Friday, February 25, 2011

Conversation: Lost and Still

I was lost. It was as if I was floating in space with nothing tangible around me and the sun, moon, and earth blotted out by my inability to comprehend. I normally find comfort there. I like the feeling of non-attachment and distance. It helps me see and experience things others miss. This week, I just wanted to sink back to earth and feel solid rock. I'm tired.

Nothing extraordinary happened. Nothing inconsequential happened. Nothing really happened at all. That's what started it all: I didn't want nothing. At least at that moment. I just wanted a little motivation and some inspiration. I just wanted movement.

The trouble with waiting is that it truly is a tragic beast. Once the seed of want roots itself it is hard to see what is right in front of you. I had inspiration everywhere. It was there in the films by women I found this week that told tales of gratitude and dalliances with sheep and beetles eating hearts. It was on the bus in an overheard conversation of amazing boundaries being drawn by a young woman with her ex-lover. It was in a speech by Chrystos about shedding colonizer thinking, not being boxed by identity, and strength in struggle that is not self-less. It was everywhere around me all the time.

So too was motivation. Resumes were submitted. Meetings were attended. Conversations were had.

Still I was lost. Still I felt like my apartment looked: disheveled by contractors who were putting in a new window and drywall thanks to a leaking ceiling and wall. I just wanted to put it all back and ignore the water on the floor. At least on the surface it would look tidy.

This lostness crept into my cooking all week long. I made disastrous meals that didn't satiate taste. I tried my hand at an apple crumble and misplaced my mind when I poured in an extra half cup of milk. I still threw it in the oven hoping for a miracle. I took one bite, and no miracle was found.

On and on the week pressed as I, still lost, felt knots in my back and anxiety on my heart. I stressed over the meal to be shared on Sunday. I still hadn't found my inspiration and without it the food would never transform into cuisine.

Then, I stopped. I stopped looking and decided to observe.

I found myself in North Beach at a meeting with a coaching client. He sat across from me with the tools I brought between us. I shared youth development strategies, approaches and philosophies. I was doing my "job" not my role. As I was finishing up, I asked one final question, "Anything else?" He asked for help on one particular challenge. I was immediately unstuck. I listened and reflected and listened some more. Only then did I share a possible solution.

Our 30 minute session turned out to be an hour and a half. Not one of those moments was missed. Not once did I feel lost.

I set out from North Beach and meandered through Chinatown. A growing hunger begged feeding, but not any meal would do. I peeked in restaurants and perused menus. I had a vague feeling for noodles, but I didn't want chow mein.

I found myself peering in the window of Hon's Wun-tun House Ltd. of California. Not a single white person inside, I opened the door and took a seat at the counter. I placed an order for Sichuan noodles; five minutes later it came. I slurped up the fine angel hair thing noodles with the spicy shredded pork on top. As I looked up, I saw it: homemade wide noodles -- $2.50/pound.

It was exactly what I was searching for. I bought three pounds.

I'm now sitting in Portsmouth Square with Cantonese being spoken all around me and my fingers numbing. A tour group is in front of me trying dim sum treats. I am still except for the movement of my hand scribbling across this page. I am at peace.

I know I will find myself lost again. I know anxiety will course through veins and muscles will knot. I know that I cannot silence all of my wants. I just need to remember this moment -- the one where I became still.

I have two more days until my shared meal. Keeping still while wandering is how I'm going to make it there. I know magic will happen if I let go. And it will be called braised garlic greens with homemade noodles.

Tuesday, February 22, 2011

Conversation: BAN6 at Yerba Buena Center for the Arts

This is a comment response to The S. Kitchen Fan Erica P's post on The Eatable Life about the BAN6 Conversation at Yerba Buena Center for the Arts which happened on Saturday, February 19 from 1pm to 4pm. The guest speakers were Novella Carpenter, Leif Hedendal, and Bryant Terry. To get a detailed and accurate summary of the event, please head on over to The Eatable Life.

This is a commentary and reflection.

Thanks for this fab review of the event. I liked all three of the speakers as well. I think they all brought in different perspectives of the food movement and industry. I especially liked how Novella talked about her love of animals, and they are dinner. I found her description of the ritual of slaughter fascinating, and have been grappling with what it means to me as a meat eater.

I had a much harder time with the format.

To me, the crux of the conversation was the intersection of food, art, and social justice. Having come to food and art through the vocation of youth development and educational reform, I have a really hard time when "conversations" about these topics don't also embrace a food, art, and social justice approach. The format of the event was constructed using a classical educational approach. There were "experts", the panelists and curator, and "learners", the audience. These two positions need to be filled in a classical educational approach because the role of the expert is to impart their learning on the learner. The learner has little to no role in the area of expertise.

At this event, there was even a hierarchy in what role each particular audience member played. Throughout the event, the curator/moderator asked questions to "the artists". While I was in the audience and listening to the conversation and being asked questions, I took comfort in being called an artist. It made me feel like there was a level of importance in being an audience member, that I may in fact be an artist. I felt like they were also trying a new approach to learning, one that, while not completely embracing a social justice or people's educational approach, was at least moving in that direction.

After the event, I stuck around to talk to Bryant. I noticed as the chairs were being picked up that there were technically two classifications of audience members: ones whose seats read "Artist" and ones whose seats were blank. I haven't felt that dissed in a very long time, and it made me question the entirety of the event. Was this event really *for* me?

It also shed light onto a weird interaction between me and the moderator. During the discussion, I spoke and shared my story of how I came to both food and art. I have mostly worked in low-income, historically marginalized communities. Within those communities, art and food are not a superfluous question. They are questions of both survival and engagement. (I would argue engagement is survival, but that's another debate.) They ONLY way I got young people to the table and understanding anything was through food and art. Parents only came to meetings where food was present. I could only meet with teachers if I brought pizza. And that is solely on the most surface of levels.

The weird interaction came after I stated, "Take a look around and see who is here and who isn't here." (Or something incredibly similar.) I know I did not see a single person under mid-twenties. I can make a fairly educated guess that most had some (if not a lot) of post-secondary education. (I myself flunked out, so I might not be making that educated of a guess.) And all were, while maybe not rich per se, at least either upper-lower or lower-middle class and above. I couldn't imagine a single youth I worked with in my 15+ years of youth development work ever showing up to the event.

My comment was dismissed by the curator, and he quickly moved on. I wondered after I saw the chairs with the "Artist" label on them if part of that reaction was due to the fact that I was not labeled an "artist". I also wondered if I struck a nerve on a topic that the museum has been grappling with.

I know a museum is for a very particular kind of person, one that can navigate it and understand it, which requires a certain level of education. It is also an institution. But as we move forward with the conversation of the intersections of food, art, commodification, and social justice we cannot forget that there is a LARGE segment of the population MISSING from the dialogue. Those people are the same ones that will be the most impacted by any decision (political, aesthetic, cultural, etc.) in these arenas. I think we, the collective we that includes me, can do better at finding ways to engage them. And that starts with some great food and excellent art.

Saturday, February 19, 2011

Cuisine: Banana Chocolate Brownie Bread

It's been rainy and dreary here in San Francisco, and I love it. Nothing makes my heart melt quite like the damp winter we get here. It is far better than the below zero temperatures of my Minnesota upbringing, especially the temperatures of this past winter. I love reading books, plotting with comrades and baking warm sweet treats in winter.

This past Tuesday was a particularly dreary day, so I set out on a little adventure: find rotten bananas. I just had to make banana bread.

I found some and brought them home. I was all ready to make a traditional banana bread when suddenly, I got an urge to throw in cocoa powder. Then, I ransacked my cupboards and found half a bag of mini chocolate chips. In they went, and then this banana chocolate brownie bread was baked.

It was enjoyed that evening with a lovely cup of chai tea.

You will need:
3 cups flour
2 tsp baking powder
3/4 tsp salt
1/2 tsp baking soda
1/2 cup cocoa powder
5 ripe bananas
1/4 cup milk
2 1/4 tsp vanilla
1/2 cup butter
1/2 cup white sugar
1/2 cup brown sugar
2 extra large eggs
1 cup mini chocolate chips

What to do:
Heat over to 350 degrees. Grease a 9 inch by 9 inch baking dish.

In a bowl, whisk flour, baking powder, salt, baking soda and cocoa powder together until thoroughly combined. In another bowl, mash bananas, milk and vanilla together. There should still be large chunks of banana remaining. In a stand mixer, cream butter and sugar over medium speed. Add the eggs one at a time until mixture is airy.

Add 1/2 the flour mixture to the butter mixture. Stir to blend. Add 1/2 the banana mixture. Stir to blend. Add 1/2 the flour mixture. Stir to blend. Add 1/2 the banana mixture and the chocolate chips. Stir to blend. Pour mixture into prepared baking dish.

Bake for about 1 hour. Cool on a wire rack for 15 minutes. Enjoy either warm or let cool overnight. Excellent with coffee and/or tea.

Cuisine: Whole Roasted Citrus Chicken

I was inspired to make this recipe on a whim. I ran to the produce stand and saw a lot of fresh citrus. The colors of the oranges and key limes called out to me begging me to buy them. As I was heading back out into the rain and cold, I wanted to be swept away to someplace tropical, as tropical as the oranges and limes in my bag.

As I walked home from the market, I started brainstorming a recipe. This is what I came up with.

You will need:
1 whole chicken
6 oranges
8 key limes
2 tsp salt
1/4 cup brown sugar
1 tsp black pepper
1 tsp sweet paprika
1/2 tsp tumeric
1 tsp spicy paprika
1/4 tsp ground star anise
1/2 tsp cumin
1/2 tsp ground ginger
1/2 tsp vanilla

What to do:
Peel skin away from chicken. Heat oven to 450 degrees.

Combine brown sugar, 1 tsp salt, black pepper, sweet paprika, and tumeric together. Rub all over the chicken making sure to also rub it underneath the skin. Poke about 10 holes into the skin of the chicken. Two should be where the thigh connects to the body, and two should be where the wing connects to the body.

Combine the juice of the oranges, key limes, 1 tsp salt, spicy paprika, star anise, cumin, ginger and vanilla.

Place the chicken on a rack in a roasting pan breast side up. Sprinkle the chicken with some of the juice. Pour the rest of the juice in the bottom of the roasting pan. Cover the pan with foil. Place pan in the oven and bake covered for 20 minutes. Then, baste with the liquid. Add a little water if needed. Flip the chicken and baste again. Cover and bake for another 15 minutes. Uncover the chicken and baste, adding water if needed. Bake for 15-20 minutes. Carefully flip the chicken and baste again. Bake for 15-20 more minutes.

Enjoy with citrus bean salad and garlic green beans.

Cuisine: Hot Pineapple Pork Loin

I was inspired to create this recipe after eating at Mission Chinese Food with my husband and dear friend, Victoria. The food brought me to another world: Chengdu. I was reminded of a meal I had there that was out-of-this-world spicy. It started with this pickled dish that numbed the tongue. Then, they brought out all of the spicy food.

Mission Chinese Food also had a pickled dish that numbed the tongue. I loved it. I devoured the cucumbers, peanuts, and cabbage. My forehead was sweating profusely. It was as if I was still outside in the rain, and that feeling of exhilaration that comes from spice rushed over me. I was in heaven. Or more precisely, I was right back in Chengdu at this restaurant of fine dark stained wood and deep red.

The unique flavor that numbs the tongue is the Sichuan peppercorn. I have a ton of it at home, and I have been neglecting it. It isn't for everyone, so I use it sparingly. After dinner at Mission Chinese Food, I knew I had to dust it off and create a new recipe. Thus, the beginnings of Hot Pineapple Pork Loin was born.

I'm not sure how I thought to pare all of the different flavors. It just kind of came to me. Or, the rub did at least. The addition of the pineapple came because I knew I needed to cook it with some liquid at the bottom of the pan. The liquid helps keep the pork loin nice and juicy. I didn't want to use just water, so I ran across the street to the liquor store. My choices were limited to apple juice, orange juice, a small bottle of cranberry juice, some limeade, and there it was...pineapple juice. Yup, the one in the can from Dole. I grabbed it and headed home.

The result is this amazingly tender pork loin that has a hint of heat from the crust of the rub and a nice tart sweetness from the pineapple. Sure it's not a dish you would find in Chengdu or Mission Chinese Food, but both are owed a debt of gratitude for first introducing me to the Sichuan peppercorn and reminding me how much I love it.

What you need:
1 tsp caraway seed
1/2 tsp cumin seed
1 tsp black peppercorn
1 tsp pink peppercorn
1 tsp Sichuan peppercorn
seeds from 4 cardamon pods
1 tsp fried onion
2 tsp salt
2 tsp fried garlic
1 tsp paprika
3 lb boneless pork loin
1 can pineapple juice

What to do:
Make a rub for the pork by putting all the spices in a spice grinder and processing until fine. Rub all over the pork and let sit for at least one hour. Heat over to 500 degrees. Place pork on a rack in a roasting pan. Pour all of the pineapple juice into the pan. Put the pan in the oven and bake for 10-15 minutes. Base the pork carefully with the pineapple juice. Bake for another 10 - 15 minutes, or until the pork starts to brown nicely.

Reduce heat to 300 degrees. Bake for 50 minutes to an hour more basting every 10 minutes or so. Turn the pork loin over after about 20 minutes. Remove from oven, place pork on a dish, cover, and allow to cool for about 10 minutes.

Meanwhile, pour the pineapple juice into a small sauce pan. Bring to a boil and simmer to reduce liquid to about half.

Slice pork loin and pour a little of the juice on top.

Enjoy with roasted yams or sweet potatoes and your favorite greens.

Tip: Roasting the yams or sweet potatoes is simple. Start by slicing them lengthwise into quarters. Toss in oil to coat and sprinkle lightly with salt. Put them into a pan and place in the oven when you turn the pork loin. Bake for about 45 minutes. Carefully turn the yams or sweet potatoes over at least twice to ensure even cooking. The yams or sweet potatoes will be incredibly soft and tender.

Friday, February 18, 2011

CONVERSATION: "Reach out, touch a hand, make a friend if you can"

I love The Staples Singers. I remember listening to "Respect Yourself" many times as a young adult. It was on compilations of soul and/or gospel songs like Black Power: Music of a Revolution. It was a song that inspired me to think differently and find hope.

I was introduced to Mavis Staples, one of the siblings in The Staple Singers, thanks to my husband. He brought home her album "We'll Never Turn Back" when it came out almost four years ago. I fell head over heals in love with her deep soulful voice and her messages of struggle, unity, and spirit.

As a result of my love affair with Mavis Staples, I went out and found old The Staples Singers albums. I had to have more of their songs and soul. I found and played their compilation album, The Best of the Staples Singers, over and over and over again until all the songs started blending together and I started to internalize their joy, sadness, and courage.

The Staples Singers were definitely an inspiration to refocus and re-imagine The S. Kitchen into something more than just a potluck. I knew I wanted to exude the same determination, casualness, perseverance, and compassion they did. Their music, while religious and spiritual, is more than just gospel and Christian. It is a way of life, a way of seeing the world that transcends spirit and is rooted deeply in personal experience and culture. If I could embody just a sliver of what they exude rooted in my own personal experience and culture, than I would have done my job.

I still listen to The Staples Singers and Mavis Staples religiously. I have to listen to them at least twice a month. And I am still finding hope and deeper meaning in their songs. They still bring me to a place that beyond the singular self.

Today, as I was again listening to them, their song "Touch a Hand, Make a Friend" really hit me. The lyrics:
Can't you feel it in your bones.
A change is coming on
from every walk of life
people are seein' the light.

Can't you feel it in your heart, now.
A new thing is takin' shape
Reach out, touch a hand, y'all.
Make a friend if you can.

Hey, I heard about you from my friend.
Ain't it time you come on in?
Live the united way.
Why don't you join us today?
Seem to call forth in the most prescient way (the lyrics were written in 1973) what is happening around the world right now. We are seeing people coming together in unprecedented numbers peacefully (and sometimes not so peacefully) all over the world. We are witnessing a remarkable change. And while at times it may be frightening and scary and uncomfortable, it is ultimately hopeful. It is happening because we are reaching out, touching hands, and making friends.

It is my dream that The S. Kitchen contributes to this much larger change in the way it does it best: through cuisine, conversation, and camaraderie. And I welcome you to "come on in". Who knows, you may even make a friend.

Upcoming The S. Kitchen events where you can "come on in" are:

The S. Kitchen presents...Women & Film with guestpert Scarlett Shepard of the Women's Film Institute on Sunday, February 27th at 4pm. You can learn more and RSVP on Facebook. You MUST RSVP to get the hidden location.

SOUP'S On!, an informal learning and networking opportunity for youth workers, educators, and teaching artists, with guestpert Carmen Lo on Thursday, March 10th from 6pm to 8pm at Progressive Grounds in San Francisco on the corner of Bryant and 21st Streets.

Wednesday, February 9, 2011

Conversation: The S. Kitchen presents...Women & Film

Jason Wyman, Catalyst of The S. Kitchen, recently interviewed Scarlett Shepard, Executive Director of Women's Film Institute and Founder of the San Francisco International Women's Film Institute on Wednesday, February 9th. The interview was a part of The S. Kitchen presents...Women & Film. Part Two, a shared potluck meal, will be on Sunday, February 27th at 4pm.

If you would like to learn more about Scarlett Shepard and the Women's Film Institute please visit their website, follow them on Twitter, or like on Facebook.

Listen to internet radio with theskitchen on Blog Talk Radio

And please help us spread the word by retweeting this podcast, sharing it on Facebook, and telling your friends and family about the important role women play and have played in the film industry.


Please join The S. Kitchen for SOUP'S On! a new FREE informal networking and professional development opportunity for youth workers, educators, and teaching artists TOMORROW from 6pm to 8pm at Progressive Grounds (on the corner of Bryant and 21st Streets in San Francisco). Like all The S. Kitchen events, it is a potluck! So please bring a dish, idea, or resource to share.

Our featured guestpert will be Leah Weitz who works for Bernal Heights Neighborhood Center as the Youth Empowerment and Development Coordinator. You can learn more about Leah at her blog, Nina Parks.

You can learn more about SOUP'S On! by watching a short video from The S. Kitchen Catalyst, Jason Wyman, below.

You can also learn more by visiting the Facebook event page or by downloading the flyer.

Special thanks to Jora Atienza-Washington of Telegraph Hill Neighborhood Center and Phimy Troung of Vietnamese Development Center for their donation of fresh veggie for the soup.

We hope to see you there!

EVENT: THe S. Kitchen presents...Women & Film

You must RSVP on Facebook to get the hidden location!

Our FIRST CLASSIC The S. Kitchen event of 2011 is...The S. Kitchen presents...Women and Film. It will be on SUNDAY, February 27th at 4pm and will feature our fabulous guestpert SCARLETT SHEPARD. Scarlett founded the San Francisco International Women's Film Festival and is the Executive Director of the Women's Film Institute.

It just so happens to coincide with the Academy Awards and given the incredible LACK of women's presence the institutional film industry (even to this day) it acts as a excellent platform to learn about the important work of women filmmakers.

Scarlett will be sharing her personal story of why she founded the San Francisco International Women's Film Festival. I will be doing a 15 minute podcast with Scarlett on Wednesday, February 9th. You can listen to the podcast here.

As with all The S. Kitchen presents... events, it is a POTLUCK with a few guidelines. For this one, I want you to BRING A DISH INSPIRED BY YOUR FAVORITE WOMAN IN A FILM. It could be an actress, a director, a movie about women, a character, a sound engineer you know, or...? Please RSVP on Facebook to get the hidden location!

The 7th Annual San Francisco International Women's Film Festival is April 6-10, 2011. You can learn more about the festival here.