Friday, March 23, 2012

The Greatest Show

I have finally started reading this book that I won at the first Towson reading series two weeks ago. A collection of linked stories evolved around the big circus fire in Hartford Connecticut around 70 years ago. The author, a distinguished writer with a shrewd journalist background, Michael Downs, is also a fantastic professor at Towson University. I am taking his freelance writing class this semester and am thoroughly enjoying the class every week.
The stories begin with the one about a mother and her child going to the circus when the fire happened. The tickets were stolen from her employer: she had wanted her child to see something beyond his imagination so badly that she took the tickets as she was cleaning the house. Ania, a Polish immigrant, worked hard to make ends meet while her husband was away in Europe fighting the war. Then the fire took place. And it would go on changing their lives, and the lives of many other people in Hartford, forever.
I ponder at the title of the book, finding fun, irony, and sorrow. The greatest show isn't always the greatest, is it?
To learn more about this touching book and its author, you need not go far: The Greatest Show.

I put on a show yesterday myself. Chris took me to play tennis, the single sport that I was willingly to learn at one point and took a class for two semesters in college but still ended up barely passing it. Did I tell you how bad I am at all sports? I don't like sports: I can watch some sports, but most likely playing is out of the question. So I told him I'd try to learn to play tennis again. And I did better than I thought: I mean, at least I managed to hit the ball over the net for several times. But I was never in a total sporting mood, or as Chris said, there was some laziness in me. There would always be some laziness in me, because deep inside I still reject the idea of me playing sports. So when he asked me to run a little for him I refused. Running is, if you didn't know already, my biggest enemy. All throughout middle school and high school in China, I had to pass running tests and I passed only a handful. I hated it. Once I was done with running tests, I vowed that I would never run again under anyone's command. No one, No one, can ask me to run if I don't want to. So you can imagine our tennis play didn't end quite well. It caused me two glasses of wine and a 1400-word story in the middle of the night and a comfort movie to finally manage to sleep at 3 o'clock in the morning.
I'm stubborn and my self-consciousness is high. There are things I hate to do and if I truly don't want to do it it would cause me physical pain if someone keeps asking me to do it or if I do actually do it. It reminds me of my early childhood when I didn't like taking baths and my mom would nag me all over the apartment for a bath. I would lock myself up in the bathroom, so angry, crying, screaming she was not my real mother. So, I was a stubborn child; I'm a stubborn person. I'm sorry. If you want to try breaking that down, you can try, but I can't guarantee success.

So I made the pineapple fried rice that I always wanted to make for the first time in bitterness and half silence; it turned out a little blend. I also added too much water to the broccoli, potato hash so it was too watery.
It wasn't the greatest show non whatsoever. But my beloved ate it all; he makes me so happy that I want to cry.

Pineapple fried rice
Three cups of cooked white rice
One pineapple
One piece of boneless and skinless chicken breast
One small can of peas
One red bell pepper, chopped
4 stalks of celery, chopped
2 carrots, chopped
Vegetable oil

Cut the pineapple in half, use one half, save the other for other purposes. Cut out the flesh and chop into small cubes, leaving the hollow half pineapple the shape of a rectangular bowl. Cut the chicken breast into bite size pieces. 
Set a wok over medium heat; pour in about 3 tablespoon of vegetable oil. Cook the chicken until it turns white; then set aside in a bowl. 
Add one more tablespoon oil and stir-fry the vegetables. Add the rice and pineapple; keep stir-frying till the rice is broken apart. Add chicken, keep stir-frying until well mixed. Season with salt and pepper. 
Cook for two more minutes, and then serve in the pineapple bowl.

The hard part of the recipe was to scoop out the pineapple flesh. The fried rice can be made into any flavor, just make the fried rice you normally like and add pineapple to it. I probably could have added soy sauce, but as I said, I wasn't exactly in a good mood.

Broccoli Potato and bacon hash (adapted from Steamy Kitchen)
4 slices bacon, cut into 1/2" pieces
1/2 onion, diced
2 potatoes, cut into 1/2" dice
1 head of broccoli, peeled and cut into 1/2" dice (about 1 cup)
salt and pepper
1 clove garlic, finely minced
salt and freshly ground black pepper
dried basil

1. In a large saute pan over medium-high heat, cook the bacon pieces until crisp. Use a slotted spoon to remove and reserve the bacon, leaving the bacon drippings in the pan.
2. Add the potatoes to the pan and brown the potatoes on each side, about 6-8 minutes.
3. Stir in the onions, cook for 2 minutes, then add in the broccoli and the garlic. Cook for 2 minutes. Add in 1 tablespoon of water and cover. Let cook for 3 minutes. Check to make sure that the potato is cooked through.
4. Add the cooked bacon pieces back into the pan and season with salt, pepper and basil.

So instead of 1 tbsp of water I added probably 5, and the result being my hash more like boiled vegetables. Once again, do not cook new recipes when you are not in a good mood.
Needless to say, I woke up with a raging headache and lingering nightmares about playing tennis. And, a still bloated stomach. We finally did it: we ate tooooo muuuuuch.
I ate my ritual dessert breakfast and went out speed walking. After the sweat and some reading, I now feel so much better. I also have to tell you how much I appreciate having such a wonderfully considerate and understanding boyfriend.

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