Friday, January 11, 2019

New Windmills

This Quixote has some good news to share on my return to the Good Fight: I have a new position as the Executive Director of the Jewish Community Relations Council (JCRC) of Greater Phoenix.

I will be in-charge of advocacy, interfaith outreach and community bridge-building. I will be working to fight anti-Semitism, racism and Islamophobia in the fifth-largest city in America. It is a different kind of public diplomacy, but one that I will enjoy.

I'm finally getting off the Road, and headed out shortly to the desert.

Time to get back to work fighting windmills!

Monday, January 07, 2019

Ageless

“Perhaps we become aware of our age only at exceptional moments and most of the time we are ageless.”
-Milan Kundera, "Immortality"

Sana Feliz a moi

"Age does not bring wisdom, but it does give perspective."
-Jubal Harshaw, from Stranger in a Strange Land

Happy Bday to moi!  As per annum, the 4 bday qs:

1) I would have my birthday dinner with my grandfather, Norman Wilson Sablosky ("Poppy"), who passed away last year.  I would always call him from near and far on my birthday.  For my birthday evening this year, we would start over aperitifs of pear aquavit, an assortment of cheeses and his roasted peppers and croutons.  We would eat  whole grilled Bronzino and drink Chardonnay.  We would end with port and berry tartlets.  I took him last year to the symphony for his birthday, and I would give every last ounce of birthday magic and love to have him return the favor this year.

2) Not the best ever, but still a fun bday: For my 35th, I was running the Next Level Senegal program.  I had breakfast amid the ocean break as I chatted with friends--staring at the azure waves of the ocean lap against the cliffs below me as I sat off the coast of West Africa.  I had a day of programming at the Next Level Dakar Academy.  The whole team and I had a delicious dinner at the Alliance Francaise Cultural Center.  I was quite content with my place in the world at that time.

3) Last year's bday: Vancouver.  I was done catsitting, and enjoyed a lovely birthday with Russel and Ingrid.  We had coffee and delicious pastries at a funky cafe for breakfast.  Russ and I had gone out the night before for a fantastic treat of the Vancouver Symphony performing Frank Sinatra's work.  I made my way to Chinatown and shaved my head, and I think we spent the rest of the rainy day in the spa and sauna.

4) Next year's bday: somewhere ambling about Baja California


God grant you many and happy years, 
 Till, when the last has crowned you, 
The dawn of endless days appears, 
 And heaven is shining round you. 
-Oliver Wendell Holmes

Wednesday, January 02, 2019

Soup

"Nostalgia is pointless. Latching on to an idealized past seems to me a surefire way to scorn the now. Still, it can be useful. Food doesn’t have to be delicious to matter, if we decide it should. It can hold weight beyond its possible deliciousness. Sometimes nostalgia can hurtle into the present and, through taste, you see the present and past align. Memory still errs. Reliably so. Sometimes, though, memory can right itself."
-Scott Hocker, and Bread Soup from the Lost Years

Tuesday, January 01, 2019

A letter to my hockey younger self

New Years Memories

"Yesterday's yesterday while to-day's here,
To-day is to-day till to-morrow appear;
To-morrow's to-morrow until to-day's past-
And kisses are kisses as long as they last."
-Oliver Herford

2007: Leaving Laos on a high-speed boat in a crash helmet

2010: The Barberess of Antigua

perspective

"There are events in our personal lives and our collective history that seem categorically irredeemable, moments in which the grounds for gratefulness and hope have sunk so far below the sea level of sorrow that we have ceased to believe they exist. But we have within us the consecrating capacity to rise above those moments and behold the bigger picture in all of its complexity, complementarity, and temporal sweep, and to find in what we see not illusory consolation but the truest comfort there is: that of perspective."
-Maria Popova

The New Year

"For last year's words belong to last year's language,
And next year's words await another voice."
-T.S. Eliot

"A new year is a gift, a small piece of infinity, to do with as we will."
-Jean Hersey

"A new year is a clean slate, a chance to suck in your breath, decide all is not lost and give yourself another chance."
-Sarah Overstre

H/t Dr. Mardy

Wednesday, December 26, 2018

Gastrodiplo Roundup

-Why the best biscuits come from the South and why they aren't easily replicated.

-The problem with cashless restaurants and how they discriminate.

-A top chef is using his perch to help highlight foods from Mama Africa's kitchen.

-A look at Native American Cuisine.

-Culinary diplomacy and what presidents eat.

-The gastrodiplomacy fall-off of the current admin

-The proper fare for certain occupants of said office.

And a PS: Moi, interviewed on the Quartz piece on Gastrodiplomacy

Monday, December 24, 2018

Chance and Choice

"Chance and choice converge to make us who we are, and although we may mistake chance for choice, our choices are the cobblestones, hard and uneven, that pave our destiny. They are ultimately all we can answer for and point to in the architecture of our character."
-Maria Popova

Comprehension

One of the things I love most when I am abroad is not having to tune into other people's conversations. I have to pay attention to the French or Spanish or Arabic or Hebrew words that fly past me.  I have to actively engage in someone else's conversation to understand, or otherwise the words fly right past me.

Or in places of languages I don't remotely understand, I listen to the quality of the sound, or find silence in the sound amid the unitelligibe words.

But when I am back in the anglophone world I find myself captive to understanding other people's conversations.

Like on a mountaintop in Colorado and the lily white woman behind me who praised Apartheid South Africa.  And I have to hear her dumb, racist words. I'm privy to words I don't care to hear. And all I can do is look back, and shake my head.

Monday, December 17, 2018

Giving

"People think 'give poor people money' is an absurd solution to poverty but for some reason think 'give rich people money' works better, despite the notion being absurd and decades of evidence to the contrary."
-Adam Serwer

Sunday, December 16, 2018

First Generation

“Here’s to the security guards who maybe had a degree in another land. Here’s to the manicurist who had to leave her family to come here, painting the nails, scrubbing the feet of strangers. Here’s to the janitors who don’t understand English yet work hard despite it all. Here’s to the fast food workers who work hard to see their family smile. Here’s to the laundry man at the Marriott who told me with the sparkle in his eyes how he was an engineer in Peru.

Here’s to the bus driver, the Turkish Sufi who almost danced when I quoted Rumi. Here’s to the harvesters who live in fear of being deported for coming here to open the road for their future generation. Here’s to the taxi drivers from Nigeria, Ghana, Egypt and India who gossip amongst themselves.

Here is to them waking up at 4am, calling home to hear the voices of their loved ones. Here is to their children, to the children who despite it all become artists, writers, teachers, doctors, lawyers, activists and rebels. Here’s to international money transfer. For never forgetting home. Here’s to their children who carry the heartbeats of their motherland and even in sleep, speak with pride about their fathers. Keep on.”
-Ijeoma Umebinyuo, "First Generation"

H/t JU

Saturday, December 15, 2018

From Sans Culottes to Gilets Jaunes

"In Soviet times, Russia’s Jews told a joke about a man named Rabinovitch who was distributing pamphlets in Red Square. In a matter of minutes, the KGB had found him and taken him to headquarters. Only there did the agents realize that the sheets of paper were completely blank. “But there’s nothing written here,” one of them said. Rabinovitch said: “They know quite well what I mean.”

 For two months, the French government has been unable to make head or tail of the blank sheets of paper handed out by the gilets jaunes, or Yellow Vests, this decentralized, leaderless movement that has no explicit agenda or demand apart from the abolition of a fuel tax. While Emmanuel Macron’s government has blindly concluded that this sudden, violent movement bereft of any clearly articulated purpose has no other goals, movements don’t block major intersections just to protest hikes in gas costs."

A great piece by Sylvain Cypel about Macron as Marie Antoinette in "From Sans Culottes to Gilets Jaunes."  Merci to Count Bruin.

Someone else made a good comment about the French: "The French love to elect a King...so they can revolt against him."

“We were walking on a carpet of flowers, and failed to see the abyss underneath.”
-Count de Ségur

One more good piece on Macron and his aristocratic blind spots that led us here.


Friday, December 14, 2018

The Corruption of the Republican Party

"The fact that no plausible election outcome can check the abuse of power is what makes political corruption so dangerous. It strikes at the heart of democracy. It destroys the compact between the people and the government. In rendering voters voiceless, it pushes everyone closer to the use of undemocratic means."
-George Packer, "The Corruption of the Republican Party"

Tuesday, December 11, 2018

Conservative Values

“If conservatives become convinced that they cannot win democratically, they will not abandon conservatism. They will reject democracy.”
-David Frum, Trumpocracy: the Corruption of the American Republic

Thursday, November 29, 2018

Wednesday, November 28, 2018

Fly Pucks Fly!

From not-The Onion: For Defense Against Active Shooters, University Hands Out Hockey Pucks

"The police chief also suggested that a group of students could "rush" an active shooter with their pucks, creating a distraction that would allow someone else to get their hands on the shooter's weapon."

 The only thing that stops a bad man with a gun is a good man with a puck. You might as well just deputize The Mighty Ducks.

Wednesday, November 21, 2018

On Pelosi

"Pelosi got a 1/3rd of her caucus to commit hara-kiri in 2010--that wasn't O's doing, that was hers. She basically told them: you will eat this electoral bullet for the greater good. They did. They're gone. The result is the greatest expansion of Fed gov't since the Great Society."
-Jeff B (@esotericCD)

On majority

"There is no clearer measure of growing Democratic success than that Republicans have expanded their mission from suppressing minority rights to suppressing majority rule."
-Harold Meyerson

Sunday, November 18, 2018

Sunday Gastro roundup

-A nice story out of London of Jews and Muslims coming together to make chicken soup.  Matzah Balls all around.

-Trump feasts while the army is stuck on the border for Thanksgiving in a pointless political stunt.

-Nem: Senegal's popular spring rolls tell a story of war, love, and colonialism.

-Chefs speaking out on mental health issues in the restaurant industry.

-#ChefsForCalifornia: helping to feed those affected by the fires and feed those fighting the fires.  Kudos, Sam.

On Kindness

"Kindness is love in action."
-Henry Drummond

"Kindness is the shadow of God in man."
-Kahlil Gibran

"It is a little embarrassing that, after forty-five years of research and study, the best advice I can give to people is to be a little kinder to each other."
-Aldous Huxley


H/t Dr. Mardy, with a lovely thought of his own:

"Of all the qualities of an exemplary mind, Few can rival simply being kind.

The very best people are both smart and kind.
The next best are kind and not smart.
Well below that are the smart who are not kind.
And the very worst are neither smart nor kind."

On memory

“Memory cannot be understood, either, without a mathematical approach. The fundamental given is the ratio between the amount of time in the lived life and the amount of time from that life that is stored in memory. No one has ever tried to calculate this ratio, and in fact there exists no technique for doing so; yet without much risk of error I could assume that the memory retains no more than a millionth, a hundred-millionth, in short an utterly infinitesimal bit of the lived life. That fact too is part of the essence of man. If someone could retain in his memory everything he had experienced, if he could at any time call up any fragment of his past, he would be nothing like human beings: neither his loves nor his friendships nor his angers nor his capacity to forgive or avenge would resemble ours."
-Milan Kundera, Ignorance

Friday, November 16, 2018

Thursday, November 15, 2018

On Nostalgia

“The Greek word for "return" is nostos. Algos means "suffering." So nostalgia is the suffering caused by an unappeased yearning to return. To express that fundamental notion most Europeans can utilize a word derived from the Greek (nostalgia, nostalgie) as well as other words with roots in their national languages: añoranza, say the Spaniards; saudade, say the Portuguese. In each language these words have a different semantic nuance. Often they mean only the sadness caused by the impossibility of returning to one's country: a longing for country, for home. What in English is called "homesickness." Or in German: Heimweh. In Dutch: heimwee. But this reduces that great notion to just its spatial element. One of the oldest European languages, Icelandic (like English) makes a distinction between two terms: söknuour: nostalgia in its general sense; and heimprá: longing for the homeland. Czechs have the Greek-derived nostalgie as well as their own noun, stesk, and their own verb; the most moving, Czech expression of love: styska se mi po tobe ("I yearn for you," "I'm nostalgic for you"; "I cannot bear the pain of your absence"). In Spanish añoranza comes from the verb añorar (to feel nostalgia), which comes from the Catalan enyorar, itself derived from the Latin word ignorare (to be unaware of, not know, not experience; to lack or miss), In that etymological light nostalgia seems something like the pain of ignorance, of not knowing. You are far away, and I don't know what has become of you. My country is far away, and I don't know what is happening there. Certain languages have problems with nostalgia: the French can only express it by the noun from the Greek root, and have no verb for it; they can say Je m'ennuie de toi (I miss you), but the word s'ennuyer is weak, cold -- anyhow too light for so grave a feeling. The Germans rarely use the Greek-derived term Nostalgie, and tend to say Sehnsucht in speaking of the desire for an absent thing. But Sehnsucht can refer both to something that has existed and to something that has never existed (a new adventure), and therefore it does not necessarily imply the nostos idea; to include in Sehnsucht the obsession with returning would require adding a complementary phrase: Sehnsucht nach der Vergangenheit, nach der verlorenen Kindheit, nach der ersten Liebe (longing for the past, for lost childhood, for a first love)

The dawn of ancient Greek culture brought the birth of the Odyssey , the founding epic of nostalgia. Let us emphasize: Odysseus, the greatest adventurer of all time, is also the greatest nostalgic. He went off (not very happily) to the Trojan War and stayed for ten years. Then he tried to return to his native Ithaca, but the gods' intrigues prolonged his journey, first three years jammed with the most uncanny happenings, then seven more years that he spent as hostage and lover with Calypso, who in her passion for him would not let him leave her island.

 In Book Five of the Odyssey , Odysseus tells Calypso: "As wise as she is, I know that Penelope cannot compare to you in stature or in beauty ... And yet the only wish I wish each day is to be back there, to see in my own house the day of my return!" And Homer goes on: "As Odysseus spoke, the sun sank; the dusk came: and beneath the vault deep within the cavern, they withdrew to lie and love in each other's arms."
-Milan Kundera, Ignorance

Tuesday, November 13, 2018

Como Mexico No Hay Dos

Adios Mexico! You are always so dear to my heart (and stomach), and so kind to me. I sincerely wish we were a better neighbor. As a goodbye, I leave this wonderful note from Anthony Bourdain about Mexico (Gracias Isaac):

"Americans love Mexican food. We consume nachos, tacos, burritos, tortas, enchiladas, tamales and anything resembling Mexican in enormous quantities. We love Mexican beverages, happily knocking back huge amounts of tequila, mezcal, and Mexican beer every year.

We love Mexican people—we sure employ a lot of them. Despite our ridiculously hypocritical attitudes towards immigration, we demand that Mexicans cook a large percentage of the food we eat, grow the ingredients we need to make that food, clean our houses, mow our lawns, wash our dishes, and look after our children. As any chef will tell you, our entire service economy—the restaurant business as we know it—in most American cities, would collapse overnight without Mexican workers. Some, of course, like to claim that Mexicans are “stealing American jobs.” But in two decades as a chef and employer, I never had ONE American kid walk in my door and apply for a dishwashing job, a porter’s position—or even a job as a prep cook. Mexicans do much of the work in this country that Americans, probably, simply won’t do.

We love Mexican drugs. Maybe not you personally, but “we”, as a nation, certainly consume titanic amounts of them—and go to extraordinary lengths and expense to acquire them. We love Mexican music, Mexican beaches, Mexican architecture, interior design, Mexican films.

So, why don’t we love Mexico?

We throw up our hands and shrug at what happens and what is happening just across the border. Maybe we are embarrassed. Mexico, after all, has always been there for us, to service our darkest needs and desires. Whether it’s dress up like fools and get passed-out drunk and sunburned on spring break in Cancun, throw pesos at strippers in Tijuana, or get toasted on Mexican drugs, we are seldom on our best behavior in Mexico. They have seen many of us at our worst. They know our darkest desires.

In the service of our appetites, we spend billions and billions of dollars each year on Mexican drugs—while at the same time spending billions and billions more trying to prevent those drugs from reaching us. The effect on our society is everywhere to be seen. Whether it’s kids nodding off and overdosing in small town Vermont, gang violence in L.A., burned out neighborhoods in Detroit—it’s there to see. What we don’t see, however, haven’t really noticed, and don’t seem to much care about, is the 80,000 dead in Mexico, just in the past few years—mostly innocent victims. Eighty thousand families who’ve been touched directly by the so-called “War On Drugs”.

Mexico. Our brother from another mother. A country, with whom, like it or not, we are inexorably, deeply involved, in a close but often uncomfortable embrace. Look at it. It’s beautiful. It has some of the most ravishingly beautiful beaches on earth. Mountains, desert, jungle. Beautiful colonial architecture, a tragic, elegant, violent, ludicrous, heroic, lamentable, heartbreaking history. Mexican wine country rivals Tuscany for gorgeousness. Its archaeological sites—the remnants of great empires, unrivaled anywhere.

And as much as we think we know and love it, we have barely scratched the surface of what Mexican food really is. It is NOT melted cheese over tortilla chips. It is not simple, or easy. It is not simply “bro food” at halftime. It is in fact, old—older even than the great cuisines of Europe, and often deeply complex, refined, subtle, and sophisticated. A true mole sauce, for instance, can take DAYS to make, a balance of freshly (always fresh) ingredients painstakingly prepared by hand. It could be, should be, one of the most exciting cuisines on the planet, if we paid attention. The old school cooks of Oaxaca make some of the more difficult and nuanced sauces in gastronomy. And some of the new generation—many of whom have trained in the kitchens of America and Europe—have returned home to take Mexican food to new and thrilling heights.

It’s a country I feel particularly attached to and grateful for. In nearly 30 years of cooking professionally, just about every time I walked into a new kitchen, it was a Mexican guy who looked after me, had my back, showed me what was what, and was there—and on the case—when the cooks like me, with backgrounds like mine, ran away to go skiing or surfing or simply flaked. I have been fortunate to track where some of those cooks come from, to go back home with them. To small towns populated mostly by women—where in the evening, families gather at the town’s phone kiosk, waiting for calls from their husbands, sons and brothers who have left to work in our kitchens in the cities of the North. I have been fortunate enough to see where that affinity for cooking comes from, to experience moms and grandmothers preparing many delicious things, with pride and real love, passing that food made by hand from their hands to mine.

In years of making television in Mexico, it’s one of the places we, as a crew, are happiest when the day’s work is over. We’ll gather around a street stall and order soft tacos with fresh, bright, delicious salsas, drink cold Mexican beer, sip smoky mezcals, and listen with moist eyes to sentimental songs from street musicians. We will look around and remark, for the hundredth time, what an extraordinary place this is.

The received wisdom is that Mexico will never change. That is hopelessly corrupt, from top to bottom. That it is useless to resist—to care, to hope for a happier future. But there are heroes out there who refuse to go along. On this episode of “Parts Unknown,” we meet a few of them. People who are standing up against overwhelming odds, demanding accountability, demanding change—at great, even horrifying personal cost."