Monday, June 10, 2013

Home Away From Home

Summer days reading began with Under the Tuscan Sun, I saw the movie a few years ago and bought the book right before I came to this country two years ago and had not read it until recently. After I moved into a studio, living by myself for the first time, I decided to go through my bookshelf and find some easy reading: books that I can enjoy reading once and then sell back to the bookstore to save some space on my bookshelf. When I started this book, I realized how appropriate it was for summer time.

The long, strenuous process of restoring an old house in the Tuscan country is fascinating and almost dreamy. I'm beginning to think that maybe I should try to make more money so that I will have enough saving to have a dream come true one day. It is indeed fortunate to be able to do what you want to do and like to do, even if you have to pay a little price, whether it be the labor and frustration of restoring a house aged of centuries, or moving away from home.

Frances Mayes in her book and I have one thing in common, we are both building a home away from home. While she's literally building a home, I'm only developing a more emtional bond with my surroundings. And to create a sense of home, sometimes one has to recreate the images of home. That's part of the reason I've been cooking more Chinese food lately. The feeling of being away from home has been more present as I hear news after news about my friends getting married and having babies back home, especially since I wasn't present at many of such joyful events.

My best friend from college just got married ten days ago. I had helped her order a Vera Wang wedding dress form the States and shipped it to her back home. I was supposed to be one of her four bridesmaids but couldn't return home this summer due to visa issues. It was the second time that I missed the chance of being a bridesmaid for a best friend. Looking at her pictures, I felt happy and sad at the same time: happy for her wedding, sad for me not being there. This is the price I pay for my dream: to miss the important events in my friends' and family's lives.

Maybe I'm a little homesick. But that can be easily fixed with a warm plate of stir-fry.

Although pork is not a popular meat in Western cuisine, it is very prevalent in China. Many simple stirfries contain only a vegetable and pork slices or cubes.
So I made my wonderful celery and pork and green bean and pork stirfries, best with rice.
Perhaps stir-fry is the easiest and hardest dish in the world. It's easy to prepare, but it almost never comes out with the exact same flavors each time. The temperature of the wok and the amount of spices all affect the final outcome. However, it's the spontaneity that marks the fun label of stir-fry. All you need it vegetable oil, salt, soy sauce, and maybe some Chinese five spices. How much, you ask? Trust your gut!

However, there is a trick when cooking meat. Make sure you add some cornstarch to the meat after you cut it into thin slices and coat it well till you don't see any more starch. If it's too dry, add a little rice wine. You can also add some rice wine when you stirfry the pork, which you do before the vegetables.

Always cook the meat first, then remove the meat and cook the vegetable, then add the meat back in. Celery and grean beans can both take a long time to cook, but make sure they are tender. If you want, you can boil them in water first before the stirfry, which would speed up the process.

This is my home away from home. What would yours be?

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