a teatray in the sky

學做鳳梨酥 (learning to make pineapple cakes)

Posted in 5D Mark II, Food, Photography, Taiwan by firthefirst on February 21, 2012

much of chinese cooking is, to this day, shrouded in a ninja-like mysteriousness, unless you are a chinese woman over the age of 45, or a chef.  it probably has something to do with the fact that asian mothers are notoriously bad at communicating verbal instructions, and a lot to do with the fact that they don’t measure anything.  how much salt do I put in this?  how long should I soak the meat for?  what is the name of this vegetable?  you feel like you are conducting a telephone survey, but a lousy one, where the answers range from 1 to 5 but the description of the scale is left undetermined.  a typical learning-to-cook exchange may go like this:

dutiful pupil: “does it matter if we use chicken legs or chicken wings for this?”

asian mother: “four.”

confused pupil: “four what?”

asian mother: “uh huh.  and then you add black pepper.”

thoroughly lost pupil: “how much black pepper?”

asian mother: “I don’t know.  two?”

and you wonder why we’d rather stay upstairs and just come down when the food is on the table.  amazingly enough, Tina’s auntie in Taiwan, gatekeeper of the secret wonders of pineapple cake, offered to teach us how to make these treats of the gods.  at her home.  with real recipes.  how could anyone say no to that?  we went, and learned, and ate, and I photographed.  but to keep the ancient secret a secret (and to protect myself from being garroted in my sleep by a black-clad assassin), and to remain consistent with the asian art of teaching cooking, I won’t give you any sort of measurements to go with the photos. (more…)

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Katsucon 18 – a foray into the world of anime geekdom and cosplay

Posted in 5D Mark II, Cosplay, Defrag, Photography by firthefirst on February 20, 2012

Tina and I took a weekend mini-vacation to celebrate her completing her first architectural licensing exam, getting away from Maryland by going all the way to Alexandria, Virginia.  while we were down there we spent some time at Katsucon 18, held at the Gaylord hotel across the river in Oxon Hill.  neither of us have been to any sort of anime/comic convention before so it was quite the intriguing sociocultural anthropology study.  while both of us are sort of out-of-touch with the contemporary anime scene (the most recent thing we’ve really watched being the first Fullmetal Alchemist series), I feel anyone with an open mind can enjoy the skill and energy that goes into the creation of the cosplay costumes on display at these cons.  the most exciting about attending an anime convention is, it’s as if all your childhood TV shows exploded into real life around you, with Spikes and Narutos mingling with EVAs and Boos.  a huge shout-out to John and Ashley for giving us a rundown of this interesting world.

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在高雄 (in Kaohsiung)

Posted in 5D Mark II, Food, Photography, Taiwan by firthefirst on February 20, 2012

we’ve all had moments in our life where we eat something so good that we tell ourselves (and our friends next to us, and the yelp universe) that we could “eat this every day.”  and that is a huge, Archer-esque lie.  the reality is, unless you’re my father with taste buds of stainless steel or you have survived prison internment, you couldn’t go four days of eating the same thing without craving something different.  and that’s the dilemma we find ourselves in every time we return to Taiwan.  it’s all so good, but it’s all so … much.  going down to Kaohsiung was a great break-within-a-vacation.  the same feeling of relaxed joy you get from loafing off, watching koi carelessly gyrate in a pond.

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大溪 (Dasi), 小烏來瀑布 (Little Wulai Falls), and 三峽老街 (Sanxia market street)

Posted in Defrag by firthefirst on February 10, 2012

when you grow up as a kid in the states, you eventually become hardwired for certain holidays.  especially for the fall ones.  the entire spring semester, let’s be honest, is just a constant slog with an eye firmly fixed on the start of summer vacation.  fall is when each holiday seems to count.  Labor Day – the sensation of impending doom, the start of school.  Thanksgiving – an unparalleled, epic four day weekend, where marshmallows and poultry abound.  and of course, Christmas – it didn’t matter if you were Christian, Jewish, or otherwise inclined, you knew what Christmas meant.  you felt it in your bones.  it meant a week off from school.  it meant sales on wondrous things like video games.  in the words of Kanye West, it meant celebration, bitches.

so it’s weird spending a Christmas abroad, and not having that celebratory feeling.  until you realize how rare it is you get to see the family.  not the statistically average 2 parents and 2 kids nuclear family.  the mafia-style Family, the whole damn thing.  aunts, uncles, cousins, those exotic and legendary creatures known as grandparents.  with people spread all over a dozen time zones, it’s amazing that this sort of gathering can happen at all.  so yeah, I guess it’s like Christmas after all. (more…)