I’ve just adopted a half a dozen international teens.
I have taken on the role as a dorm mother at high school in Chicago. It’s the only thing that could be weirder than living in a foreign country for four years. Three teen boys from China, one from Germany, one super-sized one from Turkey (who is two inches taller than the bed is long), and a teen girl from Shanghai who is glued to her iThing.
If I had the itch to be a mother, I’m scratching it all at once.
The job requires that I put all the experience I have learned from all every aspect of my life into a blender. ESL teacher. Youth group leader. Recipes from Hamburger Helper focus groups. A dang good wok from China. But most important, an insane tolerance for the smell of Axe.
But the big question is, what on earth do I cook for dinner?
It’s like feeding time at the zoo, with dietary constraints. The Chinese kids love pork, the student from Turkey will not be able to eat it. The German student can’t tolerate spice.
Alice from the Brady Bunch made it look so easy.
If you have any meal ideas, casseroles, one pan meal wonders, that are easy on the pocket and dishwasher, please send them my way.
“I know. I guess I forgot to tell my mom about the topless beaches.”
Nude beaches, legal prostitution and gourmet brown bag lunches. Just a few minor details that my nephew left out of his letters home from his term studying abroad.
I stopped to visit David in Alicante, on my way home from the flipside. This hoity toity resort town is on the Mediterranean, about a two hour train from Madrid and light years from what I imagined his “grueling term abroad” to be.
We consumed all five of the Spanish food groups; wine, ham, sausage, seafood and olives. The tapas were insane, including things not featured in a college dorm cafeteria.
Chorizo sausage, super sized prawns.
And that famous Spanish ham.
The good stuff is from a wild black footed pig that only dines on acorns. I ate until my stomach cried uncle. So I guess foods can be foodies, too.
Yes, there was a lot of fresh fish pulled in from the Mediterranean.
And crazy desserts.
But to my nephew, it’s peanut butter and jelly. No Kraft mac and cheese from the blue box. He gets home made paella every Tuesday and lunches packed by his host mother with chorizo .
Instead of climbing up to the tenth century castle, we did the college thing: we drank beer.
Then afterwards, we repented at the smallest church in Spain.
No thank you.
You’ve probably heard the adage, when life gives you lemons, make lemonade.
But what about butt beans?
It seems as if someone in the cosmos lately has been poking a voodoo doll of me. But instead of moping over my bad cosmic karma, I went to Cafe Laku, a SW Asian coffee chain that sells the infamous brew made with beans excreted from a civet’s rear.
The coffee goes for over forty bucks a pop, a little bit more than the styro-foam cups you can get at Citgo.
Instead of getting a cup of Butthole-Joe, I talked the barista out of a bean.
Meanwhile, at the other end of things, you’ll get fined at the same place for your droppings.
So, finish the adage please.
When life gives you butt beans…
In spite of Kunming being the capital the world’s most famous region (Yunnan), coffee chains are popping up.
There are several Starbucks, McDonald’s Cafes, one bootleg Julias Meinl, plus all kinds of independent baristas.
But my favorite is Cafelaku.
While I just get a common cuppa joe, Cafelaku is famous for their cat skat coffee. It was featured in the movie, The Bucket List, where Jack Nicolson had a taste for coffee beans that had been passed through a civet’s digestive system.
Uh, not for me. I’m a Folger’s girl.
But if you do have a taste for pooppaccino or other cat skat specialties, you can get them at Cafelaku.
The Pooppaccino will set you back 128 rmb, or roughly twenty bucks.
It is day two of my Chinese food log, which gets lost in translation to those fluent in Weight Watcher-ese.
As I said in the previous post, I thought my eating habits were boring until I started writing them down. Today, I ate more than normal, but still a variety of “Chinese normal”.
Anyway, I started the day with a glass of freshly squeezed Michigan Orange Juice (the infamous Chinese Great Lakes Brand) and a bowl of honey nut cheerios topped with shelf stable milk. We buy the French brand at close to 3 bucks a pop, thinking it would taste a bit better. It’s still is on the sour side.
I decided to get out so I peddled my bike to Café Luku for a cup of latte. If you recognize the name, café luku is the East Timor name for the coffee made from beans squirted out of a Civet’s butt. I’ll stick to a latte , please.
After running a few errands in down town Kunming, I couldn’t resist a bucket of street fries. The Chinese street vendors do potatoes better than McDonald’s, peppering up the taste with loads of spices and chives.
However, I resisted buying water at the corner drink-lingerie stand.
I was still hungry, so I mozied over to Meet Fresh to get a Taiwan dessert soup. It sounds weird, but so does a Twinkie when you think about it. But imagine a Frappuccino splashed over assorted slabs of rice jello (pictured at the top). It sounds weird, but I’m addicted.
I ended up getting a cup of hot red rice tea. It tastes like a thick vanilla milk shake except it’s rice…hot…and uh, purple.
After all of those binge indulgences, I find something really weird to nosh on in China:
Burger King. Coming soon to Kunming.
Jenny Craig, Weight Watchers, South Beach, Dr. Atkins, the Oprah
yo-yo. You have heard of these diets, but have you ever heard of the Trader Joe’s
vanilla bean ice cream diet?
I know. Not a very successful one.
It was my friend’s idea and yes, it failed miserably, which is
why she’s on the “Ginger, Can You Keep A Food Log With Me-diet”? She is
documenting everything she puts in her pie hole and asked me to do the same.
It’s still day one and my eating habits are weirder than I
Take for instance my bootleg breakfast. I had half of
bagel topped with questionable SKIPPY peanut butter (the trademarked name written is
in the wrong font) chased with glass of
the Chenglish brand of Orange Juice called Great
Lakes. Sorry, but oranges are not from Michigan.
For lunch, I took advantage of Jeff being out of town and treated
myself to half a pod of durian. Durian resembles larva from an alien, hatched from a spike covered egg. Many believe it tastes like it, too.
Along with the durian, I had a baozi. Boazi are round steamed
buns ranging in size from a golf l to a soft ball, filled with mushrooms, veggies,
meat, or sometimes, something sweet. I also nibbled on a mini custard pie and
sticky rice thingy.
For dinner, I made Ji Tong (chicken soup) with lotus root. Chickens
are sold with the appendages attached. Lotus–pronounced “O” in Chinese– is this huge white root thing that resembles an edible sand dollar when you slice it open.
I get my birds precooked, like these ducks.
I don’t like how this flock is all giving me the chicken
For desert, bought myself a little rice cake, not the dry
ones you choke down while dieting, but one special made for Chun Jie or New Years. These cakes are steamed, not
baked, and as they cool, they deflate in size.
For snacks, I nibbled a few goodies that my teens turned me
onto. Pig face, (sweet porky jerky is fantastic), Then there is something called
cat food (spicy tofu sticks—something
similar in texture to old licorice but a spicy kick that could singe a few nose
hairs). Also, spiced chicken feet. You don’t eat them, you just gnaw on them.
This is the package of the katfood. I think hairballs are the
Anyway, it was all chased with a bit of Chinese white wine, which is
nothing more than rubbing alcohol in a fancier bottle.
So that’s the kind of stuff in my food log.
Have fun with that, Jenny.
In China, there is never a shortage of three things: rice,
people, and gross.
While I no longer flinch when I see half a Bambi in a Basket, there are a few things that still get under my skin. Here are this week’s
contenders in the gross category:
#1. Irremovable Bird
This lovely bird plop has been obstructing our bedroom view
for a few weeks. Nothing, not even torrential rain of Kunming has experienced during
September, has been able to clean it off. We think it’s the organic equivalent
of Gorilla Glue, probably the same stuff used to hold together the Great Wall.
To make things worse, this IRT is in an impossible to reach
place, just like an itch in the middle of your back. Jeff can’t reach it from an inside window,
unless he pulled a Tom Cruise and dared to dangle on the outside of the window,
far above ground, but with one main difference. Jeff doesn’t have a stunt
double. So we wake up every morning, our view of the day tainted by turd.
#2. Edible Bee Larva
You can get it in the hive of wiggling in a take out
container. I’m sure once they are stir-fried, they taste just like chicken. It’s
in season now, but just for a short time. I think I’ll stick to Bit-O-Honey.
#3. Forgotten Lunch
But this week, the king of gross goes to these unidentified
remains which were found in a student’s
locker right outside of my classroom. Since the hallways are outside, it took a
while to locate the source of the souring odor. The student had not opened his
locker for five weeks and I got the privilege to assist him, without a hazmat
suit. Inside, we found the oozing remains of five lunches and one overdue
library book . The smell was so beyond foul (even on China’s standards), the
containers had to be disposed of off of the school property. Who knows, the Tupperware probably contained molding bug larva burritos and a deer sandwich.
Now it’s your turn to vote. Which do you think is the
If you’re hungry in Kunming, there is never a shortage of edibles. Downtown, you’ll see a gridlock of food vendors including spicy lotus slices, pineapple pops, and stir fried squid. My favorite has to be the fruit.
Yes, this is real fruit and not an excerpt from a Dr. Seuss book. You might recognize the permissions, grapes, and tangerines, but what are the other things? Are they GMO rejects?
This gigantic spiky looking thing is a jack fruit. It’s bigger than most watermelons. The fruit guy shreds the insides looking for the slippery “jacks”. They are sunshine yellow, taste like marshmallow and have the texture of a banana peel.
Here are some pomegranates. Yum! They are big in Kunming and come in several juicy colors.
This spiky citrus things are called buddha fingers. I have no idea how they taste. They look like too much work to remove the rind. Behind the finger fruit is a red spiky thing. This is dragon fruit. Inside the fushcia shell is a white kiwi like fruit.
And this one? These reptilian looking balls are a mystery to me. Are they alien eggs or edibles?
Here’s durian. I can’t resist it. It it pungent in the same way fine French cheese is stinky. Durian is a bit mushier than an avocado but firmer than a banana. The taste? Tutti Fruitti. A little papaya, little marshmallow, little overly ripe banana. Jeff won’t let it in the house so every time I see a cart, I indulge.
In front of the jack fruit are pomeloes, They resemble grapefruit on steroids. The skin is spongy and thick like fat on a good steak. When you purchase one, the vendors will skin it for you. If not, you’ll have a tough time reaching the orangy-grapefruity sections.
But as hard as I try, I can’t find any Michigan blueberries or Flamin’ Fury peaches.
Here are pictures from this morning. I think if I would have been there an hour earlier, it would have been real ugly.
This young lady was cleaning the meat. And i thought cleaning a few perch left a big mess.
Hey! You left your feet on the ground!
In China, you really can’t complain about not getting fresh meat.
Sometimes, it ’s too fresh.
Take for instance this Muslim eatery on the back way to our health club. (The street looks like a page ripped out of National Geographic magazine, with bicycles, vendors and taxis all competing for the skinny road space).
But this bovine is shaking, knowing that he will soon listed as the Daily Special.
Sure enough, a few days later, I saw my hoofed friend again. But this time, he was on the menu board.
American beef is usually aged. Chinese beef, while fresh, might leave a bit to be desired to the American palate.
Jeff and I celebrated recently our fourteenth wedding anniversary. In dog years, it would be dead. In human years, it would be going thru puberty, sprouting hair in weird places and beginning to smell weird. To celebrate, we did something that most teens would approve of. Instead of having a romantic dinner, we got dressed up and went ice cream hopping.
Bing sheng (ice cream) is the one commodity China imports from every place else.
First, we had mango sorbet at Haagan Daz. Next, we bypassed a 3 RMB cone at McDonald’s (about thirty nine cents) and contemplated getting a Blizzard at DQ (they serve them upside here, too). The line was too long so we followed our tongues to the Gelato Stick Hut.
If the Italian version of Good Humor wasn’t intense enough, we got to roll the ultra rich flavor of our choice in decadent toppings. Jeff picked chopped pistachios and white chocolate.
After that, we went to meetfresh, and experienced frozen treats from Taiwan. Gobs of people were slurping bowls of chewy gooey things smothered with sweet corn, dessert style soups and unusual elixirs. I got a chewy goobers coffee drink. I sucked up the jelly like floaters with a supersized straw, letting them spank the inside of my mouth.
So that’s what we did for our 14th. No cake. No regrets.
A little bit smaller celebration than last year, when we invited 150 of our shortest friends to renew our wedding vows…
..and eat cake.