Tuesday, July 07, 2009

Into the Vietnamese Kitchen: XOXO Tipsy Baker

My new miniature Nikon point-and-shoot is great, though there's something bizarre about the perspective in the photograph above. Those are Andrea Nguyen's currant cookies and they look enormous, but were actually tiny. You don't expect to find such a fantastic cookie recipe in an Asian cookbook. These were delicate and chewy, much loved and all gone in under an hour.

Here's a picture Husband took the other night of Isabel and me:

We were watching Gossip Girl and he stood blocking the set, experimenting with the new camera during a crucial scene. Sweet -- he loves us! -- but irksome.  Some scheming girl was texting some other scheming girl and there was about to be a debauched party where everyone wore absurd, slutty dresses and got drunk and betrayed their best friends (or something like that) and we really wanted to see what happened. It's an awful show, which is not to say it's unwatchable. I think we watched the whole first season in three nights.

Anyway, the other day Isabel ran in to get a Gossip Girl disc from the video store and one of the young clerks said, "Your parents let you watch this?" She said, "Yeah, I watch it with my mom." Isabel reports that the clerk shot her a "weird" look and said, "you have a cool mom."

I pondered this. I think that what he really meant by "cool" was "permissive." Permissive in the way of those "hey dudes, come chill at our house, I've got a full bowl and I'll join you" Marin County moms who buy matching Abercrombie bikinis for themselves and their daughters.* Then they sit around together painting their toenails purple and giggling knowingly through Gossip Girl.

Blecch! No.

It is true, though, that aside from verboten Judd Apatow movies, I'm lax about my kids' exposure to pop culture. I could run myself down for having lower standards than almost anyone I know, but I run myself down altogether too much. I respect strict standards but I also respect my standards. Why else would they be my standards? I remember being twelve. I knew the difference between Dallas and reality. I had no trouble understanding that I was never going to have hair like Charlene Tilton or a body like Victoria Principal, and that to sleep with, then shoot, your brother-in-law was profoundly unwise. Did crap 1970s TV change me in any fundamental way? Wouldn't I be richer, more successful, and better groomed if it had? Is crap contemporary TV all that different?

For the last home-cooked Vietnamese dinner for some time to come, I served panfried rice noodles with beef and vegetables. Delicious and popular. And healthy. Look at all those cancer-fighting colors:

On the side, some deep-fried tofu simmered with scallion which had, to quote Andrea Nguyen, "a chewy, almost meaty quality:"

I loved it. "Terrible," Husband said. Kids did not touch. I've given up on the tofu fight. Again, something wrong with the perspective in the photo. Need to read the manual.

Today, my children leave for a month in New England to visit their paternal grandparents. This would ordinarily be a fallow time for Tipsy Baker, but I have a special cooking plan in store for the next week. Details to follow.

*I've never actually met one of these women. I think she's a suburban myth.


  1. See, I only saw a few episodes of Dallas, and I've carried a torch for Larry Hagman ever since. Danger!

  2. A month with no kids?!? Forget cooking, what are you going to read?

  3. Laurie -- I think you know what I'm going to read!
    I am so behind. If you have any particular recommendations, let me know. Otherwise, think I'm going to start with "Goat Song" and "Flannery."

    Layne -- so precocious! only as a grown woman can I appreciate the paunchy, oily Hagman appeal. It's the same icky quality that now draws me to Chuck on Gossip Girl.

  4. Ok, Layne and Tipsy, are you now going to tell me you like Dabney Coleman too?

    Tipsy, i'm glad to hear your perspective on the TV watching, I feel like i'm too permissive with my 3 year old sometimes, but i also don't stop myself because i feel like it'll really be ok. and honestly, those mean girl shows/movies can be instructive in what not to be, can't they?

  5. Re: Mythical Marin Mom. Come visit the town where your husband grew up. I can introduce you to her here.
    Am wrapping my brain around the concept of grandparents who take grandkids for a month. I thought that was a myth in books I read as a child.
    May your month include some Lunchables so your husband does not starve!

  6. can you share the recipe for the noodle/beef/colorful vegetable dish?

  7. The noodle recipe is here: http://books.google.com/books?id=xVMws0_WSA4C&pg=PA230&lpg=PA230&dq=panfried+beef+noodles+nguyen&source=bl&ots=itlqk7zLwM&sig=niu875RjuP3xGNaJBA-HuAkmqps&hl=en&ei=_91USqX-DoqAswORvbCUDw&sa=X&oi=book_result&ct=result&resnum=1

  8. Please don't beat yourself up over sleazy TV. I am afraid you may have inherited it -- I am quite fond of Spanish language Novelas though I don't understand 2 percent of what is said.

  9. I'm relatively strict with my 6 year old. I don't let her watch any shows with boyfriends and girlfriends, which excludes Hannah Montana, Zack and Cody, High School Musical, etc.

    It doesn't seem to matter. In Kindergarten this year, she got caught kissing her "boyfriend" on the lips several times. I guess you can't fight biology.

  10. I think your problem with perspective on the camera is that the lens is wider-angle than you're used to, which causes nearby things to look bigger and farther-away things to look smaller. Try zooming in and stepping back.

    (oh, and keep up the good blog-work!)

  11. Grandparents consider it the ultimate compliment and gift to be allowed to take the kids for a month.

  12. Tipsy, I love you! Last night my kids watched "Twilight Zone, the Movie"... although I wasn't totally okay with that, I didn't exactly stand in front of the screen, either...I ended up paying for it by having two kids in my bed all night...


  13. My kids watch WAY too much tv that I consider inappropriate. It's not a fight I choose to pursue.

    Also, I know of one of those suburban moms. Those kids are not going to turn out well.

  14. With a daughter as intelligent and who reads as widely as your daughter, it would seem she should be encouraged to watch whatever she chooses... bring it on!

    (I look forward to your blog each day, Tipsy. Thank you.)

  15. I was working in the YA department of a large chain bookstore when the Gossip Girl books starting coming out. I read them, and then introduced them to my teenage sister...and then immediately started questioning the wisdom of that move. She seems to have turned out ok so far.