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April 20, 2002
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Dim Sum, Asian Groceries, and Steamed Rolls

8:42 pm: Another nicely busy day, today. Jet got up at 1:30, ate, and then wanted to just play. I kept him until 2:30, handed him over to John and that's when John found out that Jet really wanted to play. Instead of getting quieter and quieter, Jet got more and more squirmy until John set him down and Jet immediately ran over to his toys and started playing.

John lay down on the floor to nap a little while Jet was playing and instead of just ignoring him the way Jet usually does, Jet decided to go over and bang on John's head periodically to keep him awake. That was pretty amazing. But after going back to sleep after playing for an hour, Jet stayed asleep until 8, which was a great setup for the rest of the day, it turned out. So the three hour nap yesterday wasn't that terrible a thing.

Lunch was at 12:30, we decided to leave at 10:15, with a big ice chest, to hit the Asian grocery stores, first. There were various things I really wanted to get and some of them had to be kept cool while we ate. We also were going to drop by Suavecito on the way back, so that would be just a little more time where it would be better for the stuff to be kept cool.

George was on something of a quest for the crisp, silver, dried fish that he'd found and eaten in Thailand. Since the Asian markets around here are more Vietnamese and Korean oriented, it was pretty likely that he could find stuff here. We hit the Asian Supermarket, first, and George didn't find what he was looking for, but he did get to look at the whole assortment. They did have a number of dried noodle things on sale, so I got some rice stick and other things. In the meat department, they had the cross-cut short ribs as well, in big packages. So I bought a couple pounds' worth of them.

I've been really hungry for teriyaki short ribs since our trip to LA. I finally decided that it would probably be an ideal BBQ food when we finally had to cook nearly everything out on the grill. And the weather of last week really reminded me of that. Today, though, like yesterday, was grey and cold. They'd been promising snow and rain, but it was dry all morning and mildly disappointing.

I'd been thinking of asking the grocery stores to cut them across the rib, but realized, after seeing the pre-packaged ribs here that they probably even buy them from a place that cuts them before they ever get to these butchers. They're sliced about an eighth of an inch thick, which would be very difficult with a normal meat saw, I'd think, as they're perfectly even. It's as if someone sliced across the bones with a thick bacon slicer. So it was likely that I'd never be able to get my local butchers to do that. I'll have to check the local Mexican carnicerias to see if they actually prep meat that way, too. In any case, they had them here, so I bought some. We'll probably eat them sometimes next week, as Isabel's already planned dinner for tomorrow night.

Wow, what a cool thing to be able to say. Though, admittedly, there are times when I really like being able to cook without having to watch out for Jet.

The Ocean Pacific grocery store was next, and I bought a lot of fresh things there. A big bunch of garlic chives, pho rice noodles, egg noodles for good chow mien, dried tofu and when I got to the meat counter they also had the cross cut ribs, but they were in vacuum packs and still frozen! So that was perfect. I bought one of those as well, and then wandered around the store looking for sweet red bean paste.

I got distracted by the teas and finally pulled myself away with the knowledge that I have an entire kitchen cabinet filled with pretty much any tea I might want to drink and every tea I was thinking of buying. Most of the teas that I had were far more expensive than the ones in the store, too, which was actually a good reason for me to drink the more expensive ones before they faded completely away. They are all old, though, and I really need to get through some of them. Summer will be good for that, too, and getting off breastfeeding.

I was good. I went over to the canned things section and found six different types of red bean paste and I just chose one. It was like trying to find the dried bean curd and having no idea if 'baked tofu' or 'fried tofu' was anything like what I wanted. I figured the fried wasn't, but there wasn't anything like dried or pressed or leather tofu. But the baked looked like it and the ingredients list wasn't too wacky. Still it didn't seem quite right.

I enjoyed just looking, though I got kind of confused. This is probably the one reason why I'd want to learn to read Chinese, eventually, it's just to be able to pick out the food that I really want. I guess I could have looked up tofugan, found the characters, written them on a card and then used that to look for what I really wanted, but half the items there were in Korean instead of Chinese, and half the Chinese on the products was simplified instead of traditional. So it would probably still have been mildly confusing.

George was even more overwhelmed than I was with all the dozens of dried fish choices that Ocean Pacific presented him. I guess that since it was Vietnamese and Korean oriented, this store had far more choices with dried fish than I've ever seen before. They also had had seven varieties of dried shrimp in the refrigerated section of the store. I finally just picked a small package that I might be able to use in a year.

When we were done we went into the checkout line and right there was a crate of truly ripe banana mangos, which are smaller, more orange, and sweeter mangos than the usual ones one sees in the grocery stores. The advantage to these, though, were that they were truly and totally ripe. Yum. I couldn't pass one up, and Isabel got one for her smoothies as well.

We then got into the car, after I unloaded all the fresh stuff into the cooler, and headed, half an hour early, to The Empress. When we got there, since we had so much time, we changed Jet out in the parking lot and then let him walk his own random route to the front door of the restaurant. He found the curb to be pretty daunting, so headed out into the flatlands and in the direction of the street, which no one liked, and he liked even less when he got summarily picked up and placed over the curb. But when the door opened he got intrigued and he stomped deliberately into the new place, down the hallway and gave the greeting lady a huge smile.

She looked very startled, and then smiled back and showed us to our table. We piled stuff into the proper places, took long bathroom breaks, and generally created a little settling chaos as we had plenty of time before everyone else showed up and the restaurant wasn't all that busy. The carts were moving around, and when Cary and A.J showed up ten minutes early, we started on some appetizers. Of course, everything being served could be an appetizer, so we just got a few plates of things and just started eating one or two things, as slowly as we could, given how hungry we were.

Mai showed up next, and then Bob and Andrew, and that's when we piled into the food in earnest. We had most of the usual stuff, and enjoyed every bite. Jet ate like there was no tomorrow, and really enjoyed the rice soup/shee fan/jouk with the 1000 year eggs, bits of Chinese donut, and flecks of scallions. He ate nearly half a bowl of the stuff along with various dim sum innards, chestnut jelly, and spears of Chinese broccoli. I was very impressed at how he was eating, and Isabel just kept feeding him as he wanted to eat. Wow. Very, very different from the first week when they were here and he'd eat nothing. We were all pretty glad, and Jet had a great time sampling things, so wasn't bored at all or crabby until we'd been there nearly two hours.

Okay, we didn't eat the whole time. We talked a lot, too. But it was great to talk with Cary and A.J. again and with Mai and Bob and Andrew and to find out how Mai's business was going, and how A.J.'s kids were doing and what one does with older kids and their allowances and all that stuff we'll have to deal with eventually.

I enjoyed the interaction. I've missed having lunches with Cary and Bob the last two weeks and I felt it. It was just really nice to just talk with them again outside of a meeting.

Jet finally did get cranky, but more from tiredness than any lack of food or things to interest him. I finally nursed him at the table while everyone was talking and he just fell deeply asleep while doing so. I felt better, and he obviously relaxed really well and when I carried him out to the car he settled into his seat with only a sigh. He was fast asleep as we went to Suavecito and got a good picture of George in a Zoot, and John got to trade in a belt. They didn't have the color of dress shirt that I wanted, and they didn't have belts with silver buckles, so I'll just have to do that some other time and at some other place.

Home again home again, and Jet went into our bedroom and then we followed for an hour and a half long nap. It felt very, very good.

John and Jet left the bedroom before I did, at the ninety minute mark. I lay there and thought about getting up but was so tired, and I thought about cooking, but I was so tired. Then I realized that this would probably be the last time in a month and a half when I'd get to cook without having to keep at least one eye out for Jet. I got up.

I love cooking when people are here to watch Jet. I don't think I said this to my Mom and Dad, but I probably will next time they come to visit, but I really enjoy cooking and I so rarely get the chance to cook without having to stop for Jet. So next time they're here, I'll have to ask them to watch Jet and let me cook. I made the teamed rolls that Mom taught me the last time I was in San Diego, and it took a while, but it was really fun and Isabel was fascinated by the process. I did show her everything. I only put seven things into them, four scrambled eggs, one package of transparent noodles, one 12 ounce package of frozen spinach thawed and squeezed dry, 3/4 c of reconstituted from dry shitaki mushrooms with the stems removed, a pound of ground pork with a bit of soy and wine cooked and crumbled, a pound of garlic chives, and two tablespoons of the dried shrimp that I'd powdered in the food processor. All the other ingredients were chopped fine and evenly and then I mixed in soy, wine, and a generous amount of sesame oil.

I called my Mom in the middle of all this to double check the amount of flour and I was glad I did, as the recipe and what she said differed by a mildly significant amount. It was also good to talk with Mom and Dad and they actually offered to do more than just the first week in June. That was really cool. It was also really nice to have them both say that they enjoyed reading the journal and finding out more about how Jet was doing. I was glad that they like the journal, as it does take some work to get everything up.

I ended up finding that I needed to do one cup of flour per roll from Mom and that was what I really needed. Four cups of flour and 12 ounces of boiling water with two ounces of cold, and I had enough dough to make four disks more than a foot in diameter, which each got spread with a quarter of the mixture, rolled up and then steamed for thirty minutes. It was a whole lot of chopping, prepping, and then dough manipulation. But it turned into some really good eats, and George and Isabel enjoyed them greatly along with John and even after the rather heavy lunch we did finish off two of the four rolls. Yay!

John was also really nice and recorded Good Eats for me, when I had messed up the time for the recording. Luckily, they showed it twice in the same evening, so we got the good one. Isabel was a real trooper and did all the dishes. Thank you!

Jet ate some of the rolls, too, but by the time dinner was done he was pretty tired. He did, however, get his Saturday bath. He wanted it so much he tried to climb into the tub with his clothes still on! I'm glad of that and I'll keep encouraging his liking of bathes. There will be a day when I'll be really happy that he *wants* a bath, I'm sure. Isabel and George and John gave Jet his bath and me a little time to catch my breath before Jet came down to nurse and go to sleep. I really needed some time with myself and spent some time after Jet was asleep just reading my books

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