I need to tell you about our trip to Hangzhou, and in particular about the baffling Rube-Goldberg machine that was our journey from the train station to our hotel rooms.  And I need to tell you about the eating of animals in China. I also need to tell you about the Chinese marketing of maple syrup, and about my enthusiasm for squat toilets. I can’t right now though. I’m flying to Boston early tomorrow morning for a conference (I know, right?!) and need to get ready for that. Herewith then is a promissory note for four new posts. I know, I know. None of these promissory notes have worked out in the past. Ssshhh. Don’t think too much about that. Just look at these beautiful pictures of things I’ve been eating and drinking instead.

 

A steaming plate of sliced potatoes in a rich sauce, a green salad in the background.

Kazhak style potatoes from our neighbourhood Xinjiang restaurant. Do you see how they glisten and steam? Would you like to see them again from a different angle?

 

Three dishes. One holds sliced potatoes in a rich sauce, one holds a green salad, one holds golden flatbreads crusted with sesame seeds.

 

Oh! Here they are again, with their friends sesame nang and salad (sort of Xinjiang version of katchumber salad) See how happy they are together? Oh wait. You want more?

 

Two dishes. In the foreground, strips of eggplant and green peppers in a rich, dark sauce. In the background, sliced potatoes in sauce.

 

There’s our old friend Kazhak potatoes in the background. But look — who’s this? Ah, eggplant and (hot) green peppers! Hello again. It’s good to see you. The Chinese word for eggplant is “qiezi” (茄子). It’s pronounced sort of like a lispy tyed-ze. When Chinese people have their pictures taken, they say “qiezi” instead of “cheese”. Try it. It does the same thing to your mouth. And, of course, foreigners in China are always being asked to have their pictures taken. Thus, in our first summer in China, I had been saying “qiezi” for quite a long while before I learned that it meant something besides “strained fake smile.” Imagine my delight when I realized that saying this by then familiar word would magically cause delicious things like the dish pictured about to arrive at my table!

Two plates piled with spring rolls in a brown gravy. Each plate is garnished with a piece of gai choy.

 

 

Hey! Here’s something new! Amazing vegetarian spring rolls from our trip to Hangzhou. They’re really chewy and savoury and filled with tofu skin and wonderful mushrooms. And they’re served in gravy! Holy comfort food. It was crazy hot and humid when we were in Hangzhou. Our solution was frequent stops in air conditioned restaurants for cold beer. At some point, some clever person suggested that we might consider having some food with our beer. That’s how we discovered these lovely rolls. They were on the menu at Lo Wai Lo, Hangzhou’s oldest restaurant — a huge affair by the water. From our window seat, we could look out over West Lake. The lake is ringed by mountains, the mountains studded with pagodas and temples. On the near shore, on one side are great rafts of lotus plants, some still in bloom, some producing fruit, and nearby are pleasant walking paths and ornate bridges. On the other near shore, to the left, one can see the modern skyline of the city proper. Slow, human powered boats crisscross the lake itself, sightseers sitting inside, fanning themselves to seek relief from the heat. We got to drink all this in as we nibbled our chewy Hangzhou spring rolls and quaffed our cold Hangzhou beer.

 

A glass full of bright green kiwi juice. Beside it, a mug full of bright green matcha latte.

 

And here we are back in Shanghai at our favourite local over-priced coffee place. On the day this photo was taken, the Kid and I were seriously into bright green drinks. Freshly squeezed kiwi juice for me, matcha chai latte for the Kid. Have you ever had freshly squeezed kiwi juice? If not, drop whatever you’re doing and go find some right now. Oh my God, it is the most delicious thing ever. Ever!

 

In the foreground, a cafe table with a teddy bear on it. In the background, a stylish cafe.

 

Here’s another shot taken at the same swanky cafe. Bears are kind of their thing. They have bears on their shop windows. They have really big (like, child-sized) teddy bears sitting at some of the tables. Sometimes, customers show up, grab a bear from one of the tables, and cuddle with them while they (the humans) have their coffees. And, when you place your order, they hand you a bear, which you place on your table. Then, when your order is ready, they bring it to your table based on the colour and attire of your bear. Attire, you might be asking, what attire? The bear in the picture is naked. Yup. There is just one naked bear in the store. The others have stylish t-shirts. For some reason, they always give the naked bear to me. What should I make of that?

…By the way, see those books in the background? Not books. Boxes. Boxes manufactured to look like English language books and used to decorate stores, cafes, bars, and (one assumes) homes. Many of these fake books are fake books about furniture. Furniture. Really? If I were going to fake read a fake book, it would about something much more august than furniture. But then, I am probably not their target demographic.

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