Dinner by Chance

So it happens like this: you’re wandering the street in a country you just entered in a town where you’ve just arrived, marveling at how this place has grown in the years since you’ve last seen it. You barely recognize a thing. You come to a corner café, and you see the hair, familiar hair. […]

Book Dates! And an Excerpt

A fisherman on the far eastern edge of East Timor. Read about his community in This Way More Better. Dates are very important. Every writer knows this. Every writer I know waits and worries, frets and fusses in a mixed-bag roller-coaster of celebrated anticipation of THE DATE on which her book is published. We want […]

It’s Not Pork

Our friend Rith takes us home to his village, where his auntie cooks soup in a dimly lit kitchen, black from years of use. Little rays of sunlight beam through tiny pinholes in the ceiling. Her thick tamarind cutting board sits on a slat bed, where she chops scallions, basil, culantro and lime. Her pot […]

The Peanut Butter Accident

I believe this is how many memorable recipes are born—of accident, of unintended consequences. As you might know, we received a tajine for Christmas, and I’ve had great fun concocting new dishes. We did well with lamb, apricots, prunes and almonds. We didn’t do so well with chorizo and chickpeas (it wasn’t bad, just not […]

Dining with Dioxin

A fried fish served at a restaurant in Sepon, Laos, near the old Ho Chi Minh Trail, in a region that was sprayed with herbicides during war. In the past seven years of research on unexploded ordnance (UXO) in Laos, we’ve often wondered about the safety of foods we’ve eaten and encountered along the way—the […]

Eggs on Climate Change

As many of you undoubtedly know, world leaders are meeting this week in Durban, South Africa, in another round of climate talks. Meanwhile, last week, Yale Environment 360 reported on the deaths of oyster larvae in the Pacific Northwest. It’s a climate change problem. As humanity pumps more carbon dioxide into the atmosphere, the oceans […]

Two Summer Tastes of Laos

Lao fish with herbs, grilled in banana leaf Happy solstice! Lao food, to me, is synonymous with summer. Even if it’s not summer when you eat it, the flavors will take you to a warm, sunny day. It’s the abundance of fresh herbs, and the heat of those crisp little chiles. It’s the scent of […]

Happy Earth Day! Go Sour.

Fresh ingredients for Cambodian sour fish soup. Happy Earth Day! Unfortunately, I’m not feeling overjoyed about the state of our planet. For months, I’ve buried my head deep into research on the many injurious things we do to Mother Earth. My plate, of late, includes everything from CAFOs to fracking, fertilizer runoff, flame retardants, E. […]

Misako’s Japanese Kitchen

Misako in her kitchen, Shobu, Japan, 2000 I’ve lost track of Misako. It happens, you know—we’re close to people for a short while, and then we grow apart because of distance, work, family or the natural passage of time. Eleven years ago, I stayed in Misako’s home and I explored Japan through an Oregon Sister […]