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.

Thursday, 17 December 2009

Merrrry Grrrrrrrsmas and a Roasted Sunday

Merry Grrrrrssmas and a Roasted Sunday.

Gritting cold today as the British weather suddenly decided to serve us some frozen rain for our Christmas dinner. Its snowing on and off and tonight it actually did settle. White Christmas it is.

My Christmas cards had been done and dusted and delivered by my trusty hand, as the Royal Mail had been sort of the grumpy reindeer for the last year. Postal strikes since last October has affected the flow of mail and everything else in the country, not that snail mail is my main form of Mayday but when you are waiting for a visa stamping invitation letter, I guess it would be a top priority to check if the British Postal Force have really gone on coup.

Going rogue seems to be the order of the day, as the Daily Mail Headlines reads Brit Airways Strike. Sigh. Double sigh. I say the recession is the Grinch who Stole Christmas. But nonetheless, it would keep 1 million Brit travellers grounded home. What’s so bad about that? Aside from the fact that it would mean wrecking long before laid out plans of meeting up with Santa on the sunny beaches of Thailand sipping an Iced Chai and nibbing on a cold Som Tam Salad?

Pub’s been prepping up for a couple of Christmas parties. Office is off season as the restaurant we’ve been working on finally open its doors. And the Takeaway is on a downtime too as people opt to have a proper night out. So my December life is pleasantly laid back. But a Culinary Circus.

I have received my first Christmas pudding on the first few days of this month, a tiny little sugar oasis. And we’ve been serving up turkey roasts in lieu of chicken every Sunday at the pub. I work in the kitchen of the pub every Sunday, and boy do I love it. The regulars don’t mind that their Sunday All British Roasts were handled, plated and served by a black haired 5-foot of a pure-pedigreed Asian. Lily, my boss do all the roasts and sauces anyways so it is still technically Brit. I plate up and do everything. Prolly the unofficial Sous Chef (I wonder if that would be too ambitious). But most of the time, Lily trust me enough not to pour Mang Tomas Filipino Ketchup on her roast and decides to leave me on my own on the kitchen. She taught me how to do the roast potatoes which is heavenly with its texture and flavour but the recipe is trade secret so I reckon blogging about it would not be a good idea. Nonetheless, I look after the cooking of the roast potatoes and make sure that they come out in their best complexion and seasoned well. I discovered that if you occasionally checks the pan and cleans up the fallen off crumbles as you roast along, the potatoes would cook better and it would prevent the uneven burning as some of the granules tend to arson its way and stick to your potatoes. Yorkshire pudding is best to be roasted upside down, and broccoli should only be cooked on boiling water to retain its color, simple fundamentals I hold dear to.

Gravy is best done with the roast drippings, and a proper stock which should be slowly simmered through all morning. I did have some butchering lessons too as Lily rattles on about topside fillet and pork loin cuts every Sunday.

Dessert is my favourite. I love plating lily’s homemade bread and butter pudding and apple and blueberry crumble, half-drowning it in custard and adding a touch of mint leaf garnish. I think our roasts and dinner are rustic. It’s the sort of thing that you eat by a fireplace. And good thing, we do have one.

I’ll try to sneak in some pictures next week. I will be making my own first roast at home on Sunday as well as some sweet potatoes and all trimmings. And I will start to cook a healthier interpretation of all the food I could find in our pub menu. Wish me luck. Loads of it. P.S. Santa: Could you please turn off your air conditioning for awhile, cos its snowing frantically here. Everybody could use a bit of a warmin up. Thanks :)

Tuesday, 8 December 2009

In Beer We Thrust

This is not a mockery of the very respectable caption of Uncle Sam’s quarter. But an ode to my Beer Festival, my first one last October, after missing 2 consecutive annual events in UK. I took Sonia, my elderly British friend as my beer connoisseur accompaniment; along with our free pass (working in a pub has its great perks and motivational package) we hailed into an Odyssey of Authentic English Beers and Authentic English Drinking.

First Stop. Buy or hire your drinking apparatus. Which in here comes in a half a ton of glass shaped in a mug. I doubt if I will be able to physically hang on to this on my third pint, with my body mass and my locomotion abilities post-alcohol, but we’ve no choice, so I chose the half-pint and so did Sonia. We grab the program, which is like a Graduation Ceremony Booklet with the list of the beers and its description, origin, and alcohol content, and a tick box right next to it. Something Like an Alcoholic’s Guide to Being Drunk, systematically. It runs for three days, and I really really wonder if anyone hands-in a perfectly and completely marked, ticked program -consciously. Ah, enough wondering, the beer’s getting cold. I was never a beer drinker, but Im looking forward to my initiation into the culture of English Beer Festival.

2nd Stop. The Grand Hall. The Grand Hall looks like a lobby with a stage but hundreds of barrels of beers and ale and perry on the walls, arranged in alphabetical order. Well, I guess people could still read A,B,C and manoeuvre their way in a tricky 3-Floor Beer Festival under the influence, but I wonder why they can’t drive. We start off with an ale. A Real Ale from my Beer 101 Program according to the Campaigners of Real Ale (what would Campaigners of Not so Real Ale would say?) is a “beer made from natural ingredients: malted barley, hops, water, and yeast which, after primary fermentation in the brewery, is put into casks where it continues to undergo a slow secondary fermentation, then produces a gentle carbonation, it is unfiltered and unpasteurized, and is a living product”. Its antithesis (probably this is what campaigners of not so real ale would drink) is keg beer or as the industry would call it “brewery conditioned” which after primary fermentation is filtered pasteurized and sold freezing cold using extraneous gas to produce the excessive fizz and little taste (Beer Festival Guide et al, 2009). I was reading this while holding my first half pint of the day, a Devon Dumpling Bays, 5.1% of the unpasteurized living thing from Devon. It was a strong bitter taste when it first hit my senses, but I unusually love the undertone of hop and barley, and the way it plays at the back of my tongue. I am not particularly keen with the smell or the main tang of it, but I was looking forward to gulping it because the aftertaste was a good-natured lightness of hop and barley that was lost in the fizz of my usual lager of Carlsburg. Tick the box, 200 to go.

3rd Stop. The Stage Bar. We decided to go for cider next. Tumbling through my Beer wikipedia, it defines cider as fermented apple juice. One adult rating higher than the breakfast liquid accompaniment, two adult rating higher than the thing that keeps the doctor away. Me and Sonia looked at the towers of kegs confusingly as we try to pick our cider. Then an intervention came in a form of a veteran Englishman that picks for us a 7.1% Hertfordshire Brewed-Cider which is amazingly deceitful of its ABV. It has that lovely stink of a fresh brew, It’s non-fizzy, and bordering on medium dry. Hands down the best cider my rookie palate came across. Quarter of a pint later I managed to carelessly tumble my stranger seatmate’s beer with my hand bag. I am quite disappointed with myself as I knew my tolerance for alcohol has been fine-tuned and trained by the more lethal cheap Uni vodka and half-filtered tequila. Nonetheless, I profusely apologized and asked the gentleman if I could buy him the same drink. He said I don’t have to, but I insisted and he seems genuinely appreciative of the gesture. Anyway, me and Sonia discussed my absolute disability to pass the UK Practical Driving Test, I will not embarrass myself with how many tries I’ve done but as of this writing I am still trying. My hands-eye coordination is normally within the median bounds, and I’ve never failed anything in school, so this is a humbling experience, bordering on annoying and frustrating. Sometimes I just wanna scream discrimination. I did try all the moves though, dressing up a bit more sexier than one would in a driving exam, begging, reasoning out, laughing it out. Oh well. Me and right-hand driving don’t get along well, no actually I always say that every time it get jinxed (excuses). Nonetheless, my failure as a driver and my inability to stop trying was our cider topic. Then we decided to go to Germany, at least for a beer, which is a flight of stairs away.

4th Stop. Germany. At least where the beer was from. We got a bottled 500ml of “Oktoberfest Beer”- a gigantic bitter fizz that is a tad too macho for me. We sat and talk about my other work, and a call from a supplier from my office work cuts in, I have to excuse myself from Sonia and find my sobriety. Quite confident that my alco tolerance didn’t betray me this time, I picked up the call and manage to book a meeting with him and my boss the following week. When I put down the phone, I asked myself in panic if I booked a Wednesday or a Thursday. I dropped my doubts and carry on Oktoberfesting. We struggled to finish this German concoction but still we decided that we could carry on with one for the road, from the topmost floor.

5th Stop. I could just remember a few notes from this one. I knew it’s on the top floor and that we had a stout that I could also remember I don’t like it and I had mixed too much of too many different drinks that my usual 40% threshold is slumped by a quartet of single-digit ABV potions. I didn’t finish the drink and neither did Sonia. But I could remember going to the loo and meeting my mishap victim along the way, the English gentleman whose drink I have managed to spill on my 2nd half pint. I first looked at him confusingly and so did he, and he laughed and he asked if I remembered him, and I smiled and beg for a salvation of memory, and he said that I bought him a drink today and he sincerely thanked me for that. Chivalry lives on. Let’s drink to that.

We cap off our little trip by buying Lily, my pub boss, one mug Glass with a souvenir program just in case she wants to check out the list of the guilty liquids that put our town in a drunk state for 3 days. I came home with a lovely feeling that even though I will always be Asian, today, my quartet of half-pints had taken me into an afternoon of being English and English gentlemen who manage to multi-task drinking and niceness, and it was bloody fun.

Wednesday, 2 December 2009

Ran. Rain. Ran.

I ran today. My contact lenses could prolly use a wiper, 2 seconds interval. And could somebody please get that backpacked heater invented, stat. Nonetheless, I do love running in English weather, in the rain, in the cold, amongst the swan, and dogs, amongst umbrellas and prams, amongst boots and walking sticks. I have a lake. Its not mine nor its not in my backyard, it’s at the backyard of the God, of a very very old (when they say old in UK, it meant really old) Abbey Church where I threw my toga and hats off last year. I kid my guy at that time that since the ceremony would be at 9 am, I could still go for an hour run at the lake and go straight to the Church for a quick sprint to my diploma.

I call it my lake, because the lake is where I go to when things happen in my life. I ran there every morning last winter, hopping off slates and ices just to tire my lungs off the appetite of smoking, I ran when I quit smoking, I ran when my grandmother died, I ran when my extension visa first got denied, I ran again when my appeal was granted, I ran when my guy, the “guy” who had been my housemate, my workmate, my tennis partner, my Manchester United Memoirs Lecturer, my lover, and my bestfriend all in one Thai boy baby face went away-for good. But I don’t call him my boyfriend, because we were never official, because I'm always afraid to put a label and a commitment to a relationship that could easily be cut off by Immigration rules and visa expirations. Not that the British Home Office is liable for my relationships fiasco.

Anyways, so I ran. I ran because I felt I may fly. Because I felt I may actually run so fast that I might even escape time. I ran in the rain when Im upset because it merges with your tears making you look less scandalous and less awkward in public. I ran during Sundays because I like smiling at the kids who got no problem smiling back at a galloping Asian girl, and I like looking at families, and though it made me miss mine more, it made me feel that though the culture here is reserved and private, people are really kin-tight and are kind enough to give me a bit of way and an encouraging smile as I dash and excuse myself from the swans and the ducks, and yeah the humans too.

I ran during British summers because it’s the only time of the year I reunite with the sun, a few minutes of reconciliation, and it gives me the forgiving half-cooked blush. And I love looking at ice cream vans, and kids and not-so-kids lining up for a mile. And then I found myself joining the queue. I forgot about my calorie meter and the next half mile I’m suppose to finish. But then I forgive myself for this is the only time my anatomy could take in an ice concoction.

I haven’t seen this much of the whole town gathered in the lake for an afternoon of the very timid British sun, and I think only one event topples the attendance, the Beer Festival. Though, Beer and Cider cans makes frequent appearances too during summer afternoons, along with all English Strawberries and Cream, Wimbledon, and BBQs of bangers, Lincolnshire sausages, and Irish steaks.

And then comes autumn, when you ran into a cushion of leaves, when your clothes are thicker and heavier, and your shorts turn into trousers. Then it rains. And you need a hood and a scarf, and probably a plastic coated-body. And then it snows, then now you need a miracle to run or a tefal coated skin.

I ran and smell and see and breathe Britain in all weathers. Sometimes I run to runaway from England itself, sometimes I run to runaway from myself. But nonetheless, I ran. And it felt really good.