Monday, December 27, 2010

Cuisine: Cowboys in India Crock Pot Roast

This recipe comes via The S. Kitchen fan, Tina M. She bought Cowboys in India in late November and was wondering what to use it for. She decided to make a pork pot roast in a crock pot. It's a simple recipe with a lot of punch. It's almost like those infomercials: "Set it and forget it."

I hope you enjoy the recipe. And please share your own recipes.


****
You will need:
Cowboys in India
Pork roast
Green bell pepper
Onions
Barbecue sauce

What to do:
I used the delicious seasoning with a pork roast, cooked it for 8 hours in a crock pot, and when it fell of the bone I shredded it, sauteed it with green bell peppers and onions, added barbecue sauce, combining all ingredients and served it on a bun. YUMMY!! It made the best bbq pork sandwiches ever with a spicy twist!! Thanks again!!

Conversation: Jason on KPFA's Morning Show

I appeared on the KPFA Morning Show today to talk about The S. Kitchen. It was a fabulous opportunity, and I am grateful to Tara Dorabji for the invitation to join her this morning. Please listen below. My interview is around the 50 minute mark. Happy Holidays! And I hope to see y'all at The S. Kitchen presents...A Year in Review on Wednesday (12/29). Doors open at 5pm. Don't forget to RSVP get the hidden location.
New KPFA Morning Show - December 27, 2010 at 8:00am

Click to listen (or download)

If you liked the interview and want to support The S. Kitchen, please contact KPFA and let them know! They can be reached at 510-848-6767.

Sunday, December 26, 2010

Cuisine: Three Cheese, Twice-Baked Sage Scalloped Potatoes

I crafted this recipe for xmas dinner. I was serving pork, and I knew I wanted some potato-y goodness to go along side it. I love potatoes, so I am pretty much a whiz when it comes to cooking them in any form. Still, I wanted something truly special, something that would blow the socks off of my dear family coming for dinner.

This recipe is what I came up with, and boy is it a little piece of heaven. The potatoes are firm and give when bitten. The cheese all blends nicely together. And the sage...well... just WOW! It brings in just the right amount of flavor thanks to its double treatment in the buttermilk and the clarified butter.


These potatoes are perfect for the cook that is serving something special and doesn't have a big kitchen or stove. The fact that they are twice cooked means that you can set it in a low heat oven the next day along with your roast. (Hey that's what I did!) And just to note: milk will separate a little, but don't worry it tastes fantastic! And the buttermilk is waaaay better than cream for this recipe. The tart is just right.


***
You will need:
4 large russet potatoes weighing about 4 pounds, peeled and sliced thinly
1 stick butter
1 vidalia onion, thinly sliced
20 sage leaves, separated
5 cloves garlic, crushed
1 quart buttermilk
8 ounce block of sharp cheddar cheese
8 ounces gorgonzola
5 ounces parmesean
salt
paprika
cider vinegar

What to do:
Put the potato slices in a large bowl with cold water, ice, about 2 TBSP salt and 2 capfuls of cider vinegar. Set aside.

Meanwhile, melt stick of butter in a small heavy bottomed sauce pot. Keep temperature low so as not to brown butter. Skim foam off of butter. Add thinly sliced onion, crushed garlic, and 10 chopped sage leaves. Cover pot and cook for 30 minutes stirring occasionally to make sure onions cook. Continue to keep temperature really low, almost below a simmer. You don’t want to brown the onion, garlic, and sage as well. Think of it almost as steaming in butter.

While the onions are cooking, pour buttermilk in a large heavy bottomed sauce pot. Add 10 whole sage leaves and a dash of salt. Cook over a very low heat until it almost comes to a simmer. It should be about the same temperature as the butter. Cook for 20 minutes. Turn off and let the sage leaves seep for 30 more minutes. Remove sage leaves and discard.

As the buttermilk cools, strain the butter. Set aside onions, sage, and garlic. Pour butter into a small bowl and let it come to room temperature. (It won’t be solid yet.) Put saran wrap over it and put it in the freezer. Freeze for about 20 minutes or until it turns to a solid on top. There will be liquid in the bottom.

Shred all of the cheeses together. Set aside about 2 cups and place in the fridge for the second baking.

Heat the over to 325 degrees. Drain, thoroughly rinse, and dry the potatoes. Grease a 13 X 9 inch pan. Put one layer of potatoes in the bottom of the pan. As you lay the potatoes down, make sure they overlap. There will be about four rows. Sprinkle with salt and paprika. Next sprinkle a layer of cheese (This should be the layer with the most cheese for this first baking.) Then spread a layer of onions and drizzle the liquid from the bottom of the butter. Then drizzle about ½ cup of buttermilk. Lay another layer of potatoes down. Sprinkle with salt and paprika. Sprinkle with cheese. Spread out the remaining onions. Drizzle a cup and a half of buttermilk over everything making sure to get buttermilk into the sides of the pan. Lay the last layer of potatoes. If there are a bit remaining that is okay. Sprinkle with salt and paprika. Using about 1 TBSP of butter, cut it up into small pieces. Dot all over the potatoes. Sprinkle the remaining cheese. Drizzle about 1 ½ cups of buttermilk over everything. You can use the remaining slices for a row around the edges. Sprinkle with salt and paprika. Drizzle with a little buttermilk. (There will be butter left over and a little buttermilk as well.)

Bake for 1 hour 30 minutes. Let cool to room temperature. Put in fridge to be cooked the next day.

The next day, take it out of the fridge and let it come to room temperature. Heat oven to 325 degrees. Decorate the potatoes with some whole fresh sage leaves. Sprinkle the remaining cheese over the top. Cover with tin foil and bake for 1 hour 15 minutes. Turn up heat to 375 degrees. Bake for an additional 20-30 minutes or until top begins to brown. Remove from oven and let cool for about 15 to 20 minutes. Serve warm.

Event: The S. Kitchen presents...A Year in Review



The S. Kitchen presents...A Year in Review on Wed, 12/29 @ 5pm
RSVP on Facebook or on Socializr. And remember...you MUST RSVP to get the secret location.

It has been a wonderful year here at The S. Kitchen! We have brought together over 100 people over the course of 2010 for cuisine, conversation, and camaraderie. We have celebrated causes ranging from the LGBTQ elders stories to school gardens to the BP oil disaster to the interfaith coalition building through music to the power of play to early literacy intervention. Through it all, we have kept the events free, ate fabulous fo...od, and found fellowship.

Now, it is time to put our money where our mouth is. I know this is a hard economic time. I am unemployed myself. I also know that if we work together we can maximize our contributions and promote collaboration over competition. That is why I am organizing The S. Kitchen presents...A Year in Review.

All past organizations were invited to participate in this first ever collaborative fundraiser. Guests that are confirmed are Urban Sprouts and OutLook Theater Project. Working together, we hope to change the way fundraising is done. Instead of a go-it-alone strategy, we are embracing the communal ask.

Friends, fans, and family of The S. Kitchen, Urban Sprouts and OutLook Theater Project will be asked to make a contribution one of two ways: either directly to an organization you want to support OR to the "pot". The "pot" will be shared among ALL organizations. The event is FREE to attend and our lovely family is not required to give in order to be a part of the fabulous cuisine, conversation, and camaraderie.


Continue reading and RSVP.

Camaraderie: The S. Kitchen and Carnelius Q.

I wasn’t quite sure what to expect from The S Kitchen when I received my first invitation to an event, but The S Kitchen has definitely become something that exceeds my expectations! We have all been bombarded by messages of the importance of “bringing back the family table”. It is well known that many of life’s lessons, values, and meaningful dialogue happen over food. However, for the LGBT/Queer Community – where defining family is not so simply about blood relatives – having a space to eat, share stories, and develop a political analysis and civic engagement with loved ones is critical. And The S Kitchen has even found a way to make it fun.

What I love most about this concept is how easy it is to get involved. It is youth development for adults – everyone has a chance to bring whatever skills or lenses they cherish to the table, and there is nothing wrong with just sitting back eating food and stimulating your mind, either. And what I have found is that this low maintenance method of community building yields maximum results. In this time of diminished resources and increased stress – it often seems a burden to care. We attend the fundraisers of the causes we love. We sit on boards and advisory panels that all have various degrees of bureaucracy and red tape. And we try to do the best with what we’ve got for our families of choice. And The S Kitchen honors that. It stays relevant because it is a mechanism that thrives off of what its participants generate.

Jason’s highly effective skills as a community organizer, trainer, and motivational friend fuel this
dynamic collection of individuals, and his commitment to radical and progressive politics combined with his gentle and laid back approach create an atmosphere where The S. Kitchen members unwittingly challenge themselves to do better, be better, and do more – all under the guise of enjoying themselves and building their cooking and social justice tool kits. Participants are allowed to contribute in several ways – from hosting events, to contributing as guest bloggers on the website to contributing recipes that will be helpful for The S. Kitchen members on a budget or on the go. And what’s most important is that everyone feels validated in their experiences and is asked to genuinely contribute to conversation.

The best ideas are most often the simple ones. And what is simpler than a hearty meal and a vibrant conversation? I believe that the true testament to The S. Kitchen’s success is how it's grown beyond the capacity of its humble founder. And since Jason is not an individual that could ever be short of ideas, of loving friends, and of a passion to keep moving forward – I believe that anyone who contributes to The S, Kitchen in its nascent form will reap the benefits of being able to stand proudly and attest that they had a stake in the humble beginnings of what is sure to be a international phenomena. The recipes are getting more creative. The guest speakers are happy to have such a refreshing and welcoming platform to promote their causes. The attendees at events are growing, as people excitedly bring their friends. And the blogs remain fierce in their cutting edge analysis and wit. The S. Kitchen is a voice that needs to be heard because it is the voice of a community that has always existed but lacked venues like this to articulate, reflect, and define itself. This idea can never be stale because Jason has created a mechanism that thrives on innovation, continuous quality improvement, maximizing the talents of its growing base of supporters, and always revolving around a critical staple in our lives: food.

I think there is so much more to this idea to be unearthed. So much more potential that The S. Kitchen has to offer to social justice movements of ecological advocacy, food justice and healthy eating in metropolitan fast paced life, developing the leadership of young people, and LGBTQQI advocacy and holistic support. Right now, The S. Kitchen thrives off of the genius of its founder and the love labors of its volunteers. But for this idea to achieve its true potential, The S Kitchen needs support to build an infrastructure that will support its simultaneous development in adjoining communities.

It is a foolish idea to invest in a great idea not backed by a sound plan or championed by a thoughtful leader’s certainly. But it is more foolish to ignore the sound reasoning of a seasoned activist, advocate, and community organizer who has worked for and alongside non-profit, city and state government, and independent leadership bodies with a proven track record of innovation and success. Jason has boldly invested in his passion, which is maximizing the passions of others and building community. And his community has responded with an overwhelming “thank you”.

I urge you to support this desperately needed space for lovers of life, food, and building a sustainable tomorrow, not just fiscally, but by becoming a member! I know that my cooking skills have vastly improved. My awareness of social issues outside of my work sphere is much more acute. And most importantly, I have been plugged into a community of loving and creative people that remind me I am not in the fight for a better world alone. It is the most productive outlet for self care I have ever experienced, and it will continue with or without your support. You, however, have the unique opportunity to increase The S Kitchen’s impact ten-fold. And considering the economic times we find ourselves in, an investment like that is invaluable.

Thursday, December 23, 2010

Conversation: The S. Kitchen is...

The S. Kitchen is cuisine, conversation, and camaraderie through potluck dinner parties for a cause. Sure it sounds intriguing and fabulous, but what exactly does it mean? My hope is not to let it get lost in the land of lingo, idioms, and euphemisms. Rather, I want to ensure that we as a community -- as friends, fans, and family of The S. Kitchen -- hold a common understanding and experience. It's what makes The S. Kitchen, The S. Kitchen.

So here is my attempt to describe the ideas contained within the words. Think of it almost as a dictionary, thesaurus, and cookbook all wrapped up in one.
The S. Kitchen (n) 1. An event that brings people together. 2. A shared meal. 3. A community of individuals who practice exchange. 4. The name of the first potluck thrown by me, Jason, in 2006 inspired by cuisine, conversation, and camaraderie. Uses: people's education, constituent engagement, donor cultivation, intergenerational community building.
The S. Kitchen started because I was bored, and I needed to find a creative outlet. I always loved cooking. It was something I was getting better at, but still felt that I had a ways to go if I wanted to truly be a whiz in the kitchen.

So...I decided to start throwing monthly dinner parties based on regional themes. I researched recipes, stories, and cooking techniques and tried to copy them in my tiny kitchen. Sometimes I failed epically. The food being so completely inedible it ended up in the compost bin. But then... a magnificent breakthrough and a fabulously gourmet meal that I could replicate again.

The first dinner party was a blast, and everyone that came to eat and share saw the labor of love that went into the cuisine. It inspired the most amazing conversations and embodied camaraderie. It was only natural it would grow and morph.
Cuisine (n) 1. Food that nourishes. 2. Stylistic cooking. 3. A culinary passion. 4. One of three main ingredients in The S. Kitchen. Uses: bringing together, inspiring stories, sharing flavors, nourishing bellies.

Conversation (n) 1. An exchange of ideas, opinions, stories, and feelings. 2. An informal discussion meant to spark connections. 3. A practice of listening and speaking. 4. One of three main ingredients in The S. Kitchen. Uses: seeking understanding, connecting narratives, bridging generations, transcending barriers

Camaraderie (n) 1. Goodwill among comrades. 2. A spirit of trust, grace, merriment, and generosity. 3. The quality of being casual and welcoming. 4. One of three main ingredients in The S. Kitchen. Uses: building fellowship, strengthening imperfections, reframing resources, sustaining abundance
Over four years, I threw over 20 events. Each one had a different theme and group of people in attendance, but the three fundamentals stayed the same: cuisine, conversation, and camaraderie. I was having a lot of fun hosting The S. Kitchen events.

Then, something changed in me. I had been working in workforce, professional, non-profit, and youth development for over 10 years, and I started noticing how differently people connected over food. Food was always a component of my work in these fields; it was always something you had to account for. But it was never the central component. I decided to try something different: blend my passion for cuisine, conversation, and camaraderie as fostered through The S. Kitchen with my passion for people's education, community organizing, and awareness building.

Thus, a new and innovative The S. Kitchen was born: potluck dinner parties for a cause.
Potluck (n) 1. A meal where each guest brings something to share inspired by a theme. 2. Whatever food happens to show up. 3. The luck of the pot. 4. The way The S. Kitchen happens. Uses: gathering people and ideas, feeding appetites, cultivating luck, demonstrating imagination

Cause (n) 1. The reason something happens. 2. The one, such as a person, dedicated to effect change. 3. A story of principled action. 4. The inspiration for each The S. Kitchen event. Uses: sparking themes, sharing histories, unearthing motivations, honoring humanity
This past year has been amazing. We've explored school gardens, the dirty gulf, LGBTQ elder's stories, and more. We've tasted decadent macaroni and cheese, scrumptious kugel, smothered pork chops, and dirty martinis. We've listened to stories and shared our own. We've found the connections between us. And we are doing it one potluck dinner party at a time.

In its essence, The S. Kitchen is about sharing, exchanging, listening, and connecting. It is also built on a long history and tradition of shared meals, idea exchanges, and the salons of yesteryear. It is a blending of communities, cultures, tastes, and people. It has deep roots.

And I am looking forward to cultivating all of this fabulousness with all of you.

(Photo of Jason W. by Ginger Snap.)

Wednesday, December 22, 2010

Conversation: The S. Kitchen and KPFA

This year is truly amazing! I am grateful to all of the love and support shown by The S. Kitchen friends, fans, and family. There has been event after event, awareness raising, and lots of cuisine, conversation, and camaraderie.

Now, I get to wrap up the year in a very exciting way: an interview on Monday, December 27th on KPFA with the fabulous Tara Dorabji. The S. Kitchen and I will be featured in their new morning show some time between 8am and 9am. You can tune in here.

This is a NEW morning show, so I need a little support not just for The S. Kitchen but also for Tara and KPFA. If you could please call in to KPFA (510-848-6767) during or after the show and tell them, "I loved The S. Kitchen piece!", I would be greatly appreciative. This is the kind of news we need more of: hopeful stories of transformation and social change. Yes, the other stuff is important too. And so is this. It is was gives us hope, strength, and commitment to keep doing the hard work.

And... I hope to see you at The S. Kitchen presents...A Year in Review on Wednesday, December 29th at 5pm. Please RSVP on either Socializr or Facebook to get the hidden location in San Francisco. This event is a wonderful way reflect on the past year and ring in the new one.

In cuisine, conversation, and camaraderie,
Jason

Monday, December 13, 2010

Camaraderie: OutLook Theater Project Fundraising Appeal

As I get ready for The S. Kitchen presents...A Year in Review, I will be sharing appeal letters from the guestperts that will be in attendance. Next up is OutLook Theater Project. Lynn Johnson was our featured Guestpert at The S. Kitchen presents...The Kitchenless Cook in March 2010. If you would like to donate to OutLook Theater Project, click here (please make sure to SELECT OutLook Theater Project in the "Please choose where you'd like to direct your donation" field.

Or...Attend The S. Kitchen presents...A Year in Review (RSVP on Facebook or Socializr) on Wednesday, December 29th at 5pm and donate to the "pot" to maximize your contribution across four fabulous organizations: The S. Kitchen, OutLook Theater Project, Urban Sprouts, and Oakland Interfaith Gospel Choir.

For the sake of full disclosure, I am a part of OutLook Theater Project's ensemble.

***
2010 was a big year for OutLook! The full production of This Many People, a play based on the stories of local LGBT Seniors, was a huge success. We played to sold-out houses at CounterPULSE and garnered rave reviews from audiences. Once audience member said that This Many People “opened my eyes, my understanding of how much more our society, our world and our human family have yet to overcome in order to be one family. Thank you for putting together one of the most beautiful and powerful plays I’ve seen”. Many members of the LGBT Senior community shared how honored they were to see their experiences onstage, and audiences loved the themes of the play and the intergenerational cast. We were thrilled with how the production turned out and the community response to it: it confirmed for us that making professional theater about LGBTQ experiences through a truly community-based process results in meaningful and engaging art that both reflects diverse audiences’ experiences and exposes them to new perspectives. We believe that theater can change people’s lives, and our two-plus years of work on This Many People supported that belief.

We are so grateful to all of the incredible people who have contributed their time and money to make OutLook Theater Project come this far. As we plan towards an even bigger 2011, we are asking you, our community, to support us with a tax-deductible, year-end contribution as we continue to create new and dynamic theater work that celebrates the LGBTQ experience.

OutLook is a community-based theater company. This means that engaging the community, LGBT identified and beyond, is absolutely essential to making our work. It also means that building community as we go is one of our core values. We have witnessed such magical evidence of that process this year: LGBT seniors finding community with each other as part of our activities; 20 year olds and 78 year olds making connections with each other across generations; and the incredible turnout of LGBT Seniors to see This Many People. We have been honored to be part of that relationship building, through all of the individuals and organizations we have collaborated with in the last year, especially our community partners. And we have been grateful for the support of each and every person we have met this year, both in the form of donations but also in resources, feedback and ideas shared, words of encouragement offered, and applause at the end of our performances!

And we will continue in 2011! OutLook will begin work on The God Project, a theatrical exploration of the intersections between faith/spirituality and sexual/gender identity. The development process of will include partnering with a diverse range of LGBTQ faith/spiritual groups and using theater as a tool for interfaith dialogue in the LGBTQ community. OutLook will share a first glimpse of this work-in-progress at The Garage in May and FoolsFury’s Fury Factory Ensemble Theater Festival in June.

All of this exciting work requires time and money. And with the economic downturn affecting foundation giving, it is harder than ever for emerging, grassroots arts organizations to secure financial support. So I am asking you to consider making an end of year, fully tax-deductible contribution to OutLook Theater Project.
Again, thank you for supporting OutLook, and our efforts to share the diverse voices of our community. Have a happy new year!

In Community,

Rebecca Schultz, Lynn Johnson, and Jason Wyman

Camaraderie: Urban Sprouts Fundrasing Appeal

As I get ready for The S. Kitchen presents...A Year in Review, I will be sharing appeal letters from the guestperts that will be in attendance. First up is Urban Sprouts. Audrey Roderick from Urban Sprouts was our featured Guestpert at The S. Kitchen presents...Slowly Growing Green in May 2010. If you would like to donate to Urban Sprouts, click here.

Or...Attend The S. Kitchen presents...A Year in Review (RSVP on Facebook or Socializr) on Wednesday, December 29th at 5pm and donate to the "pot" to maximize your contribution across four fabulous organizations: The S. Kitchen, Urban Sprouts, OutLook Theater Project, and Oakland Interfaith Gospel Choir.

***
On a hill overlooking the southern San Francisco skyline, there is a noticeable humming. The sound intensifies as you get closer to a tucked away corner of this Urban Sprouts school garden. Peer closely and you’ll notice one, then thousands of honeybees pollinating on the native grasses and flowers of this inner city neighborhood.

In the past year, this buzz has swept into schoolyards across the nation, as school after school seeks the benefits of school gardens for their own students. Urban Sprouts is poised at the forefront of this wave of excitement. We are ready to share our six years of experience and research-tested results with more students and teachers, who are hungry to grow fresh and healthy food at their own schools.

Whether you are new to the Urban Sprouts community, or have been with us since our beginning, you have likely heard stories of our early days at struggling urban schools. Students carried water buckets out to small garden boxes on top of cracked concrete.

Today, we are rebuilding and expanding our school gardens to include outdoor kitchens, specialized composting facilities, fruit tree orchards, and even a 30-foot greenhouse, helping students to build abundant urban farms on their school campuses. By using professional facilities for cooking and tending baby plants, our students will be more prepared for careers in the green sector than ever before.

As our gardens mature, we too are ready to take the next step. As our supporter and champion, you have seen that Urban Sprouts’ school gardens help students eat better and gain a therapeutic connection to nature and to peers. But, our research shows that school gardens can do much more. They can help turn around failing schools and bring fresh and healthy food into neglected neighborhoods dismissed as food deserts.

However, not just any school garden can transform youth, families, schools and communities. Urban Sprouts uses a highly-effective model, based on theory and research, that can produce these inspiring results.

With your support, we will not only strengthen and professionalize the school gardens at those San Francisco middle and high schools most in need. We will share our method with youth, families and schools up and down the West Coast.

I’d like to share with you specifically how your gift will make a difference. Your gift of:

• $48 – provides cooking pots, pans and utensils for our new outdoor kitchen
• $82 – purchases supplies for our new greenhouse, including seeding trays, soil amendments, thermometers, and hand trowels.
• $100 – enables one teacher or school volunteer to attend our Garden Educators’ 101 training course.
• $250 – covers an irrigation system for our new fruit tree orchard at June Jordan high school.
• $500 – brings one class of students out to the school garden for a day of learning.

I urge you to join me today, by writing your check of $82, $250 or $500 or by giving online through our secure website at www.urbansprouts.org.

Your investment will make a real impact, nourishing young people’s minds and bodies, and helping them to transform their schools and neighborhoods with fresh and healthy food.

Thank you very much!

Sincerely,


Abby Jaramillo
Executive Director

P.S. Here’s a special buzz! All donations of $200 or above received by December 31, 2010 will receive a jar of honey from the Ida B. Wells High School beehive!

Friday, December 10, 2010

Camaraderie: The S. Kitchen on The Eatable Life!


The S. Kitchen is very excited to be featured on The S. Kitchen fan Erica Robert Pallo's new blog called The Eatable Life. The Eatable Life explores eating and nutrition, food preparation, healthy environments, photography and art, travel, and the cultures that emerge from such things, and Erica's attempt to blend them all together. It is a fabulous blog and definitely worth a read. Check it out TODAY!

Conversation: Why Does The S. Kitchen Have Such a Diverse Following?

This is an edited response I wrote commenting on "Why doesn't [blank] have a bigger queer following?" posted on The New Gay. If you don't know The New Gay, you should definitely check them out. They have some great articles that are actively exploring the nuances and edges of being gay/queer.

I am sharing this response because it directly relates to the development of The S. Kitchen. If you have ever wondered how I have gotten such a diverse group of people together to share, it is important to know one thing: it has taken work; lots and lots of work spanning a very long time. And the second thing you should know is that it isn't just about me hosting an event; it is also about showing up as a guest at other's events.

So now for the response and a brief glance into how the community of The S. Kitchen has grown into being what it is today.

***
I came out in 1994 at the ripe ol’ age of 18. I came out while I was in seminary studying to be a priest. It was an interesting place to come out. And it shaped my conception of being gay/queer.

In the seminary, I was constantly asked for sex in the wee hours of the morning only to be called a faggot as a I walked down to morning prayer. I caught priests in public bathrooms cruising for sex unaware that I recognized them out of their robes and uniforms. I was constantly berated for my personal views.

I left the seminary after one semester. I still stayed at my Catholic university, but now as a “regular” student. I was the only out queer person on a campus of about 10,000 people. It forced me to look beyond the university to find support, so I started gong out to Macalester College and the University of Minnesota and queer cafes to try and find a community and a culture I could belong to.

Immediately, I was ostracized: I was still Catholic at a Catholic university. I got a lot of “Wow. You are so brave. It must be difficult for you there.” Followed immediately by, “I won’t come visit you there. Why don’t we meet somewhere else?” These comments dismissed the reality I was living. As long as I conformed to their notions of queer and queer spaces, I would get support. Ask for support in the spaces I reside in, and it didn’t exist.

My experiences of the “community at large” was one where I was still outside. I was still seen as an other. So I had to start looking for other places for community. I knew it wouldn’t be in “queer spaces” that I would find it.

I found that community in a small group of social change activists of color at my university. It was an eye opening experience that pushed my own conceptions of being to new levels. I had to look at my patterns of behavior to unearth deep seeded racism and sexism in order to become a part of this group. And I did it. In return, this amazing group of people looked at their patterns of behavior to unearth their deep seeded homophobia in order to connect with me. This network of support helped me stay in college for another year and a half. Ultimately, I had to leave/was forced to leave (same thing really now that I have had some distance). And our small group of friends and colleagues are all across the USA doing important social justice work some 16 years later.

After I left college, I did AmeriCorps. I had a choice of placements, and I ended up working for Minneapolis Unified School District running youth leadership, after school, and family support programs at the age of 20. I was one of the youngest people doing this work as well as the only out person at a public elementary school.

Once again, I had to find support somewhere. I thought that support would come in the form of queer housemates. And it did for a second, but as with all things in life, shit happens and one roommate and myself ended up hating each other. (I did have great support from one lesbian roommate, and I just want to make note of that.) I also thought it would come from the gay boys I met out in the clubs I snuck into. They were great for a casual friendship, but not for anything deep or meaningful. I had to find support somewhere other than queer bars and cafes.

Support came from other AmeriCorps members. It came from older adults who saw my struggles and wanted to support my path. It came from my college friends. And it came from queers I met at queer events (not bars or cafes).

The connection from this last grouping, queers from queer events, however, had little to do with queerness, as directly related to sexual and gender identity. Yes, there was a common identity that linked us, but it went way beyond just identity politics. This was a group that was dedicated to righting societal injustices on multiple levels: policy, art, race, class, religion, indigenous genocide, immigration, HIV/AIDS, health, pop culture, music, design, performance, and sexual and gender identity and the fluidity between all of these passions, interests, talents, and identities.

After my stint in AmeriCorps, I was recruited to Antioch College in Ohio. I decided to take a leap of faith because I wanted to experience what it would be like to be in a truly supportive environment even if it was a small one. Additionally, I was excited by the possibility of being with like minded individuals beyond sexual and gender orientations.

By the time I ended up at Antioch, my perspective on life had totally changed. I was more comfortable in diverse spaces than homogeneous spaces. I had already gone through the People’s Institute for Survival and Beyond’s Undoing Racism retreat and the United States Student Association’s Grassroots Organizing Weekend, so I had a radical perspective on anti-racist and organizing work. I believed (and still believe) in supporting from behind rather than always being in front. I was also a returning student rather than a student just starting out college. And as a result of these factors, I quickly learned Antioch was not going to be a space for me.

Once again, the supportive queer environment that I had hoped for was not there. Yes, I was no longer the only out gay man on campus. However, the loneliness of being “the only one” was replaced with anger at being forced to compete with the other four or five gay men on who was the “most gay”. You had to prove how oppressed you were in order to find your place. I didn’t play along.

The friends I made at Antioch all ended up being students of color. These were the friends with whom I’d share meals and study. These were the friends that stayed up late bitching about everyone else on campus. These were also the friends that share the most similar economic background: blue collar or poor.

I had little to no queer friends besides one lesbian who had a car. We’d end up going out to Dayton or Columbus or Cincinnati to go dancing and find sex. It became almost a nightly event to leave campus in order to find a queer community. And the only community we found and got connected to was a community that loved dancing and drinking. It is a marvelous aspect of our community. It is also not all of it.

Again, I set off in search of the “gay community”: I moved to San Francisco. I was certain it was here thanks to conversations with an ex-boyfriend who had moved to San Francisco and sang its praises. Again, I was wrong. It was not the land I thought it would be, and I was a cute, 21 year-old gay boy who didn’t mind go go dancing or being paid for sex.

The community of queers I found was one of drug and alcohol fueled fuck-upery. It was a divine retreat, oasis, and refuge from the struggle of living in an expensive city. It was also not a “community” in the sense of truly supporting one another, finding connections between stories, or fellowship. It was all about dancing, drugs, partying, and alcohol.

These things are definitely needed, and I believe are more important than we sometimes realize. It is how I initially connected to the queer community, and without it I am not sure exactly where I would be today. I am not even sure I would be alive. The release that comes from these things is intangible. It allows all of the worries to go away or at least be put on hold momentarily. It is also not something that can be sustained indefinitely. So, again, I had to find a community of support.

That support came from a very unlikely place, especially for a new transplant to San Francisco: from native San Franciscans of color.

A few years after moving to San Francisco, I got a job working at a Beacon Center, which is a community center located in a public middle school, as the Education Director. This role put me in direct contact with a whole slew of people who grew up in this city. And I found that we had a lot in common. We shared values of diversity and pluralism of social justice and social change of the spirituality of identity and politics. We found that even in the moments when we all seemed so completely different from each other (me in my Marilyn Manson drag and my dear friend Maria with her two young daughters and my colleague Will who had done time and was doing gang prevention) there were threads that connected us, and even if we couldn’t see them we knew we had to support each other if we wanted a better future for the youth and families we were serving.

It is from this base of friends and colleagues that I found my network of support: an eclectic crew of folks that to anyone outside would wonder how we all were connected. And it required a whole bunch of work on all ends to build this network. It required me going outside of my comfort zone. I had to take on other issues than just queer issues if I wanted to keep and sustain these friendships. I had to listen to parents and youth and hear their stories of struggle. And I couldn’t just listen to them. I had to find ways my story intersected theirs so that I could become a better advocate and use my access and power in a manner that honored their stories and supported their development (and not the development policy makers, administrators, and funders said they needed).

It is also from this base that I found more queers and a queer community I am proud to call myself a part of. But this isn’t the queer community promoted through mainstream media or culture. This is not the queer community of the bars. This is not the queer community I thought it would be. It is not a simple reductivist view of gender and sexual identity. It is a complex web that understand that while sexual and gender identity shapes some of our personal world view/perspective there is a whole hell of a lot more that also shapes that view and creates connections between people and communities.

I know that this ability to create support beyond gender and sexual identity is because of the hard work and activism of those queers that came before me. I also can’t help but look at our history and see nuance in what happened before me. Yes, there are queers that made headway for queer rights. There are also queers in the feminist movement, the civil rights movement, the international human rights movement, and more. There are also straights in the queer rights movement. I sometimes feel that by not looking this broadly we lose sight that queer doesn’t ever mean one thing. Nor is queer something that solely bridges people.

As an example, I applied for a queer youth agency in San Francisco after at 5 years of working with youth in a variety of settings. I made it in for an interview. During the interview, I was asked if I had ever worked with queer youth. I mentioned that I had worked in public schools for five years, and that as a result of this work I had worked with all youth including queer youth. I was told that was inadequate experience because it wasn’t with a targeted queer youth population. I was told I didn’t understand the experiences of queer young people. I thanked them for the interview and left knowing I wouldn’t get the job. And this had nothing to do with my skill in working with young people. It had to do with a perception of who queer kids are being reinforced by a queer organization in a queer city. And I knew most of the young people I worked with who were queer wouldn’t go to that queer organization because queer wasn’t their “top” priority. Getting a job was. And when that organization started increasing their job training programs more of the youth I worked with started going to that organization.

What I have learned throughout all of this is that we are a lot more complex than we, humans, are portrayed in media, news, culture, and art. And that our portrayals tell us nothing about how we connect on an interpersonal level. There are competing self interests that come and go depending on immediacy. Sometimes those things are factors that are easily seen/heard — gender, race, first language spoken, and perceived sexuality. Sometimes those things are factors that are unseen/unheard — employment status, mental health, personal values and identity. And sometimes these factors collide with what we believe or have lived. If we embrace that collision we find new identities, new ways of being, and new connections. If we resist that collision, we become disconnected and isolated. We are all searching for the communities where we feel most at “home”, whatever that really means.

I appreciate this article and your search for “Why doesn’t [blank] have a bigger queer following?”. I am excited to read what you find. And I think it may have something to do with nuance. For we are at a unique point in history where the nuance of identity matters drastically. Then again, nuance has always mattered. It’s just that theories and history books and news cycles tend to gloss over those nuances and paint with broad brush strokes. And what gets painted is never the same as it was or what gets interpreted.

I look forward to what you paint.

***
COMMENTS: Why do you attend The S. Kitchen events? What have you taken with you? What have you shared? I would love to read your thoughts and comments.

Monday, December 6, 2010

Holiday Gifts! The S. Kitchen Spices

The S. Kitchen Spices make perfect holiday gifts! They are just $9 and all proceeds go to keeping The S. Kitchen events FREE. Spice blends include The Whirling Berliner, The Curried Cajun, and Cowboys in India. All three unique blends combine tastes from around the world into potent mixes that are sure to whet any tongue. A little goes a long way, so you get the most for your money!

The Whirling Berliner is inspired by my trip to Berlin and the amazing Turkish cuisine I found there. It is the sweetest of the bunch and brings out the earthiness of any meal. It has no salt, so it is perfect for baking. Substitute it for any recipe calling for cloves, nutmeg, or cinnamon.

It is made with black peppercorn, caraway, cardamom, cinnamon, clove, corriander, hot paprika, nutmeg, spearmint, and star anise.

The Curried Cajun is a mixture of blacked Cajun seasoning and Thai flavors. It has a bit of heat mixed with a tangy sweetness that brings out bold flavors. It is a perfect blend for any recipe calling for curry powder or Cajun seasoning.

It is made with annatto, bay leaves, bittersweet paprika, black peppercorn, chile arbol, cinnamon stick, cumin seed, dried chili pepper, fried garlic, fried onion, ginger powder, lemon herb, oregano, sage, salt, spearmint, thyme, and tumeric.

Cowboys in India brings south India into the American southwest. It packs a punch and ends with the tasty zest of mango powder and the smoky smoothness of fenugreek. It is a wonderful substitute for any recipe calling for Southwest Seasoning or Garam Masala.

It is made with black peppercorn, black salt, chile arbol, cumin seed, fenugreek, fried garlic, hot paprika, mango powder, oregano, salt, and star anise.

To purchase, email Jason W at queerlycomplex@gmail.com. All prices include shipping.

Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Conversation: Finding My Center - A Lesson in Being

This past fall, I started on a journey to explore rejuvenation and self care through the collaborative work of The S. Kitchen and Youth Worker Collective. It has been an amazing journey over the last five months that brought together over 30 people to help define what it is, connect personal definitions to a larger narrative, and build a network of folks practicing rejuvenation and self care. I am honored to be among such an clever, intelligent, and heartfelt family.

I am, by nature, a workaholic. I dive in to everything I do and give more of my self than I sometimes think is physically possible. It is a cycle that has ruined relationships, given me many restless nights thanks to insomnia and heartburn, and made me feel like I am crazy. It is an aspect of my life that I want to change.

I justified my workaholism because I was doing social change/justice work. I took on the role of a martyr always putting my self on a shelf in order to do more for others. I would come home from a long day working in a middle school mediating fights, supervising in-school tutoring, running after school programs, setting up mental health referral systems, and talking to parents and open up my computer to do the email I couldn't do at work because I didn't have an internet connection. I would wake up the next morning at 6:30 and be out the door by 7:00 and not come home until after 8:00pm.

I moved on to a part-time job but still put in over 60 hours a week trying to get the organization off the ground. I told myself I loved it, and I did. I loved being out in the community meeting people and hearing their stories. I loved doing important and creative work. I loved supporting those that received little support. I lost a lot of my self in this work. I also found that I was perpetuating a type of behavior I was hoping to alleviate: capitalistic ways of being that thrive on constant "doing" and "consuming". I knew that if I wanted to truly support the change I wanted to see -- more compassionate living and being in community with fellow comrades -- something needed to change.

I was laid off from my job in July of 2010 due to funding cuts, so I took this opportunity to change my being. I decided that I wasn't going to continue "doing" as usual that instead I would slow down and take a little time to find where I am. I decided that I would keep engaged in the same projects I was involved in, but the way I would show up would change. I knew that if I wanted to really make a transformation I needed to transform in the realms I already reside in rather than find a whole new realm to occupy. If I just moved, I would most likely end up in old patterns, and that isn't what I wanted.

Luckily, everything I was involved in was also going through a change thanks in large part to economics and unknown directions. This meant there were many ways to reshape intentionality, slowness, and purpose. It also meant that I would have a community of folks that would be sharing this journey with me. For that, I am eternally grateful.

In this process of slowing down and listening, I heard more and more from folks that rejuvenation and self care is important and crucial to living. I heard it from sectors across the board -- youth development, theater, arts education, small business, health, consultants, faith-based organizations. I started hearing that rejuvenation and self care is both singular and beyond the singular. I knew that there was possibly a there there (in the famous speak of business). I just needed to take my time and explore it more thoroughly.

Youth Worker Collective, an organization of which I have been a part for almost 7 years, has a 5+-year legacy of providing Days of Rejuvenation and Self Care for youth workers across the Bay Area. These days were sparked by a Singhashri Gazmuri and a partnership with the San Francisco Buddhist Center, grew stronger from a partnership with Niroga Institute, and then finally became their own thanks in large part to the wonderful work of Victoria Welle, Margaret Schulze, Sangita Kumar, Andrea Juarez, Jonathan Owens, Liane Louie, and myself. Over the course of two years these Days rooted themselves in multiple faith (and non-faith) perspectives, integrated arts education principles, started including an exploration of resistance, and addressed how the personal is organizational and vice versa. These Days turned into FREE curriculum that others can take and use. (Email me at queerlycomplex@gmail.com if you would like a copy!)

Youth Worker Collective was where I worked and from where I was laid off. We had to change the way we did our work now that we no longer had paid staff, so we reevaluated everything that we were doing and started focusing on what we could accomplish. Given our long legacy of Days of Rejuvenation and Self Care, we decided to focus there. It was a simpler starting point than any other. Looking over our work, we realized we didn't have a definition. That seemed like one of the best places to start.

Tina Mahle and I met over dinner to plan a course of action. I am not going to go into the full detail of what we developed. If you want to read more about that, please click here. Instead, I want to focus on how I changed as a result of going on this journey.

I have grown tremendously. This experiment I call my life is changing everything. For the first time, I feel grounded. I feel like I cannot be swayed. This doesn't mean that I can't bend or compromise. Rather, I feel like I know more about what I can and can't compromise or bend on. I know that I believe, truly believe, that only way we are going to change this world is by being that change we wish to see right here and right now. I know that the competitive nature of non-profit fundraising is hurting our ability to achieve our missions. I know that going slow in a society based on capitalism is counter-cultural and that it make others uncomfortable. I know that this isn't easy.

These past five months have been wonderful and challenging. I have little money in my pocketbook to do anything other than have an occasional night out, pay rent and bills, and put food on the table. At times, I find myself sitting at home anxiety coursing through my body wondering if I have made the right choice and eager to step up and do more. I want to pack my days full with meetings and other "stuff". I call friends freaked out and needing comfort. I have to resist this urge to just fill, fill, fill and do, do, do. And when the anxiety parts, after I have allowed it to just be, I find myself renewed. I find that I don't need to cure it. This is liberating and reflective of how I want my self and my work to show up in the world: being is sometimes the best course and not everything needs fixing.

In a culture that needs a quick fix or just throws a band-aide over a festering wound or is always seeking the newest fad, the most revolutionary thing to do is let it be. I know that this path I am on will lead me to greater possibilities. I know that even though it is occasionally rocky right now in this time and space, it will be different in the future. It is always different for we don't know where the future leads. By simply being, I can respond. I can listen to the nuances and the tiny shifts made over time and adjust my self accordingly. When I am lost in doing, I can't be this response for I cannot hear or feel it.

I am excited to keep on this path. I am glad to have family that is going along on this journey. I believe a tide is turning: people are searching for solutions to societal problems raised by our ever increasing consumerism. The time is now to become that solution. And in the words of Lao Tzu, the solution is to "become the center". For the solution will not be found externally. It can only be found in each one of us.

I am happy to be finding and living my truth, and I am happy to be sharing that truth alongside my family both of choice and of origin. For together as each of us realizes our own personal truths and realize our own center, we are changing the world. And the most beautiful thing about this experiment is that it is rooted in both the personal and collective. For I wouldn't have realized my truth/center without the support of those around me.

Saturday, November 20, 2010

Cuisine: The Whirling Berliner

Spices rule my life. Whether it is the rub you smear all over a pork shoulder or the kick of a stimulating debate or the comforting warmth of good friends, spice adds depth, flavor, and robustness to every aspect of life. It is what brings life to cuisine, conversation, and camaraderie!

Unfortunately, building up your spice rack in your kitchen is expensive! It takes a good amount of skill and coins to get every ingredient you need for the perfectly spiced recipe. Luckily, The S. Kitchen is here to help for the holidays with three unique flavor combinations that will enhance any spice rack (or lack there of)!

The Whirling Berliner is inspired by my trip to Berlin and the amazing Turkish cuisine I found there. It is the sweetest of the bunch and brings out the earthiness of any meal. It has no salt, so it is perfect for baking. Substitute it for any recipe calling for cloves, nutmeg, or cinnamon.

It is made with black peppercorn, caraway, cardamom, cinnamon, clove, corriander, hot paprika, nutmeg, spearmint, and star anise.

The Whirling Berliner will be available for limited sales over the holiday seasoning. It can only be purchased in person in San Francisco at The S. Kitchen events. The cost is $9 for 2.5 ounces. And you can feel FABULOUS! purchasing them because all proceeds directly benefit the FREE The S. Kitchen events!

Recipes that use The Whirling Berliner will also be posted for free on this website, so your not just buying a spice blend, you are also getting a whole bunch of recipes to use it on!

Friday, November 19, 2010

Cuisine: The Curried Cajun


Spices rule my life. Whether it is the rub you smear all over a pork shoulder or the kick of a stimulating debate or the comforting warmth of good friends, spice adds depth, flavor, and robustness to every aspect of life. It is what brings life to cuisine, conversation, and camaraderie!

Unfortunately, building up your spice rack in your kitchen is expensive! It takes a good amount of skill and coins to get every ingredient you need for the perfectly spiced recipe. Luckily, The S. Kitchen is here to help for the holidays with three unique flavor combinations that will enhance any spice rack (or lack there of)!

The Curried Cajun is a mixture of blacked Cajun seasoning and Thai flavors. It has a bit of heat mixed with a tangy sweetness that brings out bold flavors. It is a perfect blend for any recipe calling for curry powder or Cajun seasoning.

It is made with annatto, bay leaves, bittersweet paprika, black peppercorn, chile arbol, cinnamon stick, cumin seed, dried chili pepper, fried garlic, fried onion, ginger powder, lemon herb, oregano, sage, salt, spearmint, thyme, and tumeric.

The Curried Cajun will be available for limited sales over the holiday seasoning. It can only be purchased in person in San Francisco at The S. Kitchen events. The cost is $9 for 2.5 ounces. And you can feel FABULOUS! purchasing them because all proceeds directly benefit the FREE The S. Kitchen events!

Recipes that use The Curried Cajun will also be posted for free on this website, so your not just buying a spice blend, you are also getting a whole bunch of recipes to use it on!

Thursday, November 18, 2010

The S. Kitchen presents...Addictive Abundance at the Intellectuals' Table

Community Conversations: Tina Mahle, Health Initiatives for Youth

Welcome to Community Conversations. In this column, I reflect on meetings I have with organizations, businesses, and public institutions trying to make a change in the world by working together. My goal is to unearth the connections between these conversations. It is my hope that it will lead to more holistic and collaborative programming and services spurred by The S. Kitchen across San Francisco, the Bay Area, California, the United States, and the world.

***
I met with Tina Mahle, Program Manager at Health Initiatives for Youth, last week to discuss what is happening in the landscape of health, wellness, and sex education in the Bay Area. This meeting was a follow up to a conversation I had with her before meeting with the teen librarians of the San Francisco Public Library. I wanted to learn more about what HIFY was up to and what needs she sees in the community.

We met outside the Ferry Building over looking the Bay Bridge on a sunny Thursday. Buoyed by the unusually warm November weather, we decided to tackle needs first. Then, we discussed opportunities and possible barriers. And finally, we wrapped up the conversation focused on personal and organizational visions.

Tina noted that there is a need for spaces that support conflict resolution. She mentioned that we need education about empowerment rooted in a diversity and anti-oppression perspective. She spoke about the lack of safety for people in the community. She also talked about how there are not resources for queer people who are struggling to survive, who find themselves living on the streets. She knows that there a lots of people who have gone through this and come out on the other side, but those stories aren't being shared and folks are not learning from others' struggles.

When the conversation turned to opportunities, Tina mentioned that there are continually dwindling resources for services. She sees opportunities for youth initiatives, where young people are working towards their own goals rather than the goals identified by organizations and funders. And she specifically mentioned that we need to find LGBTQ folks that are not currently connected. She stressed that last point. We know where the stereotypical spaces are -- the Castro, SOMA, bars, etc -- but if people are not in those spaces, we don't know where they are or how to reach them.

Barriers and roadblocks are numerous right now. Tina mentioned that time and money were definitely barriers, but also added that time and money are always barriers. She noted that due to budget restrictions and reductions in grant awards it is becoming harder and hard to get a clear understanding of what people need. Tasks are being consolidated and focused only on meeting grant requirements, and monies for the planning phase and organizational development are disappearing. She also noted that perceptions of organizations and people are getting in the way of getting work done. Organizational leaders are tying the hands of their staff

What struck me most about this conversation is the direct connection between everything: we need more safe spaces that actually BUILD community and don't just HOUSE community. Given current economic realities of shrinking budgets, shifting priorities, and funder-driven outcomes, organizations, and more importantly people in those organizations, are finding themselves looking inward more and more. This is creating a very interesting dynamic, one that is shifting the perception of WHAT non-profit, charity and educational organizations SHOULD be doing and HOW they should be doing it.

This intense reflection is changing people. From what I gathered through this conversation (and other conversations with middle managers), it is helping middle management refocus on who they are in relation to their work. As an example, many of the middle managers in youth programs I have worked with over the course of my 12 years of being in San Francisco, are in their mid-30s or younger. (I'm only 34 and have been doing youth development, event planning, and professional and workforce development [as a paid job] for over 15 years.) This is a generation that has grown up in a differently connected world. It is a generation that came of age during the technological revolution of AOL, Google, the internet, and Facebook. It is a generation that has a different concept of work.

There a too many articles out there today spewing how this generation is apathetic or apolitical or uninvolved or lazy. From my experience, this isn't the case. This is a generation that just doesn't want to support the status quo, doesn't believe that things need to be done the way they have always been done. And it is a generation that is not beholden to a brand loyalty.

In this time of retraction and reflection, this generation is looking differently at service delivery and social change. They are looking inward and trying to figure out what they believe in and how that manifests itself in their place of employment. And they aren't beholden to their organization as THE way to accomplish its mission.

People like Tina are trying to find solutions that are collaborative, reach across communities, and meet the needs of young people. They don't believe that that cause resides in one organization nor do they believe that one person or organization has the solution. They believe that the only way to achieve the goals of a more supportive, caring, and compassionate society, one where our LGBTQ young people are thriving, is to work together.

I couldn't agree more. I believe that the only way out of our current situation is to seek the humanity between us. I am proud to call myself both a friend and colleague of Tina. I know that great things are possible. And I know that together we will!

Cuisine: Cowboys in India


Spices rule my life. Whether it is the rub you smear all over a pork shoulder or the kick of a stimulating debate or the comforting warmth of good friends, spice adds depth, flavor, and robustness to every aspect of life. It is what brings life to cuisine, conversation, and camaraderie!

Unfortunately, building up your spice rack in your kitchen is expensive! It takes a good amount of skill and coins to get every ingredient you need for the perfectly spiced recipe. Luckily, The S. Kitchen is here to help for the holidays with three unique flavor combinations that will enhance any spice rack (or lack there of)!

First up is Cowboys in India, which brings south India into the American southwest. It packs a punch and ends with the tasty zest of mango powder and the smoky smoothness of fenugreek. It is a wonderful substitute for any recipe calling for Southwest Seasoning or Garam Masala.

It is made with black peppercorn, black salt, chile arbol, cumin seed, fenugreek, fried garlic, hot paprika, mango powder, oregano, salt, and star anise.

Cowboys in India will be available for limited sales over the holiday seasoning. It can only be purchased in person in San Francisco at The S. Kitchen events. The cost is $9 for 2.5 ounces. And you can feel FABULOUS! purchasing them because all proceeds directly benefit the FREE The S. Kitchen events!

Recipes that use Cowboys in India will also be posted for free on this website, so your not just buying a spice blend, you are also getting a whole bunch of recipes to use it on!

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

Community Conversations: Abby Jaramillo and Audrey Roderick, Urban Sprouts

Welcome to Community Conversations. In this column, I reflect on meetings I have with organizations, businesses, and public institutions trying to make a change in the world by working together. My goal is to unearth the connections between these conversations. It is my hope that it will lead to more holistic and collaborative programming and services spurred by The S. Kitchen across San Francisco, the Bay Area, California, the United States, and the world.

***
Last week, I met with the fabulous people at Urban Sprouts. I have worked alongside and with Executive Director and founder Abby Jaramillo for over five years now. Abby and her team are doing amazing work bringing gardens and garden education into public schools in San Francisco. Currently, they have programming at six schools including June Jordan Small School for Equity, Martin Luther King Middle School, Ida B. Wells Continuation High School, International Studies Academy, Aptos Middle School, and Log Cabin Ranch (a juvenile detention facility).

I met with Audrey Roderick and Abby to discuss possible collaborations between The S. Kitchen and Urban Sprouts. Urban Sprouts was our guestpert for Slowly Growing Green in May 2010 with hosts Jennifer C. and Huckleberry G., so we already had a point of connection between our work. We wanted to find other ways to build upon that connection and increase both scope and depth of our respective work.

The S. Kitchen originally had scheduled a field trip to Urban Sprouts for Sunday, November 7th. We were going to go to their garden at June Jordan and help with weeding and seeding. It was going to be a marvelous day of service, fun, and skill development. Unfortunately, the Bay Area weather decided to turn, and it was gloomy, gray, and incredibly rainy, so we had to take a rain check.

Urban Sprouts is succeeding greatly in their garden-based education services. After six years of service, Abby and her team have transformed the social environment around students encouraging them to play in the dirt, learn about environmentalism and nutrition, and build leadership skills through caring for a garden. They have pulled together how to's related to setting up and running garden-based activities for youth. They have created and researched a usable gardening model able to be applied in any setting. It is rooted in creating behavior change in young people and communities, meaningful participation and leadership of learners, engaging parents at the school to learn more about nutrition and gardening, and creating strong, health, and sustainable partnerships between the community and the school. Together these practices yield amazing. Over the 2008-2009 school year,
  • Urban Sprouts assisted four of their partner schools in expanding their gardens;
  • 716 students participated in Urban Sprouts core garden education programs;
  • 12 youth leaders were developed through Urban Sprouts internship program;
  • Urban Sprouts partnered with The Garden for the Environment to teach a two-week summer gardening class to 26 youth.
These activities led to:
  • 74% of students in their classroom and summer programs stating that their eating habits improved during the program;
  • Students caring more about environmental issues than they did before; 54% of focus group responses indicated that the student cared more about the environment than previously.
  • Students saying that their fruit and vegetable consumption increased; 70% of responses indicated that students eat more fruits and vegetables than previously.
These lessons learned have also led Urban Sprouts to understand their needs better. Currently, Urban Sprouts is trying to do advocacy around food access and security. They are part of local efforts including the School Food Coalition, the Food Security Task Force, and Shape Up. These are wonderful efforts, but they fall short when trying to advocate at a larger scale. Urban Sprouts wants to change the way gardens are viewed. They want schools to see them as a sustainable way to provide both nutritious ingredients for school lunches and an opportunity and mechanism to teach across the curriculum.

Part of getting that advocacy off the ground is reaching parents. Currently, Urban Sprouts strategy has been to work with school's Parent-Teacher Associations. Unfortunately, attendance at PTA meetings at their partner schools is dismal. They need to find another way to connect to parents in the community and bring them back into the school. This is a larger challenge for the organization because given current capacity finding those parents is time and resource intensive, something they don't currently have as they continue to provide excellent services directly to youth.

They are also looking for cooking classes that can bring people together. Their focus is on the garden, not on cooking. They have learned that people love cooking classes, and they always draw larger numbers. They want to increase these classes, so they can continue to grow their audience.

From The S. Kitchen's perspective, we want to support and help grow Urban Sprouts impact and reach within the community because they are providing crucial services to the community that directly impact the success of The S. Kitchen. A more educated population regarding nutrition, garden-to-table systems, and food access will directly result in healthier cuisine, a different conversation, and deeper camaraderie at our potluck dinner parties for a cause. The S. Kitchen needs Urban Sprouts. We are two pieces of a complex puzzle that will change our ecology.

To this aim, The S. Kitchen will be sponsoring The S. Kitchen presents...A Year in Review on Wednesday, December 29th at 6pm (more information including a registration page coming soon.) This event will be the first ever FUNDRAISER from The S. Kitchen. The event, like all The S. Kitchen presents... events, will be free to attend. I will be asking attendees to bring their checkbooks.

A Year in Review will bring back past guestperts, including Urban Sprouts and OutLook Theater Project, in an effort to raise money collaboratively. (Please click here to read a post from me titled Become Wheat: An Open Letter to Non-Profit Executive and Development Directors). It will be an opportunity to practice the philosophy of Become Wheat in a new manner, one that values collaboration over competition.

The S. Kitchen will also be hosting a Field Trip to Urban Sprouts in January 2010. It will be an opportunity to see what Urban Sprouts does and get your hands dirty.

Last, The S. Kitchen will continue these Community Conversations always seeking ways to connect efforts. I know that together we can and we will transform our selves and our communities and our world.

If you would know of resources to help Urban Sprouts meet their needs, please list them in the comments below. All comments will be shared with Abby and Audrey.

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

Community Conversations: Teen Librarians, San Francisco Public Library

Welcome to a new column here at The S. Kitchen called Community Conversations. In this column, I reflect on meetings I have with organizations, businesses, and public institutions trying to make a change in the world by working together. My goal is to unearth the connections between these conversations. It is my hope that it will lead to more holistic and collaborative programming and services spurred by The S. Kitchen across San Francisco, the Bay Area, California, the United States, and the world.

***
I recently met with the teen librarians of the San Francisco Public Library. I was invited to the meeting to present on The S. Kitchen and what services I could offer the library by The S. Kitchen fan and host Jennifer Collins, Teen Services manager. When we were discussing the meeting, I stated that I don't have any "thing" to offer other than some questions. I don't really do pre-packaged services. I don't believe that it is the best approach when trying to build audience or when trying to provide public services on behalf of a public institution. She invited me any ways because she knew there was something I could offer: a different perspective.

My belief in not doing pre-packaged programming stems mostly from my work with San Francisco Unified School District and San Francisco's Department of Children, Youth, and Their Families and my deep background in youth development and adult learning andragogies. Through my work, I have discovered that the best and most sustainable services are services that meet needs, whether those needs be the needs of the consumer, the participant, the funder, the city charter, the institution, or any combination therein. Now, this isn't rocket science, but it is amazing to me how many people don't know what their needs are nor how to find out about the needs of others.

Before my meeting, I reached out to Tina Mahle at Health Initiatives for Youth (HIFY) and former The S. Kitchen guestpert. I wanted to find out what HIFY was up to because I had a gut feeling that there might be some opportunities there. I don't know why my gut said call Tina; it just did. It was lucky that I did.

When we spoke on the phone, Tina told me about the need for services for LGBTQIQ, transitional age, homeless youth. She said that services, especially health services, for this population are crucial in the City and that there definitely are not enough of them. She said that this population needs someone to meet them where they are at and provide relevant meaningful involvement in service delivery. With my background, I knew what she said was true: everyone needs to feel like they belong somewhere.

This information helped form the basis for my "presentation". I decided that the best way for me to frame this meeting was about meeting the needs of LGBTQIQ, transitional age, and/or homeless youth. I wanted to know what the librarians knew about these populations and how they were currently engaging them. I also wanted to know what worked best for the librarians in terms of community partnerships.

I showed up to the meeting with a smile and some spices. I opened the meeting by setting the context for why I was there: to listen and learn. I then shared the insights I learned from Tina at HIFY ending with, "What do you know about these populations and how are you currently working with them?"

The librarians jumped right in. They were hungry to talk about audience and program development. They rattled off a great list of organizations they know in San Francisco that worked with these populations and are somehow connected to the library. They mentioned the gay-straight alliance at John O'Connell High School where they do book readings, Larkin Street Youth Center who brings groups of teens to the library, Roaddawgz who serve homeless youth. But they acknowledged that it still wasn't enough, that they still wanted to find new ways to engage these populations and more.

Noticing that the librarians loved to talk and share, I then asked, "What do you need from a community partner for effective collaboration?" Again, they jumped in. They need the organizations to bring people, to respond to emails, to answer phone calls, to provide some sort of service. They mentioned that they need support to find a common jumping off point so that everyone can share ideas and then follow through to provide something meaningful. It was delicious to hear directly from the librarians about what they need.

We then talked about the ways in which the library currently goes about its programming. Most librarians work between two branches. This is difficult for them because each branch is unique and has a diverse set of needs. It creates challenges in timing and scheduling. It also feels like more than double the work. So librarians rely on getting out into the community to do outreach at events or provide some off site programming on behalf of the library. This takes them away from their branch, which has an additional averse affect on scheduling. It is a complicated puzzle that seems to be getting more complicated.

Then I was asked (and I am paraphrasing here), "What can you bring?"

I replied that I can be a bridge between the community organizations and the San Francisco Public Library. That I can listen and hear what others are doing in the community and find opportunities and a mechanism, based on "potluck dinner parties for a cause", to connect them to the library. That I can act as a conduit, a facilitator, a host. I also said I will take things slow because to do this takes time. It is about relationships and building trust among people and that does not happen quickly if we want it to be sustainable.

Upon hearing this, the librarians were thrilled. Too often, organizations/presenters come in offering a two hour workshop (or something of that nature) that is for sale. It is a comic book workshop or a knitting class or a ______ (fill in the blank). The librarians jump at the opportunity because it looks engaging, is interesting, and/or they need a quick program to fill in programming gaps. This sometimes works, but not always and not often enough. My approach, while lengthier, will build upon the strengths of the librarians while find ways to bring in the community. It is a win-win for everyone.

As we were finishing up our conversation, it was shared with me that the libraries as a whole are embarking on a new focus on health and wellness. They will be doing health promotion throughout all departments and all branches. And that the library hosts a database on health and wellness resources.

And...viola! There is a connection. Right there: health and wellness. It is a point shared by The S. Kitchen, Health Initiatives for Youth, and the San Francisco Public Library. I am unsure exactly what will come. But I know that as I engage in these community conversations with other organizations, businesses, and public institutions I will keep my eyes, ears, and heart open to hear what others are working on in this arena. And I will find those points.

Next, I just need to connect them. And the best way to do that is: cuisine, conversation, and camaraderie through potluck dinner parties for a cause. Because who doesn't love to share a tasty meal?

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If you know of resources on health and wellness that you would like to make sure the San Francisco Public Library gets connected to, please share it in the comments. I will be sharing all comments as well as this Community Conversation with the teen librarians.

Sunday, November 7, 2010

Associated Content: Potluck Dinner Parties for a Cause in the MIssion

The S. Kitchen is in the news! Yippee!! Check out this fabulous article that appears on Associated Content:
Something new is brewing in the Mission District. Jason Wyman of The S. Kitchen created a chic and eco-friendly business model sparked from wanting to cook better. He hosted elaborate dinner parties initially focused on global cuisines, later translated into potluck dinner parties for social awareness.

Continue reading.

Saturday, November 6, 2010

Cuisine: Coming Soon: The S. Kitchen Spices

I love, love, love spices. When John and I went to Berlin to visit our friends Daniel and Tomas, I bought so many regional spices that we had to buy an extra suitcase just to fit everything. There was a Turkish turmeric that just danced on my tongue, five different varieties of paprika (my absolute FAVORITE spice because most folks just brush it off -- I always love the underdog), a white pepper that is better than any black pepper I have had in the United States, and a dried leafy green coriander, which I've never found stateside either (you can find coriander seeds and fresh coriander -- aka cilantro). When you visit our home the second thing you notice (after the 1000s of cds adorning our apartment) is the shelves and shelves of spices. Spice rules my life and my cooking palate.

I also know that building up your spice rack is expensive. So for the holidays, I am starting a new enterprise, The S. Kitchen SPICES, that will bring the complexity of my spice cabinet into your home for a reasonable cost.

I am crafting three unique flavor combinations based on my love of blending global cuisines to create new taste palates. The first is The Curried Cajun, a mixture of blacked seasoning and Thai curry flavors. It has a bit of heat mixed with a tangy sweetness that brings out bold flavors. The second is Cowboys in India, bringing south India into the American southwest. It packs a punch and ends with the tasty zest of mango powder and the smoky smoothness of fenugreek. The last is The Whirling Berliner, inspired by my trip to Berlin and the amazing Turkish cuisine I can't find here. It is the sweetest of the bunch and brings out the earthiness of any meal.

The S. Kitchen flavors will be available for purchase starting on Sunday, November 21st at The S. Kitchen presents... Addictive Abundance at the Intellectuals' Table. (Click the link to RSVP! It's the only way to get the hidden location!) They will be $9 for 2.5 ounces. I know it seems a little expensive, but all proceeds directly benefit the FREE The S. Kitchen programming. (A girls gotta find some cash somewhere to keep these event going!)

Additionally, recipes using all of The Spiced Kitchen combinations will be available online starting November 22nd. There will be everything ranging from vegan dishes to meat stews to spiced desserts. And it will continue to grow through the years!

The S. Kitchen Spices makes a lovely gift for the holiday season. All jars are beautifully designed and come wrapped ready to give.

More information will be coming soon (including a list of ingredients -- but not the spice recipe!) If you would like to learn more or would like to purchase one of The S. Kitchen Spices blends, please contact my at queerlycomplex@gmail.com.

As of now, The Spiced Kitchen will only be available in the San Francisco Bay Area. There are hopes that if this goes well, it will expand through online sales.

Wednesday, November 3, 2010

Camaraderie: Play On! Recap from Noel

by : Noel Fagerhaugh


Even though I am a self proclaimed "non-sports" person, I decided to attend the S-Kitchen's event Play On! Knowing that Jason himself was not into sports gave me a little peace of mind; I would at least have one other person there with whom to share my snarky quips. I also knew from past S Kitchen events that the quality of both food and conversation would be high, at least I hoped.

We arrived under the high domed lid of fog that often covers the nieghborhood off Cesar Chavez. I didn't realize until we were greeted by the host and hostess that wearing orange and black meant you were showing team spirit. Even Jason had dressed for the Giants! As it turns out, only one other guest and myself were attired incorrectly, yet we were still made to feel welcomed.

It's been over 15 years since I've sat down and watched a whole sporting event and I was careful to keep my anti-competition, anti-capitalism comments to myself. I only slipped once, and this was to ask how much the seats behind the dugout sold for during these games. Apparently, alot! I was surprised to catch myself getting into the game along with the orange and black clad guests around me. I was cheering and critiquing along with the rest. Highlights for me were Alec's homerun dance in front of the big screen when the Giants scored and the pumpkin bread still warm from someone's oven. We were fed steaming stew and a seven layer dip you could drown happy in. On commercial breaks we learned of the good works being done by so many to inform, inspire and instigate change in the world. While I am not running out to buy season tickets to anything involving sweat and balls, I had a great time and am grateful for Jason, the S Kitchen and all who participate in this thing called Life.

No Contest: The Case Against Competition by Alfie Kohn