork in a tasty bean sauce, I think?) and a chicken dish called 孜然鸡肉, which features cumin front and center. I didn’t even know those spices existed in China. Now the true question, why aren’t these dishes offered at your typical Chinese restaurant back home? Silliness, people. There’s so much more than sweet and sour pork.

Below, a really terrible dark photo of the tasty bean-maybe pork over rice. All of this, for 8RMB (about $1.30)!

 

 
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Posted by on October 20, 2012 in Food, University

 

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Once you pop…

Top o’ the morning, interwebsters! I’m not really sure if I should post this or not, so I’m just going to do it before I lost my nerve. I have something altogether heavy and not-funny to share with you today. You could classify it as Deeply Personal, but I feel like it would be good for me to share my experience… Because I know I’m not the only person out there who does this!

So I have this problem. It has come and gone for the past 3+ years. I’ve told my family and close friends about it, but I don’t think they understand how much I still struggle with this. And since a full 2/3 of Americans are overweight, something tells me that I am DEFINITELY not the only one that struggles with this.

Here goes. Sometimes I eat a lot. When I say a lot, I mean an ungodly amount of food. Like, I will literally eat until all of the food in my kitchen is gone, or my stomach feels like it’s about to explode, whichever comes first. It’s like the Pringle’s slogan: Once you pop, the fun don’t stop. It’s fun at the time, an obsessive, insane type of fun, but the regret and pain that follow are actually the Anti-Fun.

Take for example my two episodes (episodes? Events? Occurrences?) this weekend. On Friday, I decided that it was a good idea to eat an entire epically-enormous box of crackers covered in honey and blueberry jelly. Mmm!  Sure, that box of crackers should have lasted me until the Mayan-predicted end of the world, but I went through all of them in one night. Then last night, I finished off a loaf of bread and some pancakes, once again covered in sugary goodness… and all of this, after stuffing myself silly at the buffet. Ridiculous.

“Oh come now, Kirsten!” you might say, “This isn’t a big deal! Everyone eats too much every once in a while. This isn’t anything to freak out about.” I would disagree, my friend. Do normal people HAVE to keep eating something until it’s gone? Do they eat it all, then return to the kitchen and find more food to eat as quickly as possible? Do they put on some kind of video for background noise, so they don’t feel like they’re JUST eating (even though they’re paying zero attention to the video)? Do they feel so damn compulsive about it, that even if they consider stopping, that there’s no way for them to gather up their self-control and STOP IT ALREADY?

Well you know what, maybe there are a lot of people out there like me. But that doesn’t make it normal, and it doesn’t make it right. That just means that a shit-ton of people out there also need some serious help to get through this. This isn’t normal. It’s wasteful. It’s expensive. It makes you feel like shit. My self-esteem is blown for days after I do this. I always wake up the morning after thinking that I’ll never do it again… but by that evening, I’m sniffing around the kitchen again looking for something to devour. It’s sick. It’s a disgusting habit that once you allow yourself to do it, it’s fucking difficult to dig out of.

So why am I talking about this? For one, I’m selfish–I need to get it off my chest, and I haven’t made enough friends here to spout about this (“Oh hey, I know we just started hanging out last week, but let me tell you about my soul-crushing obsessive eating problem.” Yeeeeeah not happening.) Two, I know I’m not the only one who does this. Compulsive eaters of the world, unite! Three, I don’t want to struggle with this on my own anymore. I know you guys can’t really HELP me in any tangible way, but I think the mere fact of other people KNOWING about my issue will help me overcome it.  And maybe, if there’s someone else out there with this same problem, we can help each other out.

I wish I had some kind of sure-fire way to stop this from happening again, but I’ve tried various “foolproof” ways in the past (this fool got through em). So I’m just going to focus on self-control and on how drop-dead sexy amazing I could look, if I didn’t eat a whole loaf of bread covered in sugar every few days.

/ end really personal blog post

 
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Posted by on September 24, 2012 in Uncategorized

 

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