Friday, October 12, 2007

Menu for my Imaginary Country

The Promenade
Restaurant and Winery
188 Orient Avenue
Penthouse, the Crimson Building


The Promenade Special: Gourmet cheeses accented by wine of the day and organic apples with salad. $10.92

A Rustic Flair: Biscuits and smoked salmon. $6.38

Summer Delight: Sliced orange garnished by goat cheese and sun dried tomatoes. $6.00

Verandah Crunch: Mixed nuts with plain yogurt. $6.00

The Alleyway: Pumpernickel bread with honey-brie cheese. $9.99


Catch of the Day: Halibut, salmon, mackerel, or tilapia, grilled to perfection. $32.60

The Clam Shack: Fresh clams lightly breaded with honey-coated multi-grain. $28.00

Pasta Canasta: A variety of noodles with ravioli and tortellini, complimented by basil tomato sauce and Shiitake mushrooms. Salmon on request. $29.95

Countryside Platter: Organic veal, pork, and lamb, with parmesan cheese and rigatoni. $36.34

Wind of the Sea: Salmon teriyaki with clams, oysters, mussels, and dulse. $29.99

Vegetarian Variety: Platter of fake meats and breads with one salad of your choice. We do not use cows’ milk, eggs, or other animal products. $23.98

Three-cheese pizza: Our pizza features goat cheese, mozzarella, and gorgonzola, with sun-dried tomatoes. Our cheeses use vegetable rennet. All of our pizzas are baked in our traditional wood ovens. $34.99

Vegetable pizza: A variety of vegetables with mozzarella cheese and deep-dish crust. $38.99

Side Dishes

Potato slices: Accented by rosemary, basil, paprika, thyme, dill, and oregano, our potato slices are baked a golden brown. $11.99

Rice Variety: Black, brown, white, and purple rice. $11.00

Small breads: Multi-grain, white, potato, and cornbread in miniature size. $12.30

Soups and Salads

Farmer's Pride: Butternut Squash soup with cilantro. $18.22

Fisherman's Best: Genuine clam chowder with vegetables and breadsticks. $19.99

Mushroom Lovers: Cream of mushroom soup with herbs. $16.00

Sweet Salad: Mixed fruits and vegetables garnished by grass. $17.99

Multitask Salad: Meat, seafood, fake meats, fruit, and vegetables. $37.00

Keep it Simple: Lettuce and cabbage garnished by grass. $10.00


Dark chocolate and mocha ice cream bar $27.00

Island Sorbet (orange, lemon, lime, and coconut flavored sorbets) $30.00

Fudge squares with chocolate chip ice cream, garnished by assorted candies $29.99

Chocolate cheesecake slice $23.00

Tiramisu cake slice $23.99

Chocolate hazelnut cake slice $23.00

Coffee cake $22.76

Assorted fruit with whipped cream $18.67

Plain sponge cake slice topped by fresh fruit and sugar glaze (gelatin-free) $23.00

Variety ice cream (chocolate-chip, fudge chocolate, vanilla, vanilla-chocolate, raspberry cheesecake, dark chocolate, huckleberry, blackberry, strawberry)


Cognac (aged 12 years) $210.00

Chardonnay (8 years) $156.99

Cranberry cocktail $52.99

(For full list of our wine selections, ask your server)

Non-alcoholic: Fresh orange/grapefruit juice, iced cranberry juice, any of the former with carbonated water, bottled water, mineral/vitamin water.

Thursday, October 11, 2007

Vietnamese Cuisine

As I will be going on an Asia tour this November through Hong Kong, Beijing, and Vietnam, I am doing some research on Vietnamese cuisine--just in case some if its not-so-savory sounding foods (dog meat, for instance) disturb my semi-vegetarian diet during my stay.

According to, a website I would strongly recommend for research on Vietnam, the French had a large influence on Vietnamese food because of their colonization of Vietnam. One obvious influence is French bread.

According to, one popular dish, with noticeable French roots, is the "Vietnamese baguette, French bread containing paté, Vietnamese mayo, different selections of Vietnamese cold cuts and deli (a large variety, most commonly with ham, head cheese, and a Vietnamese bologna), pickled daikon and carrot, cucumber slices. Often garnished with coriander, black pepper."

Another influence on Vietnam's cuisine was neighboring China. There are many similarities between Chinese food and Vietnamese; rice is a staple part of diet, there are a lot of vegetables, and many people eat meats like chicken and pork. China's "baozi" inspired the Vietnamese Banh bao.

Some of Vietnam's more "exotic" meats include fertilized duck eggs (eating a nearly-developed embryo), snake, soft-shell turtle, and goat. Some of these are, however, according to,

"cocktail delicacies" with alcohol, and are not considered typical everyday

According to Wikipedia, "Its [Vietnam's] characteristic flavors are sweet (sugar), spicy (Serrano peppers), sour (lime), nuoc mam (fish sauce), and flavored by a variety of mint and basil."

Vietnam is also famous for its noodle dishes, which are acclaimed around the world.

And although dog meat and fertilized duck eggs may sound strange, keep in mind that American monstrosities like hot dogs and French fries probably seem weird to a lot of people!

Phrases of my Imaginary Country

Phrase: One hobbling crook is better than ninety-two strong monks.

Definition: One "bad" person who is too weak to do anything is better than ninety-two "good" people who are strong and zealous.

Origins: After the reign of Voledads' first duarchy, a religiously devout sister and brother pair, the Trinansitic archbishop took control of the country and installed harsh rules against those opposed to the Trinansitic faith. Monks were the new "bad guys" in their violent searches, secret surveillance systems, and total control of the legal system.

Phrase: Hag's Revenge

Definition: Hag's Revenge means a medicine that does more harm than good.

Origins: Alternative medicines became popular in the 1970s with the rise in buying of foreign goods and "exotic" objects. Alternative medicines, which were also known as "Hagfood" for the alternative apothecary stereotype (generally old women in the popular imagination), were soon at the center of a nationwide scandal, due to toxic elements found in some alternative medicines.

Phrase: Cutting cupboards

Definition: Conserving space

Origins: As cramped immigrant tenements, stylish condominiums, and massive villas sprouted up across Voledads, conserving space became a neccessary part of life. Cupboards, the traditional Voledadian storage unit, were usually heavy wood pieces of furniture, with such ornate decorations and add-ons that took up a great deal of space. The cupboards often stored less than they weighed, so many households in urbanized areas began "cutting cupboards."

Wednesday, October 03, 2007

One of My Imaginary Country's Founders

Voledads is the imaginary country I have created in class. One of the country's founders is Emilio Iodeco van Sprawitz, more commonly referred to as Emilio van Sprawitz. Like many Voledadians, he was born in Maintana, but his father, Franklin van Sprawitz, was from Carmellan. Emilio van Sprawitz was born in 1698, the middle child of a middle-class merchant’s sprawling family of seventeen. Emilio's grandmother observed from the beginning that he was strangely calm, cautious, and observant for a small child.

Emilio van Sprawitz attended the College of Hull and Brownstone-Morris, famous for the study of psychology and law, on a scholarship for law at the age of thirteen. Contrasting sharply with his young childhood and later adulthood, Emilio was a rather rowdy sort in college, carousing about with the higher class and accumulating large debts. He studied law very seriously, however.

Emilio van Sprawitz was the main author of the constitution, which was drafted in 1738, after the deposal of Voledads’ most powerful monarch, Otto IV.

Emilio van Sprawitz wrote propaganda papers for the revolutionary cause, headed diplomacy missions for foreign aid, and helped install the first constitutionally-ruled oligarchy. Emilio van Sprawitz served as an advisor to the oligarchy for three terms (each term equaling one year), and was nominated to the oligarchy. He agreed (somewhat reluctantly, and after a great deal of prodding) to run for a seat in the oligarchy and won a winning vote, but died before he could assume his post.

Emilio van Sprawitz led educational reform and helped lower crime ratings, but he was often criticized for his Draconian ways—he notoriously made repeated misdemeanors punishable by death.

One hot June day, Emilio van Sprawitz set out on a recreational fishing trip in his yacht with a number of other political figures. Van Sprawitz was chatting with a number of people in the cigar lounge when someone lit a gunpowder fuse. It exploded in the West Wing of the boat, the site of the cigar lounge. Van Sprawitz and those in the cigar lounge died instantly. Van Sprawitz’s assassinator was never found, and it is still up in the air whether the assassinator intended to kill him or another person.

One interesting fact was that was only revealed after his death was that Van Sprawitz was very scared of cats, and had two pit bulls stationed at the back door of his immense country house to guard specially against his neighbor’s tomcats.

If I Really Became an Expert...This is Me in 20 Years


I studied China extensively in college and graduate school, set many of my works in China, traveled to China and interviewed locals for more information on the history of specific areas. I majored in Chinese history in college and graduate school. To learn more about China, I have visited China, Taiwan, and England (England having had quite a bit of control in China some time ago), as well as Japan to investigate China’s ancient influences.

My income comes from a variety of sources--I host my own History Channel program on Ancient China for middle/high school students, which is a large success in schools and dishes in quite a bit of money. I am also a spokesperson for the Chinese government’s tourism program to publicize Chinese museums and artifacts and raise international awareness about China’s rich history. My various books are national bestsellers and many schools across the country have invested in textbooks I have co-authored.

My books (some of which I’m still working on) include:

The Shadowed Specialist: An Intimate Look at the Life of China’s First Female Historian (New York bestseller list for two years running and winner of the Pulitzer Prize)
The Middle Kingdom (A general textbook on Ancient China)
China’s Role in Today’s Economy (a look at China’s influence in business and featured in Forbes, Businessweek, and Fortune Magazine)
The Invaders: Mongols in China
Museums in China: Great Places for the Whole Family
(a guidebook to Chinese museums, distributed by the Chinese government)
Time Tunnel: the Xia Dynasty
Time Tunnel: The Shang Dynasty
Time Tunnel: The Zhou Dynasty
(all Time Tunnel books are brief, hardcover books with slippery pages and lots of photos aimed at elementary school children. There are Time Tunnel books for most of China’s dynasties and the Cultural Revolution.)
The Lonely Bronze Vessel: An Exploration of the Designs of the Shang Dynasty
Chinese Architecture.

My house is stainless white, with brick siding, two floors, and four grand pillars holding up a triangular extension of the roof over the expansive porch. A balcony with ornate railing juts out from the main bedroom, directly above the black door. My parlor is frequented by prominent historians and literary figures, some of whom stay the night in one of my five color-themed guest bedrooms. My office is bamboo-floored with large Victorian windows and reading cushions. I have a large Rose Garden (pesticide free), which is also the site of history reenactments by the neighborhood children to raise money for good causes.

My routine is like this: Everyday I wake up late and have a breakfast of hot pinhead oats or organic cereal, after which I proceed to my office, check email on my sleek black laptop, and proceed with work on my latest book. My sister Adrianna, the eminent musician, comes every so often to give a concert in the Rose Garden to raise money for charitable organizations, but my real reason for inviting her is her delicious cooking, and sometimes she makes me lunch.
I take naps around two PM and wake up promptly at three twenty-five to (weather permitting) give lectures in the Rose Garden or inside my house to raise money for charitable organizations. After these lectures I do physical exercise and whatever else I want. My dinner table is quite long—I eat with a number of famous personages before we all watch a movie in my home theater.

Some of the greatest sources of happiness in my life include seeing children—or adults, for that matter—become interested in history; discovering new things in my research on China; spending time with my family; and getting the feeling that I’m actually doing something that will impact the world.

Monday, October 01, 2007

Alfred, Lord Tennyson

A mermaid reminiscing self-contentedly, a linnet in a cage "that never knew the summer woods," a bugle call in a woman's college, the mysterious Lady of Shalott…
Dive into the world of Alfred, Lord Tennyson with Sterling Publishing's Alfred, Lord Tennyson, part of the Poetry for Young People series. Vivid illustrations by Allen Garns bring Alfred, Lord Tennyson's works to life for the whole family.
Alfred, Lord Tennyson is a great read for children and parents alike. The depth of his topics will spark interest for adults, while the wonderful texture, beautiful illustrations, and imagery-rich poetry of the hardcover book will entrance children.
Some of my favorite features include the vocabulary definitions at the bottom of each poem. While some books may include definitions, they sometimes take so long to find that they turn off most readers in today's hurried world. The Poetry for Young People series takes care of that problem and teaches children new words in the process.
Another great feature are the in-depth biographies in the beginning of the book. Ideal for class projects or learning on your own about different poets, information is presented concisely, yet gives detailed information.
Alfred, Lord Tennyson is a wonderful introduction to literature for everybody. I heartily recommend the book for a nuanced and well-rounded look at the poetry of one of England's most renowned Victorian poets.

Sterling Publishing's Albert Einstein Book

Does the name “Albert Einstein” make you remember—or dread—a stuffy classroom and a teacher droning about relati-something while the class sleeps on?
Or perhaps “Albert Einstein” sparks memories—or excitement—about trailblazing in the fascinating world of science.
Either way, you should probably pick up a book.
Recently I read Albert Einstein: The Miracle Mind. An engrossing biography by Tabatha Yeatts and part of the Sterling Biographies series, Einstein is a thorough look at Einstein’s life and times and the influences that shaped him.
I would recommend Einstein to all ages, especially school-age children. Vocabulary words with definitions, ample visuals for enhanced reading enjoyment, and concise information panels all combine to create a wonderful tool for school projects or learning on your own. The compactness and texture of the hardcover book will strongly appeal to children.
Although some kids may back away at the word “biography,” Tabatha Yeatt’s unique voice makes Einstein flow like a fiction story. For instance, at the end of Chapter 3: “He [Einstein] didn’t give her a reason, but it might have been because he had met the woman he would marry: a fellow student named—”
You’ll have to find that out yourself!

Becoming an Expert: Part 3

I was looking for night reading--something exciting, perhaps, fiction, most definitely--in my mom's bedroom, when, scanning the shelves line by line, stumbled upon a brobdingnagian tome titled Ancient Civilizations. The six hundred and eighty-eight page book wasn't exactly night reading, I decided. It did, however, have plenty of information on China, so today we'll learn about the Shang Dynasty.

According to Ancient Civilizations, the Shang (also known as the Yin) dynasty, was China's "first truly historical dynasty," lasting from around 1550 to 1045 BCE. The Shang dynasty’s Cheng Tang wrested power out of the hands of his predecessor, King Jie of the Xia Dynasty (citing The Records of the Historian by Sima Qian). The Shang state was centered in what is now called the Huabei Pingyuan (North China Plain), an expansive lowland area extending across north central China. Microsoft ® Encarta ® 2008. © 1993-2007 Microsoft Corporation. All rights reserved.

Many artifacts dated from the Shang Dynasty, such as bronze vessels, turtle-shells, ox-bones, and sculptures, have been found. The quote below about the Shang Dynasty from Microsoft Encarta ® 2008 illustrates the extent of Shang texts:

“Shang texts exist primarily in the form of carvings in the Shang
script on animal bones and shells.
These inscriptions recorded the king’s
divinations (ritual acts designed to forecast the future). More than 200,000
fragments of the so-called oracle-bone inscriptions have been found. They
provide an account of the daily concerns of the last nine Shang kings, from the
21st king, Wu Ding, to the 29th king, Di Xin.”

According to Civilizations, the Shang features of life were changed visibly when King Wu Ding extended Shang power, which made the Shang dynasty exposed to the innovations of the west, such as the introduction of the chariot.

The last days of the Shang Dynasty were not very impressive. Divinations continued regularly; bronze styles did not progress; military and political power was “limited,” from Ancient Civilizations. Even the tombs of the last Shang kings were looted. However, we get some view of what these tombs would have been like from the intact tomb of King Wu Ding’s consort, Fu Hao. Encarta says about Fu Hao’s tomb:

“It offers a glimpse of how the others would have been furnished with a lavish
assortment of cast bronzes (vessels, bells, mirrors, and weapons), carved jade
ornaments, pottery, and objects made of ivory and marble.”

This ostentatious variety of valuable antiquities sounds like a fitting end to the Shang Dynasty and this article.


Chinese Dynasties
China was ruled by dynasties, a line of rulers from the same family, for thousands of years. The last emperor was forced from power in 1911, bringing dynastic rule in China to an end.

Major events

2205?-1570? bc
agriculture, bronze, first writing
Shang or Yin
1570?-1045? bc
first major dynasty; first Chinese calendar, metallurgy, uniform writing code
1045?-256 bc
developed society using money, iron, written laws; age of Confucius
221-206 bc
unification after period of Warring States, building of Great Wall begun, roads built
206 bc-ad 220
first centralized and effectively administered empire; introduction of Buddhism
Three Kingdoms Period
division into three states, prolonged fighting and eventual victory of the state of Wei over Chu and Wu; Confucianism superseded by Buddhism and Daoism (Taoism)
beginning of Hun invasions in the north
reunification; barbarian invasions stopped; Great Wall refortified
centralized government; empire greatly extended; period of excellence in sculpture, painting, and poetry
Wu Dai(Five Dynasties)
economic depression and loss of territory in northern China, central Asia, and Korea; first use of paper money
period of calm and creativity; printing developed (movable type); central government restored; northern and western frontiers neglected and Mongol incursions begun
beginning of Mongol rule in China, under Kublai Khan; Marco Polo visited China; dynasty brought to an end by widespread revolts, centered in Mongolia
Mongols driven out by native Chinese, Mongolia captured by 2nd Ming emperor; period of architectural development; Beijing flourished as new capital
China once again under non-Chinese rule, the Qing conquered by nomads from Manchuria; trade with the West; culture flourished, but conservatism eventually led to the dynasty's overthrow by nationalistic revolutionaries led by Sun Yatsen
Microsoft ® Encarta ® 2008. © 1993-2007 Microsoft Corporation. All rights reserved.


"Shang Dynasty." Microsoft Encarta 2008.

“Ancient Civilizations.” General Editor: Professor Greg Woolf.