Archives for the month of: December, 2016

My room-mate Yin Ying-Mei is a PhD candidate in tourism studies, and is studying how food tourism affects emotional states and mental health. So it’s quite fitting that last night she treated me and a friend to her delicious handmade noodles, Shandong-style.

Ying-Mei is self-deprecating about her cooking overall, but proud of her skill with noodles.  First, she made a simple dough with wheat flour, cold water, and an egg, then patted it into a ball.

Then she laid some cellophane on the counter, sprinkled more flour, and began to roll out the dough.


Watching Ying-Mei roll out the dough is hypnotic! 

When it was paper thin, Ying-Mei dusted the dough with more flour and folded it over, then used a cleaver to slice delicately thin noodles:


She made it look so easy…

The noodles were carefully placed in boiling salted water and cooked till tender. Ying-Mei topped them with ground pork in a rich black bean, garlic, and red chili sauce. Delicious! A nice way to prepare for the new year.  I wish you all a happy, prosperous, and fun 2017 from Taipei!


Ying-Mei and her friend Ms. Ting, ready to dig into a fantastic Shandong style meal.




At the end of a long day in class, then struggling to deposit a check and failing, I limped home along Wenzhou Street. My flagging spirits perked up when I hit the little string of coffee shops toward Xinsheng Road. Shaded by ancient gnarled fig trees and snuggled up against a lovely crumbling house with ceramic roof tiles, one small intersection contains four coffee houses facing each other amicably. Students and cats slouch past or huddle on ancient sprung couches, tattered books lie facedown on stained wooden tables. A scent of jasmine intertwines with coffee and cigarette smoke.  Strains of Taiwanese hiphop and jazz curl through the air.

Yes, there is still a genuine bohemian coffee scene on this planet–and it’s right here in Taipei. Drink up.


Rebirth Cafe on Wenzhou Street. The barista seemed to be half awake and it took her 20 minutes to produce a caffe latte, but it was delicious.



The inviting exterior of Rebirth Cafe. Note the huge fig tree hovering over it.


The caffeine just hit my circulatory system and all is well.

I am in my apartment–my Taipei home for six months! The Wenzhou Street neighborhood snuggles up to Taipei University. Huge busy thoroughfares with swarms of scooters and buses are interspersed by winding alleys and lanes originally designed for Qing dynasty living: they are barely wide enough for a car, and it’s easy to visualize horse drawn carts. They are a delight to wander through.


A pass-through just wide enough for two people in Taipei’s Da’an district.

I’m reminded of the hutong alleyways, beloved of Beijing, that were decimated to create the Olympic Village in the mid-2000s. Like many things in Taiwan, Taipei’s lanes (xiang, 4th tone) are Chinese heritage preserved yet living and vibrant.


This young man was singing beautifully, his head thrown back, as he walked along Wenzhou Lane today.

Amid old and new buildings you can smell jasmine and frying dumplings; and see street life unfold, from mothers walking children to students hurrying along with backpacks to elderly shoppers trundling along with loads of fresh vegetables.

Up next: Taipei Coffee Culture!


Fu dogs are everywhere–this nice example is front of a student eatery near Taiwan National University.


Above: A hardworking oa jian cook prepares seven oyster pancakes at the Ximending Night Market.

It’s Christmas in Taipei and Dad and I hit a local night market to check out the food offerings. We were enchanted to find one of Dad’s favorite traditional Taiwan foods: oa jian, or oyster pancakes. Plump juicy oysters are flash fried, then covered with liquid sweet potato starch and fried to crisp perfection.

A layer of fresh eggs is poured over, then off to one side a pile of fresh bok choy is fried and then the pancake is flipped on top of it. Then the whole thing is scooted to a plate, and a light sweet gravy ladled over the top. Is your mouth watering yet? This unique treat is becoming rare in Taiwan, but the hordes of hungry diners lining up outside the restaurants suggests that it is still beloved.

Below: a plate of happiness, Taipei style.


img_0666The people of Taipei have thrown themselves into Christmas 2016–this image is a detail of a little tree in a hotel lobby and the young kids behind the desk are all wearing Santa hats. The anthropologist in me sighs a little at this overprinting of Western European culture, but the relationship between Taiwan and the U.S. is so close so it’s no surprise they embrace Christmas as heartily as the Chinese holidays. I hope this blog entry finds you and yours enjoying the beauties of winter wherever you are.


I’m on my way! After 11 hours in the air we land in Tokyo on a sparkling winter afternoon. It’s a bit lonely here in the airport–part of me is still somewhat unbelieving that I’m going to be gone for so long, I already miss the people I love (and routinely take for granted)!

Here in the airport is a wonderful hands-on station where you can make your very own Ukiyo-e prints! So, I jump in and with the assistance of lovely kimono-clad teachers make a print called Beauty Looking Back by Moronobu Hishikawa.  I may not be a beauty but the title captures how I feel this evening.

On Monday I will embark on my research voyage to Taiwan! Six months to learn more about ancient agriculture and crops, their role in transforming Paleolithic hunting and gathering and in dealing with modern challenges of climate change. A modest goal.


This picture of my Dad climbing a seemingly endless stairway in Taroko National Park captures my feelings…

Boise State University, my ‘home’, has been super helpful about getting the word out about my research interests and the upcoming project in Taiwan. Here are some good links to click on to learn more:

And here is my home page in the Anthropology Department,

Thanks for reading, please weigh in with your comments, and I look forward to hearing from you!



During my visit to Taiwan about one year ago the presidential campaign was in full swing. The energy in the streets was palpable: billboards both old fashioned and electronic were full of smiling candidate faces, and small vans meandered the streets blaring political songs. Even my Dad got caught up in the fervor–which never seemed nasty, just enthusiastic (perhaps some of this is due to my imperfect command of Chinese).

This is not the only point of contrast with the recent American election: Tsai Ing-Wen won. Not only is she Taiwan’s first woman president ever, Dr. Tsai is highly educated, single, and descended from Paiwan indigenous ancestors.  Like Hilary Clinton, she is trained in the legal profession and like Elizabeth Warren, she harks back to aboriginal roots. Most remarkably, President Tsai came to hold the highest office in an East Asian country completely through her own energy, talent, and drive: with no family or political dynasty helping her (see for a great read on this topic).

The strangest twist in this comparison is the recent controversial phone call between President Tsai and President-elect Trump. It’s difficult to picture two leaders with more different backgrounds and world views on either end of the phone line, but we live in strange times. Despite my mixed feelings regarding the One China policy, I see the phone call as a tendril of hope that America’s president elect is willing to talk and listen to world leaders unlike himself.


Jade green snail clings to a leaf in Taroko National Park.

img_1792A huge grouper eyes us as we walk past his domain in the Taiwan Aquarium in Pingtung, southern Taiwan.