This photo essay is the follow up to a previous post entitled, “Like A Good Neighbor…” It has been made possible by Mile End Delicatessen in Boerum Hill; Mile End Delicatessen, they’ve got the whole mishpucha.
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Posted by evankessler on July 30, 2009
A crushing blow was dealt to the neo-hippie movement recently when a study by the British Food Standards Agency, examining food data over the last 50 years, concluded that the health value of organic food was neither greater nor significantly different from that of that which is considered non-organic. The announcement didn’t prompt the immediate shutdown of specialized grocery stores with monikers touting their earthiness, but nonetheless there are some immediate positive effects as a result of the report which has since been published in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition.
The study severely hinders your favorite restaurant’s ability to overcharge you for “organic Cobb Salad” and you’ll no longer have to deal with that uppity hippie friend who continually hints that their own moral and ethical superiority is somehow linked to the fact that they “only eat organic.” Thank you British Food Standards Agency, we owe you one.
update: The author of this post has since seen the documentary Food Inc. and doesn’t necessarily feel this way anymore.
Posted in current events, food, humor, OneRiot | Tagged: American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, christmas, CobbSalad, Food Standards Agency, Grocery store, Hippie, John Lennon, Organic food | Leave a Comment »
Posted by evankessler on January 5, 2009
Sua s’dei beloved readers. This update is being written from yet another exotic Southeast Asian location. This time the hotspot in question is Siem Reap, Cambodia. We arrived at about 7pm yesterday evening after jumping a few puddles in a Bangkok Airways propeller plane from Thailand’s capital city.
I’d be lying if I said I wasn’t a little nervous about our hop, skip and jump over the Thai-Cambodia border due to the nature of our mode of transport, but the flight ended up being a rather brief and somewhat pleasant, if a tad uncomfortable affair, thanks to seats that were uncontrollable when it came to keeping them in the upright and locked position.
Also, in front of me sat an obnoxiously loud American woman named Imelda who wouldn’t shut up about her bag of souvenirs in the overhead compartment and how no one back home was getting gifts from her. The best part of the flight was the attentive stewardesses, who despite the mere one hour of flight time, managed to provide us with an ample meal and some in-flight tea; proving much more attentive than their American Airlines counterparts though not half as adorable as the red suit-clad vixens of Air Asia.
We landed at the Siem Reap Airport a tad before 7pm. The touchdown was a bit odd as it seemed like we were landing in an invisible town with no landmarks on the ground aglow to guide air traffic in safely. It felt like the plane was feeling around for a place to land before gingerly making contact with the runway pavement.
Upon our exit onto the tarmac we were greeted by a small pagoda-like terminal which we soon filed into to meet with Visa officials who then charged us $23 U.S. for entry. Upon feeding them our payment and our passports, we were told to receive them in another line. It was a few minutes before I held my passport in hand again as it had to go along an assembly line of Cambodian officials who sat in a space that made it appear as though they were holding a congressional hearing on the validity of all of the passports coming through. Once this ordeal ended I waited on the line for customs where I encountered a soberingly humorless individual who looked over and eventually stamped my papers.
There was a baggage claim carousel, but it wasn’t employed as the luggage for the 70 passenger flight was placed alongside of it instead of wasting that valuable electricity. I grabbed my pack which was sitting next to Morwin, Jeff, and Andy. Andy joked about how funny his customs official was, saying that they had made plans to grab drinks later.
Despite all of the visa and customs business, getting into the country was actually a breeze. Walking outside we spotted the driver from our guesthouse holding a sign that read, “Mr. Andy.” We followed him to the parking lot and he beckoned another driver to follow. I think his name was Jhom. Andy and Morwin packed themselves into his vehicle, which was not a taxi like we had falsely presumed, but a tuk-tuk. Ditto for myself and Jeff, who took our places in Phearom’s identical mode of transportation.
With my bag balancing in front of me on a cushion in the open air of our tuk-tuk, we sped along the roads of Siem Reap; roads that not only were lined with nice hotels, but were also thriving with life. Motorcycles cruised alongside of us, music occasionally filled the air. There was a certain bustling excitement that I hadn’t felt or seen in the vast expanse of Bangkok or the relaxed atmosphere of Koh Lanta.
Before we knew it we had arrived at the Popular Guesthouse, our accommodation ’til departure on the 8th at the wonderfully economic rate of $9/night for each room. So what do we get for all of that? 2 beds, a private bathroom, hot water, cable TV. It’s actually quite the steal.
Once we settled in we met with Jhom and Phearom to discuss hiring them as tuk-tuk guides for the next two days. They’d chauffeur us to all of the sites and do minimal tour guiding for a total of $90 plus tip between the 4 of us. Perfect.
Everything was falling into place so to celebrate we went to look for some authentic Khmer food. We walked around and found Pub Street, essentially Cambodia’s version of Backpacker’s row-like Khao San Road in Bangkok. We made a few turns off of that street and eventually stumbled into Khmer Kitchen, a restaurant recommended by my good friend Jaime W. and her husband.
We got right into ordering as soon as we sat down. I was all for sampling the local Angkor beer and between us we ordered a variety of tradional Khmer dishes and went at them family style. There was a Khmer curry, a rice porridge called Bor Bor, and sauteed Morning Glory with tofu. All of the fare tasted surprisingly delicious. After our meal we wandered to the night market where there was an odd area in which people were having there feet massaged by fish who were eating their dead skin. We found the rest of the market to be largely unremarkable and with that we went off to bed.
This morning we had an early wake up as we met our drivers at 8am in the lobby. We had a full day of sightseeing at Angkor Thom ahead of us. After a decent tuk-tuk ride through town and a stop to get our tickets we made our first stop inside the walls of the once great kingdom at the Temple of Bayon– a breathtaking Hindu temple built around 1200 by Jayavarman VII. Unlike most look-but-don’t-touch tourist sites in the U.S., Bayon seemed like a historical playground. There were barely any ropes or barriers discouraging contact with the surrounding environment in efforts to preserve them. It felt wrong scaling the dated stone steps held together by mere placement.
The lower level was peaceful and serene and the painstaking detail of the relief carvings was absolutely astonishing. The second level was a different story as a glut of Japanese tourists posed with people dressed in costumes from the period of the temple’s origin.
Meanwhile some of the same tourists were scaling the few barriers put in place to protect the aging ruins for the sake of a photo. In a ten second span I saw a worker yell at one Japanese man for climbing atop an arch for an impromptu pose and a woman of the same nationality accidentally knock over a wooden barrier without regard for the fact that she probably should not have been sitting on it. A bunch of savages in this town– and you thought American tourists were bad.
Once we finished viewing the impressive expanse of Bayon we walked over to the Baphuon– a temple that had been taken apart in order to be put back together before Cambodia’s civil war. Unfortunately, the records on putting the puzzle back together were stolen and they’re now in the process of recreating the magic for what I think is at least the third time. While we couldn’t exactly explore the area it did have an interesting history.
With our first two stops on the Temple tour de force over, it was about 10:30am and we met our drivers nearby at food stand #17, which we thought we were stopping at for an impossibly early lunch. We sat down and ordered without thinking that perhaps we weren’t supposed to. As the closest white people in sight, our table was promptly surrounded by four Khmer chidren peddling their craft wares and books on Cambodia. Even our waitress joined in the act. We were able to rid ourselves of most of them and enjoy our meal, but two persistent little girls hung around for the majority of the time. One of them mostly stood to the side, while the other had our undivided attention.
The main event couldn’t have been older than nine, yet she was incredibly sharp and fun to converse with. She began by trying to sell us bracelets, but she soon shifted into trying to guess where we were from. Her first guess was Sweden, eventually making her way through Europe (all the way to England) in an effort to relate, show off and perhaps make a few sales. She began to ask us if we knew the capitals of most countries in Europe, the Americas and Asia. Andy learned the capital of Brazil is indeed Brasilia and we managed to teach her a few, but I would put this little girl up against any American student her age in a Geography contest and I’m sure she would beat the pants off of 95% of them.
Our friend finally tired of us not buying worthless bracelets and we were sad to see her go, but it was off to see more temples for us. Next up was the Temple of Thommanon, yet another amazingly detailed temple good for taking wonderful photos in, but not the most remarkable specimen we were to see all day. That title would have to be split between the next two sites on our agenda–but before getting to those we stopped along the way to admire the remains of a bridge built in 1200’s.
Our next and most adventurous of temple experience was at Ta Keo, a massive incomplete pyramid built by Jayavarman V sometime in the late 900’s. I was originally a little hesitant to scale the extremely steep stairs to the top, but gathered the courage in my loins and more or less engaged in a bit of a rock climbing feat of strength in order to admire an impressive view from the top alongside my cohorts.
I was rather proud of myself for scaling the treacherous stretch of steps. If this had been me five years ago, I probably would’ve wussed out on the grounds that sometimes I don’t trust my physical ability, but I summoned my bravery and climbed the highest peak to join my friends in the thrill of certain accomplishment.
Our next stop was not as treacherous, but it was probably the last place I’d want to be if an earthquake hit. Ta Prohm temple just so happens to be one of the locations from the film Tomb Raider, but in spite of it’s reputation as a Hollywood film set, it just so happens to be an incredible site in its own right. It is a beautiful ruin where nature has more or less overtaken the architecture. Loose stones can be climbed over and trees have grown in on top of roofs, causing them the appearance of caving in.
There are plenty of unstable fragments to climb up and over, but moreover it’s an entirely impressive site if just for the trees that have become rooted in and grown around the structure over hundreds of years. There was actually a tree that grew over another dead tree. It was all pretty eye-opening . There were also errant stones that looked as though they were once part of something impressive, but were now mere stepping stones. Oh how the mighty have fallen.
Our second to last stop on the Angkor Thom Temple row was Banteay Kdei, by all means an interesting temple, but not as towering or well-preserved as some other. However the child sales squad was in full swing and badgering green-shirt clad Andy. They must’ve figured his green shirt denoted big money. At one point, as we exited, another traveler surrounded by seven children pointed to Andy shouting, “That guy in the green shirt will buy stuff from you!” Luckily, the kids didn’t bite and Andy escaped unmolested.
After Banteay Kdei we headed for our real lunch at a place called Khmer Family and had another tasty meal before stopping at one more temple. I’m not sure what it was called but it may have been Sras Srang.
It had been a long day of temple viewing and with us set to catch sunrise at Angkor Wat at 5 A.M. we made an early night of it.
We got a few beers at the Shades of Angkor Restaurant and some dinner on the street, as well as dessert at a place called The Blue Pumpkin before making one more stop at the Night Market. Anyway, bedtime calls as it’s only a few hours before I have to get up. Goodnight.
Posted in Cambodia, food, Travel, vacation | Tagged: Angkor Thom, Bangkok Airways, Banteay Kdei, Baphuon, Bayon, Jayavarman VII, Khmer Food, Khmer Kitchen, Popular Guesthouse, Pub Street, Shades of Angkor Restaurant, Siem Reap, Sras Srang, Ta Keo, Ta Prohm, Thommanon | Leave a Comment »
Posted by evankessler on January 4, 2009
Asians have the most remarkable snack choices and the knack for capturing the essence of the most astonishing flavors within them. It couldn’t get any tastier than the ham & cheese flavored pretzel sticks or the pork spare ribs flavor of Lays Potato Chips. They both taste exactly as advertised. It’s remarkable.
I can’t decide if having these things in the U.S. is a good idea or a horrble one. Would eating spare ribs chips cut down on your need to eat both spare ribs and chips and thus make you skinnier or would it just leave more room for a big Philly Cheesesteak afterwards?