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Vietnamese soup and a dog update

Posted Dec 05 2012 3:57pm

Years ago, while we were living in Australia for six months, we visited the city of Ballarat so we could take the kids to the re-created gold mining town at Sovereign Hill. Sovereign Hill depicts Ballarat's first ten years after the discovery of gold there in 1851. There are more than 60 buildings, and costumed staff who serve as townspeople-guides. Many of the buildings were operating as they would have been in the 1860s — the bakery turned out baked goods in a stone hearth, the foundry produced household wares, etc. Anyway, we were in a building with a large hearth, and someone was baking loaves of flatbread and handing them to visitors. I was starving, and the bread appeared to be very basic and vegan, so I accepted one and took a bite. It had seeds that I didn't recognize, but as I started chewing I was hit with a horrible recognition. "It's fennel," I gasped to my husband. A giant wave of nausea passed over me as I tried to figure out where to spit the bread before it was too late. I actually don't remember what I did, just the extreme fennel-panic I felt as the taste hit my tongue. Fennel has been a problem for me since childhood.

For the past few years I've been trying to overcome certain food aversions, and fennel/anise/black licorice is one of them. I've learned that when baked, the taste of fennel root changes and I can eat it — nervously — but I do think it tastes good. I don't know that I'll ever be able to eat black licorice, but if the flavor of star anise is mild enough, I now can eat and enjoy it. But "mild" is the key, and I mean very mild.

My husband loves pho, a Vietnamese noodle soup, and there are tons of pho shops around here, many of which make vegan pho. It's a perfect, light take-out supper on nights when we don't feel like cooking. That is, it would be a perfect dinner, except that the stock is traditionally flavored with star anise. When the anise flavor is mild, I enjoy the soup, but when it's strong, I feel like gagging. My husband found a recipe for pho in the New York Times. He made the broth without star anise, so there would be no question of whether or not I'd eat it, and I loved it. I didn't miss the anise at all. :D

The pho we get in the shops is served with rice noodles, but my husband used 100% buckwheat noodles — a nice variation. The soup was great and I recommend it! You could make it with star anise if you like the stuff and want your broth to be more authenic.



I've gotten a couple of requests for a dog update, and truthfully, I've been restraining myself or I'd be publishing photos of her every day. I sat her down for a photo session and am sharing a few photos with you. She's still the cutest dog in the world, and as sweet and cuddly as can be. She barks now, but only once or twice if she feels it's really necessary. She's always by my side and follows me from room to room.

We had a problem leaving her alone because she cried and howled when we left, but she seems much better now, though she gets into a little trouble when left by herself. Nothing serious, but she obviously entertains herself when alone.

When we took her to the vet we learned she had ear infections in both ears, but otherwise seems in good health. Because she's a rescue dog, the vet didn't charge us for her first visit, which was a nice surprise.

The weirdest thing is although she's about two years old, and considered full-grown, she seems bigger than when we first got her. Maybe her hair is growing, but both of us have noticed it. Probably our imagination, right?
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