dont feel bad, it’s the best food I ever had.

Saturday, June 5th, 2010


Major former-vegetarian confession coming: Grilled duck is fucking delicious.

It’s succulent, tender and juicy as hell.

A brief history of my foodieism: My life-long vegetarianism started as a general dislike of meat. As a kid I pushed the pot roast around my plate, horrified by the smallest glisten of fat, until incurring sufficient sympathy to be excused to pour a bowl of cereal.

As an adult, every piece of animal product tasted wrong to me, and I went vegan. Living in both San Francisco and Portland, I ate (and loved) homemade veggie burgers and oven-baked sweet potato fries and avocado salads. I checked labels and asked too many questions at restaurants.

And slowly it became no longer a simple preference of taste, but an environmental clearance. The raising of farm animals, the long transport routes, the packaging. To me, it equaled a seriously negative footprint.

But with this stance came a catch I repeated endlessly: If I lived in a place where eating meat was sustainable, I’d do it without another thought.

Fast forward to life in SE Asia, and it was time to make the change. Practice what I preached. Love the duck. Chew the fat.

I hesitated for a moment at my first blood soup and my first fish belly, but in the end, everything about the way we eat here is sustainable. I watch my eggs be collected, my chickens die, my fruits fall from the tree.

I eat organs and suck bones dry.

Because here, nothing is wasted. What we eat is a part of who we are and how we live. Everything is connected in an integral way that benefits our health, the stability of the land, the success of the crops and the vibrant, communal, food-driven culture.

Now in Asia, I chew that fat with pride.

build the death planes, that build all the bombs.

Tuesday, May 25th, 2010


I say Am-ree-kah, and he taps his fingers on the bomb, flashes a big toothless grin at me.

Am-ree-kah! Am-ree-kah war! he says.

Outside the restaurant where he works, we’ve been talking for a while in an effective mix of Lao and body language–talking about my job, his family, and this country that we both love so much.

But when he asks where I’m from, I hesitate. The truth won’t hurt him. He’s Lao and in accordance to his intrinsic Lao nature, he will like me no matter what.

It will hurt me.

In this country that I have come to adore, to call my home, there is a painful and violent US led history that is ever present and always shocking. It’s in restaurants and guest houses as bombs-turned-flower-planters. In the countryside as UXO warning signs. On the body of my friend’s father–bullet wounds from his days in the secret army.

For nine straight years a bomb hit Laos every eight minutes, 24 hours a day; it is the most bombed country in the history of the world.

And outside the restaurant, my new friend remembers everything. Vividly. It wrecked havoc in his home province and instilled in him a fear of the sky. It stole family members and sent a neighboring H’mong village into exile.

He remembers everything about a war that most have never heard of, a brutal facet of the Vietnam War that we’ve tried fiercely to hide, a covert invasion hidden from the American people, cloaked in obscurity and denial.

An unknown country, a disguised agenda, a secret army. An entire people forever changed by those nine endless years.

Here, everything about that mysterious war is real. And when I say that word, Am-ree-kah, the secret is always out.