Lesson 18: How to Make a Bangin’ Hollandaise and Drive a Moped in Southeast Asia (not simultaneously)
1. Make a Fresh Hollandaise Sauce
Set a pot of water to boil. In a metal mixing bowl, throw an egg yolk, a juicy squeeze of lemon, your favorite hot sauce, a generous pinch of salt, and about 3 cloves’ worth of minced garlic. Cut up a half a stick of butter into ¼ inch thick pats and set next to the stove.
When the water is boiling, hold the metal bowl slightly above the boiling water, tip the bowl for easier mixing, and start whisking. If necessary, adjust the bowl an appropriate distance from the boiling water so that the ingredients thicken, but not so hot that the egg starts cooking.
Continue whisking and do not stop. Watch the mixture as it slowly changes composition. It will thicken up and appear creamy. Keep a close eye; whisk and watch for the right time to add the butter. Add too soon and your Hollandaise will be thin and runny, not an ideal sauce. Wait too long and you’ll end up with scrambled eggs! Also delicious, but not the breakfast we’re going for.
When the texture is creamy, consistency thicker, and the coloring taking on a pastel tint from that of the egg yolk, toss in one pat of butter, keeping the bowl in place above the water. If you have underdeveloped arm strength like me, your forearm may get tired, but think of the Hollandaise and keep on keeping on.
The butter will emulsify with your egg concoction. When it’s half melted, throw in the next pat of butter, and whisk it together. Repeat for the remaining pats of butter until all the butter has been incorporated.
Taste the sauce, nod approvingly to self, and set aside on the stove to serve later with your eggs benedict. There’s your Hollandaise sauce.
This lesson was learned in early 2019. Hollandaise is a tricky sauce to make because it’s all about getting the temperature of the egg just right before adding the butter. The process is such that the sauce itself can break if any of the elements are not in place. And yes, there have been quite a few eggs and butter sacrificed in honing this skill to please the breakfast gods, aka my stomach. Sometimes, there is only an instant window of opportunity in which the ingredients coalesce together to make the sauce.
2. Drive a Manual Transmission Moped in Southeast Asia
Fly to Southeast Asia and visit Chiang Mai, Thailand. Meet a cute boy at a reggae bar who happens to drive a manual transmission moped. Ask him to demonstrate the basics of driving, like switching gears, braking, etc. If he offers to lend you the bike for the afternoon while he’s away at TOEFL school, say yes and agree to pick him up after class.
First, you’ll want to practice the basics so take the bike for a spin around a parking lot space. Practice speeding up, slowing down, moving between gears, and braking. Familiarize yourself with maneuvering the bike around turns, driving over bumps, and other gnarly twists the road may throw at you.
When you are able to zip around the parking lot well, graduate to the street. This is Thailand so the roads may not be the best, which is perfect for practicing! Go around the block as many times as it takes to become generally comfortable. Wave hi to the locals who watch the crazy farang pass by once, thrice, ten times. By this point you may likely be bored and feeling quite confident – a magical combination for action.
If your phone doesn’t have GPS capability overseas, you’ll want to map out and memorize the way to downtown Chiang Mai. Wave goodbye to the villagers one more time on your way out to the main road.
When you reach the big road, it may be several lanes across with seemingly no rules to the madness. It might appear as a wave of scooters, cars, and tuk tuk’s rather than straight, “civilized” lanes of steady traffic. Stay cool and go slow at first. It may seem chaotic – people aren’t looking in their rear-view mirrors, checking their blind spot, or using their signal. But don’t be scared or deterred, it doesn’t mean there’s no order; it’s just not Western-style traffic.
Observe, and you’ll start to notice that everyone is keeping an eye on what’s happening ahead of them. If someone stops or makes a turn, they don’t need to signal or check their rear-view because the rule is whoever’s behind them will anticipate and move accordingly. When everyone is responsible for what’s in front of them, traffic moves really fluidly. It is a surprising phenomenon.
If you’re ready to, speed up your motorbike and sync into the flow. Just watch what goes on ahead of you and you’ll be weaving in and out of traffic with a family of ten squeezed on the rear in no time!
This lesson was learned in the summer of 2016. The process of learning something was to break it down into manageable steps, practice, anticipate difficulties, and gradually introduce complexity. Looking back at my experience, I am at once shocked and delighted at my daring. Within an afternoon, I was weaving in and out of traffic like I had been born on a scooter, let alone a manual. Never Stop Learning. I love it. Love it. Love it.
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