[SF] little match girl, grown up.


there were a lot of words i wanted to attach to this, a lot about feelings and loneliness and want, about a lifetime of looking in and wanting so badly to be a part of something. that’s a lot of emotional crap to process, though, and a lot to find words for, and it hasn’t been a great week for finding words, so here’s an explosion of pink instead.


last week, the cherry bombe cookbook was published by clarkson potter, and, over the weekend, i went up to san francisco to volunteer at cherry bombe jubilee. for the uninitiated, cherry bombe is a magazine that focuses on women in food, and it has, for the last few years, held an annual conference in new york called jubilee, which it brought to the west coast for the first time this weekend.

i’ve wanted to attend jubilee since i started reading cherry bombe last year, but i left new york (temporarily) this january and SF jubilee cost $250 for the day. $250. on a similar thread, the inaugural women’s march conference is $295. as much as i understand that conferences cost money, with ticket prices like these, i wonder who these groups are trying to target, what kinds of people they’re trying to draw, what kinds of communities they’re trying to build. not everyone has a few hundred to spend on one day (or on one weekend, which also requires paying for accommodation and transportation), no matter how great any of the offered panels is.

maybe that kind of exclusivity is not what is intended, but that is the message that is sent.

(disclaimer: i did fly up to SF to volunteer, but flights between LA and SF aren’t unreasonable. i stayed with my BFF. we cooked a lot.)

(on a related note, i have this giant peeve when authors are on book tour and only do ticketed events in a given city. i don’t care if the ticket costs $12 or $50 or $300 or if it includes the book. maybe i’m hypersensitive to this because i’ve been in positions where i was getting by only because my parents were paying my rent, eating as cheaply as i could [lots of ramyeon, white rice, eggs, and hot dogs — maybe a whole chicken occasionally that i would roast and eat as long as i could], obsessively counting subway rides and saving them for job interviews, and turning down friends and social events. maybe i’m hypersensitive to this, but that ticket price sends a particular message.)

i think this is another reason i wonder who cookbooks are marketed towards. the cherry bombe book is $35, before tax. kish’s book is $40, before tax. benu is $50. who is this demographic, and, more importantly, what about all the people who don’t have these means? and don’t worry — i think about how ridiculously expensive hardback books are, too. $28 for a novel, before tax? why should reading good literature be something that requires a certain amount of means?

(i know we have libraries. the existence of libraries doesn’t negate my point, though.)

i know publishing is a business, and i want publishing companies to make money. i want them to continue to make beautiful books and publish great writing and invest in writers and cookbook authors and illustrators. i want writers to make money, so they can continue to write great books without having to work soul-sucking jobs of drudgery to make rent and put food on their tables.

hell, i want to be one of those writers, and, yes, this is hypocritical, but i would love to have a book out in hardback, too. i'm not immune to that kind of want.

at the same time, the book industry, especially the literary fiction element of it, loves to set itself up as an industry that serves a lot of good, that injects good into communities and into the world. we talk a lot about how books are crucial, how it’s necessary to put good writing out there, and all of that is great and i wholeheartedly support it — stories are foundational to how we see the world, and i do think that publishers, editors, authors, book designers, publicists, marketers, interns do crucial work in putting good books out there.

at the same time, though, i find it all pretty hypocritical when only people of a certain means can, one, afford to read the books the industry touts as beneficial to society and, two, (more importantly) participate in the reading community by attending events and readings and talks. publishing (and food) is only hurting itself by blocking out swaths of people, people with ambition and talent and stories to tell, with unique perspectives and aesthetic point-of-views that can inject something fresh and vibrant into what can only ultimately become a bubble industry (which it’s also doing with the continued stupid, willful lack of diversity that is such an easy “problem” to do something about).

and maybe that’s a lot to attach to a $250 ticket, and i know that publishers do try to contribute whether by supporting libraries, donating books, raising funds for booksellers in need, but i think it still warrants thinking about, even though i clearly don’t have any answers. and i’m also not saying a conference of the scale and detail like jubilee should be free or cheap, but there is something to be said about these things because honestly? how much good comes from only attracting people who look and have like you?


i love the events cherry bombe does. i loved their food fight panel (and i really hope they do more). i love the panels they do at jubilee. i love that they’re a magazine that is socially aware and conscious and encourages their readers, also, to be active, to pay attention, to care. they use their platform to advocate for women in the culinary industry, to boost profiles, to raise awareness for social campaigns, and they do so much that is awesome and vital and praiseworthy.

and this is why my criticism with cherry bombe as a magazine irks me — i know they are capable of more.i know they can be more than just a pretty magazine with a gimmick (women in food). i know they can do this. and yet …

as i was reading the cherry bombe cookbook, i admit i was disappointed, though it wasn’t an unfamiliar feeling — i often feel a little deflated whenever i read one of their biannual issues. maybe it’s the writing, not the quality but the shortness and brevity of the pieces that, for some reason, aren’t given the space to dig deeper, the dominance of [straight] white women, the circulation of the same crew of photographers (alpha smoot, alice gao, etc) from magazines like kinfolk and cereal that means we have this clump of magazines that all look, feel, and read the same. i want more depth; i want more meat; i want a magazine that maybe isn’t so incredibly on-brand but delivers great, strong, thoughtful writing that does more than skim surfaces.

the cookbook is no different in what it delivers and how i feel about it. the cookbook, overall, is a collection of recipes contributed by women, many of whom have illustrated careers in food, and the idea, in and of itself, is a great place to start. there’s a very brief introduction from kerry diamond (editorial director) and claudia wu (art director), and the recipes are grouped into types of food (mains, sweets, etcetera), each recipe given a brief headnote about the woman who contributed the recipe.

again, conceptually, it’s great, but the book is pretty much just a rolodex of recipes. the headnotes are brief (so brief), the bios the most basic identifiers, and, while the book is beautifully photographed and designed and completely on-brand, content-wise, it’s pretty shallow, skimming the surface of what it could have been. we could have gotten more stories; we could have gotten more from these women, about these women, who they are, why they submitted the recipes they did, what makes them special. we could have gotten more about all the things that makes food what it is, what judy rodgers sums up so well in the zuni cafe cookbook (norton, 2002):

everything else [other than the cheese program], i am very proud to say, is derivative. i cannot make a dish without trying to conjure where it came from, and where i first had it, or read about it, or who made it, or taught me to make it. and who grew the vegetables, raised the chickens, or made the cheese, and where. in this way, the simplest dish can recall a community of ideas and people. i hope that some of my — and your — efforts in the kitchen sustain that community or provoke you to explore and sustain different ones on your own. jean troisgros always insisted that cooking is not an art, but is artisanal. his distinction acknowledges the necessity of cooking, and honors the collaborative genius of community in coming up with good cooking. i have written this book for those who wish to linger over details in that continuum of ideas, and who consider cooking a labor of love. indeed, food itself is only part of the seduction of cooking. (27)

in the end,  i wanted to know why i should care about the cherry bombe cookbook as something more than a beautiful coffee table book. i wanted to know why i should recommend this to people. i wanted to know why it was essential, what made it unique — or it’s not that i wanted to know this because i know why a magazine like cherry bombe is necessary and i know the work they do; i want everyone who picks up this book to know, too, without needing an event, a review, an article to supplement it.

it’s why i wanted the book, why i want their individual issues, to go deeper, to break past the surface, to get at everything that i think makes cherry bombe awesome — the social awareness, the activism, the conviction and belief that it is crucial to highlight the work of women in food, to change the disgusting gender imbalances, to highlight WOC and refugee women and queer women and women outside the hetero white mainstream. i love the events cherry bombe puts on; i want all that in the pages.

i want more than superficial, on-brand prettiness. i want more than something to look at.

going back to (and ending on) that $250 ticket, though — you know what i’d have loved to see? an offer for scholarships, maybe reaching out to people in food who have succeeded, who have the means and also believe in the mission of cherry bombe, people (women and men) who would want to financially support a girl, a woman, so she could attend. maybe they could look for and support a girl in culinary school or a girl of color or a queer girl. maybe they could look for and support a girl who wants to write, a girl with a disability, a trans girl.

maybe there was an attempt to do this, but, as far as i know, it wasn’t public — or, at least, it wasn’t posted on their social media, website, or newsletter, to which, how effective is that?

and, again, hey, maybe i’m being hypersensitive, but, as someone who’s been (and still is in many ways) on the side of looking in, not being able to participate in things (admittedly, not all things, for which i’m grateful) because of money, i know how it feels, and it feels like shit.

because, as i volunteered with a great group of women, as i watched the panels (i couldn’t hear anything from the merch table), i thought how awesome this was, how great the things that cherry bombe is doing, how sad that pretty much everyone in attendance looked the same, like they were in the same class with the same means, when i could imagine so many girls out there, girls with so much to offer, who would absolutely love an opportunity like this but can’t take it because of money.

i’m sure those girls will find their own way. i'm sure they'll make opportunities of their own. it still frustrates me, though, the ways we block out people who don’t look like us and have like us when they’re the ones we should probably be seeing and hearing more.

editing to add that it's been brought to my attention that 10% of tickets were given away to local community groups and all the speakers and F&B people were comped.


cherry bombe: food fight!

what do you do when the world is going to hell in a hand basket? i like books and food and events, so it’s awesome when some of these things intersect as they did tonight. cherry bombe magazine threw an event called “food fight” (which may be a series of events; they say they will continue with more in the future), so i hied it on over to gowanus to listen to people talk about how food and social justice come together.


the women + man featured:

they were introduced and moderated by kerry diamond, editorial director of cherry bombe magazine.

(what's with the photo of the east river? don't i usually accompany these posts with a photo from the event? yes, i do, but all my photos from tonight turned out to be total shit, so here's a photo of water because i always go to water for comfort. hey, i grew up in california; it's a natural instinct.)

kerry diamond:  it's no longer enough to be a nice person who believes in the right things. and i think we've all been that nice person who believes in the right things.


  • anna lipin:
    • women represent about 20% of government positions.
    • we are citizens of a democratic republic. we are not powerless. i think it's worth remembering that.
    • no matter what community you need, there are people with resources who can help you enact your own political voice.
  • kat kinsman:
    • so, what you're feeling — it's real, and it's terrifying. there's this national gas lighting going on, and people are saying it's going to be okay, and it's not. it's not going to be okay so long as it's not okay for all of us.
    • you have to be prepared to ask people if they're okay, and you have to be prepared to hear them say no.


  • KD:  it just takes one person with one idea to accomplish great things.
  • KD:  [the morning after the election,] i felt like the world had changed in ways that i could barely express. the america i thought i knew was no longer the america i thought i knew. and i thought of mimi. she has gone through so many things [the great depression on], and, still, you are an amazing person who has gone through these things. when you lived through all these things, what did you think, and how did the world go on?
    • mimi sheraton:  i was born in 1926, so i remember the depression.  i remember what happened through [the century], and i'm still standing — or, i'm sitting — so i want to assure you that you will be, too.
    • MS:  i think one of the most dangerous things now as a writer, from hearing that tonight [trump] spoke to the press and gave them hell and threw them all out — the first thing i can say is no self-censorship.
    • MS:  [she speaks about how she's met trump before.]  he's a germaphobe. i was told not to shake his hand because he doesn't like that, so i wondered if he wore gloves when he groped.
    • MS:  i think we have to be watchful and protest every step of the way.
  • KD:  ovenly is not just a bakery. it's an organization for social good. [could you speak more to this?]
    • agatha kulaga:  [both she and her partner have experience in social work/non-profit work.] we had a lot of experience in the past doing a lot of work for non-profits. i think that, even without knowing it, when we started ovenly, we were baking because we wanted to start a baking business, but, when we opened up our first retail business, one of our first customers was a social worker who stopped by to ask if we might be introduced in working with young men who had just been released from the justice system. we never thought twice about it but said yes. we didn't seek it out; we started to employ young men who had gone through [his organization's*] job placement service; and that's how we just developed this relationship. and we started speaking to the ansob center for refugees — and it just turned into this really beautiful way of having open hiring practices and having this great job pool.
    • AK:  we started hiring folks not based on résumés. we basically said, "you've got to want to work hard. we want people who are committed and have a positive attitude and good energy."
    • AK:  at this point, 40% of our employees are former refugees or people who have been incarcerated.
    • AK:  as we grow, we keep in mind that the only way we can scale our business is if we do it in an ethical way. it's important for us to make sure we're offering the best in everything that we do.
      • [she acknowledges that, when ovenly started out, they couldn't do everything or provide everything they'd want to their employees, but that doesn't mean they couldn't stick to their ethics/values.]
    • AK:  there's money out there; there are resources out there — if you want to do better, there are ways to do it.
    • AK:  you really need to start small, and that's where i think change really starts to grow, and you can really have an impact.
    • AK:  if people know you're trying to be a responsible business owner, people are more likely to give you business.
  • KD:  wen-jay's a one-woman operation. [she had just lost her job and set out to create the job she wanted to do.]
    • wen-jay ying:  i wanted to find a more convenient or more fun way for people to get their local produce. this was five years ago when food businesses weren't really a thing, so i figured i'd start my own food business. i started going to farmers' markets, and, within two months, i had five CSA markets.
    • WJY:  i think, when you're in tune with your neighbors, you are the ones to make the biggest differences in your neighborhoods. if we take a second of the day to be mindful of what's in front of us, we can change.
  • KD:  roy, if you could tell us more about drive change and snowday?
    • roy waterman:  i'm here because our co-founder was unable to be here. i'm one of the founding members of drive change, and, basically, this business was birthed because there was this problem of communities of color being over-policed — we see a lot of abuse; we see a lot of police brutality. and i was a chef and catering all over manhattan when i met jordan.
    • RW:  we use the mobile industry to train formerly incarcerated people.
    • RW:  we've been known [in our food truck, snowday] to use maple in almost everything, so canadians had it right all along.
    • RW:  we source locally. we believe there's a very, very fine line between food justice and social justice.
    • RW:  [our program is] a course of one year. it's a full-time commitment. we pay them a livable wage. they're on the food truck two days a week, in a kitchen two days a week, and spend one day learning food development. we don't change people — i don't believe people change people; i believe people change systems. i don't think the justice system is broken; it's doing exactly what it was intended to do, which was oppress people.
    • RW:  it costs $210,000 a year to support one inmate for one year on riker's island.
    • RW:  our mayor continues to funnel unlimited resources into riker's island. there are an estimated 10,000 officers on riker's for [7,000 to 9,000] inmates.
    • RW:  [discloses that he was incarcerated for 13 years but was able to transition successfully upon release] i had a level of support that was invested in my survival and my success. that's not the case with a lot of our young people. i like to believe that food is the ultimate equalizer, no matter what your history is. you can start as a dishwasher and work up to be a chef. like my mother said, food has the ability of making people happy when it's good and making people mad when it's bad.
    • RW:  we believe in investing in human capital. [...] i believe that life lived without purpose is a life unfulfilled.
    • RW:  we do not place our young people in jobs. it's easy to put a person in a job, but it's hard for that person to maintain a job. we feel like we're preparing them to go after any preferential opportunity, instead of placing them in low-hanging fruit jobs. we believe in empowering our young people, so they can go out and fish, and we have tons of restaurants and lounges and food trucks that reach out to us [with opportunities we post on our job board].
  • KD:  tell us a little about hot bread kitchen. [read more about it here.]
    • hawa hassan:  i was in the entrepreneur portion, and, in six months, i outgrew the program. i was a one-woman show. one thing i learned is that it gives you the tools that you need, but it's completely up to you to use those to build your own business. i think having good business sense isn't that useful; if you can't make connections, you're going to have a really hard time.
    • HH:  i would say:  join an incubator. get a community that believes in you and is smarter than you. and work your butt off.
    • HH:  i cried on the sidewalk a lot. that's what you do when you're an entrepreneur.
  • KD:  you also came to america at the age of 7, by yourself as a refugee. this food industry would not exist without immigrants, and it's so scary and awful even imagining what could happen under our next president.
    • HH:  maybe one of the last things [trump] will get to is wipe out foods that are important to generations like ours.
    • HH:  i think the driving force in this country is money. i think we have more control than we know, so let your money do the talking for you. so, if he's saying, no mexicans, start buying mexican. i will use my money to do my talking for me. pay attention, and be proactive, and read read read read read. i know i'll probably never meet [trump], and i don't know what effects he'll have on me, but i know i'm a force to be reckoned with. and i will keep forging on.
  • KD:  so, our canadian, why are you still here?
    • leanne brown:  i really care about this country; i was really devastated. i felt as though some very naïve part of me died, and i'm glad it's gone because i think it wasn't helping me — it wasn't guiding me in any proper way.
    • LB:  the only way that good things and progress is made is that good people work insanely hard every single day to prevent bad things from happening.
    • LB:  one thing about anger that's really awesome is that it's really, really energizing. i feel like we can't afford to not pay attention anymore. we have to be involved and do things every single day.
  • KD:  one of the questions that's come up a lot through social media is the role of the media in all of this. and not the political media but the food media. does the food media have any responsibility to change? i'm still stuck that you were one of the only journalists covering food stamps.
    • LB:  i wrote this cookbook called good and cheap, and i wrote it as a cookbook and strategy guide that was aimed at people living on food stamps, which is about $4 a day. that's the average right now, and who knows what's going to happen to this incredibly important safety net.
    • LB:  the book is aimed at that group of people. there are about 42 million americans living on that $4 a day right now. [...] the entire population of canada is 35 million.
    • LB:  we all have to be part of our government. [she used to work in government in canada before coming to NYC to do her masters, and it was both frustrating and great because government moved so slowly, but it was ultimately where change did happen, albeit so slowly.]
    • LB:  [good and cheap] is a strategy guide. it's a way to empower people. the amazing thing about this country is that food is really cheap. maybe it's too cheap. and it's all the effort and work we put into it that makes it worth so much.
    • LB:  since putting [the book] out there, i found so much support. the cookbook ended up going kind of miniature viral, and there were all these strangers who were like "this is so great; we want to help you." we wanted the book to be free because it's for people who can't afford it.
    • LB:  hunger is such a big problem, and it can hit any of us at any time.
    • LB:  if you put your work out there, if you put your best out there, people will come support you. your neighbors might not care what you're doing, but there are other neighbors who will. 


(this was less a Q&A than people in the food industry adding comments. i'm sorry i didn't get their names.)

  • audience member:  we're in the echo chamber. we need to get out of the echo chamber.
    • [she also made a really good point about small businesses and how small business owners see things like obamacare and the increased minimum wage and say no. as a small business owner, she voted against her wallet by voting for hillary, but a lot of small business owners don't vote against their wallet.]
  • HH:  [as a green card holder who needs to renew her green card by the end of the year, she's looking at a lot of money being spent on this bureaucracy, but there's a real terror of having to whip out her green card if she's ever stopped. this fear is a real thing to many.]
    • HH:  there are no easy solutions, but i know that marching to trump tower is not something i'm interested in. frankly, it's a waste of my time. but i'm scared.
  • MS:  i would like to supply a ray of hope that trump is starting to step down [with some of the things he said he'd do], and i think there are many lobbyists who are going to try to scale him back. [like lobbyists for the agriculture industry; they're not going to let trump deport their labor force, essentially.] the more dangerous outcome of [this is that] it's [creating] really bad feelings for people of colors in their neighbors. [violence is an almost unavoidable fallout of all the hate.]
    • KD:  i think you're right in the culture he's creating. he might be dropping things, but it's about how people are treating people they don't think belong.
    • MS:  it's not just immigrants. it's anyone who does anything a little differently, the fear and hatred of the Other — and that's not necessarily immigrants.
  • KD:  this is one solution, but don't act like this is normal. we can't go back to pretending this is normal, and i think that's a big first step.

food, bodies, & healing.

if you need a gift for a friend [...] and you’re not sure what to get, buy a book.  new, old, used, whatever.  a world filled with books is a better place for all of us.  (new school/old school, "school daze")
it's happened to me, too.  people are meant to connect, to empathize.  sharing openly has made me a real person in other people’s eyes.  i’m no longer just a picture of a cute looking cake.  of course, you always lose followers.  i remember posting a photo of myself on instagram during my first chemo and i think i lost a few hundred followers.  which was totally fine, because they were only there to see the cakes — more cakes, dammit!  ha.  but the comments on that photo were very meaningful for me.  i really felt the support of people all over the world.”  (eat my words, "reality bites," 45)

i have a complicated relationship with food — or, maybe, it’s more accurate to say, i have a complicated relationship with my body.

i’ve hated my body for over fifteen years, which is half my life.  for years, i wanted to disappear my body, wished it would shrink into itself, and i wanted my body to be something no one would see because, in the world i was raised, i was taught that my body was directly connected to any potential — any future, any relationship, any career would be determined by my body, by the size of it.

koreans have one standard of beauty, and it is one in which a woman must be thin and pale with double-lidded eyes, a straight nose, and a v-line jaw.  it’s one in which she must wear makeup and dress a certain way, and, if she does not conform, she is shamed for it, openly and without remorse, by family and strangers both.  this is the society in which i was raised (despite having been born and raised in the states), relentlessly made aware of the fact that i wasn’t skinny, told over and over again that i would be pretty if only i’d lose weight, made to feel like my body was a direct reflection of my character and ought to be judged accordingly.

no one escapes from such constant judgment unscathed, and, in that regard, i am no unicorn.

i’ve been in a reading slump as far as fiction goes, so i’ve been reading a lot of food writing instead.  part of it is an endeavor to learn more about what food writing is, what i respond to, what i don’t, and another part of it is an endeavor to figure out what kind of writer i am outside of fiction.

another part of it, though, is an attempt to work through my relationship with food, with this mess that it became over years and years of being torn down over my body.  it’s an attempt to articulate why i love food, the aspects of food culture (and, specifically, korean food culture) i respond to, and it’s an attempt to allow myself to love what i love and to be bold and unashamed of it.

this is not sponsored, endorsed, whatever by cherry bombe.  if you haven’t noticed yet, i have a compulsion to share things i like and am reading — plus, this is sort of like closure.  i kicked off this summer reading cherry bombe (issue number 4) and baking a sponge cake, and i’m closing this summer reading cherry bombe (issues number 3 and 6) and baking a sponge cake.  it’s been a good summer of sponge cakes.



i cringe inwardly when dining companions use terms like "guilty pleasure" and "indulgent" to describe food.  this cultural dialogue pushes women to feel like they’re either eating too much or too little.  i try hard to ignore the "good" versus "bad" dichotomy concerning food, and dining alone gives me the space to focus on the visceral experience of eating, and not what anyone else thinks about my choices and cravings.  (girl crush, "table for one," 56)

in june, i went to an event where the writer wei tchou read from a piece in which she talked about how she never felt comfortable saying she loved food because she didn’t want to be cast into the chinese stereotype.  i didn’t even know such a stereotype existed, but i could understand where she was coming from — for so long, i felt so self-conscious about the fact that i loved food because i felt like people would judge me for it, like, oh, she’s fat; of course she likes to eat.

i used to wonder if maybe my love for food was a reaction to the body shaming.  was it because i wasn’t allowed certain foods while on stupid diets like jenny craig or while counting calories?  was it because i was denied the desserts and pastries that i found so beautiful and intricate, that i wished i could create?  was it because of the way i would be openly shamed, given dirty looks, made to feel guilty for the pall that would settle over the room when i displayed any kind of enjoyment of food?

do i love food because i wanted more of it, or do i love food because i love food, because i love the craft of it, the discipline, the artistry, the way food says so much about us?

for my whole life people have asked me*, “why aren’t you fat?” and i’ve just responded, “i have a good metabolism.”  but the truth is i was a really fat teenager and people always said to me, “you’d be so pretty if you’d just lose some weight.”  then i had the really good fortune to meet my first husband, a man who likes large women.  he looked at my large body and thought it was great.  it was the first time i didn’t hear that voice in my head telling me i couldn’t eat.  we moved in together and i lost 35 pounds.  i was cooking fresh food for him.  i’m convinced that when we don’t eat good food we’re so unsatisfied we keep eating more.  (girl crush, "turning the page," 66)

* ruth reichl

as it turns out, unsurprisingly, the food writing i love best places food in the world.  it’s more about where the food is coming from, who is creating it, how it’s being consumed, with whom, in what way, than it is about the food itself.  food becomes almost a detail in a bigger picture, which isn’t a diminishing of food and those who create it — i have huge amounts of respect for chefs, bakers, cooks, like i do for all artists, for all of us who dedicate ourselves to passion, obsession, and craft in pursuit of something worth pursuing.

however, like books, food doesn’t exist in a vacuum.  everyone must eat, and we all bring our own habits and preferences to what we eat, the way we eat.  we have our own attitudes toward food, whether it’s purely utilitarian or a marker of status or taste-driven, and, in the same ways, we bring our own damage, our brokenness, our hurts to our kitchens and our tables.

food, for me, has been a way of healing and recalibrating.  i’ve always been that cliché of a writer who escapes into her kitchen when she needs to work things out in her head — or, maybe, is it a cliché of a human being who loves to work with her hands, who loves how tactile and methodical baking is, how it forces you to slow down, take deep breaths, and think things through?  baking is an exercise in discipline, in patience, though my love for baking is never one that’s been recognized as such — people hear baking, and they think indulgence, they think fat, they think lack of control.  people hear, i like to cook, and they think, but of course.

to me, though, the kitchen is a place where bodies disappear, where they become things of utility, not things to be catalogued by societal labels.  it’s not about what you look like, whether in gender, size, race, but what you can create and why, for whom.  by extension, the table, too, becomes a place where bodies disappear, where they become participants in relationships, in community, in culture — and all this sounds so obvious to me, but, at the same time, it’s been a long time getting here, to this place where i can appreciate my body for what it can do, not hate it for what it doesn’t look like.

and this is what i love about the food writing i’ve been reading, whether in cherry bombe or lucky peach or the new yorker — that there is this acknowledgment that food plays a part in everyday life,  that food is culture, reacts to culture, shapes culture.  that we all approach food in different ways with different needs, whether as professional chefs or home cooks or people who eat and cook and share on social media.  that there isn’t just one way to think about food but many because it is an essential part of our lives and, as such, we should think about it, and we should embrace it.  we shouldn’t be ashamed to love it.

some books that i’ve loved that discuss food and/or bodies:

  1. alexandra kleeman, you too can have a body like mine (harper, 2015)
  2. park min-gyu, pavane for a dead princess(dalkey archive press, 2014)
  3. han kang, the vegetarian (hogarth, 2015)
  4. esmé weijun wang, the border of paradise (unnamed press, 2016)
  5. lee seung-u, the private life of plants (dalkey archive press, 2015) 

four years ago, i moved back to new york city from los angeles, essentially fleeing the place i’d grown up.  i needed space to shed the ghost i’d become, space to grow and expand and fit into my own skin again, and it’s been four years of slow, painful progress.  sometimes, i look in the mirror and see a monster, but, other times, i look in the mirror and see someone who’s just fine as she is, who has her fears and insecurities and flaws but who also has a heart of her own, a mind of her own, a body of her own.

like i said, it’s been a long time coming, and there’s still a long ways to go, but i’m happy to say i’m getting there.

… donuts, or doughnuts as they were once spelled, are another thing entirely.  they’re not baked, they’re deep-fried — crisp and just greasy enough and, at their best, not too sweet.  they’re nuggety bombs of decadent toothsome animal deliciousness; they stick to your ribs and give you a zingy kick and don’t make you crash.  (new school/old school, "hot potato," 108)