Sunday, May 27, 2012

pass the tofu.

i'm in a predicament that has nothing to do with this blog post. but i'm going to share it with you anyway, because i never actually start with what i'm actually going to be blogging about.

i've decided, since i've been rather busy this year and haven't blogged on a regular basis, that i'll do another blog every day in the month of (insert month here) go! challenge.

my predicament is this: which month?

i am sorely tempted to do june. because june is my favorite month for a number of reasons, including my twenty-first birthday. let's get excited.

however, i did june last year, and july is busier than june, and i like the challenge of doing it in july.

if you have a preference, let me know. if you just simply can't live without my blog and you can't read it in june, i'll do july just for you. but i really hope that you can live without my blog, because it's not that fantastic.

but anyway.

this blog post is REALLY about my spring term. and my adventures through food. so buckle your seatbelts, kids, we're going to talk about food, korean kickball, and more food. and probably some more food.

spring term: english 381, asian-american literature and culture.

students: fifteen. fourteen females. one male.

class time: nine thirty until twelve thirty. try to stay awake and make it to lunch.

professor: dr. chen, small and stern english professor from taiwan. PhD in victorian era literature.

now that we have those stats out of the way. spring term.

dr. chen, being from taiwan, was very interested in teaching asian-american literature and culture. but how could we experience culture from japan, china, korea, and india in the middle of rural michigan?

through food, of course. on the first day of class, in her rather thick chinese accent, dr. chen told us, "i like to make people happy. normally that means i feed them." i wasn't going to complain with that.

but here comes my blog list, for all of my posts have one. this is the list of emily's fears about eating asian food.

1. i'm a vegetarian.
2. i'm a picky vegetarian. i think this makes my family hate me.
3. eating at restaurants that i don't know makes me nervous for the above two reasons.
4. i hate spicy food.
5. i just don't like to try new things in the culinary world.

fried tofu. om nom.
so one night, i sat in my dorm and dramatically told myself that i would get over this fear and i would change everything except numbers two and four. i'm going to be a vegetarian for the rest of my life, and my poor mouth will always be the most sensitive part of my body. luckily, i had elena with me, and as the class vegetarians, we stuck together.

first stop: hello sushi in saginaw.

i, of course, have never had sushi. i'm allergic to fish, so i wasn't that keen to try it. elena talked about getting vegetarian sushi, and that sounded super dandy to me, so we ordered some, along with some fried vegetable tempura, miso soup, and fried tofu. the rest of our table got a huge family style meal, and elena and i sat in the corner and ate our tofu. if you're wondering, miso soup is like, awkward warm soup with powdered tofu and seaweed. it's pretty slammin'.

the fried tofu was interesting. it was slightly mushy. that didn't really appeal to me, but i was hungry, so i ate all of it. the vegetarian sushi was rice with avocado in the middle, which is SUPER YUMMY. but there was on problem: it was wrapped in seaweed. seaweed and i didn't get along. so elena got to eat the whole thing.

and then we ran into our first problem as a class, not just me as a vegetarian exploring the world of asian food: chopsticks.

this is me.
eating fried tofu. with chopsticks.
this didn't bother ava, my sorority sister, who's vietnamese. she grew up on chopsticks. we watched as she devoured all of her sushi like she was born with chopsticks in her hands.

every time i put my chopsticks down i had to relearn how to use them, and i was instantly reminded of the ill-fated dr. reid vs. the chopsticks moment in season one of criminal minds.

reid asks for a fork. our waitress didn't speak english. so we plugged away with our chopsticks.

after we ate at hello sushi, we went to a japanese tea ceremony. a traditional japanese tea ceremony. it was very intriguing, all of the respect and other earthly feelings that are put into it. i can't really describe it, but at the end, we got to sample the "sweet", or the nice tasting food before you drink the tea, and then of course, the tea itself. the sweet was a small cookie, and i kid you not, a soy gel square that tasted like dates. i tried to get that out of my mouth by eating the cookie, but it tasted exactly the same. i then looked down at my tea, hoping that it would be good, and it was seafoam green. it was one of the most bitter things i had ever consumed in liquid form, but it was better than the soy gel square. when we were done with our tea and we had slurped on the third sip to show that we enjoyed it, we made origami swans. i felt pretty cool.

our next trip was to lansing, where we met with a korean minister who's daughter goes to my college. the church that he owns?

you bet your bottom dollar it's presbyterian, just like my college. not that we actually do anything presbyterian-like. our chapel is nondenominational.

dr. chen plays korean kickball.
so while we were at his church, we played korean kickball, which involves two quarters tied at the bottom of a plastic grocery bag. believe me, that hurt when i kicked it.

we then went to a small korean restaurant where, once again, the servers didn't speak english. dr. chen had done her homework: she wanted authentic food.

elena and i paired up and looked for options, hoping that reverend chon was going to order for us. which he did, in korean. this was slightly disconcerting, because we didn't know what he was saying. i ordered jab chae without the beef, and i was really hoping that he got the "without the beef" part. i felt more dextrous with my chopsticks while eating vegetarian dumplings (like the chinese dumplings that we made as a class at the service learning house together) and sticky rice. i tried some spicy stuff and ate half a bowl of rice to get rid of the spice.

then my jab chae came.

oh yeah.
those noodles are transparent.
see how it kind of looks like vomit?


so. those noodles. are brown. and transparent. remember those sticky hands back in the nineties that you'd slap onto a wall and they'd stick?

that's what they felt like.

they tasted like regular pan fried noodles. they had the consistency of gummy worms.

the whole class wanted to eat my jab chae. so i had a lot of fun passing it around and watching people play with the noodles. not that i didn't play with them. i totally took one and saw how far it could stretch.

before leaving the charming capital of michigan, we went to bubble island at MSU, which was totally awesome. i'm not a big tea person, but i was assured that bubble tea was super yummy, so i decided to try it.

directions for ordering your bubble tea: pick your tea. pick your flavor. pick your bubbles.

milk tea sounded creepy and gross. so i got green fusion tea with half the sugar. i flavored it with green apple flavoring, because green apple rocks. and i got colored bubbles because they looked yummy, and it either that or mango jellies, and i don't like mango.

bubble tea!
bubbles. you're probably wondering what those are. they're flavored jelly pieces that stick right in the bottom of your tea. the straw is wide enough that you can suck them right up and swallow them whole like dr. house swallows vicodin, or you can chew them. they're quite chewy and delicious. the colored bubbles were pink and my bubble tea was bright green, so i felt like i had a watermelon drink that tasted like green apple and awesome sauce.

our third and final food adventure was to an indian restaurant in mt. pleasant after class. i was most nervous about this trip because indian food has an annoying habit of being particularly spicy. once again, elena and i were bffs.

we didn't need to worry about vegetarian options. the buffet had more vegetarian options than meat options. we loaded up our plates, and erica assured me that the vegetarian rice wasn't spicy.

erica underestimated the sensitivity of my mouth. the first four bites were great. then i was in a considerable amount of pain. but it was DELICIOUS, so i ate it anyway.

indian food. nom.
i got some fried vegetable stuff (that's the brown stuff in the top left corner of the picture), and on the first bite, it tasted like, i kid you not, french toast. then as soon as the french toast taste was gone, boom. spicy.

that green stuff in the corner? yeah, i didn't even try that. because somebody said it was spicy. which means, for me, it was really spicy.

i can honestly say that i didn't enjoy the indian food all that much. i didn't like the restaurant; it had eighteen TVs so i couldn't hear anything, it was dark, and the food was just too spicy. i wanted to get more jab chae from a korean restaurant.

we did many other things in my asian-american literature and culture class than just eat food. you guessed it, we read literature. we wrote papers. we did projects.

but we ate a lot of good food.

i was hoping that our last six page paper could be about our fun experiences with food, but of course, it was a research paper that i turned in yesterday with six secondary sources. a 381 level literature class can't be too fun, can it?

so, emily, our intrepid blogger, ate asian food. enjoyed asian food. remained a pure vegetarian. used chopsticks.

i also played korean kickball, chinese sword danced, made origami, and made vegetarian taiwanese dumplings. i also learned how to say "hello how are you?" in hindi. that was pretty neat.

i guess what i'm trying to say is this: college is cool. and i really like food.

for your general entertainment: dr. reid vs. the chopsticks.


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