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On Faith: External and Internal

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I think a lot about words. About the sheer power they can carry at face value, but also the subtle undertones they can have, and how those can subconsciously steer a conversation. Manipulate it, even, when in the wrong hands. Regardless of intent, there’s much one can discover under the colorful surface of language, and one word in particular has been on my mind recently with the holidays, and it’s one I think bears much greater exploration on a personal level: faith.

There are two main branches of faith, in my opinion: an external faith—believing that something outside of our control is going to fix the problems of our family/ country/ community/ friends/ job/ partner/ planet/ economy/ environment/ behaviors/ life—and an internal faith—believing that our own decisions and choices, when guided with reflective thought, compassion, and empathy are what shapes our limitless potential here in our shared world.
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Lemongrass-Sriracha tempeh vegan banh mi recipe from The Banh Mi Handbook by Andrea Nguyen

Recipe: Lemongrass-Sriracha Tempeh Vegan Banh Mi

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Lemongrass-Sriracha tempeh vegan banh mi recipe from The Banh Mi Handbook by Andrea Nguyen

Ever since getting my first taste of Vietnamese food back in high school, I’ve been completely enamored with the unmatched balance of flavors in each humble meal. That first slurp of phở… discovering exotic fruits like rambutan… this was all very special and revelatory, but they were nothing compared to my introduction to bánh mì, the Vietnamese sandwich masterpiece that may actually be my favorite dish on earth. (Though if this was a Sophie’s Choice situation with banh mi up against pizza, I don’t know what I’d do.)

So when my dear friend Andrea Nguyen—blogger extraordinaire at Viet World Kitchen and fellow Ten Speed Press author—told me she was working on a cookbook dedicated to banh mi, I got REALLY excited. And I instantly blurted out that I’d be happy to make a vegan banh mi recipe (with plenty of Sriracha) for her, if she was looking for anybody to contribute. “Sure!” she says. Wait. Really?! (more…)

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On turning 30: I want to make the world a better place

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Huh. I turned 30 today. Weird.

I feel a need to take inventory of all the good in my life, because really, there’s a bunch. Sure, I deal with struggles, both internal and external, but I’m here. Despite all the odds. Do you realize how inhospitable outer space is? That humans even had any chance of evolving into a species, on a giant rock (with a blazing hot core, mind you) that’s hurtling through the universe at incomprehensible speed? And how lucky am I to have what I have? Not so much in the material sense, though, yes, I’m also lucky to have a nice roof over my head. But let’s just acknowledge the basics here: clean water, nurturing/support from friends & family, access to food, and freedom. As much as we take these things for granted—and not that we negate them, but we just don’t think about them… because we don’t have to. Most people reading this, I’m guessing, have these fundamental things and don’t worry about where they’ll come from each day. But there are millions in the world that aren’t free. That don’t have clean water. That don’t know whether they’ll have three meals tomorrow, let alone one.

Almost half the world — over three billion people — live on less than $2.50 a day.

Now I decided that I could: a) feel guilty about it, though that doesn’t really help anyone; b) feel nothing about it, and just sweep it under the rug; or c) I can do something about it. Karma, the Golden Rule, and the idea of “pay it forward” have really come to guide my decisions. The work of countless people before us has allowed for the developments of technology that lets us focus on bigger questions. How would someone ever be able to design a spaceship if they had to worry about whether or not they’d have access to food or water? (more…)

Vegan rice cooker recipe: Black Lentils with Burmese curry and cashews

Recipe: Black Lentils with Burmese Curry and Cashews

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Vegan rice cooker recipe: Black Lentils with Burmese curry and cashews
I just recently returned from a whirlwind trip through Europe and Southeast Asia, which included my first visit to Myanmar (previously known as Burma). I’d traveled with friends through Europe and Vietnam, but for Myanmar, I joined up on a culinary tour with Robert Carmack and Morrison Polkinghorne. In addition to operating their culinary tours as The Globetrotting Gourmet, they’re also the authors of The Burma Cookbook: Recipes from the Land of a Million Pagodas. It was amazing to get to try many new foods and walk through the markets with these seasoned experts, plus we had the added benefit of being accompanied by Ian Hemphill—author of The Spice and Herb Bible—and his wife Liz, who collectively own Herbie’s Spices, one of Australia’s preeminent spice shops.

Spice Market in Yangon, Myanmar | Black Lentils with Burmese Curry & Cashews recipeNavigating the hot, narrow pathways of the spice market in Yangon, Myanmar.
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Recipe: Salt-Cured Green Beans with Garlic and Ginger

Recipe: Salt-Cured Green Beans with Ginger (from Asian Pickles)

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Recipe: Salt-Cured Green Beans with Garlic and GingerI’m a pretty lucky guy. Just before heading back to southeast Asia last month, I got a new cookbook in the mail from my publisher called Asian Pickles: Sweet, Sour, Salty, Cured, and Fermented Preserves from Korea, Japan, China, India, and Beyond. (We’ll just call it Asian Pickles for the purposes of this blog post, though.) I’d met author Karen Solomon at a little author party Ten Speed Press threw for us at Omnivore Books in SF a while back, and I was immediately taken with the idea for her book! (more…)

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