Another bowl of ramen in Toronto

Kenzo Ramen (Mississauga location: Burnhamthorpe Road West by Mavis Road)

Whenever I’m in Toronto, I like to try to get in at least one bowl of ramen into my itinerary.  I’d gone on a bit of a ramen adventure in Toronto during a 4.5 day trip there last February (read about it here) and though I never wrote about it, I also had some delicious ramen at Momofuku Noodle House as well. Unfortunately, when I’m staying in the suburbs, the concentration of ramen shops in the downtown area does me no good.

This time, I thought I’d lucked out. Kenzo Ramen, which I had yet to try, has 5 locations in the Toronto area, including in the suburban city of Mississauga. We arrived there just past 6pm on a weekday to find a good-sized but fairly empty restaurant (score!?). I should note that by the time we left, all of the tables were full. We walked in to Irashaimase (welcome)…a good start. We ordered takoyaki as an appetizer (at an expensive $8.99 for 6 pieces), and a tonkotsu ramen and a tonkotsu miso ramen (both bowls are $10.95 each).

Takoyaki

Takoyaki

The takoyaki were a decent size but again, pricey for (a) what you get and (b) what it entails.

Tonkotsu Ramen

Tonkotsu Ramen

Tonkotsu Miso Ramen

Tonkotsu Miso Ramen

I expect tonkotsu broth to be rich, flavourful, and hearty. It should taste like pork. The charsiu (BBQ pork) at a really good place is wrapped, not just a piece of pork, and should melt in your mouth. I did not enjoy the tonkotsu broth at Kenzo, neither in flavour nor in richness, and the charsiu at other ramen places in Toronto is much better (though the flavour at Kenzo was decent). Unfortunately, despite not having eaten a bowl of ramen in over 6 months (read: we were ramen-hungry), we did not feel satiated by this ramen.

Sigh.

It also took a while for our dishes to make their way to our table, despite there not being too many customers ahead of us.

Kenzo Ramen on Urbanspoon

Stimulating Saturdays: What is ethical eating?

To you, what does it mean to eat ethically? Off the top of my head, ethical eating would mean consuming food that has been ethically raised and obtained. Of course, that interpretation alone in and of itself is open to much interpretation. What it means to one person to be “ethically raised” might not be ethical enough for the next person. However, I saw this trailer for a book (yes…I wondered to myself what a ‘book trailer’ is) that made me rethink ethical eating.

The trailer is for the book, Behind the Kitchen Door, by Saru Jayaraman. I haven’t read it yet but it raises a very crucial point: the food that you are eating at a restaurant may meet your definition of ethical eating, but are the people behind the scenes of your food being treated ethically? And if not, can eating at that restaurant still be ethical?

I am not too familiar with the minimum wage situation in the United States but was shocked to see that for tipped workers, the minimum wage is just over $2 per hour. There have also been numerous attempts to have the minimum wage raised, including a campaign by the Restaurant Opportunities Centers United.

The minimum wage in Canada for all workers is higher than $2 per hour but is still under the poverty line and has been in the media spotlight again recently. In Canada, each of the provinces and territories set their own minimum wage. In the province of Ontario where I live, the provincial government just announced that it will be raising the minimum wage to $11, effective June 1, 2014, ending the freeze that has been in effect since 2010. Decisions on when and by how much to raise the minimum wage have been haphazard in the past. To address this, the provincial government also promised to introduce legislation enabling annual increases to the minimum wage, linked to the rate of inflation, that would be announced each year on April 1 and becoming effective on October 1 of the same year. Critics continue to argue that these announcements by the government are not enough to address the fact that the minimum wage is still below the poverty line (for a person working full time year-round). I can’t imagine only earning $2 per hour at any job. I can’t imagine having to support a family at $11 per hour.

So again, I ask, what does it mean to eat ethically?

Some interesting links related to early parenting

Without too many close people around me who have recently had babes, I find myself looking to the internet for discussions around various issues, such as breastfeeding and sleep. On second thought, I bet that even if I were surrounded with many babe-toting friends, I would still be looking to the internet for more information; thus is our lifestyle. Anyways, I’ve quickly learned that for each piece of advice I read, there is a contradictory piece of advice on the next website. Some interesting pieces that I’ve come across during the past few weeks:

The Truth about Maternity Leave

As I look down at the peaceful face of my babe, napping in my arms, I feel blessed to be able to spend so much time watching him grow and interact more and more with the big world around him. But there are definitely days when I wish I could just wake up, press snooze a few times, get dressed, head to work, and do desk work for the day and chat with coworkers…oh and do things like eat lunch while it’s hot but in no big hurry or go to the bathroom alone. It just sounds so easy! (Not diminishing the fact that the corporate workplace has its own challenges….) Some days, I have dinner on the table by the time my partner gets home from work, the sink is clear of dishes, the house is relatively together, and I feel great. I’ve found we do really well on days where we get outside to go and see a movie or to a baby play group. Other days, I wonder where my baby’s snooze button is hidden, where I can find energy to even get some lunch ready for myself, and dinner? Yeah right.

Actually, I should mention how thankful I am that I get maternity leave at work and that this leave is one year long. I was speaking to an American colleague days before my maternity leave was to commence and learned that her leave was a mere EIGHT weeks! Of course, we are both blessed to even have ANY leave at all.

The truth about maternity leave is that it challenges you in ways you may not have been challenged previously. The day can seem to last an eternity yet the time on a larger scale seems to pass much too quickly. You’ll be at your best and you’ll be at your worst. Contradictions. Thus is maternity leave.

The Wait-It-Out Method of Sleep Training

I’ve learned that sleep is a hugely popular topic associated with a baby. Moms ask each other about sleep, moms get asked about sleep from friends and strangers, moms question themselves about sleep…. Where should baby sleep at night or during naps, how long should baby sleep at night or during naps, should baby be on a routine, how do you get behavioural changes out of baby (for example, let them cry until they resign themselves to a new routine), etc.

I really enjoyed reading this post dubbed the wait-it-out method (a twist on the popular cry-it-out method), mostly because it resonated with me. I don’t know why society seems to expect babies to live on the same type of schedule and within the same constraints as adults, right from birth.

Toddler and Baby Sleep Timeline

As I read or hear about triumphs from moms about their babies sleeping through the night, I wonder what my expectations should be around baby sleep needs. I found this post to be the most helpful in understanding what is happening with babe as he grows.

The Good Baby

“Is he being a good baby?” I’ve been asked this numerous times by friends or in line at the store. This is a great post on the ridiculousness of this question as it stands literally. Yes, of course my baby is good. I don’t think he can be malicious or manipulative…yet. He’s so pure.

Did you mean to ask if he sleeps through the night or doesn’t cry at all? Because those are ridiculous measures for my baby as well. My baby sleeps like a baby and uses crying as a communication means. I don’t think it’s normal to not cry as an adult so I’m not sure why babies are any exception. Of course, truly colicky babies cry in excess but some crying by everyone, including babies, should be fine.

So when you ask me, “is he being a good baby”, what exactly do you mean?

Stimulating Saturdays: edX course on Food

I recently learned about a great learning tool called edX. They offer some really interesting online courses  from various universities, such as UC Berkley, MIT, and Harvard, for free.

There is currently a course called Food for Thought (CHEM181X), taught by three professors at McGill University (Montreal, Canada)., covering the basic science behind food and popular issues related to food and health. There are several short video lectures per week, complemented by quizzes and surveys. Your level of participation is completely up to you; there are assignments and an active discussion board for the course as well. Perhaps one of the neat things about this and presumably all edX courses is the diversity in “students”. Just scanning the classroom introductions on the discussion board, there are people from Montreal to California to Mexico to Lebanon.

On becoming sustenance

It is a humbling and challenging experience becoming somebody else’s sole source of sustenance. That’s right. You as food. An experience unparalleled thus far in my life and possibly one of the most difficult. That is not to say that it is without its rewards (which I’m not going to discuss as these are widely preached already) but wow, it is tough.

I’m talking about breastfeeding. I think a lot about food and issues surrounding it and this is right up that alley…except that I hadn’t really thought much about it until now.

Throughout pregnancy, I was anxious about labour and delivery. To be exact, I was wary about the pain. Loads of people shared their own labour stories with me in the days and months leading up to my due date. However, my labour and delivery was thankfully pretty straightforward and frankly, not something that I would call “painful” in hindsight. Turns out I should’ve been anxious about becoming someone else’s sustenance.

Having attended prenatal classes and a breastfeeding information class, I am disappointed that not once did they mention what women commonly experience during the first few weeks of nursing. Pain. Soreness. Challenges. They talk about latching and signs of good feeds and show you pamphlets and brochures laden with pictures that portray nothing but blissful parents with their babes. All of that is important but what about cracked, bleeding nipples or otherwise sore nipples that don’t get enough of a break because you need to feed your baby every two hours? What about other issues that you may run into, like inverted nipples, over- or under supply of milk, or tongue tie?

Seeing your baby, red-faced, frantic, and crying hard, waiting to be fed and knowing that while you are its sole source of food (of its growth and well-being), you want nothing more than to hide your extremely sore nipples…but not being able to…and the toe-curling pain of an hour nursing session that ensues…it is more than enough to test your perseverance and the strength of your spirit. While you are already vulnerable from your lack of continuous sleep and chaos of trying to understand a baby, you need to figure out what to do to alleviate pain or address other nursing issues. Why had nobody mentioned that breastfeeding just might not be that easy and that it just might be painful? I felt ill-prepared. It’s difficult enough trying to ascertain whether or not your baby is latching well or not; after all, one can watch many videos and read sheets of instructions/diagrams but it’s only with time-after-time experience that one can really understand success and failure in this regard. When you have compounded issues on top of the ‘basic’ mechanics of latch and suck, nursing sessions can start to feel like a nightmare…a psychological hurdle followed by a physical hurdle.

Whenever a mom-to-be asks me for advice, I’ll talk about breastfeeding. That it’s important to acknowledge how you’re feeling and to feel confused from all of the differing (and sometimes contradictory) advice that you’ll get from those around you (doctors, lactation consultants, loved ones and friends). Many a time I felt like a failure for being scared to nurse and trying to put it off for just 5 more minutes…and it’s important to know that other moms have gone through similar pain and the same feeling of failure or wanting to give up.

It can be tough and it can be rough becoming somebody else’s sole source of sustenance. We should talk about it, worrying less about ‘scaring people off of breastfeeding’ and more about supporting mothers-to-be in the reality of what they may face in the days and weeks

Cooked bun?

I cannot believe that it is the end of October already! The leaves on the trees have gone through their colour changes and, for the most part, fallen off the trees. The temperature is starting to dip below 0C overnight (and sometimes into the day – eek!). The wind is crisp. But I also don’t know how this year has passed by so quickly!

Granted, this year has been different for me. Several months of nausea, a summer of feeling like a walking oven with stubby toes and fingers, and a fall of feeling large. All the while, moving slower and slower (what a different way to enjoy the world around me). I still find it hard to believe – and really, quite mesmerized – that there’s a little person growing inside of me…and as the third trimester draws to a finale, I look so forward to seeing this little person!

Looking back on the past nine months, here is some advice that I was given early on that I now have learned to appreciate:

  • “Towards the end, you’ll just want to be done with being pregnant.”  I didn’t really understand how one could ever feel this way, particularly since the event separating pregnancy from no longer being pregnant is labour. Which I equate with PAIN. A somewhat controlled train ride that cannot be stopped. Did I mention, pain!?
  • “You may be able to squat now but you probably won’t be able to squat much later.”  Yeah right, I told my friend. I like to joke that I’m channeling the Asian in me when I say that I can squat quite comfortably. Yup, I was naive.
  • “You’ll waddle soon.”  I think this goes along the lines of everything will become uncomfortable to do. I thought the waddle was an exaggerated move done by some pregnant women to further exemplify just how pregnant they are. Nope. It’s hormonal and your pelvic area really doesn’t make it easy to not waddle towards the end.

It’s true that it’s quite hard to imagine what it feels like to be pregnant without actually going through it yourself. Much like many other life experiences. The biggest thing that continues to cement itself in my head, particularly throughout this pregnancy, is the wonder of the human body. It does so much on its own without our conscious control and it’s so absolutely amazing.

Apples!

This fall, I’ve had a stronger-than-usual hankering for pears and apples. When a friend offered to pick apples for us from a local orchard, I said “Yes please!” right away. Along came 10lb of MacIntosh apples…so what do we do but cook up and can our first ever batch of homemade applesauce. The apples were sweet enough that no additional sugar was needed. We decided not to add any spices (nutmeg, cinnamon, etc) either, so this is a pretty plain jane batch of applesauce.

Beautiful Macs

Beautiful Macs

Quartered apples, ready for reduction

Quartered apples, ready for reduction

Immersion blended

Immersion blended

Canned applesauce!

Canned applesauce!

Looking forward to eating this stuff in March, when winter just doesn’t feel like it’s ending anytime soon….