Wednesday, March 30, 2011

J & K Do Portland Food Carts: Month 3.


Photos from khaomangai.com

Very sadly, Kathy and I never had an opportunity this month to visit a local food cart together. Sad face. :( However, earlier in the month two somewhat miraculous and rare things happened: I was downtown with ample time to wander and find lunch somewhere, and in addition, I realized that I had cash on me. I never have cash on me! Who even knows how this happens! (Okay, so I babysat for a friend and he gave me cash.) So I wandered over to the behemoth of original downtown food truck rings, near SW 10th and Alder. The variety of food offered here is particularly overwhelming, mainly in the breadth of choices of foods from different regions of the world. And then I saw this cart, and I said, hey, I have seen this truck before--in the paper! I read about this in the Oregonian, like a nerd! I should follow blindly to what journalists tell me! And I was SO GLAD I did!

Approaching new carts such as these for the first time can often be scary. Especially when you're downtown during the week at lunch hour: you're surrounded by business people type folk who do this everyday and who know the routine. They are fast, efficient, confident. But you don't know what anything on the menu even means! And you feel extremely apprehensive about asking questions to strangers, most of the time! But ALAS! At this food cart, there is just ONE OPTION: a Thai dish called khao man gai. There are some embellishments you can add to it--getting the chicken in it fried (although after eating it, the chicken was so great as is, I don't know how I feel about it fried), or getting it served with chicken livers (blech), or getting extra of anything. But in general, this is what you do, and what happened to me:
Me: -walk up to the counter-
Nong: -makes eye contact, smiles- "One for you?"
Me: -delighted- "Yes!"
Nong: -nod-
That's it people! It's a beautiful thing! I then shuffled to the side and waited for her to make eye contact again to tell me that my stuff was ready. She handed me my bag and I walked away. Easy breezy beautiful Cover Girl.

My one issue this day was that I didn't quite have anywhere to take this bag o' food and sit down. And, shockingly, it was raining. So I wandered awkwardly for awhile until I found a bench on 10th across from the Living Room Theaters, sat down, and uncovered my cutely wrapped up ball of rice and chicken. So what is khao man gai? Let me steal blatantly from her website, like I did with the pictures!
It is one of the most popular THAI FOOD that you can find almost everywhere in Thailand especially Bangkok. The original Khao man gai is from Hainan province, China. You can also find it called Hainanese chicken. It is chicken poached traditional cook with whole chicken. Then use the chicken broth to cook the rice with all aroma thaiherbs. That’s also the reason to use whole chicken because you want the broth to have the most chicken flavor to cook rice. Serve with the pungeon sauce that made from fermented soy bean puree mix with garlic, ginger, thai chilies, vinegar and sugar. Also serve with few vegetable to refresh the meal which is some few pieces of cucumbers and cilantro.
1) Yes, her writing IS adorable; and 2) Guys. It is simple--rice, chicken, and a sauce--and it is one of the most goddamn delicious things I have ever tasted. EVER. I sat on that bench in the rain and was almost moaning with happiness. (In retrospect, I actually think I did talk out loud a little to myself--a little "Oh man!" here, a "Holy crap!" there, since I already kind of felt like a crazy person for sitting on a wet bench eating my lunch in the rain.) Everything about it is perfect. The rice is perfect and light and fluffy! The chicken is moist and flavorful and wonderful! The sauce is AMAZING! It is perfect!

It also comes with a light, brothy soup which I wasn't quite sure what to do with. But Nong also explains this on her website:
In thai style it cannot be complete without the some clear light taste soup to balance everything together also to clean your throat making to meal so enjoyable.
Ah. Okay. I figured it was something like this. So, see, in America, we don't really understand this "cleansing your palate" thing; we prefer to eat super fast until we almost feel sick and then we move on. So, you know. I clearly took a few sips (since I also didn't have a spoon), shrugged, and, feeling faintly guilty, threw it out. I did eat the cucumbers which also come on the side, however, which actually did make me feel a little palate-cleansed-y.

Also, you must, must, must visit this page on her site and watch the short video of her telling her story, just for the point at 30 seconds in when she is describing tourists who've read articles about her, and after she says, "And they come to try chicken and rice!," she smiles with the most adorable, sincere, heart-melting slight overbite of ALL TIME.

After I sat back on my bench and collected myself a little bit, I got up and walked the few short steps to the corner of Burnside to take a visit to Powell's before having to head to class--with a very wet butt. So, essentially, it was the perfect Portland afternoon.

Tuesday, March 29, 2011

Sports movies.


(Amazing image via Life)

I have spent much of the last few weeks being absorbed in the glorious, tumultuous, heart wrenching, joyful, soul-searing time of year that is March Madness. It has been such good Madness so far! And there is still (a little) more yet to come! O happy day!

In addition to the Madness, Kathy and I have also been spending large amounts of time discussing the Fab Five documentary which aired a few weeks ago on ESPN. This documentary has produced a lot of controversy, mainly due to Jalen Rose referring to Grant Hill and other upper-class black Duke players as "Uncle Toms," as can be seen on the clip featured here. (Note: This video clip should really be watched for anything following to make sense.) This was followed up by Grant Hill writing a response in a New York Times blog calling this "sad and pathetic," and defending his family and his personal and Duke-related history. Honestly, I have no place in this discussion, but like any self-respecting white blogger who has no place in these types of discussions, it's hard to restrain myself. So, here I digress:

< digress >

Overall, both Rose and Hill make good points and I hope they can make up and send each other nice Tweets again. While I've heard ESPN commentators saying we should all move on now that they've both said their piece, I do actually think it's an important and good conversation to have. The clip from the documentary, however, again reinforces my gut reaction to defend Rose. While the term Uncle Tom is obviously an emotionally charged phrasing which perhaps could have been omitted, he was discussing the way he felt as a kid, not now, which he emphasized had to do more with his own jealousy and his own emotions than  with Grant Hill, or any other player, personally. He was reflecting on a time and a place in his life, which seems valid, and indeed, the purpose of the documentary.While African-American history makes this its own complex issue, the conflict between the Haves (in this case, Grant Hill) and the Have-Nots (Jalen Rose and his teammates) has been occurring forever: being a Haves does not necessarily make you a bad person, and you may have a right to be offended when you are constantly vilified and stereotyped; however, one has to understand the way being a Have-Nots feels. And it is always worse.

And personally, I feel like their description of Duke was a perfect description of why so many people continue to hate Duke, even if it's a simplification: "They were the people the world accepted." Whereas Rose and and his teammates, who dared to do such wild and crazy things as wear baggy basketball shorts, were sent hate letter after hate letter who told them their black gangsta ways were ruining the prestigious reputation of the University of Michigan, and that they should, essentially, die and go to hell. In short, the same stuff America has been telling poor black kids forever and ever. I would be very hard-pressed to not give a little validity to their anger. In addition, I have to say that while Hill was overall very well-spoken in his editorial, something settled sourly in my stomach each time he defended being raised in a "two parent family." While this is something one can definitely be happy about, it should not necessarily be something one defends or is "proud" of--all it does is sound like a punch in the face to everyone who was raised in a one parent family. Rose wasn't saying your two parent family was BAD. He was saying that he was raised by a poor single mom and sometimes it sucked. So your two parent family wasn't BAD, but it made him FEEL bad. Hill's defense of the two parent family feels the same way as when straight people are angry about gay people needing a Gay Pride parade when there isn't a Straight Pride parade. It's Straight Pride every day. The minority population who has had a rough time, whoever it is, has a right to be loud--proud OR angry. Understand that, and deal with it.

< /digess >

So anyway. This all got me to thinking about the greatest cinematic genre of all time: that of the "inspired by a true story" (always inspired by a true story!) sports movie. In my old post about March Madness,  one of the only really decent sentences I wrote was: "Sports, really, are probably the one public sphere where it is acceptable to show raw, unabashed human emotion." I still believe this is true. So take that raw, unabashed human emotion, and put a swelling soundtrack to it! Over-dramatize the personal storylines a bit! And BAM! Jill will be there to watch it and cry her eyes out and feel overwhelmed at the triumph of the human spirit!!!!

While there are probably almost too many great sports movies to count, here's a list of some of my personal best of the best.


Hoop Dreams (1994)

Guys. Guys. GUYS. If you have not seen this, you must. It is one of the best movies I've ever seen (and Roger Ebert agrees!). In fact, according to Wikipedia (which is always right!), "It was on more critics' top ten lists than any other film that year, including Pulp Fiction, Forrest Gump, The Shawshank Redemption, and Quiz Show." Siskel & Ebert both rated it their #1 movie of the year. It follows (for five years!) two high school boys from inner-city Chicago who dream of going to the NBA, but what's so remarkable about this film is that it's not your typical sports movie/documentary. As opposed to the Fab Five documentary, or More Than a Game, you don't know while you're watching what the future brings for these boys, and their families, who you come to know so well. You're not assured from the get-go that these boys are going reach stardom and success. You are simply following the authentic story, and as Siskel says the "harsh realities" of two boys in America who love basketball. It is as inspiring as it is heartbreaking. This line from the trailer, as an example, is just golden: "People always ask me, will I remember them if I make it? I ask them, will you remember me if I don't?"


Rudy (1993)

Well, this movie is just a whole big barrel full o' depressing. A classic portrait of tough times in the Midwest, it's full of poverty, harsh families, life in the steel mill, and friends dying! Yayyyyy! Young Samwise Gamgee loves Notre Dame football SO BAD. SERIOUSLY SO BAD. His love for Notre Dame is so earnest and pure it's almost painful. However, he runs into these problems: 1) he's poor; 2) he's short and tiny; 3) he's dumb. (Okay, he later discovers he has dyslexia. Spoiler alert.) So dumb he gets rejected from Notre Dame like a gajillion times. But does he give up? HELLS NO, PEOPLE. As the trailer dramatically tells us: "Sometimes a winner is a dreamer who just won't quit." Oh man. What an epitome of a sports movie clincher line! It is perfect! And the last fifteen minutes will make you bawl like a baby no matter who you are! If you don't you have no soul! Sorry, that's just the way it is!


A League of Their Own (1992)

For those who don't know, Kathy can quote almost this entire movie. In fact, if there was a Things Kathy  Likes, I would put "Randomly quoting A League of Their Own" at number one. So for this one, I am just going to shout into the living room and ask her to recite some of her favorite lines:
"Keep it down, your father's listening to the radio!" [That's for Allie!]
"'What if at a key point in the game my uniform bursts open and oops my bosoms come flying out?' 'You think there are men in this country who ain't seen your bosoms?'"
"By the way, I loved you in the Wizard of Oz."
"Gimme gimme gimme gimme!"
"'What do you say we slip in the backseat and you make a man outta me?' 'What do you say I slap you around for awhile?' 'Can't we do both?'"
"'I especially like that move in the 7th inning where you scratch your balls for an hour.' 'Well, anything worth doing is worth doing right."
"Avoid the clap, Jimmy Doogan."
"'Has anyone seen my new red hat?' 'Oh, piss on your hat.'"
"I'm singin' to Nelson!"
"Did you promise the cows you'd write?"
"See how it works is, the train moves, not the station."
"She's got an eye like DiMaggio."
So, there you have it. (Also, let's not even talk about the last scene in the hall of fame. Don't. even. talk. about. it.)


Field of Dreams (1989)

Kevin Costner! James Earle Jones! Ghosts! Corn! If you build it, they will come!

And: 



Bull Durham (1988)

Kevin Costner! Susan Sarandon! Tim Robbins! The minor leagues! I believe in long, slow, deep, wet kisses that last three days!


Friday Night Lights (2004)

Moral of this story: high school football in Texas is WAY scary and intense, and the lives of these boys and the adults around them actually makes me extremely uncomfortable and upset. But, really well done movie. (I have not watched the TV series, although I have heard many good things and would like to.) I would also like to comment on the fact that Beck's "Golden Age" dominates the end of this trailer, which is interesting since it's hard to listen to pretty much any track from Sea Change without wanting to slit your wrists, so that combined with Billy Bob Thornton and Texas football? That is quite a concoction of emotions, my friends.


Hoosiers (1986)

Okay, so to be honest, I haven't watched this movie in a long time and don't remember much about it, but I feel like it has to be included on this list. I do know that it includes almost all of the ingredients for a Classic Sports Film, such as 1) motivational coach speeches; 2) the tale of the underdog Cinderella story; 3) the high-school-sports-team lifting up a small town theme; 4) basketball in Indiana, which is essentially like football in Texas, but less scary, although I may just feel this way because I like basketball way more than I like football, but still, it's the Midwest, they're more gentle folk there, so yes, it is less scary than Texas; and 4) as witnessed in this clip, the slow clap. What more can you ask for than that?


The Sandlot (1993)

So other Best Sports Movies Lists I've looked at, such as ESPN's, don't include the Sandlot anywhere, perhaps because it's a kids movie, but Kathy and I believe this is foolish. No one loves baseball more purely than a bunch of prepubescent boys. Along with other classic 90s films such as Stand By Me and Now and Then and others, this is one of the most perfect movies about childhood of all time: it encapsulates summer, friendship, baseball, youth. They seriously, seriously, seriously do not make kids movies like they used to. This golden age of childrens' movies in the 90s did things we've somehow lost the ability to do: they were perfectly appropriate for kids, at the same time that they weren't dumbed down in the least. They were innocent and fun, but they were also honest and often moving, making them enjoyable for everyone to watch. I miss it.


Bend it Like Beckham (2002)

This is a great female-centered movie which, like many other good, upbeat female-centered movies (Legally Blonde, Mean Girls, etc.) are often shrugged off--even by the people who like them--as being "guilty pleasure" type movies. But in fact, I think they're all extremely well written and well done: just because they're fun doesn't mean they're stupid. This movie is also of course great because it's a soccer movie, and even though it was made in the UK it was also extremely popular here, and how often are soccer movies--with a female protagonist--popular in America? Mark that one as a never, until Bend it Like Beckham. Oh, and in addition to a female protagonist, she's an Indian-British protagonist. Cultural awesomeness abounds! The only thing which isn't necessarily great about this movie is the romantic relationship between Jess (Jesminder) and the coach, and the resulting feud between Jess and her best friend super hot Kiera Knightly (Jules): if it seems  annoying and unnecessary, it's because it is. The actual romantic relationship was supposed to be between Jess and Jules--which seems pretty obvious throughout the movie--but the makers of the movie wimped out.


Glory Road (2006)

I remember seeing the trailer for this in the theaters with Kathy, and we immediately turned to each other and said: "Uh, yes please!" College basketball AND a moving story about race relations? THERE IS NOT A MORE PERFECT MOVIE PLOTLINE! This is based on the (shocker!) true story of the 1966 NCAA college basketball championships, where the coach of the little known Texas Western team shocked the nation, and most especially their opposing team of Kentucky, with super duper racist  coach dude Adolph Rupp, by having five black players as the starters, for the first time ever. The coach, Don Haskins, is white, so this could easily fall into the white-man-raising-up-the-black-man storyline which I know is reviled by many, but it's still a great, important, moving story. And I mean, Stevie Wonder's in the trailer. Come on.


Gridiron Gang (2006)

Listen. I feel like people may give me shit for this one--I mean, it stars The Rock. The Rock! But like Glory Road, this is another one of those movies where the story is so good I can't help but love the whole thing. This one deals with kids who've been in gangs and killed people and stuff and are locked up in juvie, but they find a way to redemption through football and a coach who believes in them. This is the stuff dreams are made of! Second chances! So much triumphing of the human spirit! YAYYYYYYY! However, I should say that the opening scene was extremely violent and disturbing and I'm not quite over it, since I do not deal well with such violent and disturbing things. I do not deal well with them at all. This probably also explains why I'm not a humongous fan of football. But, I really also wanted to include this one if just because the footage at the very end, of the real players and the real coach (from the TRUE STORY!!!) was just incredibly awe inspiring.


The Mighty Ducks (1992)

Duh.

--

I know this is an incomplete list. Which ones did I miss?

Wednesday, March 16, 2011

Grocery shopping / New Seasons.

Love letter to Fred Meyer:

I love grocery shopping. After we'd been settled here in Portland for awhile, I decided I loved shopping at Fred Meyer--a chain owned by Kroger, and affectionately known as Freddy's--the most, although specifically, just my local Freddy's at SE 82nd and Foster (such an illustrious intersection!). The newly remodeled Freddy's at Hawthorne is all fancy and colorful and stuff, but I can never find a damn thing--or a parking space--there, but my trashy Foster one seems like home. We all know, with silent acknowledgment, that where you buy your food is one of the biggest indicators of social class. It commonly goes as thus:
Discount/whole-sale food chains (Food 4 Less, WinCo, Grocery Outlet): Poor people
Fred Meyer: lower-to-middle class
Safeway/Albertsons: middle-to-upper class
Whole Foods: richies
Living in Portland, for the eco/food-conscious, I believe there is a whole different strata:
Trader Joe's: lower-to-middle class--"Listen, just because it's Trader Joe's, doesn't mean it's LOCAL!"
Whole Foods: again, richies, and also way mainstream--"Whole Foods is for the bourgeoisie!"
Farmers Markets/Co-ops/CSA's: the only 'real' option for many hardcore folks, many of whom are richer, but who are constantly telling you that poor people can afford it too--"Look, supporting your local farmers is the only sustainable way!"
Truth is, I actually love all of them on different levels, and constantly try to be a more conscientious food consumer and buyer, but I felt the most comfortable walking around in a sweatshirt without a bra and pajama pants with holes all over them and with my hair half falling out of a sad state of a ponytail (which I haven't bothered to touch since waking up) in the Foster/82nd Fred Meyer, so, there's your winner.

At work, in the world of inspiring corporate coffee lingo, we are told that Starbucks is meant to be the "third place"--a place that isn't work and that isn't home, but a place where you can go to escape the stresses of your daily life, which can often assault you at both of the other two. The grocery store is my third place. It's easy for me to get wrapped up in my own headspace, but I feel relaxed and happy and blissfully, numbingly mindless as soon as I walk through the automatic doors and am surrounded by overpackaged food and assaulted by air conditioning. I especially like going there by myself in the early morning or late at night--essentially, when the store is full of ancient people, or college students/strung out overworked people. I love wandering the aisles listening to whatever horrible easy listening satellite radio is playing. This horrible music always positively delights me. I love the awful neon lights. I always spend entirely too much money.

Love letter to New Seasons:

So, now that I have said all that, I have to get this off my chest: I'm sorry, Foster Fred Meyer; I have neglected you recently, and it's nothing personal, but, you see, a new New Seasons store just opened on Hawthorne. And while we had heard plenty about this store previously, there was never one within such close proximity to us before, but now that there IS, and now that we have BEEN THERE...well...well, you really can't blame us. Because holy crap, this place is awesome!

New Seasons is a local grocery chain which combines the best of both worlds. You get your fresh produce and local brands, but then you can also buy Oreos and Ritz crackers, if you want. It is way Portland-y, but in a good way; not all the shoppers are Completely and Utterly Cooler Than You (as most of the people just outside on Hawthorne probably will be), and it doesn't scream pretentiousness--just awesomeness. The Hawthorne location is a bit smaller and the aisles can definitely get cramped, but I'm still chockfull of happiness every time I'm there. Have I mentioned that they also have an awesome sampling counter? They have an awesome sampling counter.

Some of my favorite local things which you can get at New Seasons include:
  • Bottles of yummy saucy deliciousness from: Fire on the Mountain; Podnah's Pit; and Cafe Yumm
  • Healthy bread from the violently named Dave's Killer Bread, along of course with the local yet larger Franz, and New Seasons' own freshly baked carbohydrate treats (we normally get their sourdough, which we can all agree is the best sort of bread ever invented--thank you, San Francisco!)
  • Although there are crazily enough a few brands of local hummus you can purchase, the best is of course King Harvest
  • A variety of yummy grains and flours and things from Bob's Red Mill
  • Alden's Ice Cream, which I believe is based out of Eugene. We all know how much I love ice cream (see prior entries: Haagen Dazs Chocolate Peanut Butter Ice Cream and Cookies & Cream) and with my vast experience, I can tell you their Chocolate Chocolate Chip is some of the best ice cream I've ever had.
  • Although we haven't actually gotten it, you can get local milk--in a bottle! Like, just like the bottles they used to deliver on your doorstop! How retro!
  • Probably so much more I haven't even discovered yet. I know areas all around the country are tapping into the local-food craze, which is so super neat-o, but I really feel like there's almost no better place for it right now than Portland--there are just so many great independent companies everywhere you turn.
  • (It should be noted that you in fact can also find a bunch of these brands at Freddy's, although they hide in the Organic/For Froofy People aisles, and who wants to spend much time in those? [Froofy people.] Still, the selection at New Seasons is much better and somehow just seems more fun.)
After perusing their website, I was also overwhelmed by how many good things they do for the community (donating over a million dollars to local schools over the last decade; regularly delivering healthy meals to the elderly--on bike, of course; hosting barbecues for non-profits, and a host of other things, not least among them trying their best to educate people about local farmers and food resources) until eventually my brain melted. 


Another highlight includes their fresh meat counter. There's no frozen/pre-packaged meat aisle at New Seasons (except for a small lunch meat section)--you order everything at the counter. I've been making monthly goals for myself for awhile now (which, if you are ever for some reason interested in, I keep track of here) and, very surprisingly, one of the goals I've been continually making for myself and continually being successful at is cooking a new meal each week. I've cooked a few meals which involved meat, and when I first shopped at New Seasons, this whole ordering-everything-at-the-counter thing weirdly intimidated me. But then I discovered that they wrap everything up in brown paper--again, like the olden days!--which strangely excited me, and now it's my favorite part! Really, it does not take much to excite me! Also, this week I had to buy some chorizo, which is the greatest type of meat ever known to man, and they had TWO different chorizo options (chicken or pork). Life is good!

(The recipe I made was this one: Sweet potato and chorizo enchiladas, from one of my favorite food websites [except I think I, like, doubled the amount of chorizo]. Seriously, this woman is awesome. She's from New Orleans, so you know she's got to know what she's talking about. I'm currently writing this from a computer at school in between classes but there is nothing I would like better than to be home eating some of these leftovers. Mmmm.)

As a final note:

For those unfortunate souls who have seen me in my crazy-hair/holey pants/sweatshirt combo at Fred Meyer: I'm sorry. (But not too much.)

Wednesday, March 9, 2011

These huge shiny bright beautiful Mac screens in this computer lab.

To be specific, the MISL (Metropolitan Instructional Support Lab--fancy, I know!) in the Graduate School of Education at Portland State University. Oh my God, every time I'm in here I just want to pet them. And then maybe cuddle up in a ball next to them. So pretty! So pretty! So pretty!

I have been wrapping up some of the last assignments I have due this semester in the MISL for the last few hours on these shiny, dandy things, and am about to go complete one last presentation and then I am pretty much done. Hallelujah! This semester has been full of some dark spaces for me, some weird mental states combined with a little bit of apathy along with some rage and/or angst along with a dash of confusion and lots of exhaustion. Yay! The last week in particular I have been consumed with working on a project for my student teaching which I am actually pretty proud of, but regardless didn't afford me any time for pretty much anything else--blogging included! The horror!

But I think I am emerging from the darkness, and there are lots of things I still like. Enough things, in fact, that I could continue to write in here for years. And knowing this makes me feel infinitely better.

Seriously, though. These screens! Screeeeennnss....Huh? What? Oh, sorry. I'm going to go drool a little bit now.