Friday, October 18, 2013

#FridayReads: At Night We Walk in Circles: A Novel by Daniel Alarcon

Out at the end of the month:


At Night We Walk in Circles: A Novel by Daniel Alarcon  is described as a breakout book from a prizewinning young writer: a breathtaking, suspenseful story of one man’s obsessive search to find the truth of another man’s downfall:

Nelson’s life is not turning out the way he hoped. His girlfriend is sleeping with another man, his brother has left their South American country, leaving Nelson to care for their widowed mother, and his acting career can’t seem to get off the ground. That is, until he lands a starring role in a touring revival of The Idiot President, a legendary play by Nelson’s hero, Henry Nunez, leader of the storied guerrilla theater troupe Diciembre. And that’s when the real trouble begins.

The tour takes Nelson out of the shelter of the city and across a landscape he’s never seen, which still bears the scars of the civil war. With each performance, Nelson grows closer to his fellow actors, becoming hopelessly entangled in their complicated lives, until, during one memorable performance, a long-buried betrayal surfaces to force the troupe into chaos.


Nelson’s fate is slowly revealed through the investigation of the narrator, a young man obsessed with Nelson’s story—and perhaps closer to it than he lets on. In sharp, vivid, and beautiful prose, Alarcón delivers a compulsively readable narrative and a provocative meditation on fate, identity, and the large consequences that can result from even our smallest choices.


English: Writer Daniel Alarcón at the Mercanti...
 (Photo: Wikipedia)
Daniel Alarcón is author of the critically-acclaimed story collection War by Candlelight, and the novel Lost City Radio, winner of the 2009 International Literature Prize. His writing has appeared in Granta, n+1, and Harper’s, and he has been named one of The New Yorker’s “20 Under 40.” Alarcón is Executive Producer of Radio Ambulante, a Spanish-language storytelling podcast, and he lives in San Francisco

Wednesday, October 16, 2013

Mami's Beef Stew (A Tale of Puerto Rican Carne Guisada & Yearning)

I've been working on restoring my blogroll, an index of all my favorite sites and blogs, happily rejoicing at the tenacity of some which I've been following for years and others whom I had thought had stopped.

Lately, I am uncertain if it's the autumnal change or what, but I've been feeling melancholic and craving time with my mother and siblings. Longing for simpler times when life was less hectic and perhaps, I am romancing the stone a bit but I've been missing times when I worried less and enjoyed more freely.

Sometimes I yearn for dishes that I can only taste in my memories, made by my Mother's hand and therefore, unreplicable. Dishes like Gazpacho de Bacalao with a loaf of fresh Italian baked bread, or Patitas de Cerdo con Garbanzos, or Gandinga, that cannot be ordered from a restaurant or entrusted to just anyone.

The other day, searching for a Carne Guisada (Puerto Rican Beef Stew) recipe that seemed similar to my Mom's, I came across an old blog favorite, Platanos, Mangoes and Me. Norma dedicates the post to her mom and you can clearly feel the love and loss in this post. It's interesting how a food or an olfactory sensation can trigger such powerful memories and feelings.

I started making the recipe and from the instant I started seasoning the cubed meat to let it marinate, I was taken back to my mom's kitchen, sights and sounds.

Instantly, I was sitting on the counter in our old tenement, East Harlem apartment kitchen, legs so short, they dangled off the counter, watching my mom, carefully adding, tasting and stirring - Every once in a while, giving me a taste or having me help with a small task. That's how I learned to cook, watching my mom, make ordinary things into spectacular dishes that often spellbound even our neighbors. My mom's cooking was and still is legendary.

I called her up to ask if it was okay to substitute sweet potato instead of potatoes or yautia and had a good chuckle when she told me, "no way." I happily trekked off to the supermarket wound the corner and came back to work on my stew. Once I browned the meat, I threw the rest of the ingredients in and just left the frozen peas and carrots out till the end. I simmered it for 3 hours all the time, captivated by the smell wafting through the house. It was like I had conjured, literally conjured my mom's spirit and brought her to me.

When my boyfriend came home, he was elated the minute he walked through the door and exclaimed how good it smelled. I felt my heart swell because I, too, remember vividly, coming in from the cold walk back from school and being engulfed by the lovely, decadent smell of my Mami's cooking.

The stew which I served with steamed multi-grain rice was delicious, according to my boyfriend and official taste tester, who went back for seconds. I thought so too.

Here's the recipe I used and a photo below.


Friday, October 11, 2013

#FridayReads: Hunting Season: Immigration and Murder in an All-American Town By Mirta Ojito

Library Reads describes Hunting Season: Immigration and Murder in an All-American Town By Mirta Ojito, as a book which, "chronicles the events leading up to the 2008 murder of an undocumented Ecuadorian immigrant on Long Island, detailing the reactions of family and community members, government officials, civic leaders and public library staff. A nuanced and in-depth look at hate crimes, and a powerful story that deserves to be told.”

The true story of an immigrant's murder that turned a quaint village on the Long Island shore into ground zero in the war on immigration 

In November 2008, Marcelo Lucero, a thirty-seven-year-old undocumented Ecuadorean immigrant, was attacked and murdered by a group of teenagers as he walked the streets of the Long Island village of Patchogue accompanied by a childhood friend. The attackers were out “hunting for beaners.” Chasing, harassing, and assaulting defenseless “beaners”—their slur for Latinos—was part of their weekly entertainment, some of the teenagers later confessed. Latinos—primarily men and not all of them immigrants—have become the target of hate crimes in recent years as the nation wrestles with swelling numbers of undocumented immigrants, the suburbs become the newcomers’ first destination, and public figures advance their careers by spewing anti-immigration rhetoric. 

Lucero, an unassuming worker at a dry cleaner’s, became yet another victim of anti-immigration fever. In the wake of his death, Patchogue was catapulted into the national limelight as this formerly unremarkable suburb of New York became ground zero in the war on immigration. In death, Lucero became a symbol of everything that was wrong with our broken immigration system: fewer opportunities to obtain visas to travel to the United States, porous borders, a growing dependency on cheap labor, and the rise of bigotry. 

Drawing on firsthand interviews and on-the-ground reporting, journalist Mirta Ojito has crafted an unflinching portrait of one community struggling to reconcile the hate and fear underlying the idyllic veneer of their all-American town. With a strong commitment to telling all sides of the story, Ojito unravels the engrossing narrative with objectivity and insight, providing an invaluable look at one of America’s most pressing issues. 

Mirta "Ojito has received several awards, including the American Society of Newspaper Editor's writing award for best foreign reporting in 1999 for her stories about life in Cuba, and a shared Pulitzer for national reporting in 2001 for a New York Times series about race in America. She is a graduate of Florida Atlantic University and of the mid-career master's degree program at Columbia University’s Graduate School of Journalism, where she now works as a full time assistant professor. You can tweet her @MirtaOjito

Start reading!

Wednesday, October 09, 2013

Author & Educator, Jose Vilson, on Fatherhood

I recently asked fellow blogger, Jose Vilson (@TheJLV), his thoughts on Machismo, Fatherhood and the how the transition into becoming a "family man" changes you as person.

Here's Jose in his words:

Fatherhood isn't just a badge or something that happens when our children are born. It's a way of life. 

When my child was first born, and he shook the room with his first cries, I knew I was in for an awesome life-long journey. Within the first few days, he already peed on me, vomited on me, and pooped on me, which was a lesson in humility. It's as if a divine spirit said, "The things you thought would normally offend you are a natural part of your baby's growth. Love him anyways." So I did, and then some. Within the first few months, you're inundated with sleepless nights, diaper changes, and multiple places for your baby's sleep, including the couch, your bed, his bed, your leg, your chest, and anywhere else that the baby deems soft.

The Vilson Family (Courtesy of Jose Vilson)
When people say, "Everything changes," and it's absolutely true. I push myself harder to do right in everything I do because I have a child now, and the stakes are higher. Having a child means my schedule revolve around my son now. Gone are the days of spontaneous happy hours and movie premieres. Yet, I'm glad I gave it up for the running around, the laughter, and Mickey Mouse Clubhouse viewings. I find myself doing Dora the Explorer impressions because my son thinks it's funny.

The thing I've noticed with my fatherhood is that I didn't have my father growing up too much. I saw him on average once a year. While I've come to peace with his role in my life, I also know I wanted to do better. Being there for my son, even when I have to handle other responsibilities, is priority #1. He doesn't have too many words in his vocabulary, but making sure he knows I love him. He has lots to learn, and I'll be there for those lessons.

He has a great mother, and I appreciate the way she loves and cares for him. What I needed to do is create a new fatherhood, one that I hadn't seen before, and that would match what she was trying to do and then some.  It's a beautiful thing and I'd never turn back the clock on any of this experience.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Jose Vilson is a math educator, writer, and activist in a New York City public school. You can find more of his writing at thejosevilson.com and his book, This Is Not A Test, will be released in the spring of 2014.

José Vilson writes about race, class, and education through stories from the classroom and researched essays. His rise from rookie math teacher to prominent teacher leader takes a twist when he takes on education reform through his now-blocked eponymous blog, TheJoseVilson.com. He calls for the reclaiming of the education profession while seeking social justice.

Friday, October 04, 2013

#FridayReads: Darling: A Spiritual Autobiography by Richard Rodriguez

An award–winning writer delivers a major reckoning with religion, place, and sexuality in the aftermath of 9/11

Hailed in The Washington Post as “one of the most eloquent and probing public intellectuals in America,” Richard Rodriguez now considers religious violence worldwide, growing public atheism in the West, and his own mortality.


Rodriguez’s stylish new memoir—the first book in a decade from the Pulitzer Prize finalist—Darling, moves from Jerusalem to Silicon Valley, from Moses to Liberace, from Lance Armstrong to Mother Teresa. Rodriguez is a homosexual who writes with love of the religions of the desert that exclude him. 

He is a passionate, unorthodox Christian who is always mindful of his relationship to Judaism and Islam because of a shared belief in the God who revealed himself within an ecology of emptiness. And at the center of this book is a consideration of women—their importance to Rodriguez’s spiritual formation and their centrality to the future of the desert religions.

Only a mind as elastic and refined as Rodriguez’s could bind these threads together into this wonderfully complex tapestry. Richard Rodriguez is a journalist, essayist, and author whose books include Days of Obligation, Brown, and Hunger of Memory. He is a contributor to Harper’s Magazine, Mother Jones, the Los Angeles Times, and Time. He lives in San Francisco.

Wednesday, October 02, 2013

So Saucy! 7 Favorite Latino Sauces (Recipes)

From Mexico to Argentina, Latinos use a variety of sauces to add spice and sazón to our favorite dishes. But these sauces just wouldn’t be the same without the chile peppers and spices that give them their distinct flavor.

Here are seven great sauces for you to pair with your next meal, I dare you! Who's up for the challenge?

Sauce and Pepper: 7 of our Favorite Latino Sauces
Explore more infographics like this one on the web's largest information design community - Visually.

Colombian Aji Picante via SkinnyTaste
 Servings: 20 • Size: 1 tbsp Calories: 3.2 • Fat: 0 g • Protein: 0.2 g • Carb: 0.8 g • Fiber: 0.2 g

 Ingredients:
 4 large scallions
1 tomato
1-2 small habanero pepper (scotch bonnet pepper would work)
1/2 bunch cilantro
juice of 1 lime
1 tsp vinegar
1 oz water
salt and fresh pepper

Directions: Place all ingredients in a small food processor and pulse a few times.

 Salsa a la Huancaína altered from South American Food

 Prep Time: 15 minutes Cook Time: 5 minutes Total Time: 20 minutes

 Ingredients:
 4 tablespoons coconut oil
1/2 cup chopped onion
3-4 yellow aji amarillo chile peppers (frozen is fine), or 1/2 cup jarred aji amarillo paste
2 cloves garlic, mashed
2 cups white farmer's cheese (queso freso)
4 (low sodium) saltine crackers
3/4 cup almond milk
Salt and pepper to taste

Arbol Chile Salsa
Salsa de Chile de Arbol via Rick Bayless

akes about 1 3/4 cups

Recipe from Season 6 of Mexico - One Plate at a Time

INGREDIENTS
1/2 ounce (about 16) chile de arbol
6 large garlic cloves, unpeeled
1 pound (10 to 12 medium) tomatillos, husked and rinsed
Salt
Sugar, about 1/2 teaspoon (optional)

DIRECTIONS
1.  Toast and roast.  In an ungreased skillet set over medium heat, toast the chiles, stirring them around for a minute or so until they are very aromatic (some will have slightly darkened spots on them). Cover with hot tap water and let rehydrate for 30 minutes.

In the same skillet, roast the garlic, turning regularly, until soft and blotchy-dark in places, about 15 minutes. Cool and slip off the papery skin.

Roast the tomatillos on a baking sheet 4 inches below a very hot broiler until darkly roasted, even blackened in spots, about 5 minutes. Flip them over and roast the other side - 4 or 5 minutes more will give you splotchy-black and blistered tomatillos. Cool, then transfer the contents of the baking sheet (including any juices) to a blender or food processor.

2.  Finish the salsa.  Drain the chiles and add them to the tomatillos along with the garlic. Puree, then scrape into a serving dish. Stir in enough water to give the salsa a spoonable consistency, usually about 1/4 cup. Season with salt, usually a scant teaspoon, and the sugar. Refrigerated, the salsa keeps for several days.

Spicy Chilean Pebre Recipe via Cheap Recipe Blog
For a knock-your-socks-off, extra-spicy sauce, use two jalapeños with seeds. If you're not fond of spicy foods, use half of a jalapeño or less, or substitute green pepper.

ingredients:
1 cup tightly packed cilantro leaves
1 to 2 jalapeños (see note above)
3 cloves of garlic, crushed
Juice from one lime
1 tablespoon white vinegar
Pinch of sea salt
1 tablespoon olive oil

directions:
Place all ingredients except for olive oil in a blender or food processor. Pulse until smooth. Stream in olive oil.
Serve chilled (see serving suggestions above).

Molho Apimentado (Malagueta Hot Sauce) via Fiery Foods

Makes 1 cup
1 red onion, minced
2 medium ripe tomatoes, seeded and diced
1 green bell pepper, seeded, white membrane removed, minced
¼ cup sherry vinegar
¼ cup olive (or coconut) oil
2 (or more to taste) malagueta peppers or green bird chies, stems and seeds removed, minced

Place all ingredients in a good food processor or blender and puree. Add water if necessary to adjust the consistency.

George Duran's Guasacaca Recipe via Venezuelan food and drinks

Ingredients:
1 medium onion, roughly chopped
2 green sweet peppers, seeded, deveined, and roughly chopped
2 ripe avocados, peeled and seeded
2 cloves garlic
Half a bunch of fresh parsley leaves
Half a bunch fresh cilantro leaves
A third cup red wine vinegar
1 tablespoon salt, or to taste
Pinch of black pepper
1 cup olive (or coconut) oil

Preparation:
Put everything except the olive oil into a food processor and process until mostly smooth. Add the olive oil in a stream with the processor running and process until smooth. Let stand at room temperature for at least 1 hour for the flavors to blend. Taste and adjust seasoning. Serve sauce at room temperature with meats, fish, or vegetable chips. If made in advance, store, covered, in the refrigerator, but bring to room temperature before serving.

Chimichurri

SERVES 4

INGREDIENTS
1 packed cup fresh flat-leaf parsley leaves
¾ packed cup fresh cilantro leaves
¼ packed cup fresh oregano leaves
¼ cup red wine vinegar
6 cloves garlic
½ jalapeño, stemmed
Salt and freshly ground white pepper
½ cup plus 2 tbsp. extra-virgin olive (or coconut) oil

In a food processor, combine the parsley, cilantro, oregano, vinegar, garlic, jalapeño, 2 tsp. salt, and ½ tsp. pepper. While pulsing the food processor, drizzle in ½ cup of the oil until the mixture becomes a creamy yet slightly coarse sauce.

Let me know how many of these you try and which you like the best in the comments below

 
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