Once Upon a World: Taiwan’s Moon People

Telling stories over a cocktail in a loungey bar? It’s no wonder I try to drop into The Moth Story Slam whenever I find myself back in LA. It’s just too bad that the synchronicity of such events is not simply like catching lightning in a bottle, but chasing down that damn firefly and all you got is some narrow-necked empty Corona. The last one I went to was Summer 2014, and the theme was “Altered,” which you’d think would lead to some crazy stories, being LA and all, but in fact resulted in far too many “and what altered was my perspective on life” kind of stories. Here’s my attempt at some kind of story, although it’d never make it on stage as a story of “real life,” since it’s embellished with more than a little bit of dramatic license. I’ll leave it to you to figure out to what extent the story is “altered” as such, but that’s a going a bit meta for the theme, so I’ll stop the prologue here and just begin with…

tawiansupermoon

TAIWAN’S MOON PEOPLE

I should have known better when the conversation during the first date involved stories of her psychiatrist and the medication she was using.

Normally, that would be a deal-breaker, but then again, I was already breaking my own rules about deal-breaking with such a date. Rule number one: Don’t date a local girl. Rule number two: Don’t date anyone “younger.” Yet, there I was, walking down the shopping streets of Ximen in Taiwan, with a college girl who went from friendly tour guide to something more– so seamlessly but so quickly that the result was a heady rush usually expected from cheap wine.

As a consultant for design engineering, Taiwan had great opportunity– one of the five largest and growing economies in Asia, with decades of dealing with Western counterparts while remaining decades behind in infrastructure. And while my company had many positions available for a whole team of consultants, I had never been placed in a company so deliberately with such a lack of support. While there was more than a simple curb-side drop-off on my arrival to my furnished, temporary apartment, it wasn’t *much* more than that.

But no matter. Within a few weeks, I had found for myself a routine for work, a new gym, and familiar faces at my regular coffee shop. In fact, seeing my favorite barista recognizing me and knowing my order made me smile the most. What was it that some famous guy said? Something about somewhere everybody knowing your name? Well, hers was Love. Really, it was PengWen, but her “Western name” was Love.

Coffee orders evolved to conversation, then to a connection. “Oh!” she almost yelled with the laugh, “You know Doraemon?” Of course I recognized the blue cartoon cat in the pin on her apron. He’s a robot cat from the future with a doorway to another dimension in his stomach. “Isn’t that just hilarious?” she said, knowing it was so, in that ironic psuedo-hipstery kind of way. Exactly.

Why, yes, I would need someone to show me around the city. And why, yes, we did share the same likes and dislikes of food. And movies. And music. And the moon. “Daylight is so harsh. And so bright? What is up with that. The moon is so much more mysterious. You can rest in the moonlight.” The night was filled with more conversation, too, and later, kisses. And later, more. Maybe the mention of the medication at some point days ago didn’t seem so important, not when we also talked of family, her life, her school major, graphic design. There was also her plan to move to the States. And after all, I didn’t want a girlfriend. That was against the rules. She didn’t want a boyfriend, either. That wouldn’t be according to the plan.

I told her those rules. She told me those plans. Semi-regularly. We were meeting nearly every weekend. We were Skype chatting every night. She wouldn’t end Skype until we had both got ready for bed, and I would lay my head on the pillow with her face in the laptop beside me on the bed. She refused to go to sleep first, since I was so “old,” I obviously should be the one more sleepy, despite it being 1 am already for the both of us. “You logout first.” “No, you logout first.”

Good Lord. I was dating someone. A local girl. I didn’t want to do the math to find out she was 12 years younger. It would be just one more reason to not do this. But there was a bigger reason telling me the opposite. I think I was falling in love. Months were passing, and my worry about the relationship went from “should this be happening?” to “when should I tell her?” Our conversations were growing deeper. Her graduation was approaching. There was a threshold coming.

Also coming to Taiwan’s skies was a “supermoon.” I would secretly plan that it would provide an excuse for a nighttime hike, holding hands and kissing under clear skies and giant moonlight. Instead of Skyping, though, I saw a Facebook message from Love. She apologized for becoming my friend, that this friendship was not what she thought it was. She wanted to make it quick; she wrote that she had no “good” friends, was not a good person, and was ending all her relationships.

Once upon a time, in the first couple of weeks when first lived alone in my own apartment, I looked at the pile of dishes in the sink and decided I would rather just buy a whole new set, dumping all those in front of me into the trash instead.

I tried to parse the message; nuance and playfulness are hard to communicate through a second language, after all. But the words dind’t change no matter how I looked at them. All my replies were being “seen” but not answered. That night, I went to sleep on the bed with the laptop closed on the far side of me and stared at the equally blank ceiling.

The next two days, my feet carried me through the city and back home again. My hands did the CAD drawings and emails they were supposed to. My mouth idly ate some food for me. My eyes watched the world as if it were some strange foreign film.

Well, if there was one thing I was good at, it was goodbyes. The final word between me and Love would not be the question mark and crooked head sticker sent to elicit a response from social media. I prepared a multiparagraph missive so I could rehearse as best I could my understanding of her feelings, my guess at my own failings, and my attempt to hold her to higher standard, to not give her the easy out. At least we would always have Starbucks.

She left the coffeeshop at the end of her shift more promptly then she usually would have. Her head almost buried in a high collar ill-suited for Taiwan’s heat, and her attention buried even more into the private world allowed by her muffler-style headphones, she almost didn’t see me. Or maybe she chose not to. I had to step in front of her to give her whatever it was that I remembered from my rehearsal.

After dutifully giving her time to react, she explained, still without really seeing me, that she was drunk that night, but it helped her to say the things that needed to be said. It was a decision she had to do for herself, she said. That it was completely selfish and rude and it confirmed she was not a good woman but it had to be done. For her future.

“Yeah, well. You’re right, then– You are selfish. But in a relationship you don’t get to be selfish. It’s not a lightswitch you hit as you exit a room. That’s not the way it works.”

“I’m almost done clearing my friends,” she said without a shrug, “I just don’t have friends basically.”

And, “You know, I’m not a cold-hearted person. This is the worst thing ever, but I have to do what must be done. 加油, Jiayou… good luck to you.”

I grabbed her by both shoulders, turning her out of her walk. “No, I can’t accept that. I don’t like the sound of what you’re saying. Are … are you going to hurt yourself?” I searched her eyes, trying to peer into the bottom of the pool. The strangest fact was that there was nothing strange there. They were completely normal, clear pools after all.

“I have never made those kinds of plans,” she said.

But nothing more came out of either of us. Eventually, “what would you have me do?” she asked simply.

I let go. Shaking my head, in order to keep the rest of my body from shaking, I didn’t know what else to say. “You need to do this? Fine. You’ve already said this was a selfish choice. I will still be your friend even if you don’t want it. You can message me when you’re ready, then.”

She put her headphones back on, faint strains of Adele’s Chasing Pavements wafting by, and continued on her way.

That night was the supermoon, the night my heart was broken.

Later, we did in fact get in touch with each other again. She was waning herself off her medication and was suffering extreme paranoia, apparently, and talked a bit about that journey. There was a brief, new phase of relationship, but by then, however, even coming back to friends was too arduous a journey, and it would never be what it once was. The next break-up turned out much more mutual, and much more natural.

As it turns out, these days, I much prefer the daylight.

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三杯雞 Sanbeiji (Taiwanese 3-Cup Chicken)

from TimeOutShanghai.com, actually*

from TimeOutShanghai.com, actually*

If you don’t try to blog every day, suddenly you look up and realize it’s been a week or more since you posted anything. I’m still writing for a few projects, it’s just that they are not bloggable, I suppose. That, and I’m packing everything I own into 8 boxes or fewer in order to move countries. There is that, too.

I am preparing to leave Taiwan for my next adventure in Shanghai.

One of the signature dishes in Taiwan, and one of the first that was shared with me by a local Taiwanese friend, is Sanbeiji, 三杯雞, literally 3-Cup Chicken. It takes its name as the sauce is basically 1 part soy sauce, 1 part saké, and 1 part oil– just braise the chicken and sauce it, topping it all with a ton of fresh basil. That’s basically about it, super quick and easy and thus a favorite for college students who want to not eat at the 7-11 or Family Mart that day. I’ve found it’s best with a few other ingredients to help it along, too.

SANBEIJI

1 lb. chicken pieces, thickly sliced
1/4 cup soy sauce
1/4 cup mirin (or saké with 2 tsp. sugar)
1/4 cup sesame oil
1 tbsp. fresh ginger, diced
2 cloves garlic, diced
1 cup fresh basil, roughly chopped
4 scallions, finely chopped
1/4 tsp. black pepper
1/2 cup cherry tomatoes, sliced

Steps
1. Sear the chicken in a dry pan until you can move the chicken without it sticking.
2. Combine the sauces together then add to the pan, stirring with the chicken.
3. Cover and stew the chicken for about 8 – 10 minutes.
4. Uncover and add the ginger, garlic, basil, and scallions. Crack some black pepper over everything.
5. Continue cooking until the sauces is reduced, another 10 – 12 minutes or more. In the last few minutes, add the tomatoes for brightness and sweetness but don’t overcook them.
6. Serve the chicken and basil over white rice, removing from the stew. If desired, use a flour rou or continue reducing the sauce to thicken it and top the chicken.

So on my way out the door, here’s one more, 3-Cup, for the road…

*The picture comes from a review at TimeOutShanghai.com, a Taiwanese restaurant that has whole garlic roasted with their Sanbeiji

 

Movie Discussion – Maleficient (2014)

malificenttaiwan

Sometimes, the most entertainment from watching a film comes from watching the audience.

Opening weekend for Maleficient was huge for my area of Taiwan. How do I know? Well, most people will buy tickets ahead of time online, which always includes being able to pick your seat, by row and seat number. When my friend and I tried to use a specially-priced ticket, we couldn’t use the online system accordingly, but we could use it to gauge how popular each screening time would be. And that’s how we found out how nearly every screening was close to selling out that weekend.

Well, why not still try for it? One just has to psyche himself up to be prepared for more people-watching!

Case in point, during the big scene when the Prince would kiss the Princess– the whole set-up for the fairy tale, after all– many of audience was on the edge of their seats. Literally. Most of the audience were young women, and one lady in particular was poised with both palms together, outstretched fingers in excitement and nearly applauding as the Prince bent down to kiss Aurora.

philipandaurora

And then the kiss didn’t work.

The audience overall let out a collective, and kind of frustrated, half-sigh/half-chuckle as they settled back into their seats. In their minds, they were telling the filmmakers “OK, you got us. Good one,” while also feeling “Oh. I wished that would have worked.” Some neighbors even commisserated, in whispered Chinese.

Then Maleficient came forward, and kissed Aurora, causing her to wake.

Which reminds me, I have one question, despite the tangent to my story — did Maleficient know that her kiss would work? On the face of it, perhaps she didn’t, at least not consciously. After all, she did tote Prince Andrew through the forest and castle to force them to kiss instead. But what if she *did* know, or at least suspect? This is an extremely vulnerable moment for the character and the true emotional climax of the film. If she didn’t know/suspect, then really there is no agency for the main character, and it’s only a “surprise” reveal that love does exist. In other words, in that case, “Love,” even in an abstract sense, becomes the deus ex machina that before a true prince would have enacted in order to wake the girl.

Instead, it’s more interesting to consider that Maleficient suspects this to be true. At this point, she is not only saving the girl she feels motherly toward, but it’s also that she must release control/faith in her own power and acknowledge the power of something greater than herself. In a way, it’s a humbling of a character who has never been humble before– not even as a child. She must now *choose* to be vulnerable, to be a “part” of the curse that she placed years before, which in a way is a kind of sacrifice. This mixture of “will it work/will it not” is true dramatic tension for the character.

That said, in either case (knowing/not knowing), the film is more about redefining what love might be, using the context of a fairy tale. This much is obvious, right? Whereas a fairy tale makes certain assumptions about love, the filmmakers deliberately invert the tale in order to make a different thematic statement. And not merely “oh, look at different ways ‘true love’ can be between others.” That’s just “where” love is, not “what” it can be.

If a prince would have kissed Aurora to wake her, there would be no sacrifice, no humbling, no risk. If Maleificient were to kiss Aurora, this truly does say something about love. Thus, according to this movie, love is something that must develop over time, by spending time with another, by allowing yourself to be changed just as much as you wish to safeguard the other person. To humble yourself. And to risk that, even if you do all these things, it still might not work and you do it anyway.

With all that being said, there are just some audiences that want a traditional fairy tale. When the Prince failed, the audience deflated. When Maleficient succeeded, the audience laughed.

They laughed because, story-wise, at that point it was “obvious” but the characters still had to play out their dramatic tension. They laughed to tell the filmmakers “Oh, fine. Redefine love for us. Sure.” Or even to say “Oh, that’s not supposed to happen” and a few probably “Wait. Are they girls in love with each other?” All of that is pretty superficial. What I really think the laughter was about? I think they all laughed in spite of themselves. Because they all KNEW that love is more complicated than what a Disney fairy tale will show us. But that didn’t mean they wanted to stop seeing that kind of story.

They watched the rest of the film, and no one was angry but me that Maleficent didn’t turn into the dragon and the raven did instead, and they all clapped dutifully when all the characters took their final positions for the sweeping camera move at the end.

Then the lights came on, and we all left the theater and went back out into the real world, where we’d find all the complicated questions of love that were still there were we left them, somewhere still waiting outside.

The Difference Between Sayonara and Zaijian…

I’ll always remember my first.
My first time I lived overseas.
Japan was exotic, unfathomable,
That beguiling charm of mysterious.
And me?
She let me be with her.
Everyone else is jealous. How did *I* get to land her?
After all, it’s TOKYO.
But
After five years, you start to realize
The honeymoon is over.
I can live with it. I think,
Maybe it’s just me?
I’m starting to see the blemishes;
They’re flaws I can’t begin to ignore.
But somehow it’s presumptuous of me to point them out?
Maybe it is just me.

She doesn’t care.
I tried to make her like me.
Her high-maintenance highness.
Her love of the new even if it’s unnecessary
Her love of the tradition when it’s necessary
(but not necessarily convenient or even right)
My ダーリン, it’s you, not me.

Finally, it’s time.
I leave with nothing,
Closing the door on nothing but walls floor and ceiling.

Taiwan will have me.
She’s open, and gives knowing hugs
Vivacious with a laid-back energy, always smiling
But
She’s not the first on the dance card
Everyone else only knows her from years ago
That one time when she made toys or something
They don’t see what I see
That there’s lots of rain (LOTS of rain) but
It makes for nature (LOTS of nature)
And good-natured neighbors, with lots of flaws.
Hey, we all have flaws, so let’s put our best face on
(even when it’s not necessary nor convenient.)
She’ll just let me be me.

She doesn’t judge.
Or maybe she judges, but with a mutual understanding that any such judgement doesn’t really mean anything.
She’d love it if I stayed, but there’s no real chemistry.
She knows. (It happens a lot, I think.)
All those little things are fine but they’re starting to add up.
I don’t see this really going anywhere.
I guess I needed a rebound country.
My 很朋友, it’s me, not you.

The time has come.
I want to take so much with me.

Shanghai has invited me over.
Looks like the start of a new relationship.
Maybe after a couple of these
I’ll finally know what I’m doing?
Finally find someone to settle down with?
But
What if THAT is not me, after all?

Let’s just start with “Ni Hao”
And see where it goes.

Dragon Boat Pork & Rice

I really, really wanted to make zongzi this weekend.

It’s a very traditional holiday food for the Dragon Boat Festival holiday– rice and meat steamed in bamboo leaf wrapping. Talk about comfort food! There’s something about bread and meat wrapped together that’s simply amazing… from tamales and corndogs to dumplings and calzones. Forget sliced bread, these are the best inventions. I will draw the line at stuffed-crust pizza, though. That’s just wrong.

But the problem with zongzi is that there’s just so many steps. My local friend’s mother makes zongzi to sell for a living, and she gets up at 4am and spends at least 4 or 5 hours to make a big batch. Well, I was determined to do it differently. Surely I could single-handedly change what generations upon generations have developed, right?

I couldn’t even get through the grocery store. Apparently, it’s more difficult for me to find bamboo leaves in Taiwan than it would be for me to find in Los Angeles. Unless, of course, I’m locally Taiwanese. My friend told me that in general you’d just have to go to various stores here and there to pick up all the ingredients, or go to a local wet market. But this was supposed to be a time-saving version of the recipe!

So in the spirit of East-Meets-West I present a completely different infusion inspired by the filling used to make zongzi during the Dragon Boat days. Really, it’s its own meal entirely.

2014-06-02 18.08.43

DRAGON BOAT PORK & RICE

Ingredients:
White rice, prepared
1 kg/2 lbs. pork shoulder
Spice rub:
– 1 tbsp. salt
– 1 tsp. black pepper
– 1/2 tsp. anise seed
– 1 clove garlic, minced
– 1/2 tsp. grated ginger
– 1/2 tsp. five-spice powder
– 1/2 tsp. cinnamon
– 1/4 tsp. ground Szechwan peppercorns (or 1/8 tsp. cayenne powder)
1/4 cup beer
1 cup shelled peanuts
2 tbsp. butter (or olive oil)
1 large white onion, diced
2 cloves garlic, minced
2 cups shitake mushrooms, diced
1 cup bamboo shoots
1/2 cup soy sauce
1/4 cup mirin (or 1/4 cup sake with 1 tsp. sugar)
3/4 cup chopped green onions/scallions
2 boiled eggs, diced

Steps:
1. Prepare the rice according to the directions.
2. Boil the peanuts for 30 minutes, while you prepare the other ingredients. Drain and set aside.
3. Combine all the spices for the spice rub, and coat the entire surface of the pork shoulder.
4. Use a microwave steamer/dumpling basket to create a pseudo-braised pork. In the bottom of the steamer, combine beer with hot water. Add the rubbed pork fat-side up and half of the diced onions to the basket. Microwave the steamer for 12 minutes.
5. Melt the butter (or heat the oil) in a frying pan and sweat the remaining onions for 3 – 4 minutes. Toss in the garlic for 30 seconds, then add the mushrooms and bamboo shoots. Continue frying on medium heat until the mushrooms have shrunk and the onions show signs of browning.
6. Add the soy sauce and mirin, reducing the heat to low and letting the soy sauce simmer for about 5 – 6 minutes.
7. Shred the braised pork, pulling with forks if possible.
8. Toss the shredded pork and peanuts into the sauce. Add more salt, pepper, and/or five-space to taste. You’re looking for a sweet but aromatic flavor with a hint of spiciness. If the soy sauce reduces too much, add a drop or two of mirin to loosen it, but don’t go overboard. This isn’t a sauce-y meal and you want enough to coat the meat without overpowering the saltiness.
9. Finally, turn off the heat and toss with the green onions and sliced boiled egg.
10. Serve hot over a bed of white rice.

Makes about 5 cups of Dragon Boat Pork & Rice. That’s a few days’ worth for me, but for big families you’ll have to adjust accordingly!

You’ll notice that this recipe relies on a steamer/dumpling basket that you can microwave. I’ve fallen in love with the way I can make easily-steamed vegetables and meat in minutes, and often much more health-ily! If you don’t get one for yourself, you’ll have to do an actual-to-goodness braised pork, or perhaps stir-fry some ground pork instead, in step 8. Just use the same spices there as the rub, adjusted for taste, especially the salt!

As you can see, this is still a somewhat involved process, but nowhere near the billion-step, multi-hour process of real zongzi. The real stuff uses glutinous rice/sticky rice (needing to be soaked for 3 hours) as well as stews the meat, eggs, and stuffs everything in leaves before finally steaming everything. Phew! This gives you a similar flavor and is better able to be plated, but of course can’t substitute for the real thing. Check out local Asian markets for some prepared zongzi around the end of May, and check out the great variety! This one hopefully will bring you a flavor of Taiwan.

Of course, if you really really REALLY want to make zongzi, here’s some helpful sites:

The Legend of the Dragon Boat Race

dragonboatBW

Once upon a time, there was a great poet. Qu Yuan’s had a gift to see wonder and passion in all things and to capture such truth in pictures created by words. So great was this gift, that Qu Yuan became highly respected throughout the Chu empire, and the king himself asked him to stay by his side.

The king and Qu Yuan would often sit in the garden and listen quietly to the stillness of the water in the great pond. The king would offer a word to capture the moment, and Qu Yuan would consider it briefly, then speak the correct word. It became a great game, and the king and Qu Yuan became great friends.

One day, the king was more troubled than usual. He couldn’t even hear the stillness of the pond. “War,” the king finally spoke. Qu Yuan looked at his friend. “Peace,” he corrected him. But the king was worried about the growing conflict warring states. Any moment of war was too long, and it was now long past a mere moment. That day, Qu Yuan spoke about the wonder and passion and truth in the capital city of Ying and of the people of the Chu empire. The king was moved, and declared that Qu Yuan should be his Left Minister.

However, other ministers of the court resented Qu Yuan. They couldn’t understand his words that spoke of wonder and passion, or were angry and jealous of his favor with the king, which might really be the same thing. Their power over words were not of truth but slander and malice. They spun many stories of prose for their king, who finally erupted in rage. Qu Yuan was exiled, far to the south.

Qu Yuan’s words could not be stopped. He found himself on spiritual journeys, in conversation with spirits and ancestors, and with more and more truth in poem form. The townspeople marveled how a man could be a bulwark against such foes as Apathy, Disinterest, and Acquiescence, but it was clear: the more Qu Yuan put his spirit into his words, the more his body wasted away. Every day, Qu Yuan would go to the Face Reflection Well and peer inside, lost in the now-gaunt image of himself. He saw the truth of himself, too; the grip that his ideals had on him. He could never understand how the great but humble state of Chu could ever yield to the threat of the Qin.

And so it was that, when the city of Ying was finally swallowed in the relentless rising tide of Qin, there was only one more poem left inside the thin frame of Qu Yuan.

His brush left the paper. Qu Yuan’s eyes took in the mighty Miluo River. His hands struggled to lift the mighty rock. His feet stumbled towards the shore.

The townspeople waved a cheery hello until the strangeness of Qu Yuan’s stumblings made them pause. The fisherman’s boy was the first to call to rally the boats, but Qu Yuan had already submerged himself to his waist. The longboats were truly racing now, the fisherman’s boy leaning nearly prostrate from the prow, slapping the sides to keep the rowers in time. But it was too late.

Qu Yuan’s head had gone missing below the surface. Only a few bubbles remained on the surface, trailing toward the middle of the river.

The fisherman’s boy reached the end of the bubbles first, and people from the shore cried out a cheer as he grabbed at something in the water. He held high a bit of cloth used to bind Qu Yuan’s headpiece to his hair, but that was all. The cries turned to crying. And soon, the evening turned to dark.

Deep into the evening, the fisherman, his boy, and several friends of Qu Yuan sat in various longboats in a vague circle around the very spot. They were tired, but they continued to idly toss in bits of rice into the water. They must keep the fish distracted! What an improper ending for such a dignified man, to be eaten by fish! Day by day, however, and one by one, the longboats and friends had to disappear.

The fisherman’s boy threw the last bit of his rice into the water, then sighed. He had to go back, too. The sun kept rising, the wind kept blowing, and the stomach continued demanding to be fed; no matter that it was now a Chu sun and not a Qin sun, nor if it were now Qin winds and Qin stomachs.

But the townspeople knew the power of words. They would remember Qu Yuan’s walk into the river as a proud legend of a man sacrificing himself for the unrequited love of a city that died. And every year, on the fifth day of the fifth month, they would race the longboats and eat triangles of rice and hope and search once again for the wonder and passion and truth in the world around them.

— by Danny Wall
For further reading: Qu Yuan Wikipedia Biography

Homemade Peanut Butter

There are a few things you take as a given in life. Death, taxes, and the fact that no one really eats peanut butter outside of North America.

I can’t say no one eats it *at all,* because you can find peanut butter if you look really hard. Usually in your friendly corner Costco or in an upscale, foreign-food friendly grocery store. Heck, one of my favorite places is a sandwich café that boasts a pretty tasty BLT that uses peanut butter. But as you can see, all of these require a bit out-of-your-way planning, especially if you forgot to pick some up and are staring at a thoroughly-scraped jar that you put on the shelf instead of throwing away the last time you used it…

Aside from scarcity, you got other problems of price and brand. It’s not uncommon to find a normal-sized jar ranging from 8 – 12 US dollars, and that’s pretty much universally going to be Skippy brand peanut butter. My favorite brand used to be Trader Joes All-Natural Unsalted peanut butter, but obviously that’s not going to work. You can’t even take those things on airplane carry-ons anymore. I will hold out to the bitter end to avoid anything Skippy, mostly due to the presence of the hydrogenated oils that mute the taste of what should be, you know, tasting like *peanuts.* There’s another reason, too, in that I can’t really look at Skippy and not be reminded of the nearly full century-long trademark battle that occurred because Skippy used to be an American icon and popular comic character, until someone ignored a court order and kept using the mark for their peanut butter. True Story.

But here’s the thing– peanuts are readily available and used throughout Asian cooking, as is peanut oil. I can make my own homemade peanut butter for almost a quarter the cost. Better tasting, more healthy, and cheaper. And all I have to do is spend a little time at the blender and deal with the clean-up afterward. Hmm. On second thought…. Ah, just kidding.

Peanut peanut butter

Homemade Peanut Butter

2 cups peanuts (unsalted, shelled)
1 1/2 tbsp peanut oil
1/2 tsp vanilla extract

Step One: Pulse the peanuts in the blender until they are reduced to crumbs.

Step Two: Add oil and blend. You’ll need to stop at several intervals to use a spatula to manually stir in the more creamy stuff at the bottom.

Step Three: When the peanuts are nearly broken down (when you don’t have to use a spatula anymore, after about 4 minutes), set the blender aside. Let it cool about 10 minutes or so, and then continue blending for another two minutes. Add a dash or two of sea salt at this point if you want.

That’s it!
Not many recipes call for the vanilla, but it really enhances the flavor when you eat it with fruit or jams. I sometimes add another 1 tbsp honey as well, but I don’t always like having have a sweet peanut butter.

Enjoy!