cafenowhere: coffee cup with sugar packets that read WTF (hola)
Trying something new here, in an effort to revive my flagging blogging powers. On Fridays, I aim to list a few things that have made me happy over the week. Today, it's treats from the cupboard. Feel free to talk up your faves in the comments!

1. Cinnamon Somersaults. I picked these bite-sized cookies up because I wanted to jumpstart Fall. They're delicious and filling. I don't think I've eaten a full serving in one sitting, because just a few satisfy me. I'm interested in the Salt and Pepper ones, too. Anyone tried those?

2. Adagio Teas, especially the fandom blends. This week I restocked my faves from the Hannibal-themed sampler I bought awhile back. And I bought some sample tins that continue my theme of "Desperate for Fall." Yesterday I melted over Halloween Caramel Apple.

3. Caramel Apple Dip + Pepperidge Farm Gingerman Cookies. Tweetie and I dunked the cookies in caramel apple dip for dessert last night. We each had 2 and a half cookies and were completely satisfied. Sooo rich, sooo good, sooo autumnal.

I'd hoped to take the family apple picking this weekend, but it's rained so much the last couple of days. I don't think J and Tweetie really want to go slopping through the soggy orchard. So these treats (and my scented candles!) will have to satisfy my autumnal yearnings for a little longer.

How do y'all scratch that seasonal itch?
cafenowhere: coffee cup with sugar packets that read WTF (Yummy!)
Time between "This chicken is nasty" to "You poor, delicious chicken":

36 hours.

Stomach complications were minimal this weekend--I still lost sleep--but I got some breathing room, so to speak. I'm pretty sure tomatoes are a problem, but the jury's out on the rest of the nightshades. I'm afraid to even look at a bean right now. I remain suspicious of gluten and soy.

I've come to the conclusion that, just as the best way to not be poor is to start off rich, the best way to not be sick is to start off healthy. It's really really hard to improve your situation when you're starting from a deficit.
cafenowhere: coffee cup with sugar packets that read WTF (coffee wtf)
The winter holidays strike me as the perfect time to talk about food and its connections to culture. Food is an excellent way to learn about or establish characters. Here I'll talk about the Tex-Mex food I'm familiar with, but different regions have different recipes and traditions. Coastal regions will enjoy more seafood, for instance.

Skimming cookbooks, visiting new-to-you grocers, and sampling cuisines can be fun forms of research. Just remember to be respectful when entering someone else's space. Feel free to ask questions, but don't expect people to disregard regular customers or business to indulge your curiosity or hold your hand. For all they know, you're a one-time gawker.

The Mexican food I associate with winter, and Christmas more specifically, is tamales. I vividly remember the one Christmas our family made tamales from scratch. It was women's work and there was much laughter and gossip and excitement at passing down the tradition. There was also a lot of muscle power involved, as my rail-thin great-aunt cranked the meat grinder to make the filling. I suspect one reason tamales are a holiday food is precisely because it can take a village. There's so much work, it's more fun as an assembly line. Also, with all the people in the kitchen and the steaming going on, it gets really warm, even in a poorly insulated house in the middle of winter. Tamales can be sweet or savory, but I never had sweet until I moved away from home. It just wasn't something we did, and I don't know if that was cultural or family-specific. I like this recipe/historiography about tamales.

My husband reminisces about Las Posadas at his aunt's house. In her community, folks would recreate the procession of Mary and Joseph in search of shelter for the night. At each home, the occupants would turn "Mary and Joseph" away, then join the procession until the entire neighborhood showed up at the aunt's house, where they were all welcomed and a celebration ensued. Obviously, the event took days of preparation, and part of that preparation was the slaughtering of a pig. My husband says that this was also very gender-divided work, with the boys and men expected to stay outside and do (or watch) the killing and the females inside doing the cooking. My husband hated that tradition.

The gendered roles in traditional cooking can be quite problematic, with their normative assumptions about what a man or woman should do/like/be. Alberto Yáñez's short story "Recognizing Gabe" acknowledges how difficult such divisions can be for transgender people, in particular.

Something my husband and I can hate in common is menudo. Since it's a hot soup, it's generally a winter time food. I remember families going home from high-school football games (VERY big in South Texas) and delighting in the prospect of warming up with the menudo waiting for them at home. J and I are not fans of eating organs in general, and there's a distinct smell to tripe that neither of us can get past.

Something that's much easier to love is Mexican hot chocolate, which has more spice (cinnamon) to it than regular hot cocoa. We grew up with the Abuelita brand.

Even if your story does not involve a holiday, food details can enrich the characters and setting. For example, our household eats a lot of Mexican food. It's our comfort food. When I'm feeling sad, I often want beans and rice and enchiladas. (If we go out to eat and I'm feeling fragile, chances are I'll choose the neighborhood Mexican place, because no one will look at me "that way.") Our family's too-tired-to-think go-to meals are Mexican or Mexican-inspired: chilaquiles, burritos, tacos, nachos, quesadillas, black bean and tofu scramble. Our special treats include black bean soup, maranitos, sweet empanadas, botanas, and tamales. And meals that wouldn't ordinarily be considered Mexican become so in our household, because we use cumin, garlic, onion, and chili powder the way other families use oregano and basil or fennel and marjoram.

Contrary to most fast-food versions of Mexican food, our homemade food is not smothered in cheese or sour cream. Using ALL THE CHEESE is not authentic. Besides, my daughter and I are lactose sensitive (as is most of my side of the family). It's unclear how prevalent lactose intolerance is among Latin@s. At least 10% of Latin@s self-report as lactose intolerant, whereas some studies predict 50-80% are lactose intolerant. In any case, I make our cocoa with soy milk.

Of course, my extended family might argue that some of my food doesn't "count" as Mexican. When my aunt found out we intended to raise our daughter vegetarian (we didn't, but that's another story), supposedly she said, "But then she'll never taste fajitas!" Apparently mushroom and veggie fajitas don't count? Likewise, TVP burritos, soy-rizo, and Quorn tacos would be oh-so-wrong. This kind of conflict can be useful for storytelling. Cooking disputes can reflect conflicting values, or generational differences. Your Latin@ character might roll their eyes at someone else's food choices, or they might welcome the variety at a potluck or family function.

You can convey a lot about a character by showing how they react to new foods. For example, I became much more interested in trying different cuisines when I realized most cultures have a tortilla correlate or proxy. There's fry bread and pita and na'an and the pancakes in mu shu pancakes and crepes. However similar to or different from those foods tortillas actually are, that's what I compare them to, because that's what I know. Likewise, when I encounter a pupusa, I think it's like a gordita, whereas someone else might think, oh a pasty! So get inside your Latin@ character's head and figure out what their foods are and what they're going to be comparing everything else to.

On the other hand, just as some people are "meat and potato" folks, with no interest in experimenting, some people are "rice and beans" folks and anything outside their traditional meals is viewed with suspicion or dread. And, of course, just because your character is Latin@ doesn't mean they can or want to cook (or eat) traditional foods—they might be into South Indian cuisine or really love sushi or crave wasabi peas. If they hate okra, they probably hate nopales, too, because both can get slimy if not prepared properly.

Other matters to consider regarding your Latin@ character and their relationship to food.

Latin@s are not immune to eating disorders. (see also) Research has shown that Latinas have higher rates of binge eating than other groups. Adolescent Latinas, in particular, may have the highest rates of dieting and unhealthy weight control behaviors. (The trend seems to be that the more assimilated one gets, the greater the likelihood of having an eating disorder.) And yet, I can't think of one story I've read in which the person with an eating disorder was Latina.

If allergies and sensitivities are underdiagnosed among the general population, they are usually even more so among minority populations, who are understudied and for whom traditional diagnostic rubrics may not work. I already mentioned the uncertainty regarding lactose sensitivity in Latin@ populations. The incidence of celiac disease among black, Latin@, and Asian Americans is estimated to be 1 in 236. But there doesn't seem to be enough research among the individual minority groups, so take that stat with a salt lick.

About 12% of Latin@s have diabetes, which is a rate 66% higher than the non-Hispanic white population. Among the Latin@ population, the incidence rates seem to be highest for Mexican-Americans and Puerto Ricans. Adjusting to a new diet is hard even when you have plenty of resources and support, but imagine what it's like for recent immigrants, who may not be able to find or afford products that are both healthy and nurturing in their familiarity.

Add these food realities to whatever SFnal premise your characters face, and those characters become more complicated, three-dimensional. A great example is Gordo, in Daniel José Older's "Salsa Nocturna", who takes his high-blood pressure medication every morning with a side of bacon or sausage, for balance. If I hadn't loved Gordo from paragraph one, then this admission of his in paragraph two would've completely won me over.
cafenowhere: coffee cup with sugar packets that read WTF (silver teapots)
When summer gives way to fall, and winter to spring, I dream a lot. I dream so much that when I wake up, I want to go right back to sleep because whatever I'm doing in my dreams seems so much more important than what I'm doing in the "real" world. This is so established a routine, I feel like I must've mentioned it before, but when I told this to JJ over dinner last night, he gave me a genuine What the Fuck look. Which is unusual, seeing as he almost never curses, in word or gesture. Whereas I have even given up on withholding motherfucker-laced rants in front of Tweetie.

But yes, I'm dreaming thick and often, and I really feel as if I'm doing some kind of work over there, and I have to get back to it. Then things happen that heighten my sense of (ir)reality. Last night, for instance, an alarm of some kind went off and woke both me and JJ. He wandered the house seeking the source of this alarm we'd never heard before, pero ni fu ni fa. He trudged back to bed and I asked if there had really been a siren or if it had been in my dreams. When he confirmed it had really happened, I wondered aloud if it had been coming from outside the house, since we have the windows open. That seems the most likely scenario now. But for the rest of the night, JJ had bad dreams (which is what happens when you are startled with a WARNING but have no idea what the warning could possibly mean: your brain helpfully offers up all the sordid possibilities) and his restlessness seeped over to my side of the bed.

In the real world, I finished reading The Drowning Girl, but that did nothing to improve my sense of a firm dividing line between dream and reality. What a wonderful surprise, though, to see so many familiar names in Kiernan's acknowledgments at the end! And now I am reading about post-revolutionary Mexico for a future novel. Which actually doesn't help anchor me in the real world, either, with the authors' recursive spirals of storytelling and history's meandering spirals of cause and effect. "The past is never dead. It's not even past."

Something that delights me though: one of the most militant of unions in 1930s Mexico was the BAKERS. Even though the bakers weren't geographically concentrated and weren't considered a vital industry to the state, they had the organization to be heard and appeased. Personally, given my love of baked goods, I would never want to piss off the bakers. Imagine--no brownies! no pan dulce! no strudels or sourdough or rye! My kingdom for a loaf. Let us eat cake!
cafenowhere: coffee cup with sugar packets that read WTF (domestic)
Friday night, JJ took Tweetie to the school carnival. This is a tradition of theirs, since I don't enjoy being around all those people and being "on." Later that night, J and I watched Life of Pi. It was okay. A bit too much spoonfeeding for this viewer.

On Saturday, I did some housecleaning and we took a bunch of stuff to the consignment shop and a charity shop. I am loving the less clutter-more space look of the house. Tweetie had a friend visit, and JJ was "on call" for them while I read in my room and then took a nap.

Later that night, we made a delicious white stew. It had baby potatoes, cauliflower, parsnips, leeks, carrots, and Quorn. I worked on my puzzle of Munch's The Scream while it simmered. Tweetie rediscovered the raccoon tale JJ made for one Halloween, and then she remembered her gray cat tail and put that on to sing and dance around the house. She ended up wearing the cat tail for the rest of the weekend.

Saturday night, I dreamt that [livejournal.com profile] asakiyume was telling me about job opportunities. JJ woke me up when he entered the bedroom and closed the door behind him. I looked at the clock and tried to understand what time it was, and who this person coming into my bedroom was. I realized it was JJ but I thought I'd only been napping and he'd come home unexpectedly during a workday. I asked him, "What are you doing here?" And he, to his credit, did not say, "I live here" or "This is my bed." He came to bed and re-oriented me, and then I laughed at myself for my earlier question, which still makes me laugh when I remember it now.

Sunday morning we took care of our recycling, and in the afternoon, we visited SarahP and picked two sacks of apples from her overflowing tree whose branches are breaking from their bounty. We also met her goats and admired Sarah's garden and the pond. Tweetie loved playing with the dogs, and Fin bolstered her arguments for why we should have a dog by sitting at her feet and being the sweetest boy despite the fact that he's big enough to eat her.

Sunday evening I worked in the yard, trimming back the rose bushes, cutting down the maples that are trying to grow in our front lawn and collecting sticks. Later, J and I made stuffed roasted eggplant and it was divine, especially with the garlic yogurt on the side. Sooo tender, and very filling. We'd make it again, though we'd probably continue to substitute a quinoa-rice medley as we did this time.

Tonight, we'll bake some of the Prineii apples.
cafenowhere: abby from TV show NCIS, eyes closed, listening to music (abby dreaming)
Dear Reader, I just had the most amazing, life-changing bread of my life. This is not a euphemism. Bread, pan.

J stopped by the farmer's market on his way home. I was happiest about the bean and cheese tamales, but he'd also gotten some pesto baguette and "moroccan bread." The ingredients on the moroccan bread included orange blossom water and star anise, and it smelled good, but...eh. I mean, I had tamales, what else could I want? After dinner though, I tried some.

OH MY SWEET PETUNIAS.

I felt it in my feet. I told JJ I hoped he was okay with polyamory, because I might have to marry this bread. It's not just the flavor, the texture is perfect, like if bread came with Sleep Numbers. I wanted to roll in it, rub it all over myself, smoke it...everything. I think I may have to settle for putting in a standing order for this bread bliss.


cafenowhere: coffee cup with sugar packets that read WTF (xmas)
What a fine day it's been. Actually, two very fine days in a row.

I got my fairy tale Thanksgiving, with jazz and big band and international music playing and matching plates and coordinating linens and most of my chosen tribe and delicious food: bok choy & romaine salad, wild rice and fruit salad, garlic bread, vegetarian lasagna, peach cobbler, chocolate-raspberry cake, plus wine and cider and so many snacky goodies. (We got the lasagna and bread from a local restaurant, so there was a lot more relaxation than usual.) Tweetie and I watched the parade and then some of the dog show. I teared up during a Chevy commercial, and J was disgusted: "You're only crying because it was a car, a Chevy Impala." The weather was nice enough I could go out without a coat and stroll through the neighborhood while sipping from my mug of spiked mulled cider. We played Apples to Apples and Uno and talked about movies (I'd just rewatched The Shining the night before) and of course we laughed a lot.

And today, the gloomy weather has been perfect for snuggling and sleeping in and eating leftovers and watching old, feel-good movies. I watched Never Been Kissed and maybe half of Ten Inch Hero before the innuendo was eclipsed by nudity and I had to turn it off for Tweetie's sake. (Oh but Jensen Ackles looks good with neck tats and eyeliner and a green mohawk and kilt!) Then I watched People Will Talk, one of my all-time favorite black-and-white films. I teared up again, and this time J was considerate. (I suspect he got misty-eyed the first time we watched it, too. Hee!)

I've been very happy, and grateful for every moment of it. I hope all my LJ friends are doin' good, too. :)


cafenowhere: coffee cup with sugar packets that read WTF (so tired)

Whenever I think about summarizing this week's shitscape, my brain shrivels in its case and tries to hide. So instead, in the following spirit

Attention: Shit could be worse (you're not dead)


I shall post Happy-Making Things.

1. I watched The Lost Boys again last night. Hilarious as always. This time I noticed how handsy Michael is with his little brother Sammy while Grandpa's laying down the house rules, and I caught the pedo vibe from Max: just how did he end up with a pack of teenage boys in need of a mother...?

2. Feminist Ryan Gosling. And this one is my favorite so far:



3. Tis the season for pan de muerto. We're invited to a dinner for Dia de los Muertos, so I'm thinking I'll bake a practice loaf this weekend and a fresh one for the party.

Or maybe I'll just sit here staring at Ryan...

4. I wrote yesterday (about 1K). And I'll write today. 

5. And what the hell, this song always cheers me up: Caress Me Down, by Sublime (lyrics NSFW)

cafenowhere: coffee cup with sugar packets that read WTF (book)
...is In the Night Kitchen by Maurice Sendak.



According to Wikipedia, In the Night Kitchen is 25th on the American Library Association's list of the 100 most frequently challenged books for 1990-2000 and makes ALA's list of the 15 most controversial picture books.

The book is about a little boy's dream that he nearly becomes an ingredient in a cake baked by three Oliver-Hardy lookalikes. It's not nearly as scary as it might sound, because the boy, Mickey, is blithely, boldly unafraid. It's controversial supposedly because of the little boy's full-frontal nudity. I think it's more because the story follows its own unassailable dream logic and that upsets people who need to put things in neat little boxes.

My favorite line (although I'm an atheist--or maybe because I *am* an atheist) is when Mickey crows, "I'm in the milk, and the milk's in me. God bless milk and God bless me!" 

Indeed! Bless Mickey and his creator, Maurice Sendak.

What is your favorite banned book?

~~


cafenowhere: coffee cup with sugar packets that read WTF (i'm good)
1. My child loves to read and will happily do so for over an hour at a time. This week I took her to the school book fair, and she picked two chapter books and a joke book in less time than it takes me to flip-off an anti-choice billboard.

2. For lunch I had a chile relleno so hot it cleared my sinuses and so good it made me want to punch your mama.

3. The weather here in Iowa has been absolutely GORGEOUS all week long. Cool and bright and dry.

4. I have awesome first readers who are supportive in their comments and inspiring in their own work.

5. Tomorrow our family will go to Wilson's Orchard and pick apples and make PIE!

Anything you're looking forward to this weekend?

~

ETA: the motherfucking rainbow we saw outside of Hy-Vee. That shit was sick!


cafenowhere: coffee cup with sugar packets that read WTF (skull gloves)
 
We had a very busy weekend. On Saturday we hosted a brunch and had a pretty full house. As always, our brunch became a day-long event. Some people left, others stayed, then we reconvened, with a slightly different cast, for dinner at our favorite Mexican restaurant. On Sunday we dropped Tweetie off at a party, then met up with most of the same friends for nomming at a downtown pub and then browsing the Arts Fest.

One of my girlfriends had visited the artists' booths before I did, and she's a vivacious artist herself, so she knew the life stories of some of these people. "So and so's been doing this for 18 years; This lady learned to sew from her mother, and she has a piece that was the first project they did together; This man's already sold half his inventory and his sculptures have evolved so much since just last year, he credits his veganism..."

J and I watched Scott Pilgrim vs the World last night, and it was an unusual treat for me: I didn't give a flying fuck about the main character or his love interest; it was the ensemble cast that I enjoyed. I'd watch more movies about them. They were the kind of folks you make up head canon for.

I found this Tumblr link that seems to fit this theme of "cast and crew": Awesome people hanging out together. I especially liked the ones of Boy George and Freddie Mercury, and Frida Kahlo and Josephine Baker.

Who was in your cast this weekend? ;)

~

cafenowhere: coffee cup with sugar packets that read WTF (hola)
We had friends over yesterday to help us celebrate Pi Day. We made apple and cherry pies. Our friends took home the apple pie. When J came home from work, we had pecan pie, too. Dinner music was a youtube Pi playlist.

My buddy (also a poet) and I vaguely planned to do some pi-related poetry. I'd been thinking of three lines, fourteen syllables each. My friend had a better idea to do with the kids--although the kids were too busy doing their own thing to pay pi any mind: three lines with the syllable counts 3, 1, 4, and for added panache, a "point" or period at the end of the first line.

Your circle.
Closed,
though I reach out

~
cafenowhere: coffee cup with sugar packets that read WTF (garcia)

1. Henry Rollins. All this:

topless henry rollins in profile

and good politics too.

2. Sublime. Caress Me Down, Pawn Shop, April 29 1992, Waiting for my Ruca, Santeria, Boss DJ...I should just get their discography tattooed down my legs.

3. Morningstar Corn Dogs.

4. The beneficent anarchy that is Misha Collins.

5. Crispin Hellion Glover.

movie still, Crispin Glover and a table of rats, in Willard

6. This fierce chicken. Or rooster. Whatever:

gif of white chicken disco dancing and regetting nothing

cafenowhere: coffee cup with sugar packets that read WTF (saint dean)

1. I sold two more poems! "Requiem for the Roboticist" and "Kyrielle for a Cloned Baby" are slated for Issues 4 and 5 of Bull Spec.

2. A soft, picturesque snow is falling, and I can appreciate it from the comfort of my snug living room.

3. Yesterday I wore the longest socks EVER.

4. Eggplant parmigiana and an Old Fashioned at Monica's in Coralville. (And a waiter I pretended was Johnny Weir.)

5. We are baking cookies tonight!

What is making you happy today? Tell me! Don't make me get out the sad panda!

cafenowhere: coffee cup with sugar packets that read WTF (boondock saints smoke)

1. Wig and Pen's Flying Tomato Pizza Pie in my belly right NOW

2. I sold a poem to Strange Horizons!

3. Beautiful found poetry jewelry by [livejournal.com profile] chimera_fancies now on sale

4. a lovely Thanksgiving Day card in the mail from one of our tribe

5. I remembered it was library day for Tweetie. No overdue books this week!

6. Aquaman on Smallville--how is there any water left on earth with this dude so smoking HOT?

ETA: I knew I shoulda waited until after Supernatural! Dean versus Tinkerbell--like deep-fried crack.
cafenowhere: coffee cup with sugar packets that read WTF (dancing bones)

Last night JJ surprised me by bringing home a loaf of pan de muerto from a local restaurant/bodega, La Reyna. It's adorable! It's shaped like a round person with their hands clasped in front of them, sort of like those goddess images, or a chubby Virgin Mary. It's dusted with red sugar. Alas, we cannot put it out on the ofrenda because the cats will maul it. So we shall probably gobble it up tonight!

JJ ate lunch at La Reyna and saw that they had botanas on the menu. Of course, he had to take me back there for dinner, because I grew up eating botanas and he'd never heard of them before I raved about their gooey goodness.

A botana, as I understand it, is a platter of tortilla chips smothered under beans, fajitas, peppers, onions, jalapenos, and cheese, with quesadillas on top and dollops of sour cream and guacamole. Kind of like nachos that have been so drowned you'd never know the chips were once crunchy.

I have missed botanas SO MUCH--it's been 17 years, people--that I ordered a plate without the meat, even though it felt sacrilegious. The waiter looked dubious and convinced me to add fajita-style veggies. The owner came over to talk to us and she seemed excited to find someone who knew botanas from childhood. And when the plate finally came, it was so good I could've cried. It was like going home, but better, because I didn't have to eat meat and nobody gave me any crap about it. I also had a Coke from a glass bottle, which I swear tastes better than from a can, plastic, or the machine.

I have leftovers for lunch today. I am ecstatic.

What foods take you home? Do you have to doctor them? What are your once-a-year foods, the kind you only have for special occasions?

cafenowhere: coffee cup with sugar packets that read WTF (drink me)


~

Moon elixir
trickled down my chimney
leaked into my soup.
Supping later, I bit my tongue
tasted time diluted.


~
cafenowhere: coffee cup with sugar packets that read WTF (misunderstood)
~

Velvet avalanche:
peaches slow soft tumble from
the young stocker's hands
into a produce pyramid.
Watched, the boy blushes
past his armor of piercings,
impatient for hands
to forget "gentle."

~

Delicacy

Jul. 30th, 2010 01:31 pm
cafenowhere: teacup brimming with mysterious violet liquid (psychedelic tea)
~

sugar-rimmed orchid,
despite poisonous rumors
I relish your flesh

~
cafenowhere: coffee cup with sugar packets that read WTF (so tired)


~

He
faints
at the
sight of blood,
so she handles it.
When she's done, he'll have risotto
and a back rub waiting for her, lawyer on speed dial.

~

The Inspiration )

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