Maes Hughes Deserved Better

No, I won’t post a pie on Pi Day. I have renounced The Mathematics. I also wrote this at like 3AM, so it doesn’t really make sense. Have a good day.

– Stephen Ai, former Math Man™

Despite rapidly-approaching end-of-term essay deadlines, I finally sat down to rewatch Fullmetal Alchemist: Brotherhood, for the first time since it aired back in 2009. To be honest, I had forgotten how dark the plot was (it is likely that I didn’t completely understand it the first time around). This was quite a spooky experience, due to my *very wise* decision to watch these episodes alone in the dark during the ungodly hours of 2-4AM. This spook-factor was all compounded by the fact that I was full of nervous, manic energy in regards to my essay evaluations. After watching several thousand anime characters die per episode, hoisting myself out of bed, I would make my way to the bathroom, pass the mirror, look myself in the eye, and immediately think about my fragile mortality. This was a fun nightly routine.

Riding this thriller-genre high, this past week alone, I have rewatched portions of Hannibal, Stranger Things, Get Out, Playtest from Black Mirror, Coraline, The Wailing and Soju’s design challenge hanbok, also at the wee hours of the night (or morning?). I imagined myself crawling through a small door towards my untimely death at the hands of my spindly, arachnid “Other Supervisor.” Experiencing vicariously these statistically-unlikely deaths somehow gave me hope that I wouldn’t be killed at Cambridge, metaphorically or otherwise, and that these essays would turn out fine. My supervisors are probably not trying to sew buttons into my eyes and eat me. I am also not special enough for anyone to go out of their way to find me alone in my room and murder me. Yes, this is a challenge. I invite you to try. Actually, please don’t.

There is, surprisingly, a more wholesome way to pull yourself out of the academic dumps. My friend suggested the novel idea that I go outside and talk to people. Not doing that. Another friend let me know about the modern Japanese tradition of giving Kit-Kats to people as good luck charms, stemming from a coincidental cognate between “Kit-Kat” and “きっと勝つ!” (“you will definitely win!”). Similarly, chicken katsu, playing off of the same cognate “勝つ” (“to win”) is served to students before evaluations. In the Ai family home, my good luck dish of choice was red-braised pork, or 红烧肉. My mother, stern Chinese woman and master of braising, served this dish to me before exams, recitals, and piano competitions.

So this time, I made red-braised pork for myself. And I imagined the glistening, tender pork speaking to me, à la Hannibal, cheering “you can do it!” and “if you don’t do well I’ll compare you to Johnny from HuaXia Chinese school!”

Encouraging Red-Braised Pork Belly
Serves 4 people or 1 Stephen

1-1.5 kg pork bellyimg_1426_polarr
3 tbsp oil
4 tbsp light soy sauce
4 tbsp dark soy sauce
1/2 cup Shaoxing wine
1 cup water
150 g rock sugar
2 inches fresh ginger, sliced
3-4 strips orange peel
1 cinnamon stick
1 whole nutmeg
4 whole star anise
5-6 cardamom pods
5-6 cloves

1. If necessary, tweeze any hairs left on the pork skin. Cut pork belly into 1 inch pieces.
2. Bring a pot of water up to boil, and blanch pork pieces for 3-4 minutes. This removes some of the excess blood and fat. Drain and rinse pork in cold water.
3. Heat oil on medium-low heat in a large saucepan or wok. Add 50g rock sugar to the oil and dissolve by continuous, slow stirring. The sugar will caramelize and brown. Be patient!
4. Add pork pieces carefully to the wok and fry until lightly browned.
5. To the wok, add light soy sauce, dark soy sauce, Shaoxing wine and 1 cup water. Bring the mixture up to a boil and reduce to a simmer.
6. Add remaining 100g rock sugar, ginger slices, orange peel, cinnamon stick, nutmeg, star anise and cardamom. Stir to combine, and let simmer for 1-2 hours, until pork is tender. Periodically, stir and skim off excess fat.
7. If there is too much liquid at the end, turn up the heat all the way, and stir continuously to reduce the sauce until a desirable consistency.
7. Serve over rice and a wholesome episode of Fullmetal Alchemist, like episode 4.

Music Recommendation:
Car Seat Headrest – Bodys


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