i wanted to title this post curry me likesa but i restrained myself

I’m  visiting family in Malaysia, and last night we made curry laksa.

Not from scratch. Let’s not get hysterical. I bought a paste from the local Tessco along with coconut milk and fresh longbeans and sprouts and silken tofu (supposed to be firm but I couldn’t find it…or it was there and I can’t read Malay, which is completely possible) and fried tofu and fresh shrimp with heads and long, long antennae and all, which gave my sister-in-law a bit of scare when she pulled them out of the grocery bag expecting produce, not sea aliens. I put my brother on shrimp duty, because I had to do it last summer in a thai cooking class and I wanted to share the wealth, though in fact beheading, deveining, and peeling shrimp might not be like wealth at all and does not appear to improve upon repetition.

No, I mean, I was willing to do it, I just had to get everything else started first and…it worked out that those things took the same amount of time as shrimp duty. It wasn’t a scam, Erik, I swear.

I learned from the thai class not to overdo the coconut milk (blech…it can get way too sweet really fast), so used more water to thin it out and stir-fried the beans, sprouts, shrimp and tofu, then piled them on the noodles in a bowl, poured over the curry sauce and topped with fried tofu and sliced hard boiled eggs.

I think it turned out great! And I am not dissuaded by the fact Erik reminded me afterwards that there are, in fact, a lot of Malaysian restaurants in Malaysia that serve curry laksa and do not wreck your kitchen or require you to spend an hour mangling sea aliens. I feel there’s value in learning how to do that at least once. I’m stocking up on curry laksa paste before I leave.


actually, i’m not 100% sure about the census

I’m a person that gets road rage. Intense, shrieking, cursing at the top of my lungs, threatening violence kind of road rage, and it’s not mitigated by the fact that it’s primarily as a backseat driver, and most of my rage is directed at Other Half, the usual driver in the car I’m sitting in. Other Half drives like a geriatric hell-bat, which is to say, somehow both slow and reckless. I don’t know how to explain it. He weaves in traffic but drives far less than the speed limit; blows through stop signs but rubbernecks at parallel parkers, driving so slowly by them I finally feel compelled to scream, “WHAT are you doing? GO!”

“You scream too much. What’s wrong with you?” Is his reply.

“I can’t help it! It’s my Latin temper, you know that.”

“You’re not Hispanic,” he says.

Oh. Oh, he knows, this is a sore spot for me. I am too Hispanic. My grandfather was Mexican, my father is half Mexican, half American, and that makes us 1/4 Hispanic, which totally counts in census surveys. It’s just hard for most people to realize, because my siblings and I are LOLs, less obvious Latinos, what with our being overly Caucasian and not speaking Spanish and all that. That last part is extra tricky, we know. Still, it’s apparently impossible for most people to understand that Hispanic is an ethic designation, not racial; they want you to look a certain way, and that way is, for example, Sofia Vergara. Which is hilarious, when you think that Sofia Vergara is a natural blonde and had to dye her hair brunette to get work as “Latina Woman”. Only when I joined the Hispanic Law Students Association in school was this not a problem; all the other LOLs in the organization seemed unfazed.

I have an American mother and was raised on a farm in Tennessee, all in English, so I have no real connection with our Mexican roots. This used to make me furious. I distinctly remember coming home from school the day we learned about the Day of the Dead festival, slamming my backpack to the kitchen floor and shouting accusatorily* at my parents, “Why don’t WE celebrate Day of the Dead? Why don’t we speak Spanish? We are the most half-assed Mexican-Americans in the country!!”

 “Eh,” my dad says, “Day of the Dead isn’t big in Mexico.”

This is what we had to deal with.

Several of us studied Spanish in high school or college, but we’ve never become fluent. My brother lives with a fluent Spanish-speaker (she is more obviously latina…show-off.) and I am pretty sure he still speaks the same 5 or so words he would’ve remembered from Lesson 1 of a Learn Spanish in the Car! tape set that I may or may not have given him back in the mid-90s. Another brother somehow found himself head of the Latin American division of a large corporation, the only non-Spanish speaker in the department. They had to run the meetings in English when he was there.

I know it’s not too late, of course. People do learn foreign languages as adults. We could actually apply ourselves and try to be slightly-more-obviously-latino, though I am not sure what to do there’s about all the blue and green eyes in the gene pool. Learn Spanish in the Car! must be floating around in someone’s glove compartment. Plus it might distract from Other Half’s mind-boggling driving skills (and I mean mind-boggling in a maddening, insane, wholly negative way) – I know, he’s probably right about me screaming so much. If I’m going to have a Latin temper, I should at least be screaming at him in Spanish.

 [* Enjoy that virtually unused adverbial inflection of the rarely used adjective “accusatory”.]

maybe i post on thursdays

..or, I just can’t keep track of days. Slackest. Blogger. Ever.

this is a post about tomatoes. i’m starting to be concerned that maybe i am not, in fact, going to win a pulitzer.

I am ordering a cobb salad at a cafe for lunch. But add avocado, and no tomato, please. Her hand hovers over the buttons and she lifts her face to eye me incredulously. This is also the face I get when I order bacon on my veggie burgers.

“No tomato?”

No. I say. No tomatoes.

“Are you allergic?” Skeptically.

No. I just don’t like them.

Frown. Really? “Ok. Fine. No tomato.” You degenerate.

I have a slew of pet peeves. I don’t like people who overuse their car horn. I don’t like it when someone makes a show of correcting other peoples’ grammar or pronunciation. I hate when the DVR won’t let me fast forward through commercials. (I’m already exhausted trying to follow the erratic character development in Glee, ok? I truly do not need to see the same movie trailer 18 times in a row.)

But the thing I hate the most – my number one pet peeve – is when people get mad at me because I don’t like tomatoes.

You’d think that would be a relatively small number. Who possibly cares about such things?

Well, it isn’t a small number. Apparently, America is made up almost entirely of rabid tomato fans.

“You don’t like tomatoes?” They gasp in horror. “But how? Why?”

I dunno. I give some vague answer about how it’s probably a texture thing; you know the slimy inside and the crispy outside…and the seeds? Actually, I don’t really know why I don’t like tomatoes. I just don’t. No, not cherry tomatoes either. I am largely indifferent to sundried. Yes. YES! My God! I know about organic heirloom tomatoes at the farmer’s market! Stop telling me! I don’t like those either!

They regard you with exquisite dismay. Sigh heavily. “Well,” one of them will inevitably say, “my mother grows heirloom tomatoes in her garden and I can tell you, they are the best thing ever.”

Worse than the incredulity, are the people who want you to “grow up” and accept tomatoes as a regular part of an adult diet. This depresses me beyond measure. Adulthood means I am forced to eat all the things I dislike? Isn’t that what childhood is about? I thought becoming an adult means you have a certain amount of autonomy. I mean, we agree that it turns out you don’t actually get to do everything you want all the time, as we believed when we were ten; you still have to get up early to go to work, and and attend weddings of people you hardly know, and drive a safe car with passenger side airbags instead of an open Jeep with a surfboard in the back (that was a hard one to let go of). At the very least, however, was the promise that you didn’t have to eat stuff you hated and you could have ice cream cakes on completely random occasions if you felt like it.  So, I eat my fair share of veggies and pay my taxes. I have a mortgage and no longer wear miniskirts in public. I exercise regularly, drink quite moderately (drunken Ken Burns experience was an aberration, I assure you), sit through the entire baby shower, separate my whites, line dry my jeans, read “classic” books instead of trash, foreswear white zinfandel, grimly endure an annual showing of the Oscar documentary “shorts”.

However. There are some lines to be reasonably drawn.

“Stop picking off the tomatoes,” these people will snap, “you are such a child!”

Oh, screw you, I think, as sweetly as I can manage, which is not very, and by the way, I’m having ice cream cake for dessert.

Worst of all, however, are the people who insist you will love tomatoes if only you will try their “special recipe”. Their “special recipe” invariably consists of sliced tomatoes, basil, and fresh mozzarella, drizzled with olive oil. First of all, I find myself explaining, in slow, even tones, that is a caprese salad, and it is in every Italian restaurant in America, if not worldwide. It is not your “special recipe”. And secondly, there are only 3 major ingredients in this salad, and one of them is tomatoes. I don’t like tomatoes. I’m not going to like this salad.

“Try it!” They insist. “You will love it! I’m telling you!”

Indeed, I will not, I warn them.

“Trust me! Just try it! Try it!” Etc., etc., and finally I give in and say, fine, I will not like it, but I will try it for you and they are so pleased and I take a bite and they look at me expectantly and say, well? And I say, yeah, no. I don’t like it. And then they get mad.

Those are the worst.

No, wait! Actually, the worst might be the people who give you such a hard time, and then turn out to dislike something fabulously delicious that no sane person would ever willingly reject…like, say,…cheese. Who’s the wackjob NOW?

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