Tag: personal

Lazy Sunday morning


Ran a laundry; decided to make nước màu (caramel sauce) in my cast-iron enamelled pot (which was a welcome change from the bad saucepan I used the last time). The sauce is cooling as we speak; I’ll be hunting for a jam pot next. Have to say oven mitts are great for protection during the risky endeavour of heating up sugar…

Now I’m off to spread the laundry to dry. Ah, heady days…

(also bought a copy of Nigella Lawson’s How to Eat, and am currently reading it with fascination. She’s a smart no-nonsense cook and a lot of her advice resonates with me even though our cooking reflexes aren’t exactly on the same spectrum due to different sources).

Mixed-race people in SFF


OK, because I’ve seen one too many %%% storylines about mixed-race people in fiction (expanded for SFF to include the children of humans and aliens/magical creatures, etc.). For your information:

We are not psychopaths, terminally maladjusted, forever torn between two cultures in a way that will inevitably destroy us. We are not freaks or hybrids or mongrels or circus animals, forever exhibited as examples of what can go wrong in human/alien/magical creatures relationships; neither are we featureless saints exhibited as examples of interracial/interspecies harmony.

We are not special, magical or possessed of numinous powers by virtue of our non-white/non-human blood; we are not the tamed Other, made acceptable by an infusion of white blood and white customs, the “safe” option with only a hint of fashionable exoticism and none of the raw difference of “true” foreigners. We are not a handy, non-scary substitute for diversity in fiction.

We do not have pick sides unilaterally. We do not have to share the identity of our mother or of our father to the exclusion of the other parent (and most of us will find it quite hard to completely reject one half of our heritage); and our parents are not perpetually locked in some cultural war in which there would only be a single winner. We can be raised with love and respect and in a meld between two cultures: we do not have to be orphaned/single-parent/neglected/abused to exist.

Our parents are normal beings, and so are we.

If you’re using mixed-race people in your fiction and feature ANY of those tropes, do please think for a moment of what it is that you’re saying (and I wish I could say it’s not the case, but I’ve seen all of these–yes, even the hybrid/mongrel–at some point in recent SFF, either in print or in other media).

ETA: also, in case you’re wondering? The use of the word “half-breed” to refer to mixed-race people is NOT acceptable in any context (except possibly as a slur in historicals). “Mongrel” should also be banned from your vocabulary on mixed-race people. I don’t particularly enjoy being compared to animals, or the long history of prejudice inherent in that term (it’s a bit like thinking “mulatto” or “nigger” are appropriate descriptive words). For God’s sake, think on what it is you are saying before flinging this kind of word around.

Disclaimer: this is based on my experience and on those of friends growing up (mostly in Europe, and most Asian-white mixed-race). I tend to think a lot of it applies elsewhere, though…

In case of doubt…


1.5L of water, half an onion, 1 knob of ginger, a good teaspoon of five-spice powder, a good tablespoon of instant chicken broth powder, a LOOOT of fish sauce (1 or 2 tablespoons), a 1-inch piece of kombu, 8 shrimp with their shells, and 3 nests of egg noodles. And a dash of sesame oil before serving.

Broth heaven. Yum yum.

Reflections and resolutions


So, with 2012 almost over, time to get back in the writing saddle for one more year! It’s been a rollercoaster on several levels (RL and work, to mention just two of these). On the writing front, I was glad to come back to short fiction, even though I never managed to actually get into the swing of the novel thing (that’s my resolution for next year/the end of this one). I felt like I sailed over a plateau, albeit a very uncomfortable one, when I started injecting more of my personal life and experience into my stories (probably why writing a lot of them felt like pulling teeth, lol)–and I was the first one surprised to have so many stories recognised (in addition to the Year’s Best, “Immersion” also got mentioned herehere and here, got massively recommended for the Nebulas, and got nominated for a BSFA Award *blushes, hides*).

On the non-writing front, I’ve finally acknowledged that it was time to consider cooking a time-consuming hobby–expect the website to be redesigned to better highlight that bit (in fact, hoping to get the site in general tidied up). I bought Photoshop Elements in the hope of improving my pictures (yeah, I know. The software isn’t going to change the fact I have crap picture taking instincts, but I hope to improve that too, lol).

And, finally, the Vietnamese learning will continue, though I’m not sure I’ll blog quite as much about it: basically, I’ll be trying to increase my vocabulary, which is less filled with awesome discoveries but darn useful to move beyond my meagre “survival” skills.

Your annual darkness notice


Aannd we finally have liftoff on the holidays! Am going to enjoy my much-deserved week of rest and enjoy Christmas and the New Year. The blog is going dark for a week or so; in the meantime, have a few Virgin Mary pictures to tide you over (all from Vietnam, in case you were wondering  🙂 ).

To all those who celebrate, Merry Christmas and a Happy (Western) New Year, and see you on the other side!

Weekend brief update


So, in case you didn’t get the memo, RL & the dayjob are still eating away at my sanity spare time. In the meantime however, we had a rather busy weekend, but we did take time to eat a phở at a new place in the 13e, and that’s where I ate this:

Yup, durian bavarois (I was originally going for durian macaroon, but got sold this instead, which was way less sweet and made all of yumminess). The perfect end to a meal with a phở.

Funny observation of the day: the H and I noticed that there was a clear difference between Asian and non-Asian tables: every single Asian (mostly Vietnamese) table was having the phở, sometimes without even bothering to open the menu; every other table had picked the rest of the menu items. There’s a rational explanation, I suspect: most of the other dishes they offer are easy to make at home if you have a Vietnamese pantry (I would never order a bò bún in a restaurant, and I can make my own bò lúc lắc/shaking beef). Phở, on the other hand, is a little more… intense to prepare, which I guess explains the disparity between people familiar with the cuisine and people who are not.

Anyway, that’s all from the blog; hope I can try some recipes soon, but last week scooped my brains out and ate them with a little cream…

More cooking experiments aka Bday party


The weekend’s challenge: how to create a buffet for 25 guests in a day or less (I had intended to do some pre-shopping but ended up leaving work far too late on the Friday evening). Bonuses (or lack thereof): lack of the H during the morning (due to mysterious shopping activities aka getting my present), and a small Parisian kitchen.

I knew ahead of time that the choking point was going to be the oven: I had to cook 2×2 savory cakes and 60 chả giò, and I only had the one oven. On the day before the party (and rather late at that), however, I realised that I’d forgotten a very important item to be cooked in the oven: the dessert! There followed some slightly frantic twitter and FB queries for possible recipes. I got tons of good ideas, but a lot of them required advance preparation and/or lots of time and/or unfamiliar kitchen techniques; in the end, the H and I settled for waffles, which had the advantage of being a familiar recipe. (but I took lots of notes and fully intend to cook the suggestions–discovered lots of pastries I didn’t even know existed!)

I went to do some shopping in the morning, and came back with a full shopping cart; then I settled for the first of the savoury cakes (it started out as a chicken-and-tarragon cake, but I couldn’t find any tarragon, and ended up with chicken-ginger-mint cake. This is why you should never leave me in control of any recipe; I almost put soybean paste in the second cake but the H put his foot down). Then the oven basically worked overtime until 8pm or so (it turned out I’d drastically under-estimated the time it took for chả giò to cook–each batch of 15 rolls needed about 20 minutes near the heating element of the oven, which in turn meant quite a bit of attention from me…

I also had a lot of manual work to do (chopping carrots and putting spread on canapés), but a group of guests very kindly agreed to come ahead of time and help with that–we made such good time that we were basically ready ahead of the 6pm starting date.

The only surprise of the evening turned out to be our waffles: the H took the waffle recipe from the Larousse des Desserts , a venerable encyclopedia of French desserts which turned out to have quite a lot of embarrassing typos–specifically, when he popped the dough into the waffle-maker, it basically evaporated as it was cooking (you can imagine this didn’t really create satisfactory waffles). There followed about 1 hour of war councils between various guests to determine the best strategy to fix the dough; by the end, I think they’d tried adding everything to the dough, including but not limited to orange blossom water, corn starch, and 1.5kg of flour… In the end, we determined that the reason it wasn’t working out was the lack of a leavening agent in the dough (rather a grievous error for a recipe): basically, we’d been trying to make waffles with pancake dough… So they threw in baking soda, waited for a bit, and finally could start making decent making waffles.
I settled for making the chocolate sauce: turns out tablets of Nestlé’s full-bodied cooking chocolate works out marvels 🙂

In the end though it all worked out quite well, and (I think) the party was a success (as usual, mainly thanks to the guests for the company and the help). But I swear that’s the last time I trust a recipe from the Larousse

Website update


So… looks like my recent website troubles have been fixed (the culprit to all my problems was a WP plugin that went funky, but nothing else looks wrong). However, given that the website’s still being hit by spambots (275 attempts in 2 hours!), I activated CAPTCHA on comments. Sorry for the extra nuisance; I hope that doesn’t put people off, but I see no other way to get rid of them.

Quick update



  • RL + dayjob is eating my brain
  • It’s Xmas soon and I’m completely late for everything
  • I have a 25+-people party coming next week
  • I’m getting massively spammed by bots in the comments of the website

All of this concurs to explain why I’m not going to be very fast on my feet, and don’t hesitate to holler if you think I owe you anything and haven’t delivered…