Monthly Archives: November 2013


thanksgivingWhen I was a kid, there was always a Thanksgiving pageant where the class dressed up as “Pilgrims and Indians”.

The Pilgrim costumes were made out of construction paper and the Indian costumes were made out of old, brown, paper bags.*

I never, ever, got to be a Pilgrim.

I’m assuming the kids now dress up as “Pilgrims and Native Americans” but  Googling “brown paper bag Native American costume” shows that the fine craft of paper bag tailoring continues to be practiced today!

Growing up, we always had a kitchen drawer devoted to used bags, ready for all kinds of couture needs. However, I wonder if now paper bags are in shorter supply because many people use reusable bags?

Happy thanksgiving everyone!

*Even in our imagined past, we shafted the Indians (”We”re taking your land and giving you smallpox! Enjoy!”)


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Discovery #4 about LA vs SF: differing access to dim sum

After moving to Los Angeles, I was happy to discover that there was an active food culture here as well.

In fact, there is not much that I could get in San Francisco that I can’t also get in LA.

BUT…it is less convenient to get to in LA.

In LA, the best Korean food is often in Koreatown, the best Japanese food is in Little Toyko, etc. Since most neighborhoods in LA are about 45+ minutes away from each other, this does not help me much for cheap, tasty, weekday dining options.

In SF, this is not the case. A good Japanese restaurant is close to a good Chinese restaurant, which is close to a good Mexican place.

And the best Chinese restaurants are not in the tourist Chinatown, but off in the foggy avenues, away from crowds or interesting architecture. The avenues, most notably around Clement and Geary, and Irving and Judah, are packed with Chinese restaurants, Chinese takeaways, and Chinese dim sum bakeries.

I really, really miss the bakeries. You could get a ridiculous amount of BBQ pork buns, shrimp noodles, taro puffs, and turnip cakes for about $10. And a big bowl of jook (Chinese rice porridge) for about $2. And while some were better than others, they were all pretty good.

Now that I’m living in a place that requires a significant journey instead of 5 minutes to get any of these things; I wonder why I wasn’t eating dim sum every day when I lived in SF. *

My sad workaround to get a facsimile of what used to be extremely convenient, is to buy frozen versions of these items. Trader Joe’s sells BBQ pork buns which are decent. But their recommendation that you microwave the buns under a damp paper towel if you don’t have a bamboo steamer? Pfffffft! They turn out rubbery.

However, I found this works perfectly!


I got it in Japantown years ago. I put a bit of water in the bottom, and the little, vented, white tray sits above the water, keeping the BBQ bun from getting soggy while it steams in the microwave.

I have yet to find a suitable substitute for the roast duck that hang in the Chinese takeaways though.

*and then I remember, “oh yeah. Because I didn’t want to gain fifty pounds.”


Filed under food, Los Angeles, San Francisco

Personal Peanut Allergy

Recently, I was thinking about bias. You know, when you meet someone that you just don’t like, and there’s no logical reason.

I mean, there isn’t one if you actually sat yourself down and thought about it

But most of the time, you don’t think about it; you go by your “gut.”

And sometimes, that’s okay. Maybe your gut is remembering that the creepy dude at the bar looks like a wanted poster you saw recently.

So obviously, I’m not talking about those potentially life threatening instances. I’m talking about those random moments, when you meet someone and just don’t like that person, even though you know that they are harmless.

Here’s the thing about being human ; if we don’t have a good reason, we will make one up. We will imagine an insult, or decide that person talks too loud, or is too much of a pushover. Pretty much anything to vilify (even slightly) the other person so that we don’t have to admit that we have no real reason.

The problem with irrational biases, is they are about as difficult to overcome as they are unfair. Perhaps you really don’t like that person because he reminds you of the kid who bullied you in third grade. Or you’ve never liked tall people because they make you feel short, and you were picked on for being short.

These examples sound ridiculous, except that not everyone knows or remembers the origins of their likes and dislikes; they simply all get bundled into the general business of living.

The first step to trying to overcome irrational biases, is of course, to acknowledge that you have them. Most people don’t like to admit that they’re biased, much less irrational. But perhaps it would make you feel better to know that just about everyone is irrational about something; it’s a side effect of being alive.

Obviously, if you’re irrationally biased about entire groups of people, you really should work on it.

But what if it’s just something mild? Like you don’t hate the person, but he has an annoying tic that drives you up the wall? What then? It’s not like you’re unaware that this is an irrational bias, but if you have to hear this dude chewing loudly one more time, you’re afraid you will punch him.

If you’re like me, this kind of awareness often comes with a heaping dose of guilt. What does it say about you, that you cannot overlook this admittedly minor fault? What if you know said loud chewer regularly donates his time to saving puppies? You must be a terribly petty person! Which is another reason to dislike this person! He makes you feel petty!

This is how I manage it.

Try to think of your dynamic with this person as, say, a peanut allergy. There’s is nothing inherently wrong with peanuts. In fact, you would be the first to acknowledge that the peanut is an amazing source of low cost protein, as well as a beloved addition to chocolate and many baked goods.

But unfortunately, you’re allergic.

Not deathly allergic, but certainly enough that you need to be aware of it and limit your exposure.

What would be irrational is to blame the peanut for your allergy. The peanut simply is, it hasn’t done anything wrong. Your allergy is your responsibly to manage.*

Realizing that you are not required to like everyone, but you should show a basic level of civility (be responsible for your own reactions) is very freeing.

It also makes it feel much less personal when you realize someone doesn’t seem to like you through no reason you can fathom. Perhaps you are their peanut allergy!

There’s only a problem when people act like they’re going to go into encephalitic shock when running into someone. I do think some people really are toxic** to each other; and my advice is to never invite them to the same party.

Or if you must, see if you can also invite your social equivalent of an epi-pen.

*It occurs to me that I enjoy using food as analogies for emotional states. It gives a whole new spin to emotional eating, I suppose.

**Always keep in mind, there are also those unfortunate people who are more like arsenic, or one is bleach and the other is ammonia; two things that should never be mixed in close proximity. Avoiding these people is not cruelty; it is self preservation. Just make sure to at least ask the question: arsenic or peanuts?


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The bar’s been set, and no, you can’t reach it

People in LA are, to quote Zoolander, “ridiculously good looking.”

It’s a bit like living in a television show…not something from the BBC, mind you, which still manages to cast ordinary looking people in their shows. No, this is like being in a perpetual episode of “90210”, the old one or the new one…it doesn’t matter. Point being, it’s very easy to feel below average here.

Years ago, I was in LA for a business trip and I found myself in the elevator with Tyra Banks, she of supermodel stardom. Before Tyra had entered, the other occupants of the elevator had seemed quite normal. Suddenly, it was as if we were all unwashed, covered with lint, and my goodness..don’t we look tired? The elevator was conveniently mirrored so we could appreciate the abrupt nosedive our appearances took.

In some parts of LA, every day is like being trapped in an elevator with Tyra Banks. A few weeks ago, I got coffee in a place where there was a woman who looked like Frieda Pinto, if Frieda Pinto was less attractive.

Remember when you were in school, and some classes graded on a curve, but there was always that one kid who ruined it by getting 100%? Well, that’s what LA is like, except a lot of people are getting 110% in looks, so the average here is so skewed that normal can look almost disfigured.

I can imagine what it does for the reluctantly single, as everyone walks around feeling entitled to someone who looks like they belong on a magazine cover. I mean, why can’t I have one?!? Look, they’re everywhere!

We can discuss personalities later…


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Creepy chocolate…

Honestly, would you buy chocolate made by a guy with this expression?

He looks Will Ferrell, if Will Ferrell had just killed someone and hid the remains in a bubbling vat of chocolate.


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