Weekend reading for Deep Dish

Hey, Chicago SF/F folks. The SLF’s next Deep Dish reading is on Saturday March 14th — we’re trying a weekend reading! We have most of our line-up, including featured reader Sue Burke, but have room for 1-2 more featured readers — these are typically authors who have a book coming out soon, or have had one come out in the last year.

If this is you, and you’d like to read with us that day (or on a future date), please get in touch with series co-host Chris Bauer, chris_bauer@comcast.net. Thanks!

A last minute grant application

That feeling when your little baby nonprofit is applying for its first grant, and you meant to get everything done in good time, but were waylaid by a terrible, horrible, no good, very bad cold, not to mention alarums and excursions at the children’s school necessitating many serious conversations and a whole lot of extra driving, and then your spouse is felled by the selfsame cold, and so you call to ask on the day of the deadline whether a wee little extension might be possible, and are informed sadly, no, it is not, that the grant very much does have to absolutely be in by 11:45 p.m. today, so sorry, and today is a day with rolling deadlines and urgent appointments and you do have a day job (and the students are e-mailing asking about FRIDAY’S assignment, and don’t they understand that it is only TUESDAY now, and we have a WHOLE CLASS between now and Friday), so you finally get to working on the grant in your first free minutes of the day, at 10 p.m. at night, thinking well, this won’t take very long, because you’re mostly just checking over other peoples’ good work, but it turns out that you don’t have access to the file (and yes, this is one reason why I often curse Google & its shared docs), but thank all the gods and little fishes that the owner of the file is awake, and has put her munchkins to bed, and is back on the computer checking if you need anything else and can give you access, and then between the two of you, you manage to find all the little things that need to be fixed (it turned out that the attachments she uploaded previously didn’t get saved in the application, so she had to upload them all again), and at 11:41, you read the message from her that it’s done, it’s in, you can both go to bed (and get up at 7 a.m. with the kiddos up and out the door to school)…



Naming things is HARD

We are having serious naming difficulties for this comic. So we want a name that exemplifies the comic and is available as a URL (that is ideally easy to say, remember, and type).

The basic setting of the comic is Adventure Town — a village of retired adventurers, who are sort of like a tourist trap? They live on the crossroads between various dangerous realms, and adventurers are always coming through, seeking their fortune, and the villagers are happy to feed them, put them up for the night, sell them gear and maps that are guaranteed to lead them to the very best treasure, or your money back (assuming you survive). The overall tone is light and sardonic.

The problem is that Adventure Town is a) too close to Adventure Time as a name, and a) not available anyway. Adventure Village isn’t great either. And apparently Margaret and I just suck at naming, as we haven’t come up with ANYTHING decent, never mind the URL issues. Brainstorming help???


On being less avoidant

I’ve started working on the writing thing that I’ve been avoidant about for weeks and weeks and I don’t know why I was avoidant OR why I’ve finally started. (Maybe I just ran out of plausible ways to procrastinate?)

It seemed much bigger than it actually was, PER USUAL. But even if it were actually as big as it seemed, I could have written it, oh, TWENTY TIMES in the time I’ve spent avoiding it.

Also, today I finally called that therapist I’ve been meaning to call (FOR MONTHS) and told her I thought I maybe could use some help working through strategies for being less avoidant. Onward to scheduling an actual appointment with her.

Exciting news! Little America

So, this is pretty exciting news. I’m going to be featured in this book, _Little America_, coming out March 17th. (Just two weeks after my Sri Lankan cookbook comes out, coincidentally enough.) Subtitle: “Incredible True Stories of Immigrants in America.”

It was a LONG process getting here. First they contacted me. Then they did hours and hours and hours of phone interviews. I mean, I really think I did at least 5 hours’ worth of interviews, over the course of a month or so. I’d answer their questions, they’d go away, and then they’d come back with more questions.

At one point, Roshani and I were actually at Geetha’s Foods in the city, picking up Sri Lankan groceries, and I ended up talking to these folks for half an hour in the parking lot, pacing around, trying to remember details from college (which was a very very long time ago).

What’s amazing about that is that the end result after all those interviews will be quite short — I think just about a page or so of text. I haven’t seen it yet, but I am hoping I didn’t say anything too dumb. They’re sending me a copy in the mail. Eep.

(They also did a photo shoot at my house. I don’t know what picture they decided to use. I haven’t actually seen any of the photos. What if I look terrible? Gah.)

The book is actually connected to a TV thing that’s launching this Friday, i.e. tomorrow, January 17. Now, don’t get too excited — I’m not on TV! They’re doing a series of episodes inspired by the series of interviews they published on their website originally. I loved those original interviews, which is why I agreed to be interviewed for the book, and I’m looking forward to checking out the TV thing.

It’ll mean getting the Apple TV+ channel, but Jed keeps telling me that For All Mankind (which is only on there) is his favorite show, so my plan is to do the 7-day free trial, check out the Little America episode, and then binge For All Mankind. 


“Everyone here came from somewhere else. Even Native Americans crossed the Bering Strait at some point. This is the basic American idea — an identity open to all — but it can be easy to forget from inside. And that’s when politics can turn ugly, as it has recently, with our political narrative becoming a story of blame and fear. “Little America” is meant to counter that narrative with a fuller portrait of our most recent arrivals. Here we present just a few stories. You’ll meet a woman who kissed a car for 50 hours. A man who escaped communism via zip-line. A Hindu Mayor of a small Kansas town. These stories are a small, collective portrait of America’s immigrants. And thereby a portrait of America itself.”

More about the book: https://www.mcdbooks.com/books/little-america

Original magazine pieces you can read right now (Usha Reddi, the Indian American mayor in Kansas is v. cool, for example) — http://epicmagazine.com/littleamerica/

The Little America TV series launching tomorrow: https://apple-tv-plus-press.apple.com/…/ori…/little-america/

For All Mankind: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/For_All_Mankind_(TV_series)




(Russell Galen, fyi.)

On food writing

I’m reading through The Best American Food Writing 2019, edited by Samin Nosrat, whom you know I adore. So far, it’s not quite what I expected. Five pieces in, we have:

– a little funny piece about how we describe food, v. cute: “Imagine the agony of a ghost who is too nice to haunt anyone properly, and yet he tries and tries and tries for all of eternity. If you captured his flop sweat in a jar and put it under a heat lamp, it would turn — unfortunately — into the fermented dairy drink kefir.”

– a long, excellent, reported piece about the biggest irrigated farmers in the world (the couple who own POM Wonderful and many many nut groves) and who owns / controls water in California; really nuanced portrayal of their lives and the complexity of their attempts at philanthropy / sense of noblesse oblige with their mostly undocumented Hispanic workers

– a poetic, emotional piece about the eggs the author is no longer able to eat, connecting obliquely to her Nigerian culture

– another reported piece about the subtlety of heirloom Mexican beans, how one should cook them (very simply), and why it’s a struggle making them profitable, even though they’re now coveted by high end chefs and bean conoisseurs

– an examination of Finland’s exceedingly salty licorice, with some cultural analysis thrown in

They’re….hmm….more analytical than I was expecting, I think? More restrained? And I’m not sure if that’s reflecting Nosrat’s editing style and selections based on her taste, or if I’m just not familiar with what’s typically in this series; I might have to jump back a few volumes to compare.

But it’s a very far cry from the kinds of writing you see in most food blogs, to be certain (which often have a sort of breathless enthusiasm and fondness for adjectives), and even from anthologies like Eat Joy, which I finished a month or so ago. Maybe it’s a New Yorker thing? (Several of these pieces were originally published there.) There’s definitely a sense that Nosrat and these writers mostly move in a different world than I do, a world utterly immersed in professional food.

Roshani and I have been talking a lot lately about food writing, and the thing is, even though I’ve written a cookbook, and have a host of food-related essays in the works, I’m not sure I’m actually a food writer.

I’m…something else, I think, that intersects at times with food. A memoirist, perhaps? A cultural…not critic, exactly. Not translator. Something I’m having trouble finding a word for. Synthesist?

But I don’t think you’re going to see me writing a long reported piece anytime soon, or going deep into a specific ingredient, like onions, no matter how much I love them. That kind of food obsessiveness isn’t where my passion lies, though I can appreciate it in others. It’s a nice place to visit.

At SALA, my friend Nalini told me that she thought my writing was about…hmmm…I don’t know that I remember what she said, exactly. Lowering artificial barriers? Something like that. It rung true, whether I’m talking about being bi & poly, or about cooking unfamiliar food (or just cooking being an unfamiliar practice to you), or about letting your garden go a little wild…

Well. I’ll keep reading. We’ll see.

Grant deadlines

Sigh — I just went to apply for some grants, and realized that at some point in the last few months, they’d changed their deadlines. Which is fine, but is a reminder that I need to probably check this sort of thing monthly or so, given how arts organizations are.

And I say this as someone who runs an arts organization that gives out grants and that JUST changed its deadlines for one of them — we’re going to send out a press release to our newsletter with that information, and post it on our website, social media, etc., but I know we’ll miss some people, and that’s just the way of it.

Just in general, I’m not applying for enough grants, I know. Hardly any. If you were me, what would you apply for? Help? 


Seattle: Dinner at Wild Ginger

Dinner at Wild Ginger in Seattle with the Sri Lankan panelists for MLA. Funniest part — none of us thought the food was spicy enough, so we asked for some hot sauce.


They brought us a bowl of delicious house-made sambal. Perfect. Then we finished the bowl. So we asked for another one. Then we finished that bowl. We contemplated asking for a third one…but we were pretty stuffed by that point, so decided the leftovers would be okay without.

But as the person who ate the leftovers the next morning, we should’ve gotten the third bowl too. 

Good food (particularly liked the sea bass appetizer), best company. Could’ve talked with them for hours and hours and hours more. Thanks, Dinidu Karunanayake for organizing us.

Much love, Dinidu, Maryse Jayasuriya, husband Brian Yothers (who was the first to ask for more sambal), Sugi Ganeshananthan, and SJ Sindu. Come to Chicago ANYTIME. I will host you and feed you and try to set up something at my university so people can see how awesome you all are.

(My mango-lemonade soda with chili *was* appropriately spicy and also delicious, btw.)