Sunday, February 28, 2010

watching Vancouver wrap Nicaraguan food the background, the TV is on--NBC wrapping up its coverage of the Vancouver Winter Olympics. (Although we are not hockey fans--we did happen to catch the overtime-end of the Canada/USA hockey match: exciting!) the kitchen, S. is cooking something from our days of living in Nicaragua: salsa jalapeña, to go with pan-grilled chicken breasts.

The major thing missing from the recipes below, however, is "chiltoma"--we can't find it here,
but 'chiltoma' is a pepper halfway between a sweet pepper and a bell pepper--S. is substituting small sweet peppers, cut into long strips--adding it to the sauce, along with the onion and jalapeños...

...a photo of some chiltomas, in our pila in our Nicaraguan kitchen:

(note the ridges in the smooth concrete basin--this pila is also where we did our laundry...and the chiltomas are soaking in water with a few drops of bleach...ahh, the realities of la vida tropical...)

Nicaraguan food is not so spicy--so even though this common Nicaraguan sauce has 'jalapeño' in its name, don't expect anything muy muy picante, ok? But it's good...


Salsa Jalapeña

Nicaraguan Cream Sauce for Chicken, Seafood, or Beef
Prep time: 10 minutes
Cooking time: 15 minutes

• 1 cup of crema (substitute heavy cream if you can't find the jar of Mexican or Salvadoran crema)
• 1/2 cup milk (you may not need the full amount)
• 2 medium onions, sliced thin
• 2 cloves of garlic, minced
• 8 jalapeños, sliced length-wise (remove seeds for a milder sauce, or use substitute for spicier versions)
• Salt and pepper to taste


1. In a medium sauce pan, saute the onions, peppers, and garlic for about 5 minutes over medium heat until they soften.

2. Add the crema and stir to incorporate all the ingredients.

3. Add half of the milk to loosen the sauce. Allow to simmer over low heat for 10 minutes. If the sauce thickens too much, add more milk. Be careful not to cook over too high a heat otherwise the milk could either boil over or scald. Add salt and pepper to taste.

Serve over fried or grilled chicken fillets or thighs, grilled steak, or grilled jumbo shrimp with a side of rice and a slice of avocado.

(click here for the original source)

 and here's another version, in Spanish:

Thursday, February 25, 2010

Vancouver to Seoul; 'flowers of geography'...

...a couple more days and the Winter Olympics will be over...S. & I, although by no means 'sports fans,' do enjoy watching the winter games, and with NBC scheduling to air its events for maximum viewership,
we've been staying up late almost every night....So, sleep-deprivation is almost at an end...

Seeing all the shots of Vancouver--aerials, panoramas--has made us somewhat nostalgic for the Pacific NW...inevitable, I guess...So I was looking through some old photos...

Vancouver is one of the most perfectly-situated (and youngest--founded only the 1880's) cities in the world: water and snow-capped forested mountains surrounding a forest of glass towers--on a human scale, though, unlike Manhattan where the 'tyranny of the vertical' can be de-humanizing; it's enough to make even Seattle, one of the novelist Henry James' "flowers of geography" (see below), envious...

But going back through some of the photos, one that truly struck me was one of my first impressions from my first time there--a daytrip, right after I'd moved to Seattle in the fall of 1997:
...a bakery window display in Vancouver's Chinatown. 'Mom and kids?'
BBQ-buns that honestly show what's inside?
Truth in food-advertising:
only in a Chinatown, eh?
(This photo was publixhed in today's local paper, by the way!)

...from that same trip, a faint rainbow over the city,
looking north from Queen Elizabeth Park:

...and a winter view (early 1998), of one of the lighthouses along Stanley Park, looking across the cold cold waters toward the mountains where many of the Olympic venues are located:

...and an 'official' aerial shot, from
(click on these for larger views)

So, a bit of "BC-dreaming" on a winter's day, down here in Tucson...our local mountains are snowcapped, too, right now, with skiers on Mt. Lemmon, even! No ocean, cosmopolitan pedestrian-friendly live/work/play skyscrapered neighborhoods here...

During the years we lived in Seattle, we always considered Vancouver like a more sophisticated older cousin--close enough to go for day-trips, but different enough to truly feel 'foreign.' As cool as it was, we did take a bit for granted, though--it's right there, we can go whenever we want...Now that we're in the Desert SW, a trip to Vancouver would be a major and expensive undertaking...Alas...

So, tomorrow, for a day-trip, we'll go visit some friends and a museum in...
Yes, it is the nation's 'fifth-largest city' on paper.

Incidentally, Henry James' 'flowers of geography' were: Naples, Capetown, Sydney, Seattle, San Francisco, Rio de Janeiro--all set in geographical settings that seem to have been made for future post-card-perfect cityscapes. When he traveled, Vancouver was not yet really an established 'city'--surely it would have been included in Mr. James' list...Here's a link to an essay by writer Jonathan Raban that appeared in the Seattle Times years ago; this is where I first came across Henry James' description.

So, readers/travelers out there--
what are your 'flowers of geography?'

In some ways, on my trips to Vancouver, I was reminded of Seoul--the high-rise residential living, the mountains always in view, the many Korean restaurants, even the language overheard on the sidewalks of downtown--although Chinese make up th majority of the city's east-Asian population, Koreans are not far behind...

...a few photos, then, of a city that's one of my 'flowers of geography:'
Seoul, the capital city of South Korea, framed by mountains and a river...

I say it not just because I was born there, but because of all the cities I've visited, its combination of ancient and post-modern, ultra-urban and mountain scenery is one of the best. Yes, it's densely populated, yes it has air-pollution, yes it's one of the largest urban conglomerations on the planet (perhaps even monstrously so)...but the compelling history of the place, along with the ever-present mountains make it a heady mix of non-stop human activity and timeless forested crags...along with the serene, wide Han river curving through it all.

(These photosare from

(and the following photo is courtesy of this website)
--this is the courtyard of the Throne Hall of Kyongbok Palace,
in downtown Seoul; a smaller version of The Forbidden City in Beijing...

...and from National Geographic, the following photos:

another of downtown Seoul's royal palaces, Tok-su-gung:

...the bustling Nam-dae-mun market--one of the city's centers of commerce since medieval times, now tucked into alleyways behind skyscrapers:
...from silk handkerchiefs to 'exotic' edibles:

...a Samsung electric car in front of one of the city's downtown hotels:
...the old East Gate of the city, dating from the 1390's:

(Yes, I have a bit of free time this morning
to be posting all these images:
a bit of armchair travel via the Internet...
It's a school-holiday in Tucson:
Rodeo weekend,
a world away...)

Monday, February 15, 2010

Monday surprise...

One of my colleagues at work has kindly made a point of noticing when my photographs get published in the local paper; this morning she said she enjoyed seeing 'another one' of my photos published a couple of days ago...I didn't know what she was referring to--I hadn't seen it! ...She said it was in last Thursday's paper, so I was able to track it down:

reflection in Sabino Canyon from last winter
(click here for the newspaper site)
Another cheap published thrill!


Right now, my wife and I are on the Internet (me: laptop, her: netbook), 'working' during the TV commercial breaks while watching the Winter Olympics. Downhill skiing!! Pairs figure-skating finals!! Quite a bit of Pacific-NW nostalgia, as we see the Vancouver panoramas in between the sporting events...

(Wait--does this sound 'dysfunctional'--that we're both on line, but separately? AND that we're watching TV too?...We are talking...we went for a lovely late-afternoon walk in Sabino Canyon...had home-made food for dinner...Speaking of 'home-made'--lots of that in our lives right now; no restaurant-outings, as Sara was laid off just over a week ago. Yep--with one-day's notice, the clinic where she was working closed! Fun times. So, new adventures for her--applying for unemployment for the first time...At least we have good winter weather to go with her job-hunting, eh?)


Not surprising perhaps, but so many of my students know so little about the Winter Olympics. This IS Tucson, I suppose, but still...
Today I heard, "So, are the Winter Olympics always held in Vancouver?"
And: "How often do they have the Olympics?"
And, most did not know that the modern Olympics are exactly that--'modern,' 
 as in a revival of the ancient Greek games.
 'They had Olympics in ancient Greece?'

Popular-culture 'trivia' that I take for granted
as 'general knowledge'...not so 'general,' it appears.

A few more Sabino canyon reflections, from recent walks:

...and an afternoon panorama:

Thursday, February 4, 2010

...with this morning's coffee...

With morning coffee, this week's "Reader's Photo of the Week" in the Tucson paper:

...a reminiscence of early spring in Paris...from eleven (!) years ago...
For the 'published' source: click here.
(...and from a couple of weeks ago, and a week before that...)