Friday, November 30, 2007

Not what I wanted to see in the paper

The missus and I were watching a news show over the weekend. Well, it was in Mongolian, so I was watching and she was listening. A press interview came on with some of what I supposed were mongolian skinheads; cropped hair, leather, ear rings, sitting at a table with the crooked four-armed cross common to some religions in asia and (most familairly to Nazi Germany) The “has temdeg” is a fairly common religious symbol in these parts, so I was more curious than concerned. However, Erdene's explanation was the fellows on tv were part of nationalistic organization with an axe to grind against foreign domination of Mongolia. Yikes.. She went on to explain we wouldn't have a problem, as they are more aimed in the direction of the Chinese. Comforting, until they run out of Chinese. She did mention that a certain acquaintance of ours should be a little cautious and not be seen to in any particular club with the usual constantly changing parade of lovely ladies. That may have been a pointed barb, that I shouldn't ever place myself in that position or not.

I did the right thing and phoned in a cautionary message to our friend, to find he was comfortably ensconced at home, not with one, but four ladies and and a boy. Two of the ladies and the boy were under the age of ten, which just goes to show you never can tell about people. Not many people, give up their Saturday night, for a birthday party, in honor of a nine-year old. Monday, on the anniversary of Mongolia's Independence from the Chinese (into the hands of the Sovs., but that is another story), we did see a couple of small auto parades with the four-armed cross, superimposed over the Mongolian, parade around town, but no problems. Kinda creepy though, to see a symbol; so closely identified with what might be worst abuses the world has ever seen, being casually displayed through the sunroof. The UB post on the 29th of November published an explanation of the groups aims, but made their position to be more symbolic, than my wife's interpretation and my experiences with skinhead types. I haven't talked with the Aussie miners yet, but I'm staying away from being seen with different women on my arm every night, wearing my steel capped boots and staying in condition orange. I just hope they don't have a rally at the wrestling palace next door.
scary stuff from the paper

Thursday, November 29, 2007

My day, Yippee

It only comes once a year, otherwise, I'm a half-way responsible citizen, loving husband, and doting parent, but I'm only forty-five once. I'm so thankful, I had the lad to amuse during the morning. He scares me a little sometimes, mostly from the provider standpoint, but he does make me young and I can see looking at life from his perspective while keep me feeling a little less than my years. My loving wife with her usual attention to high fashion and detail, kept the day rolling along. Brother Amara came by for the cake and watched the lad (who pooped on his watch), while we were at dinner. Gotta love a guy, who at twenty years of age, can change a diaper without interrupting what was a throughable enjoyable dinner.

I took some self time and had lunch at the Royal Khan Kempenski Hotel with my friend the Doctor. Later, we browsed the auto parts store (looking for a tow rope and/or some starter fluid, but that's for another day. Stayed up way late, browsing and occasionaly commenting on the internet, probably shouldn't have done that, but what the heck. Had a pleasant thought as I drifted off; how many of the bloggers have become like family, seeing as how mine are a long way away and Erdene is a little berefit at the moment also. My last word on anon and psuedonyms were that; the experience is vastly enriched, on both sides, when you let other people see a little way into your life. All in all, not the worst day of my year.

What is that danged thing?

One of the high points to our evening, also a major talking point for a week or two, was the latest WWII from Deece. Deece, I have a favorite lamb recipe suitable for the island a post down. I'm so looking forward to the turkey in umwa next year, so I searched for something which might suit the climate, in return.

Look to the right for Deece and the link to this most excellant contest through her heartfelt blog; major headscratching, mind changing, post deleting, and we are still not sure. Maybe I need to play more conservatively and certainly be a little more succesful, or I may lose my better half to her own blogger identity.

Monday, November 26, 2007

Today in Mongolia, it's ..

Just plain old leg of lamb with roasted vegetables, yummy, but not as good as the recipe down a ways.

The largeish friendly fellow holding the lad, down at the pavillion is our friend Patrick, master of the grill and as such pertinent to this post.

Mongolian National Day. I think we’ll be having ?? Maybe, Mutton. B-bqued mutton ribs, which not coincidentally are very different in size than the lamb ribs which Hubert at the Aquarius does so well. Bottled sauce I’m afraid. Molasses has been elusive so far. I’m going to have to visit the embassy at some point and see what they have in the cuboard, as I’m missing baked beans and tired of paying four dollars for decent sauce.

I remembered a lamb recipe which worked well for us on Saipan. Butterflied leg of Lamb. Sounds a little fancy, but fairly inexpensive, easy to grill, and an excellent way to serve mutton/lamb in a warm climate. I seem to remember paying nine to fourteen dollars for a leg; which alone, would serve Erdene and me, with a meal of leftovers. With sides and not too many Mongolians present, I served eight. The marinade works well with chicken, if there are non-lamb types at the table. Boning the leg is only slightly difficult. If the legs at the Carmen Safeway are still the same, there will be a largish bone at one end, running at a right angle to the major leg bone. Part of the shoulder, I believe. The large bone precludes the classic method of slipping the bone out, while leaving the meat whole, but that’s a tricky job anyway. So, just make one long cut deep cut the length of the bone and wiggle the knife around the large bone at the top, until that is free. Then proceed down the leg bone, until the meat is only attached on one side of the bone. You should end up with a piece of meat an inch or so, thick and the length and width of a kitchen towel. (You probably won’t be able to find a really big leg, but I’ve cooked some at home, three inches thick and the size of a bath towel. Those are just plain awesome). I use a cleaver for the first long cut, but any sturdy knife will work. A fish fillet knife for working around the bone is handy, although a sharp paring knife will work. Working from the large bone end, peel the meat down, cutting away as you go. The meat might be little ragged when you are done, but the grill will sear it, just try to avoid cutting through the meat entirely as that will allow the yummy meat juices to leak out while cooking.

The marinade is simple or complex depending on your tastes and herbage. The basics are a big pan or monster ziplock. I like the ziplock for better coverage and the ease of use., as the meat will need turning every hour or so for two to six hours. I’ve marinaded overnight, but not really necessary. Red Wine or grape juice, the alcohol will cook out, so no need to worry about getting the kids drunk, but some people don't like to cook with alcohol. I’ve never tried apple juice, but it might work. Hell, Tuba might work, now that is something I wished, I had tried. Vinegar, balsamic is nice, but not too much. Olive oil or vegetable, peanut is a good sub for olive, vegetable or corn are just adequate. Garlic; Must have garlic. A whole head is probably overdoing it, but eight cloves is fine for the enthusiast, crushed, minced, it’s all the same. Herbs; I’m not sure of the classic herbs for this, it’s been awhile since I’ve seen a cook book, but a bay leaf or two, crushed pepper, mint leaves and ginger are excellent, marajom, green pepper leaves minced, There are probably some local things I never tried, although I did use lemongrass from the garden at Kannat Tabla with great sucess. The lamb and the wine and vinegar will provide most of the flavor, but green herbs add color, are fun to play with, and not likely to overpower. My only rule is I stay away from herbs I would use in spaghetti sauce, other than garlic and bay leaves, but that may be my personal taste prejudices. I think two cups of wine or juice, a half cup of oil and a couple of tablespoons of vinegar are the relative ratios. Add or subtract volume, depending on how the coverage in the pan or bag looks.

Now, we come to the cooking part. Oh man, I’m drooling worse than the pumpkin, just writing this. I’ve forgotten the cooking times with stateside hardwood charcoal, but they are shorter with tangen tangen chunk charcoal, since it cooks so hot. I don’t barbeque with briquets, one of the few things, I’m a Nazi about. Three to four inches from the hot coals, no flames, if you can help it, but it will take twenty to forty minutes to cook, so don’t wait too long on the coals or you could be stuck with very rare and no heat. Don’t turn with a fork, major no no. Baste with the excess marinade and a palm frond (Man, palms are so versatile Instant basting brush. I was grilling up at the pool at kannat tabla one day and forgot my brush, I was all set to hobble down the hill, when our friend Patrick plaited one in about a minute. Threw my brush away after that). Anyway, if it a small two pound leg, twenty minutes should suffice, a larger one, just make a deepish cut in the thickest part after thirty minutes , Lamb is at it’s finest, medium rare, light red to pink is good. Don’t freak, when the outside is looking a little charred, the sugars will do that. The edges will be well done anyway, so all palates can be accommodated. I cut as much as I can, like a London broil, cause it looks so fine to me. Bon appetit.

Sunday, November 25, 2007


No rushing to the store here during the late hours of Saturday, in order to have supplies for Sunday morning. Not only do they sell spirituous liquors in the stores on Sunday, in one at least, many varieties are seriously discounted, if you buy before noon. Not to mention, the convenient beer sampling stations. Saturdays, they have meat and cheese sampling spots set up next to the beer dispenser. We're giving this aspect of Mongolia a big, Prosit!

Saturday, November 24, 2007

Some input, please

I'm just curious as to how much everyone's children were sleeping at a year old? Pumpkin has dropped off from his eleven to twelve hours, to nine and sometimes eight. He's also taken to waking up at six when he hits the rack at or before nine. He isn't exceptionally grumpy and when he is, he goes for his nap, which never lasts more than an hour and a half and he is a light sleeper once the first half hour has passed. He seems to know how much sleep he needs, but absolutely refuses to sleep until he's ready. He's ready now, as he claws at my leg. I would do one of those nifty polls, but I'll be weighting the answers by the number of children everyone has. Since our kids all appear at one time or another, I'll know. For those anons, who might wish to respond, just drop me a line at, while I'm setting up an email me link.

I'm just looking for an average and wondering if the lad is some sort of vampire flesh eating mutant or just doesn't seem to need much sleep. I'd ask my mother of her experiences with six, but the satellite doesn't pass over her part of Maine, long enough for her to hitch the mule team up to the generator and download a blog. Not sure what we'll do if he does need more, but that is for another day. Thanks. Oh Yeah, he's active and happy throughout the day, unless he does require the nap. Much better to be crawling around in nice fresh snow than that nasty gritty sand, eh?

Friday, November 23, 2007

Thanksgiving in Mongolia, was

a bust, culinary-wise. Hours of searching and no cranberry sauce. Something about jellied cranberry sauce rules. Cranberries and oranges sautéed are allright, but I like the rings from the can on my sauce. I did find a two kilo bag of dried cranberries, but at the price they were asking, I wasn't buying. I was willing to trade turkey for a stuffed chicken, but without cranberry, I couldn't summon up the spirit. Plus, I froze to the bone, searching the stores and markets and didn't have the fire for cooking. We did manage the traditional snacking stuff. Just like at moms. Pickle vegetables, gherkins, olives, cut veggies, fruits, and nuts on a platter. Otherwise it was off to City Nomads for mutton takeaway. Fried lamb dumplings for the missus, Lamb and pepper kebobs along with a hefty portion of milk tea and dumpling soup for myself. Thank goodness, Thanksgiving (beyond the turkey and fixings) is about giving thanks for health, family, food on the table, and a roof overhead. We did manage that part, along with the traditional appetizer tray, so I wouldn't call the day a total loss.

I miss my family back home, but I’m thankful for my family here and the friends we have made on Saipan. Thanksgiving is a touch to home, wherever ones boots are resting at the moment and possibly the pilgrims thought the same. We are all pilgrims at times and together in spirit for at least one day of the year.

Wednesday, November 21, 2007

An afternoon in the Park

The lad has a big following here in our little corner of UB. According to the various web doctor's sites, I've visited; at this latitude he needs twenty-five minutes of sunlight on his face each day, in order to receive ample vitamin D from sunlight. That would be fine if, the sun was out everyday, the air pollution wasn't as horrible as it is, and he didn't squirm like a speared pig when we put on his outer layers. Once outside though, he is back to mr happy. I'm just hoping the scarf attracts some of the gunk floating around in the air.

The elderly lady spends the better part of every afternoon outside and she's still kicking. Well, somewhat kicking, she broke her hip last spring and uses a walker. The lad has taken to imitating her in the kitchen, as he pushes a stool in front of him while he perambulates about. I hope he never loses that ability to smile when he meets someone outside the house. It makes all the kicking and fussing worthwile.

Saturday, November 17, 2007

Just blog filler

the pictures tell the story; a cute Mongolian boy in a yankee's hat and a cute mongoian/american boy wearing a traditional mongolian head scarf. Life here is a bit pychotic. And I'm not even going for spell check.

I haven’t posted much lately. One can see how old my stuff is from the below, dated from the world series in North America. The lad is one reason, but he is one year old and as such is blameless. Another reason, is the presence of the good doctor in UB, I tend to use the blog as an outlet for my observations and it is much easier to mention those to him, than to write about what I see, hear, and smell (sulfur, from low grade coal in the ger districts, if anyone wonders). The doctor has been off on an excursion to the countryside, so I’ve cleaned out my files and posted. Enjoy.

chicken soup 5

What’s up today? Recycling and Mongolia is as good as place to start as any. Ulan Baatar, and it doesn’t take much of a jump to include the remainder of the country, lives and breathes recycling. Recylcled rocks in the form of dust is everywhere. Dust in the street, on window ledges (inside and out). When the wind picks up; dust fills the air to the point where each breath requires chewing grit. UB is a huge construction zone, which doesn’t help, but from day one in the countryside, I’ve noticed a propensity for broken rock everywhere. Paul Theroux, in his 1985 travel book “Riding the Red Rooster” remarked on the arid nature of Mongolia, particularly in the southern region known as inner Mongolia. He only spends thirty odd pages on Outer Mongolia, but I’m finding his to be an interesting journey through what was then communist Europe and asia, just as the world was beginning to reject communism.
The worst thing about Mongolian broken rock is it is generally worthless. Very brittle and tends towards sharp edges, not exactly granite cobblestone material. The Germans say they have found a use for it in paving, but I haven’t been to their test project site near one of the monastaries as of yet. I’ve cut ankles, scored boots, sandals, and socks on the piles of broken rubble which adorn UB, but haven’t found much smooth paving.
Travel books are full of references to “piles of small stones dotted our route” Walking around the countryside with my brother in law I followed his practice of carrying a stone until one tires of that one, then dropping it on a convient pile, followed by picking up another and repeating the process. One traveller’s mystery solved. There is a religious custom going back to the bhuddist days, of pyramids of stone decorated with streamers of cloth built on the crests of ridges and hilltops.
One of the major environmental concerns here in middle asia is desertification and the evidence of the problem is everywhere. The air and soil here is dry, the growing season short, and grazing animals are the main foodstuff and export in the form of cashmere and wool. All these factors combine to make for a fairly bleak landscape under the brilliant blue sky.
I’m not sure what if anything, Mongolia will do to reverse the process. Planting hardy grasses are a start, but the very nature of the climate, has already weeded out the less vigorous varieties. Food lots and grain fed animals could be an option, except Mongolia is already stretched its grain imports to the limit, I’ve learned not to argue with my wife about traditional practices, and so can‘t see anyone doing the same with entire population of the country.. No mention of diverting reciepts from mineral development towards a change in the traditional activities has been made to my knowledge and overgrazing is without much doubt behind most of the problem.
Strangely enough I had a fairly crappy afternoon, for someone who’s favorite team won the North American World Series. I have to delinate, which world series now, that the south americans and the Asians are producing so many fine ballplayers. That’s not me being PC, just honest. So, I left the medical clinic with Dad Mashbatt, all well. Checked my mail and the final score in the forlorn hope that perhaps the game was in extra innings. No luck, but we did win. News from home, was that my newest niece manage to aspirate some merconiam in utero, but is coming along just fine. When things are going well, I want everything to be perfect, but that was not to be. I really wanted my brother to have every experience I had, and not to be able to hold baby Lily for a long period, must have been a tough pill to take. Still, in his shoes, I’m sure he’s happy for what he has, but I did wish perfection. On the bright side, that big nasty first diaper is out of the way. Ech.. Baby Lily is home now, all well, with no future problems likely to occur. Sweet little face too and she has a fine set of parents, I miss her already.
For my celebration, I had a few with my personal physcian, but our time was somewhat spoiled by a trio of persistent urchins looking to make some money for nothing. If they had been able to come up with an English language paper, that would be one thing, but a paper in Cyrillic doesn’t do much for me or the doctor. We actually had to chase them off, as they were physically harassing the waitress doubling as doorman. Upon arrival at home, I managed a few minutes of quiet, close companiable conversation with the missus, but we woke up the lad from his nap. He was happy to see dad and the usual, so what am I bitching about. A happy pmpkn is a joy for everyone. After a bit of hug, squeeze, and chase with the boy, I ventured to the market for assorted groceries, I suppose this is where my day really went to hell. Alongside the curb was an extremely young, exceptionally friendly, and healthy puppy, but I had no place to take him. No PAW’s, no nothing. I took him to a local resteraunt and put the old sock I use to dust my boots along with him in a sturdy, hopefully homey, box next to the dumpster. Maybe they will feed him or he will learn to scrounge before starving. I have a goat leg bone, which I’ll take over, but most likely our little trip across the back lot will be the only kindness he knows in his life. Too bad, he seemed like a fine little dog with an excellent attitude. Maybe this is telling me, that it’s time to go home and make a life in which it is possible to take a little stray in.
On the bright side, the weather has been beautiful during the last couple days, since I wrote the above. A little snow yesterday. Wedsday; provided us with broad blue skies and clean crisp (freaking chilly, but I”ll take it clean dry and cold) air.

Lamb Stew in Mongolia

First off, there is a trip to the market. This is a particularly nice saddle cut (some might say, it's a "Turbitt of Mutton"), more suited for a roast, but very tender.

I like to dredge the lamb/mutton in seasoned flour. I have a rapidly dwindling jar of lemon pepper seasoning for this, along with some local stuff. I say stuff, because I don't read cyrillic, but I believe it is heavily salted dried vegetables for soup.

This is my favorite part; after browning the mutton in the trimmed chunked fat, no less, I sweat some onions and garlic in butter, then add the leftover dredging flour, plus a little more, if I think the resulting sauce will be too thin(there is a technical word for this, but my copy of the "joy of cooking" is in a box in Mom's barn). I slowly add liquid to make a smooth paste at this point and stir, stir, stir. By now, the missus is sneaking the browned lamb, so I either put her to work chopping or send her away with a pointed fork (ah, I mean look).

If I'm at all organized, I put the carrot and the pea-like green vegetables on to boil and have the turnip and potatoes already drained. I discard the potato/turnip water, but like to use the carrot/pea juice for extra liquid and vitamins.

I really like pearl barley in my stews, but I most often cook it seperately, as the always thirsty barley can suck the liquid out of just about anything (why do you think they use barley for beer? Stands to reason it makes on thirsty, eh?). At this point, the consistency and total liquid volume of the stew is about set, but hopefully still a little thick and in need of additional liquid. If this is the case bring the volume up with milk, if your ideal is a creamy, somewhat sweet, stew. Omit the milk, if you want a clearish stew, use water for volume, and cut back on the flour during the early stages. From here on, I'm standing guard, as much as stirring, as I can usually count on an audience of poachers. In particular demand, are the browned chunks of fat from the blessed browning of the meat. The green stuff on top is dill, I'm really slacking on a decent spice selection here - Marajom, bay leaves, celery seed, Chopped celery or bok choy in my case, and/or chervil - all work.

That's it, Probably easier to make in Saipan or back home, but just the thing on a cool rainy afternoon or a cold evening. Thanks to Tamara for showing me that a good recipe can be picturized in a blog, to my mom for teaching me the ins and outs of sauces, and my dad for making a lamb stew which I can only aspire to.

Mongolia at a crossroads

I'm having a little trouble creating a clickable link to this article, but quite possibly if you click on the title of the post, you will be transferred to the article. If anyone is interested, this article discusses the current debate in Mongolia on how best to exploit their substantial mineral resources. This one's for you Fraser. Here also is a pastable link if the title doesn't work.

travels so far

Thursday, November 15, 2007

spam girls

I've been so slack lately. With my sounding board, the good doctor, off to the fleshpots of Dahkar, Erdenet, and wherever the road leaves him (possibly, along the side of.) I'm posting like a madman. More on my lack of motivation another day. I know there is no spam in the picture of the pumpkin going for a little strange, but the image cracked me up, as I was choosing pictures.

These are for Glen. Alas, I think he will be disappointed as the women are fully clothed. Fashionable, though. Even with the cold weather, the women here still look fantastic. Friendly too. A smile is always returned, unless we are elbowing each other for a spot in line.

An intro to a ger

A few more of my scant supply of ger images. I have to crouch a bit to enter, but once inside, even my Dr Brown’s loving butt had plenty of room. Behind Erdene’s mom, dad, and sister Solte, you can see the accordian like lattice work which gives the circular walls their form. Above that, are broomstick like rods which reach up to the center hole. Good draft and a fair amount of light. The stovepipe is nice. I imagine a ger without a stovepipe could be a bit smoky, although the angle of the center opening can be varied to allow for shifts in the wind. The furniture and kitchen goods are arranged around the perimenter and the stove sits in the center of the room. We slept five in the ger Mashabat and weren't too cramped. Although, being older, I didn't have to sleep with Erdene's younger brother, Amara, as her brother Ankha did. The ger has evolved for over eight centuries in an extremely demanding climate. As long as I had a horse or camel to carry it, I would love to have one for camping.

A drink for the new century

This is prompted by Tami’s ode to her lost love.
I’m forced to substitute McCoffee for my beloved Dr. Brown. McCoffee, how could you love a product with that name, let alone compose prose? Oh well, it tastes good. Damn the calories, full caffeine ahead.

A couple more ger pics

My dear wife reminded me where I had seen the large ger pulled by an ox team. It's on the thousand Togreg note, big dummy. So, I didn't have schlep down to the museum for a picture, just to the kitchen table with my handy mutton knife. I don't think every man/woman/ and many children carry a knife in the expectation of committing violence, but just in case they are invited to dine. Mongolians are very hospitable and pretty much empty out the larder for visitors. Woe to the guest without a handy knife for chunking out a side of mutton ribs, or goat, or horse.. The lovely family group in front of the family's summer ger are Erdene's mom, dad, the elder of her two brothers, and her two sisters. Exceptionally, fine people who have gone out of their way at every opportunity to make us happy and comfortable here.

Mongolian Mobile home

I've seen pictures of another larger ger, hauled by ox or Yak teams. Probably used by the Khans or lesser nobles, the team is at least twelve oxen wide and that is also the width of the ger and wagon. The common types simply take it apart and haul it on a couple or horses or a camel. Takes about an hour to tear down and load up. That's a lot of work, if you were traveling with the hordes. I need some more pictures, to do a description proper justice, but the basic ger is extremely user friendly, even warm. More later.