Sunday, May 29, 2011

How to Make Bread in Bamma-without an oven

1. Listen to your children ask for bread or toast for 8 days and instead feed them something that is supposed to be bread but tastes like a bad brioche and the consistency of chewy cotton with sweetened beans stuck in throughout. Be sure to carefully pick the red beans out of the center if they refuse to believe that said beans are “Chinese chocolate.” Be patient when every day the supposedly bright children seem surprised not to have a delivery from ABC bakery in Charlottesville or even a nice English Muffin.

2 Send daughter over to Indonesian neighbor’s house where she is given sticky rice balls with chicken inside and similar rice balls will be sent home with her. Kids will act incredibly satiated and start hanging out at next door neighbors house looking hungry.
The sight of hungry American children will lead the neighbor to lend a bread machine.

3. Go to the “big city” an hour away to buy supplies. This will be no small feat and will involve a driver and an 11-seater van that looks like something one of those crazy families on reality shows with 14 kids would drive around. Also bring a couple of Chinese graduate students to guide you through the big city. Walk through a park whose most interesting thing is the birds who are brought there for a conversation hour so they don’t get lonely. There will be 20 year old pieces of carnival equipment which the kids will not want to play on. Instead they will cling shyly to your legs on a hot jungle day. This is a Mekong river town…. On the way to the grocery store stop at a bookstore and purchase hilarious books for 75 cents with Chinese on one side on English on the other. Also purchase Legos for $2, art supplies and an ashtray with Barak Obama dressed in a Chinese military uniform. Pass two floors of giant tv’s playing tinker bell in Chinese. Endure one MASSIVE tantrum by the four-year old because he wants a toy, a computer, and/or a washing machine. Next go to Mei Mei CafĂ©, which serves Western Food. The pizza and milk shakes with actual ice cream will be a hit. Next walk to a bike store to purchase bicycle helmets, which turn out to cost more than the bikes themselves. Chinese people will all look at you like you are crazy for this making this purchase. Nobody will get your ESP or pantomime about what a pain in the butt recovering from a massive concussion is. Given the number and speed of motorcycles riding on sidewalk, try to persuade kids to wear helmets at all times when outside. Fail.

5. Go to the supermarket. Get pushed in a great mass of people upstairs where they do not have food but do have endless isles of plastic shoes, clothing and cosmetics. Gesticulate wildly for about 15 minutes trying to figure out where the ramp that takes you and the cart down from the clothes section to the food section is. The ramp will be delightfully full of crappy plastic things that the children will want as well as shrink-wrapped pickled chicken feet. But it will also have the first Q-tips spotted on this continent. Joy.

6. Suffer complete sensory overload from a crowded store full of brightly colored foods. Listen to the children ask for an unnamed sweet object every three seconds. Find the bulk section with rice and stuff that looks like four. Try with sign language to locate sticky rice, flour, and yeast. When sign language fails attempt to use a few Chinese words. When that fails gesticulate wildly while holding up some rolls. When that fails call the Indonesian woman on the phone and she will attempt to talk to the grocery store lady. But don’t forget that she is INDONESIAN not CHINESE so this will not work. Receive a text from said neighbor with the word for yeast. Still no luck. Give up and exit store. Go to the check out line with 96 individual containers of “pure milk” in a box and various other goodies. Attempt to use your new VISA acquired specifically for this trip. It will be cruelly rejected. Pay in cash. Find the English speaking graduate student and go back into the store. She will then speak to multiple people and they will present you a bag of stuff, which you will not notice is the wrong color to be yeast. Exit the store and the other English speaking graduate student will tell you to use that for dish washing. On the way home stop at the local super market in the small village where they will have individual packets of yeast labeled “yeast” in English—kind of like they do at Giant or Whole Foods.

6. Wake up Sunday morning excited to make bread. Realize the bread maker was purchased in Europe and will require an adapter to get from a European plug to a Chinese plug. This will involve unplugging the surge protector and trying three different converters. It will also flip the circuit in the kitchen. Next realize that the measurements are in grams, not Tsp etc… Attempt to google for conversions. Oops the computer will be in the kitchen without an Internet connection. Curse. Remember from NICU days that 500g is 1 pound and see what that does for you—not much. Hook up a second computer to the Internet for the tsp to gr conversion. In the middle of this go outside to chat with neighbors who all sweetly want to know if you’ve made bread yet. Somehow notice that five kids are in your house and your two boys are screaming and hitting each other. One is using your phone as a billy club. Go back inside and continue bread project. You will have to use one measuring cup for everything and a hot-and-sour soup spoon as a flour scoop. You will spill some and need to grab the bamboo broom so as to avoid tracking flour through the entire house. Push start on the bread maker and listen to your children ask if it’s ready every three minutes.

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