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
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
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 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,

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

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!


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 All prices include shipping.