The other day I was walking back from Carrefour ("The French Wal-Mart") and picked up this odd concoction for lunch. It's a spaghetti sandwich, believe it or not. That's right, a hoagie bun filled with spaghetti, your choice of meat sauce, lettuce, and topped with thousand island dressing. I was surprised to find it quite delicious. Maybe I'm just missing spaghetti. A side bonus was that, while trying to figure out the menu, I learned the words for beef (牛肉), chicken (雞肉), and pork (豬肉). There was some hiragana on the food stand sign, so I'm guessing this snack has Japanese origins.
Speaking of Carrefour, I got this little 2.5 gallon fishtank there. On sale. And, typical of sale items at Wal-Mart-type stores, the damn thing leaked when I set it up. So Saturday I took it back and got a replacement. I tried to dazzle them at the customer service counter by telling them in my just-memorized Chinese that the tank leaked, but they weren't exactly impressed, nor did they seem surprised that yet another
Saturday night I was going to try out my new hotplate and make tom kha gai, but I decided to save that for Sunday. Instead, I went to a food stand down the block and picked up what you see here: Taiwan's famous braised beef noodle soup (紅燒牛肉麵), fried dumplings (鍋貼), and my favorite refreshing drink, iced grapefruit green tea (pu2 tao2 you4 綠茶...don't know all the characters).
So, Sunday was a holiday for Dragon Boat Festival. I had heard that there was going to be a Chinese Opera performance of the Madam White Snake tale (one of the legends associated with the Dragon Boat Festival) on Sunday evening at the park down the road. I had spent the day cleaning my apartment and then walking to the pet store to get some fish for my new non-leaking fish tank, so I was kind of tired and almost begged off going. But I forced my lazy butt out the door, and am I glad I did. On my way to the park I passed a pile of furniture that someone was throwing out (this is common) and found this cool wooden hotei (laughing Buddha). It's got a crack in the base, but it's still solid (and heavy) and now looks great in my apartment. Score!
I got to the park a half hour before the opera started, thinking that I would get close to the stage. Wrong! I must have been a half block from stage, standing in a mob of people. I later found out that the TV news reported an attendance of 100,000. Fortunately there were some of those Jumbotron TVs set up, so I could still see what was going on, although I didn't understand a word of it. I stayed until 9:30pm, but by that time my back was killing me so I walked home. I don't know how long the performance continued after I left. It was an interesting experience, but now I know why most of the students and coworkers I spoke to later said that they stayed only a few minutes, or else didn't bother going and just watched it on TV. The video clip here is dark, but it'll give you some idea.
Sunday night I got home and was really tired, but then I realized that I had to cook up that tom kha gai before the chicken went bad. The photo here looks like I'm ready to go, and I was, but things don't always go so smoothly for me. The just-purchased hotplate would not work with the just-purchased non-stick pan. Unknown to me, the hotplate works by electromagnetism something-or-other, and it will only turn on when something magnetic is touching it. I do have another pan that works--you can see it in the photo--but it's a thin, cheap piece of crap that burns everything. Time to use my MacGyver resourcefulness. I quickly looked up the Chinese word for "aluminum foil" and went to the Family Mart on the corner and picked some up. Didn't work. The hot plate would heat up the foil, but as soon as I put the pan on top of the foil, the thing would shut off. I tried using the metal rack that came with my steamer. Same story: The rack would heat up no problem, but the hotplate would shut off as soon as I put the pan on top of the rack. So I ended up having to struggle with the thin, cheap pan; it was all I had that would work. Then, my
I got to talking with a student at Richmond and found out that he plays mahjong (Reminder to self to learn the characters for that). I told him of my desire to learn the Taiwanese rules and to join a game sometime. He told me his family plays all the time, just for "friendly stakes" of NT$50 (US$1.50), so we exchanged email addresses. He was surprised to meet an American who likes the game. Obviously he hasn't seen my mahjong-inspired decor.