Tonight, I left Kait in charge of picking a recipe which was no mistake. She picked a good, but simple, recipe: Honey Baked Pork. You simply brown the pork chops on the stove top, melt honey and brown sugar in the microwave, and bake for 15 minutes on each side- using half the sauce to cover each side. Kait has also decided to expand the scope of our explorations and explore sides as well, calling our staple of boiled carrots and broccoli “boring”. Her response was to try stuffed mushrooms, but the grocery store didn’t have any plain ones left, just these store-prepared ones. People in the UK apparently don’t like to cook… But we paired this with a little bit of rice as well as a few slices of bread with balsamic and oil.
This turned out wonderfully. We were surprised that the sauce stayed thin instead of becoming more of a glaze considering how much sugar was in it. The prepared stuffed mushrooms were very good as well, and I wouldn’t mind them being a main on their own (although I would need a couple of them). They had a cream cheese, garlic, herbs, and bread crumbs as the stuffing, though I would opt for less cream cheese out of principle. Tonight, our carbs were fairly “common” to us. Plain rice and homemade sourdough bread are frequent parts of our weekly menu.
As if I didn’t already agree with Kait, that our sides could use some new variety and creativity, sitting down to this meal emphasized this point. The pork was creative and new, the mushrooms unique, the bread artisan, and the rice… well, bland with room for imaginative improvement.
I saw a lot of good comics about new years, specifically this “new year, new me” comic that I thought was really funny. Anyway, I somehow missed making bread last weekend (I just kinda forgot? not really sure how it happened), so here is my first bread of 2018!
Boy am I glad to have this stuff back in my life again… I’ve really missed it over the last two weeks… I even had to get a store white bread because Kait wanted it with our stew… (neverrr againn… no more bland bread)
The next stop along our adventure of food brings us to a honey and garlic chicken, or at least a variant of the recipe. The problem with this meal became the fact that we had an idea of what we wanted, just without any clue of how to go about it: a (different) sticky sauce we could put over corn floured breaded baked chicken, like in the firecracker chicken post.
I wasn’t a huge fan of this, but it was no fault other than my own. I admit to misreading the recipe, and since we wanted to bake the chicken, it just was a poor decision from the beginning. The recipe called for the sauce to be fried in the pan as well, where as we wanted to bake it.
The chicken was very an edible meal. My mistake was adding too much garlic powder instead of pan searing the garlic with the chicken. Lesson learned. I will retry this recipe when I’m actually willing to sear it all in pans instead of baking it.
My redeeming addition to the meal was a variation of my mother’s asparagus. I added a medallion-ed courgette and a diced onion to the asparagus, lightly coated them in olive oil, and sprinkled with garlic powder and salt. This turned out much better than I anticipated and was my favorite part of the meal.
As 2018 rolls in, Kait and I have decided to make more new food. Last year we tried various pies, stews, pulled pork, pizzas, etc. that all went undocumented, un-photographed and forgotten (much like my childhood)… This year we want to try documenting it all!
This recipe was motivated by a sandwich from a chain-cafe here in the UK, a firecracker chicken “toastie” (flatbread sandwich). The ingredients list wasn’t very helpful as it lists “55% firecracker chicken mix” as the main ingredient. So we’ve looked up a recipe and decided to give it a try.
This turned out really well. The sauce is really thick, due to a cup of sugar that caramelizes in the oven. The corn flowered breading on the chicken fried well, and waiting to let the oil and pan heat up to its full heat really helped the frying process. The extra red pepper flakes give it an extra kick without being overbearing. Next time, we’ll probably use less buffalo sauce and make up the difference with hot sauce.
Today I tried something new, making bread. A co-worker of mine comes in with the best bread at lunch that he bakes at home and I figured why not try it. I got the recommendation for the Book that he uses and decided to give it a shot. After spending a few days with the book, I ordered the missing tools off Amazon and set aside my Saturday to try out the most basic of recipes, a basic white bread.
The most interesting part of the book is the concept of time and temperature as an ingredient in the kitchen. This really shouldn’t come as a surprise to anyone since most recipes do call for time to bake and so forth, but the way you can manipulate time with temperature for the fermentation process is very unique — do you refrigerate it over night, or do you leave it out for the afternoon?
I was pretty happy with the whole process. I started with half of a batch, 500g of flour, to make one loaf. The initial mixing of flour and water with my hands left me shocked, the texture was something that I just didn’t imagine. The scale I used was perfectly responsive to high weights, but I had lots of trouble when it came to measuring out the 10 grams of salt and 2 grams of yeast, so I ended up guessing, albeit on the conservative side, and this caused this loaf to not rise as well. I also then decided to try increasing the batch size a little, by 25% to be exact, since the dutch oven is a little bigger than recommended. I made sure to add a bit more yeast and I think I got this one closer to correct since it rose in the appropriate amount of time.
The bread turned out really well. I’m very happy with the final result. It was moist and full of flavor. The crust was nice and crunchy. I probably could have left int in for a few more minutes, but that’s for next time.
This week was a very special week as one of my longest and closest friends came to visit. Kelsey took her spring break to fly into London to spend a whole week with me! Yes, but why? Good question. I can barely stand to spend time with myself as it is, why would anyone fly 4,000 miles to voluntarily spend 9 days with me. She probably just had frequent flyer miles that were about to expire.
She few into London on Friday and went around and toured different museums while I finished off my work that afternoon. We had arranged to meet when my train got in around 6 at King’s Cross. To be honest, it really wasn’t real that I was getting to spend that time with her until I was able to spot her, dazed and exhausted, in between a few people at the station. We welcomed each other with a warm embrace as if no time had passed since I last seen her. In fact, it had been exactly a year since I had seen her.
We got to do a lot in London over that weekend, even having a productive day on Sunday before heading to Cambridge. We ate dinner at an Asian fusion restaurant and then turned in early Friday night. Saturday was seeing Big Ben, Westminster, Green Park, Buckingham Palace, Trafalgar Square, St. Paul’s Cathedral, Millennium Bridge and London Tower all in one day! Kelsey got to see her friend from Clemson, Katie, and hang out for the afternoon. Before heading in for the night, we were able to walk around a giant mall at Sheppard’s bush. It’s YYUUUUGGGGE, the biggest. Jokes aside, it was so huge and filled with such fancy stores that it was just out of this world. It was a neat and mesmerizing walk.
Sunday we walked around Notting Hill, which was amazing. It reminded us of the prettier parts of Charleston and me of some of the quieter parts of places like Wilmington. The colors were lovely. I was able to capture what our trip looked like.
After Notting Hill, we went and rode the London Eye, which was much better than the Brazilian guy made it out to be. I enjoyed it during the day as much as I did during the evening* when I went with my family. After that, we headed back via Waterloo station where Kelsey proceeded to run into a bollard while taking a photo followed closely by me wearing half my sparkling water from Pret. We were on a roll there for that 20 minutes. After that we headed to a store that her friend point us to and stumbled across a place called Kingly Court. A neat little place that we immediately decided was going to be where we came back to eat next weekend.
Since I had Head of the River to prepare for, our mornings in Cambridge were much earlier than either of us really wanted them to be. I’d leave her in the morning, cox my crew to victory, then head to work before meeting her for lunch. Our favorite lunch was probably Peterhouse. It wasn’t so much the food as the fact that we showed up too early and spent 15 minutes walking around the gardens that I didn’t know existed.
Thursday night, Kelsey attended her first Formal Hall. Connor was able to book us, him, and his mom as part of the Engineering Formal Dinner for Churchill and they sat us away from them. We had a great time with good food and even better company.
Friday we went into London and I was kind enough to bring her stuff in for her so she didin’t have to carry it around all day… I figured this meant her suit case but I found a backpack when I came back for her stuff. -.- So I traveled to London on the train with her backpack, my backpack, and her suitcase – I was a sight to have been seen. We had our dinner at Kingly court and a restaurant called Brown and Whyte.
Saturday morning we had time before Kelsey had to head to the airport, so we went out for a late breakfast/brunch. I couldn’t convince her to order one herself, but I ordered the full English breakfast and got to show her what it was. She seemed convinced that she wouldn’t eat that much food for an entire day as I devoured the plate in front of me.
After our breakfast we had some time before she had to leave so we walked around a park near our AirBnB. It was interesting to sit and watch families in the park. The dogs that played and were well trained, the one that was not so well trained and ran off as the owners casually watched and followed later. It was interesting to see how independent the children were, riding around on their scooters – a stark difference between US and UK parents.
After the park, we walked to the tube station and headed our separate ways – her to the airport and me back towards King’s Cross. It was sad to watch her ride away on the Tube, but it’s nice knowing she’ll be back in May! Until next time!
Over the last few days of 2016 and for the beginning of 2017, I had my first friend visit, Josh. Unfortunately, unforeseen to me, all of the colleges were closed for break, which I learned while my family was here. So, instead of touring around the colleges, we spent a lot of time reading, working out, and playing Halo. Josh seemed open to this, even though I doubt it was his ideal version of the trip.
For new years, we skipped out on going to London and stayed in Cambridge, hanging out with some Gates students to ring in the new year. The company was great, games fun, and drinks plentiful. Sadly, we didn’t do anything to watch a count down. I don’t think this is because the countdown is not as big of a deal here as in the US, I think this was just more we didn’t make an effort to find it online. Instead, someone just counted down from ten off their phone, we all chanted, declared happy new year, and blissfully put 2016 and its problems behind us for the evening. Some people scoffed at this notion, reminding us that yesterday’s problems aren’t solved by the turn of a calendar, we drunkenly asked them to let us have the night and to remind us tomorrow.
After recovering on New Year’s Day, myself, Josh, Alex and Marisa flew to Barcelona to escape the grey blanket and see some sun and blue skies for a few days before returning to work. Immediately, I wished I understood more Spanish, a feeling that has been growing with my encounter with more international students. The city was lovely and the food was amazing, but I couldn’t help but feel like a pampered guest in the city. People talk about Barcelona as the nightlife where everyone parties until the break of dawn, which is not the side of Barcelona or any culture I want to see.
Some of the coolest stuff that I did see was the idea of how much history did occur in Barcelona, with the Catalonians and the explorers. Standing on the same steps where Columbus would have walked to ask for money or have returned with Native Americans was quite a powerful thought. I learned to look up free walking tours where you tip your guide at the end. These were fun and informative. We took a Paella cooking class where we took part in preparing and cooking Paella and making Sangria. Josh made a great bartender. Lastly, I look forward to touring la Sagrada de Familia on the inside instead of just the outside.
Last March, I told my mother I wasn’t coming home for Christmas. As the look of devastation begun to appear, I told her that she would have to come visit if she wanted to see me at Christmas. This gave me two benefits: (1) I didn’t have to worry about making plans to travel home and (2) my mother would focus on planning a trip and not me leaving all summer. And it finally happened! They arrived at the Heathrow airport last week!
We got to spend a few days in London. Our airbnb was out just a few metro stations away from the middle of all the tourist attractions, so it was a nice place to be, but the building with the windows knocked out across the road from the metro stop was a little unnerving.
Some of the best experiences we had in London we had was seeing Wicked and visiting the ArcelorMittal Orbit slide. James booked us tickets to see Wicked, which I got to see in NYC. I really enjoyed seeing it a second time because it was like rewatching a movie or book — you got to catch all the foreshadowing. I was able to recall some of the clues after watching it the first time, but it was amazing to see how much I missed the first time.
The slide was 80m tall and takes 40 seconds to slide down, and Alex was able to convince James to do it. Here they are admiring their challenge, and conquering their challenge.
James was a little less enthusiastic about enduring the slide than Alex was. He’s lowered the amount of time he’s willing to endure anything from 40s to 30s…
After venturing around London, we headed to Cambridge to spend time there. Alex had to leave the day after Christmas and I got to spend a couple of days with my parents, hanging out, and visiting the Ely Cathedral before they headed home.
Well, I cannot believe that the first term is over. Like the rest of my time here, it has flown by. The term was filled with lots of new friends, reading textbooks, compiling software (LOTS of unsuccessful attempts), tea times with the group, lunch with the first years in the department, lectures on new topics, enough alcohol to drown a fish, enough formal halls and good food to keep me satisfied, and about three department holiday parties.
Out of all of that, I think the three holiday parties was the biggest surprise. I’ll raise my glass to the next one.
To the great disappointment of some of my friends at home, “Fresher’s week” was not a week of hazing, forced alcoholism, social shaming, and so forth… but the alcoholism was voluntary.
“Fresher’s week” is best described as a structured “welcome week” put on by all the colleges and clubs. Activities varied, and the schedules were different for each college, but most had the following events. Matriculation and Matriculation Dinner (champagne and wine), Cocktail Party (take a guess), Brunch, Pub Crawl (hmm…), College Bar Crawl to College Bars (noticing apattern?), Cambridge City Tour, Wine and Cheese with the College Fellows (more free wine, obviously), Punting on the Cam (free champagne), Formal Hall (champagne), and an “End of Fresher’s Week Party”… This doesn’t even include meeting friends at the bar. Like I said, the alcoholism was very easy and voluntary.
There were a few events that didn’t involve alcohol and were actually quite productive. “Squash” is used as a term for an organizational fair, in addition to the sport, I think. So while attending the organization fair, I did not make the mistake of handing out my email address for free candy and thankfully have not gotten too many emails consequently.
In terms of extracurricular activites that I am committing to, I’ve decided to do the most Cambridge thing I can think of — rowing for Robinson. Where else will I ever get a chance to row on a team as a novice? Two other Gates Scholars in Robinson and I have decided to join the team for those cold, early morning practices on the water. Although my form is bad, and my endurance is terrible (no help from the wine…), I am greatly looking forward to rowing on the novice boats this fall.
In addition to a formal, organized activity, I’m finally making my health a larger priority. I have joined the University Gym and am committing to early morning workouts (on the off days from rowing) with Dan. I realized how much I missed climbing from the Gates Weekend and have decided to get back into it. Lastly, taking evening cycle rides with friends is gonna be my last activity that I participate in. Weekends are made for rest!