After, After, After, Always

December 28, 2016 | kickin’ and screamin’

My childhood home will soon be rented out and eventually sold. I am a millennial, although I’m also slowly creeping towards the middle of the age bracket. We are often described to be itinerant and unattached. Seeking the next place to move our careers forward, for those of us lucky enough to be on that path. Swiping right and either unable to decide or decide so quickly that we hope to forget the next day.

So perhaps it’s slightly against my generational grain to feel so strongly about this old home as to bare my feelings to the Internet. You’re welcome, since I originally envisioned this as a poorly made film, or conversely, I’m sorry. I haven’t lived full-time in this house since I left to go to college where people wear UGGs un-ironically. However I quickly learned that the truly useful footwear was a pair of those hilariously named “duck boots.” This house protected my family for so long, but a few years ago when another one of us left, they never came back. (Note to self, I pledge to take my last breath somewhere other than in an ICU.) I’ll never be an iconoclast just for the sake of it, but in this case I can’t help but be very, very attached.

I will always remember the sounds of my backyard gate and garage door, for they meant saying goodbye to guests sure to return or hello to my parents coming back from work. I like to think they enjoyed me sticking my face up against the glass as a greeting.

I will always love the carpet that my mom kept so clean because of all the couches and beds I could lay on to read, I always ended up on the floor. This Christmas, I made sure to lay down a yoga mat at least.

I will always treasure the light pink walls of my bedroom, soon to be occupied by another lucky child, because my parents kept their promise that after we moved out of the townhouse, I’d get my pink walls. I regret removing the Rainbow Fish border.

I will always be impressed with the kitchen even though it doesn’t boast granite countertops or brushed steel appliances. That’s fine because if I’m eventually able to afford these in my own home someday, it’ll make me feel like I achieved intergenerational prosperity. Boo-yah!

I will always worry about the little crannies where I know spiders and other crawlies…crawl out of. When I killed my first spider in the house, I grew a little but also might’ve pee’d myself. Although I’m sorry, spider sir or madam, I panicked and forgot about the paper and cup technique that time.

I will always think of the quiet and peaceful park further up our street. And the pecans my grandma and I pilfered when fall came around. I probably owe some of my cavities to her candied pecans. Worth every one.

I will always wish I can hear my dad’s snoring in the master bedroom again. It’s the most comforting thing to know that you can be sitting and reading in another room, but not completely alone.

I will never forget turning onto this street after a long while away, after a dinner at Outback, after a day at the Galleria, after playing at a friend’s house, after a shitty day at my top-rated and therefore very competitive high school (go Rangers!), after, after, after.

And so I will always remember and love this house. This home. I hope the next family or non-family living unit cares for it like mine did. I hope it treats them well, much as it did my family. As I come upon my second year of the Rooster (quelle horreur), I know it’s time to finally write this and let it go.

Goodbye house, and thank you.

An Economic Life: The Diminishing Marginal Utility of Roast Quail

Dear reader,

I published the below article first on Medium. I would not be where I am today without my parents, so it’s only fitting that I dedicate the beginning of my site to them. For anyone who appreciates family, food, and even some economic theory, do have a read.

Best,

Jennifer


My mom likes to joke that she scored with my dad. That Shanghainese men make the best husbands. They like to cook, clean, and generally keep house. I can’t confirm whether this is actually widely accepted among Chinese people, but he certainly lived up to and beyond the claims. However, he had a tendency to ruin my taste for my favorite foods. I never begrudged him for it. He ended up (indirectly) teaching me about an economics principle I wouldn’t formally encounter until my last year of high school.

Source: Troy Fields for Houston Press.

I’ve always known Houston to be a food city, even if it’s only recently started to get wider recognition for it. Next to Chinatown’s palaces of seafood, dim sum, and hot pot, you have Viet-town with savory pho and crispy banh mi. Obviously, glorious Tex-Mex joints abound. So when my dad brought home roast quail for dinner one night, I wasn’t surprised.

“It tastes like chicken,” he said. He started to tear off small pieces and spread them out in the styrofoam box, warped from the steam and his commute.

I poked a piece with my chopstick. “It smells kind of weird.” We’d eaten even less mainstream things though, like pig intestines doused in red oil.

“Here, just try it.” He placed a large piece between my chopsticks. I took my first bite and let it settle on my tongue. The crispy and slightly caramelized skin made up for the relatively tasteless meat. It was a little tougher than chicken.

He smiled. “See? Good, huh?”

I nodded even though I hadn’t passed a verdict yet. He had gone during a break from his restaurant shift to pick up the new dish in Chinatown. Always buying food for the family, his coworkers liked to say.

Somehow, we (and by we, I mean I) ended up picking clean three-quarters of the box. When my dad set down another box a few days later, I attacked the fragrant meat more eagerly. There were no leftovers to pack for my school lunch that time.

For the next two months give or take, I ate each box of quail as completely as I could, but each time the amount of leftovers increased. I hate wasting food, so in it went into my lunches, buried in noodles, rice, and the bone broths my mom and grandma steeped. (News flash for food hipsters: bone broth has been part of Asian food for years and years.) Spurred on by the positive feedback, my dad made sure there was never a deficit in my roast quail supply.

On a Sunday before I was due to go teach a few hours of ice skating lessons, he set a hearty serving in a shallow blue-and-white bowl before me.

“Protein for the endurance you’ll need! Eat it before it gets cold!” His wide grin couldn’t drum up the enthusiasm he had gotten so used to seeing though. My whiny teenager side had bubbled up.

“I’m tired of quail. Do we have ramen?” I said. Addressing his kind attention to my protein intake, I added, “I’ll eat an egg with it.”

“What do you mean you’re tired of it? You like eating it so much!”

“Ba-ba, we’ve had it for months.” I pouted, carefully. “Maybe for dinner instead?”

He nodded, but his lips pressed together as he took a few pieces for himself and put the rest back into the fridge.

Halfway through my three hours of bending down to hold little kids’ hands as they teetered around the ice, my stomach growled and reminded me how much I could’ve used that protein. What was I thinking having one fried egg and instant ramen?

At dinner I monopolized the quail dish. My mom was both impressed and horrified by my remarkable appetite. My dad smiled again, wide and bright, and also had some, but only when I was occupied with the small pile in my bowl.

A few weeks later, this pattern repeated with char-siew pork, then caramelized sea bass, then lamb chops. You wouldn’t have known that my parents worked blue-collar jobs. I certainly didn’t until I learned that collars had certain colors at all.

Source: Ivy League Lifestyle.

In my first semester of college, my introduction to microeconomics TA explained diminishing marginal utility to an indifferent lecture hall, using the typical examples. To satisfy a craving, one more cupcake (or cookie) will give you less satisfaction than the first one consumed. One more Maserati in a millionaire’s collection bestows fewer bragging rights than the first two. Okay, that one I embellished.

I, on the other hand, had different examples in mind.

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Thank you for reading! This is the first in my series “An Economic Life,” where I write to educate and entertain while attempting to remember and apply my liberal arts education. 🙂