Tuesday, July 26, 2011

3 weeks in Vancouver

As my new love and I navigate and negotiate our way into a relationship, we faced the ultimate test of all: visiting friends and family as a couple. It just so happens that we are both from Vancouver, but met 10,000 km away in Hong Kong. I do not exaggerate when I say that we are serious about food and libation. When people comment on the fact that although we grew up 5 mins. from each other, went to some of the same schools but never met, we tell them that the most incredible thing of all is that we both adore the same local pub :)

Of course, our encounters with friends and family took place over many memorable meals:

1.) Family bbq in Gibsons where we ate hamburgers with cowboys. Someone asked my HK dwelling boyfriend (who asked for a bottle opener) why doesn't he just pop the beer cap with his belt buckle?

2.) Dim sum with the parents- what every white guy must do with his Chinese girlfriend's family. To score brownie points, my sweetie used chopsticks, humored my folks with broken Cantonese, and ate chicken feet (ok, I exaggerated- he'd rather eat dirt).

3.) Pho, the official cheap and cheery food of Vancouver. I swear, they make it better here than in Vietnam.

4.) St. James Well, our favorite local pub. We got pints, met up with long lost friends and even got a counseling session from one of them. His dating advice:

-No matter how sophisticated you think you are, never ever assume anything about your partner's friends and family. If they tell you what to do or not to do with them, you follow their advice and grin and bear it. You avoid a lot of problems later- each family is dysfunctional in its own way, and each friend has issues beyond your imagination.

-Never, under any circumstances, make fun of or disrespect your sig fig's parents. Your mate can express her anger or frustrations with them all she wants, but the minute you do it, the tide will be turned against you.

-Real life is what it is- REAL. You have to deal with work, family, friends, accidents, mortgages etc. etc. etc...Sometimes, it sucks double when you have to truck along with another person's needs and wants rather than just your own. Life is not a bed of roses, so you really should choose wisely about who you lay with, and work together to ensure that it is more flowers than thorns. (Ok, I came up with this one, after years of being pricked and pruned).

Love is like cooking. You start with good ingredients, and use your creativity to spice things up. Sometimes it becomes a masterpiece, and other times, it may be a freaking disaster. It is a craft that demands your attention, and requires years of practice and study. But like all good chefs, you must never give up, because finesse will come with time, and there is nothing like having angels cry on your tongue.

Monday, August 2, 2010

My Wild Ass Plan

It began a long time ago while I was hiking the Inca trail. Well ok, 5 years ago, really.
I was trying to "find" myself after surviving the shards of a broken relationship, and a completely shattered ego. Instead, I found a pretty amusing boy who was a struggling writer and a delightful wine drinker. That began a series of profound but unfruitful relationships with men which I shall name: post traumatic boyfriends. PTBs are often people who you share a great deal of unhealthy intimacy with. They see the most insecure side of you, and they failingly try not to provoke you to cry over that broken heart of yours, which you bandaided with their affections. But my PTBs are also people who I had tons of fun with, loved with abandon, and in essence, learned a great deal about myself and relationships.

Anyhow, during one of my many deep, philosophical conversations with A. over candles and glasses of beautiful Napa wines, he asked me what my Wild Ass plans are, you know- your bucket list. I told him a bunch of stuff, mostly travelling to exotic places and eating coveted culinary treasures. Look, I was in no shape to fantasize- my life was a mess, and it would have been nice just to survive a day without wondering how I was going to get my joy back :(

Right, so fast forward 6 years and I finally got my shit together. I am living in another country, enjoying the life I want, and already been to most of those exotic places I listed for my wild ass plans. My life is in order: I have my health, my career is good, and my friends and family are blessed. In comfortable circumstances like that, I was inevitably doomed to ponder the question reserved only for the privileged: what are my dreams and how to make them come true?

So, what are my dreams?

1.) Be with someone I love and who adores me back. Who is he? He must be my partner in crime, my shoulder to rest on, my coolest friend. He would actually want to go through the ordeal of getting a reservation at El Bulli, buying plane tickets to get there, and close his eyes and sigh- as I feed him a spoonful of Ferran Adria's masterpiece. Or he must be so smart, so amusing, and so good looking that I am willing to forgo the opportunity of ever meeting someone who matches the above description.

2.) Go to Paris for a month and attend the Pastry course at the Cordon Bleu. I envision a beautiful month of sweat and tears over perfecting croissants and brioches. Morning coffees at the local cafe, and lots of wine and luxurious dinners with friends :)

3.) Owning a business that I can have fun with and makes enough money to take my family on vacations without struggling to pay for the plane tickets.

I just read a section in Paulo Coelho's The Pilgrimage, in which he envisioned his death during a meditation exercise. He wrote:

I remembered also the number of times I had failed to do what I wanted to do, thinking I could always do it later. I felt very sorry for myself, not only because I was about to be buried alive but also because I had been afraid to live... ... My wife is going to forget all about me and will marry someone else and spend the money we have struggled to save for all these years! But who cares about that. I want to be with her now, because I'm alive!

How profound is that? We are always afraid of consequences, thinking about what may happen. Like John Lennon once said, "life is what happens while you are busy making other plans." It finally occurred to me one night at dinner with my cousin when he asked me the age old question: what would you do if you win the lottery? And I told him about plan no. 2. Then I was like, wait a minute, I don't need to win the lottery to do that do I?!

Oh, and one p.s. to my W.A.P.s. To write a book. Any life worth living is worth the self centered act of writing a memoir.

Saturday, July 31, 2010

Cooking at Home

I love the privilege of working in a big kitchen, and I mean anything bigger than the 90?! square feet one I have in my HK home. So on the eve before going to the land of scarcity (in space), I prepared my darling sister an early birthday dinner and feasted with my extended family. On the menu:

1.) Maple biscuits with Smoked Salmon tartare
2.) Deviled curry eggs
3.) Organic greens with pears, walnuts and dressed in blue cheese
4.) Maple glazed Salmon with oranges
5.) Baked gnocchi with Asiago cheese

And finished off with chocolate cake that is wholly decorated with skills learned from my latest escapade: Wilton's decorating courses 1 and 2.

I love cooking for my big skinny Chinese family. We show love by feeding and we reciprocate love by eating more. Almost every Chinese kid has the memory of their tiny eighty- two year old grandmother shoving something with her chopsticks into your rice bowl. May it be her famous dumplings, or store bought char siu.

Tonight, as I see my family around the dining table, listening to my cousin embellish her misadventures in Korea, I get that warm and fuzzy feeling of home. The laughs that cause a little spitting, the uncensored second helpings, the wine in whatever mismatched whiskey glass...so unsophisticated, so real, and so loved :)