Vermont: Maple Creemees and Common Crackers

Far from the golden hills of California, with endless lush stretches of forest and field, the Green Mountain State lives up to its name. My road trip continues, and this week I find myself heading toward the Northeast Kingdom. Along the way, near the shores of Lake Champlain, I’ve been enjoying two local treats.

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Kansas City BBQ: Oklahoma Joe’s

Coming back to Missouri – the state of my childhood – always means returning to a double life.

While I’ve come to terms with my family’s hyphenated existence here in the Heartland, I’m only just beginning to figure out how to balance the relentless abundance of my mother’s kitchen with the city’s smoky, seductive barbecue.

Asian moms take it personally when you don’t eat their food, even when they make more than you can humanly consume. Leaving Kansas City without eating barbecue, though, is culinary sacrilege. I’ve learned how to fit five full meals into one day, and still I can’t fulfill both my familial responsibilities and the extensive research (“eating”) that my work demands.

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It’s Still Strawberry Season

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As one of my colleagues said the other day, the farmers markets are “lousy with strawberries.” I don’t mind the glut, as my own last meal would be a bowl of strawberries, a taste of life short and sweet.

The best way to eat the fruit is whole, out of hand, one after the other until they’re entirely gone. There are, of course, many ways to gild the lily: strawberries and balsamic vinegar, strawberries and brown sugar, strawberries and red wine, strawberries and cream, strawberry shortcake, strawberries and rhubarb pie….
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Sharing the Sacred: Community Meals at Buddhist and Sikh Temples

It’s been a long time since I’ve worshipped anything beyond dumplings or doughnuts on Sunday mornings, but this weekend I joined Stockton’s Sikh community at their historic temple on Grant Street. The act of sharing food as spiritual devotion has deep roots in many of the world’s religions. At Buddhist temples, serving vegetarian food to the public is a way to raise money for community work. At Sikh temples, offering a meal free to anyone who asks is an act of spiritual generosity mandated by the religion’s founders.
As I research immigrant foodways here in Northern California, I’ve been struck by how temples have emerged as the center of many of these transplanted communities. In the Bay Area, there are many temples where you can experience the intersection of devotional prayers and delicious meals.
Here’s a short list of three worth visiting:
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Old Krakow: Going Out for Home Cooking

My friend was planning to start his 37th year with a proper feast at his favorite restaurant, Old Krakow. Before the call, I was trying to decide what to do with a few random ingredients that were taking up space in my small kitchen: some spotted bananas, some milk chocolate, a bag of toasted hazelnuts, a block of cream cheese. After the call, I pulled out my cake pans and began baking.

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Bob’s Chocolate Banana Birthday Cake included layers of moist banana cake, chocolate ganache filling, sliced fresh bananas, cream cheese frosting and toasted hazelnuts.

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