Archive for the 'Friends' Category

Eating and Belonging: a Conversation

a conversation

So, I met this girl… on the internet.

No, that doesn’t really capture it. To begin with, she’s a woman, not a girl. A really, really smart one.

More to the point, we met quite by accident, not on JDate or ashleymadison.com. It seems we both live in, and blog about Pondicherry. And we are both a little food-obsessed. So we started corresponding about these things.

Deepa Reddy is a cultural anthropologist by profession, an artist by natural talent and temperament, and a cook by passion. Her blog, Pâticheri, is a thing of beauty, thoughtfulness, and deliciousness. During one of our exchanges — about the semiotics of baking or some such thing — she suggested that it might be fun to take our “ethnographic free-play” public, to post our back-and-forth on our blogs in real-time. With you, Dear Reader, adding your own “deep play” (I promise, that will be my one-and-only cultural anthropology joke) in the comments, this might just be an interesting experiment.

After loosely settling on a topic — national identity and all-things-food — we have decided to let it rip. Let the wild rumpus begin!

MBJ

The Conversation Thread
1. So American! (Deepa) 15 July 2012
2. You Are Having One American Nature Only, I Am Telling (MBJ) 16 July 2012
3. Cosmopolitan Comforts (Deepa) 20 July 2012
4. No Accounting for Taste (MBJ) 24 July 2012
5. What a Mess! (Deepa) 10 August 2012
6. Tell Me What You Eat and I Will Tell You Who You Are (MBJ) 21 August 2012
Reader Comments…

Pages: 1 2 3 4 5 6 7

Dinner of Champions

moules marinieres stew leftovers

When our friend, the lovely and talented Andrea Frustaci, triumphed last week in the Burnaby Open Tennis Tournament, we had to have a celebratory dinner. The centerpiece of the menu was moules marinières with a nice crusty sourdough bread. (Dessert, incidentally, utilized the recently-made rose petal jam as a topping for vanilla ice cream, accompanied by lavender shortbread.)

But there were way more mussels than we could eat, and a goodly bit of the rich, creamy broth. So, with the leftovers, a handfull-or-two of bay shrimp, a few yukon gold potatoes, an ear of corn, and supplimental splashes of white wine and cream, I prepared the fantabulous one-pot meal pictured above. Is it a stew? A chowder? A “panroast” a la The Oyster Bar in Grand Central Station? Who could say? Our mouths were full.

Continue reading ‘Dinner of Champions’

Rose Petal Jam

Rose Petal Jam

“Do you want roses for jam? My mother’s roses are blooming like crazy and she’s already picked what she will use for the season.” Thus read the text message from our friend Ozlem Sensoy and, within a few days, we were raiding Mrs. Sensoy’s intensely fragrant garden. That evening, we set to making jam.

Continue reading ‘Rose Petal Jam’

Skins and Steel: a First-Person-Plural History of Calypso Culture in Vancouver

Skins and Steel

All the important stuff on this blog seems to happen in the comments, rather than in my original posts, which anyway have been few-and-far-between of late; and it was in a comment that I mentioned Vanessa Richards’s brilliant show Skins and Steel, which premiered for a two-evening run in November. It is being reprised for a special one-night performance at the Vancity Theatre tomorrow, Thursday, 23 February, as part of Black History Month programming. I urge you to see it.

When I wrote about Skins and Steel, the focus of my discussion was a brief film that plays midway through the show — a “remix” done by Vanessa of a 1960’s era CBC documentary about her parents’ interracial marriage — that fit into a theme of mixed-racedness I had been exploring. I mentioned the stage performance itself only in passing, promising to write a more complete review. Sloth being what it is, that fuller assessment never happened.

The show is no longer fresh-enough in my mind to present a review, per se; but here’s a thumbnail sketch. It traces the introduction of Afro-Caribbean dance and music to Vancouver. The Afro Caribs were a drum-and-dance calypso ensemble, founded in Vancouver when Rudy Richards (Vanessa’s father — and the guy soaring in the photo above), Felix Assoon, Clyde Griffith, and Ron Rogers came from the West Indies in the mid-1950’s to study at UBC. They are now approaching their 80’s, but they perform with a sassy verve that gives a nice sense of how the exoticism and expressiveness of calypso rhythm may have caused an stir, as the staid, monocultural 1950’s had only just begun to give way to a new era of cross-polinated art. The audience is also treated to performances by the great singer and dancer, Thelma Gibson, whose presence exudes that rare mix of elegance and joyfulness that has somehow evaded recent generations, and by steel pan virtuoso Kendrick Headley. Vanessa smartly pulls the melange together with narrative and film clips, including a fascinating segment in which she connects the dots between Vancouver’s dance scene and the seminal New York choreographer, educator, and company director Katherine Dunham, in large part via Ms. Gibson’s brother Len. The show is both personal and fascinatingly revealing of an aspect of Vancouver’s cultural history that is neither well-known nor broadly celebrated.

Go see Skins and Steel — and report-back here to give your impressions. You can offer the review I failed to write.

Tour de Pondichéry

Janice Valdez on her Tour of India

Our friend Janice Valdez is a woman with a mission… or at least an adventure… or perhaps both. She is in the midst of a two-month tour of India to promote an extremely cool machine: the Stromer electric bicycle. Unlike the old mopeds, which used peddle energy as a way of forcibly jump-starting a motor, or electric scooters, which use no human power whatsoever, the Stromer uses an electrical drive to augment the rider’s contribution to forward motion.

Back home in Vancouver, Janice cycles everywhere and her (non-power-assisted) bike is her principle form of transportation within the city. With a strong commitment to sustainable, low-carbon-footprint living, Janice is a contributor to isCleaner.com, a web portal of news and ideas on clean energy. So she was, perhaps, a natural ambassador for this tour of India to show-off the Stromer.
Continue reading ‘Tour de Pondichéry’

Remembering Ishwarbhai Patel

Ishwarbhai Patel

Ishwarbhai Patel was the role model to my role models. Today, on the first anniversary of his death, we remember him fondly.

In a country where ritual hygiene is sacrosanct and actual hygiene is observed mostly in the breach, Ishwarbhai devoted his life to the rational, hygienic management of human waste. Recipient of India’s Padma Shri for distinguished service to the country, among many other national and international awards, Ishwarbhai’s greatness and achievements were certainly widely admired. But, true to his modesty and good humor, he got more pleasure from his more humble nickname, “Mr. Toilet”.

Ishwarbhai was as matter-of-fact as could be about all matters of human waste. Within the first five minutes of the first time we met, he advised me how much my average daily dump weighed in grams – I forget the number – and added that it was likely more dense than the average Indian feces, because the Western diet includes more refined and processed foods. This was typical conversation, and there was nothing casual about it. It was part of Ishwarbhai’s mission. Having made sanitation his life’s work, he could hardly afford to be abashed in discussing these things. Moreover, he understood that the polite refusal of most people to talk about human waste entailed a pernicious complicity in the epidemic of debilitating and frequently lethal diarrheal diseases in India. “How can we solve a problem people are too embarrassed to talk about sensibly?” he complained.

Continue reading ‘Remembering Ishwarbhai Patel’

Let Them Eat Pie

Jane Roskam's Apple Pie Party

Jane Roskams, UBC neuroscientist and fellow Point Grey denizen, has a mighty apple tree in her backyard. Each year, it provides an abundant harvest — or rather, an over-abundant harvest. To mitigate the apple onslaught, to broaden the wealth, and to share the fun, Jane holds an annual Apple Pie Party. The 2011 event took place last night, and we were fortunate enough to wrangle an invitation.

The concept of the party is simple: help Jane use the damn apples. And one more thing: be prepared to be judged on your effort.

Continue reading ‘Let Them Eat Pie’


Blasts from the Past

Man Up!
Man up you pussy!

... because the idiocy of manliness is an evergreen topic.

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Talking Turkey
how to cook a perfect turkey in half the time

... because Canada and the US will celebrate their Thanksgiving holidays and, regrettably and preventably, not 1-cook-in-10 will serve a decent turkey.

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Filial Piety Awareness Day
Kaki Tusler, Mother's Day Celebrant

... because everyday is Mother's Day.

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America Dreaming Small
American Dream

... because the American Dream seems but a distant memory, given the country's dominant ethos of small-mindedness.

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Serenity and Gratitude to Bring in the New Year
New Year's Eve at Tibetan Pavillion

... to remind us that not every mix of Tibetans and Western spiritual seekers has to be nauseating.

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Incredible Vision
Infinite Vision

... to celebrate the new edition of Infinite Vision published in India.

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Expelliarmus! Harry Potter and the Path to Gandhian Nonviolence
Expelliarmus, Potter, Gandhi, Nonviolence

... reprised because military strategy seems more cruel and less effective than ever -- and certainly there is a better way.

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India Going Nowhere Fast
Nano in Flames

... because cars are ruining Pondicherry, where I live. How badly are they fucking up your Indian town?

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Understanding the Gift Economy
Gift Economy Explained

... reprinted because more-and-more people seem want to understand the gift economy. (Yeah!)

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