Successful Fried Rice…At Last!

After numerous previous attempts, I have finally succeeded in making the best fried rice ever. Thank you, Lifeskills Master JP Villanueva.

In an attempt to ease my sandwich-hating husband’s lunchtime hunger pains, I threw a couple of mashed garlic cloves, some leftover rice, a pork chop, a couple handfuls of carrot, and a bit of cilantro (it’s healthier if you add something green) in the requisite “screaming hot wok.” Dropped an egg in, too, for good measure.

And ’cause I AM hard-core, I stirred and let it all sit in the wok with the gas dialed all the way up to High. The result: crunchy yumminess!

Best fried rice I’VE ever made…paired it with Black-Eyed Pea and Sweet Potato stew the hubby had whipped up the day before for a complete Afrasian lunch.

This was the crunchiest rice we’ve had since the 4 kuai clay pot wonder-rice in the dirty labyrinth of alleyways populated by poor university students behind the 广州东站. Wish I had photos of that place. We may have been the only foreigners the shopkeepers had ever seen. The eateries were tiny. Short-plastic-stools-and-no-tables tiny, and the kitchens were even tinier. You could choose the meats and veggies from a display tray to have tossed in your clay pot of rice. I remember having Chinese sausage, shitake mushrooms, and spring onions. Amazing. The Better Half took me there while we were still dating. It’s clear why I married him, isn’t it?

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Breakfast and cultural identity

So yesterday I’m following a one-armed used car salesman around the car lot with my fussy daughter on one hip. I’m speaking to her in Spanish, ’cause I’m pretentious like that, and we want to expose her to all the languages we speak, and ’cause when she’s understandably fussy my natural inclination is to speak to her in the most tender language I know. Plus, the salesman’s heavy accent reminds me that I ought to be speaking more Spanish to her. Sometimes I forget.

Anyway, he overhears me and asks where my husband is from, assuming he must be the reason this güera speaks passable Spanish. No, mi esposo es africano, I tell him. So how come you speak Spanish, he wants to know. En mi corazón soy mexa, I reply. Tapatía, de hecho. I explain that I spent five and a half years in Mexico, most of that time in Guadalajara, and really came to identify with that city. Turns out he’s from Guada, too. I would have called him paisa if I’d liked him more. Smarmy used-car sales guy.

I was thinking about that statement this morning as I made breakfast. For a long time I have asserted that what people choose to eat for the first meal of the day is a true indicator of their dominant culture. Your average North American might be a very adventurous eater when it comes to lunch or dinner, but we really tend to stick to what’s familiar when it comes to the most important meal of the day. Why is imported boxed cereal so outrageously expensive in stores that cater to expats? They know they’ve got us right where they want us.

The Better Half, incidentally, shoots down this theory. He couldn’t care less what he eats for breakfast. He has, in fact, developed an affinity — bordering on obsession — for maple syrup since our marriage. He’ll make French toast just so he can douse his plate in maple syrup. Still, there is no way anyone would claim that his dominant culture is North American. He believes himself physically incapable of eating a sandwich for lunch two days in a row. If he goes more than a week without some egwusi or ogbono and fufu, you can tell something’s wrong. It’s like his world is just slightly off-balance and he has trouble being his usual wonderful self.

Back to my breakfast. If you were to ask me what my favorite breakfast food is, I wouldn’t have to think about the answer for even a second.

Chilaquiles rojos, with queso fresco, a little bit of cremita, and un huevo estrellado. OK, the ones in the picture are verdes, but this photo looked the most appetizing. To my way of thinking, there can be no better breakfast food. Now, ask me when was the last time I partook of this soul-soothing dish that makes such a bold statement about how I view myself and who I think I am… I couldn’t even tell you. It’s not like it’s that hard to prepare, but in the mornings, I just can’t be bothered.

Sigh. Better finish off my English muffin…which I’m really enjoying, by the way. Those things were hard to come by in China, outside of McDonald’s.