Mediterranean Culinary Tour

I began a Culinary Tour of the Mediterranean Sea. Many of the flavors I had already encountered during some of my other culinary challenges, but there were a few things I tried for the first time. Some, I found I liked.

Day 1 – Spain – Paella

Shrimp, Chicken, and Sausage. I used Shrimp bought off a troller that goes up to Alaska, Shrimp stock made by my brother, and Paella spice mix brought back from Barcelona. It wasn’t a proper Paella pan, and I think my fear of uneven cooking caused me to allow it to get sort of gloopy. But I was able to achieve the Socarrat, which is the delicious crispy bottom.

Day 1.5 – France – Lavender Honey Cheesecake

I admittedly paid a lot of money for Lavender Honey from France. And the kicker is, you couldn’t even taste it… I did rush my cheesecake though, which is why it has sunken in the middle. But, you can’t really go wrong with a cheesecake.

Day 2 – Southern Italy – Pasta alla Norma

Pasta with roasted Eggplant. I didn’t have alot of hope or expectation. But I loved this!

Day 3 – Greece – Moussaka

Layered Potato, Eggplant, Meat Sauce, and Bechamel Sauce, and baked. Another adventure into Eggplant. I also appreciated this. Although, I admit, with so many different elements, I really over cooked the potato and eggplant players. So they were mushy. But the flavor was really good.

Day 4 – Turkey – Lahmacun

Turkish Pizza. Though I saw recipes that claim you can just use store bought dough, most recipes claim you really want your dough to turn out more like flatbread. The reason being, after spreading the delicious lamb meatball esque topping (no sauce), and baking it, you then roll it up to eat it. Not slice it. The flavor turned out very similar to a gyro.

Day 5 – Egypt – Koshari

Lentils, Rice, Macaroni, slight vinegary spiced Tomato Sauce, topped with Fried Onions. I failed so hard at this. I have never cooked Lentils. I was afraid they would be more like dried beans. I over cooked them and the rice so hard. This was disgusting, and I apologize to Egypt for my epic fail… (The tomato sauce was really good though!)

Day 5.5 – Israel – Sufganiyot

Jelly Doughnut. Also kind of failed these… as I sort of discovered when I was making my Lahmacun dough, my yeast might be dead. Also, just a note: Make sure you aren’t using chunky jam to pipe into your doughnuts. By the end, I was so messy and frustrsted, I didnt even bother A: finishing even half the doughnuts, or B: powder sugaring them…

Day 6 – REDEMPTION – Koshari

I really felt so bad about doing Egypt so wrong. So I tried again. And I succeeded so hard! …ok, honestly, the lentils might have been just shy of underdone, but it was cool, they gave good texture. Once done well, this dish was so delicious!

Day 7 – Libya – Mubatan

Potato wedges, cut like taco shells, filles with yummy meat filling, dredged, and fried! How can you go wrong?! …well, I mean other than knowing when the A: meat was cooked thru, and B: the potatoes were soft… I had alot though, and eventually I got it figured out. So tasty, but not saveable. Eat now, don’t reheat..

Day 8 – Morocco – Djaj Mqualli

Chicken with Preserved Lemons and Olives. This was so delicious. Until! I accidentally added too much preserved lemon. Just for your information: Preserved Lemons are sooooooooooo salty! But I never saw a recipe that didn’t call for the lemons to be preserved. And I searched high and low for them. So I was going to use them damnit! They were a salt bomb to my dish. By chance I had some couscous I was able to serve it with. But next time, I might actually try just using fresh lemon…

Day 8.5 – Algeria – Bradj

Semolina cookies filled with spiced Date Paste. And then just quick fried on the stove. I actually really liked these. I would add more Date Paste next time, but they are not too sweet. Sweetened, actually, only with the Date Paste itself.

Day 9 – Lebanese Restaurant

This happened a little out of order, but after all my hard work, I decided to reward myself with a Lebanese meal cooked FOR me. It was delicious.

I am totally and advocate for cooking at home, but indeed, sometimes it is nice to have someone cook for you.

Overall it was certainly an adventure. Some ups and some downs. Not including the extra life stuff going on around me to add to the difficulties of cooking. But I still think this is a great way to explore the world, step out of your box, and try new things, all from the safety of your own home. And, like me, you might find out you like something you thought you wouldn’t.

Extra: I managed to really bruise my thumb meat at one point. Tenacity was my downfall. I was GOING to add those preserved lemons to my dish. The recipe called for them! So, despite pain and injury, I manhandled that damned jar open. For naught… I ruined my dish, and hurt me thumb… I’m not sure what the moral of the story is…

Letter to my Patient

I wrote a letter to a discharging patient of mine. It said not to come back. But not in the sense that I don’t want to see her, in the sense that I want her to do so well outside that she doesn’t need to come back. That I want her to stop hurting herself. If she needs attention, or to feel something, to find a passion, because a fire in her soul would warm her from the inside out and she would find herself glowing. I want her to eat, because a full belly is the key to a happy heart. And I want her to stop being afraid of people, because there will always be jerks in the world, but there will always be good people too.. But I didn’t give it to her. I never do. I try to keep a distance. But as the shift was getting closer to its end, she got quieter and more anxious. And when the next shift came in, I held open my arms and we hugged. And when she pulled away she was crying. The truth was, I didn’t need to give her the letter. In the days that we worked together, she had stopped hurting herself, and had started eating, and had found at least one good person..

Rice and Beans Challenge

My last personal challenge was kind of expensive. So I thought I’d try to be thriftier by giving myself a Rice and Beans Challenge. Here’s what I came up with:

Day 1 – Gallo Pinto, Costa Rican Black Beans and Rice, with Soft Scrambled Eggs.

Day 2 – Louisiana Red Beans and Rice

Day 3 – Lebanese Beef Chili, with Lebanese Rice.

Day 4 – Rajma Masala, Indian Kidney Bean Curry.

Day 5 – Lubia Polo, Persian Green Beans and Rice.

Day 6 – Prik King, Thai Stir-Fried Green Beans, with Pork amd Kaffir Leaf.

Day 7 – Beef and Peppers in Black Bean Sauce, over Rice Noodles.

Day 7.5 – Siopao, Filipino Steamed Buns, made with Rice flour and filled wirh Sweet Red Bean Paste.

Things I learned: It’s okay to use canned beans sometimes. After work, starting a pot of beans from dry, I found myself eating dinner at 10 at night. Or worse, eating semi-uncooked beans, which apparently can cause food poisoning in some cases. (Did not happen to me, but my stomach was not tip-top after undercooked kidney beans.) When I finally made the choice to use canned, my world changed.

It was kind of fun to take the simple, money saving idea of Rice and Beans, and thinking about it in different ways. It doesn’t have to be boring. As you can see, you can go in alot of different directions.

On the Basis of Sex

So amazing. The sheer adversity, this tiny, vicious tiger of a woman, climbed mountains for her cause. And honestly, she had the most wonderful and supportive husband. She supported him, and herself both thru law school when he was diagnosed with cancer. And he supported and whole heartedly believed in her thru her career. And given a 5% chance of survival, he fought. He lived on for decades to support her, and was able to finally see her be appointed a Supreme Court Justice.
I fully admit, I have a hard time following politics, but i know human rights. And in this time, when it feels like our nation is falling apart, how can it not bring feelings of hope to know there are people in it like Ruth Bader Ginsburg? Where being Female, and being Asian feel more like a status than a truth, she fought for a change in the precident. And won.
Her life is too extraordinary. This film was just a snapshot. The beginning. Like the prequel to a most relevant and real Superhero.
(…and I teared up a little at the end…)

IKAA

In 2015 the documentary Twinsters came out. About two Korean girls adopted to separate families, and by random chance found eachother via the internet. The chances and specific elements that caused them to find eachother, in two completely different countries, were so slim and a bit, almost fantastical. But it’s the fantastical that makes the movie so moving and heartwarming. One grew up in California and the other in France. And it’s a perfect showing of how one develops by both Nature AND Nurture.

Quite frankly, I am a fan of all adoption stories. (I even find adoption stories in the most unlikely places. My favorite examples are Superman, and Mowgli, of The Jungle Book.) But what stuck with me the most about this movie was towards the end, when they finally went back to Korea together to attend a triennial conference bringing together Korean Adoptees. As I have always sort of grappled with my own adoption, more so for some reason since turning 30, this struck me as possibly the perfect way to move forward and explore that side of my life.

This past Christmas my family decided to up and do something completely different for us. We decided to spend it in Palm Springs, California. Which ended up having it’s challenges and its rewards. But I think I was ready to go home at the end of it.

While my parents breezed through Pre-Check at the airport, I slowly made my way through General security. I caught sight of an Asian woman far in front of me, and perhaps due to some Asian radar we have, she seemed to catch sight of me.

After I was finally through, my parents and I got much needed coffees and sat down to wait for our flight. I looked up and the Asian woman was seated one table over from us. And she easily began talking with us.

Her husband arrived with their own coffees and eventually she chanced asking me if I was a Korean Adoptee (adoption clear as my parents are both white.) and I told her yes. It turned out she was Korean and her husband was a Korean Adoptee. It further turned out that they were both heads of an organization called the International Korean Adoptee Association, IKAA, and it hosts a gathering in Korea triannually.

Even more kismet was, they remembered a girl coming all the way from Juneau, Alaska, the town where I grew up. My parents and I named a few, and bingo, one of the girls I grew up with, attending our own annual adoption group gathering, was the girl they remembered.

When we parted ways (not actually parting too far, as we were all going to Seattle,) they gave us an information packet on the next gathering in Korea, happening this very summer, 2019.

Later, back at home, I remembered the movie Twinsters, and wondered which gathering they had attended, thinking there must be bunches out there. I looked into it and, to my surprise, found that it was an IKAA gathering.

If I had never believed in Fate, or in signs, how could I ever deny this?

Three Identical Strangers

What an absolutely, absolutely facinating movie! What a roller coaster ride. The story of triplets, separated at birth, and adopted to 3 different families. And how they found eachother, almost fantastically.
But more than that, it is a movie that delves deep into the psychological aspects of adoption. The age old question of Nature vs. Nurture. And even the aspects of psychological disorder among adoptees. Separation issues, depression, etc.
But the deepest issue of all, how morally and ethically wrong, and Effed up psychology studies were half a century ago. The lengths we would go to just to better understand ourselves.

This might be boring for some, but this documentary was my cup of tea, and a biscuit on the side. Psychology, and Adoption, and the Psychology of Adoption..

Leave no Trace

Finally watched this one.
A father and daughter living in Forest Park, near Portland, Oregon. Filmed in various locations around Oregon itself.
Based on a book. The author admits to basing it on a real story. He’d read a newspaper article about a father and daughter found living in Forest Park. Another article came out saying they had been relocated to a farm, the father had work, and the daughter was to start middle school. Happy ending. But then a third article came out about how they had vanished. He never heard anything more. And out of his own need to find this story’s resolution, he wrote My Abandonment, which was then made into the movie Leave No Trace..
But isnt that the most glorious motivation of a true writer? To seek out endings…