Monday, January 26, 2009

What Can Brown Rice Do For You?

I've been blessed with the Asian gene where I don't have to watch what I eat. Between 3 pickup games (sometimes 4 if I'm lucky) a week and general puttering around the house, I can basically eat whatever I feel like and regulate the waistband. I've gone two driver's license renewals (over 7 years) and still have the same weight on the driver's license give or take 2-3 lbs.

That said, I'm getting that middle age gene where you try (brainwashed?) to eat more healthy. On a whim, I bought a 20 lb bag of brown rice. I've enjoyed brown rice sushi and thought this would be a healthier transition for us. Maceo is cool with rice as long as it comes with a dash of furikake nori. His favorite dish is salmon teriyaki mixed with rice and peas and a dusting of nori. Dude can put it away and hold up his scraped dish proudly.

We're two weeks in. Is there such a thing as rice regret? I think I have it.

It took a damn week to figure out the water-to-rice ratio and I still haven't perfected it. I'm tossing in an extra 3/4 cup of water and it still comes out al dente which blows ass. It doesn't sit well overnight. The tipping point was when I made a pot roast. I made a gravy with the drippings and naturally dumped it over the brown rice. The homestyle treat that appears in many bento boxes suddenly didn't make sense. Gravy is inherently evil in the healthy food department and brown rice sits at the other end of the spectrum. It was like driving to a Green Party rally.

I think this dilemma is going to haunt other tasty specialties I make. Bacon fried rice, my usual go-to leftover rice dish, will just seem odd with brown. Or brown rice Spam musubi. I can't bring that over to the Super Bowl party; I'll get my ass kicked.

Thankfully, Maceo is good for any kind of rice as long as it comes with a nori sidecar. Wifey is OK with it as she's more on a health jag than me but I can tell she misses the white sticky stuff. I miss it too, especially the smell of a freshly made pot of jasmine rice. Brown rice smells like a paper bag or a rolled up newspaper. This may be a quick experiment.

Any brown rice-files out there? What the hell is wrong with me?


Tuesday, January 20, 2009

They're homogeneous: Black Culture, Asian Culture, etc...

"Their mood was shared by those at the UK's inauguration parties, many which involved an element of black culture."

Having lived in England in the 90s, I have a general idea of what "black culture" means in the UK, mainly in a popular-music sense. But I have to wonder what exactly the above quote means when discussing a British celebration of Barack Obama's inauguration. Did they feast on fried chicken, collard greens & BBQ ribs, or Jamaican beef patties and johnny cakes, or dibi with couscous and plantains? Did they listen to Pinetop Perkins and Run DMC, or did they listen to Seal and Corinne Bailey Rae?

It reminds me of a time in college when someone assumed that because I was Filipino, and since Filipinos are Asian, and Buddhism is a part of Asian culture, then my family probably didn't celebrate Christmas.

Then there was another instance in which my wife was working on a presentation about the Philippines, and the director of the organization suggested changing the font to something "more Asian," like what you see on Chinese takeout cartons. Because, you know... just like Black culture, there is only ONE Asian culture.

Tuesday, January 13, 2009

Getting a CLUE


One of the reasons my wife and I decided to stay and raise our boys in Manhattan instead of joining the homesteaders in Westchester, New Jersey, or Connecticut is we are only 20 minutes away from a unique and engaging cultural event. However, finding the time to take advantage of these events is a different story.

The boys and I finally made it to a Target First Saturdays. Per the museum's Web site, Target First Saturdays "offer special, hands-on programs designed for families with children and young adults 5 to 15 years old, conducted by trained New Museum educators the first Saturday of each month."

The raft ride, walking through the wolf pack, the exploding car, and the spectacle of familiar objects helped make the Cai Guo exhibit a big hit with the boys and the Darger exhibit a disappointment. I enjoyed the latter but it was wrongheaded of me to bring the boys. They still need to interact with an exhibit. Just looking is not enough.

That Saturday at our first First Saturday, just as the curator/educator leading our group said not to touch the paintings, I turned to see my youngest jumping up in an attempt to tap a low hanging corner of a painting. It had been hung at an angle, catching his eye. The moment seemed yanked out of a sitcom. The timing of her statement and my catching my son couldn't have been any more coincidental.

Happily we were not cast out immediately. The talk was brief but focused us on the overall theme of the museum's new exhibit: Color. The current exhibit, CLUE (color location ultimate experience) is a collaborative installation that "adapts to the space it temporarily occupies... at the New Museum, it takes the form of site-specific performance, multichannel video installation, and video projection. The flexible nature of this project embraces multiple arrangements of its parts, allowing the environment to inform its presentation."

The curator/educator successfully drew the children into a question and answer about the paintings that hung around the room. She asked, "What colors do you see? What do you think the title on the painting means? What do the colors together look like?" etc. It was the directions afterwards that had some parents confused (including me). However, even that had its positives as the boys and I wandered directionless through the galleries. As an adult, sometimes it feels good to be able to enjoy getting from point A to point B without the urgency of the usual 9 to 5 deadlines.

Tuning in the teacher in me: The duration of the presentation worked well. Twenty minutes not including the time it took the kids to settle down. While I would have preferred to have been asked one or two guided questions, lead from painting to painting and then asked to apply the questions to what I saw, I wasn't a teacher at that moment. I was a parent who with other parents in the room saw his children excited about being drawn into a new experience.

The highlight of the event for both the children and me was when the elevator doors opened and we went from rooms dotted with color to a bright pristine white room untouched by it. Despite the cold, it was a beautiful morning whose best aspects were preserved in the room. And what resonated most was when the children began to draw. I tried to take some pictures of it but none really captured the spectacle of the process. P1030016

The room was so brightly lit and immaculate, it was easy to be awed by the colors that began to seep into the scene as the children used the available crayons to create the iron-on patterns for their T-shirts and a mural on the big blank sheet laid out on the floor. The culminating activity was the creation of a shirt based on the paintings that were introduced at the beginning of the event.

While in my opinion there were parts of the session that could have been better orchestrated, my boys' enthusiasm over their shirts overshadows any negatives of the event. They wore the shirts they made for days.

Sunday, January 04, 2009


My daughter is six and she is jealous.

Recently I had some new friends come to visit from out of town and they stayed with me for several days. It was all impromptu, and I put together a small KAD gathering in their honor (both are KADs married to each other).

This also coincided with some Daddy/Daughter bonding days that I get during the holiday season. Those days are normally spent chasing a giggling girl around the house while she insists that I not chase her, and then screams at me to chase her until I finally catch her and zerbert her belly until she toots. It's a game, okay?

Our days are often spent relaxing and watching cartoons, eating delicious snacks, going to fun stores, and coloring or making crafts. Of course, there is always LEGOs and beads.

When our schedule gets changed, the jealousy arises.

I think I first really noticed it when I bought a new house this past year.

I knew that Noodle would be sensitive to major changes (ie. my divorce). So in keeping with those "parenting" guides on raising children, I involved Noodle in the process of buying a house. I took her on the house hunting with my realtor, let her decide which room she wanted in the new house, and gave her free reign on the color she wanted to paint.

I let her help choose the color carpet, her Tinkerbell border for her room, and even how to set up her room. She helped by splashing color on the wall, dripping paint on the floor (we were tearing it out anyway), and running around high on fumes until we bought NO VOC paints from Home Depot.

Even still, there was work to be done. New bathroom tile to select. New faucets. New fixtures of all types. New furniture.

I remember as I was staring at toilets in Home Depot for the fiftieth time in a month, Noodle came up and asked if I loved the new house more than I loved her because of all the work I was doing on the house.

"That's impossible," I said, putting down the Kohler brochure. I kissed and hugged her and started playing our favorite game "I love you more than." She tends to win by saying that she loves me bigger than the galaxy, and I say the universe, and then she says infinity.

Despite my best attempts at assuring her all this, she brought it up several times during the first month or two of fixing up the new house. Once, she asked it sitting in the empty expanse of her freshly carpeted room. Another time, as I was cooking her dumplings and noodles while she sat coloring me pictures of fairies.

And then, one day, she stopped asking. She loved the new house, her room, the hiding places, and of course, having me chase her through it looking for her behind doors or under blankets.

This past week though, jealousy reared its head again. I had taken the KADs out for a small micro-mini gathering for Thai, and brought Noodle along. There, she was adored by everyone and did real well with new people. Even the next day, she seemed to enjoy them so much because they paid attention to her, played with her, and entertained her. So I wasn't expecting it, and didn't realize it until she mentioned the same thing on consecutive nights.

On the first night she wrote me a message on my white erase board that said, "Dear Daddy, I love you. I hope you like your new friends. Love, Noodle."

On the second night, she was spending time with the mommy and when she left she said, "Bye Daddy. I love you. I hope you like your new friends."

I replied, "I like them, but I love you more!"

Later that night, I received three messages from her on my phone. Her sweet girly voice was just saying "hi" or "goodnight." But, I could tell she missed me and wanted to hear me tell her I loved her.

Her mommy said that Noodle thought I told her I liked my friends better than I liked her.

Ah, what children will hear.

So that meant spending Saturday with Noodle. I picked her up and took her to the "fishy" park, a place she loves but that we hadn't been to since last summer. The "fishy" park is a giant fish like sculpture playground ladder that the kids climb over and across and hang from. The park is generally busy on weekends, and this Saturday was no exception.

She was overcome with giddiness and ran from play area to play area (the park is over one acre in size with five distinct play areas plus a picnic area and passive field). I chased her around the park, through the 50 some children running in haphazard fashion, and past perfumy mothers with Gucci sunglasses and Bugaboo stollers. It was traffic at 5 pm on the DC Beltway, and Paris Hilton had caused a fender-bender.

She went across rocks, down twisty slides, up walls, sideways and upsidedown. And in the midst of all the bustle she remarked, "I'm so much better than I was last time I was here! I must really be growing up!"

She was taller than many children, and she was growing up. She could do things I had wished she'd do when she was younger. She took risks, took off on her own, and didn't ask for my help.

Voices came upon me from the past 6 years.

"This is payback for all the cute girls' hearts you broke."

"You better lock your windows at night when she gets older."

"Want to borrow my shotgun?"

"She's going to be the death of you."

I stood there, watching her zip across the hanging steps, realizing she was older, knew more, felt more, and could express herself in action and words.

I found myself imagining that some day, it would be me feeling jealous. Jealous of watching her leave on her first date, having her first kiss, and falling in love. I imagined myself an older, wiser, more patient father, who let go of his jealousy, to free his daughter to the sky she had dreamt.

She jumped off the end of the playground, and raced toward me, and gave me a hug. Then, she tore away from my grasp and bolted for another slide, her hair streaming behind her, her feet swiftly kicking beneath, and her arms like wings lifting her in infinite love.