My previous blog post must’ve jinxed it. Since arriving, we have slept and ate very little. I have suffered a terrible headache and nausea since the twelfth hour of the ride. Our younger boy just puked out his first substantial meal. We have yet to step outside of the apartment.
It’s 2am right now in Taipei.
This is a pre-recorded message. We’re on the plane now, while a Tumblr robot posts these words on my behalf.
Here’s the thing: it’s my goal to write every day of the last month of 2013. To practice writing, hone my perseverance, add some junk to the internet. And if I don’t write this post now, I will miss a day. Today is Saturday, and we arrive Monday in Taipei (though it will still be Sunday in Brooklyn).
The weather forecast says it will be 75 degrees and raining in Taipei, on the day we arrive. My parents will pick us up. The first place we’re going to visit will be my parents’. The second place will be the breakfast place called Tomato Village.
There are a lot of breakfast places in Taiwan. I thought it was a “normal” Asian thing until we visited Tokyo and can’t find an egg sandwich in the morning. These Taiwanese breakfast joints make a variety of egg-related breakfast food. Egg sandwiches with ham, dried pork, beef patty, or tomatoes, on toast, bagel, croissant, or a tortilla-like thing. What makes it different from a normal egg sandwich you get here in a deli: mayonnaise, white pepper, and thinly sliced, slightly pickled cucumber. It’s a killer combination.
I would usually order a ham + egg sandwich and an egg tortilla thing with dried pork. I used to wash it down with milk tea. I stopped doing that a few years ago: too much sugar and condensed milk. Now I drink tea or water.
After breakfast, we will wash up, and wait for the drowsiness to wash over us. We will battle jet lag for three following days.
Dishes washed, fridge emptied, luggage packed, boys bathed and in pajamas. We’re ready to go. This is how it’ll go:
Get to the airport. Let the boys run wild. Go on the plane. Pad the middle two seats with pillows and blankets. Get the boys comfortable. Put the little one on my lap, arms around him, close my eyes, ears pop, make sure he drinks water, think happy thoughts. Seatbelt light turned off. Let the boys watch cartoons. Convince them to sleep. They sleep. We get up and stretch. Get comfortable in our seats. Pick a movie to fall asleep to. Sleep. Wake up by the boys. Take them to restroom. Hope they don’t poop. Take out packed food – bread, apple, cereal – breakfast. Watch cartoons. Take out books for the boys. Walk on the plane. Stretch. Eat more snacks. Make the boys nap. Watch another movie, or maybe listen to some podcasts. Boys wake up. Our patience running low. Watch more cartoons. Eat.
Are we there yet?
The only other food show we watch regularly is Top Chef. It’s not great, but it’s entertaining. The Mind of a Chef is like a cool, smart little restaurant; Top Chef is more like… I don’t know, Chipotle? We eat it regularly, and if it were gone, we’d miss it. But it’s not great.
"Restaurant War" is a recurring challenge in each season of Top Chef. The host splits the chefs into two groups, and they have to come up with a full menu and "open up" a restaurant in a couple of days. Each group has to decide on an executive chef – the boss, the captain, and usually the bearer of blame when things go wrong.
Tonight’s episode showed two very different bosses. Both were under pressure and sweating a lot. One was calling out food, plating, and being specific and clear with his instructions. The other was frustrated with the tickets, plates, staff, and seemingly everything around him – and he was cursing constantly. This hot tempered, disgruntled chef also had a team with more talent. Guess which team won?
Wiser (wo)men have said that a team is more than the sum of its individual parts. And that’s very true. Unless you are the Miami Heat. But nobody likes them.
My wife and I enjoy watching shows about food. We love to eat, and since we had our first kid, it’s gotten harder to go out to nice restaurants. So we settle with watching delicious food instead.
These days we are thoroughly enjoying The Mind of a Chef on PBS. The latest episode we watched follows April Bloomfield (of Spotted Pig and the Breslin) to a salt producer in Oregon named Jacobsen Salt Co. We use and consume so much salt each day, and I’ve never given sea salt much consideration. Watching salt being harvested from ocean water was… mind-blowing.
I looked up the salt producer. It’s founded by a Benjamin Jacobsen, who started salt harvesting as a hobby – he would drive up and down the Oregon coast, collect some sea water, harvest the salt, and give them to friends and family. After a few years, he brought his salt to a local grocery chain – and his product was flying off the shelves. Last year, he started a Kickstarter campaign to fund his first salt facility. Now Jacobsen Salt Co. is a real business.
I’m going to order some of that salt soon, and I can’t wait to give it a try.
We’re flying to Taiwan soon. The trip gets easier each year. For all the things we complain about flying - the disgusting food most dogs would reject, the many hours in a cramp space, the strange odor - it’s goddamn amazing that we have a technology that can carry so many human beings all the way to the other side of the earth in less than one full day.
We used to have to make a stop at Ted Stevens Airport in Alaska for refuel. We would arrive at around 4am Eastern Time, which is no big deal for us adults. But it was tough for the kids (and us parents). About two years ago, the plane got better, and it can take us from New York City all the way to Taipei in one take. Sixteen hours, non-stop. That’s miraculous technology.
We’ve become better at flying as parents. Or I should say my wife has. She’s the director, I’m just the gaffer. We carry enough gear to make the kids comfortable. If they get a good 8-10 hours of sleep, we’re set. We fill the other six hours or so with meals (we bring our own dry food), entertainment (toys, books, and whatever cartoons they got on the little screen in front of us), walking around on the plane, getting angry at one another.
While the kids sleep, I would try to catch a movie or two. Scientists say the high altitude makes us more emotional, which causes us to enjoy movies more than we normally would (and something about tomato juice tasting better). I probably got that all wrong. From my unscientific experience: I usually enjoy watching airplane movies but can’t remember what I watched after arriving. It’s probably just as well.