It All Started With a Clown Car – The Voyage Home

After three months, gaining ten pounds, and twelve ass gropes (groping of my ass, not me assaulting Italians); I start the journey home. I am reminded of one of the great movies of modern cinema. Homeward Bound – The Incredible Journey 

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A much belied classic from my childhood. Oh Shadow you are too old!

 

I had an absolutely wonderful time at the villa. I learned a great deal about Roman architecture and got an opportunity to sketch great Italian masterworks, both new and old. I would say that traveling to Europe was the greatest event of my college career aside from graduating, but I was happy to be going home.

I realized the day that I needed to leave that I had made a terrible mistake.  As a side note, it seems that in my life I tend to miss important details. Especially if there is excitement involved. If there is excitement. I could be naked and covered in eels and I probably wouldn’t notice. The way that it worked out was I gave my presentation that I had been working on for a month to all the students and faculty. Sat down for a moment to take a breather and overheard a conversation.

“What time is your plane?”

“8 am, what time is yours?”

“3 in the afternoon, you know the trains don’t run till 9 and you have a 4 hour train ride ahead of you”

Oh holy shit. Oh bullocks. Oh fudge. oh damn… oh shite. I haven’t packed and my flight leaves a 7 am. IN MILAN! Which means dear reader, that I need to be on a train within an hour with all of my crap from my journey here plus: six bottles of wine, a bottle of olive oil, a new purse, rolls of parchment drawings, a painting,  a agate stone, a new glass necklace, and a glass statue. Seriously I bought a glass statue in Venice. I am of the “It’s awesome, I’ll figure it out later,” variety. This also meant that I had no where to sleep tonight. If all else fails, I can create a fort out of my luggage on the side of the road and huddle inside.

Commence packing. Actually no, that is not an accurate description of what happened. Commence the fastest packing in the history of all packing. Commence chucking multiple things that I did not use this summer. Hair dryer, who was I kidding. Swim suit, I will buy another. Toiletries, I will stink. I shoved, I pulled, I sang lullabies to those bags till they closed. And close they did with the help of some duck tape.

I realized a small snag in my victory. What do I do with all the wine, olive oil, and sculpture? I bought them,  I will steadfastly carry it across my chest like some deranged wine bomb. Wine is not heavy at all! (I should have just drank the damn wine, all six bottles, and they could Medivac me to Milan.) We pile into the car. My instructor looks at my wine bomb sideways.. I smile the smile of desperation and glee.  My roommate had to fit the clown car with all of their luggage as well so she sat on my lap with her face pressed against the windshield, like a mime that is saying, “help me, we need a bigger car.”

We arrived down the hill at breakneck speed. Our combined weight, plus that of the luggage allowed the car to be pulled down the hill. I doubt the instructor had to even put it into gear. We landed with a squeal and smoking tires at our stop just as the sun was setting. It was picturesque. Trash blowing in the wind  and then getting caught on my luggage. The smell of urine and bougainvillea wafting by. A lowly mosquito landing on my arm and receiving a just death. Ahhhh Italy. How I will miss thee. I want to point out that Italy is a beautiful country full of wonderful people, but this train station smells like pee and has bums everywhere.

We hop on to the night train heading for Genova.

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The main train station is freaking enormous. Squeak, squeak, drag, drag. “Excuse me lady coming through with luggage. Oh scuzi. Sorry about your toe.” Picture courtesy of http://www.depeck.info

The train ride to Genova was blissfully quiet and empty. The air conditioner was on and it was wonderful. I created a fort of luggage around me and put my feet up. I dared anyone to say anything by sporting a manic look, and twitching a bit.  I only wanted to set fire to my luggage once at this point. From there, we took another train to Milan. Again uneventful save for dragging it through the huge terminals. At this point I have bruises on my shoulders from my “wine bomb” across my chest.

We hop on the train from Genova to Milan, then take a bus and arrive around midnight. Nothing is open. Of course we are all starving. I have learned to use the Euro, and I want to use it to buy some damn food. My flight does not leave for 6 hours. I am exhausted and have not slept in 30 hours. I pulled an all nighter the night before working on my final project. So I am slap happy. I try to play cards, but I cannot focus on anything. I go hunting for a place to wall myself up in. Low and behold I spy a space behind the elevators. My roommate and I make a wall of luggage blocking off us from view, curl into a little ball on the dirty linoleum and sleep the sleep of a child on Tylenol.

I wake up four hours later and wipe the gravel and drool off of my left cheek. It was wonderful. When you are that tired, any sleep is welcome. Even if it is behind a elevator shaft that infrequently gets cleaned. I turn my luggage in to the counter, I almost want to draw faces on the individual pieces of luggage and name them. They have been my constant companion on this voyage home. Sort of like Tom Hanks with “Wilson.” Except mine would be, “Samsoniteeeeee!” Or Sami for short. We don’t stand for formality.

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Willlllssssssooooonnnnn!

I trudge onto the plane. I smell amazing, and I pity my seat companions. The plane takes off and I leave my second home. It was the grandest adventure of my life up until that point and life changing. I will always remember the good and bad of Italy and be thankful that I took the chance offered to me to travel in college. It has shaped so many aspects of who I am now as an adult in my thirties, and I think I am better for it.

Things I learned on my Voyage home:

  1. I am not carrying anything to Europe. I’ll stuff cash and my passport into my bra.
  2. Every place I pass that has food, I am going to purchase some. I am not going to starve and live off of airline food.
  3. All joking aside, I am serious about the passport and my bra. Screw luggage.

 

It All Ended With A Clown Car

“Hey, people who travel with their bed pillow. You look insane. ” – Jim Gaffigan

I was a terrible packer and a worse traveler. That is to say, I didn’t know a damn thing about how to travel or what I was in for. All I knew was that I needed my hair dryer, curling iron, bed pillow, and a selection of hardback books. Yes. Hardback. I was flying to Italy via New Jersey, and somehow I was going to make it from where I landed, Milan, to a small Italian hill town in northwestern Italy with all of my luggage. Which included  a very large very heavy rolling bag, a second large and very heavy rolling bag, a backpack, shoulder bag, purse, and bedroll. Someone at sometime was going to meet me at the airport and guide me to my new home for the next three months. I had no idea who or when they where and when they where going to show up. I had no idea how to use the euro, or exchange rates or any damn thing. I was a traveling idiot.

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Me, but with more luggage. 
After 12 hours of flying and many time zones, I arrive at my destination. Only to sit for six hours on pins and needles waiting for someone to come get me. I finally see one of my instructors arrive off of a bus. He is carrying a single bag and looks like an avid traveler. When he sees me, he pauses. “is this your luggage?” I reply with an enthusiastic, “yes!” He sighs. He knows he is going to have to help me carry my plethora of bags across Roman-dom. (Get it. Instead of Christendom. Dumb joke, moving on.) Now in my very USA mentality, I am thinking we are going to pop into a mini-van and be at our destination in an hour. No problem. At this point I have been traveling for 18 hours straight. I was blessed with many useful abilities, sleeping in public a la plane was not one of them. So I am slap happy making dumb jokes. I look like a complete tool ready for excitement. So I grab my nearest bag, all 60 pounds of it and start to drag it to destinations unknown. Squeak squeak. Also, I might add that I have not eaten anything in 6 hours except for a Nutragrain bar I surreptitiously packed because I have no idea how to use the money.

We walk out of the airport and I am surrounded by very chic Italians going places in their Manolos. I am rocking some Nike’s and my camera. I am oblivious, and frankly I am starting to sweat. Milan is hot, I also didn’t check the weather, Sticky horrible hot. My teacher leads me over to a large bus. We have to take a bus to a train station on the other side of Milan. I lumber over, dragging my luggage. Beads of sweat are starting to rain down upon the baking pavement. I load the luggage into the bus and get on. It is a non-air conditioned bus. I have now entered the seventh circle of sweaty hell. Me being me I try to look out the window and see some of the sites of Milan. There are lots of multi-colored flags hanging out windows that say “Pace.” I had no idea what that means and I have other problems. Namely the pool of sweat I am sitting in.

Aside from that, the bus trip is uneventful. Busses seem to be the same where ever you travel to. Kinda scary, but mostly safe. No seat belts. We arrive at the train station and it is HUGE bustling place. I have never seen anything like it in the states. We just don’t use trains like this. Squeak, squeak, drag, drag, sweat, sweat. Our train is on the other side of the train station and it is packed.  So carrying 200 lbs. of luggage, and bumping into the odd Genovian, I make my way to the train. Which is of course totally crowded, I died a little bit inside.  At this point I really wanted to set my luggage on fire and damn the consequences. “Excuse me, Excuse me. Pardon me, lady with luggage coming through.” This train does not have air conditioning either, but thankfully it does have open windows. Thank god. I stick my face out of it like a German Shepard and wait for whatever is going to happen next.  I am enjoying the sticky breeze, when an older Italian woman starts yelling at me in Italian about rolling up the window. I whimper and roll up the window. I am now her bitch. I should have told her to shove it, but I did not want to seem like an asshole American. I ride the train for 3 hours. Eventually I get a seat, which is a godsend. I also had one of the coolest moments of my life. Going through a very long tunnel with the windows open and no lights. I thought I knew what dark was until I was in the middle of that tunnel. The coolness and darkness was such a relief I could have cried.

I arrive at Genoa where we are to switch trains, again. This time it is a much smaller train. Squeak ,squeak, drag, drag, sweat, sweat. I lumber on like Sisyphus with his stone. This one does have air conditioning and I am eternally grateful. We ride this train for another hour and arrive at a train station that is out in the boonies. At this point I have not eaten. I have no idea how to procure food. I am starting to get ravenous, and thinking what my instructor would taste like with bbq sauce. Either I eat him or I am going to eat my luggage.  I follow my instructor around the back of the train station and he takes me to a minivan! No just kidding. He takes me to a clown car that is the smallest car I have ever seen. I laugh uncontrollably and scarily at this point. My luggage weighs more than this car.

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Yup I think this is the car.
I need to preface the next part of this journey with, I am 6′ tall and a rather large person. So I laugh hysterically. My instructor looks at me with concern. We pack the back of the car, Jenga style with my luggage and start the final leg of our journey. Loaded down the car can’t go over thirty miles an hour and we have a big hill to climb to the villa. A really big hill. 15 mins later traveling up the shoulder we arrive at the final destination. We unload everything and I head to my room. My instructor takes pity on me and feeds me a bowl of soup and a glass of wine. Which was ambrosia. It could have been boiled horse ass and I would have slurped it up with bread.  I head into my room where my cot awaits and sleep for 15 hours.

Things I have learned on the first leg of this journey:

  1. I am not traveling to Europe again with more than a paper lunch bag sized purse. Thats it. Screw it. I’ll buy clothes when I get there.
  2. I am going to learn how to use money from a youtube video beforehand.
  3. I am going to understand where I am going.
  4. I am still going to wear tennis shoes.

 

Soon!! “It all Began with a Clown Car – The Voyage home.”

And This Little Piggy Went Directly Into a Baby Gate and Broke

I have never broken a bone. I always wondered if it was because I was ultra careful as a child or rather boring. I have sprained every joint in the body, so I suppose that is something. Ever sprain your jaw? Good times to be had for all. I never broke something til yesterday evening.

I suppose it was bound to happen. I have two baby gates up in my home in an attempt to forestall my child’s rampage throughout the house. I have whacked the shit out of my toes numerous times trying to get my leg over while carrying laundry and/or toddler. But last night was special. I stepped over the gate and brought the toes of my left foot down upon the gate with the force of Thor slamming Mjolinir with righteous indignation. Ow.

I didn’t know till the next morning that I had actually broken my toe. I woke up with a black toe and pink nail polish.  Quite the combination. The hospital confirms. They also think it is a smashing combination. This is not necessarily a goal or accomplishment. Maybe a milestone or just something that finally happened. Either way, this little piggy is getting awful comfy with another toe vis-a-vie medical tape. I would post my toe for the world to see, but there is enough stuff you can find on the internet like that. So here is a picture of a puppy instead.

 

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Oh you are a big fluffy wuffy aren’t you.  www.samoyedpuppies.net

 

Broke something. Done

 

The Redwood Didn’t Hug Back..Jerkface

Redwoods are really gigantic trees that are not found anywhere in the desert I grew up in. I looked. All we have is Joshua trees, and they lack the oomph that redwoods have.  They only get to be about twenty feet and can look rather alien-ish scary. Imagine a field of fuzzy things from “mars” all raising their arms at you.

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See …weird alien landscape.  Found this photo at HawkedBackpacking.com. 

This is my childhood, with the occasional jaunts to Mt. Charleston for some.. gasp.. pine trees. Mt. Charleston is lovely, but it isn’t the grand arboreal forests I have heard of in California. Places with trees so large that to hug one, it would take you and six friends. I love the landscape. Desert, forest, or arctic tundra. But for some reason, I was particularly entranced and interested in this one type of tree. Call it part novelty and part appreciation.

A very good friend of my, more like a sister really, is from behind the “The Redwood Curtain.” Basically as you can guess it is a barrier of these giant trees that cuts off parts of California. No pipes, or utilities can cut through. Her and I went on a road trip a few years ago to visit with her family and I got to see these giant trees first hand.

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A redwood forest, if you look really closely you can see a few sprites waving at you. No not really.

I got out of the car and Stood surveying the prospective candidates.  My friend was like, ‘What the hell?”  then, “Yea yea pick that one.” The one I picked looked particularly snide and rough. Maybe he was having a bad eon or something. I walked over to him and hugged him. I hugged him with everything in me. I hugged him with all the magic I was hoping there was in the world brought on from a childhood reading science fiction and fantasy.

and…….

Nothing happened. What should have happened is a damn Treant comes to life and takes me on a grand adventure to save the forests or something. Instead, I came away a little sticky with a few spiderwebs stuck to my shirt. The tree may or may not have appreciated being singled out and given some hugs.  Either way, I felt better. The tree was beautiful and I was so lucky to have finally witnessed first hand.

 

 

The Life List

This will be a very “listy” post. For obvious reasons, see title.  I thought it would be a good idea to get some of my goals and stuff up and crossed off. I know, super long list and it is constantly getting updated. This is by no means all of them. But a good start and I plan on writing posts about them:

 

Personal Goals


 

  1. Become and ordained Minister.
  2. Solve a Rubicks cube
  3. Fall in love and get married
  4. Have a baby
    1. Subsequent baby calls me momma
  5. Create a Rube Goldberg Machine
  6. Find a conch shell. The Conch Catastrophy
  7. Walk a mile backwards
  8. get a tattoo
  9. Break a bone And This Little Piggy Went Directly Into a Baby Gate and Broke
  10. Create and set off a thermite explosion
  11. Open a champagne bottle with a saber.
  12. Get fired, especially (but not limited to) when you’re getting fired because you want to get fired.  (Should happen to everyone at least once)
  13. Own a flame thrower
  14. Dance with my dad at my wedding
  15. Learn to BBQ some “Slap yo mama” ribs
  16. Save a life
  17. Go whale watching (Again, Thank you Bruce and Melissa)
  18. Cook a book
  19. Be able to do the scorpion yoga pose
  20. Have a hero.
  21. Be a hero.
  22. Meet your hero.
  23. Go ghost hunting.
  24. Lose 130 pounds (wow seems like a lot! It is a freaking lot. Oh well)
  25. Become a published author
  26. Have my artwork displayed in a gallery (When I was 12, but still counts)
  27. Publish a children’s book
  28. Restore a classic car
  29. Restore an old house
  30. Hug a redwood  The Redwood Didn’t Hug Back..Jerkface
  31. Start a blog! (it can be found here :P)
  32. make a 16 hour full day playlist  (I am on Spotify if you want to find me)
  33. Read a book about every american president
  34. Swim / stand under a waterfall (one in Zion pushed me flat to the ground)
  35. Ride a harley
  36. Cruise in a ferrari
  37. swim with dolphins
  38. Become a vegetarian (for 6 months, but I did it)
  39. Taste the finest wine. (Sweet surrender – from Keyways Winery)
  40. read the top 100 books (List can be found here Modern Libraries Reader’s List)
  41. run a marathon
    1. 3.5r
    2. mini
    3. 1/2
    4. whole
  42. Have 100,000 in savings
  43. Have 10,000 in savings
  44. Have 1,000 in savings
  45. Have 10 bucks in savings
  46. Own a 1971 Mach 1 mustang (have only hugged one, and drooled from afar)
  47. Dye hair black and blue
  48. Dye hair red and black
  49. Read the Kama sutra
  50. Know the names of all the American presidents
  51. Memorize the rhyme of the ancient mariner
  52. Complete a triathlon
  53. Walk a labyrinth  
  54. Help Lisa Fly in a plane
  55. Roll around in 20’s like the 3rd rate rap star that I am
  56. Roll around in 50’s like the 2nd rate rap star that I am
  57. Roll around in 100’s like the 1st rate rap star that I am
  58. Change my own serpentine belt
  59. Change my own brakes
  60. Change my own oil
  61. Rotate my own tires
  62. Fly my car 30 feet
  63. make 1000 paper cranes
  64. Attend the Nebula Awards (Thank you Bruce and Melissa. You made one of my dreams come true)
  65. Meet Neil Gaiman (I hugged him)
  66. See a major league baseball game
  67. Participate in a food fight
  68. Read 1000 books
  69. Be photographed in the Iconic breakfast at Tiffany’s pose.
  70. Get a blue box from Tiffany’s.
  71. Go grape stomping
  72. Experience a white christmas
  73. Hug a pug (Lisa, I miss your pugs. Snort snort)
  74. Watch over 100 artists live in concert.
    1. Dave Mathews
    2. Dave Mathews and Tim Reynolds
    3. Elton John and the red piano
    4. Reba Mcentire
    5. Rodrigo y Gabriella
    6. Metallica
    7. Godsmack
    8. U2
    9. Black eyed peas
    10. Buckeye cherry
    11. Cypress Hill
    12. Kitty
    13. nonpoint
    14. Cherry Poppin Daddies
    15. Big bad voodoo Daddy
    16. Big bad voodoo Daddy
    17. New Kids on the Block
    18. The killers
    19. Phil Lesh and Trey Anastasio
    20. The Black Crowes
    21. Damien Marley
    22. Godsmack
    23. Deftones
    24. Homegrown
    25. Incubus
    26. Stone Temple Pilots
    27. The Keller Williams Incident featuring Keller Williams backed by The String Cheese Incident
    28. Big and Rich
  1. Watch a Cirque du Soleil show. (Seen a few, those crazy bastards)
  2. Kiss under mistletoe
  3. Experience zero gravity
  4. Go to a drive in move (many times as a kid)
  5. Test-drive a car you can’t really afford
  6. Try on jewelry you can’t afford. (Tried on a pinky ring that cost a half million dollars)

 

You lose some, and then you dim sum.

I always wondered what the magical fascination was about San Francisco. California’s great “northern” city that is actually located more or less in the middle of the state. I was so perplexed by the fascination that I purposefully skipped visiting San Francisco five or six times as I drove the length of California to my home in Oregon. It was too much of a pain in the ass to have to deal with the traffic, hills, and the expense. Let’s just say that I am more inclined to drive two hours out of my way to see The Jelly Belly Factory (I have a weird fetish for Jelly Bellies) than to visit the great city of fog and hills.

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I have not made it yet to the Jelly Belly factory, but I will someday.

That being said, I had an opportunity to stay at a fancy schmancy hotel in downtown San Francisco while my husband was there on a business trip, so I took it. I lived THE life on the 26th floor overlooking the plebs for an entire week.

I was alone for the first few days of the trip and my folks later joined us. I have found that the best way to embrace and/or experience a new city is to do it alone and on foot. We as a viewer miss so much of the richness of a city when we do it from the protected vantage point of a moving car. The sites, smells, and sounds are muted. With this in mind, I tend to take things one step further and I try and get lost. It is a lot less scary than it sounds. Especially in the day and age of google maps and Uber. Yes, on my lost adventure I accidentally ended up at a gay/bondage book/fetish shop that was loudly and very unabashedly playing bondage gay porn on a 10′ by 10′ screen hanging in the air. The patron of the shop gladly pointed me in the right direction, I got a great story and a visual that will stay glued in my head for all eternity. Nothin says lovin like a man named Bernie wearing a studded collar and green latex hot pants.

As you know if you have been following this blog at all, I have a weird fascination with lists and I found this one. The Best Dim Sum Restaurants in San Francisco Oh sweet jumping Jesus on a pogo stick I love dim sum. To me, dim sum is Chinese for “way the hell too much food. Roll me out of here like Violet Beauregard.”

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They see me rollin, they hatin.

You are totally singing the Oompa Loompa song now, aren’t you? C’mon admit it.

I knew on this particular trip I couldn’t possibly get to all the dim sum places on the list, that would be ridiculous and something I will totally do on another trip. My husband and I decided on Yak Sing. Both because of the nearness in location and because the menu looked amazing. This is the moment when I was introduced to the soup dumpling, and my life has never been the same. Have you ever loved something so much that you want to roll around in a pile of them like a golden retriever? No? umm, yea me neither. Moving on.

Yak Sing is world famous for their dumplings. I don’t think I will ever be able to recreate this recipe. It is insanely complicated and frankly, I just would rather have someone one feed me them while fanning me with palm fronds. Here is the recipe for it in case you are feeling really creative.

Soup Dumpling Recipe

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Ingredients

SERVINGS: MAKES ABOUT 48

Soup

  • ½ pound pork skin, cut in half
  • 1 pound pork bones
  • 1 pig’s foot
  • 3 scallions, cut into 1-inch pieces
  • 1 3-inch piece ginger, peeled, thinly sliced
  • 2 tablespoons Shaoxing wine (Chinese rice wine)
  • Kosher salt

Filling

  • pounds ground pork shoulder (Boston butt; 20% fat)
  • 3 scallions, finely chopped
  • 1 garlic clove, finely grated
  • 1 tablespoon soy sauce
  • teaspoons kosher salt
  • teaspoons Shaoxing wine (Chinese rice wine)
  • teaspoons sugar
  • teaspoons toasted sesame oil
  • ¾ teaspoon finely grated ginger
  • ¾ teaspoon freshly ground white pepper

Dough

  • 3 cups all-purpose flour, plus more for surface
  • 1 tablespoon vegetable oil

Dipping Sauce

  • 2 scallions, thinly sliced
  • 1 2-inch piece ginger, peeled, julienned
  • cup black vinegar
  • 2 tablespoons soy sauce

Assembly

  • 1 head Napa cabbage
  • Nonstick cooking oil spray

Special Equipment

  • A 1″-diameter wooden dowel, a bench scraper, a ruler (optional); a bamboo steamer

Preparation

ACTIVE: 3 HRSTOTAL: 4 HR 30 MIN

Soup

  • Place pork skin in a small stockpot or large saucepan and add cold water to cover. Bring to a boil; drain and rinse with cold water. Slice skin lengthwise into 1″-wide strips, trimming any fat, then slice strips crosswise into about ¼”-wide pieces. Return skin to same stockpot and add bones, foot, scallions, ginger, wine, and 8 cups cold water. Bring to a boil, skim surface of any foam, and reduce heat. Simmer, skimming often, until liquid is almost opaque and reduced to 2 cups, 60−75 minutes.
  • Strain liquid into a 13×9″ baking dish; discard solids. Season with salt and chill until set, at least 2 hours and up to 3 days. If making ahead, cover soup with plastic wrap once jelled.

Filling

  • Mix ground pork, scallions, garlic, soy sauce, salt, wine, sugar, oil, ginger, and pepper with chopsticks in a medium bowl, stirring in one direction until it all comes together and a light film forms on the sides of bowl, about 20 seconds.
  • Cut a fine crosshatch pattern in jelled soup to create very small pieces (about ⅛” squares). Scrape into bowl with filling and mix to combine. Cover and chill until ready to use.

Dough

  • Place 3 cups flour in a medium bowl. Slowly drizzle in 1 cup very hot tap water, mixing constantly with chopsticks or a fork, until dough starts to hold together in shaggy pieces. Cover bowl with plastic wrap and let rest 15 minutes (this allows flour to hydrate).
  • Add oil and mix until dough comes together and forms a shaggy ball. Transfer to a lightly floured surface and knead, adding more flour as needed to prevent sticking, until dough is very soft, smooth, supple, and just a little bit tacky, about 10 minutes. Dust dough lightly with flour and wrap in plastic. Let rest 1 hour.

Dipping Sauce

  • Mix scallions, ginger, vinegar, and soy sauce in a small bowl; set aside.

Assembly

  • Place several large cabbage leaves in steamer, leaving about a 1″ border around the sides for steam to travel through. Lightly coat cabbage with nonstick spray (a dumpling that sticks is a dumpling that tears) and set steamer next to work station.
  • Divide dough into 4 equal pieces. Working with 1 piece at a time and keeping other pieces covered with plastic wrap, roll out dough with your palms to make 12″-long ropes.
  • Cut each rope into twelve 1″-pieces with bench scraper. Using a ruler as a guide means all your pieces will be the same size, resulting in uniform dumplings. You’ll look like a pro!
  • Working with 1 piece of dough at a time and keeping other pieces covered in plastic wrap (it’s important to keep the dough covered while you work because it dries out very easily), press your thumb into cut side of dough to flatten.
  • Dust very lightly with flour and use dowel to roll out into thin rounds, about 4″ in diameter—work from the center moving outward, applying slightly more pressure as you reach the edges to make them a little thinner. Cover with plastic.
  • Lay a wrapper across the upper part of your palm and bottom half of the fingers of your nondominant hand. Spoon 1 Tbsp. filling into wrapper, making sure to get some pieces of jelled soup.
  • Lightly spread out filling with the back of the spoon, leaving at least a ½” border. Spoon a couple more pieces of jelled soup into center of filling. Slightly cup your palm around dumpling and gently grasp edge of wrapper between your thumb and index finger. Position your other thumb and index finger ½” away in the same fashion.
  • Using fingertips on one hand, gently pull and stretch wrapper outward before bringing it in to meet opposite fingers. Carefully fold stretched area in on itself, creating a pleat. Pinch to seal.
  • Rotating dumpling as you work, repeat process to create a series of 18 pleats, leaving a small hole in the center. You’ll probably get only 10 or 12 pleats the first few times you do this; as your skill increases, so will your folds.
  • Cradle dumpling in your palm, gently rotating it and working filling upward so dumpling is shaped like a fig. This step elongates the dumpling, eliminating air between wrapper and filling.
  • Pinch edges together and gently twist to seal. Place dumpling in prepared steamer and cover with plastic wrap.
  • Repeat with remaining wrappers and filling. Work relatively quickly to keep edges of wrappers from drying out while you work.
  • Remove plastic wrap. Place steamer over a large skillet of rapidly boiling water, making sure water doesn’t touch steamer, and cover. Steam dumplings 8 minutes (10 if frozen). Serve directly from steamer with reserved dipping sauce alongside.
  • Do Ahead: Make and freeze dumplings 1 month ahead. Place on parchment-lined baking sheets that have been coated with nonstick spray. Cover with plastic wrap lightly coated with nonstick spray and freeze solid. Transfer to resealable plastic freezer bags. Steam directly from freezer.

Life list item achieved – Best Dim Sum in San Francisco

 

An Egg-ceptional amount of Umami

 

A quick post today about the powers of umami and why eggs are so awesome, or what I like to call the “damn yummy. Get in my Belly,” taste . According to Wikipedia, “A loanword from the Japanese (うま味?), umami is translated as “pleasant savory taste”” . Basically, Umami is why meat tastes so unctuous, fatty, and delicious. Or, why mushrooms taste so earthy and rich. It is a hard taste to describe. Take away sweet, salty (although salty and umami are usually paired), bitter, and sour: you will find the glory that is umami. I freaking love umami and I am a truffle-holic. If I lived in France and had a pig: hunting truffles would be my livelihood. Heck, I know that truffles grow in the pacific northwest but with my history I am more likely to find a piece of petrified cow dung and think it a truffle, than an actual truffle. I’ll explain in great detail about me accidentally ordering freeze-dried cow shit in a future post. It was hilarious… to my family..

One of my favorite recipes that revels in umami is Chinese Tea Eggs. Not only are they works of art when finished, they are delicious.  I was at the Local Lan Su Chinese Garden taking in all the beauty when I got the opportunity to try a dish of these.

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The Magnificent Koi Pond directly outside the tea house.
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The pathway leading into the tea-house

They are rather difficult to procure in Americanized Chinese restaurants. I have only seen them offered once and that was at the tea house at Lan Su.  If you don’t try the eggs, the tea house and garden are reason enough to visit. Nestled in downtown Portland, upon entry you are transported to what seems like a cloud of serenity and balance. Outside is the hustle and bustle of bike messengers going upon their daily errands, and trains and/or buses taking the hurried passengers to their next stop. But inside, the walls keep out the sound and the glorious tea and eggs make it feel like you can breathe again. I kid you not. It is transportative.

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I wasn’t kidding when I said they look like little works of art or a petrified dinosaur egg. Either works.

However if you are not one to try making your own, a daily staple of mine that is both keto and delicious is hard-boiled eggs drenched in soy sauce and sesame oil.  Amazing when you need something delicious to dance on your tongue and a nice jump from having scrambled eggs or egg salad all the time. I suggest serving them with a side of bacon, because everything tastes better with the noble swine.

The recipe that I have used in the past to make the traditional eggs is found at Saveur,  Chinese Tea Eggs (CHA YE DAN).

Chinese Tea Eggs (Cha Ye Dan)

Ingredients

12 cup soy sauce
12 cup sugar
12 tsp. whole black peppercorns
12 tsp. fennel seeds
8 whole cloves
2 whole star anise
2 sticks cinnamon
1 tbsp. loose-leaf smoked tea, such as lapsang souchong  (available from Amazon)
8 eggs

Instructions

Bring soy sauce, sugar, peppercorns, fennel, cloves, star anise, cinnamon, and 2 cups water to a boil in a 2-qt. saucepan; remove from heat and add tea. Let steep for 10 minutes. Pour marinade through a fine strainer into a bowl and keep warm. Place eggs in a 4-qt. saucepan; cover by 12″ with cold water. Place saucepan over high heat and bring to a boil; cover pan, remove from heat, and let sit until eggs are soft-boiled, about 5 minutes. Drain eggs. Crack shells all over but do not peel eggs; return to saucepan along with marinade. Bring to a boil and let cook, stirring, for 5 minutes. Remove from heat and add 2 cups ice. Let cool in marinade before serving.

Life list item achieved – Made a Chinese tea egg.