A Tour of My Kitchen

I never thought my little kitchen would be worthy of any interest, but since a couple of people have asked about where all my baking happens, it seemed like it would be fun to give y’all a little tour. After all, the kitchen is the heart of the home, isn’t it? In Thai, the kitchen (hong krua) literally translates to “family room,” which is a sentiment I quite like.

So, welcome to my kitchen!

_1050415We have a pretty porch with big formal glass doors that open up to the living room…but nobody actually enters the house that way. In keeping with Thai style, everyone comes in through the side of the house, via the kitchen. Don’t mind our motorbikes. On the left, that’s a bike shelf Toby made. And, of course, we take off our shoes before entering the house. Except we keep the majority of our shoes on a rack in the kitchen because stray dogs in our neighborhood have been known to steal shoes. I lost a perfectly good pair of Rainbows thanks to Dot’s mom. (Admittedly, I did take her baby, so I guess it’s fair.)

And here’s the kitchen itself. The red is a color I would not have chosen myself, but I’m okay with it. The windows did have fancy red curtains to match, but after I took them down one day to have them washed, I discovered how much more natural light we get without them. So I never put them back up.

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As you can see, we have plenty of helmets so you can take your pick if you ever come to visit and want to tool around on one of our motorbikes.

 

This is what you’d see from the vantage point of the rest of the house.

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There’s Toby working in his office. Hi Toby!

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You might feel encouraged to pity us for our small fridge…

_1050413…until you see how little food we actually have inside it.

_1050414This is because, for the most part, it’s far cheaper to eat out in Thailand (or pick up food to bring home) — at restaurants, little street side carts, or open air markets — than it is to go shopping and make everything yourself. A lot of times, even if you do prefer to cook yourself, many items can be bought pre-cut or pre-prepared (freshly done that day), so all you have to do is toss it together in the final soup or stir-fry. If we want to, Toby and I can get by on less than $5 or 6 a day spent on food, eating at our favorite places (we’re not scrimping on taste here), whereas a meal cooked at home might run closer to an average of $20-30. So really, the only reason to cook at home is if you want something in particular that isn’t easy to get elsewhere.

Most of the time, if it’s just the two of us, I might cook at home once or twice a week, then we’ll go out for street food 2-3 times a week, spending about $2-3 for a meal, and then the rest of the time, go out to our favorite Burmese, Vietnamese, Mexican, or Thai restaurants, spending about $10-12 per meal at those.

Unless I’m cooking or baking more (as I have been since I got pregnant), the vast majority of our grocery bill goes to coffee, breakfast stuff, and snacks.

Speaking of coffee, this is our coffee making station:

_1050418All we need is good beans, a burr grinder to grind the beans, and that little tube thing there is called an Aeropress. I’m generally not a snob or judgmental about most things (at least I like to think so), but I am a total judgmental snob about coffee. I see people talking so much about their fancy Keurigs and k-cups and cannot fathom spending so much money on machinery when the soul of coffee is in the beans. In the States, we got our beans from Verve. We especially enjoyed Central American beans for their citrusy undertones. Here, we buy local, fair-trade Thai hill tribe beans, which are amazingly flavorful for being relatively new to the coffee scene.

And the Aeropress in which we make the coffee ran us about $35. It takes approximately 3 minutes to grind the beans, pour in the hot water over the ground beans, (which we always have at boiling point in a little counter-top hot water doohickey popular here in Asia–so you can always have Ramen at a moment’s notice), stir, then press into our coffee mugs, and add milk (and sugar for T). It takes me less time to do this from start to finish, including serving the coffee and washing the Aeropress afterward, than it takes my dad to just prep and set up his drip machine.

The Aeropress, similar to a French press, is popular with coffee aficionados snobs like us because the process extracts all the flavor from the beans, but you stop just before extracting the bitterness. We also love it because it’s so small and easy to pack, so when we travel we can ensure we always have good coffee with us.

Anyway, I think part of why I’ve been asked about my kitchen is because ovens aren’t exactly standard features in Asian homes. But I cannot imagine life without baking, so we broke down and bought me this:

_1050417See it? My little counter top convection oven. Kind of a glorified toaster oven, really. But it suits my needs perfectly.

_1050416Yes, that is a baking stone sitting there on top. Yes, I did actually lug a stone in my suitcase, all the way from the U.S. to here. I have no defense.

The oven won’t fit a big Thanksgiving turkey, but I do use it almost daily to toast sandwiches, roast veggies or lamb chops, or bake tea breads, scones, and quiches.

Especially since I got this shipped out to me:

_1050419My tart pan with a removable bottom! Perfect for achieving fluted edges like this:

_1050411But, if you’re not careful, also perfect for achieving floor tart. I once spent hours of sweat and toil putting together a treacle tart (in honor of Harry Potter Book 7 coming out, treacle tart being Harry’s favorite), and it came out so pretty and golden….but I forgot the pan’s bottom is designed to pop out, so when I pulled it out of the oven, I grabbed it from the bottom and not from the sides. It pushed the bottom up, the sides dropped down and burned my arms, and I promptly dropped the whole shebang right on the floor. I stood in shock and dismay for several minutes, then called Toby at work, tearfully relaying the whole disaster, and he insisted we could still scrape it up and eat the parts that weren’t actually touching the floor. Hence, floor tart.

I don’t recommend it. I also don’t recommend burning your arms.

Anyway, that’s my kitchen. However, I might be remiss if I didn’t point out that my beloved dish set that was a wedding gift to us is not actually kept in the kitchen. Nope, those babies are on display here in our dining room:

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Hello, high chair! Awaiting Baby Keller’s arrival…

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And that concludes our tour for today. Hope you enjoyed it!

Curiosity Does Not an AHole Make

I’d be the last person to downplay the prevalence of racial problems in this world, but I have to say I do think there’s such a thing as being too sensitive about race. And I think that uber-sensitivity does us all a disservice in drawing attention away from real, actual problems of race, crying wolf when the real wolves are elsewhere, doing far more damage.

Here’s a case in point: an article on Jezebel about how to ask someone about their ethnicity. Let me summarize their answer for you: Don’t. It’s otherizing and exoticizing and that’s offensive. Apparently.

Now, I’m one of those people who never has an easy time with the question “Where are you from?” because the truth is a long story. So my answer depends on the context. If it looks like a shorter answer is appropriate, my response will be either “The States,” “California,” or possibly “Santa Barbara” though I could just as easily say Mission Viejo or Westminster if I’m being city-specific. If it’s a Thai person asking, I’ll usually respond in Thai that I’m a “half-race child: Thai & American.”

Sometimes more detail is called for: “My mom is Thai and my dad is American, but he grew up in South Africa.”

Sometimes it’s appropriate for me to mention that while my dad is an American, he primarily grew up in South Africa, but his family is actually from Norway. He’s as blond and blue-eyed as they come, but he grew up speaking Zulu (clicks and all) before he learned to speak English.

When asked where I grew up, I say southern California. But occasionally I surprise everyone when I admit I was born in Mississippi.

By that time everyone is confused, and I haven’t even gotten to the part about how my brother and sister are actually my cousins (no incest involved, thankyouverymuch) and technically, biologically, I’m an only child.

_1050346-2Like I said, long story. If people try to place me based on looks, they generally think I might be Hawaiian, or Mexican, maybe Indian. Not Thai, though. And not white either. If anyone has a claim to feeling “otherized” I’d think I do because I don’t fit the mold anywhere.

But while the “Where are you from?” question is never easy to answer, I don’t think people are assholes for asking it. Honestly, when I read articles like this Jezebel one, I just have to roll my eyes because, to me, it reeks more of the author’s own insecurity and discomfort in their own skin than racist behavior on the part of the questioner. More often than not, people asking where others are from are just making conversation. You never know their history either–maybe you look like you’re from Lebanon and that person just traveled there last month and is looking for a point of connection and a chance to talk with someone who gets it about the awesome time they had there. Or maybe you sound like you’re from Germany, and my family is from Germany but you’d never know it to look at me. Whatever. If you have an interesting heritage, maybe people are asking because you look like you have an interesting story to tell. Let me put it another way: would you rather forgo an interesting heritage in order to look just like everyone else? Is looking “exotic” such a bad thing? Is there something inherently better about looking obviously placeable?

I’d personally rather have people be curious about me than write me off.

The only time I’ve ever been really annoyed by the questioner was when he kept trying to make assumptions about me, being overly familiar and getting it all wrong. And I just wanted to tell him, “STOP. I’m sorry, dude, but I don’t fit in your preconceived molds so just stop trying to stuff me into one.” But that kind of questioner isn’t curious–in fact, he’s the opposite of curious, when he’s really just looking for the most efficient way to categorize everyone he meets–which sounds a lot more like racism to me than simple curiosity about others. Turns out this particular guy, a restaurant owner who liked to get real friendly with his guests, is now operating a hub for trafficking young girls and boys out of his restaurant, so he definitely qualifies as an asshole.

The world is only getting more globalized and we’ll only begin to see more multi-ethnic people and more convoluted stories about where we’re all really from, whatever that means. There’s no one way to ask a person about their heritage that encompasses all the possible responses. Is it really better to shut up and not ask the question for fear of “otherizing” each other, or is it better to leave open the opportunity for making a connection with each other, either through the magnetism of our differences or because there’s a hidden similarity that might not otherwise have been seen?

Meanwhile, if I feel otherized by or that I don’t fit in with a particular crowd because of my answer to the “Where are you from?” question, then they’re not the kind of people I want to spend my time with–regardless of whether they so boldly ask the question or not.

The Nomad Diaries

My very dear friend, Lenae, of Just Lenae, is doing something pretty flippin’ wild right about now. As I type this, she is mid-air, moving her lovely family from life in California to…guess where?

Can you guess?

Azerbaijan.

(I know, right?)

And did you catch that? They’re not traveling to Azerbaijan. They’re moving there. While we anxiously await tales of their trip, she asked a few of us other nomads to post a little bit about our experiences moving abroad. She posed a few questions about what we remember most about the early days, what we miss most from home, what we’ve learned and what we love. So, if you’re curious, you can find me over at her place today!

Actually, you should go to her place anyway and root around the archives. I’m sure if you spend above half a minute over there, you’ll fall in love with her as much as I did. Plus, pretty soon, you’ll find out about their adventures in Azerbaijan!

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