Food Humor

Ginger or Mary Ann?

Ron's Blog

Article first published as Politically Correct Gingerbread on Blogcritics.

I had fun doing research for this article. My entire ten minutes was wasted, however, as I’m writing about the hot and spicy root plant called ginger, and not Ginger, the hot and spicy castaway from Gilligan’s Island.

Be that as it may, I did discover I’m somewhat in the minority. It seems Mary Ann consistently outpolls Ginger in which-one-do-you-prefer competitions. In support of Ginger, let me just refer you to this wonderful 1957 recording of Tina Louise singingIt’s Been a Long Time.

Chinese love ginger. I also think some of them may get a perverse pleasure out of tricking me into sucking on a mouthful of it. My first experience was on a bus during a school field trip to the China countryside. Somebody was passing around a bag of ginger candy and WOWEE! Chunks of ginger are not…

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Food Travel, Culture Writing, Music, Media

Hurrah for the (please make your selection) Pie!

Ron's Blog

Article first published as Hurrah for the (Your Selection Here) Pie! on Blogcritics.

I have a confession. I’m not a big fan of pumpkin pie. My favorite is apple. Hot, deep dish apple, to be precise. With vanilla ice cream. Two scoops.

This article isn’t really about pie, however. I’ll tell you in a minute what this article is about as soon as I figure out what this article is about. Let’s go with the pie theme for now.

According to my source (starts with G and ends with oogle) pumpkin pie is well down the list at number eight. No big surprise to me that apple is number one, followed by chocolate, coconut, pecan, berry, key lime, lemon, pumpkin, cherry, and banana cream at number ten.

But this is all a little, uh, fruitless. Gee, too bad I don’t have a pie chart to show you. Anyway, enough of…

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Cuisine, Chinese Cooking General Rongwei Health, Chinese Medicine Humor Travel, Culture

Got Hot Pot?

Hot Pot is especially popular in China during the winter months.

China Bride Blog

Tsingtao Beer Tsingtao Beer

The other day I was reading something called a “book.” While reading this book, I stumbled across an interesting factoid. (All I have time for anymore-just the factoids, ma’am.) The author was of the opinion that Peking Man was the first hominid to use fire. We know this because we have his left molar in a box somewhere.

Which got me to thinking. If there is a Peking Man, shouldn’t there also be a Peking Woman? I wonder what kind of recipes she has to share? I’m pretty sure Peking Man was too busy at the hunting and gathering office to actually cook.

So I got a copy of the Chinese Telephone Book and started looking. It took a long time as you can well imagine. I did find a listing for Peking Tom, but the number was disconnected.

I searched and searched. But alas, could not find…

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General Rongwei Music Writing, Music, Media

Throwback Thursday: The Sin City Singers!

The Sin City Singers - 1970
The Sin City Singers – 1970

My high school folk group from left to right: Dan Judd, Kevin Stephens, Wes Winn, Ron Hendricks and Jasper Winn. In 1971, Kevin and Jasper had gone off to college, so we were joined by Gary Knox. Here we all are in a photo from 2004 at the dedication concert for the Jack Williams Auditorium. Dan, Gary, Ron, Jasper, Kevin and Wes!

Sin City Singers 2004
Sin City Singers – 2004

Mr. Williams was our beloved Mac-Hi Choir Director, Counselor and Teacher.

Health, Chinese Medicine Humor Travel, Culture Writing, Music, Media

Pardon Me, But Your Knee Is On Fire

My friend Brian and I were both limping on the same leg. What I mean is, HE was limping on HIS right leg and I was limping on MINE. Or maybe it was his left. Anyway, it doesn’t matter.

Brian claims his limp is from an old football injury that occasionally flares. I think he slipped in some buffalo wing sauce during Super Bowl halftime. No, wait. Brian is British. Make that World Cup and malt vinegar. I finally went to a doctor and found out what my problem was. Osteoarthritis. But I am getting ahead of my story.

We hobbled around for about a week and things did not seem to be getting any better. It finally got serious when neither one of us could make it up the stairs of our favorite Chinese Pub (is that an oxymoron?). The pub is in the basement, so we were trying to go home. There might be another reason we couldn’t make it up the stairs. But I digress.

Finally, Brian suggested we get a Chinese Fire Treatment. His ex-girlfriend is part owner of a tea shop on the other side of Guangzhou. Apparently, they do fire treatments in the back room. I know what you’re thinking, but let’s not go there. Actually, that’s what I said to Brian. And I quote, “let’s not go there.”

Chinese Fire Treatment
Chinese Fire Treatment

So the next afternoon Brian picked me up in his Buick. Yes, he drives a car in China. Buicks are very popular here because they are American. But I digress again. Re-digress?

Now, let’s examine the situation, shall we? What my friend and I were heading out to do was get ourselves lit on fire in the back room of his EX-girlfriend’s tea shop. Sound like fun? You betcha.

We arrived at the tea shop without incident. We had the obligatory Gong Fu Tea out front. Then it was time for the fire treatment. Since there were two of us, Brian went in first. Fine with me. Then it was my turn. When I went into the back room, Brian was alive and resting on a narrow massage table with his knee wrapped tightly. He gave me the thumbs up.

Now, all evidence to the contrary, I am not a complete idiot. I did have the foresight to wear shorts instead of long pants. That way, I could keep my pants on and preserve my dignity as I ran flaming out of the building. I must re-digress again. If you are reading this—which I assume you are—and you are British, then I was wearing short trousers, since you people mistakenly think that shorts means underwear.

Anyway, treatment began with some magic Chinese formula—Ben Gay, which is Chinese for “Are you out of your mind?” Actually, it wasn’t Ben Gay, but whatever it was, she slathered it all over my knee. Next, she wrapped my knee in several small towels and let me rest a bit while the magic Chinese formula soaked in.

Now, here is the part where you need to remember the famous quote from George Washington as he stood in the boat crossing the frozen Delaware river at two in the morning. “Kids, don’t try this at home!” Rubbing alcohol. I think that’s what it was. I don’t read Chinese labels so well. She soaked the towels with it and then took one of those long lighters, you know, the kind you use to start your backyard grill. She took one of those and lit the towels on fire.

I didn’t feel anything at first. But then, my knee began to warm up. About the time I was ready to panic, she deftly threw more towels over my flaming knee and the fire went out. After a while, she repeated the entire process. Then she wrapped my knee, towels and all, in plastic wrap. I’m guessing this part of the traditional treatment was added after plastic wrap was invented.

And that was it. Brian and I drank more tea and rested while the heat soaked in. Kind of like using an electric heating pad. Wait a minute… what a great idea!

Travel, Culture

Stinky Tofu Anyone?

The university in China where I first taught built five new dorms. During construction, the nearest gate was left open for construction traffic. As soon as students started to occupy the first few dorms, a steady stream of foot traffic began to beat a path to nearby shops and restaurants.

It wasn’t long until street cart vendors spotted an opportunity and lined each side of the pathway. All of this came to a screeching halt once construction ended. The gate was padlocked shut.

Free enterprise cannot be denied, however. Someone “discovered” a loose bar in the eight foot wrought-iron fence and bent it back. The school administration chose to look the other way, and the local street cart economy was thriving once again.

I would pass this way on a daily basis, but would always cross over to the other side of the street. Not because of the crowd, however. It was the smell. I was absolutely certain there was a busted sewer pipe somewhere underneath the street carts.

One day I made this observation to one of my students. When he finally stopped laughing, he began to tell me about the Chinese delicacy, stinky tofu:

Vegan’s Worst Nightmare

Humor Uncategorized

The Fifth Taste

Article first published as Umami Baby! on Blogcritics.

Remember when the earth was flat? Life was simpler then. Three channels and always something to watch. Then color was invented, life got more complicated, and now they tell me my tongue needs upgrading. Who knew? I blame Walt Disney.

Sweet, salt, sour and bitter – only four kinds of taste buds. All you sweet buds over on that side of the tongue. Salt buds over here. Bitter buds, you go that direction and sour buds, you go… excuse me? Umami? You’re not from around here are you?

To be truthful, I’d heard rumors of a possible five. But I thought it was just crazy talk. Sure, there’s spicy. Mexican food is spicy. And so is kung pao chicken when you get one of this little red things by mistake.

But I never considered spicy to be a flavor. This umami thing took me completely by surprise. And they tell me umami isn’t even spicy, it’s, well, it’s savory. Whatever that means.

If this is the first you’ve heard of it, then I know it’s a shocker. But nobody says you have to get the transplant today. Let’s just read the brochure and think about it. I’ve heard there’s a shortage of penta-tongues anyway.

I’ve given it some thought, and I think I have a plan to nip this thing in the bud. Get it? Nip it in the bud. LOL. Basically, we have two options: (1) We can kick out bitter or (2) We can wear them down with ridiculous suggestions.

Option One: Kick out bitter. The choice is obvious. We need sweet to make coffee drinkable in the morning, salt to put on potato chips and sour, because, well because a lot of kids like that awful tasting candy. But bitter? What’s it good for? I looked it up.

The best thing you can say about bitter is that it let’s you know when you’ve taken poison. Believe me, taste is the last thing you should worry about if you have poison in your mouth.

So, if they accept our offer to kick out bitter and replace it with umami then we’ll still have four. Granted, not the original four. But how many rock bands still tour with all of their original members, huh?

If they don’t go for Option One then we hit ’em with Option Two. The first thing we should offer up is spicy. Only I think we should insist on calling it caliente. That would give us not five, but six tastes.

And then, just as they’re about to sign the paperwork, we hit ‘em with dorito. Catch my drift? And then, what about glow-in-the-dark? You know, the flavor of non-dairy liquid cheese food you put on nachos at 7-11. We might have to shorten it a bit. Maybe call it glowlicious.

So what do you think? Do we have a plan? Great! I think we should celebrate. Have some wine. Pardon? Do I think it tastes oaky? You mean, like from Muskogee?


Hurrah for the (please make your selection) Pie!

Article first published as Hurrah for the (Your Selection Here) Pie! on Blogcritics.

I have a confession. I’m not a big fan of pumpkin pie. My favorite is apple. Hot, deep dish apple, to be precise. With vanilla ice cream. Two scoops.

This article isn’t really about pie, however. I’ll tell you in a minute what this article is about as soon as I figure out what this article is about. Let’s go with the pie theme for now.

According to my source (starts with G and ends with oogle) pumpkin pie is well down the list at number eight. No big surprise to me that apple is number one, followed by chocolate, coconut, pecan, berry, key lime, lemon, pumpkin, cherry, and banana cream at number ten.

But this is all a little, uh, fruitless. Gee, too bad I don’t have a pie chart to show you. Anyway, enough of that.

What I really want to discuss is THE song. You know –  the ONLY Thanksgiving Carol in existence. There’s an endless supply of CHRISTMAS Carols, but just ONE Thanksgiving Carol. Plenty of Thanksgiving HYMNS, but you can’t sing those in a public school assembly, now can you?

Over the river and through the woods to Grandmother’s house we go. Is it Grandma’s house or Grandpa’s house? Because I found lyrics for both. Let’s just pretend they’re still married and the house is in both their names. Which is pretty unusual for this day and age, but we’re pretending okay?

The horse knows the way to carry the sleigh through the white and drifted snow. This family REALLY wants to avoid TSA, huh? No intrusive searches or scans for them!

Yadda, yadda, yadda. Then something about Grandma’s cap. Hurrah for the fun is the pudding done, hurrah for the pumpkin pie. I like their priorities – dessert first!

Actually, I love this song. It paints a Norman Rockwell picture in our heads of a time and place that few of us have ever been to, but I’ll bet most of us would like to experience. At least once. The problem with the song is that it seems to be the only one.

Come on everybody! Let’s all gather around the piano and sing THE song. Pull yourself up out of the bloated coma you’ve fallen into. Find the mute button on the remote. What’s the score? Pause the Xbox for half a minute. Let’s all sing the ONLY Thanksgiving Carol in existence.

Hey folks – this is America. We need more Thanksgiving Carols! Your assignment is to come up with some. I’ll meet you back here next year to see how you’ve done.

Happy Thanksgiving.

Travel, Culture

Falling Into Friendship

It can happen to anyone, any time, any place. Even on China’s Hainan Island. Or perhaps, especially on Hainan Island.

Article first published as The Furthest Point of Sky and Sea on Blogcritics.

When she stepped onto the bus, there was a sudden shortage of oxygen. Every male passenger sat tall and sucked in his gut. She dug into her pockets and pulled forth a handful of Chinese money. The bus driver daintily extracted the proper amount and dropped it into the glass box.

As she glanced around for a place to sit, every suddenly-taller-gut-sucking man had the same thought. But I had the advantage. I looked Russian.

The bus lurched forward, launching her on a trajectory leading to the empty seat next to me. She sat down and exclaimed something that wasn’t English. I began to pray fervently for the gift of tongues, but no luck. I shrugged. “I don’t speak Russian.”

She looked at me and repeated the phrase. “Da Dong Hai?” The clouds parted and I heard angels singing. Not only did I know what she was saying, but I knew where it was, and best of all, I was going there too.

Yalong Bay
The Furthest Point of Sky and Sea

Da Dong Hai is the middle class beach of Sanya City, on Hainan Island, in the People’s Republic of China. Da Dong Hai is perhaps my favorite place in the whole world. At least it was today.

Her name was Maria, she lives in St. Petersburg, she’s here on vacation, she’s traveling alone, she’s working on her PhD in religion. I gleaned all of this in a few short minutes. She speaks English.

Oh, and there’s more. She’s pregnant. And planning to sleep on the beach because hotel prices have tripled due to Chinese New Year. Do I know any place that sells sleeping bags? I swear what I’m telling you is true.

Suddenly, I had a plan. We would be married and live happily ever after. I know from past experience it probably wasn’t a good plan, but it seemed better than letting her sleep on the beach. I’ve been to Sanya many times and even if I weren‘t pregnant, I don’t think I’d attempt to sleep on the beach. Stay out all night, yes. Sleep on the beach, no.

We arrived at our stop, got off the bus and walked a few short blocks to the Big East Sea. That’s what Da Dong Hai means. On the way, we were approached by the usual number of sunglasses sellers and fruit ladies. Feeling protective, I waved them off.

I’d been skeptical of her claim about the PhD, but as we talked and walked I realized she wasn’t kidding. We spent the afternoon talking and walking. We bought some fruit and ate it as I became her tour guide.

At the far end of the beach, around the bend, is a Chinese naval base. Imagine the look on the officer’s face (as he emerged from his quarters, following his afternoon nap) to find an American man and a Russian woman asking directions. After we were politely escorted off the base, I thought I heard the sound of a firing squad. Just glad it wasn’t us.

Not far down the coastline is the world’s fourth tallest statue. It’s a glistening white, 354 foot tall depiction of the Bodhisattva Guan Yin. It’s the crowning glory of one of the largest Buddhist theme parks in the world. It’s true. I swear. Anyway, she wanted to go there the next day. Would I like to go with her? Perhaps not the world’s silliest question, but certainly among the top 100.

Come to find out, she had one more night at her hotel before the holiday rate kicked in. We made plans to meet for coffee in the morning. Which gives me time to fill you in on the back story.

I teach English in China. I’ve done so since August, 2004. I happened to be in Sanya this time to teach at a winter English camp during January and February. I was sharing an apartment, provided by the school, with four Chinese teachers. All female. I wouldn’t make this up.

Sanya is about as far south as you can go without leaving China. It has three major beach areas: Yalong Bay (for the Jet Set), Da Dong Hai (Bus Set), and Sanya Wan (Local Set). Sanya Phoenix International Airport (SYX/ZJSY) serves travelers with daily flights to Hong Kong and Europe. There are a lot of Russian tourists in Sanya. Many of the store signs and restaurant menus are in Russian, Chinese and English.

The next morning I met Maria in the lobby of her hotel. She’d gotten directions from her Russian travel agent on which buses to take. So, after a leisurely European breakfast, we set out on our adventure of the day.

Ever hear the expression “it’s not the end of the world, but you can see it from there!?” On the way to our destination we actually passed the end of the world. Literally. The Chinese name is Tianya Haijiao. Tian is sky and Hai is sea. (Remember our Chinese lesson above?) It could be translated as “the furthest point of sky and sea.”

What’s funny is that Tianya Haijiao sort of got it’s name from when the Chinese Emperor would opt for exile over execution. In the olden days, when a noble fell into disfavor he might be banished from the kingdom to this place. Oh, please Br’er Emperor, puh-leeze don’t throw me into that there briar patch!

I wasn’t expecting quite such a hefty entrance fee when we arrived. It was 150 Yuan each, which is roughly $22.5819 USD at this exact moment. Fortunately, she paid for herself.

The Nanshan Guanyin near Sanya
The Guanyin is on a man-made island at the edge of the South China Sea.

After we went in, I feigned interest in the exhibits for about a half hour. She obviously was taking this PhD thing seriously. I told her I wanted to meditate at the base of the Guanyin and she should meet me there when she was ready to leave.

The Guanyin is perched on a man-made island on the edge of the South China Sea. I stripped off as much clothing as I thought I could get away with (Buddhist rhymes with Nudist, after all) and began my swimming ritual. Ah… I think time apart is good for a relationship, don’t you?

As I lay on the beach, gazing up at the Guanyin I had time to reconsider my marriage plans. After all, she really only needed a place to stay until hotel rates came down again. And two of my roommates had already headed home for the Chinese holiday. She could stay in one of their rooms.

And as for her, uh, condition – she would probably make up with her boyfriend sooner or later. And, even though I love children, I’m getting a little stuck in my ways. I made up my mind to let her down gently.

I jumped up, brushed off the sand, pulled on the rest of my clothes and went looking. When I spotted her, I almost reconsidered. Did I mention she takes your breath away? But then I gathered my courage and ran up to her. “Two more hours,” she said. “Okay, take your time,” said I. I returned to my meditation spot.

To wrap this up, we didn’t get married. She took me up on my offer to use my apartment for a couple of days. There was no hanky-panky. Darn. Several months after she flew back to the cold, cold North, I got an e-mail with a picture of her and the baby. Beautiful kid. I think of her from time to time and wonder how she’s doing. Cue music.

Of all the buses, at all the stops, in all the towns, in all the world, she had to get on and sit next to me. Play it again, Sam. I’m not quite finished. Sorry, where was I? Oh yeah. Of  all the bus stops, in all the towns, yadda, yadda, yadda. We’ll always have Sanya.

I’m telling you the truth. I swear.

Fashion, Bags and Purses

Real Men Carry Purses

Article first published as Two Turtledoves and a Gucci From Italy on Blogcritics.

Hello, my name is Ron and I’m a purse-o’holic. I prefer that spelling. It’s more upbeat.

I first began to realize I might be addicted when I found myself using keywords on the Internet: clutch, tote, wristlet. I know them all. By the way, remember to use upper case C when you search for Coach. Unless you’re into whistles.

Next, it was DVD’s. I’d freeze frame on the shot of the beautiful girl just to gaze at her Gucci. Lately, I’ve been introducing myself to women in order to ask if they like Juicy Couture. I know. It’s sick.

It’s not easy, you know. Handbags are everywhere. I’d run and hide in my closet, only they’re in there, too. I told my mother they belong to my girlfriend. Only, I haven’t had a girlfriend in ten years. I think she knows.

I’ve had to switch dentists six times. The receptionist keeps noticing me lingering in the waiting room. Have you ever tried to hide a fashion magazine inside a Sports Illustrated? It’s nearly impossible. Especially when the perfume blow-ins keeping falling on the floor.

What’s that? You think it’s nothing to be ashamed of? You don’t know how happy I am to hear you say that. I wonder if you’d mind signing my petition? I’ll pass it around. It’s an open letter to the White House asking for our own holiday. I like the sound of Happy Handbag Day, but I’m open to suggestions.

While that’s going around, I’d also like to pass out some lyrics I wrote. I brought my guitar. You all know the melody, so let’s sing shall we?

“On the first day of purses my Visa gave to me a Gucci made in Italy. On the second day of purses my Visa gave to me, Dooney and Bourke and a Gucci made in Italy. On the third day of purses my Visa gave to me three Prada knock-offs, Dooney and Bourke and a Gucci made in Italy. On the…”

Sorry I stopped singing, but I just can’t keep my eyes off your Hermes. Do you mind if I touch it?