Soul, So Good: Noonies combines soul food with accents of the Caribbean.

Draped on the entrance to Noonies Famous Jerk and Things is a Jamaican flag and just above is a sign beckoning the tropics; it’s a Wednesday, I can’t feel my toes, and this just might be the warmth I need to get through this week’s chilling cold. True to theme, the walls are a vibrant red and posters of the late great Bob Marley adorn the walls, though the vibe isn’t quite jamming- there’s a karaoke speaker, but instead of reggae anthems, hosts from Fox News announce the day’s tragedies from a flat-screen. But, before things got too somber, owner, Harold “Noonie” Ward,came to greet us and our waitress and floor manager, Kea Atkins, brought us a couple cold waters with a warm attitude.

Kea Atkins with Ryan Stopera

Peering at the menu, a variety of protein and sides were there for the choosing: Jerk wings, jerk fish, and curry goat were a few of the options. Only one choice caught my eye: the oxtail. Though I hadn’t tried the dish before, I had heard rumblings of the cut’s delectable flavor. The plate came with two sides — the most difficult decision of the night — I chose plantains and rice with red beans. In addition to the oxtail, I added a three-piece order of jerk fish. By “jerk,” I don’t mean meat that mocks you but rather a mix of spices applied to meet like wings and other meaty things, common in Caribbean cuisine.

Two large portions of smoked oxtail, a medley of reddish rice, and a cornbread muffin tantalize the eyes. Where to begin? Other than love, the meal requires no labor: the oxtail meat, soft and succulent, falls off the bone and the sweet pillow of cornbread is the ideal place to rest your teeth. The plantains and callaloo- a must-order, steamed greens plate- follow suit, offering sweetness and depth that go down smooth. Though one is content with the salt content, a spice enthusiast will be left wanting. Perhaps because the food is a mix of Chicago soul — where Noon traces his roots — and Caribbean flavors, the offerings are tamed. But nonetheless, the seasoning is worth savoring, a mix of 15–20 components, Noon shares. Coming from a background of working my mandibles and digits to get to the good stuff — cracking, splitting, and manipulating crustaceans — the simple fish fillet offered no resistance. The flavor was fresh and clean tasting and paired well with the side of tangy sauce.

The author with Harold “Noonie” Ward. Photo courtesy of Ryan Stopera.

In addition to this location, Ward has other enterprises including a Noonies II back home, where he’s parlayed learning from past struggles into opening businesses that expand opportunity. Like his offerings for the palette, he has a variety of flavorful stories to share about the work he’s done and the people he’s met along the way- from Bill O’Reilly to Barack O’bama. Stop in for a taste of the south and the sea, and make your own unforgettable moment with Noonie.


A Husband-Wife Team Consider their Next Steps after Closing Doors

Saul Mellado, a sturdy chef with an easy smile, hoists a tray of pork over his right shoulder.  A skittish Touni (tao-nee)- waiter, host, and bar-back extraordinaire- runs laps between the kitchen and host’s table, eyes darting back and forth to assess the floor.  It’s the last day at Saul and Juve Mellado’s Mi Casa Su Casa Eatery and all hands are on deck.  “Mom, do we still have Turón?” (a sweet fried egg roll filled with plantain) asks Juve’s daughter Carissa.  The Mellados established the restaurant only six months ago with the vision of bridging Filipino and Mexican cuisine in the Little Mekong River district.  Despite amassing a solid following from outside the neighborhood, the husband-wife duo struggled to attract nearby diners.

“We come all the way from Forest Lake,” said Natalie who talked about the unique BBQ tacos offered at Mi Casa; “There’s nothing else like it,” her mom added.  The food is both novel and comforting, though not convoluted: noodles are still noodles, and tacos, tacos.   While the lechón’s rich flavors packed a punch, the fish was was overpowered by its toppings.         

Tacos two ways: fish and lechón (roasted pork)

On the menu, find Filipino and California-Mexican fare including Asada (steak) Fries.  Pancit, a classic noodle street-food brought to the Philippines by Chinese vendors or panciteros, came in two forms: Bihon and Canton, the former featuring rice noodles and the latter an amalgam of Napa cabbage and carrots over wheat noodles.   A third, shrimp-based version stands out: Pancit Palabok

The golden bowl: Pancit Palabok

The dish came adorned with four large shrimp, a sprinkling of pork skin and red onions for color, and slices of eggs like golden moons illuminating the edge of the bowl.  A rich sauce bathed the vermicelli noodles in a powerful combination of texture and flavor.  One could assume the recipe was passed down from Juve’s gramma or auntie, but in fact, Saul first tasted then mastered the dish while serving military duty in the Philippines.  “We make it,” says Juve, but “Saul’s is better.”  The offering embodies the spirit of Mi Casa Su Casa—a thoughtful dish maintaining its identity while bearing the subtle imprints of a cross-cultural interpretation.  

The appeal may also have been its drawback.   The cuisine sat between two worlds: low cost street fare and flashy fusion with prices tending towards affordability.  Locals from immigrant communities may have eschewed Juve and Saul’s colorful creations on a strip of University where consistent old-school offerings dominate, from BBQ to burritos to pho.  Still, other regulars expressed their heartfelt dismay.  As customers poured in during evening service, Ice Sanchez walked directly to Juve imploring her with tender consternation, “You can’t close.” 

First-time customers looked at the menu with fresh eyes, some opting for safety, dismissing the Sisig and the Diniguan, two traditional Pinoy plates comprised of multiple elements of the swine: “Besides the blood stew… Besides the pig’s face,” a mom commented.  This is precisely the kind of dish, made with a regional lime called calamansi, that Juve and Saul presented unabashedly, receiving the harshest feedback from within the Filipino community. “People say it’s either too sour or not sour enough,” Sanchez commented.  Saul added that patrons were deterred by a lack of adequate parking and frequent crime issues.   “You put your heart and soul into this, so it’s hard,” Juve confides. Her arms bear the darkened scars as proof of her sweat equity.  

Touni eagerly takes an order

Still, on the last night of business, the energy was palpable.   Adding to the frenetic ambiance, DJ Snake’s Taki Taki played in the background: Báilame como si fuera la última vez, and Conan O’Brien’s food travel show, Conan without Borders (very original) played on a flat screen behind the bar- a confluence of culture both tropical and familiar pervaded the atmosphere.  Juve, ever present, moved between tables making connections and heeding customers’ consolations.  Just a week before, eaters had shared their affection for meals that tasted like home—better than home even.  The homemade avocado ice cream, with its velvety body and caramel finish dissolved sweetly into the night leaving a lingering hint that the Mellado’s had something churning for the next pop-up.

An article in defense of complex carbs (repost)

Have you heard of prebiotics? Foods which feed the beneficial bacteria already in our guts? I recently came across this article on Medium, which breaks down this myth about probiotics as a cure-all.

While the kraut may help win the bout, you can’t miss out on good old fashion, if possible ancient veggies:

A meal from Chinese New Year’s. Lotus root, glass noodles, braised pork belly, cucumber, pea pod tips, rice, black fungus, and chili oil with a bean are all in there! Food courtesy of Morgen Chang.

Eating: A Gut Check

Ouch! Damn! Eeeaaaa! are some of the knee-jerk sounds I’m accustomed to making in reaction to my belly’s calls for help. Since childhood, I’ve always had a sensitive gut. And it didn’t even make sense! I ate well: Chinese, home-cooked, full of vegetables and shit. But despite my robust diet, I found myself resting my head on the TP dispenser, doubled over and waiting for the brutal gas pains of indigestion to subside. Over time, I’ve learned that I have food sensitives. And so I try to avoid wheat and white flour, excessive added sugar, coffee, cream/butter/cheese, and alcohol– in short, many of the major indulgences. Stress and immobility tend to make things worse, so I like to cook with or for others, move my bodayy, and do that yoga.

An additional issue for me is that I tend to make risky choices like eating roommate’s leftovers and other foods with questionable origins, which are at the end of their lifespans. Because I keep getting sick, my stomach and digestive system can’t seem to get a rest. I don’t need a cleanse, just a period of calm to deactivate all of my system’s alarm bells. To these ends, I’m wondering about broth, pomegranate juice, and “whole foods.,” three foods espoused in recent documentary put out by Amazon Prime.

If you haven’t seen it, Food as Medicine is a good opportunity to watch white people talk about about their diets. While the show lacks representation, it paints a clear portrait of how America’s food system, based on processed foods and added sugars is not great for any of our bodies. The film profiles individuals suffering from health disorders: auto-immune diseases, Multiple Sclerosis, and rheumatoid arthritis among others, which are made worse by the American diet. Those featured speak about feeling inflammation, pain, weight gain and other long-term consequences to their health and bodies. In one case, an MD goes from losing ever more mobility due to her MS, to once again being able to bike after changing her diet; from getting around in a scooter to peddling her way around the neighborhood, her recovery is astounding. This is not the norm, though. Others interviewed in the film struggle to consistently alter their eating routines and do not realize A to B turnarounds.

Despite making a strong case for the inadequacies of an unhealthy food system, the film doesn’t present a compelling alternative (at least in the first hour after which my attention went adrift). And clear paths towards recovery-promoting diets are far from straightforward. One woman, suffering from rheumatoid arthritis deliberates whether eating meat is beneficial for her after finding competing research. A key macro-issue is that the contemporary industrial food system is predicated on dealing products made with ingredients that compromise the integrity of our human relationship to ancestral history, health, and ecosystems- altering our social DNA along the way. What’s to be done to reclaim food pathways that are ethically grounded, just and sustainable? In an episode of a flavorful podcast, The Splendid Table, Francis Lam interviews Jorge Gaviria CEO of Masienda tortillas to discuss going back to basics:

While making tortillas with Lam, Gaviria discusses the morbidity of the “modern” tortilla: a product divorced from the ancestral hands that domesticated maíz and the flavors that come along with- an image of a tortilla coming off a conveyor belt in a Diego Rivera mural come to mind. The tortilla is made shelf stable with acids and other preservatives, which bleach the tortilla, leaving it with a bitter taste and chemical smell. Truly, a gastronomical abomination occurs as byproduct of a mechanized supply chain; Gaviria and others are partnering with small-scale campesinos to recognize the inherent worth of Native Peoples foodstuffs. Though at the moment, these heirloom tortillas are beyond the reach of the average working Latino consumer’s reach.

So, how do we get to a healthier place as individuals and as interconnected eaters? What does it look like to demand food rather than value added products? I’m not sure; yet, in each body, family, and community the alternatives are waiting to be drawn from a broader imagination. The seeds are waiting to be planted and harvested. Though the FaM film suggests products from Whole Foods, not everybody need look to the conglomerate, as options like agua de jamaica (hibiscus tea), work just as well to lower blood pressure.

I begin a new job as a nutrition educator next week. I’ll be looking to build power and tap into “gut” feelings about what’s right for people gathering at a community table. Wishing you luck and a ferocious yearning to eat well and fight for a more wholesome American food culture.

I took a walk

Walking, the full range of emotions greets me.  There’s grief in acknowledging that the rapacious elements of humanity are leading a great destruction, and that, in significant ways the status quo is winning. Forests are being disappeared, as are journalists, teachers, and other dissenters (and those with a darker complexion, just for going to the mall or church).  Oil is extracted from the ground with glee as surrounding communities- from children with asthma to the bleached coral reefs- gasp for life.

Warnings go brazenly ignored and public attention diverted from sensing an unmistakable concern that confronts us; across state boarders, in the air, in the quaking ground.  I look down at the current coursing in the Minnehaha Creek; what will this water hold in the near future?

The cold running across my nose makes me cower and clam up. “Should I stop and turn around?”  Step, step, step.  Not yet- the same gusts that chill awaken me and send blood vessels cruising into muscles and pores like a school of minnows. I peer up at the sky, layered with pink and blue hues.   There are businesses alive with commotion- restaurants, crafts and trinkets and businesses that’ve closed doors, now abandoned marking the passing of time.  The tendons in my left Achilles are tight, a reminder of my limitations. Getting a bit older now, today I’m 30,  tomorrow I’m 40… then?  

On the way back, I whistle and skip and spin, though not simultaneously. Crossing over the same bridge, I peer down into the water and feel the inevitability of passing, crossing, joining. I am not separate from this- flow, movement, and return.

As I am to the water, to the past and future, what is it to be this close to people? To suffering, racism, exploitation, war, greed, and pain? To voices. To listen—to respond.

Man in the sky

Mulberries Burning

It’s been a stressful week y’all.  Inexplicable cell phone bills, kids’ cell phones dying as I’m trying to pick them up, and the humidity!  Nature has been grounding me, though, reminding me that contact with the living, breathing world around us invites a wisdom that moves through our finger tips as the brain catches up.  Trees are thoroughly generous being abodes offering sweet fruit, shade, and calm.  Each day, the tree in front of my home has been raining down purple berries- food for the flies, and shortly after, my chickens.

The falling juicy morsels are mulberries; they are ovalish- small and stretched out with multiple bumps that create a squishy surface.   Except for one section of the tree, which sits openly in the sun, and furnishes large, mouth-watering berries.  Picking them, your fingers turn purple, and it looks like you shook tentacles with a squid.  The question is: Nature having produced such abundant and admirable beauty, how does one then transform with heat and tools into something equally worthy of attention.

In the morning before work I pick from the tree in order to relieve the stress of logistics planning.  I run into my neighbor across the street, and after I mention that I’m trying to get kids to transcend their reticence and indulge in this tree’s gifts , she suggests I look up a jam recipe.  I do, and it’s straightforward: add a grip of sugar and a few tablespoons of water; cook on low heat.  With berries in pot and sugar on top, the heat coursed through as the berries burst open.  I feared they might stick to the pot, but the berries bubbled unabashedly in their juices brought out by the sugar.  We’re on track for delight, right?

Unfortunately, I rushed and pulled the youth in charge of stirring away from the task.  We sat together in circle to begin our program, and by the time we got through a sluggish check-in it was too late; the simmering sweet slurry slipped from my awareness.  When I came back to taste, not only did the sugar harden to my teeth like candy-coated filling, but the scorching product singed off the skin from my palm as I rushed to taste and fix the morass.  Angered and disappointed that I created an example of absent mindedness and an unsuccessful cooking experience, I had trouble letting go of the jam, relentlessly mourning all that fresh fruit now gone.

I am thankful that our brains remember and forget, and that I could put this err of judgement behind me.  Perhaps the jam, the trees are a reminder to slow down and let it all take its own time; simmer and burst when the moment is right.  In her breath-taking/breath-giving book Braiding Sweetgrass, Robin Wall Kimmerer tells of the relationship her grandfather had with pecan trees, which become essential to her family’s survival as they were exiled from their native lands.   Writing from the perspective of her grandfather as a boy she tells this story:

There’s one and then another, and then another–so many he can hardly walk. He takes up a hard green ball from the ground and whips it through the trees at his borhter likea  fastball as he yells, “Pignek!  Let’s bring em home.”

The trees speak to one another, communicating when is the right time to yield offspring- fruit.  And at that moment, all trees of the pecan council rain down nuts in unison. So, listening for that moment of yielding fruit, of trees inviting us to take their gifts and return their care, of holding onto sweetness even as the sugar encasing my berries once sweet burned and became bitter.  What a taste!  IMG_4767

Summer’s Bounty: keepin’ it green

As the soil warms and the weeds, grasses, fungi and perennials come back to life, the groundscape becomes edible yet again. Edible weeds abound including nettles, lamb’s quarters, clover, French sorrel, and purslane among others. Abe’s test kitchen- curated by me- has been experimenting with these greens with some tasty results. Though my go-to technique is the sauté/stir-fry, I’m curious about preparing produce in alternative ways that bring out their flavors and textures. Part of this impetus comes from recalling how my grandma would steam a variety of foods from fish to eggs and the near and dear to my heart, gor dong ti. For the nettles, I separated leaves from the stems and steamed them; somehow my farmer friends Taya and Seamus had already subdued the stingers, but if they’re freshly harvested I suggest wearing gloves or googling how to protect ya self. The warmth and mouthfeel of the nettles was indeed satisfying, but to give a little more flavaa, I added some olive oil, salt and pepper and sautéed garlic. The nettles were also rich delicious pureed in a soup in a miso base with slow-cooked onions, lamb’s quarters, seaweed, and some soy.


Dish shown is different from the one cooked, but is still green

I also prepared a salad, which can just taste like a mouth full of lettuce or if done well can feature texture, tang, and an adventurous eating experience. For my dressings I use some kind of sweetener, e.g. reduced balsamic vinegar, blueberry preserves, or agave for example, oil, vinegar, salt and pepper, citrus and sometimes an emulsifier such as mustard; I haven’t jumped into the world of the egg yolk, but let me tell you- that will be magic, or runny, but hopefully golden. To my salad I added pea shoots, quick pickled radishes, some tomato, freshly diced mint, and lentils I had cooked up earlier. The soup and salad paired well and made up a soothing and filling vegetarian meal.


Steamed nettles with pea shoots and noodles

Shout-outs to Taya Schulte and Seamus Fitzgerald of Growing Lots Urban Farm who’ve been providing me with their delicious produce of the utmost flavor and freshness. At first, the box was overwhelming in its beauty color and variety, but as I begin to process the package of green abundance, munching along the way, the vegetables take are of themselves; don’t get me wrong, when I tried this 3 years ago I wasn’t prepared and had way too much produce lying around, but with some practice and research I’m getting more of the greens joyfully and skillfully into my belly and others’.


Nettles soup-

1plastic bag or bundle of nettles

¼ finely diced onion

1-2 cloves garlic- minced

1 T white miso paste

1 sheet Nori

Couple dashes soy sauce

Couple dashes xiao xing vinegar or whatever you have on hand

  • Slow cook the onions in olive oil while slicing up nettles and other greens you may want to add.
  • Add the garlic after the onions have started to sweeten and cook down. If you plan purée the soup, you don’t have to worry about chopping.
  • Add the greens and enough water to cover, and let the soup simmer
  • Break up your seaweed into small pieces and toss in.
  • Add the miso paste mixing in with a utensil. I usually grab a spoonful and stir in the spoon using chopsticks.
  • Add some salt and taste
  • Add your soy and then vinegar and taste
  • Serve hot!


  • Slice radishes and toss into mixture of vinegar and water (mostly vinegar) with ½-1tsp sugar and pinch of salt
  • Wash greens and remove tough stems
  • Slice or tear larger pieces of lettuce and other mixed greens
  • Combine the produce, mix, and dress


1 T mustard

2 tsp agave

Olive Oil and Vinegar (about half and half, but you may like your dressing more acidic and pungent or more neutral and oily)

Sesame seeds

Squeeze of half lemon

Salt and pepper to taste

Finely diced mint leaves (a handful or less)

  • I don’t have any specific order but I might start with the mustard base and build up


For next time: baked rhubarb, it’s delicious!


Espacio Kruz ¡Viva!  Family bonds furnished in the struggle for a campesino livelihood.

Planting corn is a family affair for the Cruzes.  When we went to visit their land, little did we know we were entering into an autonomous space called San Juan Chilateca.   Román and his family form the nucleus of a grassroots initiative called Espacio KRUZ- a local hub committed to self-reliance and the open dispersal of information on the illegal practices of mining corporations, which have detrimental effects on communally held land and people. The family farms their land by traditional means, while also incorporating new eco-technologies (eco-tecníqas), which they also share.   Yellow Corn


When our delegation arrived, we were greeted by Yasmín and Román, their daughter Quetzali, and their cousin Dora.  We passed by a large pile of corn waiting to be husked, two large bulls, and banana trees in mid-growth.   Behind the street view of hand-assembled fences, a space of respite and ingenuity was waiting to be revealed.   Espacio KRUZ (The Coordination of Resistance in Unity and Solidarity) occupies a small swath of land at the foothills of the countryside. Their home incorporates considerable eco-technology, where walls and roofing and tools are made from cañuela- a reed that functions like bamboo.   Here they grow corn, pumpkin, garbanzos and other legumes and are experimenting with new crops such as carrots. All members of the family help with la cosecha (the harvest) starting with Román’s father who has preserved  the oldest surviving corn seed in their family.   He also fashioned the yoke which sits over the neck and shoulders of the  family oxen used to plow their fields.



As curious farm stewards we had many questions for Roman’s family about how they prepared the fields.  When do you plant the beans? How exactly are the fields plowed? When are the corn stalks cut? How do you replenish the soil, and with what manure?   The Cruzes still use a traditional method of preparing the fields, creating rows and furrows.   The corn and accompanying sister seeds are deposited into the furrows and then covered using soil from the rows upon reaching the shins/knees.  This planting system is called la milpa, which addition to staple crops, produces flowers (for consumption, pollination, and celebration) and edible weeds like quelites.  Each member of the family had something to offer, including Quetzali who shared that she chose to leave school after other students teased her, simply because her family worked the land.  She explained that she had pride in this work, and that it was important that she knew how to take care of the land when so many other young people had lost interest.



The deep bonds this family has to one another and to tradition are readily apparent; yet interrupting this idyllic vision is the threat of rapid encroachment from mining companies predominantly of Canadian origin.  Oaxaca is México’s fifth largest state, and due to its rich supply of underground minerals and precious metals, nearly 15% of the land has been leased/granted for international “development.” This is a violation of México’s constitution, which is supposed to prohibit foreign companies from consuming its resources but was altered to make concessions for international investors.[1]  Though it is illegal for communally held land to be proportioned off without the consent of its inhabitants and of local forms of government, foreign enterprises employ a variety of  ethically devoid maneuvers to grab and go.   Román pointed out “Though we own what’s above the land, we don’t own what’s below.” “It’s the same up north, no?” Looking at a map of the Valles Centrales region, in the center was a large, ominous square—denoting land that had been guaranteed to mining companies, whose resources would be dispossessed from its inhabitants.


Before we move into this weighty conversation, we are welcomed with an immaculate meal based in local ingredients and family recipes.   The staple course is green mole with pumpkin seeds and a chicken that had been living on the ranch.   The mole carries a smooth consistency and has a rich texture that satisfies every corner of the palette.  Alongside the mole is a dish called chileajo (chile-garlic), which consisted of small cubed potatoes, red chile, and garlic.  A critical piece of the meal were the food carriers-tostadas and memelas-a thin crispy tortilla and a thicker cake covered with a thin layer of beans and cheese- both made of cornmeal they had grown and processed.  The corn husks had also been employed as fuel for the oven, which had been fashioned at one of the collective’s trainings.   We were also served a dish typically made during weddings- an egg bake called higaditos, named for the finely diced pieces of pig liver that flavored the dish.  And lastly, to cleanse the palette there were two kinds of fruit water- both pumpkin and tangerine.   Somehow, after eating we managed to rise from our seats and husk a basket of corn before diving into dialogue.


Román began his discourse by critiquing an ideology of descampesinización, or the removal of campesinos, which had begun before the imposition NAFTA as more land was placed into the hands of foreign companies.  He explained that millions of farmers were forced to leave their land as a result of the North American Free Trade Agreement. The government has tried “Dispossess us of culture and place,” he said.  Román’s family stands in opposition to many community members who favor development projects such as paving roads, which they see as signs of progress in the context of modernization. Yet, to the Cruzes, the paved roads do nothing but facilitate water runoff and create a red carpet for mining trucks to pass through the community with ease.           


Companies pay low taxes on their gains, can sue the government for any circumstance deemed impediment to their advance, and have limited if any accountability to upholding human rights.  In our trip to EDUCA, a nonprofit that works on advocacy and mobilization with indigenous communities, Neftalí and Felipe explained the consequences of NAFTA in relation to multinationals, namely the establishment of International Tribunals.  A lesser known outcome of NAFTA’s ratification was the Investor State-Dispute Settlement (ISDS) system, which was created to arbitrate financial disputes between companies and the foreign countries in which operations are based:   The tribunals are another means to protect companies, which sue host countries for losses in assets due to issues ranging from protest to further necessary environmental review.

The resistance is a constant David and Goliath struggle, which has not only placed indigenous and farming communities in a precarious position but also divided communities by those who favor mines, dams, and other development projects and those who advocate for local autonomy and land protection.  The stakes in México and in indigenous communities throughout Latin America are perilous, as multiple activists and local leaders have been assassinated due to their positions on the mines, including Óscar Venancio Martínez, Félix Misael Hernández,[2] and Honduran environmental activist, Berta Caceres among others.  The parallel can be drawn with our Minnesotan and indigenous communities where debates over the merits of mines, fracking, and pipelines where the plan for economic growth entails potentially irreversible harm to the land. Nevertheless, there communities have been victorious; in Magdalena Teitipac (above), community banded together to resist the entrance of a silver mining company, Mineria Real Plata, into their lands.  We can support these communities by following their lead and responding to calls for action against human rights abuses. Back home, there is also much work to be taken up in response to indigenous communities response to impositions on their sacred lands. La familia Cruz continues to fight with grace and love for one another in the place they reside and tend to.


































IMG_2884 (1)Noodles are the warmest, most comforting food to see eaten, cook, and write about.  Someday, I’d like to work my way through Japan slurping carefree through oodles of noodles in dashi and fishy broths (katsuobushi).  I grew up eating cheng fun (flat noodles), crispy noodles (what’s it called ma?), and glass noodles (sly fun); so I’m kind of a newbie to ramen.   But, it’s what the doctor, Doctor Ada that is, and my niece Valerie ordered.

I’m usually experimental with my broths, but they’re most often made with what I have in the cribo.  For this broth, I boiled a chicken thigh in hot water, to which I stirred in white miso paste.  You could also use vegetable broth.  While the broth was brewing, I minced up some ginger and garlic and sautéed them in some oil.  After that, I tossed in some button mushrooms.  In a separate pot, I heated dried shrimp and Shiitake mushrooms, which I’d strain for the juice.  Though mustard greens, shiso, or something with a kick would be ideal for this winter ramen, I had kale- yes, yess, we in the Midwest.  I added the greens to the garlic, ginger, mushroom mix, added the shrimpy-mushroom juice, and cooked them down.

I didn’t realize how fast the pepper flakes would pour out into the broth, which made me shout “Rooster sauce!!”  I used It was just a little too spicy, but once we added the noodles the soup swimming pool cooled down to a comfortable level of heat safe to the touch.  Being gluten free, I used rice noodles, which are about $1.99 at the Asian grocery store, $5 at the coop- don’t let the secret out!

One of the most important parts of ramen, besides the broth has got to be the toppings.  I read that the eggs should be soft-boiled for 6 minutes to preserve the running of the yolks.  I cooked them for 7 minutes, because the water didn’t start off at a rolling boil, and alas they were overcooked.  But, with a drizzle of sesame oil and the magical spice mix (crushed nori, sesame seeds, and anise), the eggs were in mint… (seaweed)? condition.  Make sure to slice/ mince your scallions delicately.

To the boiling broth, you can add your mushroom, garlic, ginger, and greens mix.  Serve with a healthy amount of broth, a bit of toppings and one or two egg halves. Oh yes!  I forgot to mention, we also pickled daikons in vinegar and sugar, which mellow out and funkify the ramen; they add a tangy sweetness.  Experiment with toppings to see what you like!

Backyard Birdwatching

There’s a Chinese creation story about humankind emerging from an egg.  This isn’t why I decided to get birds; I only hoped for yellow yolks- no humans or magical forces.  But, chicken rearing has lifted my yin in times of yang.  No matter how tired or uninspired, I’m pulled toward creation observing my birds.  They just do their thing, scraping back leaves and nipping at blades of grass or shaking their butts in the dirt.  The sensory experience of bird bearing has been stronger than a fresh cup o joe.  Chicken poo is fowl and potent, and the outdoors is no place for a scented litter box.  It’s not all plugged noses, though.  Each day I get to run my fingers over the shells, picking off lingering bits of hay and noticing rough spots or patches.  Each egg is different.  And each chase to bring the girls home to rest proves to be a ritual in love.  Holding their plump bodies to my side, taking feathers to the face, I think ahh, to be a dad.

Here they are approving designs for insulation, which they would later snack on.  She’s all, yeah, it looks fine, move it along.  


Pecking at their new brightly colored feeder.


Strong yolks means better stability for food-objects.  No, unfertilized eggs don’t make new birds.