Blogs: Food

 

Zahir Janmohmaed, Soleil Ho and Alan Montecillo are the brains behind the podcast The Racist Sandwich. Together, they examine the politics of food and the ways we consume, create and interpret it. From discussions about racism in food photography to interviews with chefs of color, they hash out a diverse range of topics with humor, grace and very little pretension.
 
Zahir's picks:
 
1. Little Failure by Gary Shteyngart
This is one of the sharpest memoirs I have ever read. Shteyngart writes about immigrating to the U.S. as a Russian Jew and his struggle to adjust to life in America. 
The book is so incredibly funny that it is easy to forget that underneath the humor is a profound exploration about identity, immigration, anti-Semitism and the former Soviet Union. I can't recommend it enough. 
 
2.  The Remains of the Day by Kazuo Ishiguro 
There are very few books that have made me sob. This is one of them. Ishiguro's masterpiece, published in 1989, won the Booker prize that year and deservedly so. The novel centers around a butler, Mr. Stevens, and his conflicted feelings towards his former colleague, Miss Kenton. Skip the movie, which turns this incredibly complex novel into a love story alone. It is that too, but it is also an examination of complacency, bigotry and blind allegiance to tradition. 
 
3. Orientalism by Edward Said
Admittedly this might not be the best book to take to the beach but no other book has had a greater influence on me than Said's. This book was published in 1978 and remains a seminal text in understanding post-colonialism. Said's essential argument is that Orientalism is the exaggeration of difference, the presumption of Western superiority, and the application of clichéd analytical models for perceiving the "Oriental" world. When we started our podcast, Soleil Ho and I spoke at length about this book and how our podcast was an attempt to take Said's theory of Orientalism and apply it to the world of food. 
 
Soleil's Picks:
Nguyen blasts open the banh mi paradigm with this book, and every recipe in it is stellar.
 
I love Bryant Terry’s mission to place the plant-based diet within the context of African diasporic cooking, and I especially love his suggested musical tracks to bob your head to while you’re working though his recipes.
 
3. Koreatown: A Cookbook by Deuki Hong
Oh, the banchan! The language in this book is so light and familiar, and it’s lovely to read various notables' fond memories of Korean food. 
 
Alan's Picks:
1. Red Sorghum by Mo Yan
I think Americans should read more Chinese literature. Here’s one place to start. This is a sprawling, visceral, multi-generational tale of a sorghum winemaking family in China. It takes you through pivotal moments in modern Chinese history, from the Japanese invasion in the 1930s all the way through the Cultural Revolution. Mo Yan’s writing has been compared to the magical realism of Gabriel Garcia Marquez. I don’t know enough about Marquez to judge whether that’s accurate, but I will tell you that I first read this six years ago and its images and descriptions have stuck with me.
 
Dr. Gawande shows us how the medical system is ill-equipped to deal with the reality of modern aging. But more fundamentally, this book will change the way you see old age, medicine and dying itself. 
 
Even if geopolitics isn’t really your thing, I recommend this book. And if you’re a generally curious, politically-minded person who wants to read something that will challenge your view of the world, you should absolutely read this book. The South China Sea is an abstract news headline to many Americans, but for millions of Asian-Americans and the hundreds of millions of people who live in Southeast Asia, it’s one of the most important issues of our time. Kaplan’s hard-nosed realism can be tough to swallow — and I don’t know if I necessarily agree with all of his conclusions — but it’s a sober and sharp reminder of how complex the world is.

 

 

 

In 2011, the  United States Department of Agriculture replaced the idea of the Food Pyramid with My Plate ,which gives you a plan to figure out what you need to eat to be healthy. But not everyone agreed that My Plate represented healthy eating habits. Healthy Eating Plate vs. USDA Eating Plate argues that the USDA plan was influenced by political and commercial pressures from food industry lobbyists. They said that their plan, created by experts at Harvard School of Public Health and Harvard Medical School, is better because it’s based on science.

 

There are also food pyramids created to represent traditional Asian, Latino, African Heritage, Mediterranean and vegetarian and vegan diets (scroll down on the linked page to view these). Which ones match the way you eat? If you need more help researching diet and nutrition, feel free to contact a librarian.

 

 

Human bodies need vitamins and minerals to function well. What’s the difference between the two? Vitamins come from organic sources (plants and animals), while minerals are inorganic and come from the soil and water. This chart tells you what each nutrient does, and how much a teen needs each day.  The best way to get vitamins and minerals is naturally, through eating foods that contain them. Vegetables and fruits are loaded with nutrients. It can help to have a chart that tells you what each food contains.

If you take vitamin or mineral supplements, what is the recommended daily allowance (or RDA)? This article explains why, as with any medicine, you should be careful of what you take, and also be sure to take the right dose for your age.

Need more information? Contact a librarian to be sure you get what you need.

 

Seems like everytime I go online, watch TV or read an article, I can’t avoid ads for burgers, chips, soda and candy. And once I see them, how can I not want to eat them?

It’s not by accident I'm craving junk food. Junk foods’ manufacturers specifically target young people, advertising everywhere kids go, to get you hooked on their product. If you become loyal to their brands as a kid, that’s a whole lifetime of purchases for them, since you will probably outlive your parents or grandparents. That’s why kids’ are highly targeted with ads.

The average child sees 10,000 food advertisements per year, most of them not for healthy foods. The fallout from this is that kids are unhealthy and obese. Fourteen percent of children are obese and of these, 60% have risk factors for diseases like diabetes, high blood pressure and heart failure.

Now  these ads are on social media too. One study investigated junk foods ads on social media sites and discovered this marketing most attracted interaction from teens and young adults. It’s also been shown that kids of color are at higher risk of being targeted by junk food advertising.  And this type of ad only confuses feelings about ourselves and our body image. Girls especially get confusing mixed messages; how does one stay skinny and attractive and eat tons of junk food at the same time?

Teen Health and the Media and Common Sense Media have good resources for further info about junk food and other advertising aimed at youth.

 

Need more help?  Contact a librarian to be sure you get what you need.

 

 

 

 

Dana and John are the masterminds behind Minimalist Baker, a Portland blog dedicated to simple, plant-based and gluten-free cooking. Dana is the recipe developer, and John handles all-things technical. We asked Dana a few questions about books, reading and food, and here's what she said:

The cookbook I can’t live without is ...

I am honestly not a big cookbook user and typically search for recipes online. However, the one I find myself going back to is My New Roots by Sarah Britton. It has so much helpful information about how to soak grains, nuts and seeds, and how to handle and prepare foods on a very foundational level. Plus, the recipes are seasonal and gorgeous!

If I could have dinner with any author it would be...

Anne Lamott. I’ve read most of her books and they’ve taught me so much about life, writing and faith.

I would serve...

I think I would serve my Mediterranean Baked Sweet Potatoes from the blog. They’re a classic, so filling, and entirely plant ­based! One of my all­ time favorites.

The last thing I learned from reading was...

That I should wear a sleep mask to improve the quality and the amount of sleep I get (from the The Body Book by Cameron Diaz).

My guilty pleasure book is...

I don’t know that I have a guilty pleasure book, but I’m always reading up on health and diet and my favorite among that group is Rich Roll’s Finding Ultra: Rejecting Middle Age, Becoming One of the World's Fittest Men and Discovering Myself.

My favorite thing about the library is....

The smell. Ha! I love the smell of books. I also love that there is so much knowledge at my fingertips when I’m there.

If you hear “Twinkle Twinkle Little Star,” in my apartment, you’d know that rice was cooking. That’s the song my rice cooker plays when I hit the “start” button. I like planning my meals around rice and these past few months I’ve found some star accompaniments: short rib kare-kare, Visayan roast chicken, and garlic shrimp. (Most of these recipes are available online in some form or another, but I encourage you to check out the books too.) Here’s what I made:

Asian-American book jacket1.  Short Rib Kare-Kare from Asian-American by Dale Talde: Kare kare, as slightly reinvented by Talde, is a decadent Filipino pot roast in a savory coconut milk and peanut sauce. Talde labelled the recipe with a "Filipino advisory explicit flavor" warning, noting that it was "too funky for most white people" probably due to the shrimp paste ingredient. I’ll just say that my boyfriend loved kare kare and creatively used it later in sandwiches and burritos. (Note: if you can’t find boneless short ribs, feel free to substitute with another cut ideal for slow cooking.)

2.  Visayan Roast Chicken with Lemon Grass from The Cooking of Indonesia and the Philippines by Ghillie Başan: This roast chicken is a riff on Filipino barbequeCooking of Indonesia and the Philippines book jacket flavors. Here, the whole chicken is rubbed in a heavenly spice paste containing garlic, ginger, lemongrass, soy sauce, brown sugar, and lemon. I love that the recipe has you make roasted sweet potato fries as a bonus “one pot” side dish. (Note: Ignore the temperature and time directions and roast this chicken at 425 °F for 35 minutes breast side up, flip it, and roast for 20 minutes or until the thickest part of the thigh registers 165 °F.)

3.  Ms. Vo Thi Huong’s Garlic Shrimp from Lucky Peach Presents 101 Easy Asian Recipes by Peter Meehan: Just a few words: best souvenir from Vietnam ever. Here, the shrimp is quickly stir fried in an amazing combination of garlic, shallots, green onion, Sriracha, Kewpie mayo, and soy sauce. Much like many of the recipes in the book, the garlic shrimp was super easy to make.

These recipes are perfect for people who like Southeast Asian flavors and want to feel proud of themselves in the kitchen. I’m all about kitchen victories. Are there any recipes that you’d recommend to me? Please let me know in the comments!

Andy Ricker, the James Beard Award–winning chef behind Pok Pok, lets us know his favorite cookbooks, meals and his thoughts on the Portland food scene.

 

1. Do you have any favorite cookbooks, books or cooking blogs that have inspired you?

Picture of Andy Ricker

"Thai Food" by David Thompson; "The Joy of Cooking"; "The Whole Beast: Nose to Tail Eating" by Fergus Henderson; "White Heat" by Marco Pierre White; "Cous Cous and Other Good Food" by Paula Wolfert.

 

2. What do enjoy most about the Portland food scene?

The dedication the chefs, restaurateurs, farmers, food makers and gatherers have to using local products of the highest quality and being in a community that supports this ethos.

 

3. List your top 2 favorite meals (of all time or even this week).

Last week in Phrae, Northern Thailand, I had an amazing meal of expertly made local food at a restaurant called Jin Sot. The owner is a ninja. A Tai Yai/Shan restaurant near my home here in Chiang Mai reopened after a long hiatus, during which time I was jonesing badly, and much to my relief, the food had not changed at all: delicious egg curry called Khai Oop being my favorite dish.

4. Do you have any library memories to share?
When I was a kid growing up in rural Vermont, we had no TV so reading was our entertainment. We would go to the town library (Jeffersonville) and check out as many books as were allowed per person and devour them over the week.

Inspired to try your hand at Thai cooking? Check out our booklist below for our favorite Thai cookbooks that you can check out from the library. If you are feeling particulary adventerous, try your hand at making the egg curry dish that Andy mentioned, Khai Oop.

Come say hello to the library at the 29th annual Fix It Fair!  The last fair is this Saturday , 2/20 at George Middle School from 9:30am-3:00pm.  Want to learn more about the Fix It Fair?  Check out their website including the brochure for Saturday's event. With workshops on Health, Home Repair and Utilities, Finances and Gardening there is something for everyone. This Fix It Fair also includes classes in Spanish, too!

We'll have library resources for you to check out (Gardening Projects for Kids, DIY Solar Projects, Making Healthy Food Taste Great and much, much more), information about library programs and library staff experts ready to answer your questions.  See you there!

Maangchi's Real Korean Cooking book jacketHere are the top four reasons why I love Maangchi:
  1. Maangchi is a girl gamer - her handle means "hammer" in Korean.
  2. She's a good dresser.
  3. She's a YouTube and blogging star.
  4. Finally, she taught me everything that I know about Korean cooking!
Three years ago, Maangchi taught me how to make kimchi at home. Fast-forward to 2015: With Maangchi's Real Korean Cooking at my side, I made Korean fried chicken (dakgangjeong) and soft tofu stew (kimmchi-sundubu-jjigae). If you've never had it before, Korean fried chicken (KFC) is super crunchy, garlicky, and has a great sweet and spicy sauce. Unfortunately, you can't eat KFC everyday, but that's what soft tofu stew is for. The stew, which is made red and spicy by hot pepper powder, is full of onions, garlic, kimchi, silken tofu, and pork belly. Both dishes are comfort food at its best.
 
Other things that I've made in the past that are absolutely yummy include: kimchi fried rice (kimchi-bokkeumbap), LA kalbi (LA galbi), bok choy with miso (cheonggyeongchae doenjang-muchim), and stir fried potato glass noodles (japchae). All these recipes are highly recommended.
 
Although many of these recipes are available online, I encourage you to check out her book because it's a work of art. Maangchi's Real Korean Cooking is an excellent cookbook for people like me who get easily intimidated by complicated, unfamiliar foods. Stop running away from your true desires! Cook with Maangchi now.

What a summer it was in Portland for the gardener and cook. And what a perfect book Kitchens of the Great Midwest was to read while harvesting piles and piles of the tastiest tomatoes our garden has ever produced.

Kitchens of the Great Northwest is a new novel by J. Ryan Stradal. It’s been compared a lot to Olive Kitteridge, because both of these take the form of short stories told by different narrators that illuminate one central character, but Olive Kitteridge, while a very fine book, is a bit more glum. Kitchens is brighter in its outlook, much funnier, and more delicious, as its central character is Eva Thorvald, the daughter of a chef and a sommelier. Eva is excited about food even as a baby, and she ultimately becomes a famous chef, the kind of chef who does simple, amazing things with the best local ingredients. It was a really fun book to read, and I read it fast, enjoying the well-developed characters. I also enjoyed the enticing recipes that appeared from time to time.

Different varieties of heirloom tomatoes are passionately described several times in this book, and this reminds me... I need to go make a ton of tomato sauce and can it right away. Sadly, I can’t invite you all over for spaghetti, but I can offer this list of very delicious fiction for you to savor. Bon appétit!

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