Saturday, October 08, 2005


Well, I still haven't managed to get a digimatized camera. So, unfortunately, I will be unable to show what any of the items looked like. But I received a very awesome package from Eileen in Belgium. (And now that I think about it, I've already eaten a lot of what she the pictures would have been of empty packages!)

Anyway, it turns out Eileen did a little homework and snooped around my blog. So she included some tasty Japanese treats (because of my trip to Japan). She sent a little variety pack of wasabi treats: peas, lima beans (I think), almonds and peanuts. All coated in tasty wasabi goodness! Also included was a package of okazu nori, or "side seaweed". These are the little sheets of nori seaweed that usually accompany rice. They make a nice texture and taste contrast to rice.

She also noted that I am a number cruncher (both by trade and by hobby). So she included some statistics about the eating and drinking habits of Belgians. The average Belgian drinks 15 cups of coffee per week!! And 1 restaurant per 460 inhabitants! Dallas has a lot of restaurants, but I'm pretty sure we can't match that statistic.

And of course, some fabulous Belgian chocolate was included. She even tried to appeal to my Texan tastes by making one of them a chocolate bar with pink peppercorns! I haven't tried this one yet (I'm trying to be good and not eat everything at once!), but have great expectations for it! And also along the Texan theme were some "homemade" (presumably by Eileen. - if so, then very well done!) chocolates that have chili in them. Some chocolates shaped as diamonds, that were made in the diamond district of Antwerp. And finally a "typical Belgian cookie", that has already been consumed!

And finally, perhaps the most interesting item was the mix CD that Eileen made me. She stuck to a food theme, with the exception of "Come on Eileen" - which is more than understandable since it was Eileen who went to the trouble of making the CD. There were other various food related songs (some of which I didn't know), but I must say that any CD with a Jeff Buckley song ("Lilac Wine") is an instant hit with me!

So, Eileen, thank you very much for the unforgettable package! I'm trying to ration the goodies, but I have a feeling they will not see the end of the weekend!

Eet smakelijk, indeed!!

Saturday, September 10, 2005

Ahh, playdough - thy taste is divine.

There was a time, not so long ago, when I actually had a litte intrigue and adventure in my life. When my days were made up of more than just crunching numbers and meetings. I have posted a few pictures of my time in Japan; and its time for post number 3 in this series.

In the picture on the left you see (from l to r) Kazuhiko (my college roommate), Stacy (my sister), me (myself), and Kinuyo (another college friend). We are taking part in tea ceremony. Kaz had been taking a class in tea ceremony etiquette and he arranged for us to take part in an actual ceremony. As you see us now, we have finished the tea and are about to chow down on some wagashi, the traditional sweet that is served with green tea. I must say that there are some Japanese sweets that I quite enjoy, but the wagashi we had that day is not really one of them. Plus, this picture represents my first exposure to said sweets.

You will notice that they look very similar to lumps of playdough. Granted, the taste is a little better - but the consistency is all playdough. Anyway, perhaps my favorite thing about the first picture is that you will notice that I have decided to tackle the problem of consuming playdough by appealing to the great green tea gods above. While my friend Kinuyo has decided that she will just flat out challenge anyone to make her consume what is before her!

Sunday, August 21, 2005

The local delicacy?

You know, I used to think that I was a pretty adventurous diner. I mean, I've veered off the path of conformity from time to time. I've had raw horse meat (basashi) for crying out loud! But something happened yesterday that made me realize I'm really just a punk. I was reading an old issue of Outside Magazine and found a small article about cliff diving in Norway. And as an aside they mentioned a "local delicacy" called smalahove. So being the inquisitive soul that I am I looked it up. And I believe I just might have found something that there is no way in heck I could eat. Now, I'm not talking about Fear Factor crap. I mean real, honest-to-goodness dishes that the locals enjoy. Real food. I've always thought that I could handle anything that actual people enjoy eating. But if the Norwegians really do eat the delicacy shown in the above photo, then I gladly bow to the real champions of open-minded eating!

Saturday, August 20, 2005

I'll take the saw-kee-sone, please!

We now take an intermission from the current series of Japanese memories. I was reading this entry by cindym on learning the ropes in Paris, and was reminded of a funny experience of my own. I'll try to keep it short. At my previous job I was "required" to travel to London every couple of months. Almost everytime I went there I would take the opportunity to visit my friend (see photo) in France over the weekend. On one occassion I was to meet him (and his wife, Alexandra) in Paris. Because of flight times I had to either arrive early evening or shortly after noon. I opted for the earlier flight, but that meant spending a few hours alone in big, scarey Paris (as my friend had to leave work and then drive in from Nantes). But I did it anyway. So, I arrived at the airport, took the train to the station where we were to meet. I had my little day-suitcase, with wheels. At this point, I've still got nearly 4 hours to kill.

Now, I'd like to take this opportunity to point out that it had been a relatively long trip. I left from Northampton, England (north of London), took the train to London. flew to Paris, and took the train to....somewhere (I can't remember the stop where we met.) So, my bladder had plenty of time to become not empty (I would now like to apologize for the graphic nature of this post!). So, I'm strolling up and down the same street (because I'm scared of getting lost!) with my little roller suitcase, a full bladder, and an increasingly empty stomach.

So, I'd like to take this opportunity to point out that I didn't (and really still don't) speak French. I'm an ugly American. During my trips up and down the same street I had noticed a nice little cafe that looked like a decent place to stop, empty bladder, and fill stomach. (An earlier atte
mpt at operating a port-a-potty that took coins had proved quite fruitless.) The only problem is that I'm such a freaking prideful bastard that I was scared to reveal to the waitstaff (and the rest of France) that I couldn't parlez the langue. So I kept walking, kept pulling the stupid suitcase, and kept cursing the port-a-potty for not functioning properly!

Anyway, I'd like to take this opportunity to point out that I am human - and that I can only go so long without answering the wailing cry of nature. Pride be damned! I had to pee for crying out loud!! So, I stepped into the cafe. I chose a seat. And the waiter approached. He said something. I looked at him with my best ugly American look. And he gave a knowing nod, indicating that he was privy to my stupidity, and asked in English what I would like to eat. So I'm home free, right? I can order in English! Woohoo! (And by the way, where is the toilet?) But, no! I still couldn't get it right. I recognized something on the menu that my friend, Arnaud, had shared with me before. It was saucisson (see photo).
So I decided that I would order some saucisson and a beer. So, in my best American English I informed the waiter that I would like a beer and some "saw-kee-sone". Unfortunately, the proper pronunciation is "saw-see-sone". So, yet again, I am humiliated and reminded of my burden of being from East Texas. Thank you, and good night.

Thursday, August 18, 2005

Octopus what?!

Well, its time for part two of "Trying to make my blog look cool with old scanned pictures, since I'm not hip enough to own a futurmalistic dige-camera thingy." I'm actually of the opinion that this is a pretty darn good picture, stylistically that is. Unfortunately, I can't claim credit for taking it - since I'm actually in the picture. (I'm the dorky looking, fresh-faced, homester on the right; sister is just to the left.) But anyway, note the choreography in the left of the picture. It almost looks like a '60's era National Geographic picture, or something. I don't know, I just think the girl's school uniform looks just retro enough, and its sort of blurred out, and with the strange "foreign" characters on the sign - it all just looks pretty cool I think. Anyway, what we're eating is "Tako-yaki" - or octopus balls. No, c'mon, keep it clean! Its little bits of octopus, or Tako, submerged in batter, and then fried (yaki) into a ball shape. It is served with a sauce that is very similar to what you would get with yaki-tori (fried-chicken). (Actually, "fried" is a little misleading, since its more of a skewered roasting that takes place.) And finally, for your Japanese lesson of the day: If you look at the Japanese characters in the very top left of the photo you can see what the hiragana characters for "ta-ko" look like. Use that knowledge wisely and you will go far!

Tuesday, August 16, 2005

Not a food blogger, but love me some grub

I'll cut straight to the point. This isn't really much of a blog; much less much of a food blog. But that doesn't necessarily mean I don't appreciate blogs, food, cooking, long naps and cracking my knuckles. So, I wanted to make my "blog" all nice and pretty like the cool people do. Maybe show off some of my splendiferous cooking. The problem, however, is that I don't own a digimatized camera. So I thought to myself, "I know, I'll dig up some old pics and scan them. I mean, I've been places; I've done things; I've eaten...stuff." So that's exactly what I did. I dug out the old shoebox and sifted through countless memories of days gone by. I ended up spending about an hour looking at photos and visiting old friends and places. So, I've chosen some of the loosely food-related pics, and I've decided to share them. Now, since I'm a sporadic poster at best I think its best if I avoid making an uber-post today - and instead post one photo at a time. So, this first one is a little boring. But we wouldn't want to rush into anything would we? I mean, we barely know each other! I've never met your parents, nor you mine. I have no idea what your favorite beverage is; what type of toothpaste you use; or why that cute little vein in your forehead always seems to show up when I'm giving you "suggestions" on how to properly slice a cucumber. So, you get the idea. Just look at the boring picture first - then, if things go well, we can progress and I'll show you more. So, here it is (the "boring" picture):
Many moons ago, my sister and I made a trek to Japan. While we were there we paid a visit to my college roommate, Kazuhiko. He took us to this huge greenhouse in his hometown where they grew strawberries. As you can see from the photo, they sorta knew what they were doing. There were just rows and rows of these beautiful, sweet, sugary strawberries. Stay tuned for further adventures in extreme dining!

Sunday, August 14, 2005

Good grief! I suck...or, adventures in international dining.

Well, I have recently become interested in the Eat Local Challenge, and blog meme that encourages all of us to eat wares that are produced locally (100 mile radius, for example). So, I decided that the best way to go about this endeavor would be to first take stock of my current situation. Um, its not good. In fact, its just plain embarrassing. Anyway, here are the foods I had for breakfast this morning, and the distance they travelled:
Butter - Arden Hills, MN - 1,003.0 miles
Spinach - Salinas, CA - 1,654.0
Eggs - Austin, TX - 200.0
Feta Cheese - Weyauwega, WI - 1,115.0
Blueberries - Pitt Meadows, BC, Canada - 2,380.0
Apple Juice - Dallas, TX - 1.8
Coffee - Austin, TX - 200.0

I mean, I couldn't even keep it in the country for crying out loud! Canada?! Are you kidding me? What, did Celine Dion grow those blueberries? (Okay, they're actually from the Vancouver area - so Celine Dion may be a little harsh. Sorry.) However, I will add that those were some damn good blueberries! Anyway....Even the ones that look decent (like eggs and coffee) are kind of cheating. The eggs are Central Market brand and say "distributed by Central Market, Austin, TX", but who knows where the eggs actually come from. And same with the coffee, which is bought in the bulk department. The only redeeming item is the apple juice. I have no idea where the apples actually came from, but it was fresh squeezed from Central Market - so, at least the labor involved in the squeezing was done locally. Woohoo!!

So, here is how my list should have looked (and it will next time):
Butter - The Mozzarella Company - 4.6 miles
Spinach - Dallas Farmers Market - 30.0
Eggs - Dallas Farmers Market - 30.0
Feta Cheese - The Mozzarella Company - 4.6
Blueberries - Dallas Farmers Market - 30.0
Apple Juice - Dallas Farmers Market - 30.0
Coffee - Cowhill Express Coffee - 67.2

Obviously, I might not always be able to get blueberries (or other produce) in the season that I am craving it, but there should always be something. And I'm assuming an average distance of 30 miles for the farmers to travel to downtown Dallas. The Mozzarella Company just plain rules! And I should use their stuff more often. The coffee beans from Cowhill Express are neither grown nor roasted at their facility, but I guess there's something to be said for supporting the "local" economy.

Thank you, and good night.

Wednesday, July 13, 2005

Another totally random post....

Something is not right in Dallas. I feel myself being irreversibly sucked into an actual career. It took a while to happen (as I am slightly older than 18 now), but I have recently found myself actually thinking about work when I am home. This is discomforting and makes me wish that I had tried harder to realize my childhood dream of being the next Rhinestone Cowboy! I mean, I need money (it buys my gourmet groceries) but I never thought that I would be consumed by work. Work is something you do so that you are able to truly live, right? When work starts encroaching on said living you've got a problem, right? Of course, I still have it better than many of my friends (okay, I only have two - but still); who frequently work 60 hour weeks. Its a bad week when I have to work 45! But still, I'm worried about the worrying. I'm worried about getting ahead. I'm worried about impressing others. I'm worried about staying ahead of others.

I just finished watching the latest installment of the Up Series, 42 Up. Basically, in two weeks time I was able to watch these individuals grow from 7 year old cartoon characters to 42 year old geezers. Its fascinating, but also inspiring and disturbing. You see some accomplishing something new and exciting in every 7 year installment. And others who seem to fall apart right before your eyes. I find that I want to be part of the former group. But hadn't I hoped to accomplish more than just being a well-paid businessman? Wasn't I supposed to write a screenplay? Or open a restaurant? Or travel the world? There's a fine line between living, and making a living. Unless you're independantly wealthy you have to do one in order to accomplish the other. But too much career, and the living gets squeezed out of life. Am I waxing too eloquent? Sure. But I honestly do worry that I will be just another treadmill participant.

Yep, my career is going just fine. I may need to quit soon.

Wednesday, July 06, 2005

Give me a child until he is 7....

Well, I have just finished watching "21 Up", the third installment in the Up Series - a collection of documentaries on British school children. The series revisits them every seven years and talks to them about their dreams, ambition, views on life, etc. It has so far been very, very interesting. Its amazing to see how some of the kids have changed a great deal - both for the better and the worse.

Tuesday, July 05, 2005

New frontiers....

I'm thinking this thing will work better as just a sort of journal for moi. I seem to be all over the map on where I would like to see the "theme" go; plus, I don't really even update often enough to maintain a theme. So, instead, I've decided to just keep a record of things that interest me - and my interactions with those things. For instance, I've decided to get serious about learning French. Yep, I said it - I'm going to learn French. I love languages (and at least the idea of learning them), but seem to have trouble landing on one long enough to actually learn it. (I know some Japanese so shouldn't I learn that; but, I live in Texas so shouldn't I be learning Spanish; but, my heart's with French, so....) Anyway, since motivation is the biggest factor in language learning success I've decided to do French. And after that I can pursue others. (Ideally, I'd like to know 4 languages minimum.)

So, on to my French learning escapades. I'm using a multi-tiered approach. (Mainly, because I have all these different resources and am trying to find a way to not waste any of them.) My program is as follows: Each day on my commute to work I listen to Pimsleur French I.
I purchased this a few years ago; I want to finish level 1, but won't be buying the subsequent levels. (I think its too expensive for the slow pace. Its mainly good for pronunciation practice, but that's not really my weak spot.) Then, while I'm at work I listen to a French TV station on the internet. This channel is sort of like CSPAN I think. Its good because its just nonstop talking - and the purpose is to become familiar with the pattern and sounds of the language. On my commute back home I listen to the same Pimsleur lesson to reinforce what I learned. Then, upon arriving home I go through one lesson of French In Action, the greatest French study program available. There are 52 lessons. When I finish them then I will start over again, because its designed in such a way that you aren't expected to pick everything up the first go around. After that I go through a lesson of Conversational French in 20 Lessons. An old, but good, grammar book. After I finish the Pimsleur course I will be working through Assimil French (listening to it during the commute and working through the lessons in addition to FIA and the grammar book.) That's a rough overview of the program. I may include more details in later posts.

I'm thinking of taking a trip to France to visit a friend for New Years, or at the very latest next Spring. So my goal is to be able to hold conversations (basic) in French by that time. I'm certain this is possible for the Spring trip.

My brother likes soup.

Thursday, June 09, 2005

Language GDP

Well, those of you who know me, know that I like numbers, spreadsheets, languages and different cultures. (I also like cooking, but that doesn't fit into this discussion - so stop pestering me about it.) So, I decided that it was high time someone calculated the Gross Domestic Product of languages. (In other words, the value of all final goods and services produced by a given language-speaking population in a year.) Sure, many organizations tabulate the GDP of countries - but I have yet to see the GDP of languages. Let me explain. The GDP of Austria is $255.9 Billion. This means that all of the hard-working individuals of Austria put their wits and muscles together and produce $255.9 billion worth of goods and services. So, what if I want to know the GDP of all the hard-working individuals in the world who speak German? German isn't spoken only in Austria. Nor do all Austrians speak German as a first language. (Immigrants and certain indiginous peoples might speak another language despite residing in Austria.) So I would need to look at all the German speakers in the world, find out their country of residence, and then find out the GDP per capita of each country, and then tabulate the total GDP of all German speakers. Sounds like fun doesn't it? So, I used data from the CIA's World Fact Book and Ethnologue to calculate the GDP of some select languages. (I am currently working on calculating the GDP for all living languages, but there are thousands and this will take me more than a few minutes!) So, for the time being I have calculated those languages closest to English. To save space I will only give the top 5 languages for each "tier". So, here goes:
Tier 1 - English
1. English - $11,291,933,693,300 (that's 11 trillion)
Tier 2 - Other English-based West Germanic languages
1. Scots - $6,150,000,000 (that's a measely 6 billion)
2. Yinglish - $69,700 (Ethnologue provided incomplete info on this one)
Tier 3 - Other Non-English West Germanic languages
1. Standard German - $2,580,612,099,300 (not bad, 2 trillion)
2. Dutch - $510,982,353,000 (510 billion)
3. Bavarian - $235,498,292,900 (235 billion)
4. Schwyzerdutsch - $195,632,028,700 (no, its not mispelled....wait.....)
5. Afrikaans - $65,733,884,900 (only 65 billion)
Tier 4 - Other Non-West Germanic languages
1. Swedish - $247,955,311,200 (247 billion)
2. Danish - $170,708,356,700
3. Icelandic - $7,686,694,400
4. Scanian - $2,272,032,200
5. Faroese - $998,800,000
Tier 5 - Other Non-Germanic Indo-European languages
1. Spanish - $3,762,633,011,100 (3.7 trillion!!)
2. French - $1,861,666,444,400
3. Italian - $1,652,319,502,300
4. Portuguese - $1,574,630,156,100
5. Russian - $1,490,827,344,900

So, there it is. Tier 6 will be all Non-Indo-European languages, but there's a ton so I haven't finished yet. It's important to keep in mind that this isn't necessarily a direct reflection of a language's total population. For instance, there are by far more Russian speakers than French speakers (more than double), but since most of them are in poorer countries the GDP is lower. So when you calculate the language GDP it ends up being pretty low.

Well, enjoy. I'll post the full list as soon as I figure out how.