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Monday, September 29, 2008

The BIG Fry-Off

It literally was obscene. We're talking the kind of obscene that's illegal in 42 states and 20 countries. We'd only ever talked about having a fry party but never thought we would actually pull this off. But today, we did. With great aplomb, unplanned coordination, as balanced a menu as the deep-fried circumstances allowed (I mean, we *did* have veggies and dessert), and also a fleeting smidgen of guilt and embarrassment at how much we ate. And all this after the Big House Big Heart run (photos here.) Emilee put it best: "Can I just say how much I LOVE the idea of celebrating something called the "Big Heart Run" by frying a bunch of stuff?"

Things we managed to throw into the turkey fryer:
1. A 2lb prime rib (yes, a WHOLE prime rib)
2. Cheese curds
3. A pound of Italian meatballs
4. 13 scotch eggs (encasing extra-large hard-boiled eggs)- no, restraint was the one thing that was *not* on the menu today
5. 2 large country fried steaks
6. Eggplant strips (they turned out a little like tempura, i.e. delicious! And it allowed us to pretend that we had *some* fiber in our diet today.)
7. 5 giant chicken breasts (brined in buttermilk, so moist, so good, so ummmm-inducing... )
[by this time, people were starting to have that glazed, blank look on their faces- y'know, the blissful kind that comes just before an intense food coma?...]
8. 4lbs of hot wings
9. Handmade onion rings
10. Banana-Nutella and cinnamon brown sugar spring rolls (our contribution- it really worked and was the perfect decadent end to an already heedlessly hedonistic afternoon)

And all this for only nine people. All cooked in one vessel (at different times, obviously, but still, the capacity of that thing is amazing!). And, on top of that, with all the finger-licking goodness that was going on, we completely dispensed with cutlery altogether- why fuss with an extra transfer mechanism when you can just toss piping hot fried food straight into your oesophagus? Ahhhh bliss...

1. An obscene amount of fried food!, 2. Beer-battered onion rings, 3. Banana-nutella spring rolls, 4. Deep-fried eggplant, 5. Cheese curds!, 6. Scotch eggs , 7. Deep-fried prime rib, 8. Scotch eggs, cross-section , 9. Buttermilk-dipped fried chicken

Tuesday, September 23, 2008

Why Ricky Gervais should host next year's Emmy's

Ricky Gervais wasn't present to accept his Emmy last year and Steve Carell- his American counterpart in the American remake of The Office accepted it on his behalf. Last night, one of the highlights of the ceremony was Gervais' mock outrage that Carell still hasn't handed over his statuette. [Note also Jon Stewart and Stephen Colbert- who had given Carell the trophy- barely containing themselves...] Carell's signature stonefaced distress and Gervais unrelenting jabbing make it the funniest- and Office-esque uncomfortable- two minutes in Emmy history. Oh, and there's tickling too... :)
I made you what you are and I get nothing back... Have you even been to see Ghost Town yet? No? I sat through Evan Almighty. Gimme my Emmy.
-Ricky Gervais "ranting" at Steve Carell

Monday, September 22, 2008

Halfway to the Half

...which also means I'm trained for a quarter marathon, as someone astutely calculated ;)

So it's just under a month to the Detroit Marathon, and I'm only halfway in my training. I'm running the half (for no other reason than it stretches across to Canada over the bridge and under the tunnel, making it the world’s only underwater international mile) so it's actually not too bad. I ran 11.5km today (Jenn and I adapted this route a little) and I figure if I can hit 19km the weekend before the marathon, I should be able to run that last 2km on adrenaline alone, if nothing else. I'm at that stage in my running where the first 3km or so is the hardest and then by the time I'm at 6km, I'm completely zoned-out (or in, depending on how you look at it) and some strange inexplicable force takes over my body until the voice via my iPod+Nike tells me it's time to stop. Yoga has helped my breathing a lot too so I hardly get out of breath which has also helped my recovery heart rate. The only part of my body that isn't faring too well are my legs- specifically my knees. They don't hurt while I'm running- the hours after a long run is when they bother me most. Thanks to Dark Orpheus though, this pose has been helping a lot.

It's easier to get motivated to run now that I'm running almost everyday, although I'm not going to be making marathon-running a personal hobby anytime soon- it's going to hurt too much. I think the reason why I've been drawn to running is the same reason I love yoga- it's all about my body and what it's capable of doing on its own. Every run- like every yoga session- is a challenge. How much further can I run? How much longer can I hold this position? And I actually look forward to the "aloneness" of running- it's some quality Serene-time during which I can think of anything I want- whether it's something I need to concetrate and think hard about, or something I need to get out of my system. I'm beginning to do some of my best thinking- not necessarily academic- as I run and I've come to appreciate that a lot.

So there, Serene Koh, enjoying running. Just a year ago, who would have guessed? ;)

Saturday, September 20, 2008

Watchmen cast comparison

[from film ick- click for full-size]

Just because it's been intense bedtime reading for the past week (it's probably a bad idea to be working my mind so hard just before I sleep- I really should be reading something mindless...), and because I can't wait till March 6, 2009...
Heard joke once: Man goes to doctor. Says he's depressed. Says life seems harsh and cruel. Says he feels all alone in a threatening world where what lies ahead is vague and uncertain. Doctor says "Treatment is simple. Great clown Pagliacci is in town tonight. Go and see him. That should pick you up." Man bursts into tears. Says "But Doctor... I am Pagliacci."
-Rorschach's journal, The Watchmen

Tuesday, September 16, 2008

Funniest wedding invite - ever!

I kid you not, this is an actual wedding invite from a childhood friend ... sent via email ;)

Dear all,

I am getting re-enlisted into National Service on 30Oct08, and would like all of you my comrade-in-arms to witness the event at Regent Hotel.
Please confirm your availability. Unlike that day 18 Dec 1993, where they gave me a rifle and told me that its my wife (what idiots!!!), this is the real thing!!!!

FINALLY......I AM GETTING MARRIED....LIKE most of you................

Don't ask me whether i am sure or not? When i renewed my car insurance, they told me i can pay lower premium because I am 36...a responsible age.

I never believe in "Once Armour always Armour, but i guess Once a HEEJACK, ALWAYS A HEEJACK...
Our motherland is safer now that i am OUT of the army.............

Once a brother, always a brother.................please come and we can have one big reunion.

Monday, September 15, 2008

An apple a day...

Of course, it probably could have been a drier day... when we had originally planned to go apple-picking, raincoats, umbrellas and water-proof shoes were not supposed to be part of the package. But the freaky September weather being what it is and the remnants of Hurricane Ike coming our way, fruit-picking (apples and raspberries) at Wasem Fruit Farm included a fair amount of dodging and darting about. The good thing was everyone had fun- rain or no rain- the kids were especially game and they came all prepared with their adorable raincoats and galoshes :)

What made apple-picking most exciting for me though was the entire experience of picking fresh fruit, and then having it lovingly prepared that very day. Wendy thoughtfully prepared pie dough in advance and our afternoon was spent just hanging out at the Cooneys and basking in the deliriously wondrous smell and flavor of homemade apple pie. And it was the BEST apple pie I've ever tasted- the apple pie against which all apple pies will now be forever measured, in no small measure due, I'm sure, to Wendy's awesome crust, and simply how fresh and delicious those apples were.

It's this intensely intimate relationship with food that's one of the greatest arguments for supporting local farmers. Not only are you assured that your food is humanely and responsibly grown, you help sustain the efforts of famers who strive to do so. The other thing that occurred to me yesterday was how inspiring it is to cook according to the seasons. I'd never really thought about it before until watching Wendy bake her pie- to cook with ingredients that are at their peak of flavor and not just bland, generic-tasting food you can get all-year round at the supermarket because they've been industrially produced. Cooking and eating seasonally situates your food in a time and place, and in that sense, makes the experience a very particular memory. So even though apples are available all-year round, as I go through the two crisper drawers full of apples in our fridge and now and forever more, every time I eat or cook with apples, I'm going to associate it with that one cusp-of-Fall rainy day, when picking apples had everything to do with raincoats, umbrellas and water-proof shoes :)

Friday, September 12, 2008

"Righteous Kill"- to watch or not to watch?

If "Righteous Kill" starred any two other actors on earth, we could call it what it truly is -- a formulaic mash-up of every maniac-on-the-loose cop movie ever made. If it only boasted one of its leading men, we'd note how often he's played that role before: the quintessential tough guy, loose cannon, thick-tongued New York cop. But "Righteous Kill" stars both Al Pacino and Robert De Niro, and slack must be cut.
- Salon movie review

Sunday, September 07, 2008

My first Saturday back in A2...

...was spent giving in to my basest vegging tendencies.

Morning: Woke up the latest I have this whole week actually, 8.30 or so. Called home to wish my parents a HAPPY WEDDING ANNIVERSARY! Their 33rd, which is pretty amazing :)

Morning-ish: Jude and I laid in bed listening to a This American Life podcast via my phone (the Break-Up episode, complete with Phil Collins and The Postal Service is simply inspired...). And tinkering with the Pandora app which I love.

About noon or so: Finally dragged ourselves downstairs for lunch. Hotdogs with a mozzarella/heirloom tomato salad. There wasn't anything good on TV and we ended up watching some strange how-is-this-meant-for-kids? cartoon on Cartoon Network.

Afternoon: The whole afternoon after lunch basically went by in a blur- I remember watching a documentary on the History Channel about Chinese gangs in San Francisco, falling asleep on the couch, and waking up to another documentary, this time about gangs in the military. Drifting in and out of a nap, I think I might have watched about 30 minutes of Save the Last Dance (the one where Julia Stiles is a ballet dancer in Chicago) on mute while Nick Drake was playing on our stereo (Don't ask me why I was watching TV on mute- I guess well-written angsty songs are better than badly-written angsty movies).

Late afternoon-ish: Couldn't bring myself to move from the couch so I just spent the next two hours or so re-reading The Watchmen in anticipation of the movie. Note to self: I shall spend the rest of the night doing this too :)

Before dinner: My half-marathon training today is supposed to be 40 minutes of cross-training so Jude and I decided to bike to Zingerman's for dinner and then bike back (no one said I couldn't use food as motivation...) It was very doable and we wondered why we never thought of biking to the Farmer's Market before. Dinner was delicious as always- pastrami and corned beef on rye with two kinds of cheeses and mustards. Dessert was even better- droolsome burnt sugar gelato and a shot of deep, dark, slurpy Spanish drinking chocolate. It made biking home 1) harder, but also 2) all the more necessary.

After dinner: I think it was a combination of food coma and the soothing cusp-of-Fall weather that lured us back to the couch for more vegging. Channel-surfed between Failure to Launch (I can't believe Jude actually enjoyed parts of this- but only parts...), a hyper-colorized Bad Boys II (which police departments allows car chases with a Porsche? Only in Miami it would seem), and Walk the Line (I *heart* Joaquin Phoenix).

Late-ish at night: Jude's DVD project for this semester- after conquering Battlestar Galactica last semester- is The Wire. He's starting right from the very beginning so it's a looong road ahead. I've been trying to watch with him this past week but jetlag always got in the way. Did sit through a couple of episodes tonight and they were pretty darn good. I've been hearing great things about the series from a whole slew of different people and I now see why. The production quality isn't the best but the narrative is as gripping as they come, and it hits right between the eyes and lures you right in. And for someone whose only image of Baltimore involves Charm City Cakes (thanks to the Food Network) and Hairspray, it was a terrifying refreshing (?) insight into the city.

I was planning on doing some work tonight, but it looks like that plan's about to be shot- basest vegging tendencies don't involve anything productive. Feeling lethargic and drowsy again. I've really been sleeping too much this week. I'm not sure if it's making up for sleep I didn't get enough of in Singapore or I'm still recovering from jetlag, but I'm giving myself till tomorrow to get my groove back. The trip home was really fruitful but now it's time to process all that work and get my data in shape. And since data don't transcribe themselves, someone needs to stop going to bed at 11pm and pull herself together...

Friday, September 05, 2008

The Omnivore's Hundred

Knowing my pornographic obsession with food, one of my office mates, Linda, suggested that I do this meme.

The Omnivore's Hundred (originally from Very Good Taste)

1) Copy this list into your blog or journal, including these instructions.
2) Bold all the items you've eaten.
3) Cross out any items that you would never consider eating

1. Venison
2. Nettle tea
3. Huevos rancheros
4. Steak tartare
5. Crocodile
6. Black pudding
7. Cheese fondue
8. Carp
9. Borscht
(Although I'm a little skeptical about the authenticity of the one and only version I've had at Shashlik, one of only two "Russian" restaurants in Singapore. I do love the old-world, musky charm of the place though. Enough to not snicker at the kitschy decor or mind the occasionally grouchy service.)
10. Baba ghanoush
11. Calamari
12. Pho
13. PB&J sandwich

14. Aloo gobi
15. Hot dog from a street cart (We had so many of these when we first moved here. They fill you up pretty well and for $1.20 each, they're a fairly cheap meal when you're trying hard to save every penny.)
16. Epoisses
17. Black truffle
18. Fruit wine made from something other than grapes
19. Steamed pork buns
20. Pistachio ice cream

21. Heirloom tomatoes (One of the few things that make summers bearable here.)
22. Fresh wild berries
23. Foie gras
24. Rice and beans

25. Brawn, or head cheese
26. Raw Scotch Bonnet pepper (And risk potentially losing my voice forever? I don't think so...)
27. Dulce de leche
28. Oysters
29. Baklava

30. Bagna cauda
31. Wasabi peas
32. Clam chowder in a sourdough bowl

33. Salted lassi
34. Sauerkraut
35. Root beer float (Nothing beats Bill's in Ypsi- deep intense licorice flavor with creamy over-sweet vanilla ice-cream. Yummm...)
36. Cognac with a fat cigar
37. Clotted cream tea
38. Vodka jelly/Jell-O
39. Gumbo
40. Oxtail

41. Curried goat
42. Whole insects
43. Phaal
44. Goat's milk
45. Malt whisky from a bottle worth US$120 or more
46. Fugu
47. Chicken tikka masala
48. Eel
49. Krispy Kreme original glazed doughnut (We finally had these last year when we were in Chicago for the Cubs game. Plus the free one we each got because they were freshly fried, Rick, Emilee, Jude and I split a dozen. At 8.00 in the morning. It was a bit of an overkill I have to admit...)
50. Sea urchin (Tried it and will never eat it again- at the risk of being disowned by some very dear members of my family, the texture of uni really irks me.)
51. Prickly pear
52. Umeboshi (And only just last week, where I unsuspectingly ordered a bowl of udon at Narita Airport with one of these pickled plums in it.)
53. Abalone
54. Paneer
55. McDonald's Big Mac Meal (I confess, I've never had a Big Mac.)
56. Spaetzle
57. Dirty gin martini
58. Beer above 8% ABV
59. Poutine (See here.)
60. Carob chips
61. S'mores (Thanks to Rick and Emilee, I had my first S'mores 2 years ago while camping, so it was the real deal- over an open fire and all... And it was awesome!)
62. Sweetbreads
63. Kaolin (Isn't this some kind of clay?)
64. Currywurst (1997. July. Berlin.)
65. Durian
66. Frogs' legs
67. Beignets, churros, elephant ears or funnel cake (As whimsical as they all sound, I was a little disappointed to find that at the end of the day, fried dough anywhere in the world tastes almost the same once you sprinkle powdered sugar on them.)
68. Haggis
69. Fried plantain (Thanks to our dear friend Beryl, this was just one of several Jamaican yummies we had the fine fortune to enjoy, on top of her homemade jerk chicken and one kickass beef stew with dumplings)
70. Chitterlings, or andouillette
71. Gazpacho
72. Caviar and blini
73. Louche absinthe (Does it count if I stole a sip from Shibani's drink in Montreal?)
74. Gjetost, or brunost
75. Roadkill (If you drive on the freeways in the Midwest as much as we do, you'd never want to either.)
76. Baijiu
77. Hostess Fruit Pie
78. Snail
79. Lapsang souchong
80. Bellini
81. Tom yum
82. Eggs Benedict (The best of which was a crab-cakes version at Cafe Penelope in Chicago)
83. Pocky
84. Tasting menu at a three-Michelin-star restaurant
85. Kobe beef
86. Hare (What about rabbit? I think I might have had a bite here in Quebec City)
87. Goulash
88. Flowers
89. Horse
90. Criollo chocolate
91. Spam
92. Soft shell crab
93. Rose harissa
94. Catfish (My first taste of catfish was at Swensen's in Liang Court when I was 15. At my dad's recommendation...)
95. Mole poblano
96. Bagel and lox
97. Lobster Thermidor
98. Polenta
99. Jamaican Blue Mountain coffee (And was sorely disappointed- definitely overrated.)
100. Snake

It was an interesting exercise not just in terms of recalling the different things I've ever consumed, but also the memories associated with them. Try it. In particular, I tag Terri- I just know you'll enjoy every moment of doing this meme... :)

Wednesday, September 03, 2008

Things I appreciate...

...about being back in AA:
1) My first sip of Starbuck's Pike Place brew: it's still my favorite roast from them. Plus, I refuse to pay S$4.50 for Starbucks in Singapore (after conversion, it's still ridiculous) so my first cuppa this morning was particularly precious.

2) Running in weather that doesn't make me want to pass out after 10 minutes. Although I realize that the cooler air is also thinner (whatever that means) and I had to breathe a little harder than when running back home.

3) Sane driving. (See here.)

4) No longer having to watch the current season of Project Runway via YouTube. Waiting for five videos to very slooooowly load- I'm told by my resident computer techie that there's something called "lag" and videos just load slower in Singapore- just for one episode was only barely worth it.

Things I don't:
1) Throngs of undergrads on the first day of term. I miss my "yay-it's-summer-no-undergrads" Ann Arbor... It's still not as bad as the claustrophobia of Singapore, but after enjoying those couple of months of peace and quiet in May/June, today was not nice...

2) The parched dry grass everywhere- even my beautiful lavender isn't holding up very well. I think I take the perennial greenery of Singapore for granted sometimes and forget that in Ann Arbor, green is something quite fleeting, whether we're talking about long, frosty winters or rainless summers that toast everything into an ugly brown.

3) No yummy home-cooked food. Yes, we cook, but somehow, pasta and casseroles just aren't quite the same as chicken curry, handmade hae cho (shrimp rolls), long-simmered soups, and other lovingly-prepared comfort foods.

4) Our family and friends. Enough said :(