Saturday, October 27, 2012

Tebot Bach reading, Oct. 26, 2012

  Tonight was delightful not only because it was my actual birthday, but because I discovered a wonderful writer, Charlotte Innes. Charlotte read her poems  at the monthly meeting of Tebot Bach, located in a dark and dingy room in Huntington Beach, CA. We didn't notice the darkness at all this time because Charlotte's work was so wonderful, so smack you between the eyes beautiful that my attention didn't stray for a moment.
  After her reading, Richard and I read at the open reading. We enjoyed ourselves immensely and had an appreciative room of fellow open readers, for the most part, though Robin and Manny did show up and neither were readers, as well as a few other people out there in the room.
  Charlotte and I traded chapbooks and talked about meeting again to explore other reading venues in San Diego and elsewhere.

Thursday, October 25, 2012

Happy Birthday to Me--Dinner at Thuyen Vien

  Last night, eight of us met at a Vietnamese Vegan joint  a few blocks from Disneyland to celebrate, though in truth my birthday isn't till Friday. I decided to go for a vegan place because although I adore Vietnamese food, I feel queasy about consuming certain pork products that this cuisine uses, such as "congealed pork blood" or the like. Yes I know that would probably be frowned on in haute cuisine circles or even among those who aspire to genuine authenticity, but I am who I am, and being Jewish, I never got used to eating or enjoying this sort of stuff, despite the fact that I do not keep kosher. Eating vegan or vegetarian food makes me feel free. I can order anything from the menu with the thought that there is nothing in it I would not choose to eat, given a clear idea of what went into the dish.
  I thought for a while we would never get to this place. It was rush hour, and the freeways were monumentally crowded, cars shuffling along in a parade or protest march all the way there, despite the fact that we tried to avoid the rush by not taking the freeway till we were about a quarter of the way there. It was the other 3/4 that took all the time, and the surface streets were also clogged with traffic made even slower by the inexorable and untimely traffic lights that snagged us just as we were about to roll free of the crowd for once.,
  Add to the difficulty the unreliable Google Maps we were using. There's is a lot of construction going on in Anaheim, and these changes had apparently not been noted on those maps. So we never did find the road we were supposed to get onto after we exited the freeway. And then my hapless map illiteracy didn't serve us well when I sent us in precisely the wrong direction, away from the restaurant, rather than toward it for miles and miles, because I was holding the map upside down.
  But eventually we found the restaurant. We arrived about the same time, most of us, and all but one of the invited guests who had rsvped showed up.
  Then the fun began. The menu, as is often the case in such places, was enormous, so we followed the lead of the Yelp reviewers and ordered recommended dishes. We began with a couple of orders of eggrolls (wonderful!) and spring rolls (very good, though I like my own rather lumpy ones just as well, as far as taste goes). Then we got our main dishes. Several of us, me included, got garlic "chicken," which was very convincing, having the mouthfeel, texture, and taste of real chicken. It did become cloying after half a plate though because the dish included no vegetables. They were much missed.
  Others at the table got a soupy sort of dish called "chicken and rice," which was more varied, and one person got a nori hand roll that was delicious. Yes, I know this isn't Vietnamese, but it was good all the same.
  Richard got a caramel shrimp and pork dish that was absolutely delicious!
  We didn't get any of the special drinks on the menu because the costs were mounting up, but we did spring for a couple of vegan flans at the end of the meal, shared around. Delicious!
  If I ever get back there, I will definitely order the pho,  Vietnamese noodle soup, usually made from offal, assorted parts of the cow and pig, but here obviously not. That dish is supposed to be really wonderful.
  I love discovering "new" ethnic restaurants, and this was an excellent discovery.

Sunday, October 21, 2012

New Gig

  My loyal reader, Marly Youmans, reminds me to tell the world that I have been appointed one of the editors of a journal of science and literature, Slippage. I have already had the opportunity to speak out about the new journal's aesthetic and to make a judgment about some poems. Today I also received a short story and an unidentifiable hybrid. I look forward to learning tons about publishing a journal and am sure that I will gain a new perspective on what it is like to be on the other end of the publishing game. Perhaps this will help me when I send out my own work. Perhaps not...
 But I'll keep you posted on the progress of the journal and will post a link to the first issue!

Weekend Adventures

   My birthday week has opened with some travel. Because there are so few genuine bookstores and poetry venues behind the Orange Curtain, we decided to accept the invitation by a poet friend, Nicelle Davis, author of the chapbook, Circe and editor at Connotation Press, to share her reading up in Ventura, at Bank of Book.
   Ventura is over 100 miles from us, so this would require an overnight stay, but since we hadn't done any travel up the coast in some time, we were up for that. So we booked a stay at a motel with a free breakfast bar and apparently immaculate rooms that was still within our rather meager price range and traveled up the twisted freeway ramps of LA and beyond to Ventura.
   Luckily, it has cooled down quite a lot from last week's 95 plus weather, so the beach wasn't mobbed. We scored parking in a central place and walked to the bookstore, which turned out to carry mostly used books with a few local writers' books of poetry and fiction.
  Unfortunately, the bookstore hadn't publicized the event, so there was no one there except us, Nicelle, her 4 year old son J.J., and 6 of Nicelle's friends, two of whom were the children of her friends. There was really no place to put more people anyhow... just two rather worn sofas and a few folding chairs. Nicelle had made  some chocolate covered cherries, but otherwise, there were no refreshments.
  Nicelle is quite a performer. She sews costumes and brings props to her readings, and this one was no different. Because of the large percentage of children in the audience, she didn't read her own poems, but rather performed Lear's "Owl and the Pussycat," and invited the children to take parts in the performance, which was charming and sweet, particularly one little boy who played the ocean, waving a blue streamer along the floor.
  But she had to spend most of the time pursuing her son during this event, and didn't get to listen to us read our poems.
  Nicelle lives in the desert, in Antelope Valley, and it turns out that she is friends with some old friends of mine who also live and work out there at the community college. It was a pleasure to see them again and to hear one of them read his wonderful poems. Since I last saw him, he has been up to all sorts of adventures and has written 9 books!
  Despite the small turnout, we had a wonderful time, and I sold a couple of books too. The bookstore also took some on consignment and invited me to contact the new store in Malibu to do a reading and signing there. Because that is considerably closer than Ventura, I think there will be more of an audience there, so I will call, as the bookstore manager suggested, in a month or so and sort things out.
  This morning, after a fitful night's sleep, we ate our free breakfast and drove down to the Getty Museum in LA, where we had a wonderful visit. The ride up the hill to the museum on the tram was spectacular, with all of LA below us like a model train village, with its constant flow of traffic inching up and down the roads and nary a person in sight.
  We took a spectacular tour of the museum's highlights, then walked down to the sculpture garden, carefully crafted to offer not only harmony of color and texture, but also olfactory stimulation. The flowers and foliage seemed spectacularly bright, though I think it was mostly the judicious combination of plants and contrast of colors that created this effect. I particularly liked the graceful vase-like  metal vessels that trained bougainvillea plants to grow like trees. I will look for a picture to post here.
  Then we returned home, where I found tons of emails waiting for me.

Friday, October 5, 2012

A Dinner to Remember

   I have always loved Vietnamese cuisine. There are many fine restaurants of that sort in this area, especially up at Little Saigon, where more Southeast Asians reside and have businesses (many of them restaurants) than anywhere in the world outside of Southeast Asia. So maybe that's why I haven't cooked much Vietnamese food at home up to now.
But since we aren't going to restaurants as much as we used to these days (especially since the price of gas has gone up to $4.50 per gallon again as of today in our area, and that's at the cheap place!), I decided to try a dish rather like one we had once at a restaurant and loved.
A friend was coming to dinner. I planned four courses--vegetarian spring rolls with dipping sauce; Vietnamese spinach cooked in the same sauce as the dipping sauce named above; turmeric fish with dill; and banana fritters. Everything was fabulous, though my spring rolls were a bit misshapen.
The meal took a day and a half because of the cutting and chopping, assembling, and cooking. But that aside, I can't really say it was difficult to make, just time consuming.
The fish was so beautiful. I wish I had figured out how to use my new camera (bought at a yard sale a few weeks back) so I could have posted the pic here, but I can describe it.
On an oval black platter, I had covered a bed of thin rice noodles with fresh basil and mint leaves.The fish was filet of sole (very thickly cut), in chunks.These were marinated in a mixture of galangal, finely chopped , turmeric, red pepper powder, garlic, shallots, and a bit of oil. Then I browned some garlic in a half cup of oil, and cooked green onions and white onion wedges in the resulting oil, adding half the chopped dill to that. Then I took that out and browned the fish pieces in the oil. It was slow because there were a lot of pieces and I had to do them a few at a time. And the marinade tended to stick, so it took care not to break the pieces to bits. Then I put the onions/dill together with the fish, added a little fish sauce and the rest of the dill, and it was done. I poured it on top of the noodles, added a bit of chopped peanuts, and dinner was served.
The balance of spices was so good and subtle, I was quite proud of myself, and impressed that the recipe came from online.
The dessert fritters were wonderful too. I cooked them to order because with fried food, that's what had to be done. The halved bananas were coated in the batter, rolled in flour, and fried, becoming creamy. I meant to top it with vanilla frozen yogurt, but I forgot to use it.