Tangra Masala has come to Manhattan

New York City – the land of opportunity; a concrete jungle where dreams are made of; a food lover’s ultimate paradise for the most diverse dining opportunities in possibly the world. When I lived in Elmhurst for my first four years in New York, I lived a 5-minute walk from one of my all-time favorite restaurants ever, Tangra Masala, an Indian-Chinese restaurant that had two locations in Queens, one in Sunnyside and one in Elmhurst. I’d never even heard of Indian-Chinese fusion cuisine before, but it was a thing in India as I learned from several Indian colleagues and friends who grew up in different parts of India. Since I left Elmhurst, I still kept going back to that restaurant because I loved the food so much, dragging many friends, Chris, even my in-laws there during their once-a-year visits from Australia. But now, I found out I no longer need to trek all the way out to Queens to get my Indian-Chinese fix; they have finally opened a location right in Manhattan on the east side in the Manhattan Indian area.

With Chris’s aunt and uncle arriving from Australia tonight and the weather being windy and rainy, we decided to order delivery, and via Uber Eats, we got to get Tangra from there to enjoy tonight. And other than the prices being a bit higher and the lack of options to indicate what spice level we preferred (they probably just assume that because we are in Manhattan that we are heat-averse), the food was perfect, just I remembered and imagined it in my head. And now, we have leftovers for after they leave us on Monday. My fridge is very happy right now.

Stupid shit that people say

My colleagues and I were sitting around the lunch table today debriefing the results of the Midterm elections. What this inevitably led to was a mini rant session of all the stupid things that we hear people say that drive us crazy. One of my colleagues complained about people who talk about how evil corporations are… even as they are browsing apps on their iPhones or using their MacBooks or listening to music or podcasts with their AirPods (oh, hey, Apple!). Another colleague talked about how her boyfriend’s friend and his girlfriend look down on dogs that are not “pure bred” or of a “fancy mix.” Then another chimed in about, “If you want to be vegan, go ahead and be vegan. BUT HOW DOES BEING VEGAN EXCLUDE HONEY? IN THAT CASE, WHY DON’T YOU EXCLUDE ALL FRUIT AND VEGETABLES BECAUSE ALL PLANTS NEED POLLINATION?”

Once we get onto the topic of food, that’s when I really get revved up. People make up all kinds of random rules about what they will and will not eat as though they are somehow more sophisticated or “cultured” or well-thought-out than others for doing so. I still remember being appalled once when I heard someone say that she will eat eggs, but not with the eggs and yolks separated (so… scrambled only?!). I was actually mad when I heard another person say, “I only eat animals with four limbs.” Another former associate said: “I am allergic to bivalve” (why couldn’t you just stop your pretension and just say you cannot eat clams and muscles?!). Where do people come up with this shit? It’s just a sign that we are such a first-world, privileged country that we don’t even hear how moronic we sound when we say such senseless things like these. Our own privilege and resulting stupidity just blinds us when such dumb sentiments come out of our mouths. I most recently heard a friend say that she doesn’t eat “intelligent animals” when she says she doesn’t want to eat octopus. Okay, let’s keep it real here: all animals have some form of intelligence. Chickens can delay gratification for long periods of time. Sheep can recognize over 50 human faces and differentiate them. Pigs are probably one of the smartest animals that are commonly eaten in the United States: they are cognitively complex, can express a wide array of emotions, and are able to solve complex problems in the wild. So then, how do you arbitrarily decide that you will eat one intelligent animal over the other? I’m fine if you want to exclude all meat or animal products from your diet, or if you say you just don’t like the taste of beets or beef. But just don’t bullshit me and say something as hipster as “I don’t eat intelligent animals.” There is really nothing worse than hipster bullshit to kill a conversation.

 

 

 

Midterm Elections 2018

I woke up at 6:20 this morning to get to the polls five blocks away to vote. I wanted to avoid the lines, especially since two years ago during the 2016 presidential elections, I waited about half an hour in line before I got to the booth, and that was only around 7:30am. I got in at about 6:45, scanned by ballot, and was out by 7 and at the gym by 7:15am. It was probably my most productive morning this entire year.

My general feelings are tempered today. I feel pretty cynical and still burnt from what happened two years ago. I won’t get my hopes up. The Senate will likely still remain Trump party dominated. The House has a chance. I’m hoping that stupid Ted gets taken down by Beto even though it doesn’t look likely. But what I actually left the polls today thinking about was how grateful we all should be for the poll workers, all there to help citizens of this lazy country perform their civic duty and have their voices heard. They were all so friendly, explaining things to voters, directing people through the right hallways and rooms, making sure that everyone knew where each part had to be done, all while smiling and being extremely patient.

I got there at 6:45 this morning. I’m positive they got there at least an hour or two earlier than that. These people help restore some of my faith in humanity. Some people are actually doing work that they genuinely care about that has some meaning and will positively impact others. I hope people were kind to them today when they came in to vote.

Kosher turkey complaint

I really did not want to be that customer who complains about her turkey that had feathers and pins on it, but after spending two hours hand- and tweezer-plucking these things out of the turkey skin as well as hurting my right hand from the constant repetitive motion, and getting confirmation from my friend who works at a grocery store that this probably was not normal, I decided to stop in to the customer service desk today to see how they’d react when I showed them my receipt, my pictures of the feathers and pins, and explained to them what happened to my hand after two hours. The customer service rep who assisted me could not hide his disgust; his eyes widened, and he immediately called for his manager to approve the next steps. I wasn’t even sure how to word it; what did I want, anyway? A partial refund? A gift card? Some form of compensation? Surprisingly, and I really did not expect this at all, but they actually gave me a full refund on the turkey and even threw in a $10 gift card as a goodwill gesture.

Well, I guess Amazon buying Whole Foods wasn’t such a bad idea after all; their refund policy is just like Amazon’s now!

 

Kosher turkey with feathers and pins for dinner

I was excited to finally have my very first Thanksgiving turkey spatchcocked, as today, we hosted our annual early Thanksgiving/friendsgiving dinner at our apartment. Since I had to pick up the turkey a few days ago to ensure that Whole Foods had them this early, they only had one type of turkey available, the kosher variety. I’d purchased kosher turkeys from Trader Joe’s before in previous years, so I figured it would be fine. I asked the butcher to remove the backbone for me, hence “spatchcocking.”

When I opened the turkey bag last night, I was annoyed to see that it actually had feathers on it; a LOT of feathers. And when there weren’t feathers, there were the feather pins still in the skin. No one wants a mouthful of turkey with a side of feathers and pins. So I actually spent an hour last night manually picking out feathers and pins, then another hour this afternoon using my tweezers I use for my eyebrows (sterilized, of course) plucking the turkey pins and feathers out before roasting it flat. I know I didn’t get all of them, but I did my best. I roasted it with a Cantonese-style glaze and was very pleased; this is probably the best turkey I’ve ever made — spatchcocking whole poultry is definitely the way to go.

I later looked up what makes kosher turkeys “kosher.” I found out that kosher turkeys usually still have feathers on them because of the lack of processing of the turkey. All of the processing is done by hand as opposed to machine, so the feathers and pins are pulled out as much as possible, but given it is manual, they can never get all of them.

I get a few spare pins or feathers, but this had massive patches that warranted over two hours of my time, and I didn’t even get all of them. And I’d had kosher turkeys before from Trader Joe’s that weren’t this sloppy, so this enraged me even more, especially after dinner was all ready, and mid-way through eating, I realized my right hand started hurting from the repetitive motion of plucking.

Yeah, so… while dinner was delicious and everyone enjoyed the food, no one could possibly have appreciated the fact that I spent 2+ hours not even cooking, but just plucking feathers out of this annoying kosher bird. I can’t even appreciate that. As the pain increased in my hand, I just kept feeling more and more mad. Whole Foods is definitely going to hear from me about this.

Changing names after divorce

I met a customer for breakfast this morning who I haven’t seen since March. It had been quite a while due to chaotic scheduling, not to mention that she moved apartments, and her actual office location moved boroughs. Our events marketing team had invited her to a few events with no response, so they reached out to me in the summer to see if I could  encourage her to come. She never responded, but when she finally did just last month, I noticed her name was different. I didn’t want to say anything because I wasn’t sure what happened, plus she never mentioned anything about getting married the last time we saw each other. I think that definitely would have been a conversation topic. My colleague insisted she must have gotten married; why else would her name change? So I figured I’d bring up her name change at breakfast.

So I did, and she laughed and actually said she got divorced five years ago, but she dragged her feet on getting her name changed back. She knew it was going to be ugly and painful, and she pushed it off for as long as she could. All of the paperwork, the fees, even the order in which you change your name for different purposes (you have to prioritize your passport before your driver’s license, apparently) matters, and if you mess it up, it only prolongs the process. “If I had to do it all over again, I never would have changed my name,” she said, rolling her eyes. “And now, every single time I send an email out from my work email, people keep congratulating me, asking how my wedding went when it’s actually the opposite!”

That is just so awkward – a constant, very public, in-your-face reminder that you got divorced. I cannot imagine having to be asked that as often as she has bee. That experience in itself must be excruciating when you don’t even deal with the legal paperwork.

 

Hitting goals

For the first time this fiscal year, our office finally hit its sales goal. Yesterday was the last day of Q3, and we were actually 130 percent of goal. The general mood of our office hasn’t been extremely positive the last three quarters because we weren’t hitting our numbers, and rumors were going around that the overall company looked down at the east team and saw us as a failures. It also didn’t help that a lot of people have been leaving or getting fired on the sales team, so it only made morale and the general outlook worse. But today, we celebrated at 10am with multiple bottles of Veuve Cliquot and a pretty happy, positive spirit all around. Even the grumpiest and most negative people in my office were smiling and laughing. It was like what our office used to be when we were our original team back when I first started. It actually felt really nice.

I’ve always tried to contribute when I can to the culture and general good spirits of the office, so it felt good today to see that we’re actually moving in an upward direction.

Halloween at the office this year

I wore my banana outfit for the third or fourth time last year, and Chris refused to let me wear it to the office again this year. So, he suggested that I wear either my cheongsam, my Chinese dress I wore during the last hour of our wedding reception, or my ao dai, my Vietnamese dress. He had a good point: when else am I ever going to wear either of these outfits? I suppose if I went to a Chinese event that I could rewear my cheongsam because it is semi-formal, and not obviously a “wedding dress,” but the ao dai, given its traditional colors, could definitely be perceived as wedding only. I ended up wearing my cheongsam because Chris insisted that no one at my office would be able to appreciate how glitzy my ao dai was (nor would they even know what an ao dai is). “They’ll just think you’re a geisha or a Japanese flight attendant!” he exclaimed.

I got to the office, and a number of colleagues complimented me on my outfit. One said while smiling, “You look really nice today, but I have no idea what you are wearing.”

Chris’s response to that when I told him? “You should have said .. oh, I just assumed you were a Trump supporter because you are dressed up as a white guy.”

Maybe. But unfortunately, I am not that quick on my feet and never have been.

Upper East Side nostalgia

I had to come back to the Upper East Side for my doctor’s appointment this afternoon, as well as a follow-up eye appointment from last week. Two times to the Upper East Side in just a week; I hadn’t been there this often since I actually lived in the neighborhood over a year ago. It felt really nice to walk through the streets and pass by all the meticulously decorated brownstones with their ornate Halloween decorations and jack-o-lanterns. It’s one of those little quirky things I miss not living in that neighborhood anymore. Sometimes when you walk through that area of Manhattan, it feels so residential that you can forget for a moment that you live in a concrete jungle. It just feels like a homely suburban neighborhood… just without any front yards or space between the buildings. You do get bits and pieces of Halloween decoration on buildings in the Upper West Side or the East Village, but the Upper East Side has always been known to be decked out at this time of year.

I do miss this neighborhood. A lot of the storefronts have changed, of course. Many restaurants and shops have closed; a lot of areas have many retail vacancies. New high-rises have gone up. Well, I have my doctor and optometrist to keep me coming back here to relive my Upper East Side resident memories.

Defining “near” and “far”

Chris and I had dinner tonight at his brother’s friends’ apartment downtown. They relocated to New York last year from Hong Kong. They are originally from Melbourne, but have spent the last 7+ years living in Hong Kong. The female friend’s job brought them here, and her husband came over through an internal job transfer. Both are extremely cognizant of how terrible the immigration process is to get to the U.S. Welcome to America!

It was really amusing listening to them talk about their perception of what is “near” and “far” and where they wanted to live in the future. She seems to love New York; he seems a bit more lukewarm and annoyed by how expensive things are here. He wants to move back to Melbourne eventually; she appeared repulsed by the idea unless he had some extremely glamorous and lucrative job lined up that would entice him back (he insisted that no job in Melbourne would be that amazing for her to be “wowed” by it). She seemed especially irritated by the housing market in Melbourne and fantasized about moving back to Hong Kong. But when we asked them if they would consider moving back to Australia via Sydney, they both said absolutely not. “Why would we live in Sydney? In Melbourne, the obvious draw is that family is there… but Sydney… why?” she asked. “Sydney is an hour’s flight away from Melbourne, but if we lived in Hong Kong, I could easily get back to Melbourne on an overnight flight! So I’d choose Hong Kong over Sydney easily!”

I loved hearing this. With people who are close in age to me (so, really, “millennials” if we have to label ourselves that dreadful name), there seems to be a general lack of desire to be “far” from family. What is the reason I hear the most often? Well, the opposite one of what our friend here is saying: if an emergency happens, I want to get to them right away. Well, “right away” clearly has different definitions for different people. I’m currently a five-hour flight away from San Francisco. This feels comfortable to me… I guess. The saddest and most real case in point was when I found out Ed passed away, and I immediately booked the first flight back home the next day. Our friend here is saying, “closeness” means being an overnight flight away, so maybe 8-9 hours. This response would completely throw off anyone who has given me the above argument against moving “far away” from home (and, well, their subconscious judgment of me for living 3,000 miles away from my parents). For Chris, a flight home would mean about 24 hours including transfer and layover time. For him, it seems to be enough. But that’s the thing: “near” and “far” mean very different things to different people, and it’s hard to define it as a generalization.