Popsicles, Ice Cream and Jello — Oh My!

Well, folks, I’m sad to say that I won’t be around until next week at least, so no new blog entries for a while.  I’m having some minor surgery tomorrow and will be goofily doped up on pain meds for a few days afterwards, but will be happily subsisting on the above-mentioned items while I heal.

Got any good ice cream recommendations?  You know where to send them…

Peace, love and popsicles!

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Bánh Mì Me, Baby

My whole office smells of pickled daikon and shredded pork skin.

Normally, this would be a bad thing.  But today it’s the pleasant aroma reminding me of the lovely bánh mì I had for lunch today.  My friend Sarah and I had a sudden craving for bánh mì at lunch as we drove through Houston’s enormous Chinatown/Little Saigon on our way back to the office after running errands.

Bánh mì is a kind of sandwhich that’s a tribute to the intoxicating mix of cultures stemming from that short period of time when Vietnam was called “French Indochina.”  The bánh mì developed as countryside food — a portable, working man’s lunch — made from French baguettes and meat with uniquely Vietnamese toppings, such as Vietnamese cilantro, daikon and pickled carrots.  My bánh mì today was absolutely crammed all of those veggies, as well as thick pieces of fresh jalapenos.  The sandwich doesn’t weigh you down or make you feel overly full; it’s a light, sweet, refreshing meal that provides a happy pick-me-up in the middle of the day when you most need it.

We stopped at the famous Lee’s Sandwiches on Bellaire and — after indecorously salivating at the mere smell of the place upon walking inside — proceeded to pig out on shredded pork bánh mì and cà phê sữa (strong coffee with condensed milk, on ice: the original Frappucino).  The tiny woman behind the counter at Lee’s initially questioned my order: “Are you sure you want that?  It has pork skin in it.”

My answer:  “If I didn’t know it had pork skin in it already, and you were just now informing me of that fact, I would want it even more.”

She just stared at me blankly; to be fair, in retrospect, I wasn’t making a lot of sense.  I was just trying to get across the point that YES, I LOVE PORK SKIN MORE THAN YOU KNOW.  PLEASE HURRY UP AND MAKE ME A SANDWICH.  I need to work on my verbal communication skills, I think.

The sandwiches at Lee’s are beautiful, delicious and enormous.  I ended up packing away half of it and saving it for later, hence the pleasing smell currently permeating my office.  But I couldn’t come back with just half a bánh mì.

Sarah and I poked around the rest of Lee’s (which is huge and more like a deli/market than just your average sandwhich shop), trying to decide which pastries we wanted to bring home with us.  We finally ended up at a little counter where a man was making tiny puff pastries — similar to choux — with dollops of durian-flavored custard inside.  We hung around staring at the process for long enough that he finally just started handing them over to us.  We ate the little pastries with gleeful abandon, despite his warnings that they were “so, so hot!”  Of course, after sampling so many, we had to buy some and left with two bags full of hot durian pastries.

Back at my office, I took one of the bags to my boss — who is Vietnamese — and she pounced on them as quickly as Sarah and I had.

“Where did you get these?!” she asked excitedly.  “Ah!  I see!  You go to Lee’s without me!”

“Hey, at least I brought you something,” I replied with a grin.

“The boys will be so happy when I bring these home,” she laughed.  “You make me good mom tonight!”

There’s nothing like good Vietnamese food to cheer you up on a nasty, wet, rainy Thursday.  Feeling down?  I suggest a bánh mì and some coffee and pastries.  They’ll cure what ails you.

Tag!

Krysta over at Evil Chef Mom has tagged me to participate in a meme.  The idea behind this particular meme is that one posts five random facts about themselves, along with accompanying pictures which represent that fact.  Fair enough.  But since this is a food blog, after all, I’m going to try and keep these facts as food-related as possible.

Onward!

Fact #1:

I am married to an Englishman.

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He loves tea. A lot. He does not, however, like Tony Blair. But back to tea.

When we first started dating, I made it a point to learn how to make the most killer cup of tea possible.  If my husband were to refashion Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs, he would create an entirely new tier of the pyramid between “Physiological” and “Safety” simply called “Tea.”  You can see, then, how it would be very important that I — as a hopeful future girlfriend, fiancee, wife — would learn how to make a perfect cup of tea for the man I love.

My husband prefers his tea on the weak side (in my double-espresso opinion…), with plenty of milk and real sugar.  I think it’s very indicative of his personality, and I’ve discovered that you can tell a lot about a person by how they take their tea.  Richard is sweet, traditional and calm — just like his tea.  He’s the ideal counterpoint to my brash, eccentric and flighty personality. 

I perfected the tea-making art about three years ago and it’s been smooth sailing ever since.  I highly recommend seeking out that one thing that your significant other just adores and learning how to either (a) make it or (b) appreciate it.  I’ve also done this with soccer (a.k.a. football) and HP Brown Sauce.  Keys to a happy marriage, indeed.

Fact #2:

I am afraid of grilling things.

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I am not afraid of other people grilling things.  I just don’t like doing it myself.

I am terrified of turning on the propane tank on our patio grill.  I don’t like lighting the charcoal in other, charcoal-based grills.  I don’t like being that close to open flames and/or combustible gases and liquids.  I am afraid that I’ll do something wrong and the next thing you know, there will be a mushroom cloud and a smoking crater where the Coleman used to be. 

Alternately, I’m afraid that I’ll totally undercook the meat and put someone in the hospital with E. coli where they will contract a medicine-resistant staph infection and die.

I’m also afraid that I will accidentally set my eyebrows on fire.  In short, I will leave the grilling activities to my husband, my father and anyone else willing to undertake the potentiality of a painful, fiery death. Continue reading Tag!