Growing up, popsicles always seemed like the sad substitute for ice cream. The one exception to that rule were the creamy paletas we would pick up at the bodega when visiting our family in Mexico. Back home in Texas though, purple, red, and neon orange frozen confections resembled rockets that required licking and furtive patience as you had to work hard not to have them completely melt and drip on your hands during hot summer days. We pushed up on orange creamsicle push-up pops. We nibbled, licked, and slurped our way to the bottom of sundae ice cream cones hoping to find a well of hardened chocolate shell at the bottom like a secret prize. I scorned the Fudge Popsicle, regarding it as a low calorie impostor. I might have still been developing opinions and points of view about subjects in school or summer required reading, but for ice cream I always had an answer ready. I could tell you why one Texas creamery’s Homemade Vanilla tasted best without adornment (an accolade since I couldn’t fathom why people would ever want just plain vanilla). Chocolate always grabbed me in its clutches except when cloked as ice cream and especially figured into fudgesicles. It’s a funny thing—growing up. The world continues to evolve and so do your tastes. A few years ago, it looked dubious that this same Texas creamery would be able to rebound after a production crisis. Or two. It’s strange to see companies that seemed so secure and inevitable during your childhood, companies you would be sure would be around when you have kids and they’re of the age to eat ice cream as summer relief, falter and struggle. Last autumn, while I visited Austin on book tour, I paid a visit to a local grocery store for supplies and there they were, behind doors in the freezer aisle. Gone were the Peaches and Cream. Nowhere to be seen was the Banana Pudding with hunks of vanilla wafers in the frozen custard. Even the stalwart Cookies & Cream with big chunks of chocolate sandwich cookies had flown the coop. Buttercup yellow pints of vanilla cozied up to pink-tinged brown pints of Dutch chocolate. They peered out and looked vulnerable. What once had been several shelves full of the cheering cow logo quarts had been reduced to two types of pints. It struck me as a picture of how in an instant, things can change, even if the instant takes place slowly—what are a few years in the whole of a person’s life but a blip?
Adrenaline courses through me. Even as I tried to shut my eyes for a whole 20 minutes, my mind transported me back to Oaktown Spice Shop and the cooking with tea workshop that I led there tonight. We are on the cusp of my favorite holiday—not the one all wrapped in ghoulish attire, but the one resplendent in gratitude. I am swimming in gratitude right now. It’s keeping my eyes open when they should be shut. Tonight, I met a chocolate maker, a teacher for special ed. students, a podcaster, and oodles of others who shared a kind remark and assisted with panache during the demos. One man told me he can’t remember when he’d had this much fun on a Tuesday night. Another one told me he had found the workshop through the podcast (that’s only a week and a half old!). One woman bought a book for her tea cart-owner mom and had me inscribe it as a gift, eager to share the easy and fun ideas with her. Another woman told me she learned a lot. A man asked me if I had ever wanted to be a teacher. You can’t go to sleep quickly after these kinds of encounters.Continue Reading
The city that scintillates, the one that’s got me all aflutter with a desire to return in a hot minute only to continue to eat my way through it is L.A. While the city of lights typically brings paparazzi for celebrities, all I’m interested in is the exciting food cropping up all across town. Let me explain. Recent events took me to the city of Angels on successive trips. I began learning the puzzle that is LA traffic and figuring out the thoroughfares. What stood out to me on the trips this time: a pervasive multicultural diversity where Mexican might be the main descriptor of cuisine served but then roots down regionally in specifics. Each night, I passed signs for Little Bangladesh. Little Armenia. Good luck finding parking in Koreatown. So, on each trip, each meal felt like an important decision. Could I make it to LEONA from the airport before they closed for lunch? No. Though the hours posted on the door of Baroo reflected they should have been open, a metal gate barring the way turned my smile upside down. Gjelina’s always on the list (though GTA is just fine with me. Sandwich to go, anyone?) And, my rule this time was to try to branch out and go where no fork of mine had gone before. Mostly. Baco is one of my favorite DTLA haunts. Grand Central Market didn’t happen this go-round and my eggslut breakfast sandwich dreams haven’t come true just yet. Someone once told me that Northern Californians are supposed to hate Southern California. So, I guess it’s a good thing that I’m a Texas transplant since Texas means “allies” or “friends.” Just don’t talk baseball. I bleed black and orange. So, here are my favorite spots–what are some of yours?Continue Reading
When I was a kid, my mom occasionally toted me to blind taste tests where we would be paid for our opinions. I remember trying different unmarked hot dogs as a child and giving my opinion on which one tasted best. Even as a child, I was never short on opinions, though I was short. One evening the power in the building extinguished and I could hear a woman let out a blood-curdling cry of, my baby! When the lights went back on, the person behind the scream emerged as a sheepish mother and her seven-year old son red of embarrassment. Years later, my mom and I tell that story of sampling hot dogs punctuated with a blackout and bone-chilling scream and break out into laughter. While working at the tea company, I attended a professional tasting training where they had brought in an expert to teach us the roles of the different parts of our palates and how to better describe what we taste.Continue Reading
One kind of peer pressure I particularly esteem is that of perusing what other kindred spirits online happen to be reading. I had spied this book at an airport bookstore and been easily taken in by its robin’s egg blue hue and the wooden spoon dipped into melted chocolate that drips into a pool below. There’s something so tactile in the image and cheering about the color that I had noted the book for a future read. Then, I began seeing the book in action in Instagram photos. I decided to take the plunge and added it to my summer reading series. I’m so glad I did. Stir: My Broken Brain and the Meals that Brought Me Home by Jessica Fechtor kept me spellbound.Continue Reading