Thursday, October 30, 2008

Getting the Hang of Things

So this last weekend, after a lack of options on pizza, I decided to try and make my own.

I've done this more than a few times before in the states, and it usually tasted pretty good, so I figured this would be easy. What hubris! I made some pizza, and it looked alright, but it didn't taste too hot.

However, I forgot that back home, I bought the dough pre-made, and the sauce was labelled "pizza sauce" and I knew which cheese to choose.

Here, you can't just go buy "pizza dough," the cheese selection in slim, and so is the tomato sauce. (Remember, the word for "tomato sauce" in Chinese is EXACTLY the same as the word for ketchup.)

I bought some tomato sauce in the imported foods section at the grocery store here in Huzhou, the RT-Mart or "Da Run Fa" (大润发) as the locals call it. The consistency looked pretty good, and it was imported from Italy. Also, it actually tasted alright as a pasta sauce when I cooked some spaghetti. But as a pizza sauce, it was lacking, perhaps not sweet enough. Maybe next time I'll try the Hunt's tomato sauce. Yes, that's right the cheap-o Hunt's tomato sauce. It's not cheap here, but maybe it'll do better service as a pizza sauce, no way to really know until I try.

I mentioned that when I went to Hangzhou the weekend before I had bought some mozzarella cheese. At the store there, there were 2 brands of it. I couldn't tell you what I was thinking when I decided to buy the less expensive one. The Land O'Lakes one. Bad move on my part. Next time I will definitely use the better mozzarella.

Finally, the dough. As I said I had always bought the dough pre-made in the past, but this time I had to make it from scratch. So I bought some flour, yeast, and sunflowerseed oil. I know it's ideal to use olive oil, but seriously, olive oil is REALLY expensive here, like it costs twice as much here as it does in the USA, and they have several other oils that were so much cheaper, and also, since it is my first month here, and I had to spend money on buying supplies for my place and for the gym membership for 9 months (you have to pay the membership all upfront), so I went with the more economical choice. Maybe it's because I didn't use olive oil, maybe not. The fact is, the making of the dough from scratch was a lot more involved than I had thought, and also, it was the first time I had ever done it. I began making the dough at 11, thinking I could be done and eating by 12, 1 at the latest. But mixing the dough, waiting for it to rise, beating the dough down, letting it rise again, that all took about 2 and a half hours before even spreading the dough on the pan.

Anyways, it was a bumpy process because I was looking at the directions online, going into the kitchen to do it, coming back and looking online, and repeat. Next time I will have a better idea of what I am supposed to be doing so it should be a lot smoother and more streamlined. If I do it again after that, even more-so an then maybe I can tweak the recipe for the dough.

After it was all said and done I ate at 3 pm. But it DID actually look pretty good. Have a look:

Anyhow, that was the first time I used the toaster oven, but the 2nd time came the next day, I baked some chicken. That turned out ok, but was a little too salty. That problem was easily enough fixed though; I baked chicken again last night for dinner: far less salty, much better. I will say though, it was UBER convenient back home being able to buy boneless, skinless chicken pieces. The bone part really isn't a big deal, but it's kind of a pain to take the skin off myself.

This week of teaching was quite a bit less awkward, I believe I am starting to feel a bit more comfortable in my position, but things are yet far from routine. I'm sure as time goes on it well keep getting better.

The weather has begun to turn a bit cooler, and it has been wetter the past week as well. My old LTC jacket is still deceptively warm and works quite nicely, but I think I will need to do some shopping soon for some long sleeve shirts, maybe a pullover, and, in preparation for winter, long underwear.


  1. TJ, I certainly understand the importance of good (or even decent) pizza. You said it was getting cool, do you have your quilt?
    look at this link, this is one of the things that I want to see if we get to go to China.

    Love you! Aunt Mary

  2. Hubris? and Uber? okay, not in my vocabulary...what is wrong with Hunt's? I use it all the time!!! Your pizza looked good though..a thick crust! yea, making your own dough does take a few hours.
    I am glad things area going well with you. Taking Angela to Olive Garden tonight for her birthday. Wish you were here!
    take care.

    Love ya,

  3. seriously, TJ, what can we send you for Thanksgiving and Christmas? Better yet what CAN we send you????
    Is your LTC Jacket the only jacket/sweater you brought with you? although clothes are cheaper over there than here...
    let us know...


  4. Hey buddy! Your pizza looked good. Maybe not quite as good as a slice from the new NY pizza place that just opened up near my house but good nonetheless. Here's hopeing your getting lots of strange new experiences under your belt!
    Go Knights!

    Mike Chase

  5. Hey TJ! wow reading your blogs have been very interesting. and that pizza did look good! how did it taste?

    Glad to see you are fitting in. Can't wait to read what is going on next! also your apartment does not seem that bad at all. Especially in a foreign country :)

    P.S. Thank you for calling and wish a happy birthday! :)

  6. TJ, Good job on the pizza, I will make sure to have as much good pizza here as possible and even make sure to not get any greens on it in honor of you. You need to take pictures of your bike and post. Also you need to bench all ur good players for fantasy this week or else - The Benevolent Comish
    The LTC jacket hahahaha

  7. tj how cold is it going to be there? i think it got down to 65 during the day last week and mayb 50 at mite. when i was out anyways, and i almost froze. lol. but u know me... but long underwear? sounds dangerous. jk. well i miss you. pizza is a must my i-talian brother. so i assume uve heard about obama. this was also my first presidential election voting. pretty cool. but i expected some kind of banner, adventurous and patriotic music perhaps. no nothing. just a line and "government" employees working "hard". lol. as energetic i am bout politics, i have been sick and tired of it the past couple weeks. they get shallower and shallower the closer the election comes. it must be nice to live in a country where they r at least up front about the people really not having a say in politics. through my experiences in the hospital working with and for "real" people in a variety of socio economic statuses and a variety of intelligence levels, trust me these two measures do not always follow the same trend. but i have found as a general rule people are stupid. i know i sound like a socialist. but the masses should be in check. (as we all know they truely are) i miss talking politics with you. o and look on facebook at halloween pics. they r really funny. glad u r having fun. love you!