Monday, December 27, 2010

My Life in Sugar: The Bûche de Noël of Peace


Buche de Noel 2010

A set by meetingfaith

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How your Bûche de Noël can help achieve world peace:

First assemble all your friends (Bailey's Irish Cream Liqueur, heavy cream, bittersweet Scharfenburger chocolate, Dutch cocoa) to make a giant Ho-Ho.

Decorate said Ho-Ho with marzipan mushrooms (dotted with cocoa "dirt"), coconut "snow", fresh currants, and boughs of snowy (i.e., sugared) rosemary. Fun!

En route to Christmas Eve dinner, have a meltdown at the prospect that folks might actually consume your masterpiece.

After a few vodkas, walk into the kitchen to find the Arab, African-American, Nordic, Nigerian & Check-Other dinner guests bowing down before your creation in unified, cross-cultural genuflection.

Flushed with the possibility of interfaith tolerance and understanding (or with vodka), consent to the knife.

Be less ambitious at the Nigerian Christmas party the next day. Bake a mantelikakku (Finnish almond cake) and fill with lingonberry preserves.

Place said kakku next to giant, African-village-sized vats of Jollof Rice & Fried Plantain, Egusi Soup & Pounded Yam, Turkey & Salad.

Watch how they get along. Your entire cultural heritage on a table.

Tuesday, December 21, 2010

NPR Tries to Scoop Me, Sparking Much Multiculti Angst

SO I'm sitting in the car yesterday, catching up on a little reading (don't ask), when this story comes on NPR, thereby triggering the aforementioned angst. Apparently a recent study shows that "most people who are biracial self-identify as - wait for it - 'BIRACIAL'"! Whatchu talkin' 'bout, Willis?

Nikki Khanna, the lead author of the terrifically-named study, "Passing As Black: Racial Identity Work Among Biracial Americans," was interviewed, along with Casey Gane-McCalla, a lead blogger at NewsOne (and like I, internationally biracial, though in very interestingly different ways) and artist/professor Kip Fulbeck, whose show, Mixed: Portraits of Multiracial Kids, was published by Chronicle Books

Video on the making of Mixed: Portraits of Multiracial Kids

Once NPR opened up the phone lines there were plenty of the usual Tragic Mulattoisms ("Both groups are mean to me!"), as well as the No Contextisms ("I deny race; I love both my parents!"). My fave was a 70-something black woman who called in to say, I've been seeing mixing for half a century; why you all acting like you invented it?!

The Bottom Line: I just need to stop being spiteful about being scooped and finish my book . . . yesterday! In fact, I should call up (and by call, I mean email) my dear-dear friend and former writing partner Deesha Philyaw, who's just launched an hysterically-and-pithily named webinar called Write Your Damned Book Proposal Already! (In the meantime, while you're procrastinating, you can listen to the 30-min NPR segment here.)

Monday, December 20, 2010

A rabbi, a young man & hot menorah wax

San Francisco erotica writer Simon Sheppard got things going by reading a story involving a rabbi, a young adult man and hot menorah wax.

Thus begins Meredith May's story for the San Francisco Chronicle about Feast of Words: A Literary Potluck, the cool new food/writing series that I'll be the literary guest for on January 4.  

Monday, December 13, 2010

Food Bloggery: My Cunning (and completely unnecessary) Plan to Stalk Dianne Jacob

Tonight I finally made it to 18 Reasons (the amazingly active educational arm of Bi-Rite Creamery). As I've just started blogging, I figured I could use some help, and what better way to start than with a workshop on How to Write a Food Blog? Even more exciting, Dianne Jacob, whom I've been dying to meet, was teaching the workshop. 
I use her classic, Will Write for Food: The Complete Guide to Writing Cookbooks, Blogs, Reviews, Memoir, and More, for teaching both food writing and memoir (it's that good). Turns out it's just been seriously updated and expanded, with a huge section on the whole crazy Food Blogging PhenomIt also turns out that Dianne Jacob alone is completely worth the price of admission - opinionated, hilarious, friendly. 

Case in point: Just as I was taking my seat, I heard a woman marvel, "Half Nigerian and half Norwegian!" 

"Hey, that's me!" I blurted, hopping up (despite the fact I'm Finnish, not Norwegian). It was Dianne herself and we were soon making plans to meet. How lovely is that? (Clearly no need for bloggery plottery.)

Though apparently my interest in food blogging does not extend beyond photographing my meals with my BlackBerry and posting them on Facebook (along with the occasional photo of my cats eating popcorn), I did get tons of ideas and inspiration for how to design and focus a blog. Dianne: "Your blog has to say more than I LOVE FOOD!" (jazz hands)!

The only downside was that the man sitting next to me, a loud, fidgety, know-it-all, bellowed in my ear for two hours (where's a desperate housewife with a pocketful of Ritalin when you need it?). So after getting my book signed, I had to head straight to Bi-Rite Creamery for some seasonal ice cream therapy (eggnog with brandy). The peppy man in line behind me was moved to say that I was a beautiful curly-haired Nigerian-Finn and that I could (and should!) try every flavor, no matter how many folks were in line. 

Aww, how Santa is that (if Santa were a jolly South Asian man with a weakness for salted caramel ice cream, and why not)?

Sunday, December 12, 2010

Roasted Duck Tacos & $5 Poems: The Bizarre Bazaar

On Sunday my longtime fun-pal Ron Palmer and I hit the Fort Mason Bizarre Bazaar (aka, Ye Olde Indie Crafte Faire)The Food Situation: Given that Ft Mason hosts Off-the-Grid, I was surprised to see a mere 4 food trucks, only 2 of which offered real food! Multiculti highlights: an Asian roast duck taco at Kung Fu Taco and us sharing Hot Chocolate with Vanilla Ice Cream Shots at Twirl and DipEbony and Ivory..
Yes, he's a real boy (despite plasticine cheeks & crazy eyes, as he puts it)
The Best Part: Ron, Soft Skull poet-hipster, stopped by a booth run by a striking young woman with a vintage manual typewriter and a sign promising personalized poems in 3 minutes. It so happens that the intrepid entrepreneur poetess was an old fan of mine! Upon Ron's request, she typed me a poem on origami paper, rolled it up, and put it in an apothocary bottle with a charming hand-stamped label.
Later, she appeared behind us in the crowd, handed me another poem ("the real one") and disappeared: Uber-charming! Check her out: silvi alcivar (the poetry store); she also sells art pieces and jewelry on Etsy.

My Crafte Faire Conclusion: (1) Not enough food. (2) Too many ugli-doll knock-offs. (3) San Francisco hipsters are much-better-dressed-than but not-as-nice-as their East Bay counterparts. Did I say that outloud? Am I crazy?

I'm on iTunes! I exist!

On Thanksgiving morning I did a phone interview for a podcast of The Secular Buddhist. Ted Meissner was a delightful, thoughtful host who let me ramble on unimpeded (and trash British cooking - oops!). He creates a webpage with its own music for each episode and provides links to guests' work. Listen to my interview online or on iTunes.  

Here's the companion website to the podcast, which examines early Buddhist teaching and practice, with a critical eye to its secular application. Whadya think? Is secular Buddhism The Way?

Malaysian Food & Naked Rabbis: A Feast of Words

So December's Feast of Words: A Literary Potluck brought out lots of writer-participants who is turn brought out lots of potluck offerings. (Stay posted for a story in the SF Chronicle.)
Photo credit: Feast of Words
Here I am (below) in lavender, enjoying something either Naughty or Nice, as per this month's theme. I made very sexy pizzettas (if I say so myself) of sassy barbequed chicken, succulent grilled pineapple and sultry smoked gouda. It turns out that the night's literary guest, gay-erotica-king Simon Sheppard (who read an hilarious/erotic, though not particularly foodcentric, Chanukah story) loves pineapple pizza. In return he kindly turned me onto an eyeglass store he claims is San Francisco's best kept secret, but if I tell you, he may have to kill me. And I like food too much to die. 
Photo credit: Feast of Words
Photo credit: Feast of Words
Here's the fabulous Azalina of Azalina’s Malaysian, the night's culinary guest. Given that I lived/ate in Thailand for 2 years and recently took cooking classes in Bali and South India, I was super-excited to reunite with my spice friends! Azalina did not disappoint. In addition to having a rich global background (Indian by way of Malaysia now living in San Francisco), she's cooked/trained at some of the best places (including one of my faves - Raffles in Singapore!). Her 3 dishes manifested this cultural journey beautifully.

Sunday, December 5, 2010

It's Like a Dinner Party, in a Gallery, with 30 Strangers

My new favorite event series:
SOMArts Cultural Center presents Feast of Words: A Literary Potluck, a monthly event that is part social, part reading series, and part inspiration for writers and foodies alike. Co-hosted by Irina Zadov and Lex Leifheit, Feast of Words takes place on the first Tuesday of each month. Each month features short writing exercises, shared food and featured culinary and literary guests around a theme.

Friday, November 19, 2010

Minority vs. Majority: The Cage Match

What do you get when you combine (A) an optimistic stray cat; (B) a poor white family; and (C) a biracial girl with an eccentric, highly-politicized mother, both of whom are obsessed with Great Afro-Americans in History

Find out in the new memoir I contributed to Issue 12 of Switchback, on the theme of Minority vs. Majority! 

Monday, November 15, 2010

Dog Stew, Painted Penises & Other Global Food Adventures

This evening I drove back to destination book store Book Passage (in Corte Madera) to see the legendary Don George (whom I'd met there 3 months ago at the annual Travel, Food & Photography Conference) launch the latest Lonely Planet anthology, A Moveable Feast: Life-Changing Food Adventures Around the World.

The book brings to the table a veritable who's who of food writers, travel writers, and food travel writers. Eleven or twelve (depending on where you place Jan Morris) of the 38 contributors are women (which certainly beats the latest Best American Travel Writing 2010 with its single female contributor!); hard to tell who other than Pico Iyer was a writer of color.

So, on to the dog stew and painted penises (can your food adventure beat these?)... 

Tuesday, November 9, 2010

WOW!: Women On Wanderlust

Distinguished Visiting Writer Faith Adiele 

WOW!: Women On Wanderlust:
A Panel of Writers & Editors Answers Everything You Ever Wanted to Know About Writing & Publishing 
Travel Fiction & Nonfiction

NonfictioNow & Travel

Photo credit: Sejal Shah
So TRAVEL is on my mind. I'm just back from a trip to my alma mater, the University of Iowa, where I reunited with members of our 9-year-old Travel Writers Group, participated in the biennial NONFICTIONOW CONFERENCE, and - get this - ran into pals from the UK and Kenya: the truly international Laura Fish and Billy Kahora, managing editor of Kwani?, who is helping to coordinate PILGRIMAGES, an ambitious travel writing project (where actual African writers write about - imagine - Africa!). 

The star of the conference was easily the brilliant and hilarious cartoonist/graphic memoirist Alison Bechdel, though the soulful and witty John Edgar Wideman was no slouch either!