Saturday, October 01, 2016

A birthday, Spam burritos, acorn jelly, and other good stuff


Even I can't mess up a picture of THAT.
What happened to the Korean food, you ask?

In reverse chronological order, here’s what I’ve been up to for the last few weeks. Some food in there, not that much. 

Owen turned 16 a couple days ago. He did not want bulgogi or japchae so we went out for pizza. Gifts he received: the Everybody Wants Some! soundtrack, a vintage Dolly Parton album, a venus flytrap, The Wide Sargasso Sea, a notebook, an amazon gift card, The Dude and the Zen Masterand an Indonesia guidebook.

That somewhat reflects the range of Owen’s enthusiasms -- and in the case of a couple of those gifts, what his parents hope will become his enthusiasms. 

At 16, Owen has a lot of fine qualities, but above all, he is a creature of passionate enthusiasms. The enthusiasms constantly rotate, but currently include ABBA, comic books, cosplay, Goats of Anarchy, his plants, Kenny Rogers, our cats, building sets for school theater productions, The Big Lebowski, cereal, and computer games. When Owen loves something he loves it ardently and learns everything about it. In the car the other day I was treated to a long, almost scholarly lecture about the artistry of ABBA, including meditations on the voices of Frida and Agnetha  (Owen prefers Frida’s voice which is more “majestic”), the way the group’s sunny early albums gave way to darker works culminating in their brooding masterpiece The Visitors and a sadly unreleased final album. The disquisition lasted 25 minutes and I enjoyed every minute of it, although I think it’s time he choose a new band as he appears to have sucked ABBA dry. Plus, his father can barely stand to hear the word “ABBA” let alone their music and would be pleased if Owen moved on to something he can relate to, like Led Zeppelin.

I think Dolly Parton is a better bet, a shorter leap.

It’s a surprisingly rare gift, the capacity for great enthusiasm. But it is not a gift that people automatically envy or admire or even recognize as a gift. Brains, athleticism, charisma, beauty -- they all seem so much more important when you’re a kid. In the long run, though, I would argue that a capacity for enthusiasm is every bit as valuable, maybe more. Life is richer when you can really get into things. There’s always something coming around the corner to absorb you, to  keep the world sparkling. It’s how I get by, anyway.

If it sounds like I just suggested that Owen is enthusiastic but otherwise a loser, that is not what I meant at all! He has a lot of abilities, I just meant that to his mother, in 2016, it is his gift for enthusiasm that seems most likely to stand him in good stead throughout his hopefully long and happy life.

Moving on. What happened before the birthday?

Oh right, this.

The frozen pizza was lousy and Donald Trump was worse, but Hillary killed it and that was all that mattered.
I have nothing original to say about the election so I’ll say nothing, although like everyone I know I’m obsessed and can not wait for it to be over.

vintage photo of a woman making fry bread  
Before the debate, I was on a reporting trip for a magazine and my father came along for the ride. For five days we drove around the American Southwest talking, eating, staying in some wonderfully bad old motels and looking at 12th-century Puebloan cliff dwellings. It was a beautiful experience, but I will be writing about it elsewhere so should keep my powder dry, as they say. 

Some culinary highlights: I ordered Navajo tacos everywhere I went. Hot fry bread topped with meat (ground beef, chicken, pulled pork), beans, shredded cheese, lettuce and anything else the cook wants to throw on there. My father cringes at the word “fry” and refused to even taste a Navajo taco, preferring to stick with regional specialties like the turkey wrap and soup of the day. It was sad that he didn’t get to experience the pleasure of a Navajo taco and it is also sad that I will probably be dead before I reach his age.

But wait! I did get him to try a roast mutton taco. By the side of the road in Shiprock, New Mexico  a bunch of people had set up little tents with portable stoves and were advertising tacos filled with pork chop or roast mutton.  I said, “Let’s split one.” My father said, “Please just do me a favor, no mutton. And a regular tortilla, not fry bread.”

Obviously, I could not honor that request. We watched the woman at the stand of our choice stretch a ball of pale dough into a disc, drop it into bubbling oil, pluck it out with tongs a minute later, wrap this hot, golden bread around some strips of dark, super-tough, savory mutton and slather it all with fresh green chile sauce. I took one bite of this delicious thing, handed it to my father, and the next time I looked over he had finished it.
mutton = warm, gamy jerky
I thought I’d finally loosened his corset, but no. The next morning we stopped at a gas station and noticed a line of cars idling, hand-written menus affixed to the windows. They were selling Navajo breakfast burritos. To my father’s horror, I bought a Spam burrito, a steaming bundle of
mashed potatoes and crumbled ham wrapped in flour tortilla. I know how disagreeable that sounds if you think you hate Spam, as I used to, but it was very satisfying.  My father declined to even taste it. I guess some of you are probably with him on this one. Wimps.
My dad ate the serrano pepper.
And now we have finally traveled back far enough in time to get to some Korean food that I served before the trip to the Southwest.
If you grew up in California hearing about how the native people subsisted on acorn mush, you may understand the allure of acorn powder. 
The most interesting dish I made was the acorn jelly salad from Robin Ha’s  Cook Korean! You mix acorn powder with water, pour into a brownie pan, and chill until it sets into a firm jelly that has a mild, earthy flavor. You slice up this jelly and add it to a salad of cucumbers, lettuce, and lovely soy sauce dressing. I told Owen the strips of acorn jelly were noodles and tried to think of them as noodles myself, because what are noodles but starch and liquid?

That is no noodle.
But it didn’t quite work, the noodle trick. Acorn jelly isn’t exactly an acquired taste, it’s more of an acquired texture — cold, damp, slippery and strange to a Western palate. It wasn’t bad, but I will have to nurture my appreciation of acorn jelly.

I also made some superb spicy ribs from Koreatown, the appreciation of which required no nurturing, and a very enjoyable kimchi fried rice from Cook Korean!

Before that. . . well, I think I’m all caught up.  Sorry for the long absence. 

One of our cats liked the Korean ribs as much as we did.

41 comments:

  1. I so desperately want both the mutton taco and the spam burrito in my life right now. This post is brilliant. Thank you for sharing. Can't wait to read your other piece about your trip.

    ReplyDelete
  2. I bet you have almost never, if ever, been bored. Talk about "enthusiasm"! I love that you are so full of life! Lucky Owen. Did you share that same "enthusiasm" talent with your grandmother? I fondly recall some of your posts wherein you talked about her. I do think that the same "enthusiasm" will very likely let you enjoy a long and very interesting life, fry bread or not!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Oh, I miss my grandmother. She was more stubborn than enthusiastic -- but she did love little birds, her home, and her family, another way to get through life.

      Delete
  3. I agree with the comment above. You will most likely live a long and happy life as a result of your enthusiasms. I am not generally enthusiastic, but I definitely have an abundance of curiosity. Curiosity is certainly the best cure for boredom. How can you be bored when there is so much to learn that interests you? Owen is quite lucky if he inherited this from you. You have been missed! It was lovely that you and your dad took a road trip! Those Navajo tacos look fabulous. I cannot remember which books I read that described fry bread and Navajo tacos, but I salivated all the way through those books! Ahem, yes, the debate (YAY!!!) and the election. If only we could all vote tomorrow so that all of this would be behind us. Do let us know where and when your piece about your trip lands.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Have you read Elizabeth Gilbert's book on creativity? She's all about curiosity. She says passion is overrated, curiosity is what matters. I really think curiosity and enthusiasm are synonyms, or if not exactly the same, very close.
      Tony Hillerman? I haven't read him in decades, but didn't he write about Navajos?

      Delete
    2. No, I haven't read her book, I may have to look that up. Big Magic? I think curiosity leads to passions, so they are certainly closely related. I haven't read Hillerman in ages, so I don't think I got it from his books. I may have to explore making my own fry bread, but then again, I think I don't need any more fattening food in my arsenal!

      Delete
    3. I was thinking about making fry bread and Navajo tacos tonight for Mark and me, but Owen won't be home and I thought, two middle aged people do not need to be eating Navajo tacos. If there's a teenager in the picture, that makes it more ok.

      Delete
  4. I agree with you fully about enthusiasm. The saddest thing in the world is to live life without interests. And Owen has so many wonderful ones. He's right about ABBA and you're right about Dolly. That cover is so great.

    I read your Navajo taco paragraph out loud to my partner. So funny. Kimchi fried rice appeared on our plates this week as well, with the Momofuku kimchi. It might fall under the category of "too delicious."

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. That Momofuku kimchi is so good.
      You like ABBA?!! I used to love them, and Owen even has some of my teen years albums, but I may have reached my limit.

      Delete
  5. lovely post. you and your dad, creating lovely memories as well.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Yeah, it was special, the trip with my dad.

      Delete
  6. Well, I've had "Jolene" stuck in my head for two weeks, and I don't even mind, so hell yes to Dolly. The fry bread tacos look delicious, but are they really messy to eat? Do you use a knife and fork? The picture of the one with olives looks more like a tostada.
    I, too, can't wait for this election to be over. I am also enthusiastic by nature, and this election has me throwing my enthusiasm into Hillary Clinton (not only because she's not Trump, but also because I genuinely admire her), and reading any articles I can find that help me feel better about her chances. I feel like a sports fan, thinking that somehow my ardent support is going to have some effect on the outcome, and it's exhausting and pointless. I wish it were done.
    Are you planning a trip to Indonesia?

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Thinking about a trip to Indonesia. Maybe when he graduates high school in 2018.
      And yes, you eat a Navajo taco with a fork. I could never finish one or even make a big dent in one.
      I am like you so ready for the election to be over. It's occupying so much of my brain space right now, the daily and sometimes hourly visits to political sites.

      Delete
  7. Beckster, I've noticed this before, but now I know for sure that we are basically kindred spirits. Certainly in our mutual admiration of Tipsy! About the election, so many of us want it to be over as soon as possible. I, for one, am living in the dread of Trump winning. I live in Vermont and I've loved Bernie for a long time. When you consider his amazing accomplishment in leading a Movement embodying the act of being an ethical citizen of the planet Earth, it's clear that Hillary Clinton could very likely have difficulty getting Bernie's supporters' votes, despite his asking them to consider her policies (the best of which they forced Hillary and the Party adopt as the Democratic platform). If the many millions of people who've been hurt economically in this century do vote, Trump could win. So, yes, I'm afraid and it's real enough that I can hardly bear it. I want it to be over, and I want to have it turn out okay, with Democrats up and down the ticket, preferably in a landslide.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I'm so sad and disgusted that so many Americans would consider voting for Trump .. makes me so ashamed, (even some of my Baptist relatives in Texas). I'm horrified. I would not be as upset if Romney or Jeb Bush were the nominee, even though I would not vote for them.

      Delete
    2. Ditto about Romney and Jeb Bush, Kathy W. Even if they had a better chance of defeating Hillary, I'd rather have seen them running against her. I wouldn't feel like the country was going off a cliff. Trump is just so full of hate and spite.

      Delete
    3. Anonymous, I don't know that we are kindred spirits. I was not a Bernie supporter, but I might have been when I was young. I saw the appeal, but I did not think anyone would be willing to pay for his policies. And I don't think college should be free for everyone, just those that can't afford it. Anyway, we can all agree to disagree and still love our discourse here, right? I hope so.

      Delete
  8. Thanks to the encouragement here, I made kimchi! And I didn't die! I also made the buldak, which was extremely delicious, even to my husband who thinks my cooking is too weird, and am planning to make it again in the near future. Specialty ingredients are hard to come by in my small midwestern city, except for Korean, thanks to a small Korean grocery tucked in a side street. It's run by an extremely kind and talkative Korean lady who will always talk you into more things than you came to buy, and none of which you will regret.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. All you need is one little Korean grocery. I do wish the person who worked at mine was a talkative woman but he is a taciturn man. Once a talkative woman came out of the back and advised me on meat, but unfortunately she gave me bad advice. I'm glad your kimchi worked!

      Delete
    2. Hooray for you! Homemade kimchi is so much better than bottled. As with most things, when you learn how to do them, they are not so difficult.

      Delete
  9. I love your book, have purchased many copies as gifts for friends, and have enjoyed the blog posts about food and your family. I also greatly admire your writing skill. But I, probably like many, do not necessarily agree with your politics. That does not mean we are ignorant, uneducated or "deplorable." It seems we are now unwelcome readers. A sad commentary on the current state of our country.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Trump is obviously unfit to be president. Take a good look at his recent speech in Pennsylvania and tell me otherwise. https://www.washingtonpost.com/news/the-fix/wp/2016/10/02/donald-trumps-epic-meltdown-in-manheim-shouldnt-surprise-anyone/. From the report: [He accused] Clinton of not being 'loyal' to her husband, imitating her buckling at a memorial service last month, suggesting that she is 'crazy' and saying she should be in prison. He urged his mostly white crowd of supporters to go to polling places in 'certain areas' on Election Day to "watch" the voters there. He also repeatedly complained about having a "bum mic" at the first presidential debate and wondered if he should have done another season of 'The Apprentice.' This video, of Trump imitating Clinton's near-collapse at a Sept. 11 memorial service last month, has to be seen to be believed." How presidential.

      Of Trump supporters you say: "That does not mean we are ignorant, uneducated or 'deplorable.'" I would disagree, at least in part. Anyone supporting this dangerous man is ignorant in ways I can't even begin to imagine. I can't comment on whether Trump supporters are uneducated as a whole, but the LA Times says this: "Trump holds an advantage among voters without a college degree. White voters who have not graduated from college are a core source of support for Trump. By contrast, Clinton has done better among voters with college degrees than previous Democrats."

      I would not call Trump supporters as a group "deplorable" but deplorable is certainly what this country would be with a Trump victory.

      Only you are the one who decided you are "unwelcome" here, but then if you can't tolerate differences of political opinion, then I suppose you most likely have to ban yourself from many places.

      Delete
    2. Anonymous, I did not call you uneducated, ignorant, or deplorable and I don't think all, or even most, Trump voters are. Having said that, I am curious what you find appealing about Trump as a candidate, especially given that your dissenting comment was more judiciously worded than anything I have ever heard him say. HIs erratic temperament, his cruelty to people who cross him, his crudeness, his cynicism, his appeals to the worst instincts in his followers, "Miss Housekeeping," the ignorance he betrays of the law are, for me, disqualifying. I would never have asked what people saw in Romney or McCain. Is the dislike for Hillary that strong? Or are there positive qualities that draw people like you to Trump that I can't see?

      Delete
    3. Ditto, I would love to know what people feel are Trump's positive qualities. I am mystified. Have you watched "The Choice 2016" on Frontline? It was very well done; depicting the roads that led Hillary and Donald to where they now stand. Although I am exhausted by all this political rhetoric, this one was very much worth the watch. It is tragic that we cannot have a civil discourse these days. So many people automatically get angry if you disagree with their choice.

      Delete
    4. I do think it is important to be able to have civil discussions with folks on the other side of the political chasm. I find that the discussions break down, often, when I ask people to provide facts, documented reliable (that part is key) facts, to support their assertions. And not only do I find it hard to understand why is appealing about Donald Trump, but I also would love to have some insight into the intense hatred that some people have towards Sec'y Clinton. So, do you think that Tipsy shouldn't post about politics, and should stick to food? And if so, why is that your decision? And does that mean that I shouldn't buy a Paula Deen cookbook?

      Delete
    5. I actually really am interested in hearing someone's reasons for voting for Trump. It is so hard for me to understand given that he's not even conservative. Someone explain!

      Delete
    6. An interesting piece from Huff Post by The Vagina Monologues' Eve Ensler:

      http://www.huffingtonpost.com/entry/the-undeniable-rape-culture-of-donald-trump_us_57ee5879e4b0c2407cdd4c92



      Delete
    7. I sincerely don't know why people would vote for Trump, and it seems that the earlier commenter is not going to enlighten us. From what I have read, it seems that most people who support him feel angry about the state of their own lives and believe he can make positive changes to the country which will filter down to them. However, I have yet to hear what those things are. I think a great deal of it is just hatred of HRC, and I am not sure I understand that either. I am stumped.

      Delete
  10. Belated happy birthday to Owen and wishing him many more delightful enthusiasms in the year to come!

    I haven't had acorn jelly, but it sounds similar in texture to konjac (yam cake).

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. It SOUNDS similar in texture to konjac, but I have never encountered konjac.

      Delete
  11. Also, on a slightly less political note, I did love the bit about Owen's enthusiasms. My son, who is 14, is similar in the intensity of his interests, and we are currently suffering through a BIG classic rock phase, during which I have been the audience for a number of discussions around, say, "the 10 best R&R drummers" or "the 10 best Who songs." Lots of ranking and lists, he loves that. We've also had pretty obsessive interest in baseball and baseball stats, Flight of the Conchords, Mel Brooks, and rowing. I'd love some ABBA; he bought -- and I am NOT making this up -- a Rush album, just recently.

    ReplyDelete
  12. Navajo tacos are the jam. That. is. all. Oh, and ABBA rocks.

    ReplyDelete
  13. In 1995 a friend from Switzerland and I took a road trip from San Francisco, where I was living, to the Grand Canyon. One night we had Navaho fry bread and I've never stopped thinking about it.

    I've been volunteering at the local HRC phone bank. It's not my favorite thing to do but I swore I would volunteer and I further swore I would do whatever they told me to do, so I show up a couple of times a week and make phone calls. I have to do what I can to stop the orange menace.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Love these posts...the Navaho fry bread, the 'enthusiasms'...and yes, election thoughts...to some of us, Trump has violated, and continues to insult every principle of American values and virtue, goodness, honor, discipline...

      Delete
    2. Love these posts...the Navaho fry bread, the 'enthusiasms'...and yes, election thoughts...to some of us, Trump has violated, and continues to insult every principle of American values and virtue, goodness, honor, discipline...

      Delete
  14. Thanks for reminding me of my trip to the Southwest, made notable by two things. My husband made the mistake of giving me the map - the AAA "4 Corners" map - and I set us off on a very satisfying tour based on Tony Hillerman's Chee and Leaphorn novels. I used to have fits with IBS, and soon had a major attack. It's very hard to eat bland in the southwest, so I wound up eating a lot of fry bread. I learned pretty fast to keep an eye out for those little Mom & Pop hotels and convenience stores where you had the older women frying them on site. A drizzle of honey - it was very hard to feel sorry for myself with that in my hand!

    ReplyDelete


  15. افضل شركة نقل اثاث بالمدينة المنورة تساعدك على نقل اثاثك بامان فلا داعى للقلق مع افضل شركة نقل اثاث بجدة

    عزيزى العميل انت من محبى التنقل باستمرار بالتالى انت بحاجة ماسة وضروية الى الاستعانة بالمختصين في نقل العفش خاصة ارخص شركة نقل اثاث بالرياض لان الاستعانة باى من عمالة الشوارع الغير مدربة والتي لا تمتلك خبرة كافية في نقل العفش او الحفاظ علية وليس هذا فقط فقد يؤدى الاستعانة بعمالة الشوارع الى حدوث حالة فقدان وتكسير للاثاث بالتالى التاثير الضار عليك عزيزى العميل

    لا تقلق مطلقاً الان بشأن نقل اي منقولات خاصة بك طالما استعنت بشركة الاول لـ نقل الأثاث في الرياض وخارج الرياض فنحن ليس الوحيدون ولكننا متميزون عن اى مؤسسة أخرى داخل وخارج الدمام وشهرتنا كافضل شركة نقل عفش بينبع
    نقل اثاث بجدة

    ReplyDelete