January 5th Uninspired

January 5th 2007

The stupidest thing I saw today. I got a copy a list of classroom adaptations for my younger boy. It said he would be allowed to “utilize consolidated classroom techniques”. What the hell is that?

The stupidest thing I did today. I wasn’t too stupid today.
The nicest thing I saw to day.
The nicest thing I did today. Guess I wasn’t too nice, either.

Something that made me cry. Ha! I didn’t even cry once today!

Something I wanted today but couldn’t have.

Something I ate today but shouldn’t have. Why oh why? Because god is punishing me. God is big on punishment.

Or as I like to call it when it happens to my kids, “divine retribution”. Yesterday I ate the stupidest thing. It was a waste of my life, the calories and the cottage cheese of my thighs. The thing is, it all comes from greed. Greed is the bane of my existence. But I started with good intentions.

My mom used to do stocking for us kids, then the grandkids. And she did it weird, but cool and fun. We alwalys got some small junk food, which for us was the little boxes of cereal. That was ‘junk’ because it wasn’t plain Cheerios or Wheaties or Cornflakes. Pretty much that’s what we ate for breakfast. No candy-coated-sugar-bombs for us.

Remember back about 30 years? When you could cut open the little cereal box and pour the milk right into the box and eat it? It seemed like such a technological innovation to me at the time. They don’t encourage that anymore. One too many kids drove the steak knife into their thigh while cutting the box open, I guess.

Anyway, we always got little cereals, pineapple juice in little cans, a gigantic red delicious apple, a gigantic navel orange, candy canes and some silly small present. Usually something practical, but special because it was for only us. Like one year we all got shampoo. Our own shampoo. Laugh if you want, but I was enthralled. I think my brother got green apple, one of my sisters got strawberry and I got a very grown up golden bottle of Flax Enriched something.

I read the back and was awed by its promise to “heal and strengthen the hair shaft”. It had protein for strength and shine. It had jojoba oil for bounce and luster. I was going to have the most strong, lustrous, bouncy and shiny 12 year old hair in the world.

Another year we got jars of olives or packages of pepperoni. All to ourselves. Or entire packages of gum, like the 10 pack strips of Wrigleys.

Well since my mom died, I’ve tried to take on the torch of the stocking stuffing. My sisters helped me out t his year. One brought packs of gum, the other brought little Debbie’s Oatmeal Cream Pies and Marshmallow Murders. I found one of the cream pies yesterday while I was cleaning up the shrapnel of Christmas.

Before I knew what I was doing I had eaten it. What is wrong with me? It was greasy and dry. It was so sweet it hurt my teeth. I should have stopped after one bite, but I didn’t. I ate it. I think they used to be better. Or I used to be hungrier, because, yeeeuch, it was icky.

Moments of Gastronomical Excellence… Right.

Missed opportunity.
Goose bumps.

Food horrors.

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Vietnamese Food

What is on my mind today? Our meal yesterday at the Hoa Bien restaurant on University Avenue. They were pretty full up, but not totally, and it was lunchtime. All the white folks in the restaurant should have clued me into the fact that it wasn’t going to be stellar.

And it wasn’t. I wouldn’t go again if I had my druthers. Things like the fraying fake flowers on the tables could have been completely be redeemed by a good meal that left me feeling grateful I had branched out from my usual stomping grounds (as if I have stomping grounds). Instead I left feeling grateful I hadn’t brought some suburbanite into the city to show them real ethnic food. Because it was precisely and completely blah.

Don’t get me wrong. It wasn’t actively bad. I’ve had meals that made me feel violated and sick. This wasn’t one of those. It didn’t even really make me feel yucky. It was just food. And it seems to be something they strive for, this middle of the road, two steps above chung king and one above Leanne chin.

The help was young and cute. Well groomed young Asian kids (OK probably young adults). Their English was without noticeable accent, not even the second generation citified accent that is the norm for city kids. Probably my even noticing it is just a sign of my racist tendencies. But there it is, I noticed. Beautiful young people without accent.

We had the spring rolls with “mixed pork” for starters. They were really the only interesting part of the meal. And they were interesting. Let me confess that as much as I love a great spring roll, it, like many other things, is really about the sauce for me. And when they brought our two spring rolls out with two tablespoons of dipping sauce, I felt cheated.

But my first bite was enough to distract me from my sauce greed. Soft, tacky and chewy rice paper stuff? Check. Rice noodles inside, check. Bits of cilantro, basil AND some anise flavored stuff? Check. And this tickled me, because it was a surprise, and the taste evolved as I chewed and swallowed.

By my second bite, I looked up at Andy to see if he noticed that some of the stuff in the spring rolls was very mysterious. Too mysterious. His eyes slid up to mine mid-bite. “Something weird with these noodles, don’t you think?” Yep. I did. It brought to mind the fact that one of the pho noodle soup options was beef broth with noodles and tendons. These noodles were really tough and stretchy and their edges were kind of ragged instead of smooth like normal glass noodles or rice noodles. We really had to give our incisors a work-out to break them off .

I’m pretty adventurous about food, so I kept chewing and stretching. But all the interesting spices could not save the “mixed pork” situation. Even if the tendons hadn’t been there, I would have had big trouble with the powdery stuff. How can I describe it?

Think to yourself that you’re eating a pretty good, if chewy, spring roll. The herbs are a little sparkly and interesting, but your tongue, cheeks and roof of your mouth are getting coated with some powdery, mealy and disturbing meatish stuff. And it isn’t just one bite. It’s like someone took overcooked and dry pork, chewed it up really well and put it in the spring rolls. Oh I know! It reminded me of meat baby food, but drier.

So that was a deal killer on the spring-rolls. Nope. That’s a lie. I ate them. Because I bought them and they were there. And I liked the sauce. And I was afraid Andy would get more sauce if I didn’t eat my spring roll. I am so sick.

The tea (jasmine) was oversteeped, bitter and the color of urine. Vietnamese place. Can’t make tea.

Then came Andy’s chicken with pea pods and my pho soup (tendon free). An uninspired but generally safe choice. The meat was all white breast meat. In Andy’s and mine. And it was dry. Mine was in broth and his was in a pretty slimy but innocuous sauce and the meat was dry, dry dry. That all-white-meat deal? It’s for the American palate. I heard the two (not Asian) ladies behind me both request that the meat be all white meat in their lunch.

I understand the urge to avoid the unidentifiable, bits of cartilage, tendon and veins. I do. But Suck It Up, sisters, it’s all part of an animal even when you don’t see the parts. Now we’re all left with powdery white nastiness.

My pho soup was almost clear with droplets of grease floating on the top. Which, if it had been flavorful and delicious, I would have assumed gave it its richness. But it wasn’t. The broth was sweet and weak, and the meat in it was dry. The 5 little bits of french-fried onions were a strange touch.

So there you go, that’s Hoa Bien. Can they sue me for writing about their lackluster food? I think not. I wouldn’t go again.

Happy New Year!

I know I’m behind. This blog thing is kind of oppressive. I think about it all the time. But it seems like nothing I write is any good, and the more I think about it the less I want to post anything. I am turning over yet another new leaf.

Aren’t you excited? I have just under 365 days to get a start on the rest of your life. Me, too. Here are some ideas I’m toying around with for how to make the most of 2007.

Write at least once a week about one thing. Ok I already blew that, but it’s never too late to start again. My prompts will be as follows if I am uninspired.
The stupidest thing I saw today.

The stupidest thing I did today.

The nicest thing I saw to day.

The nicest thing I did today.

Something that made me cry.

Something I wanted today but couldn’t have.

Something I ate today but shouldn’t have.

Moments of Gastronomical Excellence.

Missed oportunity.

Goose bumps.

Food horrors.

I am more than a little happy to take suggestions of things to write about.