Scratching That Shitty Chinese Itch

Everyone has their shitty stuff. Things in this case books, movies, and food that they enjoy even though the quality is not…well not that good doesn’t apply because despite the word shitty the stuff is enjoyable, good, edible, fun and so on…how about less than optimal? This leaves room for improvement and does not imply that shitty stuff is bad or the bottom of the barrel.

Today was all about shitty stuff. What kind of shitty stuff? Chinese food for one. Big Rapids does not have shitty Chinese. Big Rapids has outright bad Chinese food and not bad as good, but bad as in I do not recommend that anyone eat the Chinese food in town. Take the hour to drive elsewhere. For the record, shitty Chinese is Chinese food served in malls, really shady Chinese restaurants in strip malls, and most Chinese takeout that I have had. The food is always shiny with thick gloopy sauces and while the food shares names with other Chinese or Chinese-American dishes has a taste that is similar amongst all shitty Chinese places and unique to them.

Shitty ChineseOrange Chicken, honestly that is what the menu said; menu in the sense of five pictures of shiny food with prices slapped over them. I have only seen orange chicken like this at shitty Chinese places. It does not look like that when I make it at home. It does not look like that when I pay around $10 a plate. For less than $6, it does. And you know what, it was AWESOME!

Shiny, thick, orangish flavor, thick breading, and chicken. I love this stuff. I won’t make it home, but every once in a while I crave it. In a similar way that I don’t eat fast food regularly (this is NOT a regular time of our lives), but every once in a while I have to some. A craving for shitty Chinese is worse, because there is none in town…you know, the itch you cannot scratch and all of that, but only better in the original Klingon.

itch pagh scratch SoH

-Thank you Klingon translator, but come on mice, Roman, itch and scratch? Get with it Klingons

The sauce was so thick and sticky that instead of using chopsticks to pick up clumps of rice, I dipped and dunked orange chicken balls into the rice. Maximum effort, I tell you, and so mouth pleasing good. Did it taste like orange chicken? Only in the same way as a frozen TV Dinner taste like home cooked meal; there is food and it tastes like “food,” but not like real food. Only in this case, AWESOME!

And the rice, fried it was not, but good it was. Totally not clumpy, which would have been handy, but the sauce took care of that. That egg roll, could have come directly from the freezer to fryer, I don’t care it was exactly what this shitty Chinese itch needed to be scratched. Healthy dollops of hot mustard and damn that was good. 🙂

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Cooking With Kids II or III

I love to cook. I don’t write about cooking as much as everything else, because I do not do a lot of original cooking and little bit of original cooking I have done I have already written about. What I do enjoy writing about, teaching the kids how to cook. I firmly believe that all adults should know how to cook. Not cook like they do on the Food Network shows, but how to cook some basic, easy to do and modify. Meals that do not take a lot of time. I would love to see the death of boxed-prepackaged foods and that can only happen if everyone makes an effort to learn how to cook, but that is another post.

Something that makes me happy is teaching the kids how to cook and how to behave in a kitchen. They are always asking me what I am cooking or what I am doing in the kitchen. Once the chore chart was put to use, the children really wanted to help to earn allowance money. Unfortunately, the are children and the kitchen is not a place for them to play. Which is why I had to start teaching them some kitchen basics…except, that at times I am more Gordon Ramsey than I am Nate the parent.

The first few teaching moments were more like little snapshots from Kitchen Nightmares with me yelling…not my best moments, but in my defense they were playing around and a kitchen is no place to play when you don’t know ho many ways there are to get hurt. Back to square one which started with kitchen safety:

  • Knives are sharp, here is how to hold one for right and left handed children (we have one of each). Let me tell you the left handed was a lesson or two for me.
  • Knives can cut many different ways, here are a few basic cuts. Tip on cutting board and rock the blade.
  • Fire is hot. This has covered way more than turning on the fire for the stovetop. Heat from pans, pots, steam, and so on. I haven’t thought about how many ways there are to get burned in a kitchen until I have had to explain them to the kids.
  • Do not stick your fingers in uncooked food and lick them.
  • Clean everything…then when they turn around, I clean it again.
  • Stiring is more than pushing the food from one side of the pot or pan to another. This has been one of the more interesting lessons. The children either stir to slow or stir to fast. To slow and food starts to stick or burn. To fast and food gets flung out of the pan and I have to clean it up later.
  • Dancing is not allowed in the kitchen.
  • Hold onto the handle of a pot or pan to keep control of the pot or pan. I cannot tell you how many times I have ahd to tell a child to hold onto the handle. A pot the slips is a pot that splls food, but more importantly could be a pot that causes burns.
  • Taste the food.

Those are just the lessons I can think of right now as I sit down to type after cooking dinner with two of them. A great thing about the children cooking is the pride that they take at the dinner table.

“I cooked this.”

“I made that.”

Even if all they did was push food I preped around a pot they did it and they are proud that they did it. Even better they eat the food that they cooked without any complaints. Tonight was moo goo gai pan. The kids typically are resistant to eating Chinese food even though they have eaten Chinese food for years now. Seeing the various vegeatables normally would have gotten me a chorous of “I don’t want that” or “I’m not gonna eat that.” Because I got them to help in making the dinner I got to hear,

“This is great.”

“I love these things,” pointing at water chestnuts.

There has even been talk of more cooking.

Perpetual Motion 

Whew. I just sat down for the first time in a serious relaxing way. Previous sit downs were more of the, “I’m waiting for the next thing” way. Not nearly as satisfying as it may appear. Trust me. My day begins at 6:20 in the morning. That is when I get up and a few minutes later, get the children up. Why am I getting the children up that early, because we live in an agrarian society where the kids have to accompany me out to the fields to assist me with the crops and animals.

No, that’s not it?

Then I have no clue why children under the age of 15 are forced to get up each day at 6:20 in the morning. Perhaps a form of torture or more likely the same ennui that infects most human endeavors or “That’s what we have always done, thus that is what we will continue doing despite the fact that we know better.” Honestly, I have no explanation. This school system does not have 2-hours days for inclement weather, but does have people up before 6 am to prepare for a day of learning. Doesn’t anyone read the studies which say that we are doing our children, thus our future, a great disservice by continuing to perpetuate the school day as it currently is?

Oh, I see…my name and someone from ten years ago are the only people to sign out that study.

Today, was different from normal days as I had to split the children up. One child was allowed to “sleep-in” while the others got ready for school. Of course this change was questioned. The child who slept in was headed out for a busy day with me, it was not some weird form of reward despite what the children thought. I am a hard taskmaster. Children out the door for school. The remaining child and I prepared for what I knew could be a long day.

First up, a trip to the doctor where the oldest child needed to see a doctor for his asthma. The on campus doctors office used to be very good. This school year not so much. All of the doctors who used to work there are gone, as are many of the nurses. The new staff is mostly grumpy people. That is what we were expecting and when the lady behind the counter got grumpy with me and the oldest child over his cough, I feared the worst. Then the coolest nurse in the world showed up. From her Jamacan accent, her relaxed manner, and best of all she asked the oldest what he thought was wrong while watching me for silent verification. Then they talked smoking. Why smoking, because in her words it was a silly question to be asking a child, but she had too. Then the oldest launched into a diatribe on why smoking was bad. She was laughing in tears by the she left. The doctor was less funny, but equally attentive to the oldest child and me. I have not felt like a valued parent in a doctor’s office for a very long time.

Scripts in hand we headed out to fill the scripts, take back bottles, and pick up groceries.  I will spare you the boring details other than to say I have no idea why people gave the oldest the hairy eyeball while he was smacking cans, there were spare machines and when there were more people than machines he gave up his machine without protest. We felt bad for the Pharm Tech in Training, that is what her name tag said. Of course we turn out to be the more difficult order of her morning. She powered through and we headed to the bank, where we entertained the teller talking about the value of a dollar verse the value of a penny when I was a child.

Arriving home time to cook bento stuff and dinner. Pickled daikon, curry cauliflower, chicken nuggets to go with the remaining sweet and sour sauce, and finally I was able to start the Shrimp in Lobster sauce. Or I thought I was, but doing everything before that put me behind schedule and I had to detour to pack bentos for tomorrow. And then the children came home from school. Homework time. Today was money. Ironic given that I could have taken them shopping with me and given them a real life money experience. Once homework and “how was your days” were taken care of then it was time for dinner…except that not everyone is home to eat…ugh.

A Counting of Spring Break

I did not get a tan. I did not get drunk to the point of stupidity. I did not do anything embarrassing. I did not record my exploits in film and post them onto Facebook. I did have a good Spring Break. With the exception of today’s plans we did everything we set out to do over break.

Number one on our list, relax and recharge the batteries for the last few weeks of the semester. Knocked that out of the park. Hardly any stress at all this week and what stress there was showed up at the end.

Number two on our list, get out of here for a bit. While our big plans fell apart we found time to make a few day trips to places around here. With the weather cooperating the trips were better than expected. No snow. No freezing temperatures. No surly people. Sun, wind, blue skies, and best of all not here.

Number three on our list, eat non-buffet Chinese food that I did not have to make. We did that, but it was lackluster at best. On the plus side, eating the food was part of number two, so it all worked out.

Number four on our list, play games. As a family we wanted to and needed to play some games. Star Wars Imperial Assault was our big game. All of us wanted to finish up our first campaign. We got close, two games to go. The games were fun, Darth Vader issues aside.

Number five on my list, write. I know that seems odd, but I have been writing non-stop for weeks. I knew I would be posting 1 to 3 blogs a day. A lowering of writing from 1 to 5 seemed doable and was. By the end of break not only was I writing for me, I have a plan to write a lot more. Not bad for someone who was worrying he was out of things to write about. 🙂

Number six on my list, read. I have not ben able to read more than a page or two of non-school material. I wanted to crack open the Professional Chef again, start a new novel, read Tiny Dungeon, and a whole host of other books sitting by my bed. I did that. I started Zodiac: Convergence-a lite but fun read. I read Tiny Dungeon and even cracked open The Professional Chef. Summer cannot happen soon enough for my reading.

Number seven on my list, get ahead of the game for this semester. To that end, my online portfolio is finished other than some minor tweaks. Please take a look and let me know what you think. The print portfolio is well underway and in the rest of my classes I am either up-to-date or ahead of the program.

Not bad for a Spring Break where our kids were in school and we had no major plans that worked out. I am looking forward to getting back to classes, to get them over with, and because I feel recharged. Best of all this Spring Break is my kids discovered the joys of dancing and Marilyn Manson. 🙂

Spring Break Work

Spring Break is here. Not really Spring yet, but at least the weather has decided to cooperate over the next few days. So what am I doing over Spring Break?

  • Vacation? Nope.
  • Drink copious amounts of alcohol? Nope.
  • Behave like a tourist wherever I am? Nope.

I am working. I have a portfolio due in 6 weeks. The portfolio requires my attention and I am give it my attention. One sample left to go. Several PDFs to post, but I am having fun with the remaining few. At the moment, Bondage For Beginners is a tri-fold pamphlet and Chastity Cat is looking like a sales flyer found on your window. Fun.

As part of the portfolio was redesigning my resume from something blah (admittedly it was blah) into something fun and more me. Now I have a landscape resume that is all sorts of fun and functional. Plus I can see all of the things I have done since I have been in school. I have been a very productive boy. From research to a conference to a k-12 handbook on volunteering there isn’t much I haven’t done…well there is plenty, but I have zero interest in on-campus social functions.

So I work. Between bouts of work I am playing games with the kids when they get home from school. The nice thing about Spring Break is that I get to work on my schedule at my pace. For example, I woke up finished my resume, a rough of the tri-fold pamphlet, posted some material to the portfolio, and made a rough plan for the rest of my work. If I was going to school this week, the resume would not be fun. It would be colorful blah. If I had class this week the presentation I am giving on my research on Monday would not get the attention it deservers or needs.

In a week when class meets, I will not have a tan or any drunken stories to tell, but I will be one week or more ahead of everyone else, which means I have room to maneuver as the end of the semester draws closer. There have been bumps, such as I totally blanked on an assignment. My notes have the assignment due next month, it was due this month. Thankfully the professor is letting me turn in the assignment and because this is Spring Break week I have time to get the assignment done.

Another bump was the Chinese restaurant in Mount Pleasant. We have been really craving Chinese food, there is was a good Chinese restaurant in Mount Pleasant. Sadly, times have changed. The staple-faced hostess had an attitude problem with customers and employees. Our waiter was doing his best Henry Rollins impersonation and not well. Mid-way through lunch, the cliché music you hear at any Mexican restaurant blares out of the kitchen baffling everyone in the restaurant. The food we had been dying for was lifeless in flavor and prepared poorly. Just sad.

Those bumps aside, Spring Break has been good so far. Here is hoping the rest of break goes as well, if not better.

The Best 21.88 We Spent

Have you ever forgot why you went to a place, decided to go, and shortly after you arrive remember why you stopped going? We stopped going to China One Buffet a while ago. In Big Rapids there are three places to get “Chinese food;” China One Buffet, New China, and our house. I cannot sell food, thus traffic here is non-existent. New China, the last time we went in had mold or some other growth hanging from the ceiling over the food prep and the food was lackluster. China One Buffet…

I remembered why I stopped going; I can make every single “dish” on the buffet and make each one better. Nothing says, buffet Chinese food when you know they fried a shit ton of chicken. To make each dish complete, stir fry a vegetable or two, add previously fried chicken, and toss with sauce made separately. Each sauce has the same base with one or two ingredients different to change color or add spice. Then creatively name all of the “dishes.” Serve.

AHHHHHHHHHHHHHHhhhhhhhh!

I get it, most people who enter the restaurant have no clue about Chinese Food other than what they eat there or at other American Chinese restaurants. Given the seemingly captive audience of Big Rapids, China One sees no reason to up their game. The people are happy shoveling the “food” into their mouths and the owners are happy to shovel the cash into the bank account.

Ever had wet sushi? No, that is not a new kind of sushi. It is a flaw in the making of the sushi rice. A flaw that should not be allowed to see the light of day. When wet sushi happens here, it becomes a test batch used to try out “exotic” ingredient combinations-also not meant to see the light of day. Yet, there was an entire display of wet sushi complete with a carrot roll. Yep, a roll with carrot as the main ingredient. You may try one if you wish, but there is a reason why carrot is not the main ingredient.

Barb remembered two things, she stopped going because of the food and the people (I agree with her on the people) and that while she thought she missed her old social work job, after today she remembered why she does not. We were the smallest customers in the restaurant, other than the new born who kept staring at me. Wondering if I would take it with us to escape the horrors, possibly. The thing that set Barb off down memory lane was the odor of cheap cigarettes. Make that bargain basement cigarettes. People who she used to work with smoked cigarettes of that nature. She forgot how much that odor made her nauseous and with that nausea came back all of the memories of the job that were not rainbows and unicorns. Have no fear, Barb will remain a pharmacist.

The thing I did not understand was, the buffet was not going anywhere. I did not see the wait staff pushing the buffet around the restaurant in a game of keep away from the customers. Further, the kitchen staff was continually filling and refilling stations. Thus, why did everyone and I do mean everyone feel the need to stack a plate two feet high with a variety of food? Does having a variety of food congealing together on the plate improve the flavor? I don’t and won’t know, I put one or two things on a plate, eat and go back. I do not use a fork and spoon to shovel masses of unrelated items into my maw. Watching humans eat is gross at times. This was one of those times and another reminder why we stopped going.

In the end, for 21.88 we had food-just food-but more importantly we remembered why we stopped going, why I should cook at home, why Barb will not be a social work, and why humans around a buffet can be gross. That alone was worth the price.

 

Merry Sickmas and Chinese Dinner

“Can you feel it in your lungs?” Barb asks the boy.

“Yes,” he says having another coughing fit. “Where are my lungs?”

Both children are sick and do not show signs that they will be well for Christmas.  That sucks for them.  Bums us out as the best part of Christmas is watching the kids explode with joy as they unwrap presents.  Then invariably because we are gamer parents the joy of playing whatever new game or games that they children got.

What is worse to us is that we are at the end of being “strict parents.”  See our boy made a deal with us for an early Christmas present. To get the present he would not get anything on Christmas.  He was, as we expected, overjoyed at the time he got the early present.  Two days later, buyers remorse set in.  His sister tried to warn him, we tried to warn him, but he wanted that present right then and there.  Since that time he has been very mopey that he won’t be getting anything under the tree.  So much mopey that the present he wanted early goes un-played with, almost as if he is punishing the present.

Being the good parents we are, we have been playing along with the whole “no presents until Christmas” thing.  Being awesome parents we got him a few things that we know he wants, but has no clue about.  Thus for us Christmas was going to be a double joy because he would come downstairs all mopey while our girl would…run, nope…fly, nope…teleport in a BAMF of joy downstairs to tear into her presents.  Then our boy would find presents for him.  Not as many our girl has, but she didn’t ask for anything early.

We would be awesome parents.

Alas with Merry Sickmas in full flower here, there will still be joy, but that will be tempered by fevers, runny noses, coughing, and sleepy children.  Here is hoping for a Christmas Miracle of health.

While the children continue to be sick, I am working on a Chinese Christmas feast.  Today I am making egg rolls. This, like sushi, can be an all day affair primarily because everything inside the eggroll has to be chopped and sliced into bite size pieces. The one time I was lazy with my cuts, the egg rolls tasted good, but each bite was an exercise in not pulling out the hot ingredients.  Thus I take my time.

Prep work for Almond Boneless Chicken is started, only because this will be the largest batch we have ever made. With each batch I find myself making more to satisfy the appetite of the children who love Almond Boneless Chicken. From one breast to two to three for the boy the last time we ate the meal.  This batch is looking to be six or seven breasts. In an effort to fill up stomachs some more there will be egg drop soup, the aforementioned egg rolls, lots of rice, and possibly a “side” of Moo Goo Gai Pan.