December 27, 2005


It is approaching 4:30 pm on the Tuesday after Christmas and I can feel the slime of day 2 sans douche creeping over me. Christmas was good. I made a ton of food so that Paul and I could gorge ourselves. Christmas dinner consisted of Beef fillets wrapped in pastry, potato and onion gratin, green beans with roasted fennel, and leftover pumpkin bars. Here I am again recovering from another belligerent drunken night spent overeating. The 3rd in a row, in fact.

We spent yesterday afternoon in Chinatown. We mentioned to Ku, our friend from Taiwan, that maybe sometime we could check it out and yesterday was the day. Plus, he offered to make us dumplings back at our apartment. So, despite the shit weather and the fact that it is completely on the other side of town, we got our lazy asses out the door and were only 25 minutes late to meet him.

The first Chinese market was chaotic and crowded to say the least. There were walls stocked with strange leafy produce, cans of who-knows-what, and strange packages of candy that really just look like sugared beef jerky. We ended up buying some beautiful baby bok choy, yellow chives, 2 huge bunches of mint for 72 centimes or something, soy sauce, chili paste and sesame oil. Now, I am all for using the best ingredients. I appreciate having deep green olive oil over the gallon bottle of clear stuff. But, I did have to raise a stink when my husband got all carried away in the store talking to Ku about soy sauce. I could see his face change into that of a boy asking for a bigger ice cream cone than he needs. I knew I was going to have to take him down a notch. I could see that he was just repeating the English said to him, but I was still a bit offended with what I heard. "Ku says that in Chinese cooking, the seasoning is very must use the best quality." I barely cut off the "oh, reeaally!" bursting from my throat. Instead I do what I do best. "Well, honey, I appreciate that, but really, we don't have anywhere to store that 8 Euro vat of superior soy sauce or that wine bottle of sesame oil. After all, we don't really cook this way that often." It was too late. Paul was already 6 months down the road, seasoned wok in hand.

We trekked from one store to the next searching, in vain, for the correct dumpling wrappers. Ku discovered from one of the shop owners that perhaps they sold them near the metro Pyramides, an area with many Japanese shops and restaurants. We took the metro 17 stops over there and then another 2 lines before we got home.

This was turning into a long day. I have to admit it was fun, though. It hasn't happened to us in a while, but it was really nice to discover something new from someone who is very enthusiastic about showing it to you. The dumplings were amazing, filled simply with ground pork, chopped yellow chives and seasonings. The good news is that we ate really well.
The only real spoiler to our culinary adventure was that our French landlord had to come by to get his monthly wad of cash from us. I had just popped half a dumpling soaked in garlicky hot sauce in my mouth when he knocked on the door. I was trying to be pleasantly oblivious to both the disarray and strange smell I'm sure our apartment had taken on. As a Frenchman, I'm sure he was uncomfortable on a few levels, but, as a Frenchman, he makes me uncomfortable on a few levels so I decided not to care. If you know me at all, you'll realize that when I "decide not to care" about something, I'm already a lost cause. My contempt started the month before when he made the "comment."

The first time the Frenchman said it it bugged me. I was arguing it over silently in my head so as not to bother my husband with it or hear "don't worry about it," which is never a possibility. So, last night I joked that if he said it again, I'd slap him. Therefore, he had to say it. "It's quite hot in here," he said while wrinkling his face up in disapproval. The problem is that our electricity bill is in his name. He gets the bill; we pay him, no problem. Well, it so happens that a lumpy American couple with 2 computers, a love of cooking, watching TV and being comfortably warm runs up an electricity bill a bit higher than that of a workaholic single man who is probably only in the apartment to sleep. "I'm never cold," he says. I fight back another, "oh, really?" and say nothing. I want to mention that between the drafty windows, rotten floorboards and 100 year old construction; perhaps the electric space heaters aren't really doing the trick. That is, if you actually live in this apartment. Anyway, I'm being petty and I know it, so I let it go. And by that I mean I stay up half the night thinking about why I'm justified in my anger. Maybe we do use too much electricity. Maybe we shouldn't indulge ourselves in being constantly warm. Maybe we are just piggy Americans who consume and consume until there's no energy for the rest of us. Bah.

Before I know it he is gone and I am free to stuff another fat dumpling in my mouth. Yum.

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