November 15, 2012

zhajiang mian, franny & zooey

Lately I've been addicted to two things: rooibos tea and noodles. OK, so noodles are kind of a lifelong thing, but the rooibos tea is a recent obsession. It's so good. If you haven't had it, I implore you to try it. I love everything about it, from the color, to the fragrance, to the fact that it's caffeine-free (translation for the non-old ladies out there: I can drink it anytime). Actually, my favorite thing about it is the fragrance. Definitely herbal jelly-esque.

I've been in somewhat of a book rut lately. Too much working, perhaps. So I picked up the smallest book I could find—the only thing I had time to read last week: J.D. Salinger's Franny and Zooey stories, which I had read some years past but couldn't remember very well. This time around, I couldn't help noticing just how negatively it all begins. How mocking it is of college preppies who are self-absorbed and trying to be all deep about life and everything. The part I did remember from last time was the fact that Franny orders a chicken sandwich because she doesn't have much of an appetite.
"'All I want's a chicken sandwich. And maybe a glass of milk. ... You order what you want and all, though. I mean, take snails and octopuses and things. Octopi. I'm really not at all hungry.'
Lane looked at her, then exhaled a thin, over expressive stream of smoke down at his plate. 'This is going to be a real little doll of a weekend,' he said. 'A chicken sandwich, for God's sake.'"
It's so true. I would totally order a chicken sandwich if I didn't really feel like eating anything. It's just so boring. I know a lot of people really love chicken to death, but I am most definitely not one of them.

But anyway, going back to my obsession with noodles. If Franny had ordered noodles instead of a chicken sandwich, I think the story would have turned out differently. But I guess not everyone likes noodles all that much, so maybe I'm all wrong about that. Anyway, I made noodles for dinner. And I have to say they were much, much tastier than a chicken sandwich, even though they ended up tasting differently from what I had envisioned.

I wasn't really sure what sauce to buy, you see. I don't have a Chinese supermarket right around the corner...but I do have a Korean one. So I ended up with a Korean sauce that I couldn't really read (I think it was this). It certainly didn't turn out like the Chinese version I'm used to (which is saltier, rather than sweet), and I forgot the cucumbers (rookie mistake), but I wouldn't be averse to trying this again in the future with a few tweaks! Consider the recipe below Version 1.0.

vegetarian zhajiang mian (fried sauce noodle)
1/2 onion, minced
1 clove garlic, minced
2 squares of baked tofu, cut into small cubes
2 tsp seasoned soybean paste
dash of soy sauce
1/4 cup chopped cilantro
About a bowl's worth of noodles, cooked, drained, and rinsed

drizzle of sesame oil
2 scallions, sliced

Saute the onion, garlic, and tofu over high heat for about 5 minutes.
Add the soybean paste, soy sauce, and cilantro and continue to cook over medium heat. Add water if it becomes too thick. Throw in the noodles and stir fry until the noodles have taken on the flavor of the sauce. Sprinkle with sesame oil and scallions and enjoy!

November 7, 2012

home is a mystery

"There is something false and perverse in my playing the observer, I who have lived here as long as anyone. Still these bright streets do not belong to me and I feel, not like someone who chose to move away, but as if I had been, as the expression goes, 'run out of town.' I can remember only one person to whom that disgrace actually happened and he was a dapper, fastidious little man who spoke in what we used to call a 'cultured' voice and spent the long, beautiful afternoons in the park beside the wading pond in which the children under five played. No doubt he too went to New York, the exile for those with evil thoughts."
—"Evenings at Home," Elizabeth Hardwick
I had forgotten all about this story until last night. The narrator goes back to her hometown but doesn't feel like she belongs there. Even though she technically moved away by choice, she doesn't feel like it was really a choice at all; she just never really belonged. I guess I can identify with that.

I feel like I will always be an observer here in New York. Look at that picture, for gosh sakes. This grand city will never feel like it's mine. The closest I can come to possessing it is when I'm annoyed at passersby. Or when I've lost power in the hurricane...or when I'm cursing the snow and wishing I was somewhere warmer. In other words, it only really feels like home when I'm complaining about it like an old lady complains about being stuck with her husband. I'm stuck with it, but it couldn't give a damn about me. And that's ok by me.