Monthly Archives: March 2010

Expo surprises

Big news on the job front: I found out this past Saturday that I was accepted for a job at the Expo 2010 Shanghai! It starts in a month and goes for 6.5 months into November, and as far as I know (which isn’t very far) involves being some sort of “hosting” staff at the Canada Pavilion. Representing Canada.

So I’ve been suddenly inundated with all sorts of paperwork, part of which apparently goes towards “top secret” security clearance checks. During the information-gathering process I realized that in the last ten years I’ve resided at 16 different addresses—13 of which fall into the last five years. I know I’ve moved around a lot, but those numbers still put my recent life into some perspective.

Anyway, another part of this paperwork involves gathering body measurements for my staff “uniform”. By uniform I’d expected, you know, some nice polo-shirt top sporting a Canadian flag and maybe even—but hopefully not—pants. Standard bust-waist-hip-height-weight measurements, perhaps. But no. What I got in my inbox last night was this:

If you’re not bothered to click on the image for details, this form essentially includes things like:
– apex from point to point
– apex drop from HSP
– neck circ at the base
– neck circ 11/2″ from base
– total crotch (front and back)
– knee (231/2″ from waist)
– bicep at biggest point
– bra size

OK, not even counting the fact that I don’t know what “apex” and “HSP” are and that I’m probably gonna mess up at least one of these measurements, one disturbing question remains: WHY DO THEY NEED ALL THIS INFORMATION?!?! Considering that the Canada Pavilion will be hosted by Cirque du Soleil, my only (supremely terrifying) conclusion is that they will be putting me in a body suit. Cat suit. Whatever. Something skin-tight (who would otherwise care about bicep at biggest point?) involving a built-in bra.

Something like any of these:

Oh, dearest God, please don’t let it be.


Filed under world expo 2010

Edibles: a round-up

While we’re on the subject of food, here’s a compilation of some gastronomic and culinary ventures from the past half year (ones that made it onto a camera, anyway):


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Filed under eating in, eating out, restaurants - non-vegetarian

PBJ, PBH, PB’s got nothin to do with my stomachache

We made peanut butter today. It was fantastic and made us feel part-scientist, part-little kid. (That’s the best kind of feeling, no?)

Some background: Sean is mad about peanut butter. Specifically, Skippy creamy peanut butter. Back in the States, he would buy peanut butter by the 48-ounce twin-pak—that’s two 48-ounce jars—otherwise purchased only by families of six on their monthly stock-up grocery trip. It would last 2 weeks, max. He’d smear it on toast, on fruit, or on a spoon. (He’d have it on earth, in space, or on the moon. He would eat it here and there. He would eat it anywhere!)

As for me, I’ve always enjoyed it on bread with jam or honey, but tended to avoid it in recent years due to its swoon-inducing nutrition facts and my mom’s prophesies of acne breakouts and a lifetime of having to suck in my stomach for photos. (PB or not, those things remain in my life.) Since moving to Shanghai, though, and discovering that any decent jam is imported and thus budget-breaking, I’ve turned to spreading on my toast Skippy creamy (which is surprisingly unexpensive, as it’s manufactured within the country, compared with Jif, which can only be found in expat supermarkets at 3 times the price) and a squeeze or two of honey instead.

Which makes that two peanut-butter admirers under one roof. And, as of today, two Skippy fans who’ve been reading Michael Pollan’s In Defense of Food (thanks, Iris!), which made us realize how bad hydrogenated vegetable oil is. And packaged food is. And that that stuff is in, and is, Skippy.

Not that we immediately resolved to cut it out, of course. Our bonds had become too strong. But it did somehow, directly or otherwise, inspire Sean to suggest that we try making our own peanut butter. I laughed. Make our own peanut butter?! Why, that’s absurd!

…So we got started after dinner. A quick online search showed that it was actually quite simple.

We started with two packs of roasted peanuts, which came to 2 cups. To my dismay, the roasted peanuts we found at our local supermarket turned out to contain the following ingredients: peanuts, vegetable oil, salt, MSG, plus some other preservatives. Bar-style peanuts. So much for going natural and unprocessed… oh well, that just means it’ll taste good, right?

We dribbled in 2 teaspoons of olive oil and got a’blendin’. Half the peanuts transformed at once into grainy clumps.

Our blender was about the cheapest on the market with nary an on-off switch. For fear it’d explode in flames, we stopped it every 20 seconds or so to let it rest and to scrape the blades free.

The initial transformation seemed to be a fluke. More than five minutes into this process, it was still a chunky mass with whole peanuts peeking out at the top.

But looking down while the machine was on, we observed a slow but sure circular movement. We watched with giddy anticipation.

10 minutes later, a definite paste had formed, though it was still fairly chunky. A sheepish grin spread over Sean’s face. “I know I didn’t put on a shirt ’til 6pm today, but somehow I still feel accomplished.”

We could barely contain our excitement. Seeing the stuff go from whole peanuts to a smooth paste was like watching magic.

A couple more blasts on the blender and we were done. The end result: one cup of peanut butter that was warm, soft, and super-spreadable.

As I scooped the contents into an empty jar, Sean slipped some bread in the toaster. We licked the blender clean while we waited. Mmm.

Here it is on a piece of whole-wheat bread, with a drizzle of honey on top:

The texture was divine. The flavours were… a little MSG-y, to tell the truth, which masked the typical aroma we come to expect from peanut butter. Because of this, I’d consider this a peanut butter more to be eaten from a spoon than in a sandwich.

Satisfying as it was, I’m not sure we’re going to make a complete switch to this stuff at the moment, seeing as we have less-than-ideal peanuts. But if and when we do get our hands on some roasted peanuts sans flavourings/preservatives, or find out how to roast the tub of fresh peanuts sitting in the apartment… watch out, Skippy!

I know it’s nothing new—just google “homemade peanut butter” and you’ll find site after site with (similar) recipes and better pics than I’ve got here. But people—and by people I mean my friends and family, many of whom cook, bake, make their own hummus or granola, and so forth—don’t often think of PB as something they can make on their own, easy though it is. Yeah, it’s more time-consuming than picking up a jar on your next grocery trip, not necessarily cheaper (though probably more cost-effective compared to your “natural” peanut butters), and not necessarily healthier if you’re using the peanuts we got—but if you’ve got a blender and a taste for PB and adventure, I urge you to try it. It’s fun. It’s rewarding. It’s the little things in life.


Filed under eating in

How my evening was made

I know it’s been aaages–over a month, to be precise–since I last wrote. Blame that on a 12-day trip to Hong Kong, realizing I need to get my act together career-wise, and being worn out by toddlers on an almost-daily basis. Blame that on me. Whatever. Here’s a quick one, a reassurance to those who care of my continued existence, before I go watch a movie (haven’t done that in a while, either).

My second class this afternoon caused some ire and grief. The four-year-old, Mealler, refused to let any of the handful of vocab words stick in his head–and yes, I’m pretty sure it was intentional, to spite me since I cut short his lego-boats-in-a-sinkful-of-soapy-water fun-time. And at one point, while playing smash-the-plane-into-various-fruit-monster-flashcards (guess who was holding which), he punched my mouth with his hand and then refused to say sorry. (It actually hurt.) And to top off the exhausting lesson, his grandma–who handles his life, apparently–announced that she was to start paying me once every five lessons rather than at the end of each lesson, as we’d been doing the last two months. (At first she proposed once a month, but I was like “uh, no…”; the main thing keeping me motivated to go to this class was the immediate post-lesson cash.) His grandma was also the one who, at our first post-Chinese New Year lesson, gave me in return for my gift of Meltykisses (a kind of chocolate, for the uninitiated) a tub of unshelled peanuts and this pancake thing that was 6 days past its expiry date.

/end rant

The unpleasant afternoon was redeemed by a splendid evening, made so by three things:

#1. Nang (Xinjiang flatbread), which Sean brought home from a Xinjiang restaurant near his school that makes seriously terrific nang. I’ve only had it from three or four establishments in China, but I suspect this one comes pretty close to the real thing (to be confirmed when I make it out to Xinjiang…). Though much of the crisp had worn off after 2 hours in his bag, it was still warm and soft and salty and loaded with sesame, not hard and flavourless like the others I’ve tried.

#2. Dessert from a Dongbei restaurant where we had dinner: 拔丝地瓜, or deep-fried sweet potato wedges drenched in caramelized sugar. They threw in some regular potato, the sneaks, but that didn’t matter: the crunch of the thick sugar coating giving way to the hot, soft inside made it hard to believe we were eating any kind of vegetable at all.

#3. The most broke-ass Chinese imitation attempt of all time:

[Edit 03/08: OK, a recent sighting by Sean has mine beat on the broke-ass aspect. It’s linked on facebook here.]

OK, off to see whether “Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs” is as amazing as my little sister claims.


Filed under eating out, restaurants - non-vegetarian