Wednesday, February 7, 2018

Another Simple Comfort Food for the Banana Intolerant

From the woman who brought you Thai banana pudding, it's 2-ingredient banana pudding!

Heat banana to boiling. Cream banana. Add bean flour. Stir. Enjoy. I used Doi Kham 100% soy milk powder, made from whole soybeans. You do what you think is right. ^_^

Bonus recipe!
Banana fudge is a thing I make:

Nuke together:
.25 cups quick oats
1 glob peanut butter
1 scoop cocoa
2 bananas

Spread in pan and refrigerate 2 hours. Cut into squares. Serve chilled.

Sunday, January 14, 2018

Chiang Mai Lunch

Back in Chiang Mai after 4 years away. Some things are the same, and food is one.

I had khao soi... "cow-soy!" ...for the first time in 4 years. It is super tasty, I missed it terribly! Red coconut curry, long tender egg noodles, cilantro, shallot, and extra-sour crunchy kraut-like pickles. I like it served with a chicken leg in it, and lots of pickled greens. These fixings were served on a small plate on the side, and I mustered the courage to ask the stand owner for more. "Na sup kong kun aroi mak! Chan chop breeow, mii atit nan dai mai ka?" (Hopefully this means, "Your broth is so good! I like sour, can I have more of that please?") He seemed to understand. "Tao rai ka?" "Mai pen rai," he says, heaping my plate with kraut and shallots. I thanked him heartily, smiling like a classic ting-tong farang as I took my seat to enjoy my first khao soi in years.

I'll be exploring how to get my greens when we go out. Scallions ("hom tam") and basil ("hora pah") aren't substantial veggies. So far, I've heard two different ways to call what look like young mustard greens, "pak tan" and "kan-AH." Asking for "padh pak" (fried greens) has gotten me some good grub as well. The jingjichai is still a mystery. Gotta learn to say my greens before I can eat them, or I'll be spending a lot of time frying my own... which would not be a bad thing.

The partner came back from Big C with something they called "American fried rice," which has hot dog slices, and is flavored with ketchup instead of soy sauce and chili. It's... not good. I doctored it up with chicken bullion, prikh (chilli), and a couple of eggs. Big C makes interesting attempts at western food, including pastry. While I'm glad they try, it's certainly not like home.

Living on the Edge, out there on the Road

Last night someone posted a video of themselves ranting that while males are an oppressed group on a closed FB group I'm in ...that's been dead for a few years now. I replied with, "I don't know what to do about the culture war, but you can't out-victim the victimhooders. If this is satire, I've been had." He replied with a quote of my first ten words, then told me to "get out of the way of real leaders." I replied "I /ragequit this dead group," and blocked the offensive poster. I messaged someone else from that group and had a good talk. Felt like shit for a good long while.

Meanwhile, millions of people call each other names, or call each other out, for fun or profit, for politics or ego. (Is there even a difference between all that?) Can I avoid all that and still call myself well-adjusted, or does that just make me even more of an "indoor cat"?

Look, I'm not a peacenik, I'm just interested in the exchange of ideas over epithets, and seeing things as clearly as I can. I don't think truth must be moderate; that both sides are the same amount of good and evil. I am so very interested in what makes a cult form, or what deep-seated emotions give rise to extremism. I want to know what is important in life, for each participant and for the whole. I haven't found any creed that can't be turned into dogma. I deeply believe that with all our cleverness, humans are easily molded, and going along with their surroundings is more or less a pro-social adaptive advantage.

I might have less of that advantage than others, it's not particularly a good thing. Comfort and connection seem elusive. I can't just walk into a group of people, start dancing their dances and speaking their language and finding friends. I'm aware that too much of that "social chameleon" behavior and you get outgroup homogeneity bias and fascism. But too little gets you what, loners and trolls? 

Does being a loner means being comfortable with being a loner?

Chiang Mai Breakfast

What do you usually eat for breakfast?

Bacon and donuts? Pork on a stick ("mu ping") and a bao of custard, red bean paste, or pork sausage? Not the best for the blood, but I could get away with this a couple times a week, and here they are ubiquitous. I'm still looking for steamed quail eggs or taro custard sticky rice I used to find in Old City. Instead, around here there's always sticky rice (khao nyeow), grilled in banana leaves with bits of either banana, corn, taro, sweet potato, or green bean. (Beans and corn are typical dessert ingredients in Asia.)

I'm looking for the place that serves the best jok... "joke!" Rice porridge. This is easy to make in America. My dad will often break his fast with the Japanese equivalent, with a raw egg, pickled ginger and soy sauce. I make it less often, but my favorite is Thai style. Minced pork or chicken, fried minced garlic, very fresh and finely shredded ginger, scallions, and a parboiled egg cracked into it. Black pepper and prikh to taste.

We had it this morning at a busy canteen. Cilantro instead of scallions. No garlic. Those garlic flakes might not be the healthiest condiment, but they have a very unique flavor. I enjoyed with fish sauce, white pepper, and sweet chili vinegar. The pork sausage was the best part; tender, with lots of herbal flavor! We asked for some greens, and got something that looked and tasted like small grape leaves; "jing ji chai." I still can't find the Latin or English. It was for the noodle soup they were serving, but they kindly let us try it.

Saturday, February 15, 2014

Voluntary Hospitality

Being here in Mysore has given me a big gulp of a particular energy I want to put forward to my friends in the West.  It's unlike anything I've felt at home, but it reminds me of many other experiences.  Something like when you show up to a small country Baptist church picnic, or maybe like when you come home to a longtime friendgroup.

There's a closeness associated with just being a fellow human.  It's partly body language; standing close and relaxed means, "I accept you, I don't fear you."  The pace of movement says, "I am not worried, I am not fighting for my life."  And then there's the hospitality that is offered.  It says softly, "You are included, and there is enough for everyone."  That sense of tranquility and abundance was something I expected to find in Thailand.  What we're finding here?  This was unexpected because it was unimagined.

Our train ride to Mysore from Bangalore was engulfed in a conversation with a very good-natured young man who grew up here, and who invited us to his sister's wedding the next week!  When we attended, we were asked to sit very close to the honored couple and observe all the rites and rituals.  We stayed from breakfast through to dinner, chatting with the family and guests.  We were genuinely thanked for our presence and interest.  We found ourselves overflowing with gratitude for the experience and the intimate human connection, which carried us on a cloud of euphoria all the way back home to crash in our beds.

There's a sense of voluntary transaction here that I haven't seen in the States anywhere, even in family and friends.   The cab drivers here are offering you a service.  Literally, simply, offering.  You can say no, or "maybe later," and it's no big deal.  And the service they're offering, more often than not, is to be not just your driver, but your teacher, guide, protector and friend.  (This is not always the case.  If you're not being treated well, find a new auto-rickshaw!)

One example of this phenomenon unfolded for us on top of Chamundi Hill, a bustling temple and tourism location.  There was a slender man with a crooked spine and wide eyes, who stood next to us looking at the temple for a moment.  Then, unbidden, took more than ten minutes to explain to us a lot about the Indian pantheon, the history of the area, how the temple was built and by who, etc.  (You can find plenty of info on Wikipedia.)  Clearly this was his occupation, as we were to discover. But the method of his speech was gentle, conversational, with an obvious desire to be understood and answer questions.  We were reserved at first, remembering Bangkok scams and warnings of pickpockets.

He put bindi blessings on our foreheads and told us their significance ("Work, family, travels, everything is success!") and the significance of many other things people did there, from the priests to the offerings, the festivals that happen during the year and the monkeys that live there.  

Then he gave us a pack of postcards, and told us he did all this in friendship, and that we could give him some money in return, if we chose.  I think we gave him more money than we would have if he offered this as a paid service.

This seems to be the way many people interact here; there is no force, no pressure involved.  They don't want to make you do anything you don't want to do; it's bad karma, bad for the community, bad for their own souls, and they know it.

Sunday, January 26, 2014

Anarchocapitalists, There's A Hole in Your Pants

I offer up that the idea of competition (vote with your dollars, may the best product win) is only useful in a society where majority of people recognize that, across the board, violence is bad and the use of force only gets you the opposite of what you wanted in the long run.  We may not be there yet.  For example, some people still think going to war will bring peace, or that being disrespectful to your kids will make them respectful and respectable people. Too many times, I've found that it would all be ok if only everyone had good boundaries and took care of themselves before trying to change the circumstances of others. In mediation, trying to get everyone to even see the situation similarly can be impossible. So yeah, another utopia down the drain of reality.

ADD and Education

Sex, Lies and Anarchy episode #91, "Curiosity is not a Disability."
"The Underground History of American Education," by John Taylor Gatto

In America we are gearing development toward convention.  Convention is the antithesis to innovation, invention.  For a hundred years we have been stagnating.  It is said the system is "broken," but the solutions that make it into policy never come close to the obvious:  Let them learn.

In a competitive market, if the customer needs something different, the market adapts.  If the current suppliers do not adapt, new suppliers crop up to meet the needs of the consumer, and supplant the establishment.  When there is a monopoly, either in practice or in regulation, you find a slowing in adaptation.  In the public school system, we have seen, not a slowing, but a moving backward.  We are lowing standards and allowing children to fall through cracks.  There are students who are officially labeled "illiterate" who are growing up thinking that they have failed, when the system has failed them.

Note from years later: Wow, such strong words! I certainly still feel for children raised in institutions, myself being one. It's not so bad, having been quite bright, if having generally more divergent thoughts, and being offered some more at home by an anarchistic father. It does seem "unschooling" is getting more of a toehold over the past years, from Sudbury and other democratic models, and further development of online learning tools. Of course, permissiveness is not the answer; there is always room for discipline and teaching tenacity, though it might be better taught one-on-one or in natural settings, rather than punitively. I'm hopeful that the part of me that wrote this can rest assured that we are, as a culture, learning to respect and allow children's innate learning processes.