31 October 2011


In lieu of Halloween candy updating... (will do that at some point):
Snacks from China, brought to me by my dad when he went to China in the summer. Consumed before Halloween so that I can make space for chocolate and such (actually, my room has a lot of space. Plenty of room to store food...and no mice [yet]).

Square cracker thingys: really spicy and tasted a bit like stale wasabi.
Green plastic packaging: delicious spicy tofu. Vacuum packed. It's like jerky...but it's tofu!!!
Yellow plastic packaging: more spicy tofu jerky in oil.
Bamboo shoots: pickled and spicy.
Mushrooms: pickled and spicy (and really oily)
Dried kiwi: did not taste like kiwi. Way too green to be naturally preserved kiwi...bland and not that delicious :( :( The seeds were real though.
Lotus seeds: Moist and nutty.

30 October 2011

Pizza Making!

My GA had a pizza-making event today! Maybe 15 of us hung out in the kitchen at 4 pm and made pizza dough. We started off with a pile of white flour, made a well, and poured in some yeasty hot water. Then, we added water and oil and salt, and kneaded the dough (adding water and oil along the way). We then let the dough rest for 3 hours (as I went to my Chem workshop...and I really need to learn E1 and E2 reactions).

Then, I came back from the cold and rolled out my dough, and waited for a pan. We only had 6 pans, and the oven would only fit 4 pans. And there were a lot of us. So, it's 8 pm right now, and my pizza's finally in the oven. Actually, I've already jumped up, TWICE, to my GA calling me from across the room and saying that my pizza's ready (but both times, it turned out to be someone else's. Oh well).

A (don't know his last initial) made really round pizzas. Mine aren't round...but they're, haha, "rustic". A, RK  and L all threw the pizza base in the air. I tried to as well, but I don't think it did anything remotely cool to my pizza base.

I put shredded cheese, some fresh mozzarella, and a chunk of string cheese on my pizza. There's also a little bit of basil (and store-bought basil looks really different from the basil in my backyard! It's a much lighter green, and the leaves are less jagged).

My second pizza is just cheese... and a speck of basil because we ran out of supplies. Ah well.

29 October 2011

Teh Botol Sosro

Aaannndd... yet another reason for loving the Monell Chemical Senses Center! Apart from all the science I learn, I also get to sample Teh Botol, which my mentor tried in one of her science trips (at Singapore...? I think she said Singapore, but Wikipedia says it's popular in Indonesia.). There are varying types of jasmine, and apparently a specific type is used to make this tea, and it is difficult to emulate the flavour that this type of jasmine has. The chemical company that she was visiting was trying to find a more cost-efficient way of making  a Teh botol knockoff.
To her, the tea tasted slightly bizarre. Of course, cultural considerations, along with genetic ones, come into play (receptor sensitivity, haplotypes, etc.). In American culture, tea is... well, "chilled tea" is normally some generic tea, slightly bitter, possibly made from slivered stumps and roots and not actual "leaves". American iced tea is packed with cane sugar, caramel flavouring, crushed ice, and, and sometimes milk.
This differs from hot tea (in which multifarious niches exist, from the British-y Earl Grey with a sugar lump and milk, to the (optional honey) hibiscus, to the bland roadside Lipton).

In contrast, East Asian tea is never sweet (bubble tea is an exception). It's just hot water and tea leaves. The tea leaves stay in the water; there is no bag that gets picked up and throw away while the cream is being added. It's just a sprinkling of aromatic tea leaves (or non-leaf-portions of the plant)...and water. Having drunk hot Chinese tea, including jasmine tea, all my life at restaurants and at home, I found Teh Botol slightly different, because it was a tad sweet (despite it being the "Less Sugar" version). Actually, it's not all that strange to me, because I've had the slightly-sweet Vita Chrysanthemum tea in the carton before, countless times, in HK (I don't really like Chrysanthemum tea though, whether it be hot or cold). The interesting thing about Teh Botol is that the jasmine has a flowery flavour. There is no other word to describe it; it tastes like a flower. It's how I'd imagine flowers taste - airy, sweet, fragrant. It's like a smell for my mouth. It's very appealing in this aspect, for me. I've never gotten the florid taste from hot jasmine tea before.
"Try it on your non-Asian friends",  my mentor encouraged. So, I did! (I was planning to anyway, just to see whether different ethnicities/races have different perceptions). I'm wondering whether it's appropriate to talk about patient data without previous written informed consent, so I'll just stick with A and B even though usually I would just use each person's initials. You know who you are.

A is African American, and A has lived in the US all A's life. A really enjoys tea, in general. [This is paraphrased. I should've taken notes]:
A: "This tastes like bubble tea...or, like, tapioca. I like it."
Me: "D'you think it tastes flowery at all?"
A: "Um...I guess?"
Me: "What about the sweetness?"
A: "The sweetness is great...it's not too sweet/too bland. DELICIOUS."

B is Caucasian, although B has lived in Japan before and... there's delicious tea in Japan. I took notes for this one, so here is what I wrote:
"iced tea, sweet, not flowery, weird aftertaste on roof of mouth, tea residue, enjoyable, but would get tired of it after a while".

So, is taste preference cultural? Racial? Dependent on upbringing (i.e. would B's preferences chance if B had lived in Japan for longer? Would my evaluation differ if I grew up on Dunkin Donuts as opposed to Chinese dim sum?)

And then there's my reaction, which I've described above. I suppose if you've been checking out my blog for a while, you know that I'm Chinese but have grown up in Ireland, Australia, Hong Kong, New Jersey, and Pennsylvania, so my taste preferences aren't characteristic of the average American or Chinese.

Yes, small sample size and plenty of confounding factors. This is case report, without a Discussion section (actually, to avoid derisive comments, I shouldn't even be thinking about this as a scientific study. I'll just call it an "experiment" --notice the lack of the word "scientific" in front of the word "experiment". However, I do have an Acknowledgments section):

I would like to thank my mentor for supplying me with Teh Botel!! I would also like to thank the participants in the study for their time (They should be thanking me because I hooked them up with a free drink, and in college, free Calories are highly sought-after).

26 October 2011

Collard Tofu Wraps

I decided to make some pretty food even though I honestly don't care how beautiful my food is, especially as I don't have much time in my day. All this programming!!

Collard leaves + tofu + chunks of eggplant + minced garlic (why, yes, garlic remains super fresh for at least 2 months in the fridge!!) + salsa + pancake maker.

25 October 2011


Endive. A character from Chowder. I've always known it as some lettuce-y thing, perhaps deep green, with leaves like holly, except more spindly and elongated. Well, I was wrong. Endive is to spindly holly the way a stingray is to a blubbery blue whale. Endive looks like this:
and I never knew.

 So... what do I do with endive? Why would I try this? Well, it was homework, from my mentor at Monell. We're discussing bitter foods and why people eat them, and of course, genetics plays a large role. For example, I personally don't find broccoli bitter at all, but some people with a different haplotype think that it is bitter. My mentor thinks that endive is really bitter, but for me... it was pretty much lettuce. Watery, slightly lettuce-stem-y, ending with a slight bitter note. Bitter melon is definitely more bitter. Raw asparagus is more bitter. Heck, weak coffee is more bitter, in my opinion. See, I love Monell because I'm doing research, sort of, by exploring new foods and applying these scientific taste ideas into my life. Another perspective that I've never considered is this idea, which I've simplified here for lay understanding: 

In a sandwich, there's:
1. Sweet in onion
2. Umami in tomato
3. Bitter in watercress
4. Sweat odor in cheese
5. Boar taint in ham

Let's say I have the genotype +/+ for 1. and 2. Let's say SP has the +/+ genotype for 3. 4. and 5. This means that I'd enjoy the sandwich much more than SP would. 
(Reed, Danielle R., and Antti Knaapila. "Genetics of Taste and Smell: Poisons and Pleasures."Progress in Molecular Biology and Translational Science 94 (2010): 231. Print.
Reference: DOI: 10.1016/S1877-1173(10)94008-8)

I know it's an oversight, but I've never considered haplotypes in taste receptors as a reason why people would dislike the taste of a soup or a marinade. It just never occurred to me.
My mentor told me that they make the white endive by putting opaque bags over them so that there is no chlorophyll development (therefore, no green pigment). This reminds me of white asparagus. I guess I personally prefer there to be chlorophyll, because I like green. Also, chlorophyll has magnesium, which I would ingest, and I don't know enough plant biology to know whether white plants have magnesium stored elsewhere...
 So, what to do with endive? Cook it? I prefer to eat leafy vegetables raw, though. I just ripped it up and stuck it in some spaghetti with chili sauce and Chinese spiced bamboo shoots.
I also stuck some in a crunchy peanut butter sandwich with dried cranberries. This isn't weird for me because I love lettuce and peanut butter sandwiches. I also love cucumber and peanut butter sandwiches. Actually, I'm sure any vegetable goes well with peanut butter. Yes, even tomato (tomato in a peanut curry would probably be fantastic. I might try that one day).

24 October 2011

Grilled Pear And Cream

I'm never buying pears in a package again because I eat them at a rate of 0.25/day, and the rate decreases when the pears start to soften. I like Bartlett/Williams (both names work), but only if they're light green and hard. Once they start to get watery and mushy (a.k.a more and more like a Chinese pear), I lose interest.

What to do with softened pears?! Again, my pancake maker delicious-fies food. It's like a function. Stick in input. Pancake maker evaluates it. Delicious output.

let pancake_maker (food: 'a) : betterfood =
 Somemagic.heat food

(for Ocaml).

Anyway, I grilled a pear, sloshed some Half & Half on it, and poured in a lot of cereal. Yay! Creamy dessert!

23 October 2011

MAGNI 2011 (Quiz Bowl) at GMU

Quiz bowl...logistics: at George Mason University, at 9 in the morning until 7:20 pm. The night before, I went to bed at around 11 and got up at 3:55am. AS and I took the train to DC, took the metro to Vienna/GMU, and SP's mum drove us and SP to GMU. We were the B team. the A team got to drive there (a.k.a they left around 6:30 am instead of 4).
AS and I were supposed to take the 7:20pm train back to Penn, but as we were sitting in the library-food-court-thing (AMAZING! LIBRARY AND FOOD COURT ALL IN ONE!!) at 7:21pm, that evidently did not happen. We ended up getting to the train station at 9:00, just in time to take a 9:20 pm train... except that there wasn't one! The next train was at 10pm (and the one after that was at 3:15 am). Unfortunately, the train didn't actually arrive until 10:40 pm and we finally got back to Penn around 12:50am. It was terrible.

However, I did have a nice time (initially) and my organic chem and bio knowledge definitely paid off (but now I should relearn all that APUS that I used to know!!).

In 11 rounds, I got 15 toss ups, apparently. I think that I could've gotten at least 22 (or even 25, actually) if I wasn't so scared to buzz in. I apparently -5 only two times, so this means that I should buzz in more often. Also, there was a question (am I allowed to talk about questions if the same tournament is being played next Saturday at Brown?...guess not?) that I disagree with...but nevertheless, a good time overall. I like sandwiches. I can live on sandwiches! I really like jalapeno cheese bread...I got this at "subconnection", which, according to JL, is a knock-off of Subway. A sub-connection of Subway (har. har.). The black market version. I mean, they sell 30 cm subs for $5, just like Subway! I've decided that raw mushrooms are alright, if doused in chipotle sauce. Actually, raw mushrooms are pretty good even without the sauce. They're really umami!!

So, Starbucks sucks. I am not a fan of Starbucks anymore. I don't understand why it's cool to spend $2.50 on a slice of pumpkin bread that is possibly made the afternoon before using a Starbucks-distributed-flour-mixture-which-includes-egg (i.e. not freshly cracked eggs: do you see eggshells at Starbucks?) when I can get a whole loaf of equally delicious homemade no-maltodextrin-added pumpkin bread from the farmer's market for $3. Tasty, though.

15 October 2011

Mother...what is an Apple Slice?

I'm taking NURS-313, Obesity and Society. I do enjoy the class and I really respect my professor (Dr. Compher). Here is one of the assignments: Look at a piece of media and explain the stigma/message. Unfortunately, I didn't get the grade that I wanted because the prose wasn't formal enough. Well, it's definitely formal enough for this blog! Quite pertinent, too.
As a reminder, if anyone would like to use information from my site, citing me would be necessary.

Mother...what is an Apple Slice?

While I was rinsing chard one day, an apartment-mate asked me, "What IS that?" Chard is neither famous nor common, so it's understandable that one is wary of eating a blood-red stalk. Apples, however, are ubiquitous in the U.S., so it's ridiculous to ask "What is an Apple Slice?" [1] This absurd statement is portrayed in the satirical cartoon by Bryant Arnold. A shallow interpretation is that McDonald's is a maverick for educating children and sneaking fruit into their meals. However, it is more likely that it signifies that the business of food today is neither healthy nor natural, and that children’s food education is inadequate.

An obese Caucasian mother and her equally obese son purchase a Happy Meal from a skinny Caucasian McDonald's employee. The son asks "Mother...what is an Apple Slice?", while in the corner, a sign proclaims that McDonald's has now added Apple Slices to Happy Meals (notably, the word "Happy" is cut off, and no characters look happy), which occurred in July 2011 [6]. Although the child barely reaches the countertop, he is drawn to be ugly and old, which contrasts with the common depiction of children as adorable. The skin around his eyes is wrinkly, his various chins are wobbling, and his face is red and blotchy; it looks as though he could be in the process of a stroke! One of his front teeth is missing, and he is wearing a bland sweater, which, with its various curves, extends outwards out of the frame. He possibly represents the population of children already suffering from disorders traditionally only considered to affect adults. Similarly, the mother's facial expression resembles a pig and she looks haughty and defiant, as though she dares anyone to ask her why she’s at McDonald's. She clenches her son's shoulder, as though with a talon. Like her son, she isn’t dressed in a flattering outfit, signifying the American layperson. 

Despite asking "Mother... what is an Apple Slice?” in a possibly cautious tone, the child nevertheless attempts to grab the Happy Meal. This incongruity can imply two things. Perhaps children would eat anything, as long as it has been well-advertised and has familiar McDonald's packaging. Therefore, even though there is a new item in his Happy Meal, the child will eat it due to its "fast food"-style packaging. On the other hand, perhaps children are willing to try new things, including fruit, if only their authorities (i.e. parents, McDonald's) would offer them the chance. According to the cartoon, the mother has never given apple slices to the child. This implies that childhood obesity can be traced to irresponsible parents. 

The phrasing is also awkward. "Apple Slice", with capitalization, implies something sinister; it's as though apples are only sellable as a brand name product! Plain apple slices have morphed from an apple cut into wedges to Apple Slices, skinless, seedless, and wrapped in plastic. This disconnects children from farms and nature; will kids soon think that apples come in plastic (like how tuna comes from cans)? This also depicts the general laziness of the population; it is certainly not difficult to buy an apple at the grocery store and slice it (which isn't even necessary); instead, patrons take the same amount of time driving to a fast food restaurant to buy Apple Slices. In addition, only about 11% of customers actually choose to get Apple Slices rather than fries, although this will change since McDonald's is soon adding Apple Slices to Happy Meals by default and removing a portion of the fries [6].

The McDonald's employee, Billy, contrasts entirely with the other two characters. He is skinny, and represents the 1/3 of Americans who aren't overweight or obese [2]. His expression is wary and apologetic, which represents two things. As a person, he represents the normal-weight population who stigmatizes overweight or obese people, and he is separated from them by a counter [6]. As a McDonald's employee, Billy represents the "business" that exploits the general population by creating a fa├žade of appearing "ideal" in order to make money.

A better message could elicit an even more outrageous response in satirizing the situation further, because the point of the image is to portray problems and misinformation in the food industry. By using a Ronald McDonald look-a-like instead of Billy, parents would feel more contrast and disgust, because the skinny Ronald, who is advertised as the champion of being friendly and caring, instead lures their children towards unhealthy food. Using McDonald's Apple Dippers would have made McDonald's more insidious. Apple Dippers are two servings of Apple Slices plus a “Low Fat Caramel Dip”, which has 100 Calories and 15 g of sugar, which is more than that of the Apple Slices (35 Calories and 6 g of sugar)* [4, 5]! The Apple Slices/Dippers also lack skin, and therefore, fiber. Also, the mother could have retorted with a comment such as “Stay away, that hasn’t been processed for human consumption!” to represent the current media’s lack of mention (whether positive or negative) of fruits. Marketing for high-sugar cereals and processed foods that have added vitamins, instead of fruits that naturally possess vitamins, misinform consumers. In addition, this cartoon may be seen by some to stigmatize obese people because the question could portray obese people as stupid, since the child doesn't know what an apple is [3]. To portray an alternative message that puts more blame on society, companies, advertising and convenience (rather than on misinformation or personal choice), the mother could've said "Fat chance that'll change anything!" which would indicate that she is aware that she is obese, but that the obesogenic environment fueled by McDonalds and other companies has made her powerless. This way, the stigma of obese people being stupid wouldn't be implied.

*Actually, this figure isn’t trustworthy because the McDonald's website has glitches. By refreshing the page, I get values of 35 Calories/6 g sugar/68 g/1 Carbohydrate and 70 Calories/9 g sugar/21 g/0.5 Carbohydrate for the Apple Dippers (without dip) and 15 Calories/3 g sugar/34 g/0.5 Carbohydrate

[1] Arnold, Bryant. "McDonald's Fights Childhood Obesity with Apple Slices Cartoon." Cartoon A Day Funny Business Cartoons and Web Comics. Copyright Cartoon A Day / CartoonaDay.com, 26 July 2011. Web. 14 Sept. 2011. 
[2]  CDC/National Center for Health Statistics. "FASTSTATS - Overweight Prevalence."Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 18 June 2010. Web. 21 Sept. 2011.
[3] Lillis, Jason, Jason B. Luoma, Michael E. Levin, and Steven C. Hayes. "Measuring Weight Self-stigma: The Weight Self-stigma Questionnaire." Obesity 18.5 (2009): 971-76. Web.
[4] McDonald's. "Apple Dippers :: McDonald's.com." McDonald's.com. McDonald's, 2011. Web. 21 Sept. 2011.
[5] McDonald's. "Apple Slices :: McDonald's.com." McDonald's.com. McDonald's, 2011. Web. 21 Sept. 2011.
[6] Redroxe, Christina. "McDonald's to Include Apple Slices in Every Happy Meal | NOLA.com." New Orleans Net LCC. The Associated Press, 27 July 2011. Web. 21 Sept. 2011.

10 October 2011

Mushroom Risotto

My GA is Italian and enjoys cooking. Therefore, we (10 or so people from my college house, even though the event was open for everyone) made some authentic mushroom risotto last Tuesday. 

For risotto, the key is to not add all the stock in at once; you add it in little by little (when the rice starts really sticking, add more stock). It was delectable!! So gelatinous, gooey, chewy, and mushroomy! (And cheesy, with the parmesan).

A special mention goes to TJ, who cut up the parsley really nicely.

I also really enjoyed having red shallots in the risotto, even though they made me cry when I was cutting them.

09 October 2011

Quiz Bowl at UMD

Just a multicultural girl...
Livin' in the stressful world.
She took the 4:40am train going the south-ish way...

Just a multicultural boy...
Born and raised around the world.
He took the 4:40am train going the south-ish way...

A reader in an UMD room,
A sound of buzzers and voices too.
For a smile they can share a bonus...
It goes on and on and on and on...


So somehow I wrote a mirror to the first few verses of "Don't Stop Believing" by Journey so that it fit the Early Autumn Collegiate Novice Quiz Bowl Tournament on the 1st of October (I know! I've been super busy! No time to blog!)

We (4 frosh guys and me, the sophomore... the "leader") took a 4:40am train, two metros, and one taxi to get to UMD from Penn by 9:00 am. We were a few minutes late, but other teams didn't arrive until later anyway. The tournament was pretty intense and fun! Of course I messed up a few times :( but we came 4th overall out of 14 teams, which is quite neat.

Since we missed breakfast (due to a lot of 20-minute waiting at the metro station and bus station), during the bye round, we got food at the "UMD version of Huntsman Hall", and I got waffle fries from Chick-Fil-A. SP commented that it's pretty sad that I'm taking pictures of fast food for my blog. I suppose the point is that I'm recording fun times, and this Quiz Bowl tournament was DEFINITELY fun (despite the fact that I had 3 hours of sleep, slept on the train a bit, and was demented for comp sci homework for the next week).

We got back just in time for the dining halls to close (not that it mattered to me, because I lack a meal plan) so we went to the Mediterranean Cafe and I got a Falafel wrap and the dude charged me 2c less, which was cool. The falafel wrap sauce was really nice.