Love in the Time of Coriander

Thoughts on food & more.

Tuesday, October 04, 2005

This American Life

In the spirit of Ira Glass' brilliant show . . .

Act 1

Has it really been two weeks? Secretly, it feels like I've been away much longer than that.

As I wrote in my previous post, I've been struggling with the balance of blogging about food with the other writing-related endeavors and multiple school responsibilities. I've begun my work again this year as a therapist-in-training. Most of the time, I find it exciting to be given a wonderful window into the struggles that people face. It leaves me in a state of awe and humility. That people actually thrive amidst such trying circumstances encourages me. My own petty worries (of having gained an extra five pounds, for instance) seem miniscule in relation to more elemental concerns of safety and health.

At my brother's engagement party at MacArthur Park, I recently bumped into an eccentric cousin, Chandrakanth. In the middle his second pint of beer, he assured me that he was getting drunk to celebrate his health. Only three days prior, he laid in a hospital bed with a throat infection so serious that he had to be fed nutrients through IVs. Perhaps because his brain froze in the delirium of dehydration, it slipped his mind to call us and let us know that he needed help! Having recovered from near death, he has vowed never to forget the little things, like being able to take a sip of water (or beer). While I think our minds don't hold onto this wisdom very long, I think it's good to be temporarily given a new vantage point.

Don't think I forget how lucky I am to enjoy the pleasures offered to me, especially those things that we swallow to make us whole. When I look at it that way, what's an extra five pounds?

Act 2

The other reason I've been avoiding the blogosphere is because I've felt inspiration dry. Like a foodie sleuth, I've been hoping to uncover a thing or two. But nothing. Well, maybe there was the noodle house on Telegraph, Slurp, that used to be Berkeley Korean BBQ. E & I had solid bowls of soup, cheap and warm enough to make it worth another visit. But our bickering over my unhealthy craving of potstickers made the evening better left forgotten.

Oh, yes! There was another highlight. Niki and Ra'ed have recently moved to the hood, closing the gap from ten thousand miles away to a mere five. We dined on a middle Eastern feast with them. Highlights included Niki's loving attention to my dug yearnings (a Persian version of salt sodas made with yogurt instead of our carbonated water) and eating lavosh with olive oil and zatar (a combination of thyme and sesame seeds). The combo reminded me of the podis (powders) that we of the Telugu persuasion love! Though chutneys are surely fun, Sami's and my favorite accompaniment to idlis and dosas has been melted butter and chutney poddi, a mysterious blend of roasted lentils with a tad bit of sugar. This, my friends, is regional variation at its finest. (I loved the zatar so much that Ra'ed poured a cup of it into a baggie and sent me on my merry way.)

The nadir was most definitely Berkeley's "Spice of Life" festival. With a muse-like nymph on the advert and a title whose play-on-words suggested food, I thought for sure I'd be entering into the territory of serious, Roman-style decadence. Instead, North Shattuck Avenue, which has earned its moniker as "The Gourmet Ghetto" for careful attention to food (Chez Panisse, The Cheeseboard, Cesar, Cha-Am, Gregoire's, Saul's, Le Coco, Cha-ya and more), was no more than an amusement park. Grilled corn sold for $4 an ear! We, stupidly hungry folk, succumbed to a $5 pupusa topped with less than a teaspoon of fresh salsa.

Supposedly, there were also cooking demos from chefs at Bistro Liaison, the soon-to-be cooking school Kitchen on Fire, and others. We made our way through waddling children and hippy jewelry booths (shouldn't there be laws prohibiting these folks from leaving Telegraph?) to arrive at the demo tent, hoping to watch an agile and creative soul concoct something sublime. But zero, nada, zilch was happening.

Eventually, after taking in a few bites of overpriced food and finding nothing else of value along Shattuck, we managed to salvage our day with a bite of a pumpkin cupcake topped with a near-perfect cream cheese frosting at Love at First Bite. Then, we made our way back down the hill.

Act 3

I forget the famous literary mind who said it, but it went something like "If you introduce a gun in the first act, it's got to go off by the end of the play." Like Chandrakanth, I, too, am celebrating my life. Especially as the days move closer and closer to my 30th birthday, I will be honoring my friends and my family with food, carefully planning the meals that I will make (and consume) and those who will surround me to share them.

This, both my approaching birthday and my craving for the world, is a bittersweet reminder of my father. A man otherwise led by his mind and his tongue (like me), his desire to ingest knowledge and food had waned so considerably in his last days that he was not the same man. Though I didn't want to believe it at the time, these were indicators that his life was coming to its close. I used to believe that symbolism, though deeply beautiful, only happened in books, plays, movies. At the end of this month, he would have turned 55. I celebrate his birthday and mine.


At 8:28 PM, Blogger Kalyn said...

Beautifully written.

At 6:28 PM, Blogger the food therapist said...

thanks, kalyn! i really appreciate the feedback!


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