Thursday, September 27, 2012

Apparently, China's "Great Firewall" is Permeable.

Prior to traveling to China, Peggy and I set up this blog and began posting our pre-travel China-related activities and plans - we even posted from the first leg of the journey in Atlanta. Neither of us anticipated being unable to access Blogger once we arrived in China (and Facebook for me). We were extremely disappointed for the short period of time we thought our communication with family, friends, colleagues, and students through daily blog posts was blocked. As we continued to develop and save posts, I decided to try publishing again and quickly realized that although I could not view the blog, from my iPhone or iPad app, I could post. (I contacted my daughter back home to confirm the posts were being published.) Thankfully we were back in the business of sharing the photos and descriptions of the fascinating country.

I came across the following article related to our desire to use social media in China and challenges.
Millions of Chinese pour onto Facebook, Twitter, report claims
New data estimates that Facebook has 63 million users in China and Twitter has 35 million -- in spite of strict government bans and censorship on social media.

Wednesday, September 26, 2012

Blogger Mobile App!

Trying out my newly installed Blogger mobile app. Paige, how proud of me are you?!

Tuesday, September 25, 2012

Ai Weiwei: Artist, Activist, Teacher, Dissident

I've recently become aware of the work, and trials and tribulations, of Chinese artist Ai Weiwei (pronounced "I Wayway"). He is described as the most documented Chinese public figure alive today. Mr. Ai makes art on a grand scale, and even when the physical dimensions of his projects are small, the statements they make are enormous.

PBS, my go-to for documentaries, has a great Frontline piece called "Who's Afraid of Ai Weiwei?" The documentary originally aired last year. You can find it here:

Mr. Ai has documented his life tirelessly, first on his blog, then on Twitter feeds after the Chinese government shut down the blog. He is admired by many for his ability to organize people into communities in China, as demonstrated through his efforts to get the government to release the names of the 5,000 children killed in the 2008 Sichuan earthquake. These efforts are highlighted in the Frontline documentary. I was amazed by the ingenious way Mr. Ai has of turning the spotlight on government censorship in China -- filming Chinese police filming him, audio recording a violent police attack on himself, filming the government's demolition of his new studio and claiming it as his greatest work art installation -- then putting it all on the internet for the world to see.

Mr. Ai's story is one worth following. Unfortunately, latest reports are that his passport is being held by the Chinese government, thereby preventing him from traveling to the U.S. for an exhibit of his art in Washington, or from starting a job as a professor in Germany. See this article in the New York times:

- Peggy

Chinese Cooking Lab

Paige & Peggy's Chinese Cooking Lab

We've been trying to get together since our return from China in May to experiment with Chinese dishes. Finally, on the last day of summer we spent a lovely afternoon in Paige's kitchen slicing, dicing, chopping, tasting, cooking, and brainstorming ideas for articles and presentations related to our excellent Chinese adventure.

By now you all know how much Paige likes to take food pictures. Although we didn't use the zucchini or brussel sprouts, they do add  nicely to the vegetable composition.

We finally found the time to try some of the recipes (or approximations) we enjoyed on our China trip!

Our menu consisted of: Szechwan Eggplant Stir-Fry, Fried Rice, and Dry-fried Green Beans.

Szechwan Eggplant Stir-Fry - an adaptation of a recipe Paige found on the Food Network web site

This is what five Asian eggplants look like when halved and sliced. But don't be alarmed. They cook down quite a bit.

Our modifications to the Szechwan Eggplant Stir-Fry:

We made some substitutions when we couldn't find exact ingredients called for. For this recipe we used toasted sesame oil, not dark. Rather than red chilis, a combination of a modest teaspoon of dried habanero chilis and three tablespoons of an unidentified red (Bell?) pepper -- see photo below,  "mystery red pepper." A bunch (10 to be specific) of green onions, not two. Three tablespoons of the sesame oil was not nearly enough to sauté the heaps of eggplant wedges that the five vegetables yielded. Instead we added more oil to each batch we sautéed. As you can see from the photo above, this recipe serves a LOT of people. We had enough for both Paige's family and mine to enjoy.

Dry-fried Green Beans I & II (both recipes combined)
"gan Brian si Jim dou"
From "Land of Plenty" by Fuschia Dunlop

Instead of ground pork we used cubed pork chop. We couldn't find the Tianjin preserved vegetable. Maybe someone can tell us where to purchase it in Mobile...We also nixed the elusive Shaoxing rice wine. No Sichuanese chilies or peppers, so we substituted the dried habanero chilies again.

Paige displays appropriately "puckered and wrinkled" green beans.

Mystery Red Pepper

Paige's Free-style Fried Rice

Long grain white rice
Cubed pork
Frozen green peas
Soy sauce

Here's our take on the dishes. The eggplant, which the Chinese seem to prepare a thousand delicious ways, was quite good, but not quite what Paige had in mind. I thought the peanut oil gave the dish a more peanutty flavor than I would have liked. We will continue looking for other eggplant recipes. The beans were fresh and toothsome, but the tiny amount of habenero pepper we added (the same amount as was added to the eggplant) packed more heat than either of us liked with our beans. We suggest toning down the pepper, or finding a milder variety, but otherwise this dish definitely rates a repeat. The rice was a  nice accompaniment, especially with the small chunks of pork, but Paige wants to include teriyaki sauce next time.

Until then, don't be a hungry ghost :) Indulge your craving for Chinese food.

- Peggy