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Just a little note to let everybody know that this blog is still here and still open! I’ve done a bunch of knitting and a bunch of eating and a bunch of reading, but December has been crazily busy.

Anyhow, welcome to 2009. You should be warned that I may be moving to my domain at some point in the near future, as I was recently told that my webhost is offering WP gratis. Stay tuned.

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Ugh.  In the few weeks since I last wrote here, I had computer woes, had the woes fixed, got more woes, had them fixed, had woes again, then gave up on the whole thing and bought a MacBook instead of waiting until January as I wanted to do.  Said computer is partially courtesy of the US government (in terms of $600 in economic ‘stimulus’).  Unfortunately, it means my plans to go to WisCon have been scrapped in the interests of liquid assets coming into what seems to be a long summer for all of us here in the States.  While I try not to usually be a fatalist, I’ve read too much SF in my time to not think about trouble, and the feeling isn’t just on my part, as I’ve found out on Ravelry.

The MacBook is pretty darn awesome, but I wish that they would make the OS less idiot-proof.  It drives me up the wall.  Everything is pretty and cute, and sometimes I just want to get down and dirty.

Anyway, I had a good long bunch of rambles about feminism, Smith, this year’s Tiptree Award winner, and knitting Sidewinders in mind, but I’m completely made of lazy.  Yesterday was a long day and today provides to be similar.  Mostly I’m upset about things I can’t change, and so I’ve been trying not to think on them: the politics of international aid is one, rising gas prices is another, and FOX moving House to Mondays is a third.  If you ever wondered what kind of deep thoughts actually go on behind the scenes here at Not Be Televised, there you have it.

That and beer.  It’s finally beer season again, and my pick is, of course, Leinie’s Honey Weiss (or Berry Weiss).  I’m not sure if this is in national distribution, though.  Summer Shandy has grown on me slightly, but not to the point where I’d pick it over something else.  Recommendations are welcome, but remember that we have a lot of microbrews locally and any small brand from out of state could be hard to get.

Oh, and I’ve adopted Google Reader as my blogfeed thingy of choice.  I see that there are seven of you reading this from there, which is rather intriguing.  I hope this looks decent–I haven’t bothered to subscribe, because it’s my blog, for crying out loud, and I know what I’ve written.  I think.

At Gary Miller.  See Feministe for the latest in the hilarity, wank-wise.

Bless student journalism.  Let’s hope he gets this out of his system before he, you know, joins the workforce.

I’ve been following Robyn‘s time abroad in Paris for a month or two now, and her adventures have inspired me to write about my food habits during my semester in Glasgow, Scotland.  (Though I don’t have any nifty pictures, except perhaps one of a 500 ml Irn Bru that my Matt brought me this summer.  Bear with me here.)  My flat in Glasgow was university-owned and operated, but with no available dining facilities (aka ‘self-catering’); as someone used to either Smith College’s extensive Dining Services program or The Kitchen of Mum, who cooked for fun and not out of necessity…this was slightly overwhelming.

That said, I got used to it right quick, but I also ate quite a lot of random Easy Food.  Predominantly Frozen Fried Chicken Breasts from Iceland, croissants with salami, and vegetable soup.  However, I also developed a recipe for ground beef (that is, ‘mince’) with pasta, as well as a rather nice salad of cooked red bell peppers and onions, learned to make crepes and shortbread, and generally did well enough for myself, all things considered.  Basically, I was cheap, predominantly because of the exchange rate, but I managed.  Some things you can’t really make too well on your own, and therefore my expenditures increased.

Digestive biscuits: I could polish off half a packet of McVities plain digestives in one sitting.  For those who’ve never experienced them, I’ll paraphrase Douglas Adams and say they’re ‘like, but entirely unlike’, graham crackers.  The flour used to make them is coarser, there’s a different kind of sugar involved, and they’re not processed half as much.  Crumbly and not too sweet and entirely too good.  I can’t get them here, though they were available as an expensive import in Northampton’s Stop and Shop.  A Scottish expat at MU has told me that they do have them at Woodman’s here in Wisconsin, but until the Oak Creek store is completed, the closest to me is in Kenosha, which is 45 minutes if the traffic’s good.  Considering gas prices lately, I’d do better to order them online.

Haggis: You can’t get around talking Scotland and food without this coming up.  I won’t blow it off by saying it’s unimportant incountry, because it actually is a readily available food that’s not just eaten on Burns Night; it’s just only as big a deal as say, bratwurst in Wisconsin–a point of pride that’s probably consumed less often than brats are around here.  Everyone who hasn’t actually tried haggis is completely grossed out by the concept, and the fact that it’s illegal to import here (idiotic reasoning, since foot-and-mouth and CJD, Britain takes far better care of their livestock than we do) probably has something to do with that, but in January of ’05 I took the plunge, even before being well liquored up.
My verdict?  It’s honestly a lot like Hamburger Helper with oat instead of noodles, meaning that it doesn’t taste bad at all.  The only problem I had was getting over the fact that I knew what I was eating, but I was able to consume my portion entire with the help of neeps and tatties (er…turnips and mashed potatoes, for the layperson).  You don’t eat the stomach, and it’s not even included in some packages.  There is also vegetarian haggis, which I have not tried.

Irn Bru: There’s a great post about Irn Bru at The Traveler’s Lunchbox, so I won’t get into too much repetition.  Let’s just say that there seem to be few redeeming qualities to Irn Bru, even if it does make a fantastic hangover cure (my regimen was to drink three parts water to one part IB…NOT mixed, mind).  It stains your teeth and any other light coloured object/fabric faint bright orange, and it has a distinctive taste of artificial fruit bubblegum that’s gone off.
Eventually, a few sips or bottles later, it grows on you, slowly but steadily, until you find it bloody fantastic and miss it like nobody’s business.  Makes a decent drink with vodka, too.  It’s available for import, but expensively so, seeing as it’s not even available regularly in stores south of Cumbria.

Sausages: Not a particularly Scottish thing, more of a British thing.  Where I come from, sausages come in three kinds:

  1. tiny breakfast ones which you cook on the stove
  2. ring bologna, which you bake
  3. ones you grill and put in buns unless you are out of buns for some reason

The British concept of sausage does not fall into any of those categories, making it rather difficult for me to learn how to make a meal out of them.  ‘Bangers’ are a bit smaller than a brat but substantially larger than breakfast links.  But apparently you cook them on the stovetop in a pan as well.  Who knew.  I like my Grilled And Put In Buns kind of sausage fully dark on all sides, which was impossible with the banger, and cleaning the pan out was a pain.  Eventually I took to breaking them up into sausage bits and then cooking them more, which is not proper, but tasted good.  As for bacon…we’ll get to that in my Expat’s Guide as it is a doozy.

Indian Food: I’ll preface this by saying that my mother hates curry spices, and therefore we never had it when I was a kid–the fact that there haven’t been good inexpensive places in Milwaukee also didn’t help.   While in the UK, I learned to appreciate a good chicken tikka marsala, which is a hybrid sort of anglicised curry; pakoras of various foods battered in chickpea and fried; and at one point I treated myself to chicken rogan josh at Ashoka West End.  (Got to put in quick kudos for them–they treated a young student dining alone with a book at dinner hour quite nicely, and the food was fantastic.)  At some point I’d like to recreate the meal, but the ingredients are expensive unless you buy in bulk.  Considering my mother’s tastes, I don’t think that’s happening.

Now that I’ve finally completed this post, stay tuned for a guide for Americans living and eating in the UK: it’s harder than you’d think, considering political and cultural transference.

The fact that my candidates won almost every race and that the Dems have the House (I’m a Pelosi fangirl like every other good lil libchik and the idea of a female Speaker pleases me immensely) and possibly the Senate is still overshadowed by the result and the massive margin by which the same-sex marriage ban passed here in Wisconsin.  Odd that the only thing I blogged about is the worst result.

Needless to say, I’m waiting on the litigation.  (And on commentary nationwide from primarily.us, run by the well-spoken duo of Ryan Hagen and Jeff Behrens.  Check it out.)

At least a few things are secure for now, South Dakota managed to pull through, and I never thought that I’d agree with something Tom DeLay said: the Democrats didn’t win, the Republicans lost.  Dems, please do get around to making changes.  Just one big one would be nice, to prove it can be done.  Mebbe stem cells?

Also…the polarization of the nation never keeps from amazing me.  That whole concept might make a good SF story…who would get what and where if you literally divvied up the nation?  A different sort of apocalypse, and a different sort of civil war.

Now if I only had the time to write that kind of thing instead of merely speculate.  Also, if anyone has a Gawker invite, I might like one.

So I have to say that, like Haverchuk, I was a bit dubious about the Whole Foods Market thing.  Particularly since, as he points out, the Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel has been pimping it right, left, and center for months.  This whole week the ante got upped to the front of the food and business sections, Sunday and Wednesday, and the front page of the  paper itself Wednesday as well, I believe.

Well.  It opened.  Wednesday, 9 AM.  And now I have been, but not on Wednesday.  It is, suffice it to say, an experience.  I’d been to a much smaller Whole Foods Market (Hadley, MA), but it was nothing like this.

First of all, getting to the East Side from my house is an experience in and of itself, because of the way Milwaukee is built and the current Marquette Interchange construction project.  Then there’s the getting around the East Side bit.  And then there’s the part where the parking is all under the building.  It’s great, but it’s also spooky as hell, all clean new concrete.  Very…The Running Man or something, dystopian, but with actual attendants showing you to places.  This will probably become less surreal eventually.  If you park, you have to take the escalator up to the store level.

So, the first and major thing you notice about Whole Foods Milwaukee is that it is bloody huge.  I suppose it’s probably the size of a megastore, but in the vast lack of space that is the East Side, that’s like building a football stadium.

The second thing you notice is that they have everything.  (Except wanton wrappers, which they did not have.  Hopefully egg roll ones work instead.  I don’t see why not.)  I can’t think of any food item that I would want that they wouldn’t have, and it would probably be organic and/or locally grown, no less; they also have plenty of baby items, kitchen accessories, and health/beauty products.  I didn’t know there were habenero pepper farmers in this state, but apparently there are.  Not to mention the fact that there’s rows and rows of deli selections, and not just a mere salad bar.

The third is that there are samples everywhere.  God knows how long this will last, but I had about ten of them.  Some were okay, others were very good (olive and garlic tapenade?  cheese pizza?  more please.), and it was definitely an incentive to buy things, as were the smells of grilled brats, fried fish, soup, bakery, deli, etc.

Fortunately for my wallet, because I have to now replace my brake pads on my car to the tune of $275, I stuck to the egg roll wrappers and an immense organic avocado (on sale for $1.50), and since I was driving back on the freeway, I didn’t try the Wine-O-Matic.  Rather unfortunate name, I think, though retrocutesy.

So the verdict?  I liked it, had a great time, but it’s not going to become my regular shopping destination, because I don’t buy the groceries around here and don’t have the money to do so.  Essentially, it was almost like being a tourist, buying a few souvenirs and restraining oneself from blowing one’s whole paycheck.

It is best not to go there hungry.  And, if you don’t live on the East Side or Downtown, or don’t buy exclusively organic products at home, it’s also best not to shop there regularly, at least not right away.  The price is one reason, and the crowding and availability is another.  It’ll be my go-to place if and only if Outpost’s branch near here on 70th and State doesn’t have what I’m looking for.

Incidentally, the last time I looked?  They had wanton wrappers.

Last Friday, after a rather long and slightly arduous week, my mother turned to me and said, “Do you want to go out for dinner tonight?”  Since the first rule one learns in college is Never Turn Down A Free Meal, my answer was yes.  And then we proceeded to figure out where to go.

Deciding we needed something new, we settled on Peony, the only restaurant in the Milwaukee area that regularly does dim sum, family run with a open, well-lit atmosphere and diners speaking in Cantonese and English.  Problem is that Peony has one order off the menu instead of bringing a cart to your table, so you really don’t know exactly what you’re getting unless you’ve had it before.  Peony itself is also known for seafood (which swims about in tanks near the front door until you’re ready to eat it)–unfortunately, I don’t like seafood unless it’s firmly meshed in something and not the main taste.

I particularly enjoyed a fried chicken and bean dumpling, and ‘veggie hearts’, which were tender small bok choy sauteed in a soy-based sauce.  The latter was like asparagus without the bitter tinge and the strength, which I can’t stand, and I was glad to find I liked bok choy.  Mom had some fried eggplant with shrimp (which I quite enjoyed because the eggplant was the main flavor) .  We also found a taste for chili paste and might need to buy some.

However, I’m not the sort of person who likes things so bloody sweet, as were the BBQ pork bao (though they were tasty enough), nor am I a particular fan of the taste of sticky rice rolls/lotus leaf rice.  The duck was also mercilessly dry and the crepes too thick, but that could just be personal preference.  This was made up for by a wee free dessert square that reminded me of tiramisu.

Our local Cantonese-American restaurant doesn’t do this type of food, but nor does it do potstickers.  Peony doesn’t do them either, to my dismay.  Still, the experience was a good one, the price was right ($30 for the two of us, and I had $5 sake), and Mom says she’d go back.  Perhaps I would too, if I knew to look for pork buns.

Now, for potstickers in Milwaukee…or do I have to make my own?

Peony is located at 11120 W. Bluemound Road in Wauwatosa, WI 53226.  Their phone number is (414) 443-6455, and they’re open until 10 most nights.

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