a letter of sugar & spice

Dear Ginger,

Growing up I thought you were an Asian immigrant relic, your gnarly tree-likeness on the refrigerator shelf both off-putting and bizarrely mystical. Kind of like how the forest sequence in Princess Bride feels. (Or in hipster speak, like Jan-Švankmajer-lite.) And then you would show up in food unexpectedly, a bitter fibrous bomb soon followed by the requisite “ew, Mom!” I started avoiding you whole; I knew you were a necessity in tasty Asian dishes (kimchee!) and in tummy-calming tea, so I tolerated you over the years—minced, ground up, and brewed, barely perceptible. So why didn’t you tell me you were so yummy candied? Baked into a scone with your raw brethren? Covered in dark chocolate? Kicking some badass soul into sweet?

keep kicking it,
joyce.

DFW, heartbroken

I respect DFW far too much to try to wax poetic here, so I’ll keep this short. More than anyone else I have read so far, I felt like he was finally perfectly articulating existing. For me, he was the voice of our generation and my friendship-dealbreaker reading test. When I heard about his suicide, I finally understood what it meant to deeply regret what could no longer be expected. I can’t describe how much I envy those who have yet to discover Infinite Jest and understand Federer.

Victorian Times

Reliably proving our ueberdorkiness yet again (grad students and grad student supporters that we are), we Angelenos threw a party loosely themed “Victorian Times,” or as Travis called it, “The Grace Poole Memorial Booze-Up.” Yes, points if you caught that shoutout to everyone’s favorite plain jane. Travis researched and concocted a Victorian menu of drinks featuring such unforgettable beverages as Purl (sharp ale, gin, bitters) and Flip (ale, nutmeg, egg, brown sugar) and the clear “say-what?” drink of the night, Aleberry, featuring ale, brown sugar, ginger, and toast (buttered or plain). Takes the whole beer as liquid bread to a new level, doesn’t it? There’s nothing like warm beer, tasty as it is, to make you thank your lucky stars you weren’t born a poor orphan child sent to the workhouses enjoying your only sustenance for the day. And unlike the starving (and apparently trashed) fry of yore, we enjoyed many victorian and non-victorian eats: among the standouts, pork pies that looked and tasted like the fatted messengers of your next heart attack or bout of gout, Mrs. Beeton’s figgy pudding, a lesson in what that midwestern fruitcake should actually taste like, and a pear-nutella tart that proved that nutella, warm nutella at that, never fails to plaster a toothy besmirched grin on anyone’s face. Good fare, good company, and good cheer. Perhaps a Miss Havisham Ham-a-thon next  year?

fat tuesday indeed

You know the ridiculous behavior you promised yourself when you were a kid that you’d do when you grew up? Like going to bed whenever you wanted to or finding out if TV really did rot your brain (gloriously, yes). And do you remember your kiddie food fantasies? (Queue montage of chicken mcnuggets and ice cream for every single meal.)

After our own BonChon KFC run, nyc copycats that we are, we decided that what we really needed was a donut fix to finish up the second meeting of our Fatty Food Club. A Randy’s-sized fix. Bless you, Socal. And instead of each getting one, we all decided we would each get two. And then proceed to sample capriciously. Cruller good. Orange like the color not the fruit. Jelly too much. Apple awesome. None of this finish-what-you-started, pick-one-and-stick-to-it, mature stuff. Nope. Feeding frenzy based solely on the pleasure principle. I feel like the seven-year-old me buried deep inside just gave me a high-five. (Down low. Too slow.)

a letter of mobilization

Dear Taco Truck,

Better and more knowledgeable writers have penned their own love letters to you, the petition to save LA’s taco trucks is more than encouraging (come on, you too!), and I’m only just really getting to know you. But I needed to write to say this:

You had me at cabeza.

For someone whose childhood imprinting of Mexican was the Taco Bell Nachos Supreme, this is revelatory. So juicy. So flavorful. So… multiple. So I’ll be back. You, taco truck, are the town troubadour of tastiness. Your ambulatory existence draws crowds wherever you go and inspires legions. You have replaced the Oscar Mayer Weinermobile in my fantasies of meals on wheels.

Same place same time? See you there.

yours,

joyce.

a letter of indecision

Dear Rabbit,

I totally thought I was going to fall in like with you. Not only did you play a little hard to get, resulting in a special trip to Victors Meat & Deli that was unexpectedly charming, but you came well recommended, in Tamasin Day-Lewis’s Tarts With Tops On and well-appointed: in a pie. Although to be honest, what caught my eye wasn’t “rabbit pie” as much as “then stuff the prunes with rabbit liver and kidneys.” I’ve always wanted to stuff a prune. On top of that, a very informative 76th issue of Art of Eating piqued my interest. I was sold on your potential awesomeness.

And yet, I’m not sure we really hit it off. We had some good times—what’s not to like about some morbid bunny humor and a makeshift lesson over the pot in small animal anatomy?—and my friends liked you, but I found you kind of… boring. You had an initial taste of the sweetly gamy and enough of an interesting texture, but after a while I found myself more interested by your accoutrements than in the gustatory conversation I could have with you. And here’s the worst part.

You kind of taste like chicken.

There, I said it. I’m a total philistine. Maybe it was the recipe and not you, and maybe we just didn’t really click this time. But I think if I don’t fall for you in a pie, chances are I probably won’t entertain thoughts of you in my kitchen any time soon. Maybe at a restaurant though with expert preparation. So check me undecided. I’m not giving up hope though. Until next time.

best,

joyce.

p.s. rest assured, you’re still the most bizarre thing (alive) that i’ve seen in a nyc subway car though.

current liquid obsession

you know you’re hooked when you buy it by the case (for your studio apt)

autobiographical list of past liquid obsessions: diet coke, tosci’s vietnamese coffee, pepto bismol, coke, diet dr pepper, V8, smartwater, gatorade, vitaminwater formula 50 & XXX, perrier, soy chai lattes, and boxed chocolate soymilk.

some of you suffered through these stages of my life with me. for that, i thank you. am i forgetting anything? i think i’m making better choices now. and my stomach thanks me.

jesus is my b-boy / jesus is my lamb pie

If I wrote keepin’-it-real hymns, then they’d probably sound like that. My Easter Sunday rocked, especially for someone who’s not particularly religious (does Santa Monica yoga count?). I ain’t going to lie. I love the idea of Jesus. I even just like saying Jesus. I hope I’m not blaspheming too badly here. But if there is a non-believer’s correlate to being “full of Christ’s love” (shoutout to Mandy Moore’s awesome acting skills in Saved), I’m going to argue that I found it in not one, but two activities this past Sunday.

1) Planet B-Boy: overly sentimental, yes; full of non-hugging Asian family love, yes; totally sick dancing—absolutely. The documentary follows five breakdancing crews as they prepare for the Battle of the Year and fills in a little about their backgrounds. The filmmaking isn’t going to blow your mind, but if you can manage to suspend the cynicism however briefly (if I can do it…) it’s got heart. And yes, 39% of why I liked it was that there were two Korean crews profiled, but who wouldn’t with an exchange that went something like this in the days leading up to the Battle, which was in Germany? “Hey, don’t eat so much kimchee, we’re going to run out.” “I can’t bear the thought of there being no kimchee.” Amen.

2) Not one, but two lamb pies. With three pounds of ground lamb, we made a Moroccan lamb pie and a shepherd’s pie. Pastry was rolled, lots of simmering was involved, and the unseasonable heat almost did us in. Yes, living in Socal can be hard. But now I want to put raisins and pine-nuts in everything and mashed potatoes on top of everything. And not to forget the tasty desserts supplied by KW: the fatty bar & buttermilk-lemon sherbert. Good times.

hodgepodge of goodness

I’ve recently had a flurry of food-related activities that I wanted to share with you all—a slice of the LA good life, if you will. In celebration of Kate’s birthday, Kristin and Debbie (of Evil Wives Productions) threw her a German-themed party, aka Katefest. Which included: four different kinds of tasty sausage including some spectacular weisswurst; red cabbage that transcended the category vegetable; imported sauerkraut; candied bacon (!); a Mar Vista caucus to determine whether Debbie’s German chocolate cake or Kristin’s Schwarzwälder Kirschtorte was better; and rousing beer stein-holding competitions to see which graduate students could withstand the pain to achieve eternal fame and glory (i failed ignominiously). Good times, good people. I’m considering asking the Evil Wives for a North Korean party of my own.

Other good times with good people: my first trip to Din Tai Fung where I discovered that the soup dumplings I’ve had before were supersized; the Los Angeles County Museum of Art’s community weekend opening of the Broad Contemporary Art Museum where we felt like we were at Ikea (sorry Renzo) but were again moved by Richard Serra’s Band; and the return of porkday, this time featuring a tourtière wherein ground pork, beef, onions, various spices, and some leftover portobellos were browned, shoved into a pie-crust with some creative porcine venting, then shoved into an oven, and then shoved into our greedy mouths. Plans for a Melton Mowbray pork pie showdown are in the works.

p.s. Trader Joes has had a plethora of awesome packaged fruit, including freeze-dried mangosteen!

Asian Dad Eulogy #2

I promised Winnie I’d post this, so here it is. This is one of my favorite emails of all time & it’s from my dad a couple years back.

Dear my children,

I am sad today. I feel like I have lost a good friend or a real good horse today which was very close to me for seven months and seventeen years. It has kept a lot of memories for our family. It ran nearly one hundred sixty thousand miles for our family and mostly for my business recently. It had been to the East Coast more than five times.

Deep blue color. Square shape. It never hit anyone but it was hit twice by others.

Its engine was still good and was quiet like a sleeping baby while it ran. I had oil change for it every three thousand miles. I loved it. I am small but my car was so huge. I miss my van. I will miss it more in the future because it will remind me of all the places I pass by and I will be gone soon, too, like it. I sold it because it got too old and had many troubles and it drank gas like a whale.

I sold it today at $4oo. My old horse has gone from me. But many memories about it will be with me and with you.

Love,

Dad.


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Gimpy McGimperson is out of commission, so I'm on protein duty. Upping my searing game. Alex got shoulder surgery, and his office sent us steaks from Eataly. Seems like an okay trade. I love coming home to good mail.

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