Friday 5: More Questions About Buildings and Food


What’s the best layered food?

Lasagna, for me, is basically the only layered food. I may be Swedish, but smörgåstårtar (pictured above) freak me out.

What’s the best rolled food?

There are so many options, aren’t there? Enchiladas (and I would say burritos count, too), cannoli, gimbap, California rolls, kanelbullar…the list goes on! But for nostalgia purposes, I’ll have to say it’s a tie between cannoli and gimbap.

Gimbap: commonly confused with sushi, but actually not.

What’s the most recent cuisine you’ve tried for the first time from an ethnicity not your own?

I had some Turkish pistachio candy at a student’s house on Monday.

What’s a food that scares you?

San-nakji: octopus arms. While the octopus is technically dead by the time it’s on your plate, octopus anatomy means that the nerves in the arms and tentacles are still doing their squirmy, moving thing by the time they’re on your plate. The Japanese puffer fish won’t kill you if it’s prepared correctly, but even if san-nakji is prepared correctly, the very nature of the dish makes it a potentially deadly choking hazard.

What’s something you eat solely because it’s good for you?

Even the healthy food I eat, I eat because it’s tasty. The only thing I consume purely for health reasons are vitamins.

Friday 5: Dear Old Golden Rule Days

Photo by Edwin Andrade on Unsplash

when did you last raise your hand to be called upon, to get someone’s attention, or in response to a “how many of you…” question? or heck, for any reason at all?

I probably did it to get the moderator’s attention at the last English Debate Club meeting I attended a few weeks ago.

When did you last have to do anything akin to homework?

Around a year ago, for Academic Swedish. Unless lesson planning counts, in which case: all day, every day.

when did you and your friends last go outside to play?

Me and friends? I guess the last time I was at a picnic, which was probably sometime last year. Me by myself? On my run yesterday.

how’s your penmanship nowadays?

Pretty good. Teacher skills, etc.

among stuff you periodically eat, what reminds you most of your lunches in the school cafeteria?

I don’t remember school lunches much except chicken nuggets and “French bread pizza.” The laziest, easiest thing I eat is boiled pasta with a dollop of creme fraiche and some roasted onions. It doesn’t take much to make me happy.

Friday 5: Payday

From whom did you receive your first real paycheck?

When I worked at Gilman’s/Lost River Caverns, where I also learned to love rocks.

Among board games involving the exchange of money, which have you enjoyed most?

Do you exchange money in Life? I think you do. I didn’t have anything against Monopoly, but I think I actually finished more games of Life.


PayDay is the name of a candy bar consisting of salted peanuts rolled in caramel surrounding a firm, nougat-like center. How does it sound to you if you haven’t tried it, and how do you like it if you have? Is there a similar candy bar you like better?

I don’t like nuts in my chocolate, nor do I like peanuts or peanut butter mixed with chocolate. (Unpopular opinions!) Anything with caramel, nougat, and chocolate without nuts is just peachy keen.


When did you last do something nice for yourself just because it was pay day?

I went out and bought new bras. Ladies, I recommend making sure that you’re wearing the correct bra size. (In other words: if you’ve been fitted at Victoria’s Secret, or you’ve used that bizarre “add an arbitrary number to your band measurement,” measure yourself again.)


What person with the surname Day are you most familiar with?

I had a really hard time parsing this question at first; I took it to mean “Person With the Surname Day,” as if there were multiple holidays we observe in honor of people with specific surnames. Like, I had to read the question two or three times to understand what they meant.

And my first answer is, of course, Doris Day!

Friday 5: Consumption

What is your paper towel consumption like?

Not awful, but not ideal. I try to use sponges and tea towels as often as possible in the kitchen, but paper towels have also become our default paper product in the house. No napkins, no tissues: just paper towels.

What condiment do you use most often?

Hm, what counts as a condiment? Do the variety of sauces in squeeze bottles in our fridge count as condiments? Because if we’re talking about just ketchup and mustard, I don’t use either.

What is your sticky note consumption like?

Nonexistent. I never use them.

What’s your coin jar setup?

Sweden is much closer to going cashless than the US, and I go for long stretches without having any cash on me at all. Needless to say, spare change doesn’t really accumulate. When I have some, I usually give it away.

What’s something you’ve purchased recently that was lower in price than usual?

I don’t know about recently, but I picked up some home decor items from Myrorna’s for ultra cheap. I also visited a couple of vintage stores while I was in the US, but the keyword there is “vintage” (i.e. not “thrift”). They didn’t break the bank, but they weren’t a steal, either.

Friday 5 on Saturday: Sandwich or Nah?

Why is or isn’t a hot dog a sandwich?

Oh, this controversy! This is one that I actually watched unfold, to an extent, because even Merriam-Webster weighed in on it.

I don’t even care about hot dogs and their status as a sandwich; I just want to say that Merriam-Webster is a ray of light in these dark, confusing times. I’m glad I follow them on Twitter.

Why is or isn’t a hamburger a sandwich?

I would say so. Maybe it’s a question of the orientation of the bread that throws people off.  Hamburgers have proper bread orientation to be a sandwich; hot dogs don’t.

Why is or isn’t a wrap a sandwich?

I say it is, for the same bread orientation reasons outlined above.

Why are or aren’t Oreos and ice cream sandwiches sandwiches?

They’re sandwich cookies, but they’re not sandwiches. There’s no bread! They could never be a reasonably filling and healthy meal!

Why does or doesn’t listening to an audio book count as reading the book?

Photo of books from NinoAndonis on
Image from NinoAndonis on

Now here’s the really juicy question. What is the point of reading a book? Is it to consume the story, or is it to consume the story in a particular way? Is there an advantage to reading? (Like how some studies suggest that readers retain more from paper copies than from ebooks.)

After all, reading or listening doesn’t change the story or the language, for that matter. Not to mention that audiobooks are a godsend for people with visual impairments or dyslexia. Isn’t it better that they hear a story instead of not being able to consume it at all? Didn’t all language and literature start out as oral traditions of storytelling?

And yet, I would still feel like I was cheating, somehow, to say that I had read the audiobook I listened to.

All of this is a moot point anyway, though. I don’t care for audiobooks for reasons unrelated to snobbery. I have a hard time paying attention to purely audio information (same problem I have with a lot of podcasts)  and am incredibly likely to zone out and miss huge chunks of the story without even realizing it. It doesn’t matter how good the narrator is.

What I Did on My Summer Vacation: Austin, TX, Day 2

My favorite part of visiting friends, particularly friends I only see every so often, is borrowing books from their personal libraries. It keeps me from having to pack books myself, and I like to see the ways that friends have branched out and developed in my absence. So it’s not a problem that Noah is still sleeping and Elizabeth has already left for work when I wake up a little after 7:00, alert and refreshed. I use the time to sit with a collection of Ted Chiang’s short stories, Stories of Your Life and Others.

I start with “The Story of Your Life,” since I had recently seen and enjoyed Arrival,  and have just begun another before Noah wakes up and brews some of the Söder tea I brought to go with the mugs. We talk while we finish our drinks, sleepy and meandering.Making new friends in a new country can be challenging, especially for introverts (and maybe even especially in a culture that’s very introverted); I relish the chance to spend time with someone who has a history with me and who knows me well, and vice versa. The conversation continues through starting a load of laundry, walking to (and then eating at, and then walking home from) a breakfast joint, and a visit to a store that has a proper name but that Noah and Elizabeth simply call “The Magic Rock Shop.”

My reputation precedes me, I guess; anytime I visit friends somewhere, they point me towards a nearby rock and gem shop, if one exists. I worked at a cave (a literal, hole-in-the-ground cave) with a pretty hardcore mineral and lapidary selection throughout college and afterwards. As a result, I have a soft spot in my heart for rocks, even today, and I guess it’s obvious to anyone who’s known me for any length of time. This one tilts more New Age than rockhound, but there’s still plenty to enjoy (and, of course, the pallets out back with the bulk, rough-cut slabs).

I’ll never understand the appeal of amazonite.

One of my priorities in Austin was seeing the Art.Science.Gallery. in person, but they’re closed while I’m in town. Oops!

What awful timing!

It’s quite close to Zhi Tea, though: across the street, basically. I know about Zhi Tea because of another friend, originally from Austin but now based in Sacramento. Noah is also a fan and it was already on his agenda for us that long weekend without me even asking, so it works out perfectly. We jaywalk across the street (I had forgotten how much the American landscape hates pedestrians) and I make a beeline for the black tea selection to find four I want to try in the little four-cup sampler. Noah orders an iced tea and we go and sit in the garden in the back.

Pardon the unintentional photobomb behind me.

All of my editing and lesson planning runs on bottomless cups of black tea. I love a good Söder, but I’m always curious about new varieties. My Sacramento friend had sent me some other Zhi Tea, and it was good enough that I was keen to try their other blends. None of those four in front of me disappointed, either.

I remember to (mis)quote Vonnegut at one point in between sips: “If this isn’t nice, what is?” Even with on-going life anxieties, I recognize that at least in that moment I’m happy. I like to think it comes out well in that photo; as someone with chronic Resting Bitch Face my smiles come out rather forced in most photos unless I’m genuinely and really happy.

After finishing our tea, we go back into the tea shop so I can make the difficult choice about which tea to buy. I eventually settle on Fredericksburg Peach, and we head out for Korean-Mexican fusion food next because all of the caffeine has put me in hummingbird mode; I need some food to take the edge off. Miraculously, I have a huge bowl of rice for lunch without lapsing into a food coma right after.

We bus over to the Capitol building for a tour. It’s much shorter than usual, since both the state senate and the state congress are in special sessions, so we just wander around the halls a bit, with our bald, eyepatch-wearing guide. I stop in the gift shop and pick up some postcards for mailing later.

We check out the state Senate and Congress from the gallery, Noah narrating in low tones about current legislation they’re trying to pass and assorted factions within the state government and within the state-level GOP. We don’t stay long (maybe the prospect of politics is too depressing?), though, and eventually head for the library, where Elizabeth works. Her day is almost over at this point, so we just wait at a table for her. Our conversation here, influenced by the library atmosphere, is slower and hushed. I encourage him to write more.

Then it’s back home, and everyone reads for an hour or two. I sit with Elizabeth in the living room and read more from Stories of Your Life and Others while Noah retires to the bedroom, eventually falling asleep in his book. Once in a while Elizabeth and I talk about the cats, or the graphic novel she’s reading for a book club.

We stay like that until it’s time for Master Pancake, a local riff show in the spirit of Mystery Science Theater 3000, my all-time favorite TV show. Before we get to the Alamo Drafthouse, it’s pizzas, Chicago style, in a dark and dingy bar. Three different TVs have three different things on, all muted with closed captioning: there’s Young Guns, a sports game, and something else.

“They have all the Austin bases covered,” Elizabeth notes. “People nostalgic for the 80s and people who want to watch sports.”

The food is a completely opposite experience for me from yesterday with the veggie sandwich and Subtraction Soup.  I thought I was hungry when I ordered, but after the first bite of pizza I realize This is way too much. Even with Noah mooching a slice off of mine, there’s still a last slice of my personal pie left over. I would have left it, truthfully, but Elizabeth wraps it in foil and bravely carries it in her purse for the rest of the night; Noah will have it for breakfast in the morning.

Eventually it’s time to the theater for Master Pancake. We stop at another, closer bar first, in order to meet up with everyone. I get my first and only Long Island for the trip, and we go up to the roof to people watch, which quickly turns into “sitting in the air-conditioned part of the roof bar and watching the arcade.”

More of Noah’s Austin friends find us at the bar, and we all have a good time at Master Pancake. We hang around the lobby of the Alamo Drafthouse, tired but also reluctant to brave the horde of loud, drunk people. It has to happen sooner or later, though, and we squeeze into someone’s car for a ride home. When we get back, it’s late but I’m not as tired as my hosts, so I make use of their wifi and check my email and gchat and things before bed.

Friday 5: Five of Whatever

How tidy are your kitchen cabinets?

I realize now that we don’t really have proper cabinets in our kitchen. We have mostly open shelving and then a few closets. They’re clean, definitely, but tidy? Well, we know where to find everything, and that’s enough, I think.

What’s an art project you did in school that you remember fondly?

The big project in third? fourth? fifth? grade was weaving. That was my favorite out of anything else we ever did, and over twenty years later I still have that project. Weaving is a handicraft I’d like to get back into at some point. I remember it as being very relaxing.

What’s the best thing you ate on your most recent trip?

Oh man! I had so much good food: upscale Italian with my parents and best friend, deep-fried Nutella and fluff, greasy spoon diner breakfasts and lunches, a Rolando’s Super Taco, pirogi, Thai curry…it’s really hard to pick.

What’s the dumbest non-political thing you’ve seen lately?

Photobucket charging its users $40 US per month for the privilege of third-party linking. Um, what?? I never used Photobucket as an image hosting service (or at least, not seriously) so I’m not really angry about it (my images aren’t being held hostage), just confused. How out of touch can you be?

What’s something in your home that’s lasted longer than you expected?

We had a microwave that was definitely older than some of my students. It’s gone now, and we have a replacement, but RIP noble microwave. You served us well.

Tea, Cultures, and Guests

The thought occurred to me that tea is something like the common denominator in my tutoring life. Across a variety of cultures and economic backgrounds, I’ve been offered a lot of tea.

None of these observations should be taken as being inherently meaningful or indicative of any large-scale cultural norms. This is a pitifully small sample size. I just got to thinking about this as I added a splash of lemon juice to my morning Earl Grey the other day, and thought it would make for a nice peek into my daily life.

First of all, there’s the choice of coffee or tea. I still haven’t developed a taste for coffee (my mom told me it would happen while I was in college—not true), so tea it is. In that respect, I’m a poor Swede.

Most of the time, it’s black tea. I’m fine with this; I still have the palate of a small child, so green tea is far too bitter for me. Once in a great while (usually in families where there is a contraindiction against caffeine for health reasons), the tea of choice is rooibos. This is fine with me, too.

I made a note a while ago about DuoLingo and whether the exercises should be literal translations or localized ones, given the case of the “glass of tea” answer. I’ve noticed that I generally get tea in glasses (though, with handles) rather than cups from my Persian and Saudi students. In Turkey this seems to be connected to honesty—glasses allow the guest to see exactly strong the tea is—and maybe it’s the same reason with my Persian students. A moot point here, when the tea comes in bags and guests can decide for themselves how strong (or weak) they want their cuppa to be.

When it comes to the things you can add to your tea, the students I’ve had from Iran and Saudi Arabia also don’t seem to take as much sugar or milk as some of my other students. Sometimes they catch themselves and ask me if I want any, but usually not; it seems to be an afterthought. The one exception is nabaat, Persian sugar infused with mint or other herbs that looks exactly like rock candy I had as a kid. Again, fine with me: I find milk in tea to be kind of repulsive, and I can live without sweetener, though I enjoy the nabaat when it comes out.

Nabaat usually isn’t brightly colored, but you get the picture.

Tea from Russian students always comes with sugar cubes on the side, but lemon wedges instead of milk. I don’t usually take lemon in tea, unless I’m fighting a sore throat, but I’ve found that a splash of lemon juice is just the thing to freshen up an Earl Grey. It’s a habit I have now with my own tea consumption at home.

My Sri Lankan and Indian students ask more often about milk or sugar. Contrary to what one might expect based, they usually serve regular Earl Grey rather than chai.

With Indian, Sri Lankan, and Persian students, the offer of tea is usually coupled with a small sweet thing of some kind. Tea from my Hungarian student was always a digestif after a full-on lunch. (An accident of timing: our lessons were always right around lunch, as she was a homemaker, and lunch is the big meal in Hungary.) When timing meant there was no lunch, there was usually a small plate of home-made baked goods to go with the tea.

Beverage offers from German and French students are much more intermittent, and seem to depend on other factors: cold weather, whether the student wants some themselves, whether they were already in the middle of eating something themselves. With Swedish students it seems to be a factor of time of day: early morning lessons go along with a cup of tea or coffee, until about 10 AM. After that, it’s just down to business. Swedish friends, on the other hand, offer tea and coffee no matter what the time of day.

If the weather is warm, my European and Sri Lankan students switch to offering water (or, in some cases, homemade fruit smoothies!), but with other students it’s always tea, no matter how warm it is outside.

I would be remiss, of course, if I didn’t include myself in this. I have guests too, after all! I don’t think there is anything particular about how my sambo and I handle tea. We generally take care of boiling the water and, if a guest opts for tea instead of coffee, go digging in the tea cabinet on their behalf. But our kitchen is very self-serve otherwise; we let guests fill their own cups and add milk to their own taste. Not sugar, though. We don’t typically have cubes or other sweeteners on hand. My other Swedish friends seem similarly “help yourself” with their tea and coffee. I suspect this is the line between being a professional being paid to be in a house for whatever reason, and a friend invited over just for company’s and entertainment’s sake.

How do you take your tea? What do you usually offer guests in your home? How self-serve is your household?