Maria Holland

Archive for July, 2011|Monthly archive page

If Adjima Could See Me Now . . .

In Uncategorized on July 27, 2011 at 4:17 pm

Three years ago, in the summer of 2008, when I was living in China, I first helped in a Chinese kitchen.  During the first week (which consisted of heavy work-inhibiting rain every day), I helped Xiao Li with lunch prep in the main house.  She had been working with the American family that lived there for several years already, so she put up really well with my clumsy attempts to learn Chinese words. 

As work started the second week, we began to eat lunch at the farm house.  There was a small cafeteria there (read: a combined kitchen/dining space smaller than the one in my college apartment) where a cook prepared food for two shifts of meals – first the regular farm hands, and then for us.  Part of the chore rotation was lunch prep in the cafeteria and, if I remember correctly, I was sent over first because it was believed that the small amount of Chinese I had picked up in the first week from XiaoLi made me the best prepared. 

Also, if I remember correctly, after a few short days of this the cook (who we called “Adjima”, Korean for “auntie”) visited Timothy to tell her that our “help” was making her job harder. 

I will admit, I was pretty hopeless.  Caitlin and I once chopped up the wrong part of an unfamiliar vegetable and discarded the part we were supposed to eat.  I didn’t know how to rinse rice and had to be instructed by a mocking farm hand.  And my knife skills were pretty bad . . . In fact, I’m still pretty slow at chopping.

I progressed slightly through that summer and through the next year of living in my own apartment.  But between hands-on instruction during my year in China and a lot of practice in the year since, I’ve gotten pretty good.  Sometimes I still feel like the single parent of two children when I try to get my parents to eat their vegetables or some food they’re sure they won’t like.  But it feels pretty good when they change their minds and decide that eggplant isn’t so bad after all!

Last night I made dinner for the three of us, and it was a huge success.  So, for the adventurous cooks at home, here are the recipes:

Pork with Scallions

1 lb boneless pork
2 tsp rice wine
2 tsp soy sauce
1/2 tsp corn starch
2 tsp oil
4 scallions
1/2 tsp salt
1/2 tsp sugar

Cut pork into pieces.  Mix rice wine, soy sauce, and cornstarch to coat pork; let the meat marinate for 10-15 min.  Heat oil until almost smoking, then add pork and cook til brown.  Add scallions (cut into inch-long pieces), salt, and sugar, and cook until the pork is firm (about 5 min).

Braised Eggplant

2 cloves minced garlic
4 scallions
1 tbsp minced ginger
1 lb ground beef
1 tbsp oil
1 lb eggplant, cubed
4 tbsp soy sauce
1/4 c chicken stock
1 tsp sugar
1/2 tsp black pepper
2 tbsp oyster sauce
4 tbsp water
1 tbsp corn starch

Sautee garlic, scallions, and ginger in oil.  Add ground beef and cook until browned.  Add eggplant and the rest of the ingredients.  Simmer 15 minutes, or until the eggplant is soft.

Stir-Fried Greens with Garlic

1 1/2 lb spinach or other fresh greens
1 tbsp oil
1/2 tsp salt
1 tsp sugar
2 tsp minced garlic

Wash greens and remove any stems.  Stir-fry in oil and salt for about 2 minutes.  Add sugar and garlic, and stir-fry for another 4 minutes.  Pour off extra liquid and serve. 

A Visitor!

In Uncategorized on July 20, 2011 at 3:23 pm

During the 11 months that I was in China, the only people that I saw from before that year were my parents, the family friends that came over to adopt a son, and a high school classmate.  In the year since I’ve been back, the only people that I’ve seen from my year abroad are those same people – my parents, the family friends, the classmate – plus ONE friend from China!

A few weeks ago, while I was visiting college friends in Tulsa, I got a call from an unidentified number.  It took me a few seconds to figure out who was on the other end – Lester!  He was in San Francisco, visiting family, and made plans to visit me in Minnesota once I got back home.

[Lester, for those of you who don’t remember, is a Filipino friend of mine from Xiamen.  We met through dancing, but our friendship really grew when he got sick and spent three weeks in the hospital.]

He flew in to MSP on Sunday afternoon.  I picked him up, apologizing for the horrible weather we were having.  Minnesota summers are usually so nice, but when we walked out of the air-conditioned airport our glasses fogged up!  Flashbacks of Xiamen . . . Lester said that the weather was fine because it was just like the Philippines, but after several days of it I doubt he’ll ever believe that Minnesota summers are as nice as we say. 

He had a hankering for IHOP (a tradition from his first trip to the US), so I treated him to greasy breakfast food for dinner the first night. 

The next day, I took Lester to the Mall of America.  It’s kind of the best thing we have in Minnesota, and a must-see on the tourist itinerary.  I was pretty proud, but then Lester mentioned that the Philippines has the Mall of Asia.  And it’s apparently bigger than the Mall of America. 

The good news is, apparently the Mall of America is better.  I mean, we have Lego Land!  Lester was a big fan.

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Plus I introduced him to the wonders of mall food courts, Wisconsin cheese, souvenir penny smashers, and Love Sacs!

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In the evening, once it got cooler, we biked over to the Coon Rapids Dam, where the Mississippi River passes through.  It was a beautiful night on bikes!

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It was so good to see him again.  We relived approximately every memory of our time together in China – dancing, being in the hospital, etc.  Man, that year was great.  Can’t wait for my next visitor!