Confession No. 135 — I just want to be your wave neighbor

We’re the people in your neighborhood with the ongoing construction projects. Yep, we’re the ones who occasionally leave our trash can at the curb for an extra four days. For as long as I remember, we’ve averaged at least one toy left in the yard per day. And sometimes our cars aren’t parked in line with the driveway. Don’t think I’ve not noticed the dirty looks or the gossip that you propagated.

Now, here’s what I’ve thought about all of you through the years…

— Yes, I bought a house next door to yours. Our incomes are apparently similar. Our lifestyle expectations are too. But, damn, you’re weird. And so is your spouse. Why does the UPS truck stop at your home every day?

— I’m not sure that you realize this, but your son looks like an Oompa Loompa. He’s orange. Yes, your house is right next door to mine and you avoid me at all costs, but please listen to me when I tell you to lay off the carrot baby food. The boy is three, for crying out loud. And a diet of carrots causes … orange.

— Little do you know that the purchase of your home is public record … and that I was a news reporter for about 20 years. You drive a used Volvo, and I don’t understand why you sport the town’s exclusive private school sticker on the rear window, since your child rides the (public) school bus. But would you quit acting like you bought the house? (Your maiden name is public record too! And I hope you are being really nice to your mom for her … real estate investment.) Also, does Mom know that you and your husband smoke marijuana about three nights a week on (her) patio? (Yes. We can smell it over here.)

— You were supposed to be the normal homeschooling family. (Whatever.) Your husband seems fairly level-headed. You, on the other hand, act as if you’re long overdue for refills on your Lexapro and Clozapine. Your poor children.

— Sure, you lived in this neighborhood since ‘before it was developed.’ But I know all about your three previous husbands and the mystery surrounding the deaths of a few of your family members. Does your latest husband know this? No worries. I won’t tell.

— Seriously? You turn off your porch light on Halloween? We’ve given your kid at least 20 pounds of candy through the years. Not to mention, we’ve bought his cruddy fundraiser items time and again.

— Yeah, you’re the same outcast that you were more than 25 years ago when I knew you from a distance. Sure, you’ve made it … if only for the riding lawnmower that you use for that living room-sized lawn of yours.

— So, you’re one of those people. A social climber. A validation seeker. A braggart. Did you know that your youngest son will likely appear on America’s Most Wanted some day? Of course you don’t. Congrats on your PhD, by the way. It might come in handy should you ever decide to get a job.

— I really don’t care that you are a member of the exclusive country club. You’re a grouchy old man and you don’t like kids, nor do you respect women. Shame on you.

— Really? I’m a 200-something pound man wearing a yellow shirt and you don’t see me wave as you drive by? No wonder you’re still single. And no wonder our family came up with a nickname for you.

On second thought, who needs wave neighbors?

Want to receive notifications of my Confessions, Chronicles and recipes in your email? Just click here. I’d also love for you to join me on Facebook (click the ‘like’ button), Pinterest and Google+. Why not witness some of my Instagram antics too? — Special thanks to Megan E. Hawkins at The Underground Writer for editing this piece. She’s the ‘good neighbor’ that a certain mega-insurance company compares itself to.

A Chinese restaurant owner once confessed to me that Orange Beef was his favorite food, because ‘it’s a little sweet and a little spicy.’ In most restaurants, I’d disregard such comments as part of a sales pitch. But I knew this guy fairly well and Orange Beef happened to be the customer-voted house specialty.

Unlike many other dishes in American Chinese restaurants, Orange Beef has some authenticity.  To clarify, most home cooks in China don’t use beef (it’s expensive and hard to get); and they don’t batter everything and deep fry it, such as you see at certain U.S. chain Chinese food joints. But Chinese cooks regularly use the dried rind of Oranges or Mandarins (‘tangerines’), like you would typically find in a Western mom & pop eatery.

Crispy Orange Beef

Crispy Orange Beef - Melty slices of fried beef in a citrus and spice-infused sauce.

Crispy Orange Beef – Melty slices of fried beef in a citrus and spice-infused sauce.

1½ lbs – Sirloin tip or Chuck steak
4 – Small hot chiles (I use Thai bird chiles) —or– 2 TB – Chile paste (Sambal Oelek)
Dried peel* from one Orange, pith removed
3-4 – Green onions, sliced about 2-inches in length
Vegetable oil (about 2 cups)

3 TB – Soy sauce
2 TB – Dry Sherry
1 TB – Rice Wine Vinegar
1 TB – Orange Marmalade

Mix marinade ingredients well to combine.

Using a mallet or rolling pin, flatten beef to about 1/4-inch thickness. Slice into 2-to-3 – inch strips. Combine with marinade. Set aside for about 10-15 minutes at room temperature.

1 – Egg white, lightly beaten
1/4 cup – Cornstarch

Whisk batter ingredients in a medium bowl. Add to marinated beef and toss to coat well. Set aside for about 10 minutes (or in refrigerator for 20-30 minutes). This process is known as velveting and is commonly used in Chinese restaurants.

Preheat to high about a half-inch of vegetable oil in a wok or deep frying pan. -or- Preheat your deep fryer to a high setting. Meanwhile, combine sauce ingredients (below) and set aside.

1/4 cup – Orange juice
1 TB – Soy sauce
2 TB – Dry Sherry
2 TB – Orange Marmalade
1 TB – Cornstarch

When oil is heated, fry beef strips for about 1 minute; remove and place on paper plate. Cook (the already-cooked) strips again for 1 minute (this makes them crispier). Meanwhile, in a separate wok or large frying pan, add about 1 TB oil and set heat to medium-high. Add chiles or chile paste, green onions and orange peel; cook until lightly browned and fragrant – about 1 minute. Give sauce a quick whisk, then add to wok. Stir or whisk continuously until thickened, about 15-30 seconds. Add beef strips and toss to coat.

Makes 5 servings. (Crispy Orange Beef is traditionally served with side of rice and broccoli.)

*To dry an orange peel, you can set it out for a few days; or place on a baking sheet in a 120F oven for about an hour.


  1. Loved reading this and am drooling over the recipe and photo! Yummmmmmy!!!

  2. Lovely orange beef, Adam! We just moved into a well-established neighborhood. I can only imagine what the neighbors think of our daily remodeling racket! 😀

  3. Did you just describe me and all of my neighbors or what? Of course, I won’t be telling you which one is me. ha ha I will admit that I am a waving neighbor but then it’s expected when you live across the street from the neighborhood park. A big fan of orange beef here and love your recipe! Didn’t know what velveting was. Interesting – so that’s how they do it. A Happy 2015 to you too!!

  4. I know you feel tons better now! haha “Wave neighbors” has just entered into my lexicon. 😀 Also, this recipe has been pinned and will be made. Looks delicious.

  5. I was laughing so hard at this I threw my back out! That’s when you know you are old I guess. We have names for our neighbors; The groovy kids next door (30 year old hipster hippies), The professor on our other side – he’s a opera professor in fine arts at OU, The foreign lady and her husband, The Clampetts, and finally the retire Navy man and his wife. We talk and visit when there are storms brewing or a mutual neighbor is ill or has passed but we never can remember any of their names because like Seinfeld & Co, we just have nicknames for them!

    That orange beef looks fantastic and I certainly want to make some of that this winter while oranges are in season!

    • adamjholland says:

      I had some neighbors when I was a kid that I would label as “groovy” or “hippies.” The guy drove a Lotus Turbo Esprit and built ultralight airplanes in his garage. They always welcomed the kids of the neighborhood to come hang out. As it turns out, they were LeTourneau University employees and he’d received a call from his attorney that his long-lost grandmother had died … and she owned about 10 percent of Hershey Foods. (He was adopted and didn’t know he had a biological grandmother. But he was the only living family member.) — Needless to say, they moved to the Hamptons.

  6. You’re killing me, Adam – freakin’ hysterical! And so true. Oh, and the Orange Beef looks pretty damn good 🙂

  7. Now let’s just clarify… will eating Orange Beef turn my skin orange? I don’t really like that look although a healthy orange glow would be fine. Looks worth the risk anyway.
    Adam, oh Adam…you’ve covered neighborhood dynamics so well. When we first moved in here (just 10 houses on our cup de sac and we were the 2nd ones in) we would throw a meet & greet party for each new neighbor. People were very close, looked out for one another, and yes, we would socialize. But, it takes just one to change those dynamics – with nasty gossip. I believe I’ve mentioned one of my neighbors who absolutely floored me when I was at my most vulnerable medically. She was calling to get people to go out to vote for a change in wetland setbacks. I explained that I had already voted but to not allow the change. I have wetlands on my property & feared the change would push back any future changes I made and I when I told her that, she went off on me as if I’d said that I was putting a double wide trailer on my property. It wasn’t as though I had anything in the works, just mentioned that with my MS diagnosis, who knew what the future might bring & I might possibly want to expand to put a bedroom & full bath on the 1st floor. Adam, the things this woman said! Such as “If you can’t live with all the house you’ve got, then GET OUT – MOVE – go into assisted living where you BELONG”. There was much more, and nastier while I just couldn’t wrap my brain around what was spewing out of this woman’s mouth so I hung up. She’s since tried to “make things up to me” but really, why would I want someone like that in my life. I’m sure I’ll run into enough of them in assisted living – if I ever get there. Best to have some friends, some wave neighbors, and other “I don’t see you” neighbors.

    • adamjholland says:

      You’re a better person than I am. I consider it a huge weakness (of mine) that I’ll tell someone to go pound sand. Fact is, there’s a reason that you have to vote on something — because everyone looks at it from a different perspective. Your neighbor was obviously passionate about her stance, but that gave her no right to spew hatred. Shame on her.

      • Well Adam, you know how we’ve got those wave neighbors? When I drive by this one I have a special ‘wave’ for her. I use my middle finger to push my glasses up on my nose (sometimes I forget that I’m not even wearing glasses).

  8. ohmygosh this is fabulous! In our old neighborhood, we had nicknames for our peculiar neighbors … “Drop” being one (long explanation) “Animal House” (not named due to animals) “Snoop dog” … (he knew everything about everyone) “jail bait”. And working in the Title Insurance, my business is public records … mmmmm-hmmmmm 🙂 Our new neighborhood is just starting to unfold some interesting characteristics. Stay tuned. And as always, I want to cook everything you post. Pinned. And gorgeous photo.

  9. This sounds delicious, I think I’ll try it tonight and use orange oil instead of the orange peel, since I don’t have time to dry it.

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