Wednesday, December 15, 2010

my best food of the year is not fried chicken

I’ve been reading so many end-of-the-year “bests,” I’ve started to compile dozens of my own in my mind. Best novel. Best beer. Best view. Best trip. Best child I grew and birthed (ha ha). Of course, I couldn’t help but think of the best food I ate in 2010, which brought back many good memories, including my birthday dinner—bo sam with homemade kimchi that Tony made from a recipe in the Momofuku cookbook. And there was my first encounter with injera at an Ethiopian restaurant in Washington D.C. And the pan-fried razor clams we pulled from the sand during a coastal storm.

But my number one eating experience happened on a cold day in Tokyo. The night before I’d taken a flight from the southern part of Japan back to the big city in a gigantic jetliner, the kind with double aisles and six seats in the middle (forgive me for not knowing my airplane types). Even though the flight was short, we had to nose through a nasty storm. I was seated next to a member of a high school baseball team—a pack of cute boys wearing suits and ties—and as the plane started to bounce through the storm, I had to look past him to see the wing of the plane outside our window. The jostling grew more intense. People started crying, praying and puking.

Yeah yeah, every traveler has a story like this, and usually I handle serious turbulence with a cool mind. But I felt out of control that night. Sweat rolled down my stomach and the back of my neck. I felt clammy and was convinced I was about to watch the wing of the plane rip off into the dark storm. I wanted to grab the baseball player’s hand and tell him we were too young to die. He just stared straight ahead with a petrified look that convinced me he too was contemplating our demise. Finally the plane landed in one piece. I departed with shaky legs to find Tokyo getting a dumping of spring snow.

The next day I walked to a little ramen shop and ordered one steaming bowl. The simple combination of chewy, thick noodles, rich pork broth and slices of fresh bamboo seemed to hold a life force that I’d lost on the plane. Each slurp restored hope to my being. Isn’t that what comfort food should do? I don’t know about you, but no piece of fried chicken has ever made me feel that way. So there it is. The best thing I ate in 2010.

Wednesday, August 26, 2009

a look back

Sometimes, looking at pieces I wrote in the past makes me cringe, both because my writing seems creaky and my perspective has changed since publication. And while I'm not exactly cringing over this piece, published in the fall of 2007 for Oregon Humanities magazine, I know I'd write a drastically different version today.

Even the housing crash of 2008 seems like ancient history compared with recent tax credits for first-time home buyers and landlord incentives for commercial and residential renters.

Then there's my personal story: I'm finally hunting for a house. I'm in the trenches with other first-time buyers, battling for low-priced fixers that are selling with 24 hours of hitting the market here in Portland.

Maybe I need to write "A Home of One's Own, Part Deux"?

Saturday, March 21, 2009

no room for cream

Lately I've been fighting off the end-of-winter blahs by drinking an inordinate amount of coffee. I paid attention, too, trying to discern the hints, the overtones and the smack-you-in-the-face flavors that tickled my palate. For example, someone at Stumptown IDed a lemon hard candy (as opposed to lemon rind, peel, zest, candied balm or blossom) in an Ethiopian Mordecofe Sidamo.

Of course I like these games...playing with words, coaxing new levels of perception from an overstimulated mind/body. In order to really go there with coffee, I've slowly weaned myself from cream, which I liked to add to French press brew, my favorite method of delivery. Now a splash of cream seems like a decadent dessert, one that coats my mouth with richness but masks any little spikes of acidity or earthiness. So, cream sometimes.

I've been a big fan of Stumptown ever since I moved to Portland, and won't soon forget my first cup of coffee at the Belmont location. I couldn't believe I was having the experience for a mere $1 (prices have gone up since then). Therefore, I was delighted to interview owner Duane Sorenson for a piece in the March issue of Best Life magazine. He's hit the big time this year with a new location in NYC, which I plan to visit when I'm in the city next month.

Thursday, March 12, 2009

sausage making

I first met nutrition advocate Nancy Becker at a round table of dietitians, nutrition advocates and politicians rallying for a new, statewide menu labeling bill. They talked about calorie counts at Subway and praised Multnomah County's new food labeling law. What struck me about the meeting had less to do with the actual debate (opponents call menu labeling intrusive big government while proponents take the access-to-information route) than the mechanics of law making.

Since moving to Oregon, I've had few chances to report on the state's legislative process, but writing about Nancy Becker for the spring issue of Edible Portland magazine launched me back into the world of policy making. Becker's story reminded me just how long it can take to turn an idea into a law: decades, at times. Still, there's room for all of us in the process. But don't get involved without taking some of my mother's advice: Patience is a virtue.

Tuesday, January 20, 2009

true colors

On a day when I'm feeling extraordinarily proud to be an American, I couldn't help but think about the many times I've shown strangers my navy blue passport, which through its color alone, reveals my nationality. At airports and border crossings, I find myself trying to catch a glimpse the colors of everyone else's passport covers while I tuck mine inside pockets and plane tickets. (Some mysteries should be preserved, at least for a few moments.)

How appropriate that today my husband applied for a new passport, which should arrive within two weeks. Applying for a passport is a patriotic act, a statement that you appreciate the homeland enough to leave it. And come back. That said, I wouldn't mind having more than one (there's nothing wrong with having an extra quiver), but no matter how much I think back, I can't seem to remember growing up in a foreign country.

Sunday, November 30, 2008

no excuses

It's winter, but I'm pushing the line that there are few excuses for choosing to hop in a warm car instead of onto a bicycle. Check out my piece about commuting by bike during these dark days in the current Women's Adventure magazine. Ignore my reference to rising gas prices. At deadline time, the idea of a gallon of gas for less than $2 seemed insane, yet here we are.