Just call me an old-fashioned girl

I spent some of today working and watching Mad Men (my newest addiction), then after dinner I did something I hadn't done in a very, very long time: I curled up on the couch and read --- a book.

Sure, the TV was on for white noise, the laptop was on and my cell phone occasionally beeped with a text message that I answered. But for over three hours I sat and read that book, getting up only to refill my mug of tea (I'm trying to fight off an incipient sore throat) or go to the bathroom. I'd already read about one-third of the book and I finished the rest of it tonight.

This is not to say that I haven't been reading all year. I read online everyday, heaps and heaps of stuff. But when it comes to books, I usually read them to kill dead time while I'm on public transport, waiting for public transport, waiting in line at the post office or waiting for a friend at a cafe. In other words: as much as I love reading and books and words and ideas, I very rarely choose to read a book, when I could be doing something else.

Tonight I actually caught myself thinking something along the lines of, "Okay, so I've finished that episode of Mad Men and I don't have the next one. But I have the latest episode of Dollhouse. But after that I don't have anything else, so how will I fill up the evening ..."

And I think it was when "how will I fill up the evening" traipsed across my mind, that I knew there was something terribly, terribly amiss.

The book I finished was Jen Lin-Liu's Serve the People, which I stumbled across at the library last week while I was looking for books on Korean food. It's an account of Lin-Liu's journey to learn to cook Chinese food in China, from a cooking school for kitchen workers who need government-approved culinary qualifications to a hole-in-the-wall noodle shop to one of Shanghai's most chi-chi restaurants.

I have to admit that I picked up the book mostly because the friend who recently landed a book deal is going to write a memoir linked to Singapore food (see her spanking new blog, A Tiger in the Kitchen, which shares the title of the book), and there are other food-related ideas that are burbling at the back of my brain. At any rate, it was nice to take a walk through modern-day China through someone else's eyes, and the ease with which most of the Chinese terms and names made sense to me, made me wonder if I shouldn't indeed spend some time wandering around that vast and crazy land. If nothing else, as I told everyone when I got back from Shanghai last year, my spoken Mandarin would improve really quickly.

This book aside, everything else I've been reading has been related to the upcoming Korea trip. I'm still trying to find a good book on Korean food --- not a recipe book, not a glossary of definitions, but a proper look at the culture and the people. Recommendations welcome!

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