roller coaster weekend.

i freeze.

when i badly want to talk to someone, to get to know someone, i never know what to say, so i freeze. i hope, instead, that she will take the initiative, and i get evasive, look aside, run away because, yes, i am outgoing and sociable, but i get painfully shy when it counts. it’s stupid and pathetic, and i hate this about myself, but i am swallowed by fear in these situations, fear that i am interpreting said situations in irrational ways because i want a specific outcome — i want to say, hi, hello, it’s nice to meet you; i want that to lead to a genuine connection — and i am too afraid of an undesirable outcome that i can’t make the first step.

and, so, i freeze.

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it’s been two weeks of friends, and there is not a single human in my life i take for granted. i’m in a period of hardship, and maybe the thing about hardship is that it helps clarify things in your head, in your life. then again, there’s the other side of hardship, the nights spent crying, unable to sleep because my anxiety and fear are churning through my body, refusing to let me go and let me rest. there’s the inability shake the ways i feel small and invisible.

but, then, there are people, and, like i said, it’s been two weeks of friends, and i am grateful for them all.

on friday, a college friend comes up from DC to visit, and we go to momofuku’s newest outpost — bar wayo in south street seaport, which has become one bougie, cobble-stoned … something. i don’t know how i feel about it, don’t know that i’d ever really go there if it weren’t for bar wayo, thus continuing my ongoing internal conflict when it comes to the momofuku group and its restaurants. i love the restaurants and their food, but i hate where they’re situated because they follow gentrification and wealth — gross displays of wealth, sometimes, as is the case with hudson yards.

there’s an essay about that somewhere, but it might not be one that comes from my brain. i’ve still got tens of thousands of words i could write about momofuku, but today there is just this: the curry donut at bar wayo is bomb. it has such a satisfyingly crispy exterior and a soft interior that isn’t doughy, and the curry has a nice heat to it, just the right amount of body to prevent mess. it’s not greasy, not heavy, not overbearing but well-balanced and delicious.

i could easily eat 2-3 on my own.


maybe this is mushy and sentimental, but maybe that’s okay. i am overwhelmed with gratitude for the people in my life — for friends who have shown up and continue to show up with support and encouragement. friends who eat, who have paid and continue to pay for meals, for coffee, for snacks. friends who have sent and continue to send coffee funds and dinner funds via venmo, ko-fi, paypal. friends who read the shit i write, who DM and text and email, who fill the spaces of conversation with updates on their lives without expecting me to talk about the frustrations in mine.

i am grateful for friends who come over to hang out so i can clean my apartment, who don’t laugh or make me feel small for my outsized fear of the c-word bugs, who kill said bugs when they emerge. friends who send job listings and recommend me for jobs. friends who witness my stupid crush and how pathetically obvious and dopey i am about it and don’t make me feel small for any of that either.

i hope, one day, i am able to pay all this generosity and kindness forward.


two things i wish momofuku would sell? their salsa seca and the kimchi from kawi.

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on monday, i put my instagram on private and delete the app from my phone. it’s been less than 36 hours since, but i’ve already forgotten the reason for that, probably something about mental health, about how instagram compounds the fears that live in my head. i think it had something to do with all the pain that comes from wanting so badly to connect with someone but knowing i will be disappointed because that will not happen — i do not have that kind of luck, that kind of magic.

my main takeaway is that i am incredibly bored without instagram. i’m constantly engaging with people on the app, constantly oversharing my day-to-day on stories, and i miss that instant contact with people, that immediate feedback loop. some might argue that it’s not “real,” these aren’t “real” relationships, but i would vehemently disagree — i value my online friendships deeply, and i seek to bring as many of them into the physical realm that i can.

maybe it’s different for me because i overshare, because i put so much of myself out there. i question the wisdom of that all the time, but i hope that that vulnerability opens up the possibility of reaching someone. i hope that people are able to read the things i share and think, omg, same. i hope that my stupid openness helps someone feel less alone.

i also hope for connection, and i wish always always always that someone might see me and take notice. one of the things social media has done is flattened the field somewhat, created ways of access that simply didn’t exist before, and i also always wish i was better at using social media in such ways. i wish i could reach out and initiate contact.

and, so, yes, that is the main reason i deleted instagram — because i hated myself for not being able to say hello, for wanting so badly just to be seen, for daring to hope in a different outcome. i hated — hate — myself for being so afraid.


what am i afraid of, though? my mother marvels at the things that don’t scare me — i have no fear traveling to a foreign country by myself even if i don’t speak the language. i’m not afraid of scuba diving or potentially jumping out of a plane (i want to go skydiving so badly), and i’m not afraid of driving fast or not having a stable career (though financial stresses make my anxiety so much worse) or dealing with uncertainties. i’m not afraid of change.

i am afraid of money not coming in when i need it. i am afraid of being asked personal questions, and i am afraid of being exposed, of being found out that i am not as smart of as interesting as i would like to be. i am afraid i will never be able to do the thing i love and want to do with my life, the thing i am not afraid to state i would be good at. i am afraid that this is it, that we struggle and flail and hurt, and then we die. i am afraid of being rejected. i am afraid of how much i want, the sheer desperation behind my longing to be seen, to be wanted, to be valued. i am afraid i will never be that person worth betting on.

i am also deathly afraid that someone is going to steal my dog if i leave him tied up outside while i pop into a store. it’s why i’ve never done it, will avoid doing it unless absolutely required.


god damn, i miss my dog. he’s such a good dog, so soft and snuggly and gentle. i miss him so much.

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of course, i take my friend to kawi. i haven’t been back in a month, though i’ve thought about kawi pretty consistently, almost every single day maybe because i love the food and i have a crush. having a crush feels like having a crazy brain, one that is unable to parse reality with any kind of rationalism because it seeks, rather, to fit reality around its wishes, its desires, and there’s nothing rational about that.

we get the crab (it’s still available) and the oxtail jjim, and we get the new bingsoo, which is lime and ginger and candied jicama — yes, candied jicama. i feel like i know who my core people are by their reactions to the idea of candied jicama. it’s as great as it sounds. this lime bingsoo is more icy, less intensely flavored than the blueberry version, though that makes sense because it’s lime — it makes you pucker up, is intense as it is.

i am dying for the chef to do her take on a traditional red bean version of the bingsoo at some point. i know it would be laborious because paht is paht and i don’t think for a second that she’d take paht from a can, but, oh my god, can you imagine how delicious her paht-bing-soo would be?!


anyway, so going back to this not-being-on-instagram-for-like-36-hours thing: what did i learn? 

nothing, really. i wish i had some kind of enlightenment to share here, but i don’t. i was bored. i missed having my community. i wanted to share dumb shit all the time and felt frustrated because i couldn’t. my day-to-day didn’t feel any richer because i was existing “in the moment” instead of putting everything on-line — in fact, it felt more hollow because i felt more alone.

as i type this up, though, i know that i am lucky. i have a balance in community; the fact that i have a core group of people in new york city is why i will never leave unless i must. i have a warm community of people on the internet, thanks to social media, friendships that circle the globe that i hope to bring into “real” life. this is the thing i would go back to tell that lonely, lonely girl just a few years ago — that, no, you still haven’t hit a day when you’re grateful still to be alive, but you will find yourself surrounded by people who love you and believe in you and will fight to keep you here.


here’s a recap of things i did while not on instagram:

i did a dr. jart sheet mask that creates these bubbles that are supposed to help clear out your pores. if you massage your face with the sheet mask on, it creates more bubbles. like, a lot more bubbles. i don’t know how effective this was at clearing out my pores, but it was fun — i like bubbling sheet masks; they amuse me.

i also spied on my dogs via nest cam, and i ate cup ramyeon that came with a packet of kimchi — like, an actual packet of actual kimchi — with my favorite salad from trader joe’s while finishing kingdom on netflix and thinking that i really need to stop watching TV shows where rich, powerful people do shitty things to keep their wealth and power. it makes me rage.

in the morning, i went to a job interview and showed up in the area 90 minutes early, so i got a waffle from blue bottle. later in the day, i made and ate an entire thing of chapaguri, passed out from the sodium, then walked to the library to reactivate my library card and check out three more YA novels. (i have a long post on YA coming.)

it was a glorious day for a walk. i’m going to go reinstall instagram on my phone now.

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[NSPW19] where we go falling down (kawi, ii).

meal number five is the big group meal. there are six of us, and we come prepared to eat.

i’ve budgeted the meal out to roughly $60-80 per person, including tax and tip but not including drinks. i have an idea of what we’ll be ordering, and i half-jokingly let them know in advance that i’ll be setting the menu. whether in deference to that or because they trust me, they tell me, order whatever you want!

one of my friends has a soy and sesame allergy, which makes it tricky. soy and sesame are all over korean food, and i’m not entirely sure how much they’ll be able to accommodate—even if a chef is willing to accommodate, sometimes, there are limits to how much she is able to do so. they’re kind, though, and work it out. the server comes back with a list of foods that are available to her; he comes back later with an i’m sorry, there’s actually tamari in the spicy tuna kimbap. he isn’t an asshole about it. i always get nervous because, honestly, you never know. people can be assholes about allergies and dietary restrictions.

we order drinks, then we order food, and i become the asshole who asks, laughing but in earnest, if we could order the biji jjigae on its own without the rib eye. the server goes back to the kitchen, consults the chef herself. i look away. he comes back and says that, yes, they could do that, and i’m happy for it but also uncomfortable. i’m not someone who likes asking for favors, even favors i’d pay for. i don’t like to be noticed.

all i want is to be noticed.


people don’t typically think i’m korean. when i was in college in california, people would ask if i were cambodian, and then, later, it became, are you chinese? half chinese?

it’s happened on many occasions that i’ve been waiting for the subway and older chinese adults have come up to me and started talking in chinese. i always smile, say, i’m sorry; i’m not chinese, and they pause, give me That Look that says bad chinese girl! not knowing chinese! as they walk away.

i always want to protest, don’t give me That Look! talk to me in korean! i can speak korean just fine, thank you very much.


there’s a chicken dish on the dinner menu at kawi, and it’s served two ways. the breast is served as a jeong-gol, in a broth with glass noodles, mushrooms, vegetables, and tofu. it comes with two sauces. the rest of the chicken is tossed in a cajun seasoning and fried. they don’t waste any part of the chicken, so the head and the feet are fried along with the legs and thighs. we eat the feet, but none of us is brave enough to eat the head.


in 2012, my paternal grandmother passed away. she was my closest grandparent, the one who raised me and spoiled me rotten because i was my father’s first child and he was her only son. it didn’t matter to her than i was a daughter. she still loved me more than she loved my brother — or, at least, we were closer because i spoke korean, read and wrote it, too.

i forget who asked, but i was asked to give a eulogy at her funeral, and i wrote it out in korean. i gave it to my dad to read to make sure it sounded okay because, sure, i can speak korean but my vocabulary is weak, my spelling atrocious because i can never figure out the rules — is it ㅏ-ㅣ or ㅓ-ㅣ, and, god damn it, how is anyone supposed to know which is which, what are the rules?!?

my dad sat and read what i’d written and promptly burst out laughing. i stared at him until he finally explained, where did you pick up these words? you have the strangest vocabulary.


it’s a great group meal, one i’ll hold onto over the next few weeks. i’ve brought together five friends who’ve never met each other before, and the dinner has gone beautifully, everyone getting along, loving the food, eating to the point of being happily stuffed. there was none of the awkwardness that could occur with a group of strangers.

at the end of it, though, part of me feels off. i wonder if we stayed too long, if we were too loud, too boisterous, if i’ve been coming to this restaurant too often. i wonder if i’d worry about any of this if kawi were any other restaurant.

i don’t know that i would.

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three weeks pass before i make it out to kawi again. this is a quiet lunch, just me and a friend, but we don’t really hold back, starting with the tofu and roe and cured madai, then splitting the oxtail and brisket jjim and wagyu ragu. we finish the meal with the blueberry bingsu. luckily, i didn’t eat a full meal at fuku right before kawi this time.

the tofu and roe is incredible, the tofu made in-house. it’s smooth and creamy, the roe adding a gentle brininess, and there’s a caramelized soy sauce as well to bring salt and sweetness. the wagyu ragu i’ve had before; the ragu reminds me of bulgogi marinade; and it’s served over rice cakes. that dish, plus the rice cake dumplings—rice cakes served in a cheesy sauce with parmesan and summer truffle—makes gnocchi feel non-essential, which is a statement i should maybe follow up with, i love pasta, but i’ve never been that enthusiastic about gnocchi.

later, as we’re leaving the restaurant, my friend says that the chef seems like a kind person, that she was watching her interact with her staff in the open kitchen. i say, yeah, she seems like it. i don’t remember if we say anything more about her. i wish i could stop being the person noticing others and start being the person who’s noticed. i wish i could be someone worth seeing. i really wish this didn’t feel like the theme of my life.


recently, i have been learning how nice it is to read books and recognize myself in them. i didn’t grow up reading asian writers, but i also didn’t grow up thinking much about it because i grew up watching korean dramas and listening to korean pop. i grew up in suburban los angeles, where asian people didn’t feel like a minority, and i went to schools where many of my classmates were asian, increasingly so as i got older and started taking mostly (if not entirely) honors and AP classes.

i didn’t need to see myself in the books i was reading.

it’s only now that i kind of see that as a privilege, not to have that added to my plate during my formative years. that’s not to say my adolescence was easy; i was body shamed starting my freshman year of high school, to such an extent that my entire sense of self was destroyed and disintegrated by the time i went to college. i was already so detached from my identity, unable to attribute any kind of value to myself, wanting so badly to disappear myself and my grotesque, oversized body.

spend over a decade of your life wanting to disappear and maybe you’ll learn how to be invisible. maybe that’s the irony of it. i’ve become so practiced in disappearing myself, at least in my mind, that i don’t know how to be visible.

i don’t know how to be someone worth seeing.


the blueberry bingsu is layers of soft, creamy shaved ice and whipped creme fraiche. there’s blueberry syrup that has a tang to it that borders on vinegary. there are macerated blueberries. when they first introduced the blueberry bingsu, they topped it with pancake croutons, i’m told.

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my seventh meal at kawi wasn’t supposed to happen until maybe september, but, during my sixth meal, the server tells us that crabs are back in very, very limited edition. the crabs are marinated in a spicy sauce this time, not in the soy sauce-based marinade they were earlier this year, and there are only so many of them available — if they’re available at all. i debate coming back to kawi the next day to see if i can get the crab. she advises that i call before i come to make sure they’re on the menu.

it’s disgustingly hot and humid the next day, and i almost don’t go because it’s disgustingly hot and humid. i can’t get the crabs out of my head, though, how badly i wanted to try them earlier in the summer but missed them, so i head into the city, anyway. i try to take her advice calling before i head over to hudson yards again, but the call doesn’t go through. i almost go back home. i step out of target at hearld square, hear the flash flood warnings on hundreds of iphones go off, and i think, fuck it, and start walking over to the 7 at times square/42nd street. i get to the station just as fat raindrops start falling from the sky, and, fifteen minutes later, i get out at hudson yards to a torrential downpour, complete with thunder and lightning. 

they have the crab, though, and it’s one of the last ones. i’m soaked through with sweat and some rain because i got impatient of waiting and ran through the rain once it let up, and i look like shit, and i’m sorry to everyone around me because i’m feeling self-conscious in my body, in how gross and damp i feel. 

the crab is delicious, though, and it’s raw, called 개장 (gae-jang) in korean. i don’t typically like raw marinated crab, so i’m surprised at how much i like this, the gochujang-based sauce spicy and gingery, the rice, i suspect the same rice used in the hwe-dup-bahp. there’s a lot of crab in this bowl, and it’s a messy dish, three crab halves intact, meant to be eaten using your hands.

this is my last time at kawi over the summer, and i think it’s a great way to see the season out. as i’m leaving, i see the chef sitting at the bar, chatting with someone. typically, i’d walk along the bar, past her to get to the restroom and leave the restaurant. instead, i look away before we can meet eyes, speed-walk down the other aisle, leave the restaurant, and use the restroom on some other floor of hudson yards. i don’t know when i’ll be back. i’m afraid of having overstayed my welcome.

i’m afraid of having become visible because, even though i want so badly to be seen, i am also terrified of it.

i’m terrified that it’ll turn out to be true, that i really am not worth seeing but that it has nothing to do with my body but everything to do with me.

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[NSPW19] the ghost in this love story (kawi, i).

there’s a scene i think about constantly.

it’s from the korean drama, my name is kim sam-soon, which was a huge hit when it aired in 2005, and i’d provide a summary were it relevant. the scene i think about, though, requires no context: the secondary character, played by jeong ryeo-won, returns to seoul after years abroad where she was being treated for stomach cancer. in this scene, she’s taken her doctor (and love interest), played by daniel henney, to eat 산낙지 (ssan-nak-ji) and 낙지볶음 (nak-ji bo-kkeum).

she’s excited to eat the foods she’s been craving while away; he’s worried because he’s new to this kind of food and because he’s a doctor—he’s concerned this will upset her stomach.

she laughs, though, tells him not to worry, and i forget how the conversation pivots (as well as the exact dialogue), but she’s still smiling as she starts to eat and says, “see, the thing is, i think i used to shine, but, somewhere along the way, with all the treatment, i think i lost all that. but i used to shine.”

he tells her in all seriousness, “you still shine,” but she shakes it off, tries to shake off the mood, and points at the food, saying they should eat, but it’s still there in her eyes, the sadness and disappointment and longing.

i think about this scene almost every day.

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over the course of summer 2019, i go to kawi seven times. 

kawi is the momofuku group’s newest restaurant, situated on the fifth floor of hudson yards and helmed by a female korean american chef. the first time i go to kawi, it’s for lunch, three months after they’ve opened. i’ll go back later that same day for dinner because i’ve spent the week examining the menu, trying to decide when to go and what to eat, the problem being that there are items i want to eat on both menus.

at lunch, i go for the rice cake with chili jam, a beautiful take on 떡볶이 (ddeokbokki). the rice is imported from korea and milled in flushing—on one of my later visits, a server tells me that they’re family-owned, that the chef wanted to bring them some business—and they extrude the ddeok in the kitchen themselves. i’m not the biggest fan of 떡 (ddeok) (i’m a “bad” korean that way), but i’m a sucker for ddeok freshly made in house.

i’m a sucker for a lot of things made in-house.

typically, this kind of ddeok is called 가래떡 (ga-rae-ddeok), and it’s typically cut into long strips. at kawi, they coil and smother it with a chili sauce then smother that with a furikake that pops in your mouth. there are paper thin slices of benton ham. the whole thing comes with giant tweezers and a pair of scissors (aka kawi) for you to cut and eat.

it’s a lot of ddeok for one person, especially a person who is not the biggest fan of ddeok to begin with, but it is delicious. it’s good ddeok with that proper balance of softness and chew, and the sauce is flavorful with a light sweetness but not very much heat. it’s the kind of sauce i want to spoon over a bowl of hot rice and eat with a fried egg, which is more or less the greatest compliment i can pay any kind of sauce, to want to spoon it over rice and eat with an egg.

ddeok is not a meal, though, so i also order the mackerel set. i’ve only recently started learning the names of korean foods in english, and mackerel is one of the few fish i know (it’s 고등어 in korean). it’s also one of my favorite fish; when my mum makes it in LA, she buys it fresh, gives it a generous dusting of salt, and cooks it on a hot pan outside in the yard. we eat it hot, as soon as she brings it inside, and i love it with rice (obviously) and ripened kimchi.

the mackerel set from kawi is fascinating to me (still, weeks later) because the smell has been somehow entirely eradicated from the mackerel. it’s not that the dish lacks flavor—the mackerel is meaty, soft, oily, just the way mackerel should be, and it has a nice hit of salt. the oily smell that’s so unique to mackerel, though, so pungent and so overpowering that my parents do not cook mackerel indoors but outside in their backyard—the smell that might offend and put people off is gone.

this is one of the things that will continue to fascinate me about the chef’s food—how her food retains all the soul of traditional korean food while being its own thing, while removing some of the elements of korean food that might put people off. like strong smells.


i never know how i should approach korean words anywhere, whether it’s here, on instagram, in a piece i’m writing to pitch. when i’m in the mood, i provide all the information—the 한글 (hangul), romanization, and translation—but, most days, i just want to provide one thing, sometimes the hangul, sometimes the romanization, and leave it for readers to figure out.

today, i suppose, you’re getting the hangul and the romanization, and that’s it, though i have zero consistency in hyphenating. i’m still figuring that out.

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dinner is all about 회덮밥 (hwe-duhp-bahp).

i love hwe-duhp-bahp, even if hwe-duhp-bahp in most places is a giant mound of shredded lettuce over rice, the leftover ends of sashimi tossed haphazardly over the mix. at kawi, it’s a beautiful bowl of generous cuts of 회 (hwe) arranged over rice mixed with perilla and other things scooped over finely shredded cabbage. it comes with a side of 초고추장 (chogochujang) and toasted 김 (geem),

typically, you mix the chogochujang into the rice/fish/lettuce combo, but, at kawi, i start by simply dipping the hwe directly into the chogochujang, wrapping the rice in the toasted seaweed, and, basically, eating the whole thing piecemeal. i like that the seaweed has been cut unevenly, some of the pieces large and unwieldy, others the perfect size. when i’m halfway through the hwe, i mix my remaining chogochujang into the bowl, and i always wonder, whenever there is rice to be mixed, which is the right way to do so? with a spoon or with chopsticks?


it is rare for me to find a space where i feel comfortable; i always feel either like i am too much or not enough wherever i am—like, if i am in a room of korean koreans, i am too american, not korean enough. in a room of korean americans, i am too korean, not american enough.

and then there is also the layer where i often feel like too much, like i feel too much, want too much, whatever too much. i don’t exist in the middle but on the extremes, and i am too loud, too irreverent, too effusive. i am too obsessive.

earlier today, i stop by the strand to look for YA books—or, at least, i go into the strand intending to go upstairs and look for YA books. instead, i make a beeline for the cookbooks, though i have nothing in mind, and find myself in the “asian cooking” section. i start flipping through an, then the mission chinese food cookbook, then hawker fare, and, as i stand there telling myself i can’t really afford to buy books right now, it kind of hits me.

there is an extreme intensity to the food industry. chefs and cooks are known to work brutal hours for shitty pay. they work through holidays, miss family celebrations and milestones, don’t get nearly enough sleep. cooking itself is intense physical labor, and cooks are on their feet all day, exposed to extreme temperatures, can be susceptible to injury. there’s a tendency to romanticize all of this, to package it as some kind of dedication to craft, as passion, and i suppose, yes, it is passion because passion is obsession. passion exists on the extreme, and, sometimes, the singular drive that pushes some of these chefs to the top best exemplifies the obsession and, honestly, the sacrificial ugliness that passion is.

and the thing is, i feel most comfortable in that extreme. it is only when i think about that world that i feel at ease, like i’ve maybe found the place where my “too much” is just fine. 

and yet, i also feel entirely invisible because i’m still only ever looking in—i don’t have access to the space that makes me feel okay as who i am.


i haven’t talked about the kimchi at kawi, have i? i wish they sold their kimchi by the jar. when i’m in new york, i crave good kimchi all the time because it is impossible to find, and the kimchi at kawi is, one, delicious and, two, perfect ripened.

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the third time i go to kawi, it’s not exactly planned—a good friend is in town, and we decide to go for dinner because it’s been a month since i’ve last gone, and i miss it. i haven’t been so excited by one person’s cooking in … ever, i don’t think, and i want to keep coming back because i want to keep eating the chef’s food. i want to keep tasting what she serves next.

we split the fried cod with yuzu and the oxtail and brisket 찜 (jjim). the fried cod is hot and crispy without being heavy or oily, and the oxtail and brisket jjim has a really great heat to it. the spiciness is not overpowering (not for me, at least), and the oxtail is so tender, falling off the bone, the brisket soft and meaty. it’s a lot of food for the two of us, which isn’t helped by the fact that i arrived at hudson yards forty minutes early, was starving, and decided to eat a spicy chicken sandwich and waffle fries at fuku. i forget—or choose not to believe—that i can’t necessarily eat like i used to when i was younger.

we still get the blueberry 빙수 (bingsu), though. over the summer, i’ll eat the blueberry bingsu four times.


at one point, the chef makes a round of the floor, and i look up just as she approaches, make eye contact. i think i smile. my stomach goes flipping all over the place as my brain seems to short-circuit. all i want to say is, oh my god, oh my god, oh my god, hi.

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this post (and the one that will follow) was supposed to be about something different. i originally started drafting it for national suicide prevention week, but i admit i’ve recently become very cagey about talking openly about mental health, especially given the potential consequences of doing so. if we’re open about our mental health, we could be fired, we could be rejected, we could be written off as liabilities, not as smart, creative humans worth investing in.

that’s partly why i find myself growing more and more angry when i think about how people just don’t know how to talk to or “handle” people who are suicidal. i find myself making lists of things i’d tell people not to do if they have someone who’s suicidal in their lives. like, don’t ever imply that suicidal thinking is something we can just think our way out of. don’t insinuate that we’re not trying to “get better” because we enjoy this pain. don’t treat us like projects, like problems to fix. don’t charge in thinking that you’re going to do this and this and this; meet us where we are; ask us what we need. don’t be offended when you aren’t showered with profuse thanks.

don’t give up on us, and don’t write us off.


i go back to kawi for the fourth time a week later, and that’s not exactly pre-planned either. i’m finally able to schedule a meal with another friend, and we decide to go to kawi because i’ve been talking about it non-stop and she was supposed to go a month before but couldn’t. we talk about everything from law school to plastic surgery to growing up asian american. the server gives us a complimentary flank steak kimbap. i wonder if that means i’ve been coming here too often, if that means the chef maybe knows who i am.


what else, what else: don’t approach us as people to be saved; you won’t save us. don’t tiptoe around us, afraid of saying the “wrong” thing and somehow sending us over the edge—stop centering yourself because this isn’t about you. don’t simply insist that we “get help” because, often, the best we can do is just stay alive, because therapy and medication require time, energy, and money, all of which we may not have at our easy disposal. and, by god, don’t report us to HR, especially if you don’t have a personal relationship with us.


the spicy tuna kimbap may be one of my favorite things on the kawi menu, and the kimbap, in general, maybe best exemplifies why the chef’s cooking is so damn cool. she’s not reinventing korean food; she’s not deconstructing it or trying to do something totally new, not in an obvious way, at least. she’s keeping the structures and forms of korean food intact and playing around with it from the inside—and that’s interesting if that’s something you’re interested in, but, if you’re not, that’s fine, too, because her food is delicious.


if you have someone who is suicidal in your life, just show up. let them know that you see them, that, even if they feel like they’re locked in darkness, you can see them in the light. be there and hope for them and believe in them. love them. meet them where they are, and, if they are in a place where they don’t appear to respond, let them know that’s okay—you’ll be there when they’re ready to reach out. you’ll be there, and you’ll get through this together. 


the fourth time i go to kawi, the chef’s executing. every time she calls out a dish, i feel sparks go off in the back of my head. how do you articulate to someone how much her food means to you, how much she does?


what is it like to shine?

color me purple.

PURPLE APRON ALERT!!!

i’ve been following hedley and bennett pretty intensely for a few years now, pretty much since ellen bennett launched the company, and, on february 20, they released this gorgeous purple apron (named “fig”) as part of their new pantry collection. of course, i had to have it, never mind that i have four other aprons (omg, seriously), but it’s! purple! such! a! gorgeous! purple!

i love purple.

this is not a sponsored post.

i really like the material this apron is made of. it’s an 8-oz taiwanese stretch denim that’s been custom-dyed (in 5 different colors), and it’s reversible, which is something i don’t feel much about either way, but you get a darker shade on one side, a brighter one on the other, and, hey, i like options. i don’t typically like stretch fabrics or light (in weight) aprons (my favorite apron is the dusty pink one in my previous post, and it’s double-layered, which makes it heavier), but this taiwanese stretch denim is soft, durable, and comfortable.

i do wish the ampersands had been stitched along the edges, though, and placed closer to the neck strap, but that’s a tiny complaint, and i hope this isn’t the only purple apron h&b designs! i keep dreaming about a brighter, grape-hued apron with cantaloupe straps — and, while we’re talking about colors, one of the funnest things about having followed a company like h&b for so long is that they’ve played a part in helping me embrace my love of color.

because honestly? i didn’t always love color so much. i used to hide from it, rather, because, as they say, black is slimming and bright colors would make my larger body stand out too much — and why would i want to draw so much attention to myself?

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a few weeks ago, i went down a twitter blackhole and spent hours obsessively reading blair braverman’s feed. she’s a musher, which means she races sled dogs, which means her feed is filled with stories of dog-racing adventures and photos of dogs, athletes really, wiry and muscular but no less affectionate and filled with characters of their own.

(her feed is one good thing to come of that annoying thing twitter does of showing you the tweets people you follow have liked.)

i knew that blair had written a memoir, and, after spending days on her twitter feed, i decided to pick up her book, thinking, naturally, that it’d be similar to her twitter feed, happy and lively and full of dogs. a friend warned me in advance, though, that the book is more intense, not quite like her twitter, but i wasn’t sure what to make of that because she didn’t tell me anything beyond that.

she was right, though, and i’m glad to have had the warning — welcome to the goddamn ice cube (ecco, 2016) is not the book you might expect because it’s not about dog-sledding or mushing or surviving in the arctic. rather, it’s a book about being a woman in the world and learning to carry all the burdens of what that entails and to be as you are, who you are, even when fear keeps you awake through the nights.

blair takes us to her youth, to her formative years that led her to dog-sledding, and she grew up a happy child in suburban california, though that isn’t where her family was supposed to be. her mother grew up in oregon, and her father was a new yorker, and their move to the suburbs of northern california was supposed to be a temporary, two-years-max thing that stretched into four that stretched into a decade. there was a year’s stint in norway, blair’s first taste of living in the cold, and, hungry for more, she went back alone to study abroad for a year in high school, though that didn’t necessarily turn out as expected, stuck as she was with a host family with a threatening host father.

there is a danger and unease all women have known since girlhood.

she avoids anything serious from happening, though, but what does that even mean? it’s enough for a girl to be placed in a situation where she feels constant fear, where she’s always on edge, on guard, because she doesn’t know if or when the scales will tip and that thing she can’t name but knows to fear will happen. it’s enough to have to carry that; that, in and of itself, is a serious enough thing to endure.

and maybe that’s where i feel like maybe we get stuck when it comes to conversations about sexual violence, racism, bigotry, that it’s easy to point at people’s obviously terrible actions and say, that’s bad. we need to condemn that. rape is clear (or it should be); physical assault is clear (or it should be); and open discrimination is clear (or it should be) — but we can’t forget about the everyday acts of micro-aggression. we can’t ignore those. we can’t dismiss them and say they’re not serious because, oh, she wasn’t assaulted, oh, he wasn’t hospitalized, oh, they can still get married, don’t be so petty and obsessed with such minuscule details.

because here’s the thing: shitty behavior doesn’t have to, shouldn’t have to, escalate into disgusting acts of human violence to be called out. it’s enough that a grown man thinks it’s acceptable to loom over a girl and cast a shadow into her life. it’s enough that white people think it’s okay to follow black customers around a store. it’s enough that straight people think it’s morally fine for them to turn queer people away, to refuse them marriage licenses and business services, all on the flimsy grounds of “freedom of religion.”

it’s enough because, yeah, maybe you might be inclined to say, oh, they’re not really doing anything, though, but no one starts off with murder. behavior escalates, and a man who is physically abusive is more likely to pick up a gun and commit mass murder — he doesn’t start with mass murder — so, yes, it matters, and micro-aggression is serious enough for us to pay attention and call it out and demand that it stop.


wonder if i’ll ever pair words to photographs in a way that matches? i do, too.


two sundays ago, i made scallion pancakes, and this recipe is from molly yeh’s fabulous molly on the range (rodale, 2016). molly is the only food blogger i read, and i love her — she’s so bright, so sunny, and she loves snow and sprinkles as much as i do.

molly on the range is filled with personal stories, from her experience at camp, at julliard, at home on a farm in north dakota where she lives with her husband (who grows sugar beets and plays the trombone). molly’s recipes are this mish-mash of cultures, taking inspiration from foods passed down from her jewish mother and chinese father and somehow mashing flavors together in ways that work in really cool ways. like scallion challah bread or hawaij in everything — and those are really shitty examples, i know, but you can go read her blog and/or get her book and get a better idea of what i’m trying to say.

these scallion pancakes, though — in recent weeks, all i’ve been craving are grungy italian-american food, indian food, and scallion pancakes. these were pretty good, especially once i’d gotten the hang of rolling them into more circular shapes and rolling them flatter and thinner, but i may play around with mixing APF with rice flour to get more of that glutinous chew i so crave when it comes to scallion pancakes. that said, that’s me being super particular. these were fun and easy to make, and the flavor was excellent, and i’ll definitely make them again.


i find it weird to refer to people here by their first name when i don’t know them, but i’ve called both blair and molly by their first names. i don’t know either of them, though i wish i did, but there’s something about them that makes them feel personable and approachable, like using their last names to refer to them would feel oddly impersonable and, almost, rude.

maybe it’s the way blair tells her story, drawing you in and making herself vulnerable, and she’s a fantastic writer — and an astute one as well. one of my peeves when it comes to memoirs is when authors lack any kind of self-awareness, filling pages with anecdotes that read more like acts of self-indulgence than anything else (it’s one reason i didn’t finish erica garza’s getting off), but welcome to the goddamn ice cube doesn’t fall prey to that, being a memoir, instead, that flows narratively and positions itself within the world at-large. there’s no moralizing, either, no preaching, no ego-driven self-flagellation, and it’s a book filled with warmth, appreciation, and strength, a book about bravery, really, not bravery in the romanticized, inflated way of dramatized heroism, but bravery in the rather banal, everyday ways of simply showing up, being uncomfortable, and learning to say no and to say it again and again when the first ten “no”s go ignored.

it’s about a woman’s life as she’s lived it, as she’s learned to move about the world and find her place and her people within it, and i highly, highly recommend it. i also highly recommend following blair (and her husband!) on twitter. go bask in all the adorable photos of dogs they post and share in their dog-racing adventures.


when chopping scallions, make sure to use a sharp knife. if you use a knife-that-is-not-sharp, you’ll end up with slimy green strings with notches cut into them, not chopped scallions.

when chopping things, also use a proper cutting board. those cheap plastic things are awful and will dull your knives and absorb smells and accumulate bacteria — and i doubt they’re environmentally friendly. invest in wood.

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there’s a passage from rebecca solnit’s the faraway nearby (penguin, 2013) that i go back to every so often. incidentally, it’s the opening passage of the book, and it sets the tone, setting the stage for a book that will feel at once concrete and not, grounded in solnit’s memories while also floating away on the whimsy of stories and story-telling and the fancy story entails.

solnit is a deft, intelligent writer, but she doesn’t lose herself to her smarts. i’m not much a fan of such writers, writers who feel the need to blare their intelligence on the page, writers who try too hard to be clever, to be witty, to be smarter than their readers and let that be known — and, like i said before, intellectualism doesn’t impress me.

(it’s one reason i had issues with maggie nelson’s the argonauts [graywolf, 2016], which i loved in the beginning and loved less and less as the book went on. nelson gets lost in the tangles of whatever it is she’s trying to say, and it all simply made me think, well. i’m sorry for being too dull for you — but, then again, maybe i am dull, or maybe it’s just my impatience for theory flaring up again. maybe it’s my allergy to hype. maybe it’s all of the above.

whatever it is, ultimately, the argonauts has completely faded from my brain.)

solnit is gracious, though, warm and generous, even when she’s being critical. in another writer’s hands, her essay collection, men explain things to me (haymarket, 2014), would have been scathing and bristling, but, in solnit’s, the essays are thoughtful, well-considered, fleshed-out. that isn’t to say she isn’t scathing or that she’s soft in her criticism; solnit doesn’t try to cushion any blows or shy away from the brutal realities of the consequences and realities of patriarchy and toxic masculinity; but she does it all in such measured ways that the truth falls even harder and heavier.

that’s not meant to sound like tone-policing, by the way. sometimes, it’s necessary to shout and scream and snarl.

going back to that aforementioned passage, though:

what’s your story? it’s all in the telling. stories are compasses and architecture; we navigate by them, we build our sanctuaries and our prisons out of them, and to be without a story is to be lost in the vastness of a world that spreads in all directions like arctic tundra or sea ice. to love someone is to put yourself in their place, we say, which is to put yourself in their story, or figure out how to tell yourself their story.

which means that a place is a story, and stories are geography, and empathy is first of all an act of imagination, a storyteller’s art, and then a way of traveling from here to there. what is it like to be the old man silenced by a stroke, the young man facing the executioner, the woman walking across the border, the child on the roller coaster, the person you’ve only read about, or the one next to you in bed?

we tell ourselves stories to live, or to justify taking lives, even our own, by violence or by numbness and the failure to live; tell ourselves stories that save us and stories that are the quicksand in which we thrash and the well in which we drown, stories of justification, of accursedness, of luck and star-crossed love, or versions clad in the cynicism that is at times a very elegant garment. sometimes the story collapses, and it demands that we recognize we’ve been lost, or terrible, or ridiculous, or just stuck; sometimes change arrives like an ambulance or a supply drop. not a few stories are sinking ships, and many of us go down with these ships even when the lifeboats are bobbing all around us. (solnit, 3-4)

i don’t judge people who don’t read; i know reading isn’t something everyone likes to do; and there are plenty of things people like to do that i don’t. i do, however, tend to roll my eyes when people like to act like they’re above stories, like storytelling is something in which only children participate. i can’t help but roll my eyes at people who try to downplay novels, implying that maturing means leaving the novel (and, in connection, fiction) behind and moving onto more “serious” writing like essays and philosophy and biographies (aka non-fiction).

because the problem beneath all that snobbery and faux-intellectualism is this: stories are the foundation of who we are. they provide the foundation of our beliefs, define how we see the world, and directly influence the way we consider other people. they tell us who we are and how we position ourselves in the world. stories are the means through which we conduct our lives.

stories are in everything, and story-telling is the framework on which we build everything. it doesn’t matter whether you’re an artist or an engineer or an attorney; you tell stories for a living, whether it’s through a creative medium, a structure, a legal case. if you’re an accountant, you might work in numbers, but you still look for the stories embedded in financial and income statements because they tell you all about the life and health of a company. if you’re a doctor, bodies tell you stories, and you carry the stories of your patients. if you’re a chef, a coffee roaster, a baker, you take the stories from your life, your farmers and butchers and fishermen, and you turn them into sustenance.

when you go home at the end of the day, kiss your partner, say hello to your children, your flatmate, your parents, you tell them the story of your day.

when you introduce yourself to someone new, you share the story of who you are.

when you see someone, you tell yourself a story of who you think that person is, and you act accordingly.


one thing i’ve been doing less of since 2017 is reading from korean authors. i miss that. i hope to get back to that this year.

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my way of cooking is usually to go into a recipe and kind of just take from it what i want. (my apologies, recipe developers and writers.)

here’s the chicken poulet from kristen kish cooking (clarkson potter, 2017), except it’s just the chicken, no sauce, no gnocchi, and no thyme or rosemary either because i didn’t have either on hand and all my herb plants died. (i have black thumbs.) i also didn’t use the kind of chicken her recipe calls for either because she says to use skin-on, boneless chicken breasts, but i have yet to find skin-on, boneless chicken breasts because i don’t actually have a butcher, just the butcher counter at whole foods (omg i can’t quit whole foods; DAMN YOU, AMAZON), and it’s still just a thing on my list, to learn how to break down a whole chicken.

that’s a lot of words about how i deviated from the recipe …

anyway, so, i used the technique from her recipe, but i used skin-on, bone-in chicken breasts, and i added garlic to the pan, and i made adjustments to the cooking time as necessary, and i ended up with really juicy, flavorful chicken breasts and super, super crispy skin.

i never grew up eating chicken skin.

it’s too fattening.


i have a complicated relationship with my body, and i have a complicated relationship with food.

when i see photos of myself, i cringe, seeing the lumpiness in my face, the chub in my arms and fingers, the bulges around my stomach. i see my double chin, the little shelf of fat that squeezes over my bra under my armpits, the paunch around my midriff. i see the pounds i should lose. i see the lunch maybe i shouldn’t have eaten.

i see shame.


the movie that stands out to me most from my adolescence is cool runnings, and i haven’t seen it in almost two decades, so i don’t remember much of it, just the memories associated with watching it. i watched it for the first time at a sleepover with my discipleship group, and that in and of itself was pretty cool, the act of sleeping over at my discipleship leader’s apartment, of lining up in a row in our sleeping bags in her living room at night.

at the time, it felt very grown up.

anyway, the point is — so we watched cool runnings, and the scene that has always stayed with me was when one of the characters is taken into the bathroom by some other dude who asks him, look in the mirror; what do you see?

the guy isn’t sure and rattles off something or another, and the dude says, no. when i look in the mirror, i see power. i see strength. i see … etcetera etcetera etcetera, and this is a terrible summary of this scene, but i think you get the point.

and i think you get where i’m going with this.


i like to believe that we can’t control much in our lives and in our narratives, but we do get to choose how we approach the shit we’re given. we don’t get to choose how people see us or judge us, but we do get to choose how we feel about and judge ourselves.

one of the positive things to come out of a decade-plus of intense body shaming by people i love is that i’ve learned to slough off shame. i’ve learned to embrace myself as who i am and to be okay with people not being okay with who i am. that doesn’t mean i don’t have bad days when i catch a glimpse of myself in the mirror and immediately look away, days when i’m wearing something that’s a little too tight and sink into unhappiness and angriness at my inability to lose weight.

and that doesn’t mean it’s been an easy or simple process to get here to this point where i can say, it’s okay; i’m okay, where i can post photos of myself that aren’t just perfectly angled photos of my face, nothing shown from the shoulders down, the selca shot at the perfect angle that makes my face appear narrower, sharper, less lumpy.

that doesn’t mean i have a good, healthy relationship with my body now, either, or with food. i still hate my body most days because it’s not a healthy body, and i still have a complicated relationship with food — but maybe that’s the other positive thing that came out of a decade-plus of intense body shaming. i know that healing takes a shit-ton of time and whole lot of pain and that it, too, is massively complicated. nothing is black-and-white, either-or. nothing is that cleanly, clearly defined.

and that’s okay. that’s okay as long as we’re still trying.


“poulet” means “chicken” in french, so this recipe is really called “chicken chicken.”

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over the the last few weeks, several women have come forward with allegations against sherman alexie, arguably the prominent native-american writer, though that also feels not-so-correct to say because, hello, louise erdrich. 

a week or two ago, alexie released a statement in which he wrote, “there are women telling the truth about my behavior and i have no recollection of physically or verbally threatening anybody or their careers. that would be completely out of character.”

overall, the statement is a pretty shoddy non-apology, one that takes no responsibility for his actions and tries to brush everything under the rug with a standard, i’m sorry if i hurt you, but the thing is — i do believe him when he writes that he has “no recollection of physically or verbally threatening anybody or their careers” — and that’s the problem.

some people like to argue that we’ve become too “PC,” that we’re too sensitive or that we’re overreacting, that, if [insert supposedly innocuous statement or behavior here] is sexual harassment, then where does it end? then men won’t be able to talk to any women, and it’ll be impossible for them to be friendly or to show concern or care because, oh no, women are such snowflakes and they must be so dumb that they can’t parse innocent friendly behavior from dangerous creeper behavior.

which then leads to this asinine idea that the solution is to go back to completely male-dominated spaces.

the problem isn’t that women are dumb and can’t tell the difference between a man being friendly and a man wielding his power (because, believe or not, women can). the problem is that men have no idea about the structural power imbalances in place that inherently benefit them. the problem is that men move about the world totally oblivious to their privilege and the toxicity it unfurls. the problem is that men can’t seem to wrap their brains around consent or accept that, no, they are not entitled to women, whether to women’s attention or time or bodies.

and, so, i do, to a degree, believe alexie when he claims that he doesn’t remember ever explicitly threatening women and their careers because the thing is … he doesn’t have to threaten anyone explicitly. he doesn’t have to grab a woman’s arm or trap her in a corner or say the words, have sex with me, or you’ll never write again. he doesn’t have to menace her or stalk her or spread rumors about her.

all he has to do is make an advance and refuse to walk away when the woman signals no.


men can complain all they want about how they didn’t set up the system and it isn’t fair that they’re lumped together in this mass of shitty human behavior, but, hey, here’s the thing: if you actively benefit from a toxic system (which all men do) (and which all white people, men and women, do) and you do nothing to try to change that system, then, hi, you’re complicit.

no one says it’s easy, and no one says it’s fun. it’s not pleasant confronting your own shittiness, and i’ve got plenty of experience in that area myself. it’s taken me years to dismantle my internalized misogyny; i readily admit that, seven years ago, i was that person who went around disavowing feminism because i was about “humanism” or some bullshit like that. i had to come face-to-face with the racism and prejudice i’d long carried against other POC, and i know — it sucks. it sucks to realize that you’re a shitty human being. it sucks to admit that and reckon with it, but the only other option is to deny it, and denial allows toxicity to fester.

and here’s the thing about power, and here’s where this all comes together: all of this has to do with the stories we tell ourselves about what the world should look like and how power is structured and where we figure ourselves within it all. a man’s entitlement comes from the story he tells himself about a world in which his supposed masculinity is everything and he deserves to get what he wants and, if he doesn’t get it, if he is denied, he has the right to lash out in whatever way he so wants. an abuse victim believes the lies in the stories her abuser tells her, stories that say she deserved what she got, that she provoked him, that no one will believe her. women internalize these stories, too, invest in the narratives of the patriarchy and prop up toxic masculinity, repeat these stories to their daughters and continue the cycle.

colonizers buy into the stories of their greatness, of the supposed inferiority of the Others they colonize, and, sometimes, it’s funny how people inherently recognize how important stories are because the victors go about white-washing history, trying to erase their wrongs and pretend they didn’t exist, plastering pretty wallpaper over the bloodshed and violence and exploitation.

you don’t censor a story unless you’re afraid of it, and you're not afraid of something unless you believe in the power it contains.


chimamanda ngozi adichie gave an entire brilliant tedxtalk about the danger of the one story, so i’ll leave that for her, and i’ll end this ridiculously long post with this: the stories we tell ourselves about our bodies, our identities, are connected to the stories we tell ourselves about power because body shaming is about power — it’s just within the sphere of the private, not the hugely public.

there is systemic power that we’re trapped by, that requires mass movement to change, and then there is personal, individual power, the power we have over ourselves. i worry often that that’s a power girls are taught to give away too easily.

blair talks about this in her book, maybe not in the same terms, but in sharing her experience with her first boyfriend, a man older than she is who thinks he’s entitled to her body, shames her for not finding pleasure in sex with him, isolates her when she finally breaks up with him — and i love the way she writes it here:

for years afterward, dan would maintain that i had changed, gained some new or darker side that was, as he once explained in a letter, ‘without a doubt, not beneficial to who you are.’ i was young, starting college; of course i changed. i changed my clothes, my eating habits; i made new friends, tried yoga, worked as a telemarketer. but the change dan meant was less obvious: the fact that i no longer went limp and let him touch me; the fact that, when forced to choose between the bitter protection he offered and the exhaustive work of shielding myself alone, i knew that i could not be with him. and yet the decision burned. turning down dan — choosing jurisdiction over my own body — felt like choosing exile from the very things in which his approval had granted me legitimacy. what role did i have, really, on the icefield, or even in dogsledding? who had i been there? i didn’t remember. though i couldn’t explain it at the time, leaving dan felt like leaving everything i’d been working toward, all the ways i’d been trying to prove myself. and for a while, that’s exactly what it meant. i left him and i didn’t come back.

the change dan lamented was that i had started to trust myself. but the way i saw it, i had flunked out of the north. (175-6)

luckily, blair learns to trust herself and continues to do so, working through years of doubt and fear and faltering confidence, and the passage above goes to show what i mean about story, how the stories we tell ourselves matter. all it often takes is a small repositioning of ourselves to see a story from a different angle and shift our worldview entirely, and maybe that’s where the real power of story lies, in its ability to change and to change us along with it.

and maybe that’s the one thing that gives me a measure of hope in such a bleak, often terrifying world — that there is a shift in the wind, that women are reclaiming their narratives, that, even in the midst of the destruction the current administration is trying to wreak on marginalized, immigrant, queer communities, even in all that, we are still telling our stories — and, by doing so, slowly, we will shape and grow and change the world.

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get this gorgeous apron for yourself at hedley & bennett. i can personally vouch for their aprons because, erm, i’m a home cook, and i own five of their aprons. i, uh, kind of have a problem …

a cooking thing.

“i’m sure you like your work here. i have no idea what you do. no, please don’t try to explain it. but i feel like i have to tell you, for what it’s worth … feeding people is really freakin’ great. there’s nothing better.” (sourdough, kate, 75)
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two weekends ago, i got a baby tripod and made pasta. i had a craving for ragu, though i don't know quite what brought that on, but i decided i wanted something tomatoey and meaty and comfort-y, and ragu popped into my head. i looked up a few recipes, learned that a ragu and a bolognese are made with similar components but differ in how they're prepared — in a ragu, the meat is braised; in a bolognese, it is not — and, so, on sunday, or two sundays ago, i set about cooking.

at the brooklyn book festival last month, the cookbook panel touched on the question of who a cookbook is written for, if a cookbook can "have it all." can a cookbook be both a beautiful coffee table book and a book an average home cook can (and will want to) cook from? and, spinning off that, is the average home cook the target audience for a cookbook, anyway? and who is an average home cook? can a cookbook truly be both a beautiful work of art and a utilitarian book from which people might be inspired to cook?

(why do i spend such a stupid amount of time thinking about who cookbooks are marketed to and/or written for and/or whether i am in that target group?!? is that self-centered of me?)

in her book, my kitchen year (random house, 2015), which i (disclaimer) have only flipped through in a bookstore but have not read, ruth reichl writes that recipe writing is as much attached to culture as any other kind of writing — as in, the ways in which recipes are written change as culture changes. in her memoir, garlic and sapphires (penguin, 2005), which i have read and enjoyed, she writes that there is a language to food that is strange and requires translation to those who are not familiar with food — like, what does it mean to toss a salad? to sauté? to julienne? what does it mean to render out fat or simmer until liquid is reduced or whip egg whites to stiff peaks? how do you fold flour into batter?

one of the panelists at the festival, cookbook author stacy adimando, explained this, too, that you can't just write, sauté the onions; you have to spell it out — heat a tablespoon of oil in a pan. add onions. stir until translucent. chef sohui kim shared a story of first starting to write recipes for the good fork cookbook, how she laid out all her ingredients and thought it'd be a simple task to get this recipe down, only for her co-writer to come in and be like, uh, no, you can't just cook like you would cook. you have to do everything precisely and measure everything out. what comes intuitively to a chef will likely not come intuitively to someone at home.

at the panel, i learned that clarkson potter has it written into their contracts that all recipes need to be tested in a non-professional kitchen. ina garten watches as her assistant tests all her recipes. there is such a thing as being a good recipe-writer.

this has been one choppy introduction. transitions have not been my friend this week.

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sometimes, maintaining a personal blog feels like an act of stupidity, this thing of sharing and sharing and sharing. you could say this in and of itself is stupidity, to think this but to continue to do it, to find some kind of meaning or value in it while feeling uncomfortable.

then again, maybe, if you feel totally comfortable doing whatever you do, it’s not quite worth pursuing.

does that sound like a contradiction? but it’s true, isn’t it, that it’s that sense of discomfort that edges you out of your comfort zone, out of the familiar, into territory that requires a leap of faith, and we all need to take leaps of faith to get anywhere that counts.

and maybe there are inherent contradictions in all this, too — that i have no qualms using canned tomatoes (always whole, always peeled, never salted) but dislike using packaged broth, even if it's organic and low-sodium, that i hate amazon but can't seem to stop going to whole foods (i really need to find a good butcher counter near me), that i feel so weird putting my face and body out there but do so with more frequency anyway.

part of it is just discomfort with my body, that i don’t like it, i don’t like the size of it, the softness of it. another part is just discomfort with how it feels like an act of vanity because to put your face out there is to have some measure of confidence in it, whether it’s pride or defiance. yet another part is just hesitation because do i want to be seen, do i want to be recognizable, do i want to be identifiable?

is this all just ego?


last week was banned book week, and the fact that people get so terrified of books they want to ban them at all says all we need to know about the power of stories — or, at least, it says all i need to know. i’m sure some might want to argue that, no, they’re not terrified of books, they’re just offended by them or displeased or something something blah blah blah, this book is immoral, that book is hypersexual, that one disses the bible — but i don’t know, at the core of all that offense and outrage and whatever, isn’t there terror? fear of having your beliefs challenged, your worldview shaken up? aversion to risk of changed perspectives and views?

i don’t get that. i don’t get risk aversion. i don’t get beliefs that need to insulate themselves and surround themselves with sameness to exist.

then again, homogeneity of any kind freaks me out a little.


like i said, transitions have not been my friend this week. this whole post is going to be chop, chop, chop. also, i own a stupid number of aprons.

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two things cooking over the years has taught me:

one. it's okay to trust myself. yeah, my technique is shit, and my knife skills are laughable, and i still won't even attempt to cook certain things like fish, but i generally know what i'm doing in a home kitchen. i'm getting better at understanding how to season things. i know what tastes good. it's okay not to be perfect or brilliant or whatever; it's okay to be good enough. so trust yourself.

two. things take time, and things take practice, but you can get better with time and practice. that sounds like such a stupidly obvious thing, but i think it's often easy to forget, to get discouraged, to want to give up when things (whatever "things" are) don't turn out right the first few times around.

take this pasta for example — it's still not great. i still need to work on my rolling (and on rolling thinner), and i still need to work on cutting it into noodles of even width (omg, seriously). the texture is still off, and i still don't have that semolina to APF to yolk to white ratio down. i still don't know how long i'm supposed to cook the damn things. and yet, i can see and feel and taste that this attempt has improved vastly from the first time i made pasta months ago. practice makes better.

it's funny, maybe, because you'd think that's something i'd already have learned after a lifetime of classical music, after a lifetime of writing, but there are certain lessons you keep being reminded of, over and over again.


last week, i read robin sloan’s sophomore novel, sourdough (mcd books, 2017), and i’d loved his debut, mr. penumbra’s 24-hour bookstore (FSG, 2012), and was thus very excited for sourdough. i did enjoy being back sloan’s san francisco, in his take on the tech world, but i can’t say i loved sourdough like i loved penumbra — there was something about it that felt kind of empty because sourdough lacked the vibrancy and vivacity penumbra had. the rollicking fun was gone. sourdough was almost too earnest in its presentation of its world, the artisan food world, too appreciative, maybe, and less poking at (good-naturedly but still).

also, i admit i have difficulties going into a book with a first-person female narrator when the book has been written by a man. maybe that’s unfair prejudice; maybe it’s warranted wariness; but i require convincing in ways that i normally wouldn’t if a man wrote a male voice or, even, if a woman wrote a male voice.

and it’s not like i could tell you, this is what i mean by a convincing female narrative voice, because i don’t think such thing exists. women come in all kinds of voices, just like we come in all shapes and sizes and colors and sexualities and beliefs and worldviews — but maybe that’s not the point, an idea that you can characterize what makes a gendered voice, because the thing is that i find many female characters written by men to be so flat, one-dimensional, and fantastical, like they’re there principally to fulfill the male writer’s fantasy as to how he perceives a woman “should” or “might” be, to satisfy his ego that wants to believe he can convincingly occupy a woman’s perspective.

it’s not like lois, sloan’s first-person female narrator, didn’t feel real or sincere in sloan’s attempt to inhabit her. she didn’t really seem that fleshed out a character to me, though. her story (or her quest) didn’t engage me because she was kind of just there, this sourdough starter fell into her lap, and she somehow ended up in an intriguing alternate farmers market — and my disinterest and kind of lack of enthusiasm for sourdough is just flat-out weird because i love food and i love reading about food and i loved sloan’s penumbra, but my appreciation for sloan’s depiction of the artisan food world and amusement over how he stuck in tartine and alice waters and chez panisse still could not bring me to a point of enthusiasm for sourdough.

in the end, a book must deliver more than satisfactory parts.


on the rolling pasta end, you’d think i’d just invest in a pasta rolling machine thing. i’m not a big fan of kitchen gadgets, though; they take up too much space, cost more than they’re worth, and aren’t quite necessary. i tend to think all you need in a home kitchen gadget-wise are a food processor, a blender, and maybe an immersion blender, and that’s about it. maybe a crockpot if you’re into that kind of thing.

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as far as putting myself out there, though, maybe there's this: that, yes, there is intentionality here because it's important to remember that all these online spaces, whether it's this blog or instagram or twitter or facebook, are all curated spaces. they cannot help but be curated spaces, and curation, honestly, is not inherently right or wrong. it simply is, and we attach whatever moral meaning to it as we please.

and there's intentionality here because it's good to remember that not all bodies look the same. i am thinner than some but larger than others, and i can pick on every single flaw i see in every single one of these images. there are things maybe i shouldn't share; there are angles of me maybe i shouldn't put out there to be seen.

and yet there's a lot of privilege in this, and i recognize it. i am able-bodied. i am physically capable of caring for myself. i am conventionally passable as pretty (or, at least, not ugly). i may be uncomfortable putting myself out there, but i don't necessarily have to be afraid to do so. i can convince myself that my body dysmorphia is just that — dysmorphia, distortions in my head, when the reality of my body allows me more ease in existing in the world than it does others.

sometimes, that makes it difficult for me to talk about my body dysmorphia because it doesn't feel valid.

here’s another non-transition: sometimes, i think one of the stranger things about being a writer is that i simultaneously believe in the power of words and find words almost stupid. the latter particularly kicks in in the aftermaths of tragedies, particularly those caused by gun violence, because, like ryan lizza wrote for the new yorker, responses to gun violence have become parodies, words that are copy-pasted from previous statements then forgotten, no action taken because we’ve gotten so inured to these senseless brutalities.

it's easy to write a statement, post a tweet, record a video saying what a tragedy this shooting was, how egregious and heinous and evil, here are thoughts and prayers and condolences to everyone who has lost someone. it's easy to draft the words. it's easy to make a spectacle of grief, to play the part that is expected of you and pat yourself on the back for doing your due diligence.

the thing is, though, when something is as solvable a problem as gun violence, i don't give a rat's ass about anyone's "thoughts and prayers." thoughts don't solve anything. prayers don't mean anything. condolences are shallow, hollow offerings, especially when they come from the people in power who can do something about this but choose not to.

and how does any of this fit into this post overall, anyway?

i spent my last two sundays ensconced away in my kitchen, cooking and reading and keeping the world at bay, which maybe is a form of escapism but is also a way of caring for myself. being active citizens sometimes requires us to do that because we're in this for the long haul, we can't burn out now, and it's not enough to be sad at the happenings in the world, to tweet outrage every so often, to settle in grief for a few minutes after a news release.

it’s easy to think that we can’t do anything, too, that what contributions we can make are so small as to be inconsequential. it’s easy to think that there isn’t much we can do; we aren’t public figures; we aren’t wealthy; we’re busy enough trying to make rent and pay bills and put food on our tables.

the thing, is, though, it's not about heroism or wealth or fame. it’s about doing what you can when you can if you can. a little bit on its own might be nothing, but a little bit when everyone is doing her/his/their little bit can amount to a whole lot.

so donate money if you can. donate blood if you can. donate supplies and food if you can. donate your time and physical strength if you can. donate your time and skills and experience if you can.

it's not about doing a lot, about doing more than you can. it's about doing something, anything you can because maybe, on its own, your contribution might feel small and inconsequential, but, together, our small, seemingly inconsequential contributions can add up to something big, and this — each of us doing our tiny, little bit — is how we bring about change.

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on instagram, someone asked for the recipe for this pork braised with apples and fennel, so here it is.

peel and smash garlic. peel and slice apples, fennel (just the bulb), and shallots. salt and pepper pork shoulder.

heat oil with smashed garlic in dutch oven on medium heat. when oil is hot (and i mean hot), bring to high heat, and sear the pork on all sides, a few minutes on each side. remove pork from dutch oven; set aside. add shallots to dutch oven; sauté. add apples and fennel to dutch oven; sauté. return pork shoulder to dutch oven. add rosemary, thyme, red pepper flakes.

pour hard apple cider over everything; add some water. bring to a rolling boil. when it's boiling, reduce heat to medium-low and simmer for 1 1/2 - 2 hours. salt to taste. occasionally skim fat from the surface. simmer until liquid has reduced by half.

remove pork shoulder; let cool enough to handle; shred. smash apples/fennel/shallots/garlic in dutch oven using potato masher. returned shredded pork to dutch oven; stir; let heat through.

eat with rice.


i am not a good recipe-writer, but you know? that is okay.

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