Ditch Your Picky Eating Habits

I had a picky eater friend in university who stands out from all the rest. Whereas most picky eaters would perhaps have a list of ten or twenty acceptable foods, he had maybe five. These were limited to: steak/beef, chicken fingers, pasta, tomato sauce, and pizza. (Okay, I’m exaggerating, but not by much). As a foodie this habit drove me insane and naturally led to many discussions about the merits of trying new food.

20171215_153131.jpg
The most adventurous dish my friend tried in university.

If you’re a picky eater, I strongly urge you to ditch your habits. First and foremost, it helps fill my ego when someone ends up loving a food I recommended to them. But as much as filling my ego is awesome, it also gives you the ability to open your mind.

Now, you’re probably wondering, how the hell eating some sushi might open your mind. I’m not talking about an unprecedented blast of flavour changing your world. I’m also not talking about telling a potential employer how worldly you are because you went to a poke place once. Eating new foods helps you open your mind by exposing you to new cultures and unique values. 

For example, let’s say you’re like my friend and only eat typical broke university student foods for 98% of your meals. After 300 invites to go to Korean BBQ you finally break and accept, promising yourself and others that you’ll eat more than just the beef.

You arrive a tad late after battling food anxiety (I’m told this is a thing) and discover your friends have already ordered. For those of you familiar with Korean BBQ, this means they’ve brought the unlimited sides (kimchi, sweet potato, salads, cold soup, lettuce, onions, sauces, lotus root, glass noodles, and more).

20171222_214216
Just look at all those sides!

Kimchi is thrust upon you and you take your first bite. Then another side and another. Eventually, you find one that you love or at the very least tolerate. As the meal goes on your friends tell you about the different types of foods in painstaking detail as that’s the only way you’re willing to try them. By the end of the meal you’ve learned a bunch about typical Korean foods that everyone loves and your culinary palate is slightly larger.

As you begin to explore more cuisines your curiosity grows and you question why Asian food has so much rice (history lesson about Asia), why vegans are obsessed with eating local (farm to fork movement), why Indian food is so spicy (valued cooling effects of hot food), and more. Even if you don’t turn into a full blown foodie like what happened to me, you’ll more than likely end up learning a lot of new things. As an added bonus, you’re likely to get invited to more hangouts and making friends with people from other cultures will become easier. And perhaps greatest of all, travel will become less scary and more enticing.

20170908_150938.jpg
Lessons in history (Tokyo).

In case education, new friendship opportunities, and travel aren’t enough to convince you, take this word of advice from the once super-picky-eater friend of mine:

For me it was like, well, I know I’m not allergic to anything (or there’s a 0.0001% chance I am but who knows), so why shouldn’t I just go for it?

Worse that happens is I don’t like it.

As a foodie, blogger, and fellow human being, I sincerely hope you’ll think twice before your next meal of chicken fingers and push yourself to try something new. And remember, if at first you don’t succeed, try, try, try again.

Advertisements

Skills of 2018 – Inspired by Matt Deutsch

For the past couple weeks I have been having a lot of trouble deciding on a new year’s resolution and no, the irony is not lost on me. In one of my research sessions (YouTube binges) I stumbled across this video about a guy named Matt Deutsch who challenged himself to master a new skill every month for a year.

Feeling inspired by this concept, I decided to do something very similar. Rather than simply having a one-month time limit on challenges, I decided on a ‘by the end of each month’ challenge. This way I can incorporate skills that take a longer time to build and not feel like I’m “cheating” if I give myself a head start.

So, without further ado, here is my “new year’s resolution”/Skills of 2018 Challenge:

By the end of…

January: Learn how to whistle.
Current Skill Level: Can breathe.

February: Solve a Rubik’s Cube in under 30 seconds.
Current Skill Level: Never solved a Rubik’s Cube without a computer or removing stickers.

March: Hold a 10-minute conversation in Mandarin.
Current Skill Level: Can speak <20 words in Mandarin.

April: Complete every “very difficult” Sudoku puzzle from 7Sudoku.
Current Skill Level: No idea how Sudoku works.

May: Draw & write an acceptable 10-page manga with varying characters and detailed settings.
Current Skill Level: Can draw stick figures with smiley faces.

20180114_220036.jpg

June: Go on a weekend cycling trip, including at least 10 hours of cycling.
Current Skill Level: Exhaustion and sore muscles after less than an hour.

July: Get 6-pack abs.
Current Skill Level: Never go to the gym.

August: Crochet a hat, gloves, and scarf.
Current Skill Level: Had to Google “difference between crocheting and knitting” just now.

September: Fold 30 different origami designs from memory in one sitting.
Current Skill Level: Can make a boat.

20180114_222320.jpg

October: Homebrew a drinkable beer.
Current Skill Level: Have a general idea of how beer is made in factories.

November: Become proficient with Excel and create new VBA automations with ease.
Current Skill Level: Know very basic Excel functions. Understand the concept of macros.

December: Film, edit, and produce a 20-minute documentary.
Current Skill Level: Can take nice pictures with my phone.

20180111_152016_HDR.jpg

I’ll be writing occasional updates when I complete a monthly challenge or when I’ve made good progress. Watch out for new posts!

How to Make a New Year’s Resolution

Whenever New Year’s is around the corner you start to see posts about resolutions left, right, and centre. They are unavoidable and often the same thing every year.  For those that participate, here is a way to rethink your resolution and make it into something you won’t forget after a week. For those who don’t, here is my personal version of New Year’s resolutions that won’t make you block me on Facebook.

Tangible/Measurable: It needs to have a clear meaning. You can’t simply say “work harder” because you can constantly change the meaning of that resolution as the year goes by and it is highly subjective. Additionally, you shouldn’t try to pile on a ton of things, like “work harder, lose weight, eat healthy everyday, and run a marathon a month” – you’ll end up feeling overwhelmed and giving up on one or all of these. On the other hand something like, “Always get my work done before watching Netflix” can be understood by and applied to anyone.

night-television-tv-theme-machines

Achievable: While something like “Go to the gym every day” might sound nice, it is more than likely very unrealistic. Chances are you’ll have a day here and there where you simply cannot bring yourself to go or feel sick. After a day like that, your resolution will be “broken” and your resolve with it. Gyms’ populations spike in January then quickly drop as people come to this realization. Instead, you might make a resolution like, “Go to the gym at least 4 days a week”.

pexels-photo-685530

Fun and Personal: Too often you hear the same boring new year’s resolutions that make you want to roll your eyes and even avoid the person for a bit. With the social pressures and general lack of creativity surrounding resolutions, it’s easy to fall into the trap of “I’ll go to the gym everyday” or “I’ll become a better student”. But if you take the time to come up with something that’s more creative and a lot more personal, then not only will you enjoy sharing it more with other people, you’re also more likely to follow it. As a writer and inconsistent blogger, I might make mine, “Write biweekly blog posts, even if they are 200 words or less”.

pexels-photo-261662

Sample Resolutions: If you’re still having trouble coming up with ideas, here are some of mine from previous years and others I have come up with for your benefit:

  • Stop having snacks between meals/only eat 3 times a day
  • Lose 20 pounds by the end of the year
  • Drink no more than twice a week/Only drink when with friends
  • Whenever physically able, take a daily walk (any length)
  • Stop buying snacks from vending machines/only eat snacks from home
  • Only have dessert once/twice per week
  • Call/visit parents at least once a week
  • Read two books a month
  • Meditate before bed for at least a minute
  • Go on a weekly adventure (of any kind or length)
  • Attend one more/less social event than usual every month
  • Do something fun every week

Travel Blog #13: Updates

Rather than my usual blog entry, here are some updates about my life in Taiwan. Someone told me to share everything, even the parts that hurt or might make people uncomfortable. So here it is, the ugly, the bad, and the good.

The Ugly

In the first two months my trip went WAY over budget. Long story short I had two really bad experiences with AirBnB involving unreasonable and lazy hosts, had to pay three months rent right off the bat, and realized I need to start spending a lot smarter. Things seem to be on the upswing now (minus a couple surprise credit card charges), so I’m very much looking forward to that stress disappearing.

The Bad

I have also experienced a fair bit of culture shock. This was something I wasn’t ready for, despite having plenty of travel experiences in the past. Attitudes toward mental health here are typically dismissive, which is really unfortunate given the otherwise strong public health care. Through personal experiences and stories I have discovered that locals tend to be overly blunt to the point of coming across as very rude or angry to a foreigner.

Recently, I have been working on not taking things personally. This has more or less always been one of my problems. I have a tendency to get defensive and being here with the local bluntness hasn’t helped that feeling much. Depression and anxiety are much less of a problem now, so it’s a good time to work on the next step of my journey of personal care and self improvement. As with all things that involve changing the way you think, it is a long uphill battle; the sooner I start, the better.

The Good

Socially things have been picking up. I am slowly but surely making new friends over here, aided by having very friendly coworkers. There are also a lot of language exchanges and various meetups with tons of people all in the same situation.

The food scene is all I was hoping for and more. There is a small shop right next door that sells dumplings, soup, and noodles. I’ve been going there every day for the past couple weeks for dinner and haven’t exchanged more than a couple words with the owner who only speaks Chinese.

Everywhere in the city has shops where you can get bubble tea for around $2 whose quality is much better than back home in Toronto. There’s plenty of healthy and unhealthy food to go around and many bars that welcome all with open arms. So when all else fails, good food is always there.

Travel Blog #6: Osaka Nightlife

August 25: Aided by the air conditioner I had set to 18°C (to remind me of Canada), I finished my nap and made a beeline for some dinner.

It should come as no surprise that my first proper meal in Japan was sushi. I opted for a conveyer belt restaurant since they’re plenty of fun. The meal came with free matcha green tea, which I was absolutely stoked about.

If the sushi in Taipei was 10x better than back home in Toronto, then the sushi here was 10x better than Taipei. Best sushi of my life at the best prices of my life.

Exhibit A: Otoro (fatty tuna)

– The highest quality tuna, revered for it’s ability to melt in your mouth (and in my case, appear in dreams).
Canada Price: $16-20
Local Price: ¥291 ($3.43)

While I won’t break down their costs, the other pieces were just as amazing.

The plan for after dinner was to head to Dotonbori for shopping, but I stopped in my tracks after spotting something that I couldn’t pass up: an owl café.

Sunset Owl Café charged ¥1,500 for 50 minutes with the owls and a can of good beer (or juice, milk, or tea).

I ordered my drink, paid, and stepped into the owl room. The entire 50 minutes was spent in that room (apart from leaving briefly to down my drink). Between talking to the owl caretaker, petting the owls’ beaks (anywhere else usually makes them anxious or sad), and taking a ton of pictures, time just flew by.

I also got to hold an owl.

Then take more pictures.

When my time was up, the staff thanked me and I went on my way to Dotonbori

Only a few minutes later I hooked myself into another stop that would last from about 9 p.m. to 12:50 a.m. It was a multi-floor arcade called Round 1.

The first floor was all claw machines (and it was here where I spent the majority of my evening). I won two large plushies and a big box of cookies. By the end of the night, I was going around helping the occasional Japanese person win and save several hundred yen in the process.

The other floors had coin pusher games (like an entire floor was just that game x200), rhythm games, fighting games, and more (plus three floors of bowling).

By the end of spending a perfectly reasonable amount of time and money at the arcade, I desperately needed some sleep. Instead, I went to a 24-hour restaurant for some sukiyaki.

From there, I set out on the very long walk to the AirBnB (transit was closed and there was no way I was going to take another taxi anytime soon). An hour went by and I stopped into another place for some more food (and honestly some rest since my legs were killing me). This time I got a japanese omelette, beer, and roast beef (for under $10 by the way).

At 3:30 a.m. I was home. Tired and exhausted I laid down and went to sleep.

Travel Blog #4

​August 21: …

August 22: After doing pretty much nothing the day before, I spent most of the day shopping. 

I started off by attempting to go to Fu Hang Soy Milk for breakfast, but gave up after discovering its hour long line (for the second day in a row). I ended up skipping breakfast and going to Sushi Express for lunch (yes, despite my imminent trip to Japan).

From there I traversed to Guang Digital Plaza – a six floor shopping mall for computers and computer parts. Here I learned how little I know about computer parts. I also saw the graphics card I bought a year ago for about $600 being sold for $300. So that was… Something. Apparently I was so entranced by the mall that I forgot to take any pictures…

After getting overwhelmed several times I left to go to another big mall called Pacific Sogo. It was A LOT larger than I was expecting.

Including the basement, it was 17 floors total.

All the restaurants were about triple my budget so I ended up going to the food court downstairs for dinner. I got pork and egg on rice for dinner for 170NTD. 

I also got FANTASTIC french garlic bread from a bakery (no, I didn’t take a picture).

August 23: For breakfast I had
Through the magic of modern technology and the Internet, I met up with a Taiwanese local who showed me around. 

To start, we went to Daan Forest Park. A short amount of walking brought us to a stream (river?) where a bunch of different birds and several (non-Canadian) geese were hanging out. There was also a turtle sunbathing with its child on a log. 

I also learned about this extremely painful exercise where you walk on sharp stones for what seems like a short distance. While I don’t really remember what it’s purpose was, I do appreciate normal walking that much more now. Here’s a short video of me walking it then complaining.

Using her local knowledge, my new friend showed me the hourly(?) water show ay Daan Park Station that I otherwise would have easily missed.

I also learned about the 2017 Summer Universiade (a large sports event) taking place from August 19 to 30. Apparently I was completely oblivious to this happening. Though, in hingsight, I saw a lot of signs for it everywhere (it’s times like this that I wonder how I’m a journalist). Anywho, after proving that I did in fact know what the Taiwan flag looks like I won a deck of cards with the Universiade logo on it.

Next stop was the National Chiang Kai-shek Memorial Hall. Here I experienced myriad of great photo ops (and I’m actually IN some of the pictures for once) and was educated in fun facts and some local history by my Taiwanese friend. 

 

I also witnessed the changing of the guards (or more like the “ending of the guards” since it was the last shift).

 
A quick bubble tea detour later we headed to Raohe Night Market, which is famous for its excellent food selection. Being at this market alone would have been amazing in and of itself; having a local friend to show me around made it ten times better.

Photos and videos of me by Jennifer Wang

Travel Blog Entry 3

August 19: Having thoroughly not beaten the jetlag I decided to have a slow morning, skip breakfast, and sleep in. I made some calls to family and friends and then decided to explore a much more exciting part of town: Ximen. 

So far I had only been to Da’an, which is a residential district (located near the previous day’s Taipei 101); Ximen was a HUGE change of pace. 

Having landed in a busy square I struggled to find the restaurant I was seeking out for lunch. Getting lost several times along the way was part of the adventure, but my rumbling stomach wasn’t very amused. Finally, I made it to my destination; I arrived at Modern Toilet.

As they say, when in Rome… Uhh.. I mean Taiwan.

Looking past the absurdity of it all, the décor and atmosphere was great. As with everywhere else in Taipei, the staff were extremely friendly. I ordered my food (bread, and beef curry) and waited patiently.

I’ll let the pictures speak for themselves, but I will say one thing: depsite looking like crap, that food tasted amazing!

With newfound energy I sprung forth from the building to begin my adventure anew!… Okay, okay, I awkwardly walked out of the restaurant and tried to find my way back to the main area. 

Over the next few scorching hot hours I found various strange shops:

A candy shop that sold everything from sushi shaped sweets to chocolate condoms (not sure if flavoured or just chocolates, but they were all over the shop), to first aid kits; also normal chewy gummies, for the less adventurous lot.

Several shops selling all the random Japanese/Chinese gadgets you see back home in Canada and the States (except here they cost a fraction of the price). Beyblades, Pokémon merch, multi-coloured cat lamps, piggy banks with cats that collect the coins, and more.

And a two-floor One Piece shop (it’s a very well known anime, for those unaware). 

I eventually got overheated and tired and started making my way back to the AirBnB for some rest. On the way, I stopped to try a Taiwanese delicacy: Mango shaved ice.

It was amazing!

When I got home I had spoke to Ren for a bit (the owner of the AirBnB) and then watched some movies before passing out for the night. (By the way, Taiwanese Netflix is MUCH better than Canada’s)

August 20: Again I had a slow start to the day so at around 2 p.m. I arrived in the northern area of the city. 

After struggling to figure out the buses for about half an hour I made it to the Northern Palace Museum.

By the time I left, several hours later, I hadn’t even seen half of the museum (perhaps I will visit again another time). Here’s a fraction of the exhibits I saw:

I found myself desperately craving Japanese food. Luckily, I stumbled upon Sushi Express, which is one of those sushi-go-round places with the little plates. Each plate here costing about $1 US.

I really did mean to take more pictures of the food…