Not A Pig Trough in the Subway: On Decor and Food (Part One)

nourish catering

When I was younger, I would have claimed I could eat something delicious out of a pig trough in the subway and it would make absolutely no difference to the taste. Now, I know I would have been lying.

(Then again, given my punk aesthetics at 16, things probably would have tasted *better* to me out of a pig trough in the subway.) But, in whichever direction the decor performs its influence, I have finally recognized at 50 that what a restaurant or café or food shack looks like plays a great role in how I perceive its food.

Here’s my Gay City News piece on a tiny West Village hangout with good food and ingeniously beautiful and comforting surroundings  that were a surprising part of the reason I loved it so much.

http://gaycitynews.nyc/healthy-respite-west-village/

Chez Panisse Robbed Me of My Dreams


This was the saddest thing. I’ve wanted to go to Chez Panisse since I was small (well, since I was 14) and reading about it in my friend Judy’s Gourmet magazines as she served us Camembert on toast. Recently, I finally had the opportunity (the money, the reservation, the chance to be in San Francisco…) to go there. This was the sad result.

New Restaurant Column!

Krupa eggs

I have a new restaurant column in Gay City News! I believe it’s one of the first food columns to appear in a gay newspaper. It will cover eateries throughout the five boroughs of New York City, and come out every month.

My goal is to do food writing that is sexy, political, and gay in every way.

Here’s my first, and it starts like this:

Any meats with the faintly louche name of “organ meats” are inherently queer. Think about it: “nice” people don’t eat offal, cuts of meat that come from far inside the body and are often chopped up to hide what they really are.

Offal partakes of funk, and “funkiness”  – closest to umami among the five tastes, but incorporating elements of sourness, gaminess, sex, even a little rot – is definitely a queer flavor.   [Read more here.]

Amazingly, Thanksgiving at Buttermilk Channel Was Not That Great

buttermilk Channel

Karen and I had Thanksgiving at Buttermilk Channel, a highly acclaimed yup restaurant in the strip of land between Carroll Gardens and Red Hook. We were quite sure that it would be delightful; it was more expensive than we could usually afford, but Buttermilk’s Thanksgiving menu was a little bit cheaper than those of other fancy schmancy restaurants in our city. So wearing our jewels, garbed in silk, we came on down.

I had on a gray silk blazer inherited from Karen’s sister, and a red Chinese vest inherited from Karen herself. Karen was wearing a gorgeous but not exorbitantly expensive brown flowered dress in which her figure soared, and Mexican gold-filled hoop earrings I had given her. I wore three rings, three more than I usually wear; it was Thanksgiving, after all. We ordered an entire bottle of wine, much more than I am usually able to drink at the age of 50 and on a medication that makes alcohol harder to digest.

The restaurant was dark with lovely candles throughout, and old swing music played from a speaker as small groups of people ate Thanksgiving meals. With a minerally white wine, we had popovers with sea salt and honey, which were extraordinary and made us feel rich. Then came the first course, which was the best course, for me at least: an autumn squash tart with ricotta cheese, covered strangely but toothsomely with shreds of raw red and green cabbage. Karen had a cream of cauliflower soup with pickled raisins that was only just okay.

Then we got hungry. We waited, and held hands, and drank, and drank, until the maître d’ had finally gotten the kitchen to deliver our main courses: turkey and stuffing mushed together on a plate, hard to tell apart in the dark and oddly hard to tell apart by taste. The stuffing tasted like nothing, and the turkey was dry; sadness. Cranberry sauce was only available as a miserly streak or two on top of some of the turkey slices. An “oyster bread pudding” was delivered and was good, but did not taste of oysters. A bowl of mashed potatoes was bland as porridge, some of the only mashed potatoes I have ever encountered that I did not want to eat. Brussels sprouts tasted good, but only because they came with a big mound of herbed butter.

Cornbread was moist but had no taste. A plate of sweet potatoes, I have to say, was nicely caramelized on top.

We held hands and drank the wine. Sweet potato-pumpkin pie was set down with a good dollop of whipped cream, which saved it, but only a little. We walked out into the night, singing, and came home and watched Star Trek.

 

Summer News

makeshift 15

Hi loveys.

I hope you’re having a great summer. I haven’t had time to share all my news of the past few months, so here it is!

First, I had a great review over at the radical, trans-positive feminist magazine Make/Shift by Allison McCarthy. You can find out a lot more about Make/Shift here, but they don’t put their articles online, so here’s a taste from the review: “Far from conventional and always insightful, Minkowitz sets herself apart from other memoirs through sharp language and a clear understanding of her family’s dynamics… I cheered for her triumphant reclamation of self.” Thanks, Allison McCarthy!

Second, here’s a guest post I did over at my publisher Riverdale Ave Books’ blog, on “Why Should Fantasy Writers Have All the Fun?” It’s about how you too can have enchanted dolls and child-eating witches in your memoir!

Third… want to take a free memoir writing workshop in September? I’m teaching one Saturday, September 13 at the Brooklyn Public Library, under the auspices of the New York Writers Workshop. 2 PM at the Windsor Terrace branch, 160 E. 5th Street near Fort Hamilton Parkway. We will explore ways to use emotion, the senses, critical thinking, and storytelling to write relatably about your life. For more information, contact growingupgolem@gmail.com.

If you’re really interested in taking a memoir course in NY, I am then teaching an eight-week workshop in Brooklyn, on Tuesday evenings starting September 16 (7 to 9 PM). The class will focus on craft: extensive feedback in a supportive atmosphere. Small class size. Fee is $300. You can use the same email for more info :-)

Finally – live in the Bay Area? On October 30 I’m coming to SF to do a Growing Up Golem book event with Keshet (the organization for LGBT Jews), Congregation Sha’ar Zahav, and the James C. Hormel Gay and Lesbian Center of the San Francisco Public Library. What do golems have to do with growing up queer, Jewish, and physically abused? Get your Halloween groove on and find out! More later.

Be well – Donna

On Making People Into Things

Play-Bill-Caliban-1916

Do you ever wonder why there are so many stories about things that want to be human (or real), but aren’t? Pinocchio, the Velveteen Rabbit, Data on Star Trek? Caliban in The Tempest, who to my mind IS human, but has been told so often he’s a monster that he believes it?

African-American slaves were told they weren’t persons, and Jews in the Nazi camps were told that they were “vermin.” My recent book, Growing Up Golem, is very much about this dynamic, and I spoke about this curious confluence of fantasy, bigotry, and the psychology of survivors of exploitation and abuse in a recent talk at the New York Society for Ethical Culture.

Ever wonder what golems and physical abuse have to do with Hegel, Marx,  robots and racism? I lay it all out here!  :-) Hope you enjoy.

The Queen’s Phallus

 

commanding woman

You can think of this as a prose poem, or a “lyric essay,” or whatever you like. It was just published by my friends at City Lit Rag.

I first heard the phrase “The Phallic Mother” in college, and it made my heart and liver turn over. Into my hifalutin lit-crit classes it brought the specter of my own scary mother, who in psychic terms possessed the largest phallus on earth when I was a little girl and well into my adulthood.

Yet I also really appreciated hearing the phrase, and felt grateful to the psychoanalytic writers who’d come up with it, because the words “phallic mother” gave voice to a reality all too frequently ignored in our overly-literal culture: mothers could be phallic, women could possess scary (and appealing) authority, and although our culture was sexist to the bone, that did not mean that individual women did not sometimes exert power in a traditionally masculine way over some men, women and children.

In recent years, though, a slightly different phrase has been — appropriately enough — delighting and consuming me. That phrase is The Queen’s Phallus, and I am so occupied with it because I now have a Queen whose phallus is giant, warm and kind as a summer day is long.

They say that bitterness is easier to write about than fulfillment, starving hunger is more beckoning to a song than being satisfied and given-to:

But I will say: Her scepter deep inside me is the sign and emblem of God’s Grace, the register of enjoyment, entry of the lost lamb in the fold, the salmon leaping in the icy jet, the sweet recorder playing in dark wood, the ear of corn resplendent in the cave.

With Fred Phelps For a Week

 

Photo: Jamie Leo

Yup, that’s me interviewing the frightening Fred Phelps for Poz magazine in 1994.

I spent a week with Phelps and his family in Topeka, Kansas,  speaking to them and eating cookies served by his wife.  I’ve never been more scared of violence  on one of my reporting trips. You can read my  contemporary account here.

Photo credit:  Jamie  Leo/Poz magazine

Costume (poem)

Here’s a little  poem:

hunting hat

I feel like a superhero in my
Eddie Bauer down coat with its ridged shoulders,
chest piece like a breastplate, protective gear
in my strategic outside pockets:
several Kleenex and a phone stylus.

Wearing my “duck hunting hat,”
flaps over my ears, houndstooth,
warm and waterproof, looking simultaneously
like Elmer Fudd and someone formidable.

Lilith and The Great Chicken Shawarma

shwarma JPEG

I had an emotional experience with some chicken shawarma recently. I’ve never had warm feelings for shawarma before – if you’re curious you can read my piece at Matthew Taub’s lovely new site Local Writeup.

I also had an extraordinarily sweet review this month in Lilith Magazine, which says, “Fierce imagination, fascinating … compulsively readable. Growing Up Golem contains all the power of her earlier work, but it is written without the cloak. Tills new and important ground. Demonstrates Minkowitz’s capacity for personal exposure and vulnerability.” I was thrilled. Thanks, Lilith! If you’re interested, you can read more here.

I was also delighted to get a Kirkus review which said, “Holds nothing back… the same brutal introspection and clever humor [as her first memoir, Ferocious Romance] , but this book is much more personal and sexually explicit … Minkowitz brings a defiant, playful energy to writing about her difficult and dark past. Intelligent but not for the prudish or fainthearted.”

And finally, here are some upcoming readings:

If you’re on Long Island next week, come hear me speak and read from the book at Temple Avodah in Oceanside on the South Shore, Monday, February 24 at 7:30 PM, at 3050 Oceanside Road. More info here.

If you want to find that Ivy League boyfriend or girlfriend, come to the NYC reading I’ll be doing in April with one other author and the filmmaker of “Pier Kids,” sponsored by the Princeton and Yale Gay and Lesbian Alumni Associations! $30 includes Chinese dinner, appetizers, and dessert. Cash bar. Wednesday, April 9, 6:30-9 PM, People Lounge, 163 Allen Street.  Reserve here.

I’ll be reading at this cool church called Not So Churchy and doing a short memoir writing workshop at the same time, on Monday, May 5 at 6:30 PM, 85 S. Oxford St. in Brooklyn. They apparently provide chocolate at every worship.

Thrilled that I’ll be speaking at the Sunday platform of the New York Society for Ethical Culture Sunday, June 15 at 11:15 AM. My subject: “On Turning People into Things.”

And for the really big news… drumroll… the first events on the West Coast for Growing Up Golem, will be 1) at Antioch University in LA on May 20 (details TBA), and 2) next October in the San Francisco Bay Area with the LGBT Jewish organization Keshet, the Hormel Center at the San Francisco Public Library, Congregation Sha’ar Zahav and several other groups. Watch this space for info. :-)