PaperQueen in Shanghai Blog #4 - Feb 29 - March 6, 2016
Our daughter Georgia has gone back to Uni and we are now living our "new life" in Shanghai; all alone with no house guests.
Day one: Recovery - I walked almost 200,000 steps in my first 17 days here. (Thanks to my iPhone 6S for letting me keep track.) Totally knackered.
Day two - This was my first day of travelling around the city solo. I have to admit it's a bit unnerving being the ONLY white person on a jam packed subway train. (Not exaggerating.) There are hardly any Caucasians here. In fact, there is very little cultural diversity here at all. It is a strange feeling. They sneakingly stare at me until I catch their eye.
I found some beautiful shops, tree lined streets, pearly pink Bentley's and posh Tai Tai's galore. The picture below was taken in the French Concession. A darling boutique was just to the left (you can't see it) and then this was all outside. I just love how shabby chic it is.
(Knitting in the streets of the French Concession + laundry hangs EVERYWHERE here. I can't stop taking pictures of it - it it actually very charming.)
Grumpy or something else? Maybe I am imagining it but I feel it around me. In the grocery store I asked very politely (I had it written down in Mandarin as backup) where the pine nuts were. (If any of you have seen the 'Soup Nazi' episode on Seinfeld - this is how I am now asking for things.) The store was huge, think Save-On-Foods on steroids. The nut lady, they have an entire nut department, glared at me and said "no", without any hesitation whatsoever. No. I said, "No? No pine nuts in the whole store?". And again she said "No." And that was that.
Another day I asked to see something in a locked case in a different store. Again, the salesperson (older) looked me up and down (with that look, let's just say it wasn't a very nice look) and said "no" and then walked back to her tv show? WT..? Think what would happen if we did that at home? (Saying no and watching tv at work.)
(No one wears helmets here. No driving rules whatsoever apply here at all. This boy is eating his dinner with chopsticks on the back of his mum's moped!)
New friends - I met some lovely new Shanghai expat ladies this week. Darling Fiona, cashmere tour guide friend, kindly organized a ladies lunch along with two of her friends Kat and Jen. They were wonderful and just what I needed after three days of solitude and having no wingman. Within three minutes we were having real life, no BS conversations - which I am all about! We cut to the chase, bagged all the formalities and got real fast. Maybe that's the norm here since people move so much; they don't have the luxury of time. No time to waste with small talk. Whatever it was, I loved it. So wonderful to meet such super women, hear their (very interesting) expat life stories and become instant friends (well that's how I felt anyway). Lunch was followed by a one hour long foot massage. Next week they are kindly taking me to see the custom cashmere coat and dress lady as well as a handmade purse guy. I'm just a little bit excited! I pray they can make the designs I have in mind for Queen & Grace before I come back to Canada.
(Buying the most lovely hair scrunchies for Queen & Grace from the wholesaler (Kid in a candy shop moment.)
(Grabbing some street food for lunch after my buying day. My husband is a trooper!)
Shanghai Fashion Designer - I met a lovely woman earlier this week named Elly who offered to introduce me to one of her clients Dong Le, who is a fashion designer here in Pudong. She specializes in embroidery - designing silk and cashmere clothing and then appliquéing the most exquisite embroidery you've ever seen in your life on each piece. When we arrived, she personally greeted us at the door, a stunning, young (forty-ish) woman whom we followed to her showroom where a wonderful tea was beautifully arranged and waiting for us. There were several racks of exquisite Chinese silk dresses, all hand embroidered and waiting for thier clients to come and fetch them. She has a similar business model to PaperQueen in which she sells directly to the customer, with no middle man. She meets with each client and discusses what they desire and then creates it for them. The tapestry she (and her staff of seven) are working on will take one year to complete. The designs are hand painted onto the silk and them painstakingly embroidered by hand. The pictures do it no justice. Everything she designs is a complete work of art. She showed me her handmade jewelry, as well as handmade then embroidered shoes. Sigh... she is one talented woman and it was a lovely afternoon for me.
(A close up photo of the embroidery in the works below.)
(This silk tapestry will take one year to complete)
Food - When buying vegetables or fruit in the grocery store one must get it weighed, bagged and price tagged before you can buy it. The cashier DOES NOT do this (like they do at home). You have to get it done in the department you are shopping in. I keep on forgetting so today I had my lime and zucchini confiscated because I didn't follow protocol. No bag, no tag, no veggies.
Everything is wrapped in Saran wrap here in the grocery stores. China must be the largest consumer of Saran wrap in the world. I don't understand why. Pollution? It is not very green at all.
Tofu is a huge part of the Asian food grocery list. I made Cilantro Pesto Tofu last night - really good! This would be an amazing appetizer as well, cutting the tofu into smaller bite size pieces and putting a dollop of the pesto on top. And so healthy too!
ASIAN TOFU WITH CILANTRO PESTO
- 1/4 cup mild olive oil plus additional for brushing
- 2 (14- to 16-oz) packages firm tofu, rinsed and drained
- 3 cups packed fresh cilantro leaves
- 2 tablespoons pine nuts (I used salted peanuts - you know why)
- 2 tablespoon fresh lime juice (I used lemon juice...)
- 2 teaspoons Asian Soy Sauce
- 1 teaspoon Asian sesame oil
- 1 teaspoon sugar
- 1/2 teaspoon salt
- 1/4 teaspoon black pepper
- Garnish: pine nuts (peanuts); fresh cilantro leaves; lime (lemon) wedges
- Preheat broiler and lightly oil a shallow flameproof baking pan with olive oil.
- Cut each block of tofu crosswise into 6 slices and pat dry between several layers of paper towels. Arrange in 1 layer in baking pan and brush tops of slices with more olive oil. Broil 4 to 6 inches from heat, without turning, until golden brown, about 15 minutes.
- While tofu is broiling, purée cilantro, pine nuts, lime juice, fish sauce, sesame oil, sugar, remaining 1/4 cup olive oil, salt, and pepper in a food processor until bright green and smooth, about 1 minute. ( I don't have a food processor here so I finely hand chopped everything.)
- Transfer tofu with a slotted spatula to a platter and serve with cilantro pesto
(You can buy anything here. This is a photo of the rubber band booth.)
Thanks for reading so far down. It's so hard to keep it short and sweet. Until next week.
Zài jiàn (bye bye) x
I have just had a very enjoyable afternoon reading all your Blogs . Thank you .
Love hearing all about your adventures in that incredible city. Thank you again for sharing.
Annabel this blog is awesome, I am so enjoying Shanghai through your eyes. Very fun. Thanks for posting! Sue
I’m really enjoying your observations and stories about your impressions of Shanghai. I’ve never been to China and find it all very interesting. Keep it coming!
Annabel – I am really enjoying your posts – learning so much about Shanghai. Can’t wait to see some of your treasures!
I am SO enjoying your blog! What an amazing experience…So much better than being a tourist. Thanks for sharing!
You need to keep on travelling! Your blog is absolutely fantastic!!!!!!! Miss you in Canada BUT you are a great blogger!!!! Bises xo, S
Annabel, your writing about your time in Shanghai is delightful! I see Shanghai through different eyes and am transported back there.
The customs and rituals are so many you can write a book on them! Keep posting and enjoy your time there. I will try your tofu for sure!