Monthly Archives: June 2014

Free, star-studded VONA Faculty Reading (6/26)!


Free, star-studded VONA Faculty Reading (6/26)!

Come early to Berkeley City College. As usual, it’ll be SRO!




Quite on his own, O has managed to combine my mum’s childhood pet name for me with the Nigerian fixation on titles into the best pet name ever: “Honorable Punkin”!

It’s now his go-to move. He, say, forgets to pay the Internet bill or locks the cats outside with a possum (“I don’t know who Those People like to hang out with!” was his excuse); I’m ready to explode; he “Honorable Punkin!”s me; we both fall down laughing.

It’s a win-win for everyone (except perhaps Those People, as he’s taken to calling the cats).



How it starts: That sinking feeling upon hearing the sound of crunching cat food. You glance from side to side: both cats sprawl on the sofa, oblivious, on either side of you. A tentative glance over the sofa confirms it: the damn possum you saw dancing around the back door last night has made its move! The call is coming from inside the house!

Act 2:

Me: Standing on a carved stool screeching.

O: Crashing around cursing in my study with a broom.

Cats: Still sleeping. Seriously?!


Me: Do you have a plan? Because this chasing it endlessly room to room can only work if one actually *could* die of fright.

I suggest (from my perch atop the stool) blocking off the countless escape routes and directing it somewhere, whereupon O places the open cat carrier on one end of the liquor cabinet, and I bushwhack with a broom on the other. After giving a faint wave of distress, the possum steps daintily into the cat carrier.

Act 3:

O: I think we’ll deal with it in the morning.

Me: We’re not leaving a kenneled possum in the living room overnight!

O (surprised): Well, okay.

Me: Are you sure it’s a good idea to leave the possum in the cat carrier on the patio overnight? What if it calls friends or family?

O: Then they’ll see it in prison and learn something.

Me: Prison?

O: Yeah, it’ll be a deterrent. It’s a good thing, actually. I doubt we’ll see any more animals once they visit him in prison. Besides, it’s only a rat; now if it were polar bear…

Me: Yeah, I don’t think we’d be having a conversation about the polar bear in the cat carrier on our NoCal patio.

O: I’m just saying



Report from the porch: Everything peaceful in possum prison. Amalinze & Anansi only vaguely interested in the repurposing of their carrier. Let the neighbor’s cat come over to play and they lose their ever-loving minds. Yet a possum moves into the house, eats their food, and they sleep through the whole thing.



O: Is a possum a rat or a raccoon?

Me: Neither. It’s its own thing.

O: How can you tell the difference?

Me: Well, though the tails looks the same, hopefully we never, ever see a rat as large as a possum. And a raccoon looks like a bandit.

O: What’s that?

Me: It’s like an armed robber.

O: It has a rusty old musket and a scarf tied around its face?

Me: Not a Nigerian armed robber. A cartoon American one. In striped pajamas and a mask. And opposable thumbs.

O: I have no idea what you’re saying.

Me: That’s kind of the motif of this marriage.




Photo #1. “In college zoology, we studied opossums for 15 minutes; great class! Are those related to this possum-rat-thing?”


Photo #2. “Really!? You have marsupials in America? Mar-su-pi-als. This is where I should like to release my marsupial.”


Photo #3. “You’re snapping pix? Well, you’re a writer. I guess you have to document the Great Release.”


Photo #4. “Hey, you, Opossum. Don’t be Playing Possum! (That’s how the professor started the class; I’ll never forget it.) Wake up and enjoy your new ecosystem!”



O: These traps are surprisingly useful! Maybe we should go into the animal capture business!

Me: They’re not traps; they’re pet carriers. And I’m pretty sure we shouldn’t.

O: Nonetheless, I think I’ll go to the flea market and look for some used ones.

Me: Seriously?

What we talk about when we talk about food: Everything!


My food writing workshop last Sunday (5/31) at the San Francisco Writers Grotto exceeded my wildest expectations! Not only were the 9 international participants totally interesting, worldly, and open, but they rose to every challenge gladly and graciously. Rather late in the game I asked them to bring dishes of personal or cultural significance to introduce themselves, and they provided delicious, funny, poignant feasts for all the senses. Both Ellen and I asked them to dig deep into their personal, family and cultural histories and share, and they did. It all proved that food is one of the primary ways ethnic groups are able to maintain identity and ritual in the larger society (which of course is also being transformed by these global food ways). 


Food is not rational. Food is culture, habit, craving and identity.

–Jonathan Safran Foer

And our guest speakers were the cherries on top. Virginia Miller is SO delightfully, infectiously enthusiastic you must love her, and her journey from part-time blogger (The Perfect Spot) to full-time food and drink writer and editor for Zagat is unbelievably inspiring (she’s also one of the hardworkingest gals in food writing, so don’t try this at home, kids!). One of the coolest things she shared was her determination to develop her palate for every food; some things have taken her years to learn to appreciate, but “if an entire country can love it, why should’t I?” The dynamic, multi-talented director, writer, creative consultant Ellen Sebastian Chang led two wonderful writing/performing exercises – one about “sexy” food moments. For her, sharing a meal is an act of storytelling, just as choosing what and where to eat are political acts. After talking the talk, she walked the walk, feeding us a lunch from the innovative FuseBOX she runs with her husband partner, with some addictive add-ons like white miso cream cheese (!) and the most flavorful micro-sprouts I’ve ever tasted. Can’t wait to see both women again!



We use our love of food to access family, culture, and emotions

–Dianne Jacob

I thought my contribution would be my Finnish mummi’s blueberry tart with rye crust (in which the fruit-loving child in me make peace with the rye-tolerating adult in me), but I ended up starting a piece about the moment I became addicted to coffee, which is of course about so much more.