Dave's Sketch Journal

Drawing is taking a line for a walk. - Paul Klee

Sketching in the Park

ParkSketchingI decided to do some sketching at a park close by. In America this would be no big deal. People might glance over their shoulder as they passed by, but it wouldn't be a circus.

But in China sketching in public is really a big deal, at least based on my experience this morning. Could it be because I'm a foreigner?

They bring all their friends and kids over to watch. I had just a few hangers-on when I began the sketch. But in just a few minutes there were 16 people crowded around me, asking questions in a Chinese dialect that I didn't understand.  I got way more attention that I felt comfortable getting.

I really and truly tried to answer their questions but I just couldn't understand their local dialect, it just wasn't going to happen for me. How annoying.

It seemed so surreal, like a dream. I kept thinking: "Don't they have better things to do than watch a guy in a weird hat and vest sketch umbrellas?"

Keep the dream alive: Hit the snooze button.

The Marinara Marathon Meal

Often when I travel I miss some of the meals I can make at home. I love a big Italian Sausage spaghetti meal with fresh bread and a big red.

Back in the states I usually get the sausage, marinara sauce, and Rex Goliath Merlot from Walmart. Easy pizzy.

When I get home I nuke the sausage and then slice and brown them in a saucepan. I caramelize some sweet onions and add a clove of garlic until browned and then dump in the purchased marinara sauce and lightly simmer. Finally I add the previously browned sausage to the sauce, add wine (after sampling first, always sample the wine), simmer and pour over olive oiled noodles. Serve with fresh bread. Wow.

All that has changed since arriving here.

First off, I can't find the hot spicy sausage at our China Walmart. I'll have to settle for hamburger meatballs.

Second, the pre-made marinara sauce costs an arm and a leg at the foreigner's market. (It can't be found at the Walmart here.)

What is a chef to do?

Make my own sauce, that's what. How hard can it be? How long can it take? I'll tell you how long, about two hours.

Ruth bought some fresh tomatoes from the market downstairs, dropped them on the counter, and left for the day. I was in sick so thought I'd try my hand at this marinara-making-menagerie.

I researched for this event on the Internet (gotta love the Internet). Didn't seem that hard. First I have to remove the skins from the tomatoes. It's called "blanching." (Yeah, trying to throw a little education in here so no one says they never learn anything from Dave's insomnia curing blog.)

I dumped the tomatoes into boiling water after which I then tossed them into ice water. I got a little mixed up between the pot boiling in the kitchen and the Internet directions on my computer in the living room. So instead of 5-10 tomatoes in hot water for 15 seconds, I put 15 tomatoes in the hot water for 5-10 minutes. (Okay, so this was my first attempt.)

I then removed the skins and seeds. That was the easy part. Next was the two hour simmering marathon. Every 15 minutes I'd get up to stir the pot of tomatoes, onions, spices and herbs.

It all worked out in the end. By the time I was done with the sauce I didn't have the energy to start on the hamburger so I just went meatless.

So much time, so much energy.

I keep forgetting . . . everything is manual here.

Chop your own wood, and it will warm you twice.  - Henry Ford


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