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Saturday, May 19, 2007


I broke my left arm

It is difficult to type with just my right hand... Tuesday on way to work, tire on new bike caught in streetcar tracks near muni barn where tracks merge... Bike turned right, I fell hard on left side. Cracked helmet up side. Two passersby rushed over & lifted me + bike up, had me wiggle fingers, walked me over to sidewalk. Arm felt broken (broke same one in childhood), couldn't straighten. Walked into BART, called home, Steven took me to UCSF ER...

Ulna in several pieces (see left). Praise for stoicism. IV. Pain killers. First ever adult overnight hospital stay. Surgery on Wednesday: plate + 8 screws. 2nd night at hospital. Veg hospital food pretty good. :-) Great caregivers. Came home Thursday - missed all BTWD fun :-(. Recovering. Rest, ice, elevation, pain meds every 4 hours.

More text when more comfortable.

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posted by Arlene (Beth)4:09 PM

Sunday, May 13, 2007

Farmer's Market! We biked to the Mission today for a tree tour given by a botanist: though we enjoyed chatting with other cyclists also waiting for the tour, the book author who was supposed to guide us didn't arrive. We visited a few favorite trees that Steven needed to photograph for class, visited an art supply store to acquire paper for the anthotypes Steven is making, and went to the Heart of the City Farmer's Market at Civic Center. This Wednesday and Sunday market is a bit smaller than the Alemany version, but still has an excellent selection AND is much easier to get to: it's upstairs from both BART and the underground streetcar stations, many city buses serve the area, it's centrally located, and it's easy to bike to.

There are many more locally grown veggies available since the last time I visited. Kohlrabis were piled up, along with enormous purple cabbages, tender lettuces, stalks of fennel, loquats still on the stalk, zucchini (in different shapes and colors), green beans, enormous and sweet strawberries, cherries, early apricots and peaches were surrounded by the usual array of leeks, Chinese greens, and oranges.

I only had a small messenger bag with me, since we hadn't planned to attend, so we feigned some degree of restraint and left with our bike handlebars sporting many small bags, containing:

-fresh garlic! Yes! One of my favorite things this time of year. It's juicy, has drying green stalks on top, is easy to peel (with tender, wet skin; when it's young enough, you don't need to peel it), and smells oh-so-good.
-gai lon (or a very dark yau choy)
-red cherries, firm and juicy
-a 3-pack of enormous, sweet strawberries ($6, firm and juicy, not yet at the peak of the season, but darned good!). I loved watching the farmer scrutinize the berries that the couple ahead of me purchased, and choose two or three more from his supply behind him to top off their 3-pack before allowing them to purchase it.
-fava beans. We rushed home and blanched these with two kinds of pasta, and tossed them with sauteed garlic, olive oil, shredded basil leaves, and freshly ground pepper.
-early peaches.

I'm betting this will all be consumed by Tuesday night, though I may try to save some of the garlic for use later in the week.


posted by Arlene (Beth)6:22 PM

The corn has ears, the potatoes have eyes, and the greens have names. One of the many pleasures of the farmer's markets and many of our local green grocers is the array of exotic greens available. Many I eat routinely - like gai lon, a sort of broccoli rabe - but many of them have a wide range of names, and so my friends who also use them have a hard time differentiating one kind of green from another unless it's in front of them. Even really fabulous resource sites, like the Asian Ingredient Guide by doesn't necessarily cover every sort of green that is commonly available here. (Though everything they do cover is photographed beautifully, don't you think?)

Luckily, the SF Public Libraries are coming through for me again. I've checked out an illustrated book on Asian veggies, and now know the names of some of my less commonly named favorites. They are:

-choy sum (flowering cabbage). This looks a lot like baby bok choy, with white stems and deep green leaves, but the leaves are a bit more scalloped around the edges, and they are usually sold with obvious yellow flowers.

-gau choy or gau choy sum (flat-leaved flowering chives, which often have a little flower bud at the top of their long, flat leaves). I've used these in soups and salads.

-yau choy (oil seed rape/rapeseed/rabe, aka the plant that makes seeds from which canola oil is made). This is pale green, has long stems, oval leaves, and yellow flowers. I don't like this quite as much as gai lon, but it is tasty. I've mistaken this for young gai lon in the past, despite the more yellow color.

-juk gai choy (mustard cabbage). Here this is often available as "Chinese mustard," but it isn't quite as good stewed as regular mustard for saag.

-tsee geung (stem ginger). Well, I knew this was young ginger each time I've bought it: I just didn't know it had its own name.

-dau mui (pea shoots). I never see these in the farmer's market, but can find them at local stores (just not in my neighborhood). These are extremely tasty, and I love them just rinsed, and briefly wilted in a wok with garlic and a little oil. They are sometimes used to stuff little dumplings, and then are great with a little chili sauce. (This means they're also great with rice noodles, if you think of them as disassembled dumplings.) They must be used right after you buy them, or they lose their tenderness and become a bit stringy.

-bak dau gok (mile long beans). I've cooked these several times, usually with garlic or a black bean sauce. This book notes that they aren't related to our green beans, and I suppose you can tell that from the taste and texture. They take a little longer to cook than regular green beans, and have a more fibrous texture.

The book is also quick to mention that the aversion to raw produce in China is partly based on health concerns, since human waste is routinely used for fertilizer: if you can't find recipes for using veggies like these raw, there is a reason!

I'm amused that I've been buying so many nameless veggies based on good guesses on how they are prepared. In my experience, most greens taste great over rice when thoroughly washed and stir-fried briefly in a small amount of oil with one or more of the following:

-garlic, minced
-fresh ginger root, minced or grated
-scallions, thinly sliced
-soy sauce
-chili sauce (I prefer Vietnam-style garlic chili sauce)
-black bean sauce (a fermented soybean sauce, available in many variations)
-rice vinegar, a splash (especially with slightly bitter greens)
-roasted sesame oil, a very small amount.

Tofu goes well with just about all greens. Mustard and collards have rather powerful flavors, so be careful if you're uncertain what you're after.

It's a shame this book is meat-centered, because I'd be interested in new recipes for some of the featured veggies that I've never tried, like bitter melon, water spinach (not actually a spinach), or bottle gourd.

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posted by Arlene (Beth)9:58 AM

Ecocity World Summit 2008 comes to San Francisco.
Throughout Earth Day Week, April 22-26, 2008 in San Francisco, California, the Ecocity World Summit (7th International Ecocity Conference) will be convening an international community of inspired change-makers; courageous individuals who are addressing problems of the world's environment with thoughtful long-range solutions that are truly sustainable, ecologically healthy and socially just.

The International Ecocity Conference Series brings together the key innovators, decision makers, technologists, businesses and organizations shaping the conversation around ecological and sustainable city, town and village design, planning and development. We intend to put these issues on the economic and environmental agenda for 2008 and beyond.
I could use a dose of this!

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posted by Arlene (Beth)9:54 AM

Saturday, May 12, 2007

japonica riceOde to beautiful rice. I'm a rice-eater, far more than I am a bread-eater. (Do my Polish relatives know?) This likely has something to do with growing up in the San Francisco Bay Area, where there are so many great rice dishes to be had in our very wide range of ethnic eateries. From Carribean-inspired red beans with rice, to saag aloo over pilau rice, to curried roasted veggies over brown basmati rice, to tempura veggies over rice, it's a routine part of my diet.

When I first left home, I ate the same rice my mother used: a long grain white rice that was available in major grocery stores. (We never used any of those 'instant' rices, which are cooked, dehydrated rice. Though I should consider it for camping use.) Then I tried a wide range, from arborio to sushi rice, and gradually switched to jasmine, then to brown, and then brown or white basmati. The brown and basmati rices had so much more flavor, and went well with the hearty, spicy dishes I cook most often. Steven preferred white basmati, so that became our staple rice, and has been for years: we'd buy it in sacks at the Indian grocery or at our favorite health food stores.

All that has changed, and I'm kind of worked up over it. During that trip to Cafe Gratitude with my raw foodist friend, my enchilada dish had come with a delicious, dark rice - not its usual side, which was a red rice they were out of. I didn't catch the name of the dark rice, but it was amazingly delicious, and I couldn't believe that something so good had escaped me for so long. On my next trip to Rainbow I scrutinized the rice selection in the high-up bulk bins more closely, and found what I was looking for: Japonica. Just a day later, while eating at Siam Dish, we were offered a choice between white and brown rice, and we chose brown: but instead of the usual beige-brown basmati, it was the gorgeous, deep purple-black rice I was hoping for. (And oh, is it ever good with Thai food!)

"Japonica," a name used in botany so heavily, is the name of the most beautiful rice I have ever consumed. It's a mix of red, brown, and black grains, all of which are finely detailed. It cooks in a reasonable period of time, with the water turning purple, and the grains taking on a more uniformly deep, dark color in by the time it is done. It cooks to a tender texture, but holds its shape well. (The cooking ratio is 1 part rice to 2.25 parts water.) It is the best rice I have ever eaten, and now it's going to be difficult for me to eat "normal" rice again. I've replaced all ordinary white and brown rice (even basmati) in my house with Japonica.

Now waiting patiently in my cupboards: Chinese black rice and Tibetan red rice.

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posted by Arlene (Beth)10:30 PM

Hey, future playwrights! ScriptFrenzy's website is up and running, and looks glorious. And the calendar is ticking down the days until your script-writing adventure begins.

Go. You know you want to.

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posted by Arlene (Beth)10:01 PM

Friday, May 11, 2007


Time flies when you're commuting.

Here is a recap of my very exciting life in recent weeks:

Week of April 16th: frenzy of pre-office-move work. Return home tired and cranky nightly.

Week of April 23rd: frenzied office packing, along with other frenzied legal dept activities. Tip for the wise: do not work in a legal department, because for moving purposes, people pretend all those files (including "important looking" documents found in dusty boxes in closets) are actually yours. Return home tired and cranky nightly.

Week of April 30th: frenzied unpacking, settling in, becoming accustomed to loss of hour or more each day in transit to new location in East Bay. Wisdom of accepting friendly offers of rides home varies, depending on traffic conditions. Fall asleep on couch routinely after dinner.

Week of May 7th: weekend purchase of folding bicycle pays off with faster (but still too long for my tastes) commute with more of a purpose (namely, health and sanity). Begin exploring area surrounding new workplace on way in and out of office. Exchange route information with other cyclists in office, distribute Bike To Work Day information. Spend evenings going to bike movies, packing goodie bags for BTWD, taking walks, and generally trying to reclaim normal existence.

My weekends during this time period have all been good, but... they are terribly far apart.


The new office is in the City of Emeryville (, an area adjacent to Berkeley and Oakland that was largely industrial throughout my childhood, but which is now full of brand new malls and condos. We're within walking distance of a major office-working-lunch-hub, the Emeryville Public Market ( Just mentioning this place lights up the eyes of countless colleagues: instead of being a mall with a food court in its center, it is JUST the food court part. There are more than 20 vendors selling a wide range of steam table or made to order foods at reasonable prices. The existence of the PM may be the primary reason that there has not been rioting in the office: construction problems mean we have no kitchen, no break room, no refrigeration for foods from home, and no way of making the food products that our company sells for our own consumption. (Random breakfast treats and catered company products have also helped.)

Excitement over the PM was palpable during our first week, but is flagging now: a colleague has remarked that there are plenty of choices, but he's learning that many of the options are not optimal for his tastes or health, and so realistically he has fewer options than he originally thought. (I'm being more diplomatic than he was.)

I haven't yet tried all of the venues, but will comment on them over time.

I've also made three field trips to adjacent areas for meals with colleagues, with some success. So I can write about those, though I'd like to revisit two of them to get a better range of dishes to review.


I'm giving up on my hopes of ever really catching up on posts, and will start fresh and just post as I can.


posted by Arlene (Beth)10:00 PM

Is it a gas leak? No, it's a spiky fruit! The area of the office where I work was subject to a potent smell recently. Colleagues began asking if I smelled natural gas, suspecting there was a gas leak. I suspected that the construction workers upstairs were laying carpet with one of those nasty carpet adhesives. I advised our office manager that there was a problem; facilities men came around, agreeing that they could smell the fumes, which seemed to be getting stronger.

The source turned out to be a durian drink. Durian is a spiky tropical fruit that is popular in Southeast Asia, but which is known for its noxious smell. As a prank, one guy brought in a very authentic durian drink for his colleague; his colleague thought it was nasty, and put the drink in his desk wastebasket; from there, the smell wafted around our region of the office. When he heard chatter about the smell, he put the drink in a plastic bag. It didn't help.

Eventually, he took the plastic bag containing the drink to a dumpster outdoors, and advised his neighbors that the situation was about to improve. We then called off the hunt for the 'gas leak.'

This experience explains the motivation behind this story: NPR : Ooh that Smell: Designing a Stinkless Durian (, 5/12/2007). Despite its stink, durian is beloved by many just as it is, though I clearly understand the motivation to make the fruit something that can be enjoyed in public.

As an aside, the durian event now tops another recent notorious scent event in the office in fame and impact: another colleague brought in an imported instant noodle lunch dish, the scent of which was commented on by about 10 passersby, described alternately as "something burning," "cat pee," and "burning rubber."

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posted by Arlene (Beth)9:59 PM

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