Happy 90th Birthday, Grandpa!


This is my grandpa.

He turns 90 years young tomorrow.

He’s in great shape. Today, he freaked me out when I noticed red drops all over his shirt and pants. I thought that he had cut himself, but it turned out to be paint (as per city regulations, the pipes that feed the his emergency sprinkler systems must be painted red). How many grandpas do you know are still climbing ladders in 100Β° heat to paint pipes that run across the ceiling? My grandpa rules!

He has been talking about his birthday for the past six or seven months. Mostly, he has been asking about who is coming and where we are eating. You know, the important things πŸ™‚

With the celebration in full swing and with all of my family in town, I haven’t been able to keep up with many of your wonderful blogs and comments as often as I would like. Many apologies to you all! I look forward to getting back to you soon!

In the meanwhile, I hope that you will also have a wonderful, food-filled Wednesday!


Happy Mother’s Day

All the girls in the family.
I don’t have much from my family in terms photos or stories. My mother’s side of the family lost everything during the Cultural Revolution. They left China with almost nothing and made it to the United States in stages.

My grandmother, my mom, and her sisters were the first. Followed almost twenty years later by the boys, my two uncles. This photo is one of the few images that I have of my grandmother and her daughters together.

I think this was taken in Hong Kong in 1964.

We’re kind of a strange family on my mother’s side, bucking almost every Asian stereotype and defying just about every cultural tradition. Everyone in my family is bad at math. No one is lactose-intolerant and those of us who drink, can drink like fishes. Most bizarrely for an Asian family? Girls are favored more than boys β€” much to the consternation of my uncles, brothers, and male cousins who complain that they received zero attention growing up.

My grandmother was a athlete, the star-player on her high school basketball team. She was strong-willed, cultured, and always smelled like Chanel No. 5.

My mom is equally as awesome. She listens to Chinese opera at deafening volumes in the car, proudly has Priscilla Presley’s autobiography on her bookshelf next to Shakespeare’s tragedies, has never missed an episode of Keeping up with the Kardashians, and makes no apologies.

The woman can sass the heck out of you.

I love her so much.

Happy Mother’s Day to my dearest mom and also to all you mothers out there!

(Can you guess who my mom is in the photo? I’ll give you a hint: we both have a penchant for cat’s eye glasses)

Happy Chinese New Year! Gung hei fat choi!

Wishing you all a wonderful and prosperous Chinese New Year’s Day!

This is the Year of the Snake and this year’s animal is a water snake, specifically a female black water snake.

I’m not exactly sure what that means, but water always implies energy flowing outwards and money (hopefully) flowing towards you! Black is a sign of instability and changeability, so take caution this year and think carefully about your decisions before you make them.

The snake is also a good omen because it is a sign that your family will not starve this year. Very important.

So Gung hei fat choi, everyone! May today be a day full of good food and time with family and friends!

Not starving starts now πŸ™‚

Auld Lang Syne: Goodbye 2012, Hello 2013

Thank you for being a part of my 2012!!
Like many of you, I received an email from WordPress today with a statistical review of my past year blogging. In 2012, my most popular post was my rant reflection on the then recently-published book, The Manhattan Diet. In the running for almost-as-popular were my posts on how to cook juicy pork chops, how to choose a cutting board, and how to make crustless quiches.

Most visitors came from the United States, the United Kingdom, Canada, and Australia. Absolutely no guests came from China. Not a single one.

This can only mean one of two things:

A) Either WordPress is blocked by Chinese censors for being a corruptive Western influence.
B) Or I have been shunned by the entire nation for being of Chinese descent and not knowing how to steam rice or use a wok.

Yeah. I bet it’s probably B too πŸ˜‰

All these tallies have inspired me to do my own end-of-the-year wrap-up, especially given that 2012 was an eventful year for me.

First and foremost, I finally got my PhD after years of reading, writing, teaching, and kvetching. Finishing the dissertation marked the end of a seemingly endless road and the fulfillment of a long-held goal. This year, I don’t think that I have ever pushed myself harder. I also don’t recall being more miserable, scared, panicked, anxious, lonely, or queasy in my life.

At the same time, I never felt prouder, stronger, more independent, and confident.

Above all, I felt loved.

So as 2012 fades to black, in this post I would like to take this opportunity to extend a heartfelt thank you . . .

To my family.

Mom and Dad, even though 2012 has been a difficult year for you too, you never wavered in your support. Thank you for always believing in me. I love you both so much.

Grandpa, you were my rock. You saw me every Sunday for weekly dim sum. You kept me grounded and fed me dumplings. So many dumplings . . . You also gently reminded me that it’s not a given that a Baconbiscuit win her first Bacon Takedown. Thank you, Grandpa πŸ™‚ I love you so much!

I am also thankful for my extended family of cousins, aunts, and uncles. You never failed to make me laugh at myself. For that, I am grateful. Much love to you all!

To my friends.

Does a body good?I reached my limit 36 hours before my dissertation defense. I was still writing. I was also delirious, going on about six weeks of minimal sleep and three weeks of no sleep. I was mentally, emotionally, and intellectually drained. I was hopped up on caffeine and nicotine too. Just when I was about to fall apart completely, Laura arrived at my door with this glorious pile of junk food.

She made me laugh out loud with this wacky assortment of things that must be part of a pregnant woman’s dream. I was so overwhelmed by the kindness and generosity of the gesture that I burst into tears. Thank you, dearest Laura. You are so treasured!

Sharon and Joseph, how amazing are you for surprising me on my birthday with cupcakes, Italian cookies, and sparkling water? I don’t know how you maneuvered all those candles up my building’s stairs without setting off the fire alarms. You two made me cry too!

Maritess, you always picked up the phone when I called, even when it was a 4 in the morning. I love and miss you, Babe. You are the best Bestie!

Thank you to Tina and Bob MacCheyne from High Point Farms for your friendship and loving support. Your kindness fed me both spiritually and physically.

Giant hugs to Astrid, Ben, Banki, Beth, Birgit, Brie, Niki, Dave F., Oliver, Carol, Ron, Kerri, Anne, Dan, Chantale, Chris, Deb, Clarissa, Ipek, Darya, Jason, Dave C., Joyce, Dave L., Jenn, Dave M., Donna, Emma, Ted, Emmy, Eri, Eryn, Eve, Gideon, Deena, Guillaume, Laura P., Helen, Heather H., Hilary, Jamie, Jas, Preeti, Jennie, Jessica, Peter, Jill, Jimmy and the crew at Jimmy’s 43, John B., John M., John T., Kalay, Katherine, Kelly, Kie, Maggie, Manya, PΓ€r, Margaret, Matt, Megan, Melanie, Melissa, Michelle, Steve, Mike, Nicole, Sebastian, Siobhan, Spencer, Susan, Sylvie, Tanya, Tomoko, Victoria, Zach, and Heather M.

I feel so fortunate to have met you. I would never have made it through 2012 without your friendship. Much love to you all!

Of course, I could never overlook all the wonderful people that I have met through blogging. Thank you for inviting me into your lives and your kitchens. Your stories sustained me as I ate vicariously through your photos. You were my other lifeline when I was living like a hermit in the library basement. Some of you even came through New York and lured me out of my cave πŸ™‚ Thank you for checking up on me and for keeping me sane!

Special blog shout-outs to Ruby and Wheaky, Emmy Cooks, Ugly Food Tastes Better, SybariticaHumble Feast, Cauldrons and Cupcakes, Expat EdnaAmy Glaze’s Pommes d’Amour, Unbrave GirlSouthern Food Scrounge, Gourmandistan, Live2EatEat2LiveHappiness Stan Lives Here, Susan Eats London, Garden Correspondent, Frugal Feeding, Cooking in Sens, Kolpona Cuisine, Bunny. Eats. Design., Paintbox KitchenMon chat m’a ramenΓ© un chipmunk!, Belle Grove Plantation, Mixer Upper, Going Dutch, In Her Chucks, 17 Bites, Inherit the SpoonMama Miyuki Easy Pantsy, Rabbit Can Cook, The Hungry Egghead, testerfoodblog, and Back Road Journal.

To the kind bloggers who nominated me for awards.

When I first started blogging, Adele at Artistry by Adele nominated me for the The Versatile Blogger Award. I was flattered and very touched by the nomination. Unfortunately, the follow-up post to Adele’s languished in WordPress limbo (aka Draft Status). Why the paralysis? At the time, when faced with the prospect of nominating 15 bloggers in turn, I realized that I didn’t know 15 bloggers!

Since then, Tanya at Humble Feast has nominated me for the Liebster Award, Nicole at Cauldrons and Cupcakes and Mixer Upper have nominated me for the Sunshine Award, and Tahmina at Kolpona Cuisine has nominated me for the Versatile Blogger Award again! I got picked for the Versatile Blogger Award by John at Sybaritica and Cendriani for the third and fourth times. Mama Miyuki nominated me for the Family Bloggers Award, and Rabbit Can Cook reached out and awarded me with the Inspiring Blog Award.

All I can say is thank you from the bottom of my heart. I feel so honored and touched that you thought of me and my blog. Thank you so much!

Now, after two and a half years of blogging, I can certifiably say that I know more than 15 bloggers πŸ™‚ However, I have to admit that being tasked with having to nominate bloggers in return is rather intimidating. I quite honestly don’t know where to begin; there are just too many deserving writers out there.

Therefore, I am going to deviate a little bit from the norm. If I gave you a shout out in this post, I am nominating and re-nominating ALL of you for ALL of these wonderful awards πŸ™‚ If I have left anyone out, please know that it was not intentional.

Thank you for your support and congratulations to you all!

As per the rules of some of these awards, here are:

Seven things about me:

1. I learned how to carve wooden sculptures when I studied abroad in West Africa. You know the ones you see in stores or on the street? Of abstract men and women? I can make those.

2. I was a vegetarian for almost 12 years. I didn’t do it for ethical or moral reasons. It was a dare that got out of control.

3. One of my most prized possessions is an autographed photo of Mr. T. He was doing an event with Mary Lou Retton at Planet Hollywood. His brass knuckles spelled 1-800 CLCT. It took him three tries to get my name right.

4. My favorite flower? I love peonies. They are just beautiful. I love daisies too πŸ™‚

5. My favorite book is Great Expectations by Charles Dickens. No, it is not French literature πŸ™‚

6. My favorite words in the English language are dumpling and ampersand.

Ampersand is actually quite fascinating. Did you know it was once the 27th letter of the alphabet?!

7. All the countries I would most like to visit start with the letter “I”: Israel, Iceland, India, and Indonesia. It wasn’t intentional!

To my fellow perfume lovers.

As some of you may know, I have a bad perfume habit that rivals my bacon addiction. I have always loved perfume, but it wasn’t until this summer that I gave what I wore as much thought as what I ate and drank.

I knew in the lead-up to last summer that I wasn’t going to have a vacation this year. Traveling, preferably abroad, is one of the things that I look forward to the most each year. It was too sad to think that I would be spending my time squirreled away in the sub-basement of my university library instead.

So, I thought, if I couldn’t physically travel, maybe I could travel through perfume. I dug out all the decants and samples that I have accumulated over years and wore them all this summer. I went to fragrant India, filled with incense and spices. I traveled to jungles bursting with lush foliage, coconuts, and hot, sweaty tropical flowers. I even went to space with more abstract and futuristic scents.

In the process, I learned so much and met so many wonderful perfume bloggers along the way.

A special thanks goes to Birgit at Olfactoria’s Travels, Victoria at Bois de Jasmin, Undina at Undina’s Looking Glass, The Candy Perfume Boy, The Black Narcissus, Freddie at Smellythoughts, Lucas at Chemist in a Bottle, Lanier at Scents Memory, Portia at Australian Perfume Junkies, The Alembicated GenieThe Scented Hound, and Ari at Scents of Self.

Thank you all for writing so well that I couldn’t help but join the conversation πŸ™‚

To everyone:

As I am spending the new year back home with my parents and brothers in Indiana, it is only fitting to send off 2012 with Straight No Chaser‘s version of Auld Lang Syne.

Here’s to new adventures in 2013!

A Holiday Tradition from Me to You: Ye Olde Sizzling Bacon Yule Log

How many of you remember The Yule Log Show on television?

To those unfamiliar with it, the Yule Log Show was a program traditionally aired on American network television on Christmas Day from about 9am to 2pm. It was perfectly timed to coincide with sitting around the tree and opening presents. The entire show consisted of a Yule log burning in a fireplace. No dialogue. Just Christmas music and the pleasant crackle and pop of a toasty fire in someone else’s fireplace

Initially conceived as a way for fireplace-less New Yorkers to at least enjoy the visual delights of a roaring fire, the Yule Log Show was a tradition in my house growing up.

So imagine how delighted I was to see the folks at Applegate Farms improve on the original πŸ™‚

Dear Friends, it doesn’t matter if you are bereft of a fireplace this year or if you have one. I invite you all to set your computer or laptop somewhere everyone can see it and open your presents while bacon sizzles the the background.

The video is a glorious 31-minutes long and can be set on repeat.

Happy Holidays to you all from NYC!

I passed my doctoral defense!

Dear Friends and Readers,

I just wanted to let you all know that I passed my dissertation defense Wednesday.

I am now a completely useless kind of doctor πŸ™‚

I cannot help you if you’re in cardiac arrest, but I can textually analyze you πŸ™‚

After months of exhaustive work, I am very much looking forward to getting back to two things in life that give me pleasure: cooking and being in regular touch with you all.

I want to thank you all for all of your support during this long process. I couldn’t have made it this far without you!

More updates to come,

PS. The day after the defense, I got an hour-long massage at a fancy spa, ate a giant plate of fried food, and did not open MSWord once πŸ™‚

PPS. And big thank you to Kelly for my very own “Not that kind of doctor” T-shirt from ThinkGeek.com. I am wearing it with pride! You’re the greatest!

Goodbye 2011

Before we ring in the new, we should say a goodbye to the old!

Goodbye to:

Gourmet Burger Overload

Don’t get me wrong, I love me a good burger. I love hamburgers. But everyone these days has a fancy burger on the menu. On every corner is a new gourmet burger joint. And the all the meat is a specially ground just for that restaurant from Pat LaFrieda, which begs the question: if everyone has a proprietary blend from the same butcher, how special are the proprietary blends?! And they all tower to the point that only Paul Bunyan could comfortably take a bite out of one without it exploding local pickles and artisanal slaw.

Too much, too much, too much.

Burgers reached maximum saturation point yesterday. It has just gotten ridiculous.

But . . . yeah, I’ll still order them. Because they’re delicious.


Whoever came up with the idea of playing dead, and posting the clips or pics on the internet as a fun thing for adults to do is just idiotic. I look forward to saying goodbye to this bizarro trend in 2012.


Oh, Tim Tebow. I know next to nothing about football. But I do know that you strike a pose out of love at the end of each game. I’m not a hater, but you spawned a fad that I wish would go away.

Pork Belly

Yes, I know. I love pork belly too. I really love pork belly. I would marry pork belly if I could, but pork belly is also everywhere all the time.

And quite frankly, I think it is about time some other cut got some tender loving attention too.

Molecular Gastronomy

I said “goodbye” to this last year too, but it still lingers on and on. Foam is fun, but sometimes I just want food that looks like food, you know what I mean? I don’t want to sniff a whiff of flavored air from a globe made out of candied sugar before and after each bite of gelatin.

This year, I want food that I recognize. I want food that I know how to eat without needing an explanation. If I have to ask how, I don’t want to eat it in 2012.

Sous vide

An overused excuse for not cooking with real heat. Seriously, a monkey can stick a bag of vacuum-sealed chicken breast in an expensive hot water bath. The only difficult thing about sous vide is purchasing or building a sous vide water oven.

I think people who smoke a lot of pot must really like cooking sous vide, since building a bong is suspiciously similar to jerry-rigging a cooler. I’m just saying.

Potted Food / Food in Jars

Along with “boards,” this is the one restaurant snack trend that I think has had its day. I like rillettes as much as the next person (in fact, I adore rillettes), but what was once a deliciously thrifty way to use and store away every last bit of valuable animal has now become silly as prime cuts get ground up, or shredded and topped with Sauternes gelΓ©e.

One to Two-Hour Waits for Tables

I’m sorry, I’m too old for this. Bring back reservations!

Menus on iPads

Am I the only one who gets overwhelmed looking at restaurant menus? I think that I love set menus because I would rather sit back and let the kitchen bring me something to enjoy, rather than shove the onus of picking well or poorly onto my uneducated shoulders.

I cannot think of anything more distracting, more confusing, and more annoying that putting a menu on an iPad and making me figure out how to navigate my way around it.

And if I picture my mother trying to do it, I can only think of one thing: #restaurantfail.