Quinoa and Race

Quinoa

Quinoa grain; Source: Wikipedia

Recently, I read an academic paper titled, Race, Status, and Biodiversity: The Social Climbing of Quinoa. I found it to be super fascinating and I wanted to share a part of it with you. It explores the concept of racialization of crops with a specific focus on quinoa.

For those not familiar with it, quinoa is a grain. It is cooked in the same way as rice and has a similar nutrient composition as rice or wheat. It originated in the Andes and is mainly cultivated in Peru and Bolivia. The plant is related to spinach and amaranth. The leaves of the plant are edible but not commonly found.

Race, in this context, has a broader definition than the one we use today. It is just a classification system used to categorize plants/animals/people based on slight differences. Historically, it was used to differentiate between species of animals. Today we use it, most commonly, in relation to people. This study suggests that the plant races, specifically quinoa, is interwoven with the races of a people.

This topic is particularly relevant today when quinoa has become a popular health food around the world. The healthfulness of quinoa has increased consumption and thus increased cultivation. But quinoa production is largely limited to the Andean region. This is where the plant originated and this is where people have been consuming it for thousands of years.

Like any food crop, there are many varieties of quinoa but there are certain varieties that are more desirable for export. And that means, the people who grow those make more money and are more successful. Historically, different people groups have grown different varieties. This means that there are other Andean peoples that continue to grow different ancient varieties. It makes sense that the race of quinoa gets tied to the races of the extremely diverse Andean people.

The link between race and quinoa can be an useful thing. In fact this racialization can be one way of preserving landraces and biodiversity. There are Andeans with the knowledge and experience needed for preserving these varieties. They continue to grow the varieties that we, as outsiders, do not consume. The interconnectedness between human and plant races give us a better understanding of both plants as well as the history and culture of people linked to it.

I want to spend more time thinking about the stories behind the food I eat. I do not eat quinoa for many reasons, including the fact that I very much dislike the taste. I try not to make my food choices completely take over my enjoyment of food. But having studied what I did and being a lifelong academic, I am just inclined to analyse these things.

If you would like to read the entire paper, you can find it here. It is open-source and free for all.

I would love to hear your thoughts on the matter so please do comment.

Soloists dominate first half of 2017

So far, 2017, has been a slightly underwhelming year for K-Pop. There haven’t been that many outstanding tracks in the first half of the year. Many of my favorite groups released mediocre tracks which meant my Top 10 list had a lot more soloists than usual. Considering this, I am happy that a number of excellent albums that have come out this year.

These are not necessarily the most popular artists and these are albums that I might have easily overlooked. But there is some really good music that I hope listeners do not miss out on. As with all album listens, it really helps to read the lyrics in order to better appreciate the works. These albums may not have individual tracks that really stand out but the albums, as a whole, are cohesive and well-crafted.

Jonghyun- The Collection: Story Op.2

Jonghyun_story_op2

I have been a big fan of Jonghyun’s solo work and his last album She Is was one of my favorites last year. I enjoy his quirky style and I see his albums as an opportunity for him to experiment outside the SHINee style. Honestly, I was pretty disappointed by the title track, Lonely. I did not expect the rest of the album to be much different. I was pleasantly surprised when I gave the entire album a listen. The songs are not necessarily linked to each other and therefore have a lot more variety. The compilation album is entirely written and co-produced by Jonghyun himself. As always, the highlight is his unique vocals.

Favorite track: 따뜻한 겨울 (Our Season)

 

Zion. T- OO

Zion.T_-_OO

Many feared that we would lose the Zion. T style music after he moved to YG Entertainment but OO assured us that we can continue to expect his unique music no matter what company he is with. In this album he sticks to his signature R&B style with some hip-hop and jazz. As with much of his work, OO makes for easy listening in large part because of his laid back vocals. This whole album goes to further establish his musical identity while also showcasing his skills as an artist.

Favorite track: Complex (feat. G-Dragon)- you need the lyrics to really appreciate why G-Dragon is such a great choice for a featuring artist.

 

Jung Joon Young- The First Person

jung-joon-young-the-first-person

I enjoy pretty much all the music Jung Joon Young has ever released. First Person shows a different side of Joon Young where, instead of the usual rock sounds, his deep vocals take center stage. This album has more emotional and melancholic tracks. It highlights his versatility and ability to create some excellent ballads while staying true to his style.

Favorite tracks: Sympathy (Orchestral version), Echo

Akdong Musician (AKMU) – Winter

AKMU_Winter_album_cover

Although, I have enjoyed all of AKMU’s previous title tracks, I had never been tempted to check out their full albums. Winter was an exception. This album really defines and establishes the AKMU sound. Their ability to make fun, lively songs about everyday things, is what sets them apart. Winter gives them another opportunity to show off that style while still maintaining a sense of growth.

Favorite tracks: Play Ugly, Reality

 

PSY- 4×2=8

PSY_4X2=8

It is easy to forget that there was an entire 10 track album behind I LUV IT and New Face. You really have to check out the lyrics to understand what makes the album special. The themes presented in the tracks include, references to his own works, his relationships with other people, and his own growth. The collaboration tracks are particularly well done.

Favorite tracks: LOVE (feat. Taeyang), Auto Reverse (feat. Tablo) [It is hard for me to be unbiased when it comes to Tablo but their track, about fears of growing old and being forgotten, is my favorite.]

One word I would use to describe all of the albums I listed would be introspective. Whether the artist is defining their musical style or making observations about their own lives, the content for each of these albums is very personal. With all the latest comeback announcements, I am hoping the rest of the year is better for K-Pop. I look forward to more great albums in the next half of the year.

Are there other albums that you would consider must-listens of 2017? Do let me know so that I can continue to explore.

The Incredibly Versatile Eggplant

Aubergines_Three_Types

Types of Eggplant; Source: Wikimedia

 

I eggplant aka aubergine is my favorite vegetable. It is extremely versatile and has been incorporated into cuisines from around the world. Summer is eggplant season and the best time to think about the many ways in which one could use this vegetable. I eat eggplant at least once a week during this season and I still don’t get sick of it because there seem to be an unlimited number of ways to consume it. Here I will mention a few ways in which I like to eat it and briefly describe my version of eggplant parmesan.

Choosing and preparing eggplant

HK_SYP_Best_of_Best_Vegetable_purple_Eggplant_Aug-2012

Japanese Eggplant; Source: Wikimedia

Eggplant comes in hundreds of shapes and sizes. The 3 types I see most often, are the small egg shaped Indian kind, the long skinny Japanese kind, and the more common, large, American grocery store kind.

Pick eggplants that look shiny and taut. As eggplants gets older, the skin tends to look dull. When you cut it open, pay attention to the seeds. A lot of seeds are also an indicator of an older vegetable. An older vegetable is much more likely to be bitter. If have an older eggplant, cut, salt and drain the vegetable for 10-15 minutes before you use it. This should help reduce some of the bitterness. 

What to do with eggplant

These are just some suggestions for my favorite ways to eat eggplant.

In Italian style cooking- in pasta, in a veggie lasagna, or an eggplant parmesan.

In ratatouille.

In a Middle Eastern eggplant dip – Baba Ganouj

Since eggplants originated in Asia, there seem to be a million ways to cook them Asian-style. In India, we stuff them, fry them, or make a spicy roasted side. You could stir fry them Chinese style with a sauce. You can make the Korean side dish, Gaji-namul. It goes well in Thai style curries. You could even pan fry it Japanese style.

 

No- Fry Eggplant Parmesan

When cooking for a group, eggplant parmesan is one of my go-to recipes. You make some noodles to go with it and you have an easy dinner. A 13 by 9 inch pan of eggplant parmesan makes about 10 servings. As always, I do not have exact measurements, just a general idea of what I do. This dish does require some advance preparation but not much hands-on time. 

Method

Slice the eggplant into circles and salt well. Leave in a colander for about half hour. The eggplant should lose some water as it sits. Rub off some of the excess salt from the eggplant and coat in a mixture of flour, salt and pepper. Dip pieces in beaten egg and then coat with breadcrumbs. Place on oiled baking sheet and cook at 350 degrees for about half an hour or until it is cooked. Once eggplant is roasted, layer your baking dish with red sauce (recipe here), eggplant, mozzarella, and repeat until complete. Add some parmesan to the last layer of cheese and bake for another 15 minutes. Let cool for a bit before cutting into it. 

Throwback Thursday: Forgotten Hits

I am still in the process of writing up a post about my experience at KCON NY 2017. In the meantime, I wanted to share some tracks performed at the event. These are some of my favorites by the artists but I had kind of forgotten about these tracks until I saw them performed live.

Zion. T- Yanghwa Bridge

Zion. T was, hands down, the best performer of KCON NY 2017. He was the only solo performer and no one was prepared for him. The moment the man stepped on the stage, the entire atmosphere changed. The screaming stopped. The staff who were running around stopped to sit down and enjoy this performance. If you get a chance to check out the lyrics, you will have a better understanding of why this song resonates with many.

 

BEAST- Beautiful Night

I don’t think any of us fans, expected Highlight to perform any of their BEAST songs. We were absolutely overjoyed when they performed not one but three BEAST tracks. Although the performances were cheerful and fun, there were a lot of teary eyed fans, who never expected to be able to see BEAST perform again. They ended the evening with this track that kept remind me of Hyun-seung.

 

CNBlue- Can’t Stop

This song holds a special place in my heart as the first K-Pop song I remember listening to. I was fortunate enough to share my experience, of watching CNBLUE perform this track, with my friend that introduced me to K-Pop. I had not listened to them in a while but their performance reminded me that they continue to make excellent music.

 

What was the first K-Pop song you ever listened to?

Mid-year Best of K-Pop 2017

I had to make a list of my favorite K-Pop songs from 2017. I thought I would share it here as well. I would say it is a pretty diverse list in terms of musical styles but there are only 2 female artists. There are some lesser known artists and even some rookies.

Here are my top 10 in no particular order:

Changmo- Maestro

Changmo is a relatively new rapper and is signed to Dok2’s Ambition Musik. He has become very popular, very fast and it makes sense because his songs are excellent. This track, Maestro is what introduced me to his work. Lately, I see his name every where. His track for Voice OST was one of my favorites. He also collaborated with Hyolyn for a tropical house track, Blue Moon. I also found out that he was recently nominated for a BET award. The guy is going places and I look forward to his work.

Highlight- It’s Still Beautiful

Highlight is my favorite K-Pop group and I already reviewed their entire album, Calling You. It’s Still Beautiful was their pre-release and it was better than anything I could have imagined from the group. The guys have never sounded better.

I’M- Save Me

To be very honest, I had no idea who this guy was until I looked him to write this post. Turns out I’M is the stage name for former Topp Dogg member Seogoong. I don’t know much about Topp Dogg or their music but I am glad this guy is doing solo work. It is not what I would expect from an artists’ solo debut. It is much more interesting and that’s what makes it such a good song.

FTISLAND- Wind

I must admit, I didn’t pay much attention to FTISLAND until I watched one of their members take part in a gaming competition against GOT7. Then I heard, Take Me Now and I was a fan. I cannot believe that a K-Pop group has been together for 10 years and stuck to their roots as a rock group. And as a 10th anniversary song, you need an epic song and Wind fits the bill perfectly.

 

Kriesha Chu- Trouble

She was runner up on K-Pop Star 6. She is one of the cutest K-Pop idols and has a great voice. This is a happy and fun track produced by the awesome, Yong Jun Hyung and Kim Tae Ju duo. This is not their usual style of music but I am very happy to see them do something so different.

 

B.I.G- 1.2.3

It is hard to believe that B.I.G has been around since 2014. They are one of those groups that have never gained much recognition. But they keep coming back with solid tracks. This is the song that I think should help them gain attention. I am a fan of songs that are truly pop without so much of the hip-hop or EDM influences. 1.2.3 is simple pop at heart with some elements of disco and funk. Definitely their best tack to date.

 

SF9- Easy Love

Having this track on my list just makes me happy because I saw them live at KCon this past weekend. SF9 can definitely be considered successful rookies. They have put out good tracks back to back. It seems like it is essential for new groups to make constant comebacks and remain in the public eye until they are established enough to make 1 release a year. SF9 has definitely gotten noticed and it looks like they are here to say.

 

Jerastar- The Dream in Dreams

This is probably the most interesting song on this list. Another, relatively unknown artist with a unique voice. I don’t know much about the artist except that she is the singer-songwriter and also writes all her own lyrics. I hope this track gets her plenty of positive reviews so. that she can continue making great music.

 

Crucial Star- You Can Rest (feat. Babylon)

Crucial Star has been around for a really long time. He is rapper and producer. He has done quite a few collaborations and has been a featured artist on plenty of tracks. This is not a typical hip-hop track. This is a much slower track that works perfectly with Crucial Star’s rapping style and for Babylon’s super smooth vocals. The music video is wonderful and adds to the appeal of this song. It is hard to read the lyrics and watch this video without feeling like your heart is being ripped out.

 

Rose- Knock Knock

I have no idea who Rose is. I tried and have not been able to find information on this artist. Knock Knock is his 2017 single release and I found one other track of his, Coffee. I hope to hear more from him. The man’s vocal range is pretty impressive and the song is very reminiscent of Chancellor and maybe even Crush.

 

What are some of the tracks that would make it to your Top 10 list?

Food Ideas: Single Vegetable Soups

1024px-Chilled_asparagus_soup

By stu_spivack (chilled asparagus soup) [CC BY-SA 2.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/2.0)%5D, via Wikimedia Commons

Single-Vegetable Soups are what I call my soup creations that use just one vegetable and seasonings. They tend to be pureed soups with very clean flavors that put the focus on the vegetable. For the same reasons, some might consider them boring.

I love soups. Some evenings, that’s all I feel like eating. Most of the times I don’t have all the ingredients for making a mixed soup. I had to come up with recipes with the ingredients on hand. I could throw a bunch of vegetables together and create something but those tend to be unpredictable. I decided that the best strategy was to stick to a single vegetable and try to make a soup out of it.

I wanted to share some of my tips and suggestions for creating some simple soups.  My goal is to always let the flavor of the vegetable be the most prominent. I enjoy beets so I also enjoy a beet soup but for those who don’t, a soup like this might be the too beet-y to enjoy. Therefore I recommend sticking to vegetables that you otherwise enjoy eating.

Broth– I do not use any broth/ bullion in my single vegetable soups. They tend to add their own flavors that I find takes away from the star ingredient. Using water is one option but a tip I learned from a friend was to concentrate the vegetable flavor using the same vegetable. This step take some additional time and is optional but it does give the soup a more richer flavor. I have learned to use any unused parts of the same vegetable and create a quick broth instead of using water. For example, using the tough ends of asparagus or the tops of leeks. Use anything that you might otherwise throw away. I boil this in water for about 20 minutes along with salt and garlic and/or onion. Strain and use the liquid for the next step.

Alliums (Onions, garlic, leeks, chives, etc…)– I love onions and garlic and use them in pretty much anything I make but my single vegetable soups are a dish where I have to be careful about being over-enthusiastic with them. These are strong, powerful flavors and can easily overwhelm the dish. My policy is always to use only one or the other. With a mild flavored vegetable like asparagus, I stick to onions/ green onions. If you have a stronger tasting vegetable or a very bland one (eg. potatoes), garlic is the way to go.

Dairy– Dairy should always be the last step and there should be very little heat added once you add dairy. Remember that cream or milk are not your only options. Consider mixing in yogurt, sour cream, or ricotta. If you don’t want a creamy soup but want that smooth flavor, a knob of butter works great. You can also experiment with some cheese.

Spices– People often like to add a few spices to make the soups a little more flavorful. A curried soup is an example. I do not care for very many spices in my soup. I do like parsley and find it to be a very versatile herb that goes with many vegetables. I am also a nutmeg lover and try to add it to as many foods as I can. I have found that it works surprisingly well with some of the heavier soups. I recommend that you remove a small part of the soup and experiment with you spices before adding it to the whole pot.

Acid– There is something to be said for “brightening up” the flavor of soups. If the vegetables are usually cooked for long tend to lose that “freshness.” Lemon is always a friend. If the vegetable is naturally slightly sweet or if the soup is going to be creamy, consider adding a few drops of lemon juice. A few drops of vinegar is another alternative. I find milder ones like rice wine vinegar to be the best suited.

Texture– Even if you are going to puree the soup, do consider adding a little texture. In the case of asparagus, it might be a few tips that you set aside. Other additions I like to make include crispy potato skins or roasted seeds when making a squash soup.

I think one of the main reasons I like soups is because I get to enjoy whatever produce is in season. I am looking for as many ways to consume the vegetables as they become available. Right now, I am working on tomatoes. I am constantly experimenting with various combinations of ingredients. Some turn out better than others but keeping it simple has ensured that none of them have been complete disasters.

My most recent favorite creation was an asparagus soup. Here is a quick description of what I did.

  • Use the tough ends to make a broth along with a little onion.
  • Set aside a few tips of asparagus spears.
  • Cook the rest of the asparagus in the “broth” along with some onions. Season it and puree it.
  • Added the reserved tips and heat for a few minutes. Add a few drops of lemon juice.
  • Folded in some yogurt and a little bit of parmesan.
  • Topped with chopped parsley.

Are there any single vegetable soups that you particularly love?

 

Throwback Thursday: Beast’s Fiction

Although I had listened to other K-Pop songs before this, Fiction was the song that made me a K-Pop fan. It is still my all time favorite K-Pop song. Beast no longer exists. 5 of the members have become a group named Highlight. I will be seeing Highlight at KCON NY this weekend and I thought this would be a good time to re-visit the group’s greatest song ever.

I think Fiction is the iconic Beast song. No song has better defined their sound or their style. This song stirs up a feeling of melancholy like none other. I am listening to the song, as I write this, and it still gives me the same “feels” as when I first listened to it. I have listened to this song hundreds of times and it never gets old. You might think you know where the song is going, but it will surprise you with another comeback. The melody builds, comes down, and then the melody builds again making you feel like you are listening to a new beat.

The instrumentation is brilliant. This track is one of the best of my favorite uses of strings and even includes a harp. It gives the song an almost classical feel which is rare in K-Pop. One of the YouTube reactors does a wonderful piano cover of this track.

 

And there is indeed an orchestra version of this song, on the album, which just might be even better than the original. Beast’s live performance of this song on Yu Huiyeol’s Sketchbook is definitely one of K-Pop’s greatest. Their voices seem to be made for live performances.

Fiction might not be everyone’s cup of tea. It is not one of Beast’s most hype songs. It’s not very suitable for playing in the background. I like to listen to it when I feel down or when I want to re-live old memories. And after having watched the MV as many times as I have, it is difficult to not have that story playing around in your head either. It is one of those songs that leaves a strong impact on the listeners whether you love the song or not.

What is you opinion of Beast’s Fiction?

 

Why I love K-Drama OSTs

On_the_Way_to_the_Airport-p1

My favorite OST: On the Way to the Airport (2016)

I know that for many K-Pop fans, drama OST is considered a boring genre. Among the international K_Pop fandom, OST tracks often have a bad reputation and it is not uncommon to describe a song as “OST-like” to mean uninteresting.

This does not mean that OST music is not popular. They seem to do extremely well in Korea. In fact Ailee’s OST track for Goblin, is the song that has held the number 1 spot on the charts for the most number of weeks in 2017. And if one were to go by YouTube views, Stay With Me by Chanyeol and Punch (Goblin OST) has close to 75 million views.

Although there is some variety among OST songs, there is a specific sound that is associated with K-Drama music. It is often slower, focused on the vocals, and often not in line with K-Pop trends. But rap is quickly becoming incorporated into many K-Pop songs as well. I wanted to take a moment to explain my personal love for this type of music.

For many who have gone from K-Dramas to K-Pop, like myself, OST is the gateway. The music will hold a place in my heart as my first exposure to K-Pop. I listen to the music while watching the drama, I decide I would like to download the music, I see the names of the artists and find that they are sometimes K-Pop idols. After this happened repeatedly, I just gave in and decided to listen to K-Pop. Some of my friends have had a similar experience by following the work of idol actors they might like in a drama.

OST music is nice when you listen to it while watching the drama but it is much better after the drama is over and the song comes up in your playlist. It is the nostalgia factor. Not all dramas are good so not all associations are positive but sometimes the music just reminds me of watching something you really enjoyed. For me, more often, the song reminds me of what my life was like when I watched that drama. Was it a good period in life? Was I happy? Was I busy? etc…

Not all K-Pop listeners look up the lyrics of the songs and understand the meanings. I didn’t either, at the beginning, but now I do it more often. And many of us international fans, do not understand the language so we have no idea what we are listening to. Drama OSTs kind of force you to pay attention to the lyrics just because they appear along with the drama subtitles. Those are much more difficult to ignore. There is something very enjoyable about understanding what songs are about.

I will admit that I do like OST style music. I do enjoy the ballads with the focus on vocals. But that’s just a personal preference that makes it easier to enjoy those songs. The tracks also highlights some of the best Korean vocalists like, ALi, Gummy, and Ailee. Even when you have idols, you get to see a different side of them when they perform individually as opposed to with their group. Individual performances by the Super Junior members are a good example.

I think one of the best part about OSTs are watching the sweet fan-made videos on YouTube. Individuals put in a lot of time and effort to make some really nice videos for the tracks. Watching these videos often feel like I am experiencing these dramas all over again.

And I wanted to share with you some of my favorite OST tracks in no particular order:

Here is a playlist if you are interested

  1. Ali- I’m Sorry I Love You (Angry Mom, 2015)
  2. Sandeul (B1A4)- One More Step (Introverted Boss, 2017)
  3. Changmo- My Ears are Open (Voice, 2017)
  4. Suho ft. Remi- Starlight (The Universe’s Star, 2017)
  5. Ann & Yoon Mi Rae- Goodbye (Queen of Mystery, 2017)
  6. Jang Jae In ft. NaShow- Auditory Hallucinations (Kill Me, Heal Me, 2015)
  7. ALi- Carry On (Faith, 2012)
  8. Navi ft. Kebee – Incurable Disease (Secret, 2013)
  9. Taeyeon- And One (That Winter, The Wind Blows, 2013)
  10. Elsa Kopf- Days and Moons (My Beautiful Bride, 2015)

Do you like Drama OSTs like I do? If so, what are some of your favorites?

SOTUS Sets a high bar for BL

SOTUS: The Series currently ranks as the highest rated Thai drama on My Drama List. I was pleasantly surprised when I learned that this show ranked up there with the likes of popular K-Dramas, Tunnel and Healer. Granted it was not watched by as many people, I still think it is a big deal. There are not very many Thai dramas among the top rated dramas. The only other one anywhere close is the Thai remake of Full HouseSOTUS must have done something right to become this popular considering it is a BL drama which is already a niche market.

I am not complaining at all. In fact, I think SOTUS deserves the praise it receives, BL or not. But I wonder how much of the show’s popularity comes from being far better than most BL dramas we get as opposed to the actual merits of the show.  I think part of the reason it did so well is that appealed to a wider audience than the relatively small group of BL lovers. If that is the case, what did SOTUS do differently? What does it take for a BL show to be viewed as any other romance rather than one that is only watched by a select few? Here I would like to discuss some of the ways in which SOTUS took a unique approach compared to other popular series like Lovesick or Addicted.

Synopsis: SOTUS stands for Seniority, Order, Tradition, Unity and Spirit, a university tradition for welcoming freshmen. The freshmen are meant to gain the respect and mentorship of their seniors by performing many challenging activities, many of which can be described as bullying. In our show, Arthit (Sangpotirat Perawat aka Krist), a very strict head hazer is faced with a stubborn and rebellious freshman, Kongpob (Ruangroj Prachaya aka Singto). The show follows their evolving relationship in their first year together at college.

Re-Watch Value: I re-watched this show, last week, during the longest slump in my 7 years of drama watching. I realized that I enjoyed SOTUS just as much as I did when I first watched it sometime this February. It was just as interesting and gripping. When I read the comments I noticed that most people gave this drama a high rewatch value and that plays a big part in popularity. A simple story that is conducive to repeat watching is always a good strategy for success. It becomes a brand that people want to continue to follow.

My analysis suggests that SOTUS did not use many of the same tropes that we have come to associate with BL. It contradicts many of the ideas I presented in my previous posts, about why the female audience loves BL. Here I want to talk about what makes this show different and well-liked.

WARNING: Spoilers Ahead

Firstly, SOTUS did not feel like a BL story. It felt like just any other college romance. I am not sure I can explain it well but the atmosphere it created was quite different from what we are used to. Overall it felt a lot less angsty than some of the other shows. It was a simple love story of two people falling in love. In fact, I would say that foes-turned-lovers would be the main trope as opposed to BL. This is a much loved drama theme and all types of drama lovers are drawn to it.

Though many of us have never experienced hazing and probably never will, SOTUS creates an atmosphere that many of us can relate to. They have many of the same struggles that most of us face in college. Deciding a career path, heartbreak and getting adjusted to a whole new life away from home are some of the challenges faced by our characters.

 As I have mentioned in the past, I think violent relationships in BL are not uncommon one of the biggest turnoffs for viewers. This show was much more comfortable to watch because there was no violence within the relationship. The drama is set in a college hazing environment therefore there are some acts of bullying but the relationship between our main leads is very respectful with no attacks or aggressive behavior.

But the portrayal of their relationship is not without issues. Arthit and Kongpob’s feelings for each other has been also described as the biggest flaw of this drama. It definitely makes sense that the leads take time to figure out what their feelings are because it is all new to them. But when Em expresses his surprise about Kongbop being gay, he explains that he is in love with Arthit and that would not be the case if it were another man.

It is not uncommon in Asian BL stories to present the couple as being attracted to one another only because it is their “one true love” but otherwise they are “not gay.” Although I understand that producers might want to create this image in order to make the relationship more acceptable to a relatively conservative audience, it is extremely problematic. It further reinforces the idea that one’s sexual preference is something that one chooses and can apply on a case-by-case basis.

Despite, its problematic treatment of homosexuality, I must say this drama has some of  my favorite romantic scenes ever. I am not one to normally fangirl over proclamations of love but the party scene where Arthit announces that he and Kongpob were dating was one of the sweetest things ever. That scene best captures the acting abilities of Krist and Singto. No words are spoken but expressions alone convey that Kongpob was taken aback but overjoyed and Arthit seemed ecstatic and confident to finally accept their relationship.

There was a significant supporting cast all of whom did an amazing job. There were some interesting friendships and relationships that I wish could have been further explored. As one of the actors said, he would like to see viewers enjoy the show not just to fangirl over Arthit and Kongpob but also enjoy the stories of all the other characters and there is plenty to enjoy. Of course our main leads got the bulk of the attention but it was definitely not for the skinship. All we got were 2 kiss scenes but, I think most fans would agree, they were perfectly squee worthy. There was very little fanservice catering specifically to to the BL fan audience and I think it made some viewers more comfortable.

 SOTUS reminded us that you don’t need some unrealistic villain to keep the plot interesting or maintain the drama. Unlike many dramas, the leads did not even have to deal with disapproving parents, or society frowning upon their relationship. I am sucker for all stories portraying inner conflict and that’s what SOTUS does. It uses Arthit trying to figure out his feelings for Kongpob as the driving force to keep the story interesting and moving forward.

SOTUS has been so successful, in Thailand and other parts of Asia, that they will be making a second season. It is going to be challenging for the show to live up to the expectations of its fans but since we have the same team, I am not too concerned. The next season will be focus on Kongpob as the head hazer and Arthit as a college graduate in the workforce. I am very much looking forward to season 2 that comes out at the end of this year.

Did you enjoy SOTUS? What do you think made it so popular?

My Top 10 uses for “Red Sauce”

I talked about the versatile “red sauce” in my previous post and I wanted to share with you the many ways in which I have used this sauce. I like to find new uses for products that I make in bulk so please share any other ideas you might have for me.

1. Pasta Sauce pasta sauce

Probably the most obvious use of the red sauce is to modify it to make a pasta sauce. The basic additions, for me, would be more garlic, red pepper flakes, herbs (basil, oregano, thyme, parsley), and olive oil. These modifications give me a multipurpose pasta sauce to which I can add meat, vegetables, and/or cream depending on the dish I want to make.

Lasagna is pretty much the only pasta dish I make on a semi-regular basis and this is my go-to homemade sauce.

2. Pizza Sauce pizza

It is very similar to the pasta sauce. In fact, you could substitute one for the other. I like to thicken the sauce by cooking it down. The thicker sauce is less likely to make the crust soggy. Other than the pasta sauce additions, I also add a little bit of parmesan cheese.

 

3. Eggplant Parmesan 4278933964_471403b8ab_o

Another sauce that I think need not be very different from a pasta sauce. I do like chunks of tomato in my eggplant parmesan so I like to add some fresh/ canned diced tomatoes in addition to the herbs and parmesan cheese. I do not bother with any additional oil because there is plenty in the dish.

 

Source: https://www.flickr.com/photos/27129991@N03/4278933964/

4. Ratatouille Ratatouille02

I eat a lot of ratatouille in the summer because eggplant, zucchini, and bell peppers are all in season. My lazy version involves adding the sauce to the sautéed vegetables + onions and cooking for at least 15 minutes. The only herb I add is basil. It is always better the next day thought.

By Tomáš Zeleninský – Ratatouille, CC BY 2.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=2967226

5. Soup

Tomato_soup,_Turkish_styleA Hungarian goulash- style soup is one of my favorite uses of this red sauce. It is definitely nothing like the time-consuming-but-worth-it traditional version but it is satisfying.

It can also makes a great tomato soup to satisfy a last minute craving. In fact my simplest tomato soup combines this sauce with some butter and onions and broth/water.

By E4024 – Own work, CC BY-SA 4.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=43108039

6. Chili 1024px-Bowl_of_chili

Chili is one of my favorite one pot meals. I eat it all year round. Using the red sauce as the tomato component of the chili allows the flavors to come together quicker. I would still add some fresh or canned tomatoes for the chunks.

By Carstor (Own work) [CC BY-SA 2.5 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/2.5)%5D, via Wikimedia Commons

7. Stew

Any meat-based stew, that calls for tomatoes, could use some of this sauce. It also makes a good addition to any bean based dishes. As with all stews, I like to add some tomato paste as well.

8. Cajun Cuisine gumbo1

This red sauce works well in many Cajun tomato based dishes. Combined wit the Cajun seasonings (oregano, paprika, cayenne, and black pepper). My favorite use of it is in seafood gumbo where the combined with onions, celery, and bell pepper give a flavorful base for the seafood.

9. Sauce for baked/ grilled chicken 

It can be used as a sauce for a quick chicken meal. The red sauce can be combined with some sautéed onions, bell peppers, and mushrooms. This mixture served over some pan fried or grilled chicken makes a quick meal.

10. Indian curry 

1024px-Chicken_makhani

By stu_spivack (Flickr) [CC BY-SA 2.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/2.0)%5D, via Wikimedia Commons

I left this one for the end because this is the cuisine I am most well-versed in and therefore find it very difficult to write tips for. Sometimes you see recipes for Indian restaurant style dishes (eg. chicken tikka masala, paneer mattar, etc.) that ask you to puree onions and tomatoes before cooking. This sauce takes care of part of the process. The spices are added to the onion tomato mixture along with your main ingredient to make a thick, smooth sauce for your curry.

Do you have any other suggestions for what to do with the red sauce? Do let me know.