Happy Independence Day

Happy Birthday America!
There’s something about being an ex-pat that makes July 4 really special. At least, for me, I feel a little more homesick and patriotic than normal. But that may just be because I know my whole family is on a beautiful clean lake swimming and sailing and having bonfires and drinking delicious wine and there’s a couch-sized pile of fireworks to be set off and last year at this time I was floating on a little inflatable raft in said lake with a bottle of said delicious wine relaxing my face off.

It’s been a busy but good week. I sold, in total, 800 tickets to our event, over half in the last week, so I was constantly on the phone and running around like a crazy person. I was mistaken for an actual Chinese person on the phone several more times, which was gratifying, although that immediately led to bullet-speed Chinese I couldn’t understand and I had to disillusion them right away. Wednesday a friend from high school rolled through Beijing so I took him to Jing Zun Duck on Chunxiu Lu again (its our go to place for out of town/special occasion duck, since it’s good and reasonably priced). Although it was a Wednesday, I also took him to Sanlitun after, and told him to imagine it was full of drunk kids. We went to Enoterra and sat on the patio, which was lovely even with a fog of pollution obscuring the skyline. Shared a bottle of nice, almost decently priced Cabernet and reminisced about high school and mutual acquaintances.

Having to work my event Sunday, I switched my teaching hours to Saturday. A few canceled, so I had a lovely 3 hours break in the middle of the day, which I used to go home and bring the boys McDonald’s because I knew they were living in a bucket after their evening. We met with more friends that evening for a meal at some little hole in the wall restaurant on a back street of Dongzhimen. The food was good although the chuanr were overly spicy and I couldn’t eat more than one. A relaxing evening of friends and video games, and a few people trying to convince us to go out to some club but we went home at midnight (I had to argue with a belligerent rickshaw driver trying to convince us that the three of us (two over 6 foot boys and myself) could fit comfortably in his rickshaw. I’ve done that once and it will never be repeated, but the driver was so insistent. It was annoying.

Sunday was the long awaited work event. Things went mostly smoothly although there’s definitely room for improvement all around, and I think I have some streamlining suggestions to make. I worked basically the entire time, although some people were very nice and brought me food and beverages throughout. The weather turned out to be perfect-sunny, a bit on the hot and humid side, and I definitely picked up a few more freckles. I also got a few people interested in my resume after having been such a help, which makes everything worthwhile because it’s really high time I started looking for a job for when the internship ends.

Met up with my friend Leia afterwards to buy shoes. She found this amazing store that has real shoes (actual brands, that won’t fall apart like the silk market fake bargain crap and are actually comfortable). Even discounted, they’re quite expensive, and I paid more than I should have for an exquisite pair of dark beige suede pumps, but they are…well, exquisite. My-legs-look-hot-I’m-having-a-mini-crisis exquisite. I continued my spending spree with a skirt from Mango (but it was hugely discounted!) and we had Spanish tapas for dinner. A little on the pricey side, but light and delicious–marinated eggplant, grilled baby squid with sweet tomatoes, anchovy and avocado crostini, and artichoke skewers. It turned out to be a perfect amount of food which, pricey as it is, I like about tapas because you eat proper, human sized servings instead of giant bowls of oily deep fried carbohydrates.

My supervisor was so pleased with all my work that she gave me today off which made my life. I slept in for the first time in….weeks (I woke up at seven, remembered work wasn’t happening, and blissfully went back to sleep). Did laundry, biked to April Gourmet (pricier than Jenny Lou’s and less convenient although their meat selection looked better) for ingredients and then got sucked into Comptoirs de France for some overly expensive macarons (I will be packing/not eating lunch for the rest of the week).

The fourth is for family and so I insisted the boys be home for dinner and invited Allie and Dina. I made a quick and simple pasta salad: Boil one package of farfalle. Thinly slice a carrot and zucchini, and sugar snap peas, and briefly stir fry them with a little oil and salt. Toss the vegetables in the pasta with olive oil, balsamic vinegar, a table spoon or so of pesto, some parmesan and lemon zest. Refrigerate.

Then I made shredded beef tacos. I really wish my camera wasn’t broken because this was beautiful, based on a recipe I found on Tastespotting for tri-tip. I bought about a kilo roast from April Gourmet. Soaked it in brine for a few hours while I did laundry and was generally productive. Made a dry rub of cumin, salt, red chili powder, paprika, sugar, salt, black pepper, ground ginger, all about 1/2-1 tsp. Patted the roast dry and rubbed it down and let it sit for a little while I diced 4 cloves of garlic, half an onion and two jalapenos. The recipe called for a can of diced tomatoes and sauce, but I had my bolognese on hand, so I added a tomato and a handful of cherry tomatoes, diced up finely and simmered for 20 minutes. Covered the roast with the chipped vegetables and tomato sauce in a dutch oven, covered it, and put it in the oven at 160 C (about 325 F) for two hours. While it was braising I made a pastry dough and went to get a massage.

Bambi had braved the row of seedy, sketchy looking massage places on our street and found a legit place that gives massages not hookers and discovered a membership card deal. For 80 yuan I got an 80 minute medicinal-soak foot massage and back rub. Oh the wonders. I fell asleep to almost excruciating tickle-pain-wonderfulness. It was most refreshing.

I got back and finished making apple pie galettes, because pies are mushy. The humidity and heat made the crusts unbearably challenging, but I managed, and stuck them in the fridge to bake later. The roast finished, I took it out and shredded it with two forks. It smelled divine. I had to taste a tiny little bite to make sure it was good enough for company…and I’m telling you…the only reason I did not consume an entire kilo of meat by myself at that moment was entirely due to sheer will power. I put back the veggies it had cooked in and some of the broth that had cooked off–which was delicious so I saved and froze it rather than throw it out and waste tastiness–and kept it warm in the oven while I went off to teach my class.

Allie and Dina met me at the English school and we flagged a cab home. Dinner was a great success. I had taken some of the little flags from the party on Saturday and put them all over. Warmed up tortillas, cut up two avocados with lime generously squeezed over it, and brought out the pasta salad as well as a pitcher of refrigerator tea that had been brewing all day with lemons. The galettes baked perfectly at 200 C for 35 minutes and Dina brought ice cream to serve with them and the macarons. Overall, a really great Fourth of July! I hope every one can surround themselves with good people and good food and hopefully an explosion or two.


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