Friday 5: Happy ARSLIT

What are your favorite and least favorite nuts?

I love pistachios! They’re delicious, but I also love the satisfaction of ripping them open and dislodging the actual nut. Most other nuts I’m pretty neutral  on. I like peanuts, of course, but they’re not nuts.

What are your favorite and least favorite berries?

Strawberries are the best berries, and I love Swedish summer, when Swedish strawberries are in season. Oh, and bananas: they’re technically berries! Otherise I love most other berries, though, except for blueberries.

What are your favorite and least favorite tropical fruits?

What counts as a tropical fruit? I love mangoes and pineapple, and when I’m in the right mood there’s nothing more satisfying than a Jeju orange. I don’t think I’ve met a tropical fruit I didn’t like, to be honest.

What are your favorite and least favorite varieties of M&Ms?

Original is best, peanut is the worst.

What are your favorite and least favorite raisin-containing foods?

Raisins are a delicious treat on their own! I don’t think there’s much that’s improved by adding them. The worst is that oatmeal raisin cookie that looks, at first glance, like chocolate chip. BETRAYAL.

Friday 5: Opposite Day

A white van parked in front of neighboring rowhomes, one red and one green.
Photo by Abraham Wiebe on Unsplash

What food, normally eaten cooked, do you prefer uncooked?

I don’t know if it counts as “cooked,” or if I would say “prefer,” but I’m comfortable having my bagels untoasted.

What food, normally eaten uncooked, do you prefer cooked?

When I was a kid, all I could think about every time I made (or helped a parent make) cookies or brownies was how when I was an adult, I would make cookies or brownies and then just sit down and eat the whole thing raw.

Now that I’m actually an adult, I have zero desire to do that. Licking the spoon after I’m done scraping out the last of the batter for the cookie sheets or brownie pan is more than enough for me.

What food, normally eaten cold, do you prefer hot?

We only serve beer cold because the temperature dulls the taste of crappy beer. Anything good should probably be served at room temperature.

Also, have you heard the good news about pineapple on pizza?

What food, normally eaten hot, do you prefer cold?

Again, “prefer” is a strong word, but I can live without having my kladdkaka straight out of the oven or warmed up in the microwave. Especially in the summer.

What are your favorite dinner meals to have for breakfast and breakfast meals to have for dinner?

I don’t like to have anything dinner-like for breakfast. I generally skip breakfast anyway, since I’m not hungry in the mornings, but anything like a dinner would be too much heavy food too early in the day. The closest I get would be dumplings, maybe, but that’s it.

But I’m all about breakfast for dinner, though. Brinner. Pancakes? Omelettes? Waffles? Cereal? Yes. All of it. In my mouth.

Friday 5: Esprit

Close up of berries on a juniper bush.
Photo by Steve Richey on Unsplash

What’s your spirit animal?

I’m going to back away from that specific terminology because I’m not even remotely Native American (no, not even 1/64th Cherokee Princess). But as for an animal I relate to, black bears spring to mind. I just want to nose around the forest and eat fruit and berries all day (and as I get older, my “fur coat” only seems to get thicker and darker, sigh…). But I’m not nearly as dangerous as an actual black bear when provoked.

It was my birthday yesterday, which makes me a Cancer in the Western zodiac. According to the stereotype, Cancers have a hard, tough shell to protect their squishy and vulnerable insides. That sounds about right.

What’s your spirit tree?

I can’t relate to any tree specifically, but my mortal enemy tree is pine trees. I have a pine (and fir) allergy, which means I’m allergic to Christmas and pesto sauce. Are there other trees that hate pine trees?

Given my stature, I’m not even really tree-like at all. I’m much more of a shrub. I’ll go with juniper, I guess. We had a bunch of juniper bushes lining our driveway for years. My dad was actually planting them when my mom went into labor with me.  (Mom: “My water just broke, we’re having this baby.” Dad: “Make some sandwiches while I finish getting this one in the ground and then we’ll go to the hospital.”) Those plants are no longer with us, but there are still a couple juniper shrubs (bushes?)  elsewhere on their property, and they remind me of home.

What’s your spirit food or beverage?

“Bullsky,” or equal parts Red Bull and whisky (the cheapest bottom shelf stuff you can find). This is not an actual cocktail you can (or should) order anywhere, or any kind of actual “thing” except with a couple members of my trivia team in the US. But it’s an oddball, low-class combination with a distinct flavor that’s not for everyone. Just like me!

 

What’s your spirit weather phenomenon?

Clear skies, bright sun, 28 *C temperatures, a touch of humidity. I’m a wilting tropical orchid.

What’s your spirit passenger vehicle?

I am absolutely an off-brand knock off Mini Cooper.

Friday 5: How About a Knuckle Sandwich?

When did you last punch someone?  Alternate question: When did someone last punch you?

I suspect it was when I was drunk. Drunk Katherine used to get a little punchy sometimes. (Not seriously. Just friendly shoulder jabs.) I suspect the people I drink with weren’t inclined to return the sentiment because they weren’t into hitting women, which is an admirable sentiment.

How many of those frequent (whatever) stampcards/punchcards do you have, and which are you most likely to fill and redeem?

I have one to Details, a bra and lingerie store in Stockholm. I cheap out on everything else I wear, almost, but I will plunk down good money for a bra and you better believe that I’ll take any discount I can get on those purchases.

I also have one for SF Bokhandeln, but I rarely spend enough on one purchase to warrant a stamp, and the resulting discount isn’t really that much, so trying to fill it up would be a false economy. (Especially since any given card expires after a year.) The English Bookshop offers a slightly better deal (and I tend to buy more books there anyway) and the card never expires, so I actually fill it up now and then.

When have you had a really good fruit punch?

Does the smoothie I’m drinking right now count? Supercharged black tea (read as: I let it steep for hours, and then chill) plus mango plus bananas. When you need that caffeine hit but it’s too hot for warm drinks!

What are your thoughts on boxing?

At this point, it seems more humane (and like the participants are taking a more informed risk) than in other public and popularly sanctioned sports in the US.

When do you usually punch in and punch out?

Freelancers are never not working or thinking about work. Or maybe that’s just me.

Friday 5: Vive le Difference

Fried chicken in paper boxes.
Image courtesy Brian Chan at Unsplash

What’s a food that tastes completely unlike anything else you can think of?

This one is taking a lot of thought. I mean, lots of things have a relatively distinct taste, right? Even if everything also tastes like chicken.

I imagine surströmming is singular in its taste. (I say that having never tried it. I don’t dig on fish.) I also have a hard time with the artificial sweetener Splenda: it leaves a distinctly coppery aftertaste that ruins anything it touches.

What’s a movie that’s completely unlike any movie you can think of?

Russian Ark  is a weird but surprisingly enjoyable artsy look at the history of the St. Petersburg Hermitage that’s all one long 90-ish minute shot.

Who’s a musician or band you consider completely unoriginal but whom you still like?

I think it’s a given that most popular top 40 bands and artists cleave to the lowest common denominator instead of doing anything groundbreaking, but most of the music on my phone is popular top 40 bops (and obscure international indie bands) because it’s good workout music.

Who or what are two people or things you keep mixing up with one another?

To this day I still confuse Silent Hill and Resident Evil (the video games, not the movies). No doubt there are countless celebrities that I mix up as well, because I’m not good at keeping track of famous names and faces.

What’s something you’ll do this weekend that’s different from your normal weekend activity?

Concerning the weekend after I’m writing this, there’s a small chance I’ll be attending the Japanese Flea Market in Sundbyberg. Concerning the weekend after this will actually go up (about a month later), it’s hard to say.

Friday 5: Mist It by That Much

This week’s Friday 5 is a delightful callback to one of my childhood favorites, Mel Brooks’s Get Smart. 

If you didn’t pick up on that before, you know now!

What did you most recently spray out of a can?

Dry shampoo. I like having bangs but after about a day they get really piece-y, so I sometimes touch them up between washes.

What’s your favorite food (or food product) that’s sprayed from a can?

None of them? The options are either cheese or whipped cream, as far as I can tell, and I don’t care for either of this. I guess the cheese wins by a slight margin, as a “whiz with” is a Philadelphia favorite.

When did you last spray-paint something?

Probably when I was helping touch up a metal trash can when I worked at Lost River Caverns a million years ago.

What’s something that’s not sprayed from a can but would be pretty cool if it were?

Pancakes! Too tired to make breakfast? Just spray out some pancakes! Got a case of the munchies? Even the most chemically impaired person in the world can manage a spray can. Want to get a perfect circle every time? Just make sure the nozzle’s clean and that your aim’s straight.

What’s conceptually the oddest thing sprayed from a can?

Honestly, dry shampoo. It’s up there with dry cleaning in terms of how counter-intuitive the concept is.

Friday 5: Aroma

Garlic, chili peppers, and other foodstuffs in baskets on a market table.



What’s something you enjoy that contains garlic?

Um, literally everything?

One of my culinarily-inclined friends here grew up with sound advice from her mother: “There’s never enough garlic in recipes. You should always double however much garlic they recommend, and then that’s enough.” This piece of advice served my friend well until she tried a recipe from her garlic-loving mother that she didn’t realized was already calibrated to have an appropriate amount of garlic. Yowza.

What’s something you enjoy that contains ginger?

Probably a few things. Yujacha (Korean lemon honey tea) springs to mind. Ginger is a flavor I tolerate because it turns up in cuisine that I like (Korean), but on its own ginger is awful and I hate it.

What’s something you enjoy that contains cloves?

I’m sure I’ve had mulled wine or hot toddies or hot buttered rum with cloves at some point. No complaints. It’s a cozy flavor.

What’s something you enjoy that contains cinnamon?

There’s a scene in the short-lived, maybe-underrated show “Welcome to Sweden” (starring Amy Poehler’s little brother, with cameos from Amy Poehler and Will Ferrell) where baby Poehler turns down a kanelbulle and tries to explain to his Swedish girlfriend’s family that he doesn’t like cinnamon.

“How can you not like cinnamon?” they ask each other, bewildered, in Swedish baby Poehler can’t understand. “It’s just a spice. It’s not like Hitler.”

That moment was too real.

What’s something you enjoy that contains celery?

If you put it in a chili or a stew, I’ll eat it, but on its own celery is one of the more disappointing vegetables.

What I Did on My Summer Vacation, Day 18: Old Orchard Beach, Portland, and Fort McClary ME

Since the cabin was about two hours from Old Orchard Beach, we hit the road relatively early for bagels and other goodies at Aaron’s aunt’s house. Everyone else had made plans amongst themselves;  Theophanes and I had decided yesterday to visit the International Cryptozoology Museum. One of my Hamilton friend’s boyfriend has been there before: “It’s just, like, two rooms of stuff, and this guy following you around, telling you how Bigfoot is real. One of the display is, like, a GI Joe doll standing next to a stuffed beaver to show how large giant beavers are supposed to be.” He laughed and shakes his head; Theophanes and I looked at each other like YESSSSSS. That is definitely what we’re doing next.

Her GPS didn’t have an updated address for the International Cryptozoology Museum, which unbeknownst to us had moved to some old warehouse unit behind the Greyhound station, so we had a nice little wander around downtown Portland.

That’s a long fellow you’ve got there!

It was a cozy little wander full of graffiti and politically-minded stickers.

I felt at home here; I could imagine myself in Portland (if I ever wanted to leave Stockholm). As I texted my friend back in Austin: “The dream of the 90s is alive in Portland ME, too.”

For our one and only actual stop in downtown, we visited The Green Hand and despite the incredibly temptation I resisted the urge to buy books. Still, I wanted to get something, so I bought a little High Priestess pin and a ton of postcards.

They very conveniently had a poster by the register with directions to the new location of The International Cryptozoology Museum, so we realized our mistake and (after a fight with the parking garage) were able to rectify it.

We had a little trouble finding the museum once we were on the warehouse campus—we literally walked right past it and didn’t see it until we turned around—but we were still there before closing. It was everything I love in a tourist trap: weird and kind of grubby but incredibly enthusiastic. It’s situated in a weird place; it splits the warehouse room with a fried chicken restaurant, so we had to walk through another place to find the entrance. (It has its own door, too, but on the other side of the building.) We watched the little introductory video by the founder first (Loren Coleman, no doubt the “creepy dude” mentioned earlier), then I paid for our tickets and we explored.

The first floor is a riot of assorted mounted weirdnesses—this is the “hoax” section, which the video explains is included because the founder wants you “to be critical and skeptical.” It includes Fiji mermaids and Jackalopes and so on.

And bits about assorted species once considered mythical that turned out to be real: mountain gorillas, etc.

The infamous GI Joe (actually an Indiana Jones action figure) and beaver.

Upstairs is dedicated to hominids and the founder’s little shrine to himself and assorted cryptid kitsch.

The museum It reminded me, a little, of The Museum of Jurassic Technology in LA, in that these are both vanity-ish projects that are kind of the crystallized, refined essence of what makes their founders tick. Only The Museum of Jurassic Technology isn’t really self-aggrandizing about it and is much more about “here’s this stuff I like!” The International Cryptozoology Museum is a little more, “Here’s me, and here’s the stuff that made me famous.” Anything that made him famous: an overhead LED light that was used on a camping trip when he potentially saw Bigfoot, the computer Coleman used to write his first book on cryptozoology, that sort of thing. A wall-mounted TV plays a video of his appearance on some show or other (but we didn’t stay long enough to find out if it loops).

 

 

They have a photo op set up, and naturally we availed ourselves of it.

I spend my last remaining pocket change on a postcard in the gift shop and we decided to try to the deep-fried PB & J food truck we saw while we were trying to find the museum.

Everything sounded really good, or at least really interesting; I settled on a sort of sample platter that’s half a regular (deep-fried) PB & J and half something called a S’More: no peanut butter or jelly, but fluff and something vaguely Nutella ish. We chatted for a little bit with another customer, who was maybe itching to talk to people and so when he heard me give my name for the order opened up with a story about a woman he knew who was named, for real, “Katherine Katherine.” We talked about unusual names and doping in sports and NASCAR and then our sandwiches were ready, so we took our leave and give them a try.

The cook in the truck helpfully pointed out which sample was which; I decided to start with the s’more sandwich since the PB & J seemed to be the flagship standard. The s’more one was an absolute delight; the PB & J less so, if only because the jelly seemed to have more or less evaporated with the heat of the deep fryer, so it was essentially a warm peanut butter sandwich with powdered sugar on top.

But the s’mores one was SO DAMN GOOD.

Hunger sated, we headed back to the car to decide what our next stop for the day would be. Theophanes  had a couple suggestions, and we eventually decided on Fort McClary because it was the closest one to us. It was still an hour away, about, but we had time.

Some people from your childhood, if you meet them again as adults it’s weird and you have nothing in common with them anymore and you struggle to understand why you were ever friends to begin with. Maybe sometimes you kept an inseparable circle of BFFs. Visiting Theophanes with is somewhere in the middle. Thanks to Facebook, we’ve more or less kept tabs on each other, though we never interact one-on-one. But in person it’s fine, and it’s not weird, and it’s like: here’s this person who’s known you, if not always very deeply, forever. We drove a lot and what could have been long, uncomfortable car rides with a virtual stranger are perfectly comfortable. Silences occur and are natural, but most of the time there was easygoing conversation.

We poked around Fort McClary without paying the “suggested donation” because we’re rebels. This is all you need to know about Fort McClary:

“During the Civil War, plans were drawn for large masonry forts on major rivers, but advancement in weapons caused them to become obsolete before construction was completed. The huge granite slabs on this site remain where they lay when work stopped.”

We alternately poked around for pictures, enjoyed a view together, or stopped and shot the breeze. We quite possibly scared a couple of dudes away when the subject turned to birth control and periods. I watched the boats in the water and thought about Murder, She Wrote and drank in the smell of the ocean.

Somebody had it in for Sir William Pepperrell!

RIP Granite Wall

It’s a small and unremarkable park, but it does have a lovely view. I can understand why someone would be honored by a memorial bench here.

We decided to leave when the sun started to go down, since we still had a long drive back to the cabin. By the time we get home, Theophanes’s brother, girlfriend, and her nieces are already there. We knew that they were going to be staying overnight that night, so it wasn’t not much of a surprise; we just didn’t know what time they’d be arriving. For it being such a small cabin, though, it didn’t feel cramped with all of those people. Theophanes and I are beat (we did a lot of walking), but we hung around and chatted a little bit about our plans tomorrow: driving to Boston, Walden, Boda Borg. Neither Theophanes nor her family were really familiar with the concept of escape rooms, so I explained.

“I hope they let you out if you can’t solve the puzzle,” the girlfriend joked.

We needed an early start the next day, though, and we were seriously bushed from our adventures. We didn’t talk for long until we said our goodnights and collapsed into bed.

Friday 5: Korea Guidance

I see your pun, Friday 5. Well played.

What would be a better name for the color of goldenrod-colored paper?

What’s wrong with “goldenrod”?

Where did you get your silverware?

Either IKEA or the grocery store downstairs.

It is a weird tradition in America (and possibly elsewhere) for parents to have their children’s baby shoes bronzed. What artifact from this past week would you have bronzed as a keepsake and heirloom?

Last week was pretty unremarkable. If I had to pick anything, it might be the toy dinosaur that lives with Chuck, one of my snake plants.

I have no sentimental attachment to the dinosaur or anything. (I bought as part of a Jurassic Park costume a few years ago.) I just think it would be funny to have it bronzed. Maybe I’ll just spray paint instead?

What was the most recent ceremony you attended?

The wedding I went to in August.

What east Asian cuisine is good for your Seoul?

I lived and taught in South Korea for over two years, as I’ve probably mentioned before, and one of the (many) things I miss big time is the food. The Korean diaspora means that Korean barbecue is familiar to most non-Koreans who live in any metropolitan area that approaches international; it seems that bibimbap is also gaining traction thanks to the recent health food obsession with “Buddha bowls.”

But that is only the tip of the iceberg, my friend.

Korean street food is the best, hands down. (Apologies to all of the gatuköks and Philly pretzel carts out there, but it’s true.) My favorite in this genre is tteokbokki: dense rice cakes in a sweet and spicy sauce. It wasn’t uncommon for teachers at my first school to spring for a whole tray of these for a “snack party” after a particular class finished a level test, since they were cheap, tasty, and filling. It helped that we had a little snack shack in the first floor of our building.

A step up from street food are the ubiquitous gimbap restaurants. I don’t know enough about Korean food history to know whether or not these restaurants predate the appearance of American-style fast food chains in the peninsula, but I would guess that they did. These places specialize in cheap, easy-to-make meals and are popular with broke students and people with criminally short lunch breaks. (This is also the kind of restaurant built into Korean spas.) The backbone dish of these restaurants is gimbap (rice, veggies, and sometimes meat rolled in a sheet of dried black seaweed) and all of its varieties, but the menus always include a wide assortment of variations on jjigaes, larger portions of popular street food, and a few odds and ends. Anything off the menu here will be fantastic, though my personal favorites are dolsot bibimbap, rabokki (a combination of the aforementioned tteokbokki and ramen), and cheesy ramen. I actually don’t care that much for gimbap, ironically enough, because I’m not a huge fan of black seaweed.

When it comes to “real” restaurants, places start to narrow down their menus to a handful of specialty dishes (or a handful of variations on one particular dish). Now you have your Korean barbecue restaurants, with various cuts of pork or beef to grill at your table. I preferred the chicken stir-fry equivalent, the marinated version known as  dak galbi; sometimes my coworkers and I even went out for duck. You have seafood restaurants, with raw fish, squid, and octopus. You have, borrowed from Japan, shabu-shabu. On a slightly lesser tier, you have chicken-and-beer joints. You have what are theoretically restaurants but are really bars with obligatory anju (bar snacks, or bar more-than-a-snack-less-than-a-meal), like stir-fried rice or seafood or kimchi pancake-fritters. (These bars are usually famous for the quality of their anju, though, so having to order to be allowed to drink isn’t a problem at all.)

But for me, the crown jewel of Korean cuisine is something else entirely. The city where I lived, Uijeongbu, is famous for budae jjigae, a relatively modern invention that takes a traditional jjigae and incorporates the kind of meat found in American military MREs: sausages, hot dogs and (of course) SPAM. Unlike other jjigaes, it’s usually served with ramen and glass noodles right in the dish.

A bowl of budae jjigae.
By LWY at flickr – https://www.flickr.com/photos/lwy/2184707139/, CC BY 2.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=3402989

As far as I can tell, Korean entrepreneurs haven’t brought budae jjigae abroad yet. I guess the immediate connection with scraps and cast-offs from American military bases doesn’t really jibe with the image Korea wants to present to the rest of the world? But that’s a tragedy, because budae jjigae is so damn good. I’ve learned to make a lot of Korean food myself, to scratch my Koreastalgia itch, but the one thing that you can never just make yourself is budae jjigae. It’s a dish best cooked in huge heaping batches, tended by a watchful restaurant employee, and enjoyed in the company of others. Like, if I were fabulously, obscenely wealthy, I would open a budae jjigae restaurant in Stockholm. That is how much I love this dish. One day…!

Friday 5: Dog

Happy year of the dog!

What doglike traits do you possess?

I’d like to think that I’m an unflaggingly loyal ride-or-die friend. I’m also usually pretty optimistic (or as optimistic as being a realist gets you) and bounce out of bad moods easily, though I wouldn’t call myself full-on “cheerful.”

What’s your favorite dog movie?

I’m going to go ahead and count Babe in this one. It’s about a pig who acts like a dog and does a dog’s job in a dog’s world, so I say it’s close enough.

When did you last have a hot dog?

Probably when I had a tunnbrödsrulle from a random gatukök (literally “street kitchen”) back in the fall. For the uninitiated:

Two tunnbrödsrullar sitting next to each other on a wooden cutting board, one wrapped up and one open to display the contents (two grilled hotdogs, mayo, and salad).
Image from awesomehotdog.com

I don’t really like hot dogs at all, but in the interest of Drunk Swedish Tradition opted to try one. The standard recipe calls for two but I could have sworn that mine only had one. It’s some of the heaviest drinking food I’ve ever had; it’s not a snack, it’s a full-on meal. (These days I opt for the sit-down kebab places and go for a plate. No less filling, but more manageable. And no hotdogs.)

Who is (or was) a good celebrity dog?

I always felt sorry for the chihuahuas that got toted along in celebrity purses. Has that stopped being a thing? I hope so.

What are you doing for chow this weekend?

Friday nights are pizza nights. Saturdays I usually have tea or coffee and some sweets at my morning tutoring appointment, then a small lunch at home,  then either dinner with one of my tutoring families (usually homemade pizza or a Persian dish of some variety) or at home. Sunday will be a morning tea and snack with another tutoring appointment, and then either food at home (sandwiches, pyttipanna) or take-out at a friend’s.