Journey of Lentils Challenge

I’ve never really been a fan of lentils. So I thought I’d embark on a Journey of Lentils Challenge.

I tried to be diverse in my recipe choices to get a real rounded picture of lentils.

For the most part, the dishes were great. Just the couple times I made a cooking error..

Masoor Dal – India

Red Lentil Curry

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Misir Wot – Ethiopia

Spiced Red Lentils

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Fakes – Greece

Greek Lentil Soup

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Mercimek Corbasi – Turkey

Turkish Lentil Soup

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Poteje se Lentejas – Cuba

Cuban Lentil Soup

(Minus potato)

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Mshosh – Armenia

Armenian Lentil Salad

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What I discovered?

Lentils really aren’t too bad. Biggest lesson? Cook your lentils in broth. The couple times I straight cooked them in water, the dishes tasted like poop. Not literally… but it seemed that after cooking them in water, there was no real way to impart the lentils with strong flavor. And yes, I made this mistake on the curry, and I am fairly certain the curry shouldn’t taste bland.

I ended up only using Green and Red lentils. Though I have used Yellow once, and Black, which I actually like quite a bit.

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(I also ended up making Persian Pomegranate Soup in the middle of this whole challenge. In honour of finishing the book Pomegranate Soup. It utilizes Yellow Lentils.)

The Dream Catchers

When I turned 5, my mother finally allowed me to watch the work of The Women. She would wake me long before the sun rose. I would crawl out of bed, sleep still clinging to my eyes. We would travel deep into the forests on our lands. The trees were thick and no moonlight could penetrate through them. But mother had traveled this path since she, herself, was 5. Grasping my tiny hand in her warm one, she’d guide me over rocks and roots and around tree trunks, thick with age, never allowing me to lose my footing. Until eventually, we would break through the trees upon a wide clearing, filled with the women of our tribe. Each holding up an intricate circle, filled with a spider web design, laden with feathers and beads.

The Dream Catchers.

I had always assumed that what we did was make believe, false hope for those who dream. The first time I saw it, I thought I must be dreaming myself.

As the sun began to warm the sky, I watched the women, each one holding up a Dream Catcher, their long fingers dancing in front of each, drawing out invisible strands from their centers. I could almost see the ghostly threads drifting in the air, off each finger, like spider silk. And as the sky grew brighter, I stared harder, the threads becoming more visible, twinkling in the growing light. And suddenly there, on the end of each strand is something. Like some dark and leggy bug, clinging to the Dream Catchers, pulled away by the threads, by The Women.

There are hundreds of them. Nightmare creatures.

I watched my mother as she worked, drawing the small bugs closer to her face, staring intently at each as though she would devour them. And then as the sun came to crest the horizon and cast deeply into my eyes, I was blinded for a moment.

I wiped the tears from my eyes, trying to refocus. But The Women were done. Each leggy bug vanquished in a beam of sunlight. The silky strands were gone. Only the feathers dangling in the gentle breeze of morning..

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I had a record breaking 3 racist comments towards me within 24 hours. All different people. One patient refusing my care until I proved to him I could speak fluent English. And I understand this is a burden I must bear for being born Asian. But it is not something I can help, I didn’t ask for my genes to be this way, and it is not something I can do anything to change. I can’t lose weight, or put on weight, or dye my hair, or cut my hair in order to change how people will see me.

But the most disheartening thing, is when people tell me to “get over it.” I joke a lot about when people are racist towards me, and someone once pointed out to me that that is another burden I am putting on myself. I can’t recall the exact term used for it, but I have conditioned myself, as an Asian-American, to make light of my pain to make other people more comfortable with it.

What the fuck is that all about?

My heart hurts extra because I go to my friends and colleagues, 90% of which are White American, and some of them actually tell me to, look who I am dealing with, why am I surprised? Why am I surprised? Because I am dealing with Americans, and because I am dark skinned and they are white skinned and they have no idea what it feels like to have someone automatically just see that I am different. Before even asking me what my name is, or bother to let me say, Good Morning. They have never experienced someone stop and actually walk the other direction after seeing them.

And this is what it means when someone says, someone of colour must work twice, three times as hard to be an American.

And I hate to bring the added adopted factor into this, but they also have no idea what it is like to feel like an outsider it America, and have the added burden of knowing that even though I am an American citizen and only know what it is to be an American, were I ever to “go back to where I came from,” because I am an American, I would be just as much an outsider in Korea. It will not make sense to an American, but Koreans would see it on me. The way I dress, the way I hold myself, the way I gesture. Before even asking what my name is, or allow me to say, Good Morning. So where am I supposed to feel like I belong?

I shouldn’t have to feel like an outsider in my own country. I am not saying that I need people to get up in arms when someone exhibits racism towards me. I am not saying that people need to paint their skin and walk around in my shoes to fully understand my plight. But I shouldn’t have to deal with anyone telling me to, “get past the racist comments.”

Yesterdays Bells

About now, the leaves of the tree outside my window would be full and green. The Whispering Bells. Not its real name, but the name that came to me for the sound the leaves would make in the spring breeze.
My tree is no more. I remember the day I heard the small hand held chainsaws rip through her limbs. She was already asleep for the year and could let out no cry of protest. I watched the young men carelessly throw her hacked branches into the bed of a beat up truck. I cried for her.
Today, there is only the light tinkle of my wind chimes. Singing out for their duet partner. But no answer comes.
In the distance, across the street and through some more trees, under the shade darkened awning of their abode, a lone piano player. From a distance, I hear them playing The Beatles’s Yesterday..

Silk Road Culinary Tour

Lately, I have been very into this area that I realized is pretty much the old Silk Road. I have always loved Tibet and old Persia and Arabia. And I have always loved the strong flavors of this Central Asia area. So I decided to map out the Silk Road, and do a food journey along it.

It was not my best food tour. The possibility exists that I really was not cooking these dishes properly, but to my surprise, I found them to be extremely bland!

Also, because I am a single person following a recipe I cobble together, I ended up with huge portions. Many leftovers ended up requiring, though grossly inaccurate, flavor mending. (For instance, the soup got a healthy portion of coconut milk and chilli to make it more enjoyable..)

But, here it is:

Xian – Central China

Xian Cumin Lamb

(The only truly flavor packed meal)

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Kashgar – Western China

Kyrgystan Apple Cake

(A weird mistake. I am not sure how my wires got crossed during research, but this recipe does not actually come from Kashgar…)

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Pamirs – Tajikistan

Lagman, Uzbek Beef Soup

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Merv – Turkmenistan

Turkmen Chicken Plov, Pilaf

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Baghdad – Iraq

Baghdad Eggs

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Damascus – Syria

Fatet Djaj, Chicken Platter

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Tyre – Lebanon

Mujadara, Lentils and Rice

(I like to try and go out at one point of my culinary tours, eat a meal someone else has cooked, probably better than me. But due to our current state of affairs, I settled for going out and buying from the store. I added some Yogurt, Mint, and Fried Onions, and it was pretty yummy.)

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I also paid a little homage to Marco Polo. (I tried so hard to read his book, but just didn’t find it an enjoyable read 😞)

A version of a Pasta I ate at a restaurant called Bella Italia.

Penne with Dark Meat Chicken and Scallion, in Plum Sauce.

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And a recipe by Julia Child called Spaghetti Marco Polo.

Spaghetti, Chopped Olives, Roasted Red Peppers, Toasted Walnuts, Parsley, and Basil.

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I don’t honestly know a lot about the Silk Road. I just have found myself drawn to the cultures that it travels through. So the possibility if my inaccuracy is high. But I thought I’d share the tour anyway.

The Dark Side of Mental Health..

I work in a Behavioral Health unit. The psych unit of the hospital. We get alot of patients, from major mental crisises, to unmanageable depression. The object is to help someone out of their crisis and hope they don’t have to come back.

But there will always be the patients who come back. The ones who count on us to help them, the ones who need us.

Because of that, there are patients that we get to know. We see them when they are at their worst, and we nurture them back to stability. We come to love them, in our way.

In a way, they begin to become like old friends. And each time I discharge them, I give a kick in the pants, and tell them I better not see them round these parts again… And then I give them a hug, and tell them that seriously, we will always be here if they need… And then they are gone.

And days go by, and weeks, and months. For most people, it is, out of sight out of mind. The doors of our unit revolve too quickly to dwell. But for those who have the softest parts of my heart, I imagine I haven’t seen them because they are doing so well in the world. I don’t let my mind imagine the worst.

But sometimes it happens. We live in a small town. And when I happen upon the news article declairing one of my most special patients dead… a piece of my heart breaks away.

There are downsides to every situation, but this is the very worst part of my job. Everybody dies, it is something a hospital is very familiar with, but when one of my patients dies, it cuts me as a failing.

Why didn’t you come to us for help?

I am not a doctor. I’m not even a nurse. I am the person who gets you coffee, who sets up and cleans the shower, the person who wakes you up in the morning, the person who tells you that the sun is out and if you’re not quick, you’ll miss it! I can’t take away your problems, or your pain. All I can do is offer my hand when you’ve fallen, and try my damnedest to help you remember how to smile.

And today, I pushed myself to get up, to go out and see the sun, to smile… because I would never be able to do that for you again. I smiled, because I would never see you smile again..

What it’s like to be Asian…

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As an Asian-American who has lived nearly her whole life in America, I never really felt the negativity of racism. I was fortunate to grow up with a family who were very open about my being adopted, my culture, and being open to other cultures period. It wasn’t until 2016 that I really began to experience a lot of hostile racism. By this time I was 30 years old and knew some about history and what America was built on and it struck me as even more hurtful. America, the melting pot that used to call itself “The Land of Opportunity,” a country that people from varying other countries still look to as an opportunity for a better life. 

At the beginning of this year, Covid–19 really began to come to our public eye for its growing cases in China. It’s extreme contractability and death rate creating fear. By mid March, cases of the virus were confirmed in America, as well as many other countries. America went into full Pandemic mode, citizens were panic shopping, and many states issued a stay-at-home order. 

The virus was senselessly called the “Chinese Virus,” and the level of racism and anger against anyone who even looks Chinese grew exponentially. To the simple point of walking the other way when they might pass someone of Asian decent, to the extreme level of chasing and beating up someone of Asian decent. Regardless of their actual race, ethnicity, heritage.

As a Korean born American, I never thought I’d be so scared of being Asian as after Trump was elected president. Today, during this national pandemic, I am even more fearful to be Asian. 

Here is an article written in USA Today on the growing racial problem during this pandemic. What It’s Like to be Asian During the Coronavirus Pandemic.

The most heart breaking thing I had ever heard was from an Black French woman, Surya Bonaly. An Olympic level figure skater who could never seem to get first place, no matter how much training and finessing she did. In an interview she was asked if she thought that in any way it was because she is black. She said no, it was just that, “when you’re black, you know. Everybody knows that you have to do better than anybody else who’s white.”

There have been times in my life lately when I have felt the same sentiment. In my work place, 1 of 3 non-white employees on my shift. I have felt like I have had to face a lot more negative criticism than my peers, that I have had to work twice as hard. 

And even though most of the time, I don’t even think most people even consciously think about it. That a negative view of Asian-Americans is so deeply ingrained. People still blame MSG in Chinese food for feelings of dizziness and headaches. An idea brought about in 1969, despite no scientific proof of the correlation between MSG and the symptoms of “Chinese Restaurant Syndrome.”

Here is an article written earlier this year about “Chinese Restaurant Syndrome.” MSG in Chinese Restaurants isn’t Unhealthy…

Racism has always been a part of Asian-American history. But American’s forget that it was Asian immigrants who helped build the Transcontinental Railroad, which physically brought the country together. American’s forget that it is through Asian companies that we do our everyday communication with others, everyday internet work, stream televison programs… Sony, LG, Samsung, HTC… All companies from Asia. 

As an Asian-American who has lived nearly my whole life proud of my Asian heritage, I have never felt more fear and shame of this country I call home.

Playing God

If you have an hour of your time, I recommend you listen to this episode of Radiolab. Things tend to fall into my lap at very appropriate times. While driving home, in the middle of a nationwide Pandemic, this episode fell into my lap.

On August 21st, 2016, Radiolab collaborated with The New York Times reporter Sheri Fink to talk about the difficult process of hospital Triage, and inevitably the idea of deciding who gets to live and who doesn’t. And in some ways, it has never felt more appropriate than right now.

We hear three crisis situations, in which resources were limited, and hospital staff were faced with the difficult task of triaging their patients. Hospitals are not designed to handle a mass surge of patients. So when that happens, how do you decide who’s needs are more necessary? How do you decide who you stop giving care to? How do you make these difficult decisions, and is that too much responsibility for a person?

In the middle of the episode, they talk about a critical situation that happens to be exactly the situation we are in now. And ironically, one of the decisions we as hospital staff are having to make. Who deserves to live, and who does not?

For further reading, here is the original article Sheri Fink wrote for The New York Times on a public debate that she attended, in which a critical care physician from John’s Hopkins asks, how should we make that decision?
Whose Lives Should Be Saved? Researchers Ask the Public