Tuesday, 20 July 2010

My Rucksack Philosophy

i am buying a rucksack. that big gigantic piece of polyester that swallows your back and make you look like half a turtle that hybrids with a launching Apolli (2 Appollo) rocket. this is my stamp of admission to a self-declaration to a the traveller's mantra.ethos.guide.bible.lifestyle.philosophy. i will breath the traveller's air, i will eat the travellers garb, i will drink the travellers topple, i will own the traveller's treasures (or lack thereof), i will be your traveller. that little voice inside that tells us to hop the next volcanic ashen plane to the top of mt kiliwhatisit. or just maybe that voice that urges us to take the swift turn to the unknown corner that unfortunately barred by jack the ripper. then saved by your knight in shining ford ranger in the name of policia. I didnt know that prince charming thrives in eastern europe.

because maybe. maybe the rules and norms and expectations of 2000 years of civilization had grounded our nomadic defaults. that maybe if we let ourselves free, our souls free, our spirits free, and our dreams free, maybe just maybe life pans out to a whole new dimension irregardless of race, money, status, or geoographical and social postcodes. That maybe embracing simplicity, instability, spontaneity, risks, and the unknown is the antithesis and the antidote for the basic causes of unhappiness. we are unhappy because we FAIL expectations, we DID NOT PASS THE MARK, deferred the loan payment, missed the mortgage, disappoint a lover, that we seem to be so much poorer than the rest of our friends, where in fact if you are reading this now which meant both me and you have access to the computer would probably make us richer than the half of the world. Angst, eh? No not all, i will reserve the sermons to the Sunday 10 am. I am merely a pauper traveller who's trying to change my rules of life. bar down expectations. declutter my closet. declutter my relationships. unclog my arteries. wash my dishes. earn a pound, save a penny. laugh a lot. the world is simple. and im planning to make mine simpler. which i think is the most difficult part if half your society gives a misleading criteria and time-bomb for happiness. and the other half is so busy barring down other people's attempts(and misattempts) to be happy.

Grab a rucksack, have a gulp of water.there is a long way ahead. I feel priviled to have a 100-year lease to mama earth. so come with me as i rediscover tidbits everyday as i will shamelesslye live down or up to my "bar down expectations, lean my baggage, declutter my relationship, unclog my arteries, wash my dishes, earn a pound, save a penny" ethos. Dont worry mom, i plan to keep renting my flat, and stil to moisturize.. Then now I fear I would realize something. The most unorthodox and ironic eureka. That I will be happy being unsuccessful in the measures and weigh-ins of the society. i only want to live. would that be too selfish and too simple?

Thursday, 14 January 2010

Winter Warmers

Food Pyramid

Dinner today: Single Bed of Toast, Vegetarian Burger, Gouda Cheese on third floor, Vinegared Vegetable from my Polish Grocer round the block, Lettuce, Low Fat Yogurt (as mayo sub), touch of Chilli Sauce and a final Lettuce Cup of Vinegared Vege on top. Called it upside down salad rather than a hamburger, the vege had obviously announced martial law and overpowered the plate. “No Carbs Must ascend more than 1 cm! Burger hide your belly, And everyone say Cheese, including you Gouda!” Perfect Family Picture of an Ideal Food Pyramid.

2 days back I am on my vegetarian version of lasagne. Layers of Auberigine with vegetarian stuffing of mushroom, tomatoes, onions, spinach, and vegetarian chicken 'n nut roast, topped again with yogurt, cheese, and chilli sauce. Yum. Ate this for two days till the snow dictates my tummy to crave for a heartier soup.

So I went to check out a local cafĂ© cum art exhibit, it was charming, with mismatched chairs, china tea cups, and homemade organic food. Its like Venice met Brooklyn at the backdrop of the British weather. Ordered a Carrot and Coriander Soup, an English Breakfast Tea, and moir staying consistent with the secret ingredient (watched way too much Iron Chef obviously), I had their “bestseller” carrot cake for dessert (did not disappoint, it was moist and less sweet than usual which is a pleasant surprise, it played its glucose card in the right part, the thick creamy icing). You’re eyes have a feast on its own as it busies itself on the chalk written menu, paper mosaics, and masterpieces of local artists, and then you proud yourself of the talent of your neighbours. Its on the hallway of an old Church of England that turned into a yoga hall. Guess, it got good history too. Will definitely be back. I wonder if I could bring my doodle from elementary school and call it abstract vintage masterpiece that I have found in the basement of a really old pub? But then the ILovebackstreetboys would be such a giveaway.

Will have to source out more local gems like this, speaking of gems I got a free Hot Stone massage and facials today given by a local info site that I have given a review on. It was just what I need. Myankle sprained twice within a month, my muscles aching from my rookie attempts to train for a half-marathon, coupled by the lethargic and gloom plague the snow has cast upon my life, I am indeed in need for some pampering. And hail the heavens, it came free :) Thank you. It didnt kung-fued me out, you know when some massage leave you more tired and bruised than you first come in? This one is graceful and rythmic, and the hot stones does not give the same irritating burning sensation whenver I accidentally touch the radiator or the oven. (Pardon me ignorance, 'twas my first for hot stone, but I do have massages before so dont worry I didnt freak out when they want you half naked). Love the lighting and the music. love the personal touch of calling you by your first name. And I love the moisturusing facial. Cold Hot Applications, my face just yelled and reached seventh heaven. I left with my soul skipping between the snows. I guess, winter's not that bad at all. This year doesnt seem to bad at all. Well, it wont be. If it does, at least Im moisturized for the rest of the year, thank you Eve&Adam Day Spa. :)

Thursday, 7 January 2010

"Chill" Con Carne

This is a plea from England. We need a heater the size of America.

Its bloody cold.
As dark and gloomy our weather seems to be reputed for, Snow was never a permanent resident here, neither a regular holidaymaker, it’s more of a toss the coin, peek-a-boo, Snow may come or it may not.
But this year, it has extended its invitation to a White Christmas, much to the dismay of the grown-up public. Snow up to 16 inches(METs says) in some parts and heavy snowing in most, putting our sporadic snow-coping skills to a bit of practice.

When it’s freezing and the newspaper says supply of gas in the country could only last for 8 days, panic buying of food that requires only a can opener or a magic willpower soars sharp. I, however, craved for a hearty stew or a chilli con carne, maybe even a steak and ale pie, or a warm root soup. It’s the time where to my dismay and to the dismay of the threatening Gas supply, I am culinarily demanding.

So I brave the ice and the sleet and the blizzards headed off to the half-deserted market and to the local express store to get supplies to the chilli con carne my freezing soul is craving for.
I picked stewing steaks than mince to cut off fat, diced it up and brown it first. Set Aside. Sweat my onions, garlic, and, bell pepper, then let the meat rejoin the party before adding the cocktail of spices and seasoning (cheated here and got a packet of a mix blend), and chilis, and tomato chops and tomato sauce, simmer a bit, and transferred to th oven for another 30 minutes to thicken and mull. Halfway, the kidney beans crowd in with them.
Imagining the gas supply wilting its way to death, I decided I need to pop in something in the empty oven lower shelf to use the gas efficiently whilst my chilli con carne bubble away on the top shelf. I cant be bothered with another main course. Then I remember the apricots that I unthinkably picked up yesterday. Roasted it in the lower deck, in my hopes for a salsa or a side dish, or just really a guilt cleanser that I wasn’t splurging the nation’s gas away by not cooking at full capacity.

Instead of usual basmati rice, I had bulgar wheat in the middle, and instead of tortilla, I sub it with a Chappati flat bread as healthier accompaniments. And of course the roasted apricot and tomato salsa.

This came out. Day 1 of the Freeze. Soul Food . Guilt-free(Calorie and Gas Wise). Yet Still Snow Full. This thawed my spirits out though.
So…uhmm..did anybody found that heater?

Tuesday, 5 January 2010

Chapoatty (Chapatti and Oat Breakfast Bars)

I had a chapatti phase in my life wherein it took over my diet for over 3 months. Chapatti Bread with lamb curry, chicken stir fry, with strawberry jam or a sausage, or anything edible within the 1 km radius. Chapatti is basically a thin Indian flatbread made from atta or chapatti wheat flour mixed with water, kneaded, and flattened into a circular disk, then cooked over a slightly concae griddle called tawa. I make my best chapatti bread at 2 am when my obsession with it took over my sleep (I am not one mental crazy chapatti maniac, I am just a frustrated baker.Sigh). Fine, more than a couple I’ve cheated and bought grocery ones, but there is a deep zenlike feeling of making your own bread from scratch. Well, I lived with an Indian family, and making Chapatti is as usual as making pancakes for them, as easy as a piece of cake. God, I cant even make a cake, much more perfect a Chapatti. I don’t know if it was my sneaky way of slipping in a healthy carbs in my diet or my sneaky way of slipping exercise in my lifestyle as getting a good dough would mean 15 minutes of solid wrestling with a huge ball of carbs. And then the art of making golf balls or chapattinis as I call them and then the mastery of rolling these chapattinis into a flat circular disk...like a razor thin tortilla.. mine looks like a map at first but after a couple of 2 am chapatti sessions I had made it more into an oblong. Then searing it into the Indian skillet “tawa”, waiting for the thin disk of dough to bubble up before flipping over. Indian Pancakes it is. Chapatti Bread is probably the less known cousin of Naan, and with the British fostering of Indian food, it was a bit heartbreaking that this little charm was never given its proper acclaim here. I, however, have divorced my monogamy with chapatti a few months ago, I need more sleep, as It would take me 2 hours before breakfast to prepare, and I just…well, it was my fault. I needed some space. And I need to grow. So we broke up. Chapatti and me. Good times though. Good carbs too.

Today, I was craving for a breakfast bar. Simple. Unpretentious. Healthy Bar.

I looked at the cupboard, and serendipitously locked my eyes with a long lost affair. I reckon, it wouldn’t hurt to have a reunion date. Chapatti flour and me in our post-break up hellos.

Got him outta there and mixed it with oat, and a mixture of milk and a bit of sugar (just a tiny bit), until it seems to be able to hold a shape. Made it into islets, and settled it into my sunflower butter greased tray. Took it in the oven. 40 minutes later, me being a virgin biscuit maker, had decided that it’s time for the most awaited kiss. Chapatti and me reunited with the third wheeler oats. Not bad. The biscuit’s way too tough for me, prolly way too much of that chapatti flour, but it has a surprisingly charming crumble and taste, the Chapatti flavour mixes well with the nutty oatty taste, and it filled me up, brought the rest to work and kept me off junk for the rest of the day. guess seeing exes are aryt, just not too much of them. Or else you ended up chewing much more than you would expect. Well, that shut my mouth off for half a day.

Monday, 4 January 2010

Friendships & Parsnips

I have a few friends in my life. When I say one of my hobby is running, I meant it literally and metaphorically. Not so many people are fond of friend that shows up and sprint down into a vortex of time travel and magnetic airfield of Lost once the going gets tough. Don’t get me wrong, I don’t leave friends when its their crunch time, I leave when its MY crunch time. I hide when Im scared or upset. I hide in my job or in my running or in both. But when things get really tough, I just hibernate, one time I actually considered taking up a job in Barbados or Tobago Island or something. Sorry, its off season right not but we will contact you when we have an opening . I don’t know if I am wishing that there would be a job on the peak season for me, cause that would mean my problems stretching out to the peak season of Barbados, which is half a year away at that time. I guess that's not good then Nonetheless, there are a few who will test your abilities in Hide and Seek. There are those few that would scrounge, call out your name after a swear, and a loving scream of where the hell are you. There are those few that knows why, and would not stop knocking and tearing down the wall which you disappear into. I have few. I have probably three. And this is an ode to them. Now, I cook rather than running. Yeah, I know not really the best diet decisions, but I still run literally so I guess it's still all right. But I don’t do my metaphoric hiding away, or I plan not to. Hence this.

I would rather disappear into a sorta culinary monologue of a British escapade. Because I don’t want to escape anymore. This is to the first of three. My college bestfriend who had lovingly picked me up everytime I fall into pieces with each false alarm for love. To my bestfriend who had patiently scoured England for the ghosts of me in 3 months. To my bestfriend who knows my soul and Sh*t and didn’t walk away. To my bestfriend who knows the darkest of my thoughts, and bleach it off with her sisterly reproach. To my bestfriend who forgave me for being me. I owe my new year to you. This is a tribute to you. To our sisterhood and our fights, to our had-beens, has –beens, and will-bes, to the boys who had hurt us and the men who will deserve us. To the family that we fought for, and the family that you made me part of. To college, and a very long life after it. To chupa chups and haagen dazs, and all the sugar in the world. To every single day that I have had a sister since I met you. Thank you. I love you my sister in life. You know who you are. Ex Ow Ex Ow. :) Come over and we’ll cook our troubles away.

To the other two, one had called me up every week for the last one year (her mom is not happy with the bill, nonetheless Aunty always says her sincere hello everytime, hence I love her family), and the other who had never left me as a friend since we were nine albeit everything that has happened in our lives. Cheers to friends who dont have a perishable date. to Friendships without a Best Before. To relationships without a deadline and a shelf life and to People who stood by you even though you used to cook like a five year old. worst than a Fiver, actually.

This soup is an ode to our dreams and our friendships. To travel and escapades, and to friends who will be there to ask how it was. To friends who support your odyssey and fight the battles that you cant bear. To friends who nourish and guide.

Leaning Tower of Parsnip (and carrots)

This is what I eat when I feel like I need an escape.

Tomato Sauce
Bell Pepper

Roast Carrots

Roast Parsnips

It's meant to be a beef stew, but my beef has abandoned me, at least in spirit. Could do well with some irish beef casserole cuts or sub tofu for vegetarian option. Pardon me playing with my food, didnt I forewarned you about my Culinary Age? Five, yeah good you remember. Till then :)

Tuesday, 29 December 2009

Tumango White Omelette

Pubs, Chicken and Chip Shop, Brasseries and even Chinese Takeaway, and Single Rosettes Restaurants all across England have probably too many eggs in their fridge that an Omelette have an almost automatic appearance on its menu. And they were always almost in a civil partnership with Chips. Chips are such an adulterer here in England, it marries off with everything imaginable.

Nonetheless, this is a tribute to the Omelette Affair, it was never really British, not like Fish and Chips or English Breakfast but it is undoubtedly all over Britain. Omelette comes usually with Mushroom, Onion, Cheese, or Ham, or a double, or triple of everything. It is usually finished off in the grill (not tossed) to cook the top side.

Everyday I eat an omelette- an albino one (I can’t help the metaphor, it doesn’t mean to be derogatory), 3 egg whites, slivers of tomatoes minus the seeds, salt, white pepper, and a quick dash of basil fluffed out in the microwave after 2 minutes. Today, I have a 12-hour shift, hence I have to put in more nourishment. Chips are not my choice of carbs for the first meal of the day (Im trying to cut down carbs for a half marathon in June, after that I will go in a Chips Adventure Across England- by foot so I'd still use up the calories Lol) Anyways, side stories aside, so I chose a protein filler of tuna, diced mango, tomatoes, and basil, lazily nuked in the microwave for 2 minutes. My Albino Omelette on a Bed of Tumango took no more than 4 minutes to make. Fine add a minute as I battle it out with the can opener, pre production. And not more than 300 calories all in all, rounded to my nearest amateur estimate.

Tumango White Omelette

So, if Omelette is British, and Egg whites are still a part of an egg that constitutes an Omelette, then my White Omelette is still technically British..Oh, please ignore the pun or the racial color innuendo. I am hopeless with deductive reasoning.

I enjoyed my Tumango Omelette. And I will continue enjoying it every morning, at least the Omelette. I cant have tuna everyday as I may wake up with a yellow fin one morning, too bad I cant swim. But I think I would get quite a stare if I order a White Omelette from my local Chic and Chips, Mohammed would be bewildered.

Monday, 28 December 2009

Frozen Anatomy + Warm Memories = My English Christmas

That picture on the left is from my Christmas Walk which afterwards my toes and my hands would have take 2 minutes in the microwave to defrost. I have officially hated snow. . But my soul is thawed by the generosity, kindness, and Christmas spirit of people who a year ago were strangers and unknown. I got a bunch of flowers from my regular doctor on the block, several boxes of chocs of different nationalities, tins of all-English Cadbury Roses, bottle of wine, Authentic Scottish Shortbread, bears, and trousers, socks, tights…oh, gifts.

Bragging is not my usual aura of the day, but I am just pleasantly surprised, blushed-kind-of-embarrassed with the kindness that my British local friends had shown. You see, bunch of young people like us are not particularly sweet and kind at this time..gifts were never a thing in my family. I have to tell what I want, and then if Im really nice, I get money for it. But here in England, I just discovered the absolute joy of ripping a wrapper off to uncover something no matter how tiny or how fast it would bloat my body fat, there is that jumping jack thrill that somebody put in an effort to think, buy, and wrap a present for you. And then the cards, I am absolutely into this Britishness of sending Christmas cards around, and no matter how laconic the message is. (Starts with my name. Sandwiched by a one liner greeting. Ends with their Name or a scribbled Signature). Dont get me wrong I love the x and O's too.

I do believe it’s really the thought counts. I have got more Cards this holiday than what I had accumulated in my young 22 years of existence.

And boy do I love one from my post, albeit the Grinchy Postal Strikes, my post did arrive and you know that feeling that you think it’s a bit awkward to send somebody a Card because you just met them but then they were really nice, but your pride got the better of you, and then that person’s name suddenly shows up after Sincerely, in your mail. That is humbling. And a bit heart thugging. And that would mean a Happy New Year Present and an early Christmas 2010 card delivered to them by January 1.

I had a rough year. A really rough year. Hence every small miniscule act of kindness around me is such a breather, and every little good thing no matter how petty it is, seems like a miracle.

Food wise had been British turned University-ish again after Christmas. I had turkey roast for about 2 weeks now. And I made my first British Beef Roast with some sides of greens and roast mushrooms, next day I did that with an egg-whitish omelette, and the next day I had it with salad, I still have some of it so I may do deconstructed steak and ale pie with it. My roast looks suspiciously too rare. Fine, a bit more than too rare. I am not sure. But if I die of food poisoning in the next few days, tell them to look at my fridge and ribbon that too pink meat with a “police line do not cross”

I had early Christmas celebration with friends in London. But I stopped over my good friend, Thai Sushi Chef Dang to drop off his birthday present, I had a salmon skin roll and 2 pieces of eel sushi (Thanks Zin Sushi at Trafalgar Road, Greenwhich for on the house lunch), which is amazing as all his Sushi is always amazing. We talked about old times at the old restaurant as I scrolled back at his camera and found old pictures that were mostly of us holding a wine glass or a beer or both Hah. Old times.

I was 2 hours delayed but not because of the snow or the inability of First Capital Connect to hire more train drivers but because of my ability to get lost. Didn’t realize my train doesn’t stop in London Bridge during weekdays where Im getting the connecting line, hence I was lost in the outskirts of London. My google phone and google map quite helped me figuring out that there was an underground in Tooting Broadway which is a bus away from Tooting, my next stop. I should also probabaly google if my name is snynonymous to directionless or if my horoscope reads no to train travel. Anyways, Got in there, carried on, got off the DLR. And now what. I could walk or get a bus, since Im utterly a direction idiot that day, I carried on taking a bus, took me 3 tries to get to the right bus, which apparently just took a minute ride to my stop. It wasn’t my day for travel. I am really not this bad usually. But London Day Travelcard saved me, got me all through this plus the ride back home and all the rides in between for 10 quid or £9.55 to be exact. Not bad. Anyway, sushi done and dusted, I went back to Central to meet my college friends

Next Stop Leicester Square. Got there without a hitch. But I was early and cold and hungry, I know I was going to dinner but I could really use a coffee. So I picked the small Italian place with a nice pizza parlour and a nice looking bartender. Authentic Cappucino. Mediocre Margherita. Amazing Brazilian Smile. 2 more flirtatious smiles and Im off, I cant have his smile for dinner, I have to meet my friends. But I took a bit of walk around and saw Trocadero Mall and remembered my first proper Date in Uk, my date got me 2 Simpsons in one go from the stuff toy catcher machine. Talk about lucky dates, and unlucky relationships. Anyways I was afraid I’m veering off to Soho, hence I try to walk back near the station, and yeah guess what I got lost again, my friends gave me a call and rescue me. Boy, did I not know that we’re having Sushi for dinner. Omakari, the place is. Got a Sushi bento Box. And tucked in to my 2nd round of raw food of the day. The fish is ok, not particularly an ecstacy but the salad was impressive, it had one of the most imposing and sharp dressing I’d ever had. It was promegnatey or citrusy with a texture of a freshly squeezed orange, fruity but not too sweet. I listened to my tummy, and I could hear my mercury level's rising.
After Dinner, we decided to undo the Dinner, well technically they want to try out the rides in Leicester Square, which looks tame from the sidelines, but bloody hell, a spinning roller coaster don’t get along with the swimming salmon in my tummy. I was dazed and cold when we decided we want more of this carouselling. Next Stop Hyde Park, but on the way we saw some street entertainer who is doing Limbo Rock in the tune of Santa's Coming to town. Ultra Cool.

Took the London Bus to Hyde Park where Winter World is. Winter World it is, cold, slushy snow all around but Santa, smell of cinnamon and pretzels, and all things Christmas just anaesthesizes our hypothermia away.

An hour of walk later, rain started to pour and we decided we would go for a last stop for dessert and coffee at a place where one friend works. We had waffle with maple syrup and a vanilla ice cream, it was a good cap off to day of getting lost, spinning around, and getting frozen. We walked to the underground and I went home feeling the Christmas Spirit for the first time.

Spent Christmas day alone, as I would like have a quiet reflective celebration, a sorta tribute, a plea, a prayer that I may have a better year, because even myself I cant believe how I got through this year alive and sane. I decided to go to the Church but it was close so I just took a walk, and it was magnificently serene, as if the heavens thawed out, and it wasn’t that cold either. English weather is in its better mood. I missed the Queen’s message, but I don’t think there’s anything personal or urgent that she’d like to let me know.

Boxing Day in UK or the 26th is a massive craziness of queue and bargains of high street shops and designer brands. Some people camp outside the outlets and when the doors open, as if umpire guns off the sprint to half-prized Guccis and Burberrys. Fights break out, apparently men too loves a good bargain, celings fall apart, and police get involved but at least not with the haggling. But it is a good British tradition, apparently it comes from “boxed presents” collected by tradesmen after Christmas Day for their good service, it also roots back to the Feast of St. Stephen, but now its more famous as a shopping holiday and an excuse to splurge a couple of hundreds with relatively less guilt. I did my own share of consumerism but I had a rather quiet Boxing Day.

The 27th is the day I zoom back to being a UUI. At Uni Under the Influence of Delibarate Eating and Drinking. It was a fellow Filipino Birthday with loads of Filipino Food. And I admit, no matter how I have fallen in love with Roasts and Brussels Sprouts, there is that hearty homey feeling as I tucked in to my mung beans, sinigang (pork stew), pansit(noodles), and liempo (pork BBQ). 2 rounds later, and a drinking game was up, 2 hours later, everyone intoxicated, we pull a decade back off our real age and played with leftover snow, that in a matter of time took over my friend’s living room. Went home hangovered, bruised with snow wrestling and armed with a promise not to drink ever again (don’t we all say that). I was down for a day, and realize Im not that young anymore, I don’t have the energy to party all night and cure the hangover all day. But it was a good fun. A good marathon of days that is neither grand, nor illustrious, but it was hearty and jovial, it was nourishing for the soul, and it was simple and spontaneous, it was playful and good-natured but it wasn’t extravagant yet it was sincere and full of kindness and warmth. It was just what I need to finally finally bid goodbye to a year that tried and challenged me to my guts end. The year needs respect and proper acclaim, and I hereunto take my cap off and humble myself.