Monday, August 20, 2007

The Big Three Four

My husband loves surprises (planning them - that is). Every year for my birthday, he tries to top the last with a fun activity planned even though I would be happy just going out to a nice dinner. Since his birthday is just one month after mine, it sure sets a high bar!
This year, my birthday fell on a weekday. When I came home, he had already started dinner and the dining table was laid out with a printed menu that he created restaurant style.
I thought that the "Evening Activities" section was a nice touch. Knowing that I probably would choose the Ratatouille video game (the movie was too cute), he had gone to the video store to rent it out the previous day.

My birthday surprise was extended to the weekend, when he packed up gear, bought rowing gloves, and took us for a twilight kyaking trip to Sausalito on the Richardson bay with SeaTrek. The pictures below are a before, during and aftershot (with our instructors). We were able to row close to sea lions and where the houseboats docked along the bay. Overall, it was one of the best birthday ever!

Saturday, August 18, 2007

Emotional Intelligence

Which would you rather have, high IQ or high EQ? Daniel Goleman suggests that high IQ will only get you so far and that it's high EQ that distinguishes us in the workplace - measuring our self-awareness, self-confidence, and self-control. He cites the famous marshmallow experiment where kids are given one piece of marshmallow and are told that they can get two if they just wait to eat the first until the researcher returns after running errands. Only a third of the kids can actually hold out that long - delayed gratification.

At a recent talk at the Silicon Valley high tech firm I work at, Daniel Goleman came to speak and pointed out that our firm typically hires employees who typically have a small range of very high IQs but a wide range of EQs. Therefore, to suceed, it's those with the high EQ that matter. However, I disagree, at tech companies, those who are rewarded are the ones who can build and demonstrate immediate results. Those that maintain, sustain and scale are typically not in highly visible roles. To that extent, delayed gratificationi is not as valued. So does high EQ really matter for these companies? May only to the extent that it's related to Social Intelligence - how we interact with others. This is the topic of Daniel Goleman's latest book - which I'm eager to start.

Wednesday, August 15, 2007

Pineapple Fiber

This week I was researching ways to naturally supplement our diet with fiber and was led down an interesting path. There's an abundance of summer fruits in California right now - pluots, grapes, peaches, nectarines, pineapples, mangos, watermelon, honeydew - the list goes on. I figured one of these fruits would be a good source of fiber. I picked pineapple to Google since I always get little pineapple threads stuck in my teeth (which on second thought, I should have picked mangos).

Since the site wasn't explicit which part of the pineapple produce this wonderous fabric, I was imagining that perhaps it was the core. What would happen if we ate this as a dietary supplement or drank it down in a finely blended smoothie? But upon further research, I was disappointed to find that it's the pineapple leaves that makes piƱa. The picture from Wikipedia shows someone "scraping a pineapple leaf to reveal its fibers"
Leaf or not, pineapples do have quite a bit of fiber. Each cup contains 70 calories about 2 grams of fiber. Mangos though have even more 107 calories, 3g fiber per cup. compares the fiber content from various fruits, both fresh and dried. Guess which fruit is the king of fiber?

Monday, August 13, 2007

Asian Heat

Bill Buford's Heat describes his triumphs and trial as an apprentice in Mario Batali's restaurant Babbo from fine dicing carrots into perfect cubes to deboning dozens upon dozens of ducks. Then he takes us to his travels to Italy where he learns to make tortellini by hand and to meticulously butcher a whole pig. The book received rave reviews on Amazon.

Like these reviewers, I also found the life of an apprentice chef facinating and went on a search to find more stories in the same vein. I was recommended
The Nasty Bits by Anthony Bourdain, Roasting in Hell's Kitchen by Gordon Ramsey, and The Kitchen Diaries by Nate Slater. Most of these authors trained in Western European culinary arts where form is treated as equally important as taste.

Then it dawned on me that I couldn't find any books about an apprentice that aspired to be the next Martin Yan of Asian cooking. How could this be? Is it because there is no form in Asian cooking - who cares if carrots are perfectly diced?
Is it that there are too many different types of cuisine that could be considered Asian - Thai, Japanese, Chinese, Vietnamese - never mind that within Chinese, there are four main food regions: Peking, Shanghai, Szchwan, and Canton. Is it that Asian people don't know how to write or it would be considered too much of a risk to quit your day job to work as a "kitchen slave?"

How great would it be if someone would take up this challenge and give us some behind the scenes insight into some of the greatest Asian restaurants in the world (or even just in the US is fine too). I even have some potential one/two word titles picked out - Wok!, Gan Bei, 5-Spice, or MSG.