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
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.
Virginia Miller, who just became the SF/Bay Area Editor for Zagat, will stop by to share her amazing journey from starting her blog, The Perfect Spot…Your San Francisco Revealed (named Best Blog for Travelers by The Guardian), as a hobby during her day job, to freelancing for Spoonwiz, to becoming a full-time food and drink writer and editor, writing three articles a day and attending 5 to 6 major restaurant openings a week!
Lunch will be provided by award-winning director, writer, creative consultant & restauranteur Ellen Sebastian Chang, known for her work with Whoopi Goldberg and Amara Tabor Smith, among others, and for the live cooking/coming-of-age play, “Your Place Is No Longer With Us.” Ms Chang will talk about the writing/food life and provide a lunch designed for us from the restaurant she started with her husband, the acclaimed FuxeBOX, West Oakland’s self-proclaimed “smallest food and drink spot,” which was funded via Kickstarter and serves soul/Seoul food.
The one-day workshop, What We Talk About When We Talk About Food: Food Lit with Faith Adiele (Saturday, 5/31), is now also a Meet-up!
Do your friends always say you should write about your life? Do you have family stories or travel journals you’d like to tackle? Does your writing project need a shot in the arm? My generative exercises are a low-pressure way to keep that New Year’s resolution to make more time for your writing. Only 2 more weeks to register for Your Personal Odyssey: Explore & Tell Your Story, a 6-week workshop at the San Francisco Writers Grotto.
I will be giving 2 free, public multimedia readings this week in San Francisco:
Friday November 14 is my debut at my new employer, California College of the Arts. I will be giving a multimedia overview of my projects and approach to memoir as the final WRITERS SERIES/FRIDAY SEMINAR:
3:30 – 5:00 PM
The Writers Studio
195 De Haro at 15th Street
Thursday November 15 is a project near and dear to my heart: a benefit reading/video on the legacy of the Nigerian civil war called LOOKING : BIAFRA.
Join EMERGENCY USA for Listen for Peace, an evening of literature and music to raise awareness about the realities of war, potential for peace, and the impact of war on civilian lives. Writers include Faith Adiele, Ingrid Rojas Contreras, Genny Lim, Julie Thi Underhill, and editors of an anthology of Afghan women.
The event is free and open to the public, though there will be opportunities to donate to EMERGENCY USA to help contribute toward the funding of free medical facilities in war torn areas.
5:30 – 7:30 PM
Main Library (near Civic Center BART)
100 Larkin St
Latino/Hispanic Meeting Room B
- Nigeria charges more than 100 Biafra independence activists with treason (guardian.co.uk)
- Mass arrests over Biafra protest (bbc.co.uk)
- Biafra and humanitarian imperialism* (loomnie.com)