Monday, January 26, 2009

New food portal in development at go2 Media

I’ve been lobbying hard to create a food portal for go2 Media, the mobile media company where I have been working full-time for nearly 2 years. And recently, I got the go-ahead to cobble one together, with the help of my crack food writing team, which includes Clara Silverstein, a former editor at the Herald and author of the Boston Chef’s Table Cookbook; Virginia Miller, founder of the San Francisco-based travel site; Allison Pescosolido of, a new Los Angeles-based food blog; and Anders Wright, film editor for San Diego CityBeat and all-around crack A&E writer for go2.

The URL for the site is

The URL and the site itself may change over the course of a few months: what you see is a rough draft.

The interface is necessarily and intentionally simple, given that the portal is optimized for browsing on mobile: the fancy graphics and hi-res food porn we’ve come to expect from our favorite food Web sites would only slow down the performance of this page if you were browsing it on your Blackberry. However, I’ve often relished the limitations mobile imposes, because sometimes less really is more. (Anyone who’s ever taken three or four days just to get through the Sunday Times might agree with me.) And to me, this sure beats reading the Metro on the train. (It's a greener option, too.)

Thoughts? Feedback? Email me at rweaver (at)

Thursday, January 22, 2009

Change, it comes eventually: songs for a new era

I've been super Obamemotional this week over the inauguration. I bought the New York Times yesterday (mostly for the fabulous photo of Mrs. Obama's outfit, complete with green Jimmy Choos), and rather than let Michael Graham give us his commentary and ruin the morning, I decided to read some of the stories aloud to the b.f. as we drove to work. My voice kept faltering as my eyes moved over the words, too quickly for my mouth to follow (this has always made it hard for me to read aloud), and my emotions seized on the ideas before my mind could cut them off. My throat tightened as I read the re-cap of Obama's inauguration speech:

The problems, he warned, “are serious and they are many. They will not be met easily or in a short span of time. But know this, America — they will be met.”

For the first time in eight years, we have a president who commands masterfully the power of words. And words are powerful. They can inspire us to make a change, shore up our defenses as we are about to surrender, bring us to tears. I had forgotten what it was like to be moved by words in this way. Most of the noble presidential speeches our generation has heard have come from the movies, not from the past administration.

In my family, we are all skilled communicators, but we sometimes struggle to say the hardest words. We've learned to bridge the gap between strong emotions and limited words with music. My mother will play me a country song to explain why she's proud to be my parent. My dad will play "dream up, dream up, let me fill your cup" on his guitar to remind me of when I was a little girl and not too shy to sing Neil Young songs with him around the fire. My little brother will send me a mix of indie dance music to tell me to loosen up and have fun, and I'll send mixes back to him to remind him as he studies that someone loves him and understands him and is proud of him. My best friend, when we are meeting after a long time apart, will play songs that remind us of driving through the desert together, late at night.

This week, as I've moved from work to play with my headphones on, my ears have been catching on the words of certain songs, words that seem to express the difficult but ultimately joyous feelings I've been experiencing over the dawn of this new era. Eventually I'd like to collect them all and send them to my loved ones. I thought I'd share a few of the lyrics here, just for fun.

Andrew Bird, "Tables and Chairs"

If we can call them friends we can call them on red telephones
And they won't pretend that they're too busy or they're not alone
If we can call them friends we can call
Holler at 'em down these hallowed halls
But we can't let the human factor fail to be a factor at all

Don't you worry
About the atmosphere
Or any sudden pressure change

'cause i know
That it's starting
To get warm in here
And things are
Starting to get strange

And did you
Did you see how
All our friends were there
Drinkin' roses from the can

How i wish i
I had talked to them
And wished they
Fit into my plan

And we were tired of being mild
Oh so tired of being mild
We were so tired

I know we're gonna meet someday in the crumbled financial institutions of this land
There will be tables and chairs
Pony rides and dancing bears
There'll even be a band
'cause listen after the fall there'll be no more countries
No currencies at all
We're gonna live on our wits
Throw away survival kits
Trade butterfly knives for adderal
And that's not all
There will be snacks, there will
There will be snacks!

The Shins, "Sleeping Lessons"

Go without
'Til the need seeps in
You're low, anymore
Collect your novel petals for the stem

And glow
Melt and flow
Eviscerate your fragile frame
And spill it out on the ragged floor
A thousand different versions of yourself

And if the old guard still offend
They got nothing left on which you depend
So enlist every ounce
Of your bright blood
And off with their heads
Jump from The hook
You're not obliged to swallow anything you despise
See, those unrepenting buzzards want your life

And they got no right
As sure as you have eyes
They got no right

Just put yourself in my new hooves
And see that I do what I do
Because the old guard still offend (their pudgy hearts and slimy hands)
They've got nothing left on which we depend
So enlist every ounce
Of your bright blood
And off with their heads
Jump from The hook
You're not obliged
To swallow anything you despise
That you despise

Lauryn Hill, "Everything is Everything"

Everything is everything
What is meant to be, will be
After winter, must come spring
Change, it comes eventually

I wrote these words for everyone
Who struggles in their youth
Who won't accept deception
Instead of what is truth
It seems we lose the game,
Before we even start to play
Who made these rules? We're so confused
Easily led astray
Let me tell ya that
Everything is everything
Everything is everything
After winter, must come spring
Everything is everything

I philosophy
Possibly speak tongues
Beat drum, Abyssinian, street Baptist
Rap this in fine linen
From the beginning
My practice extending across the atlas
I begat this
Flippin' in the ghetto on a dirty mattress
You can't match this rapper slash actress
More powerful than two Cleopatras
Bomb graffiti on the tomb of Nefertiti
MCs ain't ready to take it to the Serengeti
My rhymes is heavy like the mind of Sister Betty
L. Boogie spars with stars and constellations
Then came down for a little conversation
Adjacent to the king, fear no human being
Roll with cherubims to Nassau Coliseum
Now hear this mixture
Where hip hop meets scripture
Develop a negative into a positive picture

Now, everything is everything
What is meant to be, will be
After winter, must come spring
Change, it comes eventually

Sometimes it seems
We'll touch that dream
But things come slow or not at all
And the ones on top, won't make it stop
So convinced that they might fall
Let's love ourselves then we can't fail
To make a better situation
Tomorrow, our seeds will grow
All we need is dedication

Let me tell ya that,
Everything is everything
Everything is everything
After winter, must come spring
Everything is everything

Everything is everything
What is meant to be, will be
After winter, must come spring
Change, it comes eventually

New slew of posts up at

I've been adding posts every few days to my column, and have been pleasantly surprised to find that it's easy to come up with interesting angles on veganism for a local Boston audience. I've also had a warm reception from Shannon Cain Arnold, the vegetarian examiner (the liberal Jew to my orthodox, if we're working with my Kosher metaphor from post #1), and from Boston's Food Examiner at large, Jacqueline Church, although of course we knew eachother previously from the Bostonist piece I did on her inspiring Teach a Man to Fish project.

I've also received some fun comments from friends of all kinds on my posts, from the cynical Lissa to the bubbly Alicia. (Note: "B Dub", who asks for recipes in the first post, is actually my steak-loving cowboy dad, using a family alias. Thanks, Dad!)

Anyhow, here's a quick roundup of the new stories on Examiner:

Jan 10: Learn to cook vegan desserts with Conscious Kitchen's Emilie Hardman

Emilie's one of my go-to sources for vegan info and overall inspiration - her blog, Conscious Kitchen, is full of beautiful photos and thoughtful commentary. This class is the first in a series that I hope will be very successful for Emilie.

Jan 11: Vegan school lunch options garner support on

The voting is closed now on, the Reddit-style site run by Obama's transition team, but when it debuted, it seemed to me to be a beautifully modern way of expressing the democratic ideal: anyone could submit ideas for the president's consideration, and readers could vote ideas up or down.

The idea of reforming the school lunch program so that it will offer vegetable-based cuisine to feed our nation's growing bodies (and fight diabetes and obesity later on) did surprisingly well, although I'd imagine this was due to the self-selected community of liberal, early-adopter, tech-minded voters, which does not represent the country as a whole.

Jan 17: Two vegan dinners on Sunday, Jan 18: BVS dinner at Grasshopper, vegan tasting at Tremont 647

The BVS dinner was cancelled, but I'm hoping to make the rescheduled dinner on Feb. 15, which includes a lecture on kitchen gardening. I'm hoping to get into this in 2009.

I'm equally excited about vegan food at Tremont 647, as I've been veg-ifying the recipes in chef Andy Husbands' "Fearless Chef" for a while, but I'm sure the pros can do a better job. According to 647's events coordinator, Joy Robinson, who is a LUPEC lady and a vegan herself, it's the first of many.

"We have only done 1 vegan dinner (this past Sunday) but plan to make it a regular thing in March. Not sure if we're going to do every Sunday or once per month yet, but when we kick it off, I will have some vegan wines and organic cocktails on the list," she told me via email this week. "The reason we're waiting until March is because we're doing Pork Month for the month of February, with a 3 course Pork menu every night of the week, for $35 per person, excluding tax and gratuity. We thought offering a vegan menu at the same time as a pork menu, would be a little weird." I agree.

Jan 18: Matthew Lishansky of Upstairs on the Square dishes on vegans and the restaurant biz

I've been a fan of Upstairs' GM Matt Lishansky ever since I met him, because he had recently hosted Henry, a student of mine from 826, for my food writing workshop, and had only sweet things to say about him. Recently we met up again at the Upstairs staff party, where Matt was in his element. We had a few beers, swapped a few stories, and the next day it occurred to me while I was writing up the upcoming vegan dinner series at Upstairs that it would be great to get his (confirmedly carnivorous) take on it, so I called him up. He graciously agreed to chat on the way to working two weddings. He gave me a great interview (who else would call himself a "sauce queen"?) and the inspiration to conduct more for this column.

Jan 18: Veggie Planet's Didi Emmons to teach Jan 31 curry class

The first time the b.f. and I ever took a cooking class together, it was with Didi Emmons. It was cheap, and it involved spring rolls -- which made it irresistable to us both. She's currently working with a class of teenagers at the Haley House, and it's easy to see why she's such an effective teacher for kids: she's approachable, she explains things clearly, she's unpretentious, she makes food that is fun to eat as well as to cook, and even if the class isn't hands-on (as ours wasn't), she makes it fun and engaging. We are definitely going to be attending this curry class!

Saturday, January 10, 2009

Boston Vegan Examiner column begins this week

So I stumbled across this site,, while Googling the other day, and one thing led to another, and I filed an application to become a contributor, and they called me and hired me. So here I am, writing a column as their resident "Boston Vegan Expert". This URL is my little corner of the Internets.

As luck would have it, my friend Tyler had just sent along an angry email about a piece on veganism in the Improper Bostonian, so I used that as a jumping-off place in my inaugural post. While I am not technically a vegan (I eat cheese, butter, all that good stuff), I do understand where vegans are coming from, and I find it irritating that, despite that huge amount of information on the Internet and in bookstores about veganism and its roots, reporters and even regular people continue to approach this community like Harris' Betelgeusian anthropologists. It reminds me of the way people insisted that they "didn't know enough about this Obama guy", even though he had a comprehensive Web site and two books out before he ran a campaign for the presidency that employed more information sources, from Facebook to SMS to Twitter, than any other candidate at the time. Some people don't know because they haven't been exposed yet to the facts, but some people say they don't know because they don't want to know.

The information is out there, but as I also mention in my post, so are a lot of extreme and often irritating vegans, muddying the waters with their judgmental behavior and their ALL-CAPS responses to any nuanced discussion of food, ethics, and environment. This anklebiting minority makes the rest of the vegan community (which is by and large a warm fuzzy lot, concerned with fermentation and vegan dog biscuits and global warming and the like) look like a morass of tattoed asshattery. So I strove in this post to establish a tone that is inclusive and moderate rather than exclusive and extreme.

I get paid in clicks and would love to have feedback, so if you know me and love me, please visit the site early and often, and leave me some comments.

Also, I'm required to maintain an RSS feed and link list of useful vegan resources for the column, so if you operate a blog that fits the bill, comment here and give me your info, or email me at BostonVeganExaminer [at] gmail [dot] com.

Bostonist: Herald discovers that LUPEC ladies drink scotch

This week, my friend Lissa Harris debuted her much-needed media blog, Women Do! Its aim: to catalogue and mock the many pieces of trashy "trend journalism" inflicted on the thinking women of the world these days. Writes Harris:
The true Women Do story is not about medical issues, or gender discrimination, or anything properly related to women qua women. Oh no. It is about the shocking spectacle of women doing stuff that people generally do. At its heart is typically an earth-shattering revelation that some women, for instance, like to drive motor-cars or eat ice-cream. The reporter sets about tackling this topic with all the barmy innocence of a two-year-old child, a Betelgeusian anthropologist or a time-traveler from 1769. (Inside tip: As a rule, reporters and editors are not actually all that amazed that women can do stuff. But they think you are.)

...The perpetrators of the classic Women Do story will inflict on us any number of stale puns, cliches, slogans, witticisms and bons mots. They will lard headlines, subheads, captions and ledes with great glops of insufferable cuteness. They will, in their gormless way, encourage girls to go.
The very next day, a prime specimen of Women Do! journalism appeared in the Boston Herald concerning LUPEC, an organization of women bartenders in Boston that became a household name in 2008 due to its valiant efforts to raise cocktail awareness and money for charity.

You see, now that everyone who cares already knows about LUPEC, the Herald has decided to discover it. Condescendingly and inadequately. From it's pun-rific headline ("Raising the Bar") to its insufferable verbiage (they actually used the word "sassy"), the article was pretty gormless (Later, I learned that the reporter, Kerry Byrne, goes by the nickname of Chief Angry Troll on the football fansite, which does not surprise me at all.) Here you have an article where badass LUPEC president Misty Kalkofen is literally lighting ingredients on fire in a Congress Street basement, and you find it more newsworthy to note that her friend's not drinking a Cosmo?

So by way of introducing the Bostonist readership to Harris' blog and re-introducing them, for the hundredth time, to the Herald's increasingly lazy reportage, I filed this blog post in response. Then I promptly made plans to visit Kalkofen at Drink, where it was confirmed that she's still one of the best bartenders in Boston, double-X chromosome be damned. (Alexis asked her what liquor she was pouring, and not only did she give us the last 100 years of history on the stuff, she also described the way the U.S. product differs from the French product and why it was like a vermouth but not like a vermouth... All while shaking the dickens out of an egg cocktail, filling our water glasses, finding us a seat at the bar, and taking orders from other customers.)

Things got meta when Harris read my piece and decided to quote it on her Women Do! blog. A nice, sarcastic exchange ensued in the comments, and walking-food-encyclopedia-about-town MC Slim JB offered to write an entry just for us (for a story about "women enjoying Vietnamese food", he suggested the headline "Banh mi, bonne amie").

Sunday, January 04, 2009

Bostonist: The Year in Food

As you might guess, I had a lot of fun in this post, and was proud that I kept it short and sweet. I didn't realize it at the time, but the fact that I'm re-reading some Chuck Klosterman lately made its way into the post with this bit:

"Hungry Mother's popularity lies not only in its inventive comfort-food menu, but in its ability to allow New Englanders to enjoy everything that's good about the South (buttermilk biscuits, mint juleps, genuine hospitality) and everything that's popular in Fancy Restaurant Culture this year (sophisticated cocktails, grass-fed beef) while still actively condemning the negative aspects of the "Real" South (weak levees, Evangelicals, Disneyworld)."

I was thinking today, as I put on my outdoor performance gear and leashed up my dog for a walk in my fully gentrified neighborhood, that this brand of humor, found in Klosterman's stuff, Stuff White People Like, Black People Love Us! and the kind of humor in the above passage -- a brand you might call The Self-Delusion of the White Middle-Class Urbanite -- has become incredibly ubiquitous. And why? On the one hand, I just spent an entire post defending this group of people from accusations of hypocrisy. And I honestly don't think that there's that much self-delusion to go around. Most of the sushi-loving, organic-touting people in question are in fact incredibly self-aware about their flaws and impure motives, are hypervigilant about the faces they show to the world, and are desperate to rid themselves of cultural ignorance and unquestioned biases (although I make no excuses for Sasha Frere-Jones). They're trying to make the best decisions they can with the information they have, and they consume an above-average amount of information. Sure, they may go overboard trying to do the "right" thing (think: "some of my best friends are black!"), but sheesh, it's better than the alternative.

These decent people, though, will still sometimes joke about religious folks, Southerners, "people I knew in high school" -- the kinds of folks that Stuff White People Like would classify as "the wrong kind of white people" and that Sarah Palin would classify as "Real Americans". Politicians like Palin will try to say that these people just don't understand Real Americans, but I disagree. What they choose to say about it is generally informed by firsthand experience, but it's bitter experience.

Like any good humor, this brand comes from intimate familiarity and cruel rejection. Most Middle-Class Urbanites were once middle-class or lower-class suburbanites, living in the Target towns outside Ohio and Dallas and Rochester. They went to youth group, but failed to find Jesus; went to the high school football games, but still can't remember the rules; went to the birthday parties, but felt stung by the superficial smiles; tried many times to do the dance, but could never get the moves down. These are people who attempted to live in "Real America" before realizing it just didn't feel real for them the way it did for other people.

And you know what? Despite my aspirations towards tolerance for all, I still can't force myself to like Disneyworld. And despite my fantasies about ditching my brain-cell-destroying city lifestyle for a nice suburban house, I know I can never go home again. But neither can Chuck Klosterman, and neither can many of the people who eat at Hungry Mother, which is why they wish to eat food that tastes like home because it saves them the trip and the letdown. And sharing a laugh together, even an imagined one at someone else's expense, makes us feel a little less alone in the world.

Saturday, January 03, 2009

Bostonist: 8 Aspects of (Rick) Warrengate

So I volunteered to contribute to this "12 Days of New Years" feature on Bostonist, and as it was the weekend after Christmas, I played until the last minute and then had to come up with a topic involving the number eight. I was going to write a nice post about Formaggio Kitchen's latest class, or Alex Lobrano's visit to Needham. But I didn't, because I thought they'd sell out, and because they had nothing to do with the number eight (now I know what the writers at Sesame Street must feel like).

If you'd like to read about those things instead, just click the links above. But if you'd like to read about Rick Warren, about whom I wrote on Dec. 28, stick with me.

I've been fascinated about the conversation around Obama's selection of Rick Warren as the guy who'll give the prayer for America on Inauguration day. As I've mentioned before, I often feel as though I am straddling two worlds: one in which people hold mainly religious beliefs (my mother, my friends from Utah), and one in which people hold mainly secular beliefs (my father, my friends in Boston). Lately I feel moved to comment whenever I see these two worlds collide (which they are doing quite a bit these days).

I presented mainly secular viewpoints in my 8-point roundup, mostly because the majority of the high-profile commentators who provided timely, credible, linkable and provocative commentary on this issue, such as Frank Rich in the New York Times and David Gregory on Meet the Press, happened to be commenting on the impact it's had on Obama's secular base. I'd be interested to hear directly from religious folks who are perturbed (or pleased) with Rick Warren's selection or its reception.