this is the ship that sails

Crystal is sitting on the floor cross-legged, plucking filmy green cilantro leaves from their skinny stems. She's wearing a yellow apron, which is abnormally bright and frilly, considering her (and my) typical funerary garb, so we've been told. There's a beer can by her legs, and Carlos stands behind her, over the sink, washing the dishes. All morning he has been starting fires (literally), shepherding the kitchen herds, handling the meat, which are large and unwieldy slabs of flesh, a slippery sheet of stomach, red and yellow spiced chicken parts, offal-stuffed stomach lining. There is a lot to do. 

Jonathan is thinly slicing radishes, while Crystal makes kale salad in the sink because we don't have a bowl big enough. We make do with what we have--people power, mainly; the implements are not important. Carlos is stacking leeks and onions between pork slabs and tying it up in a burlap sack, an old coffee bean bag that I haphazardly sliced with a scissor blade. The pork has been seared and cooked again in its own coffee-filtered drippings. Now it is packaged like a meat present, and set atop a grill to steam through.

We've been shucking corn, and now it's painted with a cotija cheese-lime marinade, sitting on a rack that we pulled out of the oven, because we have so much food and nowhere to put it, nowhere to mix it and marinade it and salt it. Initially we didn't even have any salt, but we ran next door to Ben's house, and he gave us some, which was crucial. We always find a way to make it work.

People are arriving. It's sunny in Oakland, with a bay breeze that we'll never escape, even on the hottest day. The meat is shuttled back and forth between the grill and a barren wooden table, where the food is laid out, unmediated by bowls and plates, just piled directly onto the table, arranged like a garden of earthly delights. Here is green foliage with shredded carrots and jicama and caramelized onions like a blooming bush, here are sliced radishes and cilantro and garnishes for your meat, a pot of beans cooked with pork neck, and spanish rice, simmered like risotto in red spices. Carlos is chopping the meat, and the knife thwacks the table rhythmically, like a metronome. Now everyone lines up, and Carlos is serving people their food, from table to plate, person to person.

It's JD's birthday, and we are all sitting around a long table, eating in the sun. I don't know how they do it--these people, my friends, I am so in awe of my friends, and I've never witnessed such community as this, who serve each other food and drink and music so gracefully, who fill each other's stomachs and carry each other with such love, dedication, humor. 

In the early morning, in a warehouse by 47th Avenue in Oakland, we are working with our hands, making food, but it is not a labor, it is camaraderie, the purest that I know. In the afternoon we are so full, and we are aching, sun-tired. We laugh as JD, who is tied up in a sweatshirt, attacks a football-shaped Raider pinata like a madman, and then we scramble to pick up horrible chicken-flavored lollipops that probably cost $1 at the Mexican grocery store.


these are April drippings

A few things I worked on that are floating around the Internet:

Freunde von Freunden: James Tucker & Risa Culbertson
An interview with my friends James Tucker & Risa Culbertson, who are letterpress printers in the Heath Ceramics building, right around the corner from me. The story was shot by Mark Wickens, and I hosted the conversation. We had quite the San Francisco day: starting off at Pier 39 in James' fishing boat, eating lunch at Swan Oyster Depot, and then traveling south to the Mission to James and Risa's studio. We also toured the Heath Ceramics building and saw all the amazing artist studios in there!

18 Reasons Website
18 Reasons Blog: Butcher, Baker, & Candlestick Maker
I've had an ongoing relationship with 18 Reasons, a food-oriented non-profit organization whose mission is to "empower our community confidence and creativity to buy, cook, and eat good food every day." For almost a year now, I've taken photographs for them: at their classes, events, and community meals. They recently launched their new website, and a lot of my photographs are featured on the website.

I also wrote a little blog post for them recapping a community meal they hosted at the Heath Ceramics building--a beautiful dinner that brought together local artisans and makers, called Butcher, Baker, Candlestick Maker. I highly recommend checking out the 18 Reasons space & taking a class there, especially if you like cooking and food.


I went to Portland last weekend, and here are some pictures & places I enjoyed:

We stayed in a particularly charming (3-story) AirBnb with a particularly un-charming cat. There were a total of seven of us in the house and enough beds for us to all sleep comfortably--we each paid $40 for the stay--such a good deal!

A map drawn by my friend Pili, the morning we arrived.

We stopped for juice here. I have no idea what this place is called, but it smelled like a juice bar.

 Table of Contents -- feels more like a well-curated space for objects, than a store that supports reasonable commerce.

Ned Ludd -- A charming restaurant with a lot of wood and kitschy objects. Great for long, group dinners. Food was delicious, felt very Portlandia. I had a seafood stew & roasted carrots. The entire table shared amazing flatbread with olive oil & sea salt, a charcuterie platter, and a gooey skillet chocolate chip cookie.

Sunday brunch at Meriwethers.

I can't resist a dutch baby if it's on the menu. The pancake house near my house growing up served dutch babies, and that memory (and taste!) has been implanted in my heart. We ordered one for the table to share.

Greens, beans, olives, capers, raisins, anchovies, and lots of oil -- grilled focaccia to sop it up. I didn't imagine this dish to come out looking like this at all, but it was delicious--very mediterranean.

Noun -- This is the best tagline ever. 

Stumptown Coffee -- This is the best vase ever.

It was a rainy Sunday afternoon so we spent a few hours at an arcade... playing DDR--which was such a throwback (and a great workout).

 Before we left for the airport, we got donuts at Blue Star Donuts, which is not a big name like Voodoo donuts--and perhaps not as delicious either--but dulce de leche & cointreau creme brulee donuts didn't sound too bad for a rainy Sunday afternoon. And we didn't have to wait in an hour-long line either!

Other places of note:
Powells Books -- did not disappoint. Lives up to the hype. A paradise, refuge, and other-world for book-lovers. Powell's overwhelming nature is to its advantage, but I also liked the taxonomy of books, the curated shelves, the compartmentalization of its literature.

Maurice -- A self-described "pastry and luncheonette" that was charming and European: a French menu, earthy baked goods (a barely sweet rosemary scone; butter cookies composed mainly of butter, little sugar), intriguing dishes that seem practically medieval in America (Goat Bisteeya, Duck Fat & Prune Rissole, Polenta Clafouti with Chicken Confit). I am very much drawn to the grotesque of old-world foods.

Canoe -- "Simple, beautiful, functional objects." A design store with European, Japanese, and American objects--some things were impractically priced, but if you treat design stores as museums for ordinary things, then you'll be quite pleased by the marriage of function + aesthetics of the objects in this store.

Palace --  My favorite shop that we visited. I am always impressed by the excellent curation of old and new, and also the ability to organize those curated objects into a fluid and seamless arrangement. Palace had a great selection of facial and body products, alongside vintage clothes (great color palettes), ceramic spoons (Shino Takeda!), delightfully strange textiles, etc.

Grain & Gristle -- We had Saturday brunch here. Great vibes (I am getting a sense that Portland excels in "vibes"). Particularly memorable were the buckwheat crepes with ricotta, marmalade, and pistachios.

Wolf's Apothecary -- Though "apothecary" has been usurped in ways that do not fit the original meaning of the word, I am still a sucker for places that dispense elixirs / remedies / herbs / spices, the way I'm a sucker for various interpretations for how the full moon affects me (don't try to talk science with me). This place makes their own teas / salves / lotions / soaps / candles with locally wild-harvested plant infusions and botanical essences. In conclusion, I am a sucker.

Portland, I will be back.


I leave you with this:

“…To reserve a part of your life for taking care of yourself has indeed become a radical thing to do because it effectively means you are taking yourself out of circulation. You deliberately hold back resources, free time and potentials that could be used productively. Still, you can never be sure whether the free time you gain is not just the time you need to restore your energies to be fit to perform again on the next day so that you never escape the cycle of compulsive activity.” 
—Jan Verwoert