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…)

Advertisements

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.

(more…)

蘭陽博物館 (Lanyang Museum) and 基隆廟口夜市 (Keelung Temple Night Market)

Posted in 5D Mark II, Architecture, Food, Photography, Taiwan by firthefirst on January 19, 2012

Taiwan is definitely not up there on the list of architectural destinations, largely overshadowed by the money-burning frenzy that is the Chinese real estate market and the always-fresh-always-funky world of Japanese contemporary design.  I’ve had the lucky opportunity to work for an excellent architect in Taipei (LWM Architects) and I know that there has been a number of great architectural minds working diligently to improve the design environment in Taiwan for the last couple of decades.  the Lanyan Museum, by 姚仁喜 (Yao Ren Xi, Artech Inc.) is one of the newest examples of Taiwan asserting an architectural personality.  there are faint echoes of I. M. Pei still in the work but the building’s design language clearly responds to the landscape around it, instead of being a purely intellectual geometric exercise.  the interior is logically laid out yet provides a compelling promenade, and even the quality of the construction is meticulous (which is typically so hard to find in Asia these days).  there are some exceedingly bizarre moments (like an unwrapped structural member that emerges randomly from a wall, warty fireproofing and all) which stand out because everything else seems to be so well sorted.

(more…)