color me purple.


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?


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.


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.


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.”


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.


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)

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.


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.


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.


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.


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.


[NYC/BK] hope looks good on you.


i am not someone who hopes easily or thoughtlessly or carelessly — and, to be honest, i'd have more words to add to this, but i do need to be up at 4:30 am tomorrow (monday) to drive my grandfather to the airport, and i've spent all day in the kitchen today (sunday)*, so enjoy the photos, and there will be more words on my last nyc/bk post on tuesday!

* for funsies, you can see a slideshow of photos of my pasta-making adventures here! they may make it onto this blog as a post this weekend. maybe. we'll see.


[NYC/BK] the heart goes where it's known.

i spent friday night alone, revelling in being back home in familiar spaces, and started stacking my time with people starting on saturday morning, beginning with breakfast at prune with a friend i met on tumblr about 7 years ago. (holy crap, it’s been 7 years! i literally stumbled onto her tumblr when i was going through hashtags for one of alexander wang’s RTW shows!)

the concept of “online friends” might seem alien and/or weird to some, but i’ve been making friends via the internet for at least a decade now. some have become good friends, while i’ve yet to meet some “in real life”, but whatever the physical status, these friendships are like any other friendship — the fact they originated and/or continue online doesn’t make them any less real or valid or valuable than the ones i carry out in-person.

maybe this will make better sense to some out there if i add this: that living across the country from my core group of people has inevitably taken my core community on-line. we primarily text now. we email. we exchange DMs on instagram. we occasionally facetime or talk on the phone. we might facebook chat if i were on facebook.

long-distance teaches you that being present in people’s lives doesn’t always mean being present physically. it doesn’t mean those physical relationships aren’t important; i don’t actually believe that online relationships are totally sufficient because we need physicality, we need hugs and sensorial contact; and that’s why i will continue to make the effort to bring as many of my online friendships into “real life” as i can.  i love these connections i’ve made, though, and i love them even more when we’re sitting across the table from each other, talking about everything we talk about online but in-person, interrupting each other and laughing together and becoming more than social media handles and profile pictures to each other.

saturday was a day for old friends, though, friends i’ve known for years, who have been a part of my life for years. these are the connections i was afraid to lose when i had to come back to california earlier this year, so i was a little nervous going back, wondering if much would be changed, if i were holding onto nostalgia when our lives had gone marching on for months. i’m glad to report all that nervousness was for naught.


one of the biggest highlights of my weekend was catching up with my book club. we came together a few years ago because i went to a marilynne robinson event in park slope in 2014 and i was leaving when someone stopped me in the aisle and said, are you anna? it turned out we were in the same vocational intensive that season, and she gave me her email, so i emailed her, and we became friends, and she said, i know these other women who also read robinson and maybe we should get together and talk about lila, so we did that, and that became a book club, and we’d meet every month (or so) to chat about our book of the month but, really, to eat and talk and hang out.

i don’t think i can ever fully express how much i miss this group of women when i’m in LA.

we met up for lunch at one of my favorite places, at their west village outpost, and we exchanged sweaty hugs and sat down to drinks and pizza in a noisy, cozy restaurant space, shouting at each other even though we were smushed together against the wall. we talked lives and books (and got in a mention of lacan at one point) and current updates, and time went faster than i wished it would.

i wished it weren’t so loud in the restaurant. i wished we could linger more. i wished i wasn’t so far from all this now, that this was still our monthly thing, gathering at an apartment and sharing food and alcohol and company.

i miss a lot about home, but there’s little i miss more acutely, more intensely, than this.


here's to lazy sundays.


i have to say my last post was kind of a mess; i shouldn’t really try to write things when my writing brain is still recuperating; but i had photos i wanted to share, though i suppose i could have just shared the photos, forget about attaching so many words … but, anyway, on to the next thing.

sometimes, i like to spend chill, uneventful weekends at home, doing little else but running the most basic errands (usually just to the grocery store) and reading and doing little else. sometimes, i’ll meet friends for dinner; sometimes, i’ll clear my schedule so i can rest for the upcoming week; and i don’t know, i suppose the funny thing is that my idea of resting is to clean, cook, and clean some more.

you can’t cook without cleaning. it just doesn’t work that way.

anyway, so maybe i should stop saying “anyway” so often, but, anyway, i read multiple books at one time, hopping from title to title until something captivates my full attention and demands that i commit. now that i’m done with my book (for now), that means i have the time and energy to read again, and it’s been such a pleasure, diving back into the world of words i didn’t write, stories that aren’t mine to tell, to be reminded again of the vitality of stories and voices and narratives, especially given the state of our world today.

right now, my three main books are kamila shamsie’s home fire (riverhead, 2017), which was recently long-listed for the man booker, paul graham’s in memory of bread (clarkson potter, 2017), and eun heekyung’s beauty looks down on me (dalkey archive press, 2017). i’m about halfway through the shamsie and the graham and just barely started the eun. none of this stops me from having an opinion about everything.


i suppose, first things first — this is not my house. i’m temporarily staying at my parents’, and this is their house, the house i grew up in. it gets great light and is spacious, and it’s got counter space galore, which is great for making pasta, working with dough, cooking in general, hanging out, eating while doing some writing, reading, creating. when i think of home spaces, when i think of whatever future home i will make, i think of kitchens because, to me, the kitchen is the heart of the home, the center that holds it together.

(when i think of home, i think of you. i think of the meals we’ll make together, the messes we’ll create and clean, the life we’ll build from this core.)

i keep hearing that home fire is a retelling of antigone, and here is where i confess that, yes, i did read antigone — over ten years ago — and i’ve a bare bones remembrance of that story. here is also where i confess that i didn’t bother to google antigone; i don’t really care for retellings or “inspired by”s or “loosely based on”s or whatever; and maybe that’s a weakness in myself as a critical reader — shouldn’t i be interested in the source of things, the inspirations, the places things come from?

i don’t particularly care for greek tragedy, though, and never have, and i like walking into a book without external influence. it’s why i very rarely read reviews before reading the book (and, also, very rarely read reviews after reading the book), and it’s why i stay away from books that are newly published to absurd levels of hype. it’s also why i tend to stay away from the books that circulate heavily through instagram and media at-large.

going back to home fire, though — i’m about halfway through now and have hit the third part, the third character. the book is divided into five parts, each focused on a different character, and the novel, overall, tells the story of a family, of three orphaned siblings really, the children of a jihadi. the eldest is studying in northampton; the younger daughter is in london studying law; and the son has run off to join isis. it’s a book that has a lot to say about who we are, and it’s a book that might have fallen into the trappings of pedantic moralizing in another writer’s hands. (i feel the same about moshin hamid’s exit west, also riverhead, also long-listed for the man booker.)

rather than dive into content, though, i’m going to end this with a note on form: i’m always wary of walking into a book that focuses on multiple characters because, oftentimes, the book falls prey to ambition, the voices all sounding the same. shamsie, however, avoids this trap by staying in the third-person, simply honing in very tightly on each character. i’m tempted to say that i love this kind of narrow perspective, but i’m tempted to say that about any narrative form that’s done well. it’s the execution that matters after all.

but this is connected to what i mean when i say that it’s a book that could have been something else in another writer’s hands. instead, shamsie has thus far delivered a very human book, one that is unflinching in examining and presenting its characters as who they are, that is uninterested in casting one-dimensional judgments about one kind of person being morally better or superior to another. at the same time, home fire is also not interested in making excuses for people’s heinous actions or questionable behavior and thinking; shamsie doesn’t shy away from being critical, from drawing lines where they ought to exist, while still asking us, the reader, to be self-critical of our own assumptions and the narratives we force and enforce on people who might, on the surface, be Other from us.

in the mornings, i keep my skincare simple, though some may argue that applying five products to my face isn’t simple at all. i don’t wash my face in the morning, not with cleanser, because i don’t want to over-cleanse my face, so i just rinse with water in the shower and have that be that because, yes, i shower every morning, and, yes, i wash my hair everyday — if i don’t, my hair becomes a greaseball, and i have neither the patience nor the desire to “train” my hair to require a wash only every 2-3 days.

also, hi, i love eggs.

i picked up graham’s in memory of bread at elliott bay book company in seattle, and i picked it up because i loved that cover. (isn’t it beautiful and clever?!) i wasn’t planning on buying a book at all, but that sounds like a stupid statement to make because why would i walk into a bookstore in the first place if not to browse, hopefully find something that catches my interest and calls out to me, read me, read me, read me, i KNOW YOU WANT TO.

and, why, yes, i did want to read in memory of bread. i felt like i’d relate quite a bit, though it isn’t celiac that i have.

in his late-thirties, graham is diagnosed with celiac disease, and, after becoming deathly ill and being misdiagnosed several times, he has to make drastic changes to his life. to put it simply, he can no longer eat gluten, and it sounds like a deceptively simple thing — just don’t eat gluten, and you’ll be fine — much like living with diabetes sounds deceptively simple — just don’t eat sugar, and you’ll be fine.

the problem (also condensed down) is that gluten is in everything, much like sugar is often in everything, and, beyond that, graham has an emotional connection to food. to him, bread is not just bread; it’s ritual, familiarity, history; and a meal — the prospect of meals — is more than simply physical sustenance.

it’s all that emotional complexity to which i relate so heavily, and i’m marking up passages in this memoir while nodding along vigorously because, god, it’s nice just to know that someone gets it. food is not just food; it’s how we make connections with other people, other cultures; it’s one very visceral, very intimate way we learn about the world — and, for someone like me, someone like graham, that initial sense of loss is a terrible, terrifying thing.

part of me thinks this is a dangerous thing, writing about books before completing them. i mean, i might end up not finishing them at all; i might read further on and realize that this book is starting to fall apart, it isn’t worth my time; or i might finish them and think that i actually disliked them intensely.

and yet i don’t think that would invalidate the thoughts i’ve recorded here, how i’ve felt about them thus far.

i mean, if it hasn’t become clear yet, i’m interested in the process of things, whatever they are, even if it’s reading a book, not simply the end result or thought.


i never used to be the type of person who did much work or reading or anything other than sleep in bed. this has changed in recent months, usually as my day job wipes me out so i like to catch up on stuff in bed before i turn in for the night. i still need a desk, though, and i do most of my work at my desk, currently this blue one from ikea i’ve had since college. it’s my favorite still, and i love it, and i hope one day to take it to brooklyn with me, whenever i make my way back home.

now that the book is done (for now), there’s an essay i’m trying to finish, an essay i started writing late last year, one that’s gone through several iterations before settling into the shape and form it’s in now. it’s an essay that was born out of a desire to write about depression and longing, about love and desire, about the lingering, hateful will to survive, and, as always, i’m surprised by the ways any writing project grows, how it begins as a seed and goes through life cycles, how it attempts to flower, fails, lies fallow.

maybe that’s the fun of it, the malleability of projects, and i love this about creating content in general, whether it’s an instagram post, a blog post here, a long-term writing project i’ll spend hundreds, thousands, of hours on and try to publish. i don’t think one is lesser or greater than the other; it’s all work; it’s all something to create and to create well because work is work is work and i have to believe that all of this means something.

the great accomplishment of this weekend is that i managed to take down my cookbook tower (which was balanced precariously on a barstool for months) and arrange my collection on a shelf. i’m (obviously) being glib about that being my great accomplishment; i’m impressed my collection only toppled off my stool twice and didn’t damage anything; and this shift in space was a long time coming.

(speaking of, that massive cookbook post is still coming.) (also, that post-it on my macbook? it’s from seattle last month, and it has a list of restaurants on it. it’s still hanging on pretty impressively; i mean, i take my macbook to work everyday.)

if you hadn’t noticed, i like parentheses a lot — and, honestly, i don’t know what the point of this section was, maybe just to show: if you live with a reader or with a writer, you should be used to books everywhere.

(sometimes, i think about you, and i think about one day having to bring our books together. i imagine we’d read pretty different things, maybe with some overlap in food. i wonder if we’d end up with any duplicate copies. i wonder what we’d do with those. i wonder if i’ll ever write this goddamn story i started writing about you.)


brine, sear, bake — my holy trinity when it comes to chicken breasts and pork chops. brine your meat in a salt-sugar-water solution (i added some smashed garlic this time) (there’s something so therapeutic about smashing garlic); let it sit in the refrigerator for 30-45 minutes; while it does that, heat your oven and your cast iron skillet to 400 degrees; take your pork chop and rinse, pat dry, salt and pepper it; transfer the hot cast iron to the stove on high heat; toss on a chunk of butter (and some apples here); sear your meat on one side (for this pork chop, i seared the first side for 4-5 minutes); flip it; bake in oven (chicken takes about 20 minutes, pork chops from 6-10, depending on thickness) (chicken is done when the juices run clear; pork is done when you press a finger to the surface and it feels firm but still springs back).

you’d think i could have written that out in a list instead of a giant paragraph.

*insert shrug emoji here.

i first came across the library of korean literature, published by dalkey archive press with the literature translation institute of korea, at mcnally jackson, the bookstore i still consider my home bookstore, as funny as an idea of that sounds. (it’s true, though; my other home bookstore is greenlight.) (when i think of home, the one and only question that always starts ringing through my head is, will i ever get back home again?)

over the last two or so years, i’ve been growing my collection of books from this series, and i absolutely love that this exists. i love the range of authors, though it remains pretty contemporary in time, which i actually don’t mind, and i’ve even come to be fond of the covers, which are, at least, consistent and stand out, despite the plainness and, idk, un-aesthetically-pleasing-ness. every time i went to mcnally jackson, i’d check their shelves to see if they had any new titles (new meaning anything i didn’t already have), and, if i wanted a specific title, i’d always order through them. (if i wanted to preorder anything in general, i’d always order through them.)

truth be told, i haven’t really kept an eye out for new titles recently, not since coming back out to los angeles, but, on friday, i went to the last bookstore because i’d had dinner at grand central market and was debating whether or not to read home fire. i found this eun heekyung in the same display as the shamsie and had to pick it up. it’s new to the series, published this year, and i’m interested in any writing out of korea that has to do with bodies and food and people who don’t belong, marked as they are by their physical appearance. korea is largely a conformist society, and it expects sameness — it expects you to wear the same makeup, be the same size, want the same things — and, as someone whose body was always too big, too tan, too un-made-up, i’ve always existed outside that, spending much of my life looking in, wanting to be a part of that world, to be accepted and considered beautiful and desirable within those standards.

it’s a terrible way to live your life.

one of my favorite korean novels-in-translation is park min-gyu’s pavane for a dead princess (dalkey archive press, 2014), and it, too, is a novel that explores people who exist outside contemporary mainstream society, whether for socioeconomic or physical reasons. in pavane, the main female character is ugly and has been shunned her entire life for it, relegated to a life that would never attain much, would never be able to aim for anything outside her station, and maybe that sounds overly dramatic, but i dare say there are many women who might relate.

anyway, so, i started reading beauty looks down on me in the bookstore, was interested in the way eun writes about food, how often the mentions of food seemed to appear as i flipped through the pages, and i can’t wait to read this. i’m waiting to finish the shamsie first though, maybe wrap up the last one or two stories i have left of jenny zhang’s sour heart (random house, 2017) — i’ve been lingering over that collection because i don’t want it to end; i want more from jenny; i always want more from her because i always want more from the writers i love.

and the other thing maybe is that going back to korean literature-in-translation is also a way of going back home again. there’s a strangeness to it, yes, because korean culture is a place both familiar and intensely foreign to me, but there’s a comfort in all of it, in that base recognition of names and cultural cues and patriarchal bullshit. it’s a thing both attractive and repulsive to me, and that’s my way of negotiating my relationship with my ethnic identity, this simultaneous intense love and reproach that hold me close while often making me wish i could pull away, all the while knowing i never will.

this was supposed to be a simple, short post.