in another world, we might be everything.

this weekend was all about onions.

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i have a history of publicly documenting all my crushes, from tony (h.o.t) to keira knightley to freja beha, and my crush on kristen kish has fared no differently. i remember hearing about her when she won top chef back in 2013, but, back then, i was going through a terrible time, dangerously unhappy in law school and trying not to think about dying all the time (and failing), and i didn't have the headspace to think beyond, oh, she's korean? that's cool, as i was dissolving in the cesspool my depression had made of my brain.

when you're trying to stay alive, the only thing you can do is focus on saving yourself.

last year, i finally watched top chef season 10, and it's the only season of top chef i've seen, and i didn't even watch it in its entirely because i only watched the episodes she was on-screen. even then, i didn't watch all of that first episode either, because, one, there were way too many contestants to keep track of and, two, i'm totally one of those people who will watch something for one person and that person only and, thus, have no interest when that person is not present. (sorry, sheldon, i liked you and your food a lot, too, but what can i say? i'm wired this way.)

i watched much of that season of top chef over and over last summer because i couldn't read much, couldn't really focus on books — or on literature, to be precise; i read a lot (and i mean, a LOT) of lucky peach — so i did the odd thing and watched a lot of television. (that's not a diss against television; i'm just not a big TV-watcher.) that's not to say i picked up a lot of new shows; my TV-watching is pretty much relegated to rewatching things, like SVU (until i have nightmares about being assaulted in my own apartment) (this is a real fear) or the x-files (until i have dreams in which i am an FBI agent shadowing mulder and scully) or the first three seasons of the gilmore girls (until all i want is to eat a damn burger) or friends (until i've reached my limit of the fatphobic, homophobic, racist jokes) (friends is a highly problematic show).

top chef, though — i've had friends think out loud that it's weird i never did watch it (or the food network either, for that matter) given how much i love food. again, though, i'm not a big TV-watcher, and it didn't help that top chef started airing a few seasons into project runway, and, by that point, i'd fatigued of the competitive reality TV thing, sick of all the contrived drama, the pettiness that was either genuine or generated for ratings (i still can't decide which is worse), the insufficient focus on the designing and clothes-making, which was the most interesting part.

(i loved season two of project runway and was peeved when daniel vosovic didn't win when chloe's collection was the same shiny prom dress over and over again.)

so, anyway, this is one long-ass introduction to i cooked from the kish cookbook this weekend!, but, yeah, so, last summer, i watched season 10. there wasn't enough cooking. there thankfully also wasn't too much stupid drama (i hear the earlier seasons were worse in the drama department). it helped me get through last summer because it made me smile and got me excited about food and cooking when i thought everything inside me was dead. i don't know why i wrote all that down, but, like i said, i've a lifelong impulse of publicly documenting my crushes.

random fact: i still haven't watched the judges' table when kish was eliminated.

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okay, maybe no one needs a series of photos of onions caramelizing over 1 1/2 hours ... or maybe you do. i mean, look how pretty!

to caramelize onions properly, heat oil and butter in a sauté pan on medium heat until foaming. turn down to low heat; add sliced white onions; and cook on low for 1 1/2 hours, stirring frequently to prevent burning. your onions will go from white and opaque to soft and translucent before taking on an amber tinge that will darken as your onions shrink and caramelize. they will smell heavenly.


“i love you,” i say.

“do you love every part of me?” (machado, “eight bites,” 164)


over the weekend, i deleted instagram from my phone. i normally don't check twitter or email on weekends, anyway, and i'm not on facebook, so it's easy enough to disconnect if i want. this wasn't an attempt to reconnect with the world at-large, though, because the truth is that california compounds all my lonelinesses, so what i have mostly when i disconnect from the internet is nothing but everything in my brain.

it's not california's fault; it's more the inevitable result of returning to the place you were raised after having failed miserably in the place you consider home — and, not only that, but returning a different person — or maybe who you really were all along; you've simply learned to fit into your skin; and this you is not one the people from your past recognize, and you’re unwilling and unable to go back to that role you played before.

loneliness has been a lifelong struggle, and that, too, is maybe something inevitable because that's what happens when you don't know how to live in your skin. when you hate yourself, when you want to disappear, you make a ghost of yourself, and you can never thrive. you can never live. you can never make connections in any meaningful way, not when you can never be known because who you are has been buried away under all the self-loathing, the self-hatred, the resentment, buried so deep underneath all that crap that you don’t even know yourself, can’t even look in the mirror without feeling repulsed, without being frightened by how your reflection seems to be so ghostly, not really there.

it’s not easy to learn to forgive yourself, to accept yourself as you are, as you look, as you feel and want and hurt.

it’s not easy to demand you be seen as you are, that you be loved in the way you deserve.

it’s not easy to hope you will ever exist in the world as a whole person, not someone damaged beyond repair.


honestly, though? i don’t like hope. i’ve mentioned before (whether here or elsewhere) how much i hate hope, how i expend a considerable amount of energy trying to diminish it, to reduce it because i feel like, the more i hope, the more disappointment hurts, the more it cuts me down.

at the same time, my active attempts to diminish hope are maybe countered by my reminders to myself to live in the present. enjoy current successes. allow myself the joys of possibilities. revel in the accomplishments, big and small, and let myself hope (stupidly) that all this work is leading somewhere.

and, yet, the reminder to stay in the present is also this: stay in present hope; don’t invest in the hope of possibilities. hope in things that have a concrete, knowable foundation. that doesn’t leave me with much.

truth be told, i don’t have a whole lot of hope. part of that is that i don’t allow myself to hope in that future someday anymore; too many disappointments have taught me to avoid that. i don’t hope in things that might happen, not until there is a degree of certainty that they will, indeed, happen. i don’t write or create in the hopes that anything will come from any of this; i do it because i don’t know how to do otherwise — i do it in attempts to find meaning amidst drudgery, to find connections in loneliness.

and maybe that’s bleak, maybe that’s sad, but that’s survival. you could argue that we need hope to survive, but the truth is that, sometimes, all we can do is survive, and there’s no energy or headspace or room in that to hope. hope requires energy. hope, in and of itself, requires hope. it requires faith in something, that there is something better out there, that none of this (whatever “this” is) is for nothing, and, when you’re in that darkest, most insidious place, when you’re trying to extricate yourself from that and just get to stable again, sometimes, there is no hope, there is no faith, and there is no energy to generate either. when you’re trying your damnedest just to stay alive, staying alive in the most basic, physical way is all that matters.

so, i get through my life one task, one book, one meal at a time. i read, and i write, and i cook on the weekends when i can. i look forward to the occasional dinner with friends. i stay active on social media. i try to hold onto all the parts inside me that are still beating, even if that means stupid shit like watching a television show or listening to a song over and over again, and i try. i apply for jobs. i try to write. i think about future travels that have already been booked, to san francisco this weekend, portland next month, baltimore for thanksgiving.

i think about the present things i have to look forward to, but maybe here’s the catch: i never look past the end of this year because the future to me still does not exist. i do not exist in that future there.

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the only thing i miss about summer is all the amazing corn ice cream.


in the bedroom there is a queen-sized bed, a raft in the middle of a great stone ocean. on the dresser rolls a light bulb that, if held close to the ear and agitated, would reveal the broken filament rattling in the glass. necklaces rope old wine bottles like nooses, frosted stoppers silence glass decanters. a nightstand that, when opened, reveals — shut that, please. in the bathroom, a mirror flecked with mascara from when bad leans in close, the amoeba of her breath growing and shrinking. you never live with a woman, you live inside her, i overheard my father say to my brother once, and it was, indeed, as if, when peering into the mirror, you were blinking out through her thickly fringed eyes. (machado, “mothers,” 53)

last week, i started reading carmen maria machado’s her body and other parties (graywolf, 2017), her debut collection of short stories that was published to huge amounts of acclaim and was, last week, short-listed for the national book award. i finished reading it on saturday night, and i’m a little of two minds about it — on one hand, i loved it; machado’s story-telling is hypnotic and astute, her prose lovely and haunting, but, on the other, i felt like my intense, burning love for the stories diminished as i read on.

i wrote huh. idk at the end of the last three stories, and i think it’s accurate to say the turning point, for me, in this collection was the longest story, “especially heinous,” in the middle, a story that took episode titles from law and order: special victims unit, wrote short episode summaries for each, and strung together an overarching story. while i loved the way that story was framed, it felt too long, spread a little too thin; i wondered how much more powerful the story would have been had machado done ten seasons, not twelve.

moving on from “especially heinous” (and going past “real women have bodies” which i liked), i wanted to love “the resident,” in which the narrator is a writer who goes to an artists’ residency in the woods, near where she want to camp as a girl scout but, ultimately, felt it lacking. i wanted something more solid from “eight bites,” a story in which the narrator gets gastric bypass surgery and finds a creature in her home, a thing without eyes and bones that is, what i presume, something symbolic of what she casts off with her surgery … but what, i’m still unsure.

and i think that’s the thing that’s left me tilting my head, that machado gives us these things that feel like they’re supposed to be symbolic but leave us wondering in what ways. i was blown away by the first story, “the husband stitch,” but i was also confused — what the hell is that green ribbon supposed to mean? i know it’s taken from another story, and is it supposed to have the same meaning as it does there? what does it mean that it seems to be a thing that other girls also have but on different parts of their bodies?

stories like machado’s remind me of a note my writing professor gave me once: i apologize for not being sharp-witted enough to understand this — and i don’t say this in any kind of diminishing way because i write stories like machado’s, stories that turn on a concept, a conceit, and get lost in the boundaries, that maybe wind around more in the liminal spaces between what is, what was, and what might be — stories that make the reader ask a lot of questions but in a maddening, what the hell?!? kind of way. editing, to me, is always a game in bringing things down from the more complex to the knowable.

oddly, though, none of this is meant to dissuade anyone from reading her body and other parties because it is an incredible collection. machado’s mind is the kind of dark, magical, cerebral place i want to occupy, and her women are the kinds of women i want to meet, complicated, weird, and present with their desires and madnesses (in ways) and bodies. maddening questions or not, these are stories worth your time.

seriously. i shit you not. read machado. let those first three stories in particular blow your freaking mind.

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i’ve been baking for years as a way to deal with depression and anxiety, and, this year, i finally started making pasta. i don’t know why it took me so long to get into that; it’s the perfect act, really, for getting a handle on my anxiety when it starts running wild because pasta-making is everything i love about working with any kind of dough — you work ingredients together to make a dough; you roll it; you cut it; you shape it.

the first time i had cavatelli, it was may of this year, and it was at republique, one of my favorite restaurants, and i fell in love. there’s a springy, dense chewiness to it that i love, and cavatelli sops up flavors and pairs well with heavier, creamy flavors. that’s not to say you need a complex sauce; i tossed this cavatelli in butter, freshly-grated parmesan, onion syrup, and a raw egg yolk; and it was divine.

sometimes, the best things really are the stupidly simple ones.

i’ve been running high levels of anxiety all year, and it’s sometimes a little scary, realizing how my sense of what is a normal level of anxiety has shifted in the last twelve, eighteen months. anxiety runs under every hour of my day, whether i’m awake or asleep, whether i’m at work or at home, and it’s something i’m no longer cognizant of all the time, this constant, faithful companion of mine. it’s always there in the ways i’m always uneasy, always restless, always on this brink of feeling numb and feeling nauseated. it’s there in the ways i pick ceaselessly at the skin around my nails until my fingers reverberate with pain with such intensity i can’t sleep. it’s there in the ways i can’t sleep anyway, in the nightmares that whirl through my brain, that wake me to panic and sadness and fear.

some days are better than others. the end of the week is usually the worst, especially when i also find out on friday that kish will be at hedley and bennett for an event the weekend i'm going to portland, and this has been a stupid running joke for the last 18 months, and not one i enjoy. (/end rant.)

anyway, so, over the weekend, i stayed home, took benadryl to sleep, and cooked from the kish cookbook. i read her book non-linearly, reading the introduction backwards, hopping from section to section until i’d read it all and tabbed recipes i wanted to try. this weekend, i made the onion broth, onion syrup, and cavatelli, and i enjoyed how non-simple and slow everything was. the onion broth takes a few hours (it would also take an extra day if you were to make the chicken broth from scratch, which i normally would have, had i the energy and chicken bones). it takes 1 1/2 hours to caramelize onions properly. you have to let pasta dough rest for 30 minutes to an hour so the gluten can do its work.

sometimes, what you need to do is take the time things take.

and that’s the damn lesson of the year, isn’t it? things take time. a book can take 9 freaking years to write. it takes time for things to be considered. it takes time to build an audience. it takes time to learn to live with the shit in your brain.

it takes time to learn to live in your skin.


i called her two days later, never having believed more firmly in love at first sight, in destiny. when she laughed on the other end of the line, something inside of me cracked open, and i let her step inside. (machado, “mothers,” 48)

i believe in a world where impossible things happen. where love can outstrip brutality, can neutralize it, as though it never was, or transform it into something new and more beautiful. where love can outdo nature. (machado, “mothers,” 56)

when it comes to humans in general, i’m principally drawn to one thing: a striving for excellence.

it encompasses so much, i think, and it demonstrates a lot about a person because it asks, what are you willing to sacrifice to get what you want, where you want? some people have no qualms sacrificing relationships, love, stability all in that race to be the best, to accomplish what they want, to get to that point of success. some people give up their health, ruining their bodies by pushing them to their limits and beyond. some people sacrifice their integrity.

others manage to balance things better, and, yes, sometimes, that comes with a price. if you have less time, less energy to devote to pursuit of your craft, your success, then maybe you won’t perfect that skill or technique as quickly as someone else. maybe you won’t advance as quickly as someone. maybe you won’t scale that ladder as nimbly.

it’s all about priorities, though, isn’t it?

so what are you willing to sacrifice to get what you want?

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to end on something awesome: KAZUO ISHIGURO WON THE NOBEL PRIZE.

i shit on awards all the time because, sometimes, they make really weird decisions (remember that year the pulitzer didn’t even award a prize in fiction and gave some stupid, bullshit answer in defense? or last year when the nobel went to bob dylan?), and, yeah, awards don’t ultimately mean that much in the grander scheme of things, but, damn, it’s gratifying when a deserving author wins something.

and, hey, maybe i’m biased here, but ishiguro’s damn deserving of this.

ishiguro was one of the first contemporary authors i read, and i didn’t start reading contemporary literature until 2005-ish, which is around when never let me go was first published. at the time, i didn’t think that much about the fact that he was japanese-british, that he wrote in english and not in japanese, that he was an immigrant. i forget why i picked up the book at all, but i did, and i remember that punch in the gut, the oof that came with every new revelation, the tears that started with ruth’s death and continued until the end of the book.

i still start crying when ruth completes. i still cry all the way through the end.

i read this book every year at least once, and it never stops stop sucker-punching me every time.


but then again, when i think about it, there's a sense in which that picture of us on that first day, huddled together in front of the farmhouse, isn't so incongruous after all. because maybe, in a way, we didn't leave it behind nearly as much as we might once have thought. because somewhere underneath, a part of us stayed like that: fearful of the world around us, and — no matter how much we despised ourselves for it — unable quite to let each other go. (ishiguro, never let me go, 120)

i’ve read all of ishiguro’s work except for the unconsoled now, and i haven’t read that yet because it’s really long and i have a decided aversion to long books. i tend to be loathe to name people as influences, and i don’t even know that i would call ishiguro an influence on me, except that he was the first POC author i read, one of the first authors who showed me that there were people out there writing now, in this present, and getting paid to do it.

and something i just really want to say is, being able to see yourself in the world matters.

in her memoir, blood, bones, and butter (penguin, 2011), gabrielle hamilton is forthcoming about her hesitance to be placed in the group of “female chef.” she doesn’t want that label; she just wants to be a chef; she doesn’t want her gender to matter. to an extent, i see her argument, and, ten years ago, i would have agreed with her. i would have argued it really shouldn’t matter, the color of our skin, our gender, our sexuality; it should just matter that we can do the work we do, whatever that work is, and do it well. we should be able to disappear into our work.

now, though, i see how naive that argument is, how wrapped up in privilege, whether its privilege that actually exists (as it might for hamilton as a white woman) or a privilege that is imagined but desired (as it was for me as a WOC). 

and i can see the desire to escape from these labels, to be seen for the work we spend so many years striving to excel in, and yet, there is also this: it matters. it is important for us to own our labels, to be women, to be people of color, to be queer, to be trans, to be whatever the hell we are because it is important to be able to see ourselves out in the world, in media, in the arts. so much begins in looking out at the world and seeing someone and her/his/their work and thinking, that person looks like me, and that person is doing this. i can do that, too.

so i’m freaking thrilled that kazuo ishiguro won the nobel. he’s an incredible, astute, thoughtful writer, and few people write first-person narrators like he does. he writes books that are just his own, that go against the bullshit that the dominant white industry demands from its writers of color, that narrative that’s pushed on us, and obsessively explores the question of who we are in this world, of memory and its flaws, of what makes human. he does it all in these quiet stories that seem humdrum almost, prosaic, quiet lives lived by quiet characters, and he brings such poignant thoughtfulness to his stories that touch you in gentle but unnerving ways.

and that is important to recognize, that here is a writer of color who was born in one place but grew up in another who is doing good work, but, more than that, recognition is crucial for other aspiring writers of color out there, immigrant writers, writers who are children of immigrants, all of us, wherever we come from, whoever we are, because we carry multitudes within us, multitudes that go against the narratives the majority wants, and it means something to be able to look up and say, hey, i can do that, too.

that might be the kind of hope i do believe in.

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(for the record, i love gabrielle hamilton and think everyone should read blood, bones, and butter. also, kristen kish cooking will be published on 2017 october 31 by clarkson potter. this book was not provided to me by the publisher. all thoughts and content and S:DKLFJ:KLDS;OMGILOVEYOU are my own.)

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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[NYC/BK] it's never good-bye; it's just temporary.

the word i’ve been using to describe 2017 thus far has been “weird.” it’s been a weird year. it’s also been an incredibly difficult year because it’s always difficult to try to heal, to come back from some truly dark, insidious places. it’s hard to try to step willfully into the light and hold on and hope again.

at the same time, it’s been one hell of an incredible year, and my extended weekend back home was a great reminder of all that. i have people of my own; i have a community of my own; and, yes, sometimes, those friendships and that community feel frustratingly diffused, spread apart as we are by distance and space and time, but they’re real, and they’re present, and they’re ongoing.

i have people in my corner, people who are rooting for me, people who support me and care for me and love me. i finished my book. earlier this year, i wondered if i would ever finish my book because writing — writing fiction, specifically — felt so totally impossible, but i did it, and i’ve sent it to an agent, to friends who’ve never read my fiction, to magazines on submission. i’m working full-time, not at a career-job but at a job, and i’m applying to other jobs, hopefully potential career-jobs, and i’m developing and writing essays and thinking about new fiction. i’ve been creating content pretty consistently for this site. i’m going to therapy and seeing my psychiatrist and trying to eat better (sometimes), and i’m trying. i’m trying, i’m trying, i’m trying.

i’m still here.

and it’s on me to find my way back home again.

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[NYC/BK] hope looks good on you.

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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.

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[NYC/BK] part of my world.

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the brooklyn book festival is the event of the year for me. it’s the event that marks the end of summer in my head, the beginning of fall, and it’s the event i look forward to because it’s books, authors, readers — how much better can something get?

this year, i had the opportunity to take over the official bkbookfest instagram account (twice!), and it was so much fun, walking around and sharing random things from the day. i also took over the account earlier in the week to share some photos from previous years because this was my sixth year at the festival — six years, can you believe it? six years since i literally stumbled upon the festival that first year i moved to new york because it was a sunday and i’d somehow talked myself into going to church and borough hall was my subway stop that year. six years because i’ve been back every year since.

and i can’t wait to keep this tradition going next year.

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highlights: meeting people from bookstagram “in real life,” getting coffee, going to panels together, standing around and sweating and chatting. exchanging hugs, hearing voices, revelling in the familiar. as it turns out, i’m not as much of a total introvert or a misanthrope as i thought. i love meeting people and being around people.

hearing authors talk! it’s always a pleasure hearing authors talk, especially when they’re on a panel with great moderators, like that 10 am session with jenny zhang (!!!) and julie buntin moderated by jia tolentino. jia tolentino has been knocking it out of the park for the new yorker these last few months. jenny zhang is always a delight. julie buntin made me want to read her book, which i’ve heard amazing things about but haven’t read yet.

the cookbook panel! there is always a cookbook panel (or there was this year and last; i admit i didn’t go to the cookbook panel in 2015), and it is always awesome (maybe i should stop saying “always” when i’ve only been to this year’s and last’s). this year, the theme was cookbooks and cooking at home, and chef sohui kim of the good fork was there along with cookbook authors raquel pelzel and stacy adimando, and i loved this panel because i think about that question a lot — exactly who are cookbooks written for? what are they written for? because you have cookbooks that are more like coffee table books (pretty much anything by phaidon) because the recipes are much too complicated for any home cook to attempt (like, seriously, who’s cooking from the noma books? the benu book?). and what about cookbooks that are more to record a restaurant’s history/moment in time? and how should food in cookbooks be photographed? do we want them to be exquisite and perfectly plated like the chef would plate in her restaurant? isn’t that too daunting? but what about this trend right now with artfully just-consumed food? what is kristen kish’s book going to be like? because when you have a chef who’s all about technique and has a more elevated, formal style of cooking, can that translate into recipes that an average home cook might want to attempt? and who is an average home cook, anyway? how do you measure that?!?

does someone have to cook from a cookbook for that cookbook to be considered successful?

because i rarely cook from cookbooks — my measure of a good cookbook is if it tells a story of that chef, that restaurant, the food, well.


coming back from that list of questions i spend kind of a stupid amount of time thinking about … (i think a lot about food. in all forms.) (i’m also really excited for the kish cookbook. and the cherry bombe cookbook.) (i also spend a lot of time thinking about how i can get publishers to send me cookbooks …)

more highlights: catching up with friends and getting dos toros and taking over outlets because my phone was dying. discovering another cool lit mag (the point) (it’s based in chicago), buying more back issues of the common, chatting with chef sohui kim and getting my book signed and gushing about the just-opened jeju noodle bar in the west village. chatting with authors and them not being weird about me being all OMG I LOVE YOUR WORK I THINK YOU’RE GREAT HI! sweating non-stop, taking an ice cream break at one of my favorite ice cream shops (van leeuwen), finally dropping in at books are magic and buying a mug and checking out the space and, oh, buying a cute enamel pin, too. (i’m starting to get into enamel pins.)

stepping into regular visitors and discovering that they make a great unsweetened matcha latte. roaming around my old stomping grounds (because downtown brooklyn/cobble hill/boerum hill — this whole area, all the way to park slope, gowanus, prospect heights, and clinton hill, is my brooklyn) (i know; it’s bougie as hell; and i don’t know how that works because i’ve always been broke as hell). just being in those masses of people, of readers and writers and publishers, this community of people who love stories and story-telling and came out en masse on sunday to be a part of something that i believe, that i believe they believe is a vital, thriving part of life.

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i’ve walked this stretch of dean street from cobble hill to park slope so many times. i’ve walked it to go to blue bottle, to one girl cookies, to trader joe’s, and i’ve walked it in peace, in joy, in tears. i’ve walked it while starving, while full, while panicked, while depressed, while content, inspired, angry, worried, despondent, happy, lonely. i’ve walked it and been told by a nice lady that i shouldn’t look so sad, life would be all right. i’ve walked it as my arm went numb from the groceries hanging on my shoulder.

i’ve walked this stretch of dean street on nights i was too anxious, too depressed, to do anything else. i’ve walked it because i was forcing myself to get out of my apartment, to do something, even if it were walking and walking and walking. i’ve walked it to nurse my broken, fractured brain and heart. i’ve walked it to exhaust my insomnia into letting me sleep. i’ve walked it to mull over story problems, writing problems, life problems.

i walked this stretch of dean street after the brooklyn book festival, after dinner with a friend and her boyfriend. it was humid, and it was night, and it was everything familiar — the trees, the buildings, the house with the zebra in its front yard, a zebra that now has giraffe friends. i walked it with my heart throbbing inside me because, yes, i do concede now that coming back to california earlier this year was what i needed, that this move literally saved my life, but it hurt still, it hurts, but it hurts now in the way that tells me, you are alive, and it is on you to find your way home again.

i walked this stretch of dean street again knowing exactly where i want and need to be, that 2017 has been a weird, incredible year, despite all the struggles and pain and disappointment, that i am lucky to be here, to have the people in my life whom i do, people who have and continue to do so much for me, to love me, to care for me, to support me.

i walked this stretch of dean street, knowing that this won’t be the last — i know i will walk this street countless times again.

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