Friday, January 31, 2014

Skipper Snacks

There's been a renewed focus in these parts on the role of proper nutrition during training, both on and off the bike.

Let's knock the easy one out first: on the bike nutrition. That's easy because the correct answer to what one's allowed to eat during a training ride is nothing. "Eating is cheating," according to Jordan Ross.

Settled? Good.

Now let's talk about off the bike nutrition. At the end of a training ride, Lee Bumgarner can be seen stuffing his pie hole with beets. This article points to a study that demonstrates how beets are high in sodium nitrates, which apparently aides in athletic performance. Well guess what? The last time I checked, hot dogs are also high in sodium nitrates. There's hope, Rafal.

Others, like John Rokke, go for sardines. My first encounter with sardines and cycling was at last year's Twin Bing race. Coming pretty close to DFL there (again), I rolled up to the finish line and received a consolation hand up from John Rokke. It was a tin of sardines.
John Rokke's Sardine Handup. Photo credit: Michael Dixon
I don't know what I was expecting from Rokke, but it surely wasn't sardines. My face says it all.

Rokke's not the only one. Paul Webb's now on the sardines band wagon as well:

Many years ago, my kid brother Brendan taught me a lot about good nutrition. I've benefited ever since. It's not that I don't have an indulgence here and there. McDonald's French Fries to name one. But for the most part, I'm picky about what I put in my body. Hot dogs are not on that list.

Brendan's always been a big fan of omega-3 fatty acids found in fish like sardines. They are among the best sources of omega-3s. Of course, it was also Brendan who told me about herring. Herrings are basically larger versions of sardines, with proportionally equal amount of omega-3s. 

So one day, I went looking for herring. He recommended "Skipper Snacks."

I never found any Skipper Snacks, but I did find Kipper Snacks. I told him so the next time I saw him.

"You mean Skipper Snacks." he replied.

"No, Kipper Snacks. There's no "S". They're called Kipper Snacks." 

"There is when you sharpie an "S" in front of the "K" like I used to do when I worked at Vitamin Cottage."

Yeah, pretty good.

Friday, January 24, 2014

Would You Rather?

On a particularly cold and blustery lunch ride the other day, I began to search my mind in an attempt to not only understand why I was riding my bicycle in such frigid conditions, but at what point would I give-in and say enough is enough.

But I realized that if I gave up riding outside in the winter, then I'd have to choose between riding the trainer or not riding at all.

And since being tubby isn't an option, well, I logically concluded that I'd have to choose between the lesser of two evils: the deep freeze or the trainer.

Yeah, pretty good.

As I mulled this all over, other what-ifs scenarios began to thaw from my blockhead. I started speaking my thoughts aloud. Despite the feisty wind, the knitted hats under our helmets and my scarf muffling my voice, my only other friends silly enough to join me on such a ride, Shim and Leah, played along. It was what you'd might hashtag as '#goodtimes' on one's post-ride twitter feed.

Here's a few I/we came up with.

Would you rather...
A)  Ride for two hours when it's 35° F with 35 mph winds and gloomy?
B)  Ride for two hours when it's 5° F, calm and sunny?

How about an entire winter of only one of those options?

Would you rather...
A) Ride for two hours at 45° F and light rain?
B) Ride for two hours at 10° F, sunny but with 15 mph sustained winds?

Would you rather...
A) Ride for two hours in 80° F and heavy rain?
B) Ride for two hours in 30° F, sunny (dry) and calm?

Would you rather...
A) Ride for two hours alongside your favorite pro on his/her spare bike while you wear basketball shorts, a tank top and a pair of ratty old Chuck Taylor's?
B) Ride the entire length of the Keystone trail on a warm Saturday afternoon on a comfort/fat bike while wearing your favorite pro team's kit?

Would you rather...
A) Ride a specific sprint workout outside when it's 15° F, gloomy, 35 mph winds with 50 mph gusts?
B) Ride a specific sprint workout inside on a trainer while being forced to only watch Mark Savery's Instragram feed while you sprint?

Choose wisely: you'd better like Wheaton terriers. A lot.

Thanks for reading. Happy Friday

Oh my god, that was hilarious.

Friday, January 17, 2014

What To Do With Windy Days

With 50+ mph wind gusts in Omaha yesterday, my bike was grounded. On days like these, I'm happy that I have swimming that I can fall back on. I know I can always bank an hour workout in the indoor pool with my Omaha Masters swimming friends. It's either that, or pack my running shoes and run home from work. Not that anyone really cares, right, but I did that too.

But enough about me and my workouts. Let's talk about what Katherine likes to do on blustery days.

She likes to throw rubbish. Looky:

OK, that's a little joke. Katherine doesn't really throw rubbish on windy days. She doesn't condone that behavior, but she may fantasize about it from time to time.

You see in Singapore, the government is hypersensitive about maintaining a clean city. For this reason, Singapore passed the Control of Manufacture Act in 1992, banning the sale of chewing gum throughout the country. That's no joke. Today if you go into a convenience store in Singapore, you'll find lots of candy, but you won't find chewing gum in the aisle. In fact, the only way you can purchase chewing gum is if you're trying to quit smoking and have a script for nicotine gum. And that's locked up in the pharmacy. And they will take down your name.

Outside of that, you'll have to smuggle it in from somewhere else, like from neighboring Malaysia. True story: most Singaporeans do just that, keeping a private stash in their homes. Imagine what a pouch of Big League Chew would go for on the black market there! Anyway, if you do chew gum while in Singapore, just make sure you don't spit it on the ground. Littering is an offense that they take seriously. If you get caught, penalties are steep. They won't cane you, but they'll make your wallet hurt. They don't mess around.

The good news of all of this is that you'll never find a wad of chewing gum stuck under the subway bench. The bad news is that if you're really 'jonesing for some chewing gum, you'll never find a wad of it stuck under the subway bench, either.

Now, back to throwing rubbish. Singaporeans like to joke that on windy days they're free to throw rubbish without fear of reprisal. Why? Because the trash will swept up and carried away into neighboring countries Malaysia or Indonesia.

Only here, Katherine's rubbish would end up in Council Bluffs.Yay!

Yeah pretty good.

Friday, January 10, 2014

The Chicken and the Duck

On our last night in Singapore, the entire family went out to dinner. Typical of tight-knit Asian families, this meant anyone who could make it: grandparents, parents, in-laws, children, etc. All told, there were 16 of us. I sat in between my niece, Felicia, and my brother-in-law, Jordan. My Mum sat across the table a couple seats away. After several courses were served, she asked me in Malay if I liked the food.

"Makan good?" Mum asked.

I pointed to the chili crab and the mixed veggies and gave it the thumbs up. I then waved my hand dismissively at the kuay teow and said that I didn't like it as much.

"Tsiam pa?" she asked while patting her stomach.

She was speaking to me in her mother tongue Hainanese. Of course, patting one's stomach is universal for "are you full?"

"Tsiam-be-liau," I replied to indicate I was full. I patted my stomach a couple times for extra emphasis.

Jordan witnessed this entire transaction and asked me, "Wow -- you understand what my Mum is saying?"

I turned to Jordan and said, "Your Mum speaks many languages, but English is not one of them. And since I don't speak Chinese, we settled on a middle ground. We speak Malay to one another."

A wave of understanding washed over Jordan's face. "Oh, so you know Malay."


Laughter broke out around the table.

I continued. "This is why Katherine refers to your Mum and I as 'the chicken and the duck'. We squawk and honk and mill about until an improbable understanding has been reached."

While they laughed so more, I looked across the table at my Mum. She had a big smile on her face. I gave her a thumbs up and flashed my best toothy grin back at her.

Yeah, Pretty Good.

Monday, January 6, 2014

Shanghai Dumplings, Part 2 of 2

We managed to get a table at Hong Kong's Shanghai 369 Restaurant. It was our last meal in HK. I am happy to report that they did indeed have Shanghai dumplings in the heart of Hong Kong, right along Eric O'Brien Road. 

This was a local restaurant. You'd prolly miss it if you weren't specifically hungry for Shanghai food in a Cantonese city. The menu was large with many offerings, the staff was friendly, and the food was quite tasty. Especially the Shanghai dumplings. 

You've been vindicated, Rafal Doloto. There are Shanhai dumplings in Hong Kong. 

In the end, I'm glad that Rafal and I didn't disagree on whether one can find preserved duck in Hong Kong, too. (It's there, and it wasn't very appealing to my eyes or nose). 

Thursday, January 2, 2014

The Search for Shanghai Dumplings

A few weeks ago, my buddy Rafal Doloto was excited to hear that I'd soon be visiting two great Asian food paradises: Singapore and Hong Kong. He wasted no time in asking about it. Foods that he was interested in centered around various body parts, major organs and appendages of animals that most westerners would never think of eating. Stuff like pig brain soup, chicken feet, frog porridge, braised trotters, etc. Needless to say, stuff you won't be able to find any of that at McDonalds. Even in Asia. But then again, if you really think about it, what do you think made up the sausage McMuffin you had recently back home?

Now, I'd consider myself an adventurous eater, but I tend to shy away from the major organs. I don't do feet either. I just can't keep but thinking where those feet have been. I mean, I know where my feet have been. But the chicken's? Um, yuck. To my credit, I did try fish eyeballs once. They were surprisingly tough, like eating a pencil eraser. Regardless, I don't eat brain, heart, livers or chicken feet.

To get Rafal back on common ground, I steered the conversation away from those finer delicacies and headed toward a more neutral ground: Dim Sum.

For those who don't know Dim Sum is a traditional brunch of small dish items, all served a la carte. The meal is meant to be a long one and best shared with lots of family/friends over several hours.

Good dim sum is very labor intensive. Each carte has a wide range of items on it, from what I'd consider easy to challenging to the palate. For example, the sticky rice wrapped in lotus leaf is a crowd pleasing staple. If you want chicken feet or pig's knuckle, well, you can find it there too. 

Anyway, Rafal sensed that I wasn't game for jawing up on pig intestine soup, so he asked if I'd ever had Shanghai dumplings. To my knowledge, I hadn't. He went on to explain that normal dumpling are typically served in a soup, but Shanghai dumplings are inverted: the soup is encased inside the dumplings. He was adamant that I try it. 

Now I don't know much about anything. But I do know that the people of Shanghai live far away from Hong Kong. They are different cultures and don't even speak the same language (not even close). On these grounds, I objected that since we were going to be in Cantonese Hong Kong, we wouldn't be having any of Shanghai's dumplings in our Dim Sum. It'd be something like ordering fish at Gorat's Steak house in Omaha.

Rafal and I got in a big fight about it. He insisted that Shanghai dumplings would be easy to find in both Singapore and in Hong Kong.

Well, I've been here nearly three weeks and still haven't spotted Shanghai dumplings. I've gone to street vendors, hawker centers, food courts and fine Dim Sum restaurants. Not of sign of Shanghai dumplins on the menu.  Sorry Rafal, but I think you've been sorely mistaken.

Here's a few snaps of what I have discovered:

Chicken and Duck Necks. Mmm. Can't get enough of that

World Famous Din Tai Fung didn't have Shanghai dumplings

Hand made Dim Sum at a fancy Dim Sum restaurant in Singapore

Lots of varieties on the menu, but no Shanghai dumplings

Another Dim Sum restaurant in Singapore, the 7th Floor Red Star. Sorry Rafal, no dumplings-Shanghai

Hawker center food in Singapore. I think Rafal would have momentarily forgotten about Shanghai dumplings here

Hong Kong's famous street vendor "fast food". If you look closely, you might see octopus on a stick.

Ho Hung Kee Congee/Wantun shop is one of the most famous in Hong Kong. It earned a coveted one star from Michelin (like Zagat's). 

Lots of incredibly delicious food here, but no Shanghai dumplings

Unfortunately, time is running out. I may go home without ever trying a Shanghai dumpling.

But there's hope. On this morning's run through downtown Hong Kong, I discovered this gem. We might have to give it a try before leaving HK.

Cheers from Asia. Thanks for reading.