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Interlude: On Tour, Part 2
When things got hard, interesting, and surpassed my wildest dreams.
Sunday, September 17
We drive to Baltimore for the 3 p.m. event at Red Emma’s, a vegan and worker-owned cafe and bookstore where I’ll be speaking with multidisciplinary food artist Krystal C. Mack. We’re early, so have some lunch (falafel salad for me) and browse the bookstore, where I pick out a huge stack to buy: books by Alejandra Oliva, Chris Kraus, Michelle Tea, Annie Ernaux; Black Marxism; Edward Said’s Culture and Imperialism… Suffice to say, the selection is up my and Israel’s alley. I’d wanted to visit the space for years and never made it: Finally, I’m here, at a new, large space where they’ve bought the building.
Red Emma’s has a clear and well-supported universal masking policy, with free masks available when you walk in. This is a great situation: I’ve been testing regularly, but I haven’t known how to address the situation at events where I’m a guest. It’s a relief to be in a space where there’s clarity for all. As there’s a current surge, more spaces hosting events might want to take a page from their book.
The event is so well-attended and fun, despite cloudy skies and the threat of rain. Krystal asked wonderful questions, fresh questions, deep questions! And gave me a gift of pawpaws, which I’d never gotten to taste before. We drank Rishi turmeric ginger tea. I met so many folks, again, who I’d known in past lives or online. It being a Sunday, most restaurants were closed, so we ended up having pizza at Paulie Gee’s. Pizza will be an ongoing book tour theme.
Monday, September 18
We’re in D.C. and determined to see some sights. The sights end up being the museum of American history, because I want to see Julia Child’s kitchen. We end up surprised by the extensive (if a bit tepid, of course) presence of Puerto Rico in their Latinx exhibit.
For some reason, we haven’t eaten all morning (another theme of the book tour), so I take to Google Maps and notice a location of The Smith nearby—it’ll do! I eat a roasted cauliflower sandwich with pickles that calls itself bahn mi but is on ciabatta so that’s not at all what it is.
After lunch, it’s onto the National Gallery of Art and then the Hirshhorn, briefly before they close, to see the Barbara Kruger and Laurie Anderson exhibits—I adore them both and it’s a nice surprise to get to see their work here.
We get dressed for my Bold Fork event and head up to the shop, where our friend Vanessa García Polanco is waiting outside the next door grocery shop Each Peach Market with snacks. (“Is this what they call a shoppy-shop?” I ask, and here I show that were I still a copy editor, I’d suggest a hyphen for the concept.) We pick out some of our own (the housemade hummus, olive oil crackers) and sit to chat. Vanessa is graciously stepping in as my convo partner, as chef Rob Rubba sadly got sick.
I spy at Bold Fork’s outdoor discount cart a Two Fat Ladies cookbook and Madeleine Kamman’s The Making of a Cook, which I immediately pick up, and then find inside they carry Opinel knives—my favorite everyday knives—and get myself a little red pocket knife. People are coming in so we begin to mingle: the writer Cameron Steele, who’s become a friend; a former student; a great reader of this newsletter; a scholar I adore; and so many others. It’s truly such a lovely crowd! We had a great conversation—I got to talk so much about writing in this one!
Folks expect us to rally and go somewhere great to eat after the signing is finished. We go back to the hotel and order mediocre Chinese takeout.
Tuesday, September 19
This is the hardest day of the tour by far. Originally intended as a leisurely travel day between D.C. and Boston, instead we have to be on time to my 4 p.m. MIT seminar with the Knight Science Journalism fellows and 6 p.m. Pepín lecture at Boston University. It’s impossible, actually!
All I’ve eaten all day are Date Better peanut butter crunch dates (so good!) and I’m dehydrated from not wanting to have to use the bathroom. I end up changing in the backseat of the car, doing my makeup in the visor mirror, and rushing into MIT in the knick of time, without any time to spare to set up the slideshow I spent my flight preparing.
I was so nervous to talk to these fantastically smart folks, but they were receptive to my discussion of how I use research on behavior change around food to inform my work, as well as why I think lifestyle journalism and science journalism have so much to learn from each other with more overlap (I’ll publish the talk and slides here next Monday). The conversation was invigorating, hopefully on both sides!
Then things got rocky. I assumed wrongly that 45 minutes would be sufficient time to get from MIT to BU, based on the map, but that timeline assumed we would’ve left the car at the hotel and traveled by foot. The traffic at this time was insurmountable, and we didn’t know where to park. I ended up about 20 minutes late, shedding tears in the interim, but everyone understood the situation.
I rush through my talk—an expanded version of my LitHub Craft of Writing essay, about how women’s literary criticism influenced the structure of the book—and then take questions. I love a food studies crowd, of course! Someone does refer to my talk as a “spiel,” though, and I’ll be haunted by it for the rest of my life. (She had a good critique of my somewhat flippant use of the phrase “radical act,” and I’ll be using this critique in edits on the talk/essay! Because I want to publish it later this year.)
Afterwards, embarrassed by the lateness and exhausted by the day, we go to the hotel and decide to just eat at its ground floor restaurant. The food (including pizza) is serviceable and the cocktails good! We make conversation with our wonderful server, Charlie, who gave us a handwritten list of recommendations and turned out to be a former Twitter follower of mine. Israel, being himself, goes to get a copy of the book to give him. Then we go up to the room with some Lambrusco, watch Seinfeld, and pass out—but not before I do a search on the hotel restaurant and find reports of toxic kitchen behavior on behalf of the chef-partner, which is sadly unsurprising.
Wednesday, September 20
It’s the last official day of the tour and we are slow to get out of bed. I get a sudden burst of energy that enables me to build last Friday’s paid subscriber post and attempt to organize our luggage; Israel steams our clothes for the day and the next day’s travel to Montreal.
We finally get it together to get out of the hotel and go looking for espresso. We find it eventually at Bow Market, a brewery and cafe called Remnant, and it turns out this is where Rebel Rebel and Wild Child—the space where the evening’s event will be—are located. I get to meet some of the team and also obtain a good cold brew. We then are on our way to Koshari Mama for a lunch with some of the Beacon Press team and local indie booksellers. (More than half of the book’s sales are at indies! I’m so proud of this.) I eat a falafel bowl and drink another cup of Rishi turmeric ginger tea. That tea, falafel, and pizza are the sponsors of the book tour.
Afterwards, we stop into the hotel to dress for the event, then head back to Bow Market, where we meet up with folks from America’s Test Kitchen and Eater Boston for some wine and snacks at Rebel Rebel. It’s so cool to hear more about how food media works in Boston: I realize it’s weird I went from New York, the center of it, to San Juan.
Before the event, I chitchat a bunch with Andrew Janjigian of Wordloaf (he brought me a loaf!), get to meet his lovely wife, and then sit down for the chat with Marie-Louise Friedland, Wild Child’s education lead and a student in the BU food studies program. We start at 6:15 p.m. because the traffic is so bad—this makes me feel a bit better about being late to my own lecture (as does the fact that everyone who lives in Boston laughs at me when I say I thought 45 minutes would be enough time at rush hour to go from MIT to BU).
It’s a lovely, wide-ranging chat and the questions get into some interesting spaces around labor, tipping, settler-colonialism, and false narratives around the limits of individual choices as a driver of social change.
We mingle afterwards and I meet so many lovely folks, including one who told me she used one of my recipes to bake her wedding cake and another who’s doing a gluten-free version of my wedding cake! A reader from Maine, Hilary, gives me a collage bookmark she made, not knowing I also make collages as a way of forcing myself to think and see without words. Charlie, our server from the night prior, comes by with his girlfriend and with some other friends, we move over to Nook for a cocktail. It’s a good end to what was a tumultuous time in Boston. And I love that we randomly made a new pal.
The tour has been a wonderful whirlwind that I’ll be processing for a while! If we met, please remind me of when and your name—I wish I could’ve hung out for ages with everyone. It’s so strange to briefly meet what ends up being probably over 100 people you’d love to be friends with all the time. (It also makes me excited to encourage more conversation among subscribers next year—we’re going to make some lifelong friends here among food nerds. I can feel it!)
Thursday, September 21
We are on the road to Montreal for a brief reprieve. I’m writing this on my Notes app between New Hampshire and Vermont. Catch you on the flip side.
This Friday’s From the Kitchen dispatch will include the recipe for coconut cake with vanilla bean buttercream and coconut milk dulce de leche—a.k.a. Layla and Jay’s Wedding Cake and one of the sheet cakes served at my Brooklyn book launch. See all recipes available to paid subscribers here.
An appearance on “Earth Eats,” from Indiana Public Media.
I can’t wait to relax and dig into the stacks of books and magazines we’re bringing home… and today we’re going to the Canadian Center for Architecture, which has such a great bookstore… we need another suitcase.
I’ve been living in hotels for a week and a half, darling!!!