Thank you President Obama

As January 20, 2017 approaches and, with it, the inauguration of President Trump, I want to thank President Obama. His was the first campaign for which I contributed money and time. Future generations will write his legacy and, just like any politician, he is imperfect. Nonetheless, I want to thank President Obama for three reasons:

barack-obama-farewell-speech

Thank you for conducting yourself unlike any president in my lifetime, with a dignity, intelligence and professionalism that brought honor to the office. There have been no real scandals and your conduct has been unimpeachable – literally “no drama Obama”. You showed love and respect for Americans of all origins and faiths, championed marriage equality and treated women as equals – in short, you behaved humanely and justly. As the leader of our nation, but also as a father and a husband and a man, we could do far worse than the model you set.

Thank you for your political accomplishments. It is easy to forget how dire the world economy was in January 2009. The economy is, by almost any measure, in great shape. Far more Americans have health insurance now than when you took office. In an uncertain world, you kept America safe and out of any new military entanglements. And you accomplished this with a Congressional minority for six years, where Republicans explicitly made it their mission not to govern but to stymie you. Yes, you could have accomplished much more in many key areas, but your accomplishments are significant.

Thank you for risking your life for the country. All presidents are targets for unbalanced people with extremist agendas – thus the constant Secret Service protection. But as the first president of color, you faced a level of hatred unmatched in modern history. Especially in an age where a large percentage of Americans are still convinced you are foreign-born, I am startled that there were no attempts on your life. That was a very real risk you faced and I thank your for doing so. My nieces and young people everywhere are growing up in a nation where having a president of color isn’t an unimaginable future but rather an unquestioned reality.

The third point reminds me that there are some other people whom I must thank:

In a crowded field of first ladies who have been positive role models, First Lady Michelle Obama especially stands out. Her class, style, intelligence and caring has been an inspiration for all of us. The loving partnership between her and the President is a joy to watch.

Vice President Joe Biden is a class-act example of public service. A humble, big-hearted man who has never sought power or personal gain, but rather has always sought to serve and contribute to the betterment of our nation.

And his wife Jill Biden so rarely receives the credit she deserves. While serving as Second Lady of the United States she has continued her primary job as an English professor at a nearby community college, contributing on a local level to the next generation.

There is no knowing how the next four years will turn out, but I invite you to join me in giving thanks to President Obama, the First Lady, Vice President Biden and the Second Lady for their service to the country these past eight years.

 

Thanksgiving Recap

Oh, I hate to admit this, but I don’t have many food pictures.  I started out with good intentions but as I proceeded through the cooking, stopped taking photos.  And then when the evening of the party came, I was too busy attending to twenty-two guests that I didn’t have time to snap any photos of the food.

P1070802

Things started out good, with lovely pictures of ingredients before I started cooking.  But then I got caught up in the process of preparing dishes like this cranberry-walnut relish from the New York Times, and left the camera sitting in its bag.

P1070809

The opposite happened with this maple and rosemary candied pecans.  I got the end result but nothing along the way.

P1040499

We set up in the cafe downstairs about 4 pm.  The sun was low enough and the breeze was blowing so the outdoor seating was pleasant.

P1070812

Eventually, the sun set, dinner was served, and we had quite a good sized crowd, enough to fill all the available seats with a few people left standing.

P1040500

The set-up worked well as they have a small kitchen with an oven and two induction burners in the back, so I was able to keep dishes warm in advance of serving.  The two staff members were helpful but took little initiative.  If you wanted something done, you really had to explain step by step what you wanted them to do.  I asked them to slice some bread and so they sliced it and put it on a plate, but never brought it out.  I hadn’t said, “slice, put it on a plate, and set it out with the other food” you see.

P1040510

Our Kansas City visitors, Jack, Craig, and Matt.  They head off to Chiang Mai on Sunday and we’ll meet up with them in Phuket later in the week.

P1070819

The only food shot I have at the party – Tod snaps a photo of the desserts.

 

Juggling Guests and Prep Work

A trio of guests from Kansas City as well as a guest from New York City are in town.  We haven’t had a chance to see the NYC guest yet (hopefully Sunday) but have been showing the KC guests around.  We did an interesting little trip in which we tried seven different modes of transportation (subway, railway, airport express, canal taxi, tuk tuk, river taxi, and Skytrain) on our way to the Temple of the Reclining Buddha.

I’ll write more about that trip and share some pictures in the next few days, but I just have to say that it was a really interesting way to see many different sides of Bangkok.  Also, today we did a half-day bicycle ride that went from the heart of the busy Sukhumvit district through the slums of Khlongtoey across the river to the urban jungle of Phra Pradaeng.  My guests are sure getting their money’s worth!

At the same time, I’m trying to wrap up a few work projects and also get the prep work done for Saturday’s Thanksgiving dinner.  I’ve cooked the turkey breasts already, sliced them, and they are sitting in some broth in the fridge.  The cranberry-walnut relish is cooking right now.  Gravy is made but needs to be thinned and seasoned.  Bread cubes cut and toasted for the stuffing, although I won’t cook it until Saturday morning.

Whew!   A whole lot going on.  For those of you in the US, I hope you had an enjoyable Thanksgiving with your loved ones.

Prep Work

As I mentioned in a previous post, Tawn and I are hosting a potluck Thanksgiving party on Saturday.  While it is a “potluck” in name, in reality I am still doing quite a bit of cooking.

Originally, I offered to make the turkey and gravy.  These are kind of difficult to bring to a party so it is easier to make it myself.  Plus, as host, I like the idea of making the main dish.  I asked guests to volunteer for other dishes, providing a list. 

Cranberry sauce was given wide berth – everyone seems to like eating it but nobody wants to make it.  Okay, fair enough.  It is easy to make and I can make it a few days in advance so I’ll do that.

Then it came to the stuffing.  One friend did volunteer to do that, but he doesn’t have an oven so there isn’t really any way to do that.  So this morning I’m toasting bread cubes and tomorrow will make stuffing.

Maybe I need to re-read the book, “When I Say No, I Feel Guilty.”

Ha ha…

In all fairness, I have guests preparing mashed potatoes, vegetable side dishes, salad, fruit, and many desserts, so everyone is pitching in.  I just thought it was funny that with some 26 guests coming, I’m still making stuffing and cranberry salad.

Unexpected Wrench in the Tday Plans

Two years ago Tawn and I hosted a lavish Thanksgiving dinner for 14 guests.  I cooked the whole menu (except the bird, which I had done at the market and delivered) and we sat at a neatly decorated table on the patio next to the pool.  It was quite impressive, if I do say so myself.  It was also overwhelming so last year Thanksgiving was hosted at someone else’s house.  This year we are doing it again… although a wrench was just thrown into our plans.

To save some myself some of the hassle, this year we billed it as a Thanksgiving Poolside Potluck Picnic.  Instead of cooking everything, I’ll just do the bird, stuffing, and gravy and let others fuss over the side dishes and desserts.  We’re also dispensing with the fussily decorated table and are instead just using the tables and chairs already available on the pool deck. 

Well, that is what we were going to do.  Until Tuesday, when the condo management posted a notice in the elevators announcing that a two-month rehabilitation of the swimming pool would commence the next morning.

Now, the rehabilitation is much needed.  There are many broken tiles (I cut my foot badly a few weeks ago and considered posting the pictures but they are just too bloody) and this work should have been done a few years ago.  But must it begin this week?  And with only one day notice?

P1070549

So the question was, how would this affect Thanksgiving?  We’re expecting about two dozen guests and there is no way I can put them in the house and serve food.  Poolside is out, of course.  Thankfully, three weeks ago a small cafe with outdoor and indoor seating opened on the ground floor of our condo.  It is a pretty space and hasn’t started to get a lot of traffic yet.  Tawn and I went to talk with the owner yesterday and she agreed to rent it to us for the afternoon (we’re holding the dinner on Saturday since everyone is working here on Thursday).

We’ll see how this new space works but I’m glad we didn’t have to cancel.  The cafe has an oven and refrigerator, so we’ll actually have better facilities at hand than if we were by the pool and had to keep running up two stories to the condo.  Whew – Thanksgiving is saved!

 

Thai Style Pumpkin Soup and Cranberry-Beet Relish

To catch you up on some of the recent culinary delights that have come out of my kitchen (well, culinary attempts, at least…) here is an update on two different dishes.

The first was a Thai-style pumpkin soup made after Tawn requested that we have some soup for dinner one evening.  I didn’t follow a particular recipe with this one but just pulled it together by taste.  

Base ingredients: pumpkin, butternut squash, onions, carrots, celery, chicken stock.
Aromatic ingredients: lemongrass, galangal root (similar to ginger but less harsh), bay leaves, curry powder, cayenne pepper.
Finishing ingredients: fish sauce, coconut cream, palm or brown sugar.
Optional ingredients for garnishing: bacon, cilantro, sour cream or parmesan cheese.

Here’s a picture of the finished product, which tasted wonderful.

P1210025.JPG

Coupled with a video that shows the whole “making of”.

 

The second dish is a cranberry-beet relish that I made for our potluck Thanksgiving over at Vic’s house.  I stumbled across several recipes for this and so improvised a bit. 

P1210042.JPG

Sautee a chopped onion and then add the cranberries, stirring for a few minutes but not cooking so much that they begin to pop.

P1210044.JPG

Add shredded raw beets – this would actually be gorgeous with golden beets – and cook a while longer until the mixture softens.

P1210045.JPG

For flavoring add the zest and juice of two oranges.

P1210051.JPG

Sweeten to taste with maple syrup.  The natural sugars in the beets offset much of the tartness from the cranberries, so I find that you don’t need much maple syrup.  If needed, add a little bit of salt to the mixture.

P1210055.JPG

Let cook until at a nice consistency.  Since I like to still have some whole berries left, I reserve about a cup of berries and add them later in the cooking process so they don’t pop before the relish is done.  This turned out as a very nice alternative to regularly cranberry relish and several diners commented that while they don’t normally enjoy cranberry relish, they particularly liked this recipe.

 

Back

Scan1.JPG After about a week and a half of kind of drifting away from Xanga a bit, I decided this morning that I need to get back to it.  I enjoy the relationships I’ve developed through Xanga and it is a very effective way to keep friends and family up to date with what’s going on in my life.  That said, I’d just like to say, “I’m back.”

Villa Market is a local chain of western-style grocery stores, the first such chain in Krungthep.  They produce a monthly magazine for customers which this month featured the incongruous headline “Thank God for Chicken!  Celebrate with turkey”, leading to much head-scratching on my part.

Yesterday was my thirty-ninth birthday.  An Australian friend, Jason, shares my birthday (although nine years younger) so he and his partner along with our mutual friends came over for dinner.  I’ll have those pictures for you in a few days. 

A lot of people get worked up about birthdays.  For some reason, I don’t.  I enjoy getting older and think life continues to get more interesting as each year goes by.  Perhaps more pragmatically, I don’t see the point in fretting over something that is inevitable.  That would be like ruing the tides.

I’ve also been away from Thai lessons for two weeks because the World Film Festival of Bangkok has occupied some of my free time.  Which means I’ve been missing my latte art!

P1200384.JPG P1200385.JPG

Left: the original pig latte that I received.  Right: the same latte with some embellishments by me.

P1200382.JPG

Bitter Brown cafe also does cocoa art.  Here is a bear.  A mouse?  A rat?  I’m not sure what it is meant to be, actually.