CG: Green Tea Cupcakes

It all started with some green tea powder.  A member of the geography club knew that I was learning how to bake and so she gave me some green tea powder from her’s family’s business.  I then decided to make cupcakes with it.  Usually I’m not a fan of green tea by itself, but in combination with other flavors, it’s strong bitterness is diluted a bit.  Looking online I found several recipes for green tea cupcakes and even found one with green tea frosting as well.  I decided to go with Teaglad’s recipe.  Reading through the list of ingredients, I was a bit alarmed at the amount of butter needed but figured since this was a special occasion item, I could splurge on the butter just this once.

While green tea is popular among the Asian American community and even among non-Asians in California, for those of you who may not be as familiar with it, I’ll discuss the history of green tea.  Green tea originated in China and is made from Camellia sinensis leaves that haven’t gone through the same withering and oxidation that is done to oolong and black tea.  There are several varieties of green tea, which differ due to the variety of the tea plant, growing conditions, horticulture, production processing, and time of harvest.

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APCG: Getting the Grant

During the summer of 2015 after my first year of graduate school, I received an email from my newly chosen thesis advisor.  Fortunately this turned out to be a very good email.  My thesis advisor had nominated me for the Women’s Network Travel Grant given out by the Association of Pacific Coast Geographers.  The grant is an award of $200 and is used to highlight outstanding female undergraduate and graduate students and to support female attendance and participation in geography.  Each awardee also get one year free membership in APCG and a free lunch honoring the Women’s Network Grant recipients at the annual meeting.  That year’s meeting was at Palm Springs, which I was grateful for because then I didn’t have to travel too far to get there.  This year’s meeting is in Portland, OR, which even with a travel grant would have been much too far for me to attend.

Several other members of my graduate cohort attended the Palm Springs meeting as well and we traveled together.  One of them even gave a presentation on her thesis research.  This meeting had paper presentations as well as map displays.  The first day there I enjoyed looking at the map displays and speaking with the creators of the maps.  The second day was full of paper presentations.  I didn’t have time to attend all of them as some were occurring at the same time.

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CG: Korean Beef Bowl

In many ways, my desire to write about culinary geography has been one of the main reasons I have tried to learn to cook more and better (and because one can only stand so much of ramen, chips and pizza rolls).  One of my favorite recipes I have found online has been this Korean Beef Bowl recipe by Damn Delicious.  It is super quick and easy and doesn’t require many ingredients.  As is stated on the original site’s page, this recipe is meant to be a cheater’s version of Korean BBQ/bulgogi, which requires thin slices of marinated sirloin.  You can read more about Korean BBQ from a previous post of mine, “Cultural Nights 2015-16“.

Korean BBQ. Image from Google Images.

Korean BBQ. Image from Google Images.

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CG: Peanut Butter and Chocolate Brownies

There is probably nothing quite so glorious as the combination of chocolate and peanut butter.  Which is why I had to put them together in a brownie.  My previous attempt at making brownies (without peanut butter) had been rather disastrous.  I didn’t follow the recipe exactly and it was quite obvious that I had screwed things up.  They had tasted dry and almost sugarless.

Afterwards I vowed to redeem myself and make a batch of brownies that actually tasted like brownies.  This meant getting a bag of chocolate chips (for the first version I only used cocoa powder, which was why they were so dry).  Sitting among the chocolate chips on that grocery store aisle were also bags of peanut butter chips.  When I was younger I use to get these peanut butter chips and eat them straight from the bag.  Now that I’m older and can actually cook (mostly), I decided they were the perfect addition to my brownies.  Now I had even more incentive to not screw up my brownies.  I couldn’t dare waste those precious peanut butter chips.

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Ethnicity in Los Angeles

In September of 2015, the Los Angeles Geographical Society (LAGS), began their lecture series with a presentation by Gary Booher, a former professor at El Camino college and former president of LAGS.  His lecture was titled: “The End of the Rainbow: Ethnicity in Los Angeles”.

He began the lecture by discussing the diversity of people in California compared to the US.  California aka the “Golden State” is #1 in population with 38 million people.  It’s #3 in area after Alaska and Texas and #8 in economy with $2.3 trillion.  The US as a whole makes $18.1 trillion (the highest of any country).  China comes in second with $11.2 trillion and Japan is third with $4.2 trillion.  California’s economy is between India ($2.3) and Brazil.

Moving on to California’s population, 27% of it is foreign born while over 50% is native born.  This is the highest for both categories in 100 years.  Not many people come to California from other states (19%).  In recent years there has been a net migration of people moving out of California.  When it comes to California immigrants it’s considered a destination for migrants, mainly Spanish/Mexican.  Looking back to earlier US history, the government pushed people to move out west partially because of the Gold Rush.  There were also those who were health seekers, moving to California because of its good climate.  Some say it was the climate for health and wealth.  Railroads were selling land for this reason.  This created jobs and as it become seen as the land of plenty, more international migration occurred.

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Cultural Nights 2015-16

Ok, so I kind of lied in my last Cultural Nights post, “Cultural Nights 2015“.  The three mentioned were not the only ones the Geography Student Association (GSA) attended in 2015.  I forgot about two more that occurred later that year.  So here are three more Cultural Nights, two from 2015 and one from 2016.

In September 2015, the GSA went to Los Compadres, a Mexican restaurant located in Long Beach.  This restaurant is a favorite in Long Beach and fills up quickly during the dinner hour. The wait can be over an hour and it’s almost impossible to find parking.  Many times people have to park in nearby residential areas and then walk back to the restaurant.  You know that is a sign that the food is good.  Los Compadres serves traditional Mexican food as well as specialty margaritas in flavors like lime, mango and strawberry.  The lollipops they hand out at the end of the meal are also said to be amazing with unique flavors.

These days Mexican food can be found almost everywhere in America but the history of its spread throughout the country is long and complex and of course directly tied to the immigration of Mexicans into America.  Because of the length and complexity of Mexican food history, I can’t explain it all here but you can read more about it in this NPR article, “The California Taco Trail: ‘How Mexican Food Conquered America”.   I also highly recommend the book “Planet Taco: A Global History of Mexican Food” to learn about its spread all around the world.

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Cultural Nights 2015

Let’s hop back into this blog by playing catch-up.  There have been quite a few events, lectures and conferences that I have attended since I posted here last year.

As some readers may remember, the geography club at my university has Cultural Night, an evening out at a particular ethnic restaurant to celebrate and learn more about that culture.  Last year we went to three different places.

In February, we went to Nomad Asian Bistro, which serves handmade Chinese cuisine.  The dish that everyone raved about was the one serving their handmade flat noodles.  And yes, it was good.  According to Nomad’s website, they serve not only the well-known Chinese dishes but also Hui specialties, which they state come from the Hui tribe who originated along the Silk Road.  The Hui food culture stems from a mix of traditional (Han) Chinese food as well as Mediterranean, Persian and Middle Eastern due to the influences of travelers along the Silk Road.  You can read more about the Hui tribe here.

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