Important – Mark Your Calendars! May 14th is National Buttermilk Biscuit Day in the United States.
For those of you who have lived with me and woken up on a Saturday morning to hot coffee and my freshly-baked buttermilk biscuits (Anita, Colleen, Nina, Stephanie, Tawn?) you’ll know what I’m talking about. I miss baking with a passion, living now without a source for buttermilk and, worse yet, no oven!
So I encourage each of you to go out on Sunday (or better yet, make your own – see recipe below) and eat a Buttermilk Biscuit for me. Really. Jam and butter, please.
Chris’ Buttermilk Biscuits – makes about 10
2 c. flour
1 T. baking powder
1 t. baking soda
1/2 t. salt
1/4 c. vegetable shortening (such as Crisco)
1 T. butter, cold
3/4 c. buttermilk
Preheat oven to 450 degrees F. Mix dry ingredients in a bowl then cut in shortening and butter, forming pea-size chunks. Make a well in the center of the bowl and pour in buttermilk. Mix with a fork until dough pulls together but is still slightly sticky. On a well-floured board, knead dough five times, folding dough over on itself each time. Take care not to overwork the dough as this makes for tough biscuits.
Pat dough to a height of one inch. Use a biscuit cutter or a wine glass (about 2″ diameter) to cut biscuits – push straight down, don’t twist the cutter. Place biscuits on an ungreased cookie sheet, preferably aluminum, and bake in over for 10-12 minutes or until golden brown. Serve in a basket or bowl lined with a clean dish towel to retain the heat.
Living in another country can make you hungry for things that you wouldn’t necessarily eat at home very often. Case in point: Tawn and I were both craving barbeque ribs, specifically the “knife and fork” ribs at Houston’s restaurant. (Owned, interestingly, by the Hillstone Restaurant Group. I normally don’t like chain restaurants, but they do a good job with the food and ambience.)
So Tawn and I went to the only place in Bangkok that I know of that serves ribs: Tony Roma’s. There are two full-service locations in Bangkok, so we ate at the Siam Paragon location. Really, why shouldn’t we spend as much time at this mega mall as possible? That’s where all the other fashionistas are, after all. (Tawn is a fashionista, right?)
So we shared a platter of St. Louis style ribs, a half BBQ chicken, and some grilled sausages. A lot of food! But after having been quite conscientious about my dining habits over the past month a little splurge was okay. After having been exposed to both Kansas City and Texas style barbeque, I’ll have to say that I find Tony Roma’s meats to be lacking in depth: no smoky flavor, just a lot of sauce. But the meat was good quality and cooked to perfect tenderness while still being moist. So points there. And the service was really good. And we really, really wanted some ribs, so it hit the spot.
If you’ve ever been confused about the difference between babyback ribs, St. Louis ribs, spareribs, etc. here is a great site from the Ribman to explain it all.
While eating dinner, I reminisced that the last time I ate at a Tony Roma’s was in San Bernadino, California while I was attending school at University of California, Riverside in 1999. As soon as I said “1999” I realized that, no, it had actually been 1989. Which then got me to thinking that I am only two years away from my 20-year High School reunion. That would be Adrian C. Wilcox High School in Santa Clara, CA. Here is the Wikipedia article on the school along with the official website. Could it really be 20 years?
After dinner we went to watch Tom Cruise in Mission Impossible: 3. Thrills, explosions, cartoonish plot twists… what more could you expect? An evening’s entertainment.
Wednesday evening I stopped by Tawn’s office and we were going to take the car to a 7:30 pm yoga class. But when Tawn tried to start the car, it wouldn’t. Lights were okay, so it wasn’t a battery issue. We walked to yoga and the next day Tawn called a mechanic to come look at it. Fortunately, it is only 200 baht for a house call. How about that?
The bad news is that the problem couldn’t be fixed at the office so the car was towed to the garage. Here’s the challenge:
- First, I’m not a car expert. Despite my father’s best efforts and certain disappointment, getting my fingernails greasy while doing car repairs on our old 1967 Ford Fairlane was never much to my liking. While I probably know a little bit more than Tawn about the inner workings of a car, it certainly isn’t a whole lot more so we’re making decisions in the dark.
- Second, the language barrier poses some problems. When a Thai mechanic explains the problems in Thai to someone who doesn’t have a lot of technical knowledge about cars, who then tries to translate this information into English… well, it doesn’t work very well.
- Third, this mechanic is one that Tawn’s father has used for years so there might be some of the cultural propensity to respect the opinion of someone more experienced and senior than you, and to not challenge it too much.
So right now we’re having work done on the car: possibly the starter motor (related to the original problem) along with a leaky shock absorber and possibly a leaky seal or other problem with (maybe?) the drive shaft? See how much the three factors conspire to create utter confusion?
It looks like the work will be finished today (Saturday) since yesterday was another holiday (Wan Visakha Bucha – the day and month of the Buddha’s birth, enlightenment, and death). The total cost should be around 20,000 baht – US$550, the same as our monthly rent! – and while we don’t know the final cost Tawn was told the price includes a 10% discount as a long term customer.
Confused? So am I.
Well, that’s part of the fun of living in another country, right? Actually, I think this should be okay, though. We haven’t done a lot of maintenance work on the car over the last year or two and it is at about ten years so is probably ready for a bit of work. Since I don’t want to deal with buying another car if we can get a few more years out of this once, even 20,000 baht is a good investment.
I’m pleased to report that even though this week was the brief summer break enjoyed by Union Language School students, I did do some studying. Not as much as I could have, but more than none. Tod was kind enough to meet me three afternoons to spend about two hours speaking and, mostly, proofing my reading skills. He’s a good teacher and places a lot of emphasis on correct pronunciation. For any tonal language, that’s a must and I don’t get as much reinforcement from the teachers at ULS as I’d like to.
Going to Hong Kong
Tawn’s trip to Italy with his parents has been finalized. This morning he is meeting his father at the Emirates ticket office – conveniently just a half-block up the street from us (hey, Khun Sudha, please stop by for a cup of joe) – to purchase the tickets. To help plan the trip, I ordered two of Rick Steves’ guides to Italy. His “Europe Through the Back Door” series is really useful and when Jenn, Kevin, my mother and I went to Italy several summers ago we found his guide books to be very useful.
I have to tell you, I was really impressed with amazon.com and DHL. I placed the order for the two books early Friday morning local time in the US and selected express shipping (US$46 for a US$27 order!) because the next fastest option while twenty dollars less expensive would have taken nine business days. On Monday morning when I returned from lunch, the clerk at the front desk of our condo building gave me my box from Amazon.
At first, I thought it might have been shipped from a distribution center in Singapore or elsewhere in Asia. But I double checked the shipping label and, sure enough, the books were actually shipped from the United States: New Castle, Delaware.
That’s right: it took less than 60 hours from the time I placed the order until the books were in my hands, 14,059 km (8736 miles) away – according to the Great Circle Mapper – pretty impressive.
Isn’t the world just shrinking incredibly?
So, back to the story (you’re probably wondering what all this has to do with Hong Kong, aren’t you?):
The travel books arrived and I poured through them placing sticky notes on various pages, underlining things, and pulling together six sample itineraries for Tawn’s trip. Tawn then translated them and created a PowerPoint presentation complete with pictures from each of the cities they might visit. Then he sat down with his parents on Friday and did the presentation, guiding them through their options.
I thought the whole thing was funny as Tawn didn’t anticipate his “client’s” short attention span: his father didn’t want to wait for the entire presentation so instead hijacked the meeting agenda. But that’s okay; they nailed down a plan finally!
So now that they will be out of town for eleven days, I’m going to fly over to Hong Kong to visit friends. I’ll stay with Chris, Tehlin and their son Sam. While there, I hope to have a chance to see Big Michael, Edward, and another Chris and his partner, Antony. Anyone else going to be in Hong Kong June 1-6? Should be a lot of fun and a chance to eat some good dim sum again.
Speaking of Tawn’s family, here’s a picture of the extended clan at his Uncle’s funeral last fall. Tawn was the one taking the picture, so he’s not in it. But I’ve noted Tawn’s mother and father on the photo in the lower left corner.