Friday, 29 August 2008


logo from here

Saw an OBAMA '08 bumper sticker on a BMW when I was riding home from work tonight, which would be fairly commonplace if I were at home in the Bay Area, but it's a bit of a novelty in the London Borough of Merton. It made me smile.

Then I got home to see McCain's VP pick splashed all over the internet. Major buzzkill. Are they evil geniuses, or just plain evil? (Note: it's not the first option.)

I'm voting for Obama, just as much as I ever intended.

Yes we can!!!


Tuesday, 26 August 2008

hot stuff

an update to the food meme: added a green scotch bonnet pepper (#26) to dinner tonight.

ok, so it wasn't raw. and i was glad i only added one pepper - they are truly, extremely hot!

dinner itself was tasty, if a bit of a random stir-fry/curry/noodle dish. i started with chopped onions, garlic flakes, and ground black pepper in a bit of olive oil. added the scotch bonnet pepper (diced into tiny pieces) and freshly grated ginger. added strips of pork. poured in coconut milk and let it boil, then simmer for a few minutes with added spices: green chili, lemongrass and cardamom mix. then added eggplant and zucchini (aubergine and courgette, to be french/british about it) and let them soften. finally added red pepper, baby corn, and mange tout (i love that word as a substitute for snow peas.) simmered until everything was fully cooked, but the veg was still crunchy.

meanwhile, i fried some rice noodles in a bit of sesame oil with sesame seeds and black pepper sprinkled on.

sadly, dinner wasn't very photogenic, but happily, i made enough for tomorrow night, too!

Sunday, 17 August 2008

now i'm scared

photo from london freecycle event, 23 sep 2007

I didn't do much training for our Prague-Meissen trip last week. I put it down to hormones - I felt pretty awful for about seven days straight. But whether I was actually medically under the weather, or just lazy, the result is the same: I only went to the gym once. Today, I woke up feeling much better, more like my usual self, so I thought it was time for a challenge.

I decided to repeat the route we took last year for the London Freecycle event. I rode to Wimbledon, an easy 10 minute ride that I do all the time. Then I folded my bike and took it on the train to Waterloo Station. I locked it at the station, and walked up to Leicester Square. I met K, and we headed to Chinatown for lunch. Crunchy noodles with beef and green peppers in black bean sauce and jasmine tea hit the spot perfectly. E joined us, and we walked around Soho a bit before settling on a cafe for more drinks. K and I walked over to Uniqlo on Regent Street (nothing exciting despite the sales); then I walked back to Waterloo. Thankfully, my bicycle was still there unscathed, so I got on and rode back home following the Northern Line and made it in about 45 minutes (including the harrowing Elephant & Castle roundabout section).

It wasn't all sweetness and light, though. I had the strangest experience at Wimbledon Station. After carrying my bike to the platform and lifting it onto the train, I had an overwhelming rush of (blood? adrenaline?) and nearly passed out! My face must have gone pure white - then just as rapidly, beet red. My head was spinning and my eyes went blurry. There were no seats, so I just leaned on my bike and gripped the train handles as hard as I could to keep upright. The sensation lasted much longer than I thought it should have; it wasn't just a harmless head rush. I was still feeling woozy 20 minutes later when we reached Waterloo.

"Great, now I'm stuffed. How am I going to get home? At least I didn't vomit on all the nice people..."

The walk to Leicester Square was more an exercise in auto-pilot navigation, rather than a conscious action. I was really worried and felt horrible. Fortunately lunch - and good friends - revived me. Somehow the thought of going back home on the train was worse than the idea of a 45 minute ride dodging traffic, and I am happy to report that I made it safe and sound. It was much easier to just get on the bike and ride; my head might have wanted to explode, but my legs kept working for some reason.

But now I am scared about our cycle trip!

Scary: the thought that I did about 15km today, and our shortest day on the trip will be 41km.
Reassuring: we won't be cycling non-stop. There will be plenty of breaks along the way.

Scary: Riding an unfamiliar, full-size bike.
Reassuring: Riding with such small wheels for so long means that if nothing else, I am very good at pedaling!

Scary: I will be the slowest, least fit person by far.
Reassuring: I have plenty of experience in that position! At least adults should be more sympathetic and supportive than school-age kids in PE class.

Scary: my bum will be sooo sore.
Reassuring: my new padded cycle shorts make a big difference. The ride today was much smoother than usual.

Scary: WTF was I thinking when I convinced S to do this holiday, instead of a nice train ride through Spain and Morocco?
Reassuring: He'll be right there with me, and we'll both have fun.

I'm sure that we'll have some good stories to tell. All in all, I think it will be a blast (even if there is some discomfort). One thing I keep telling myself is that if I can't do it now, I'll probably never do it. I have climbed to the tops of Mt. Fuji and Mt. Sinai. I think I can cycle from Prague to Meissen. I think I can... I think I can...

Friday, 15 August 2008

bob and the lolcat

funny pictures
moar funny pictures

hope my yarn kitteh getz on lolcats homepage.


wasabi peas and memes

At work, I have a google alert set for the keyword 'wasabi peas' and I get several hits everyday. It's fun to see how many people write about wasabi peas - all different contexts, all different parts of the world. Food blogs, restaurant reviews, diet tips. But mostly just random mentions among other thoughts.

The point is, this week the author of posted his Omnivore's Hundred, a list of 100 things he thinks every omnivore should try at least once, including wasabi peas (number 31). My hit count has gone way up. And I thought it might be fun to try it, too. I've never done a meme. If you want to share how many of the 100 you have tried, consider yourself tagged.

Here goes.

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.
4) Optional extra: Post a comment on VGT linking to your results.

The VGT Omnivore’s Hundred:
1. Venison: only once. not my fave.
2. Nettle tea
3. Huevos rancheros
4. Steak tartare
5. Crocodile: had alligator once. not quite the same, but close enough.
6. Black pudding: pass!
7. Cheese fondue: yum
8. Carp: i've eaten gefilte fish. it's ok.
9. Borscht: mamasita loves beets and borscht. unfortunately, i don't.
10. Baba ghanoush: i do love eggplant/aubergine, however.
11. Calamari: fried calamari, as well as raw squid
12. Pho: had this recently. actually asked them to send it back to the kitchen and cook the beef. the raw pink of the meat just put me straight off my meal. it was lovely once it was cooked, but i'm aware that this is a horrible food faux pas. it won't happen again.
13. PB&J sandwich: absolutely! i still love these. guilty pleasure.
14. Aloo gobi
15. Hot dog from a street cart: not sure that i have actually had a hot dog from a street cart, come to think of it. do vending stations at baseball games or costco count?
16. Epoisses
17. Black truffle: er, had white truffle. not sure about black.
18. Fruit wine made from something other than grapes: there was blueberry wine in the area where i lived in japan. very sweet.
19. Steamed pork buns
20. Pistachio ice cream: another of mamasita's favorites. i quite like it, too!
21. Heirloom tomatoes: not unless they were cooked. no raw tomatoes :(
22. Fresh wild berries: we had a blackberry bush in our backyard when i was growing up. does that count? if not, i have definitely eaten my share of fresh berries elsewhere.
23. Foie gras: i'm not against it for political or ethical reasons. i just think it sounds, looks, and smells nasty.
24. Rice and beans: many times, many ways.
25. Brawn, or head cheese: no, thank you!
26. Raw Scotch Bonnet pepper: i don't think i've tried it, but it sounds good.
27. Dulce de leche: not straight, but in ice cream
28. Oysters: had raw oysters once. i gagged. sorry, no more for me!
29. Baklava: mmm...
30. Bagna cauda
31. Wasabi peas: yes, i've had them, packaged them, branded them, sold them...
32. Clam chowder in a sourdough bowl: i prefer chili in a sourdough bowl. not a big fan of clam chowder.
33. Salted lassi: not salted, but lassi, yes
34. Sauerkraut
35. Root beer float: mamasita and i agree on this: yum!
36. Cognac with a fat cigar: cognac yes, but noooo cigars
37. Clotted cream tea: not sure if i can count this, but i'm sure i will have it at some point in my long years residing in england.
38. Vodka jelly/Jell-O: managed to miss out on the jell-o shots in college. not sure how or why.
39. Gumbo: i'm not sure if i have ever eaten it, but i did wash s and b's famously disgusting gumbo pot years ago when they were roomies in LA. b made gumbo at thanksgiving. i visited over new year's. the pot was still in the sink since no one could face washing it. truly awful.
40. Oxtail: i think i'm too squeamish for this.
41. Curried goat: curry yes, goat? no, i don't think so.
42. Whole insects: managed to avoid them in japan.
43. Phaal: sounds good, but i haven't tried it yet.
44. Goat’s milk: does goat's cheese count?
45. Malt whisky from a bottle worth £60/$120 or more: not knowingly
46. Fugu: it's ok
47. Chicken tikka masala: i lurve this!
48. Eel: ate enough eel in japan. i'll eat it if it's served, but i don't go out of my way to order it.
49. Krispy Kreme original glazed doughnut: reminds me of the 2002 salt lake city olympics, my highest krispy kreme consumption ever.
50. Sea urchin: twice in one day. 'you liked it so much at lunch, we ordered it again for you at dinner!' gee, thanks.
51. Prickly pear: seems like something i ate long ago at walden school.
52. Umeboshi: i love umeboshi. we have a jar in our office and i eat them straight from the jar.
53. Abalone: after prawns, the first seafood i actually enjoyed eating.
54. Paneer
55. McDonald’s Big Mac Meal: never had a big mac. i prefer the chicken sandwiches. but having said that, it has been years since i last went to mc d's.
56. Spaetzle: if i haven't had it yet, i'm sure i can rectify that during our bike trip. (three weeks!)
57. Dirty gin martini
58. Beer above 8% ABV
59. Poutine
60. Carob chips: another walden food.
61. S’mores: who hasn't had a s'more?!
62. Sweetbreads: by accident. my sister and i thought they sounded good - sweet, bread. ha. our parents told us the next day...
63. Kaolin
64. Currywurst
65. Durian
66. Frogs’ legs: i have to rule this out on the basis of my lifelong love of kermit the frog.
67. Beignets, churros, elephant ears or funnel cake
68. Haggis: again, too squeamish.
69. Fried plantain
70. Chitterlings, or andouillette
71. Gazpacho
72. Caviar and blini: remember the scene in big with the caviar? that was me.
73. Louche absinthe: i have always wanted to try absinthe, just not gotten around to it yet.
74. Gjetost, or brunost
75. Roadkill: (he must have been getting hard up toward the end of his list, eh?)
76. Baijiu: i have had japanese shochu; not quite the same
77. Hostess Fruit Pie: never. can you believe it?
78. Snail
79. Lapsang souchong: didn't really like it...
80. Bellini: liked the bellini, though!
81. Tom yum: yum, indeed
82. Eggs Benedict: i prefer my eggs fried over hard.
83. Pocky: another popular item that my company can't keep in stock.
84. Tasting menu at a three-Michelin-star restaurant: not to my knowledge.
85. Kobe beef
86. Hare: only ate rabbit once, in france, during a homestay when i was 14. je ne l'aimais pas.
87. Goulash
88. Flowers: japanese kogiku
89. Horse: not just horse, but raw horsemeat (in japan)
90. Criollo chocolate: never met a chocolate i didn't like.
91. Spam: had spam musubi in hawaii. it's awful.
92. Soft shell crab
93. Rose harissa: i don't think so, but it sounds good.
94. Catfish: once, if memory serves.
95. Mole poblano
96. Bagel and lox: i'm not a big fan of lox. call me a bagel purist.
97. Lobster Thermidor: had lobster many ways, but strictly speaking, i'm not sure if i have had lobster thermidor.
98. Polenta
99. Jamaican Blue Mountain coffee

Wait! Where's #100? Click over to see what it was. Those who know me well will know why I did not only strike through it, I struck it completely off the list.

So now, the big question is: will my blog show up on my google alert message Monday morning? (Update: it was there! Freaky...)

Friday, 8 August 2008


Everyone seems to be talking about the date today. In my little world, today's date is refreshingly free from the confusion that I usually face as an American working at a Japanese food company in the UK.

Our products all require a 'best before' date, called an expiry date in the UK, as opposed to an 'expiration date' in the States, or a 'shomi kigen' in Japan. What makes our job at work even harder is that each region has a different convention for writing the date.

Japan uses year/month/day

Europe & the UK write it day/month/year

We, the confused Americans, insist on month/day/year, which I have to admit doesn't make much sense.

No wonder, then, that I often gets calls from customers asking about products that appear to be out of date already. I have to assure them that 08.11.07 means 'best before 7 November 2008,' not that the product actually expired on the 8th of November last year. But it gets even more complicated with the few products we import from the States. The same date would mean August 11, 2007 in my native California!

This is why I insist that our labels are printed in DD MON YYYY format, with the first three letters of the month spelled out.

But today, it doesn't matter! I gleefully scrawled 08/08/08 on everything. Tiny pleasures, eh?

So in the spirit of the day, I am now watching the Olympic Opening Ceremony (taped earlier). Must say, I'm impressed so far. Can't say I agree with the way that China has gone about their planning, but I still love the Olympics despite myself.