Archive | October, 2012

ToMAYto, toMAHto

30 Oct

So I bought some tomatoes the other day. I know what you’re thinking — “So what?” The thing is, I hate tomatoes. Every time I go to a restaurant, whether it’s Taco Bell, Panera or somewhere fancy, I always amend my order with “no tomato.” I don’t like their taste or slimy texture. Ketchup I love, tomato sauce I like, but I can’t get behind tomatoes themselves.

But then the other day we were at a Japanese restaurant that gave us some free tomatoes as an appetizer. They were sliced and drizzled with some kind of sauce, perhaps balsamic and soy. I had already finished the edamame appetizer and was still hungry — hungry enough to eat a tomato slice. And it wasn’t bad. I didn’t like it enough to eat another slice, but didn’t hate it enough to spit it out. It served its purpose of keeping me busy until my main arrived, and I promptly forgot about the tomato. … until a few days later. I suddenly started craving tomato. So much so that I went to Tesco and bought a whole pack of tomatoes and cooked them with onion, lentils and balsamic vinegar for lunch. It was delicious. But how does that happen? How can you go from detesting something to craving it? It’s happened to me once before. I used to hate sushi. The thought of eating raw fish seemed like the grossest thing ever. Until one day when I was super hungry during my job in college. One of my coworkers had picked up a sushi roll at the student union and was eating it right next to me. And suddenly all I could think about was sushi. Even the soy sauce seemed delectable. So the minute I got off work, I went to the student union and got a California roll  — and it was magical, artificial crab and all. It took me awhile to advance from rolls named after US cities and states (California and Philly rolls were my standbys) to actual slices of raw fish. In fact, I think that only happened because I was in China once and they put a slice of sashimi (raw fish) in front of me and I felt compelled to at least try it so as not to be rude. But now I eat sushi and sashimi at least two or three times a week. I wonder if tomatoes will somehow make it into the rotation (although I still have to scoop out the slimy stuff and I still don’t think I’d enjoy them on a sandwich, but baby steps…)

The Curious Incident of the Day Seat Queue in the Morning-Time

15 Oct

Once again I found myself standing in the cold in a queue full of strangers at what someone who works from home considers an ungodly early hour in the pursuit of theatre magic. One ticket to “The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time,” to be exact. Yes, the other day I decided to try the day seat thing again for the third time.

After the show is over and I’m riding the live theatre thrill, I always ask myself “Why don’t I do this more often?!” And then I remember how much of a hassle getting day seats is. There’s the waking up early part, riding the Tube like a sardine during rush hour part, then seeing the massive queue and kicking myself for not waking up even earlier part. But then there’s also the meeting new people part and collective “Will we or will we not get tickets?” exciting part. And then once that ticket is in hand it all seems worth it… until it’s time to wait for the bus to go back home, eat lunch and change, then take the Tube back to the theatre. I think I spent £10 just in bus and Tube fare that day.

But I met a delightful old British lady in the queue, who continuously phoned her elderly mother and said delightfully British things like, “Enjoy your morning cuppa, Mum!” And then there was the nice older couple from Portland who assumed the old British lady was my mum or grandmother because we arrived around the same time. I guess my obvious American accent didn’t give it away. They were nice company while we waited. There were at least 50 people ahead of us and we were beginning to lose hope. But the National Theatre had three productions going on that day, so I guess not everyone was waiting for the same show. I was able to get a restricted view matinee ticket, which meant I had to lean forward for most of the show, but it was worth it.

I read the book “The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time” a few years ago. I remember I enjoyed it, but I also didn’t remember much about it. It didn’t seem like the kind of book that would easily translate to the stage, but it did, and brilliantly. It was in a small, 360-degree theatre and the use of props, actors, lights and sounds were out of this world. No wonder all performances were sold out! The story also meant more to me now that I live in London. I think some of the plot was lost on me when I first read the book because I had never been to London before. I didn’t understand why, “Take the Tube to Willesden Junction.” “What sort of tube?” “Are you for real?!” was funny.

While I was walking to the theatre I saw a horde of teenage girls talking loudly and pointing towards a young man standing outside the theatre. Eventually groups of them ran over and had their photo taken with him. When I was in the bathroom I heard girls saying things like, “I fancy him so much!” And “What’s he doing here? I think he’s friends with the guy in the show.” Apparently the guy was some British teen heartthrob and I had no idea who he was. He was sitting in the front row with his girlfriend and the girls seated in front of me spent more time staring at him than watching the show. I tried to eavesdrop to hear his name, but they never said it. I guess I’ll never know who he was.

I enjoy going to shows alone, even if it’s not culturally customary. Though you’re sitting in a quiet dark room, I guess people like to have someone to turn to to share a smile, a laugh, a tear. But I think there’s also something special about sharing that with an entire room of strangers for 2 hours and 40 minutes, and then going home with that experience all to yourself. It’s what got me through waiting 15 minutes for the bus home in the rain.

It doesn’t count if…

5 Oct

I was watching a Youtube video the other day and this advert came on beforehand. It began with “It doesn’t count if…” in a catchy jingle and I was intrigued. Instead of clicking “Skip ad,” I decided to watch it. A women proceeded to describe all the dieting scenarios in which “it doesn’t count” — if it’s Christmas, your birthday, someone else’s birthday, or my favorite, “It doesn’t count if you’ve just been to the gym, are going to the gym…or are just in gym clothes.” The video was surprisingly funny and relatable.


“That’s so me!” I almost said out loud. I am particularly guilty of “It’s doesn’t count if I’m on holiday (Hello, four-course cruise dinners), it’s Christmas, or it’s free.” And of course the gym excuse… in Chicago I used to go to the gym for 20 minutes and then go to Potbelly’s and get a sandwich (633 calories), cookie (530 calories) and shake (686 calories). No wonder I didn’t see any results, I should thank the metabolism gods I’m not obese! (Of course it also doesn’t count if the nutritional information is not clearly labeled — never go to a restaurant’s website and seek out that information as I just did, it will depress you.) So while I enjoyed this funny video, I was curious about its purpose — why would Youtube play me a humorous video in the spot reserved for advertisements? What’s the catch? So I went to the link at the end of the video. This is what came up:

KFC. The whole thing is a marketing campaign for KFC. They want you to try their lighter lunches “for the times it does count.” Just out of curiosity, I looked up the nutritional facts. The meal with a BBQ chicken wrap, small fries (because nothing says eating light and healthy like french fries!) and Pepsi Max has 685 calories. I guess that’s not bad in comparison to other fast food meals (someone posted this on Facebook the other day:)

But I have a hard time accepting french fries and white bread as a healthy meal. …Man, when did I become such a health nut? I guess after too many “it doesn’t count ifs” and Potbelly outings. I’ll stick with my Turbo Jam and oatmeal for now.

What do tampons have to do with the price of maple syrup in England? Oatmeal.

2 Oct

Lately I’ve been obsessed with oatmeal. Over the past week I’ve made carrot cake oatmeal, gingerbread oatmeal, Almond Joy oatmeal and baked pumpkin pie oatmeal. (I can’t take credit for these creations, thanks The Oatmeal Artist!) Part of the fun of cooking is buying new supplies, like spices and ramekins, and figuring out the British name for various ingredients, like molasses (which is called black treacle. *The more you know*) When I’m looking up recipes I always pull up to check the prices of ingredients and whether Sainsbury’s actually sells them. One recipe I was looking for called for applesauce, so I did a quick search. This is what came up:

That’s a light bulb, two appliance descalers, and then a bunch of tampons. The results of a search for “applesauce.” is usually very accurate, but something seems to have gone amiss here. When I searched “apple sauce” with a space, then my results made sense:

While I’m on the topic of oatmeal and grocery shopping, there’s one ingredient I always end up leaving out or subbing because it’s unbelievably expensive in the UK: maple syrup. A 250 g bottle (8.8 ounces) costs £5.99 ($9.66 at the current exchange rate). That’s outrageous! Even the generic store brand is £5.49 for 330 g. Can’t you get Mrs. Butterworth for a couple bucks in the US?

…But then I realized something: Mrs. Butterworth (and probably every bottle of pancake syrup I’ve ever enjoyed in America) isn’t real maple syrup. It’s maple-flavored corn syrup. While probably not $10 for a little bottle, I’m sure real maple syrup is much more expensive than the fake stuff in the US. It’s just that the fake stuff is so prominent, most people don’t even realize it’s not actually from a maple tree. Thanks to Jamie Oliver (I’m guessing), my only option here is to shell out for the real stuff … until I got the brilliant idea to check the American store for some genuine fake maple syrup. And there it was — Aunt Jemima pancake syrup! … for £6.50. Why I thought the store that sells Lucky Charms for the equivalent of $11 would have affordable syrup is beyond me. Looks like it’s honey in my oatmeal for the foreseeable future.