Tag Archives: Food

…seems it sometimes rains in Southern California…

Coming from Northern California to Southern California and finding drippy rain is a real downer. We Northerners never dispute the better weather LA gets…but what happens when it rains an entire day, causing plans to change and the wet weather gear to be pulled out…when it’s supposed to be an endless summer kind of town!?!

San Francisco rises to the ratings meteorically as a result. Better public transit, food, art, museums. Hands down. We don’t even have to make apologies for the fog this way.

Nevertheless, I continued my independent sketching exercises at the LA County Museum today. A painting of sketchers in an art studio gave me inspiration:

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Despite a host of Chagalls, Monets and other famous artists, we focused this time instead on a fine collection of German Expressionists.

Each time I explore this period of modern German art, I learn new means and methods for this group. I am drawn to them, not only because I am learning the German language, but because the techniques and emotional content speak to me.

They may even  seem a bit primitive (as in the large wooden sculpture in the featured image above), but apparently this particular artist studied the people and art in Palau, an island in the S. Pacific. Many of the artists have been displayed in museums I have visited in Germany, Chicago, and New York. Particularly those derived from the Bauhaus movement in Weimar and Dessau are represented(Feinnger), but also artists from Die Brücke movement or the Dresden artists were included.

Our antidote to wet days in LA was dining in two restaurants: a new one in the Arts District called Manuela, and an old favorite, Carlitos Gardel.

Manuela displays original artwork, including this mural by Raymond Pettibon.

 

 

Pick Your Poison

The Mushroom Madness event last week at the San Francisco Arboretum showcased not only the infinite variety of fungi, lichen, and spores that surround us, but it also surfaced many mycological fanatics. Not mythological, but close. In case you ever wondered whether the ones growing in your backyard were edible, this was the place to rub noses with those in the know.

The society reminded me of a similar group of astronomical buffs. When we stayed overnight at Fremont Peak years ago to stargaze, the featured delicacy of the evening, aside from Saturn and Jupiter,  was blue jello hidden below a frothy cloud of white meringue.

We couldn’t resist the Mushroom Soup this time either. Nothing too exotic, but we slurped and savored the mushy mess despite a few lingering trails of what looked like earthy seaweed in the broth.

December is wrap-up time for the academic fall semester. The student art show at City College of San Francisco’s Fort Mason campus brought together many new and old faces. Paper versions were displayed, while friends and family proudly gathered to admire the visual works. Below is a quick scan of a part of the Figure Drawing class exhibition’s earnest efforts.

And last night’s presentation of the SF Opera’s new and upcoming young singers from the Adler Program:

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Birthday wishes this month go to Eric, Melissa, Ruth, Jeff and Sherry!
Continue reading Pick Your Poison

A Thanksgiving Sketch 2017

Visiting Chicago earlier this month already seems like lightyears away, especially with the advent of the annual year-end Holiday Season. Eleven of the mostly Fong clan gathered around our dining table for a home-made traditional feast with basic turkey and trimmings, Chinese sticky rice “stuffing”, yams, vegetables, apple pie and pumpkin custard.

To throw in a few world influences from traveling this year, I kicked off the event with Peruvian pisco sours and yucca fries followed by Moroccan zaalouk. A bit eclectic, but I couldn’t resist the yummy new recipes I learned by being in these fascinating countries with deep food cultures.

Naturally, it was fun to see everyone. We are all older and wiser, and the lone child under thirty was the highlight of the evening. Our conversations shift from children’s activities to adult careers, friends, and travels. It was a leisurely, enjoyable evening, and indeed, a very satisfying and thankful one.

I noticed this year a focus on food preparation. Ladies in my classes, on the street, and in between were into some serious food therapy. Everyone delved into and savored the minutest details beyond what was described above.  They seemed to taste and smack their lips at each morsel being described.

A professional therapist would probably diagnose that these women (I did not notice if there were men engaged in the same conversations, but there could have been) are finding comfort in what little can be controlled in an uncontrollable world. It gave me a smile to think of these small pleasures, and to appreciate these heartwarming conversations.

The day after Thanksgiving was highly anticipated with the opera world premiere of the “Girls of the Golden West”. Unlike Puccini’s opera by the same name (except singular instead of plural), it is a factual account of the events during the California Gold Rush of 1849. It reveals many of the dirty little secrets of that golden era, now mystified and synthesized into a romantic vision of California’s genesis.

The opera features characters who suffered incredible brutality during that era: fugitive Black slaves, Hispanic workers, Chinese prostitutes being chased out of town, murdered, or lynched. Even the environment was not unscathed: a 24-foot wide redwood was cut to a stump and used as a stage. This formed part of the backdrop for what was a fascinating historical event in American history.

Unfortunately, converting a Ken Burns-style docudrama to opera did not translate. Librettist Peter Sellars and composer John Adams (Nixon in China fame) made a noble effort, but somehow the decent singing, decent music, and decent story–all necessary ingredients for a decent opera–did not come together. Even our upgraded Center Box Seats where you can sip sparkling wine during the performance could not salvage the evening. Hopefully time will mellow this opera like all others.

Above: Pre-Opera chat with Librettist Peter Sellars, and the curtain call with dancers. Note the reproduced tree stump and felled tree in the background.

Below: the final curtain call with both Peter Sellars and John Adams, and young cast

As the Fall Semester winds down, I am still busily preparing for final exams and projects. I continue to practice sketching at Meet-ups. The last one I attended at the Apple Store in Union Square produced an encounter with none other than Emperor Norton. Another character from the Gold Rush days, this impersonated, once-real character gives tours of historic San Francisco. I cartooned him while he anachronistically used his cell phone to schedule tours and take care of business of the day.

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Day 9-10: Easter Island Moai

A full day of sightseeing led me to the various Moai on the Eastern side of the island. The Akahanga Quarry where the stone for the Moai were carved and extracted was a graveyard of sorts for the stones themselves. They were in various stages of completion: some were still in situ, some were being transported, and some were never to reach their intended sacred sites. The characteristic topknots for hair were gathered in one spot, as the red stone was normally placed separately from the body on top of the basalt.

I loved pondering how each sculptor decided on the eyes, nose, and mouth for each piece. Most of the bodies included full torsos, but no legs. Their hands were placed below their bellies, with long fingernails indicating royalty. The long ears of the royalty were evident, as there were no short-eared Moai (see previous post).

Behind the quarry are caves where people hid during wars and invasions. Next, we reached the highlight of the 15 Moai at Ahu Tongariki.  The guide explained in detail how the moai were carved out of bedrock, transported to a site where the dead were buried, and then erected with great teamwork and collaboration.

The Easter Islanders had a long term vision of creating these images to protect successive generations. It took incredible energy, creativity, and determination to plan, design and execute such monumental exercises. The photos above do not convey the extensive area where they were situated. See video below (apologies for the wind–you may need to turn your volume down to reduce the noise)

A Japanese construction company helped to sponsor the UNESCO world heritage site, after it exhibited one of the Moai in Japan. Many of the Moai that were toppled were turnd upright and restored so they can be appreciated in their orignal splendor.

I returned to the Te Moana Restaurant in town for an another adventurous dining experience. This time I ordered whole fish, and was delighted with this pair on a bed of mashed tuber:

My sunset view at dinner gave me time to reflect on all the amazing human achievements from the past. Even better, I caught the last rays behind the Moai at the harbor just a block away from my hotel.  It symbolized another successful completion of travels with myself and others to two of the most magnificent places in the world. I hope you enjoyed traveling with me!

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Day 5-6(b) Sacred Valley, Cusco, Peru

Peru’s lack of distinguishable modern architecture is more than made up by its warm and friendly people, their genuine desire to help others, and a long history that does a country proud. Everything seems harder to accomplish here, yet the people are undaunted by physical hardships and challenges.

Cusco lies on a plateau in the highlands, so everything is downhill from there. After adapting to the 11k high altitude in Cusco, each 1K descent towards the 9K Sacred Valley and 8k level at Macchu Picchu feels noticeably easier. I can breathe normally. Not being a mountaineer, I have never focused so much on elevation before. I paid more attention to these stats than to rainfall or temperature in the area!!

We made stops along the way to visit an alpaca/llama (pronounced yama) farm, a weaving group, and a market in Pisac. (See photos above). Our foodies will note the wide array of fruits and vegetables as well as colors–a good sign of healthy eating.

Speaking of colors, Peruvians love bright colors. As demonstrated by the rainbow flag, it represents the people of the highlands. The familiar stripes and ribbons of color seem to aptly reflect the nature and personality of the Peruvian people.

The coca plant is used extensively as a tea to ward off high altitude sickness and one can survive on it alone for five days by chewing the leaf. You drink coca tea here to overcome altitude sickness.

There are over 2500 types of potato grown in Peru of the 3500 varieties known throughout the world. One type has alot of eyes, and as the story goes, if a young girl falls in love with someone, she will tell whether she will marry him by how well she peels one of these potatoes. If she peels it flawlessly, she’ll win her guy, but if she doesn’t….well the eyes will cry the tears for her!

Many of the ruins throughout the Sacred Valley, particularly the fortress at Ollantaytambo, are dress rehearsals for the big Kahuna, Macchu Picchu.The massive sandstones were hewn along the edges to perfection and carved to fit the next/last one as if the stone were extruded from some supersize tube of frosting, only to dry perfectly, without gaps or mortar in place. Hard to believe how these stones were cut, and the ability seem beyond human skills.

A word about the Macchu Picchu buildings from yesterday’s post. There were various ceremonial buildings for offerings to the sun god and others, but an area also served as the King’s residence. Grain was stored in one area, and the extensive terraces were used to grow food.

For more about Macchu Picchu, Hiram Bingham, the man who discovered it, and its origins, go here:
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Machu_Picchu

The other important uses for terracing the mountains was to serve as a system to prevent soil erosion and to collect water from the top to the bottom of the mountain. It’s tempting to compare these to the terraces used in China to grow food, but I’m not sure which came first. In any event, the Peruvian terraces are spectacular just in sheer height and they demonstrate the ingenuity of the Incas and their predecessors.

As I leave Peru after such a short sojourn here, I realize that I may be naive and easily impressed. Nevertheless, the hardships of living in mountainous zones like this make the people sturdy. They live close to and respect nature.

Just a few random snippits about Peru:

Although Spanish is the national language, the second language spoken by people in Cusco is known as Quechua, an ancient and indigenous highland language.

The jungle covers 60 per cent of the country, and the balance is 30% highland and 10% is coastal.

The Inca based in Peru conquered and occupied parts of Argentina, Bolivia, and Ecuador, incl. Santiago, Chile.

Trees do not grow above the alpine level in the highlands, except for the imported eucalyptus from Australia, an invasive but fast growing species. The Macchu Picchu climate is at a lower elevation and has a microclimate more similar to the tropical forest (with orchids, bromeliads and coca plants.

Both Cusco and Macchu Picchu are UNESCO World Heritage Sites and highly recommended.

And for the bus and rail fans out there…here was the interior of the Vistadome Perurail car and a couple of the many spectacular views:

Day 3-4: Cusco, Peru

Cusco is over 11,000 feet (3,399m) so it literally takes your breath away. It takes a couple of days to get used to the high altitude, so I hope you will excuse my temporary silence. It still took a bit of huffing and puffing to walk just a few steps at a shallow incline. I finally got acclimated enough for a full day of visiting Saqsayhuaman and Tambomachay, two Incan ruins outside Cusco. The first showed the extensive construction of terraced walls of sandstone, and the latter showed how the Inca developed and conserved water through irrigation and waterways. The Inca were very concerned about the predominant dryness of the area, and they developed ingenious ways to combat the forces of nature.

The rest of the afternoon was spent visiting Qorikancha, or the Convent of Santa Domingo in town. The Incan priests that preceded the Spanish Catholics constructed thick limestone-surrounded storehouses to stockpile dried potato, quinoa, and other foodstuffs to combat the warm periods caused by El Nino at this site. The priests and nobles shared the food with the peasants when they were unable to produce food.

Before the rain hit in the afternoon, I took a walk around Cusco in the morning. It turned out to be a good idea. It didn’t rain on my parade! Apparently parades with a cast of thousands are held every Sunday to commemorate a school or celebration. Great for tourists like me, who stumbled into colorful event by accident.



Braided Ladies in town were preparing to sell or selling their wares in the Plaza de Armas:

Glimpses of my delightful hotel in the early morning sun reminded me of similar intimate hotel stays in Cappodoccia, Turkey, and in Essaouira, Morocco:

Treated to a room with a view, I made time to sketch!

Last, but not least, the end to a satisfying day was topped by a delicious and adventurous meal of alpaca brochettes at Pachapapa Restaurant. It was lean, well-prepared, and tasted far less gamey than venison. Unfortunately, Jusannah (my new Brazilian friend in Lima) and I ordered the specialty dish of guinea pig the other night but it was cancelled. This restaurant had the dish on the menu, but it would have taken an hour, to prepare and not worth the wait.

The next couple of days will be heavy traveling to Macchu Picchu, so I probably won’t be posting until after I return to Cusco. Keep sending those comments!

Day 1-2: Lima, Peru

Arriving in Lima reminds me of the rush I get when entering a new country, and the excitement over the opportunity to learn about another culture. Not having been to S. America except for a brief cruise stop in Caracas for a day, I finally organized a trip to this part of the world on my own.

No sooner had I arrived at the hotel when a feeling of calm and confidence struck me. The people were friendly, moved at the pace of a lilt and rhythm I enjoyed, and I became calm. Despite not much visual stimulation in the city itself, I decided to save the thrills for the ascent to Macchu Picchu later on the trip.

My full day free in the city focused not surprisingly on two historic and archaeological museums. The Larco Museum was founded in 1926 by a 25-year old archaologist who was given an Incan artifact from his father. Fascinated by this mysterious object, he pursued a career discovering a wealth of not only the Inca civilization, but the several significant epochs before that. We only seem to know the history about the conquests of the Inca by the Spanish conquistadors, but in fact the reputation and foundation for the Inca were built by many earlier societies.

Peru is divided into roughly three geographic areas: the coast, the highlands, and the jungle. The jungle occupies over half of the country, and the Amazon’s source lies in the Andes Mountains. Most of us only think of the Amazon and the rain forest in Brazil, when in fact it is also in Peru.

The various stages of formative and established cultures relative to other parts of the world are shown on the attached chart.

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Many of the objects or designs in the museum were based on the notion of the underworld, represented by the snake; the earth, or middle world, represented by the puma (jaguar); and the upper world, represented by the owl. These worlds collide, interact, and support each other, as shown in the geometric, three-step patterns.

Urns from high priests were used for drinking fluids from humans and animals. Buriel sites show human sacrifices and the dead placed in a fetal position upright, then covered with cloth and woven textiles as thick as carpets. Enjoy some of the many pieces that I particularly liked from the extensive collection from primarily the Larco Museum, and its lovely garden.

The hotel recommended the La Mar Restaurant that was open only from 11-5pm, so it fit my schedule perfectly. After an exhilharating visit to the two museums, I was ready to chow down some of the best food in the world! As soon as I was seated at the bar, I was greeted by a friendly young woman sitting next to me. She was visiting from Brazil on her own. We struck up a conversation that led to an agreement to meet for dinner two hours later at one of the sister restaurants, La Panchita.

Sunrise over the Sunset

This month gave me time to pause, gather thoughts, and enjoy reuniting with friends and family.

In the past few months since I had been away from San Francisco, two high rise towers rose from the ashes downtown. The long-awaited Transbay towers are the tallest in The city’s short skyline, but minuscule compared to other cities I recently visited. The header shows the view of the towers in the distance, just below the sun. The view is taken from our house in the Sunset District.

This month I started a Brain Research study as a participant. Sponsored by Dr. Adam Gazzaley’s Neuroscape Program, the study looks at older adults and their ability to focus. In addition to an MRI, hooking up to electrodes on a skull cap, saliva swab and a blood draw, we do videogames to test our level of concentration or distraction. The study hopes to develop exercises to increase the ability for older adults to focus better.

You can join the study if you are in the Bay Area:
https://neuroscape.ucsf.edu/get-involved/participate/

The research clinic is located in the Neurosciences Building that I developed as Project Director at UCSF. Located smack in the middle of the Mission Bay campus, it was designed by Skidmore, Owings and Merrill, San Francisco. I love going there to see the building in its full glory and fulfilling its mission to find cures for neurodegenerative diseases.

After my Moroccan sketching trip and the inspiration from the culture and food there, I decided to try a few recipes from the cooking class I took in Marrakesh. It took a bit of research from Paula Woolfert’s cookbook and a few trials before organizing and gathering friends together to try out an entire meal.

I couldn’t stop thinking about the intriguing tomato base tagine, or casserole, tucked under a plate of fresh eggs for lunch after our drawing expedition to the market outside Marrakesh.

When it was presented to us at lunchtime, I stared at it for quite some time before I realized the trick to getting it into your stomach was with your right hand. The bread was scattered around the table, readily available to assist. After the awkward start, it became second nature. (You can see photos of the dish at the table in Day 54: Meet me in Mogadur)

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You can compare the homemade version in the featured photo above. It was a joint achievement, with friends helping to prepare side dishes. From the bottom center, counter-clockwise: chicken smothered in homemade tomato jam and topped with eggs and olives; seven-vegetable casserole (okra, cabbage, green beans, onions, potatos, and carrots) with home-made preserved lemon; thrice-steamed couscous; beet salad compliments of Carmen); carrot salad (compliments of Royee) hummus; home-made harissa; and lentils. not shown: zaalouk, an eggplant dish, compliments of Susanne); a dessert bastiya made with apricots and almonds; orange slices with orange blossom water; and fresh mint tea!!

Organizing friends to share in the production of a complex meal is a great way to engage and invest everyone in the process and the outcome. Especially for what might be less familiar, everyone is more interested in trying each other’s craft.

I could focus my attention on more challenging parts that I may not have tried on such an ambitious menu. And doing it this way serves as a great ice-breaker to boot! Try it with a menu you’ve never tried before! Think of it as a shared cultural adventure.

If you find cooking Moroccan food too challenging, you can try out the new Moroccan restaurant Khamsa at 15th and Mission in San Francisco. It just opened so we dashed down there last night to try it out. All the good dishes are represented, including a fish tagine, chicken bastiya, zalouk, Moroccan wine and even mint tea!

For other dining experiences in San Francisco, our family celebrated recently at the Progress (Workshop) Restaurant. It’s next door to its Michelin-star cousin State Bird and Provisions. We chose dishes from the prix-fixe menu consisting of chickpea and oregano dumplings, quail quarters and black cod.

Here’s a quick tip for our opera fans: you can follow performances at festivals this month (including the Salzburg International and Verbier Festivals) free for ten days on medici.tv.

Thanks to all for answering last month’s survey. You can view results posted in the previous “Day 72+3: Return to Sender” at the bottom of each question. A quick note on videos: I try to use them judiciously, to avoid frustration. According to WordPress (the blog platform), the ability to see videos is based on the device you are using and your service compatibility. The videos may not load properly if you are reading my posts directly from email notifications on a smartphone. In that case, you may need to use a computer to see the videos. My apologies for these technical glitches. While I’m getting a request to see more videos, I’m afraid that many of you are unable to access them. Let’s keep trying to pursue solutions to these problems in the future.

For those who have been asking: yes, I am planning my next trip. It will be shorter, and soon. Stay tuned.

Day 71-72: End of the Rainbow

Alas, I am at the end of my fourth world trip. After 11 flights, 11 train trips, and numerous bus, taxi and private car transfers, I will have successfully completed my world travel goal for this year. We met old friends and made new ones. We gained much deeper understanding and appreciation of our roots. And as mentioned previously, I overcame my fear of drawing!! Like any phobia, it is easy to avoid what you fear most. I grabbed the bull by the horn and grappled with it. It was so easy it wasn’t even a contest. I just simply had to do it!

Granted, the circumstances were perfect, and for that, I must give credit to an incredible teacher and artist extraordinaire, Diane Olivier. Don’t miss my tribute to her in the video posted on Day 58, Moroccan Magic.

Our last day in Hong Kong included a visit to the Man Mo Temple near our Air BNB and a walk along Bowen Path. It is one of the best kept secrets of Hong Kong. It winds for three miles along the Mid-Levels in a horizontal stretch. The torrential rains that day drenched us with plenty of waterfall activity along the route. (See also Day 66, 2014, tagged below.)

We stopped for lunch at Lin Heung, an old Hong Kong mainstay. You rinse your dishes in discarded hot tea that is brewed and poured at the table.

So, until next time, Farewell! Please send me any comments you wish to share about what you liked or didn’t –I heard that there were too many opera posts so cut back (of course only after leaving Germany!!). Do write, and I definitely will write back!

Thanks to all for following travelswithmyselfandothers.  As you know, this is a personal pursuit of my favorite activities and being able to share it with you gives me the greatest pleasure.  I hope to see each and every one of you (whom I can recognize by name) in the next year–let’s make a date!

Auf Wiedersehen, 在见,  وداعا!!

VickieVictoria

P.S. In an effort to sketch every day, here are a few sketches of people eating at breakfast and still lifes of dishes that didn’t get posted.

P.S.S. Last of series of daily sketches:

Addendum: Apologies to the last few comments that didn’t get answered: I have just returned home and am in a state of recovering to bright blue skies and 72 degree weather…will write back soon!!