Growing up in a Chinese family in North America was a mixed blessing. I hated it when I was still living with them, but now that I am older and wiser, and with years of hindsight to guide me, in many ways, it was a boon. For example, Chinese people are way more sensible about foods than North American white people. As recently as 50 years ago, China went through a period of terrible famine. Many Chinese people who are alive today, my parents included, lived through it. As a result, they developed a very valuable food philosophy: if it’s chewable and won’t make you sick, you can eat it.

Chinese cuisine, and that of most countries in Asia, contain ways to cook anything imaginable: the fruits, nuts, seeds, leaves, and roots of any plant that grows there and isn’t poisonous; cows’ tripe, lambs’ intestines, pigs’ ears, chickens’ feet… dogs? It’s not generally considered very economical to raise carnivorous animals for slaughter (hence why Chinese people don’t really eat salmon), but if you were slowly starving to death and there happened to be a dog around, wouldn’t you eat it, too?

Eugh, gross, I’ve heard so many times from white kids at school when they saw what I was eating. Yeah, well, I think your oil-sopped pizza and can of caffeinated aspartame are gross, too, so I guess we’re even, except that I’m not rude enough to say it out loud without provocation. Oh, and also I will live longer, be healthier, and have nicer skin. I think I got the better deal.

Here is one example of something that made the other kids say “gross” : watermelon rinds. To most people, watermelons are just the pink part in the middle. You eat that and throw everything else away. But some hungry Chinese person looked at a watermelon one day and thought, “Hey, that white part’s chewable, though somewhat tough. It doesn’t make me sick, but it’s not very tasty… I wonder how it could be made more palatable?” And so the watermelon rind became a real food in Chinese culture.

Pickled watermelon rinds

a small watermelon, with the pink innards all eaten
2 cups water
1/2 cup rice vinegar
1/3 cup soy sauce
1 tbsp sugar
1 tsp grated fresh ginger
optional: 2 tsp chili flakes

To prepare the watermelon, the thin, dark green, tough outer skin should be removed and discarded. The paler, thick part of the rind should be cut into slices. The thinner the slices, the faster it will pickle.

Add the other ingredients into a bowl and leave alone for 4-8 hours. If the watermelon rinds are still tough to chew, it needs more pickling time.

Meet the newest member of my family:

We combed through most of the stores in Chinatown before finding it: an 8″ solid granite mortar and pestle. There was a sticker on it that said “Made in Thailand”. All of my readings pointed to Thai granite mortar and pestles as being the most well made, economical and effective method for grinding spices. Being in Canada, “economical” is a somewhat relative term — this guy costed me $45 plus tax, while similar sized granite mortars and pestles allegedly go for $20 in American Chinatowns. But a suribachi costs $70 here (plus ~$8 or so for the surikogi) and the Bay sells a Cuisinart blade coffee grinder for $50, about twice what it retails for in the U.S., so I guess $45 is pretty good.

With this in our kitchen, I am finally able to venture into a new cuisine that I’ve been wanting to try making at home for a long time: Ethiopian food.

Berbere paste recipeĀ 

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Where to now?

16 June 2012

So I seem to have almost totally lost interest in World of Warcraft. This is the result of a combination of many things. One is my husband deciding to quit right after our wedding — since the beginning, we have always played together, and it’s very weird to log in without him now, knowing that I won’t ever have him DPSing at my side again. The second is that, well, itĀ has been 2.5 years. I’ve achieved everything in this game that mattered to me. I’ve gotten very, very good at raiding; I’m pretty sure I’d be good enough to get into any of the world top 50 guilds, were I so inclined, and were they recruiting hunters. I’ve gotten pretty damn decent at PVP. I am going to hit the gold cap either tomorrow or Sunday, 1 month ahead of schedule. I’ve created my perfect transmog outfit and farmed it up. After that, this game is done for me. I’m not interested in achievements or pet hunting, and I’ve seen everything else.

Where to now? Well, for starters, I’m eyeing the much-hyped Guild Wars 2 with increasing excitement. I’ve pre-purchased it, and had a blast last weekend in the beta event — probably more fun than I’ve had in the last 4 months in Wow. Its worlds is new, beautiful, exciting, engaging. I like the flexibility of the character building system. I like the combat style. I like the PVP. I like… well, am ambivalent to the idea of there being no real opportunity for “hardcore” raiding.

I am keeping Clearing Trash as I still like the name. This blog will be about other things now, including, yes, sometimes, Guild Wars.