History lessons

The last two days have been a bit of an education both in regional Kansas barbecue, and in American history. When I look back at the textbooks that I read on American history, particularly around slavery, race, and civil rights, I always feel as though so much of it was glossed over, and many areas that could have gone deeper just aren’t given the time or the textbook paragraph space.

We visited the Brown vs. Board of Education national historical site today on our way back to Kansas City from Abilene, Kansas, which is where the Eisenhower Presidential Library and Museum is. Brown vs. Board of Education was one of the handful of major Supreme Court cases that we learned in school, but what I do not remember being told or taught was that after the ruling, many states actually rebelled against it, going so far as to shutting down their schools and entire school districts to prevent desegregation from happening. It just sounded so full of hate and selfishness; there’s really no other way to put it. It happened everywhere from Arkansas to Virginia. We knew from learning about the Little Rock Nine that communities and individuals were against whites and blacks having the same rights and going to the same schools, but for entire cities’ school districts to just shut down to make a statement just seems so unfair to literally everyone living in these areas.

Maybe that’s why so many people believe that racism doesn’t exist, that there’s no difference in treatment between a white or a brown or a black person. Maybe that’s the reason insanities like Fox News exist. It’s because the way rulings like Brown vs. Board of Education are taught do not delve deeper into the aftermath of the rulings. They don’t drill into the injustices that continued to happen day after day when major decisions like this are made. They don’t make the connection between those times and what we are experiencing today. They make it seem as though these decisions or laws swept away all the bad, and everyone just lived happily ever after since then. That isn’t the case. It wasn’t the case then, and it also still isn’t the case now. The amount of ignorance in this country around our own history is just so saddening. Even when I think about myself, I still believe I learned more about U.S. history visiting presidential libraries and these historical sites over anything I learned in school. And I supposedly went to the “better” schools in San Francisco, too, so I’m not sure what that’s saying about the quality of schools in America in general.

Kansas City Barbecue

When Chris’s parents come to town, we usually take them on a side trip somewhere for a weekend, and this year, we chose Kansas City. It’s an interesting city in that it belongs to both Missouri and Kansas, and because neither of us had been to Kansas before, it was another state to tick off the list (42 for me, and 44 for Chris). It’s driving distance from both the Truman and the Eisenhower presidential library and museums, and it’s also an American barbecue capital, one that we hadn’t yet had the chance to enjoy until today.

We chose to go to Joe’s Kansas City, as it was the most popular and has been rated one of the best, if not the best, barbecue restaurant in the country. Even though it was a Friday, there was still a bit of queue (a local told me that this was far shorter than usual), and so we lined up. They’re known for their beef ribs and “burnt ends” especially, and pretty much all of their sides. Burnt ends are “the thing” in Kansas City, and it’s rumored that each barbecue restaurant has their own “style” of how to make them. We ordered the beef ribs, brisket, and the burnt ends, along with spicy slaw, potato salad, dirty rice, and baked beans.

Chris and I have been fortunate to have gone to pretty much every major barbecue region in the country, and before this trip, our shared favorites were by far Texas style barbecue, and then North Carolina barbecue. One of our least favorites was actually in the state of Missouri, in St. Louis; the meat didn’t have much flavor at all, and all the focus seemed to be on the sauces… which is great, but if I’m going to eat barbecue which is supposed to take hours and hours to cook, I want really good meat first, not really good sauce. Who eat barbecue just for the sauce and not the meat, anyway? But now that we’ve had this barbecue, I can safely say that this is probably my second favorite barbecue now. The ribs were some of the best and most flavorful ribs I’ve had; they weren’t fall of the bone tender, but a good cross of fall-of-the-bone with just a bit of bite. The rub on them was also really smokey and complex. Every side we ordered was memorable.

Kansas City is impressive. I’m still salivating over those ribs and the burnt ends.

Soap dispenser

When we originally moved into this apartment, it came with a liquid soap dispenser in the bathroom. It was one of the things we “purchased” as part of our “package” of furniture and other apartment items when we moved in. The soap dispenser has been acting up since we first moved in; it doesn’t immediately pop up after you’ve pushed out soap, so you have to manually pull it up. It’s been a minor inconvenience, but one that we’ve tolerated because neither of us really cares that much.

I guess it really bugged Chris’s parents, because today they immediately went out shopping and stopped by Bed Bath & Beyond to buy us a new fancy soap dispenser with a sensor on it, so you don’t even need to touch it. They probably think we’re squeezed for every last penny given our expenses and cannot even afford a new soap dispenser.

I think it has more to do with us being cheap about these little things than the lack of ability to afford buying. Our priorities are pretty clear.

Bouley at Home

We celebrated Chris’s mom’s birthday tonight at Bouley at Home, which has a test kitchen setup and is quite the departure from the former Bouley restaurant, which was further downtown in Tribeca and felt extremely formal and even a bit imposing. Many of the dishes were made right in front of us, and the entire place felt very casual and easy going. We even had the pleasure of enjoying a reasonably priced bottle of wine that was aged for 20 years. It’s rare to get a “deal” on something like that so easily at a restaurant that is as fancy as Bouley at Home.

The chef who was preparing some of the dishes in front of us had some chit chat with us, and we found out that he’s originally from Spain and just spends part of the year here. As Bouley at Home very recently opened, he spends a few months a year working here, and also spends a few months a year during the summer time working at another restaurant on a small island near Ibiza in Spain. He said he’s planning to open his own restaurant shortly, and so I started following him on Instagram to get his updates. What a nice life – to live a bi-country experience and not to call just one place home. Working in the restaurant business is hard and sweaty, but I’d love to have that experience where I could live a few months in this country and another few months in that country. That’s when I’d know I’ve “made” it.

But then again, my main “home” country is the U.S., and this country sucks when it comes to work-life balance. I know for a fact my current company would never allow that type of setup for me in my role.

Failed flight attempt

Since my parents in law’s flight was delayed coming into New York today, I figured that I’d maximize my customer visit time by doing a day trip to visit a customer for an onsite program review today. My sales colleague was already planning to be in Chicago, and I figured that since the flight was so short (and also appeared to be very cheap) that I’d buy a plane ticket the day before and join her.

I guess my spontaneity didn’t work out so well. I got to the airport and got upgraded immediately. Then, after the plane left the gate, we sat on the tarmac for nearly an hour, and I knew something was wrong. They announced they realized that they needed to refuel and brought us to another gate. After sitting at the gate for another half hour, they announced that they found a problem with the engine, and that our flight would be delayed for a TBD amount of time. They let us all off the plane, and when I checked for the updated departure status, it said that it wouldn’t depart until three hours later, which would mean I’d actually be arriving in Chicago an HOUR after my meeting was slated to begin.

I called AA immediately to cancel my flight and get a refund, and then sulkily got an Uber to get back to my apartment. I’d never felt more like a flying failure than today. I went to the airport, got on a plane, then got off the same plane, and left the airport to go home. What amazing productivity.

Pistachio and rose water semolina cake

I’ve been eyeing Yotam Ottolenghi’s pistachio and rose water semolina cake recipe for the last couple years. I’ve never seen an unfrosted cake look so regal and special. Its batter is complex, with a base of pistachio, almond, and semolina flour, combined with flavorings of vanilla, rose water, cardamom, and lemon. It is baked, then soaked in a lemon juice/rose water syrup, topped with crushed pistachios and candied rose petals, and then served with a topping of rose water cream. It truly is a labor of love. I shared the recipe with my colleague today, and she was in total shock that I was making this. The only shortcut I made was that I didn’t make candied rose petals and instead am adorning the cake with rose tea petals; sourcing edible rose petals seems nearly impossible, even in a city like New York.

“This seems like too much effort,” she said. “If I were you, I’d just buy a cake and claim I made it!”

Part of the joy though is in the process of making. It’s always rewarding to make something from a bunch of raw ingredients and have it bring joy to others. I don’t make many cakes, but I do think my mother-in-law’s birthday is an occasion worthy of a homemade cake.

Two years married

I was at happy hour with a bunch of colleagues a few nights ago, and one of them, who is only 25, has been in the same relationship for the last three years. Her boyfriend is three years older, and at an age where a lot of his friends are getting engaged and married, so she feels like he is going in a similar direction mindset-wise, as well. She expressed some frustration around this.

“I’m so bored, Yvonne,” she said to me, two drinks in, resting her head on my shoulder. Yep, this was the truth coming out. Alcohol always does this to you. “I’m still young. I don’t want to be ‘settled.’ Everything is always the same with us. It’s soooo boring.”

I had to hold back what I wanted to say, as I’m definitely not going to be someone chiming   in to potentially break up a long-term relationship. All I said to her was that I spent almost all of my 20s in long-term relationships, and if I had to, I probably would have done it differently, especially my college years and early 20s. I obviously can’t redo it now, but if I could, I would have been single then and not settled. I told her she had to pick her own path and decide what was right for her.

Well, today marks two years since our wedding. And as always, Chris is annoying me, but as such, still eliciting emotions from me. For once in a long time, I kind of feel like almost everything in life feels good, from work to friends to my relationship. This type of “settled” I can definitely get behind.

Growing old and wanting to kill each other

When people talk about marriage, it’s usually in a very positive or a negative light. For those who are uninitiated and ignorant and young, they think it’ll be happily ever after (certainly helped by the Disney fairy tales that overrun the minds of young children), riding off into the sunset on a horse that doesn’t smell. For those who have either experienced it themselves or through the dismal relationships of their parents, they avoid it, have heart palpitations over it, and think all marriages will be doomed. Some will just mask their lack of joys more than others. “All the world’s a stage,” as Shakespeare once wrote.

I tend to think more practically about it now. When you’re married, by default you have someone to do activities with. You don’t have to plan a trip and feel self conscious about traveling alone or get lonely pangs. Your partner will be there with you. My parents’ marriage isn’t necessarily the happiest one, but it makes sense. They take care of each other. My dad does all the things my mom doesn’t like to do, and my mom does most of the things my dad doesn’t like to do or isn’t capable of doing. They once had a fervid, romantic love. That’s pretty much disintegrated now, and now it’s about a stability, regularity, the expected. But there’s an inherent trust that they have in each other after all these years. And then, there are those like Hal & Bee, who just fantasize endlessly about killing each other in multiple ways, whether it’s via stabbing, shooting, or just beating to death.

Maybe I’m naive myself. But I cannot fathom the idea of fantasizing about killing my partner in different ways and actually deriving joy from it. The mere idea doesn’t sound very exciting, and I guess I’ve never had a desire to end anyone’s life, even when extremely angry. If you really hate someone so much that you want to fantasize about killing him, then why don’t you just leave him? Or is it the regularity and stability and the perception of being “status quo” by being married that keeps you together?


Although it is more acceptable to get a divorce today than it was 50-60 years ago, I think it’s still fair to say that it’s not something that people look upon favorably. After all, it is a “failure” in life, right? It’s a failure at marriage, a life commitment and vow you made to someone, and thus the end of your shared life together with this other person. It’s still something that people say in hushed voices.

I think it probably helps that people are gradually getting married older, but that’s not a safe guard from divorce, either. I just learned of a colleague in another office who got divorced (for the second time) after her marriage, which lasted only five months. Her then-husband, after marriage, suddenly started imposing gendered responsibilities on her, and even became abusive. It’s terrifying to think that people could change overnight just because a piece of paper was signed and a ceremony ending with a kiss was held.

Maybe nothing is safe anymore — being single or being married. You’re bound to get hurt and betrayed.

Five girlfriends

I was at happy hour this early evening with five of my colleagues. We’d been trying to organize a team happy hour for ages, but given how flaky New Yorkers generally are, it never really worked out until tonight, and even tonight, we only achieved a turnout of six people.

My colleague who has been the least liked given his messy desk area and bad manners was complaining about his roommate, who we found out tonight has five girlfriends. This guy has supposedly made it clear to each of these women that he is not exclusively seeing any of them, but none of them explicitly know that he’s seeing four other women. He said his friend doesn’t believe in exclusive relationships and doesn’t want to just see one person. Everyone else in the group laughed and passed judgment. My colleague himself said he thought the guy was an asshole, but also admitted that the women probably had low self esteem given that they put up with him and his antics.

Honestly, I don’t really see the problem if the guy is being explicitly clear to all of them that he’s not being exclusive. In that case, there’s no deception. He’s actually being honest and true to himself. It’s their choice to continue seeing him, and it seems that they have no problem seeing him knowing that he’s probably screwing other women. I don’t think that human beings are naturally wired to be monogamous, and I really think it’s something that society has forced upon people. What is it to someone else if this guy has five or ten girlfriends? Who cares if you have two different people you’re having sex with? How does it really affect anyone else’s life? Having strict rules about what is acceptable and not is what makes people fail.