A week after things started shutting down because of COVID-19, I learned about the Anchovy Project, Stuart Brioza and Nicole Krasinki’s project to introduce local anchovies that were only two hours removed from the ocean to the San Francisco food scene. The Anchovy Bar not only survived COVID-19, it’s a hard reservation to get with limited outdoor seating, so I still haven’t been, but I’m looking forward to trying it.
This week, Eater published this fantastic video detailing how the anchovies get from the ocean to the restaurant:
I particularly love how a few people managed to create and improve a supply chain to make all of this possible. It takes a tremendous amount of vision and passion to do this. I doubt the demand for very fresh, local anchovies was very high prior to this project, and so building the supply chain to do this required faith and personal commitment. Now that it exists, demand has gone up and other restaurants are benefiting from their work. The more our attitudes change about seafood, the better it will be for our health and happiness as well as the ocean.
I made my NPR debut this morning talking about… seaweed foraging, of all things! Yes, random, I know.
Last year, my partner and I went up to Bodega Bay to visit our friends, Chad and Elissa. On a whim, I decided to see if Forage SF was offering seaweed foraging classes on the Sonoma Coast that weekend. Sure enough, they were! I had long wanted to take this class, but waking up at 4am to make the 90 minute drive from San Francisco deterred me. Since I was going to be there anyway, it felt like the perfect opportunity.
Chad and Elissa, who hail from Virginia, had never heard of seaweed foraging, and asked me lots of questions about it. I realized, to my amusement, that what felt like a perfectly normal thing for me to want to do might feel exotic to others. Going seaweed foraging didn’t feel any different to me than, say, going apple picking. I, like many Koreans, grew up eating seaweed soup and banchan. Furthermore, anyone who eats sushi also eats seaweed, which holds the rolls of rice and fish together, and salted sheets are ubiquitous in the snack aisle of many grocery stores.
I loved the class, which was taught by Heidi Herrmann of Strong Arm Farm. When I saw Chad and Elissa after the class, I gave them some seaweed to taste and gifted them some Turkish Towel, which you can use as an exfoliant for your own personal spa treatment.
Chad and Elissa were back in Bodega Bay this summer, and when my partner and I were making plans to visit them again, they suggested that we go seaweed foraging together! I was thrilled! Even though I’m still a complete novice, I had ventured out with friends a few times since taking the class and felt comfortable guiding others. Plus — as mentioned in the NPR piece — all of the seaweed found on the beach we were visiting was edible (although not necessarily tasty), so I wasn’t worried about killing anybody.
When Chad, who’s a producer at NPR, said he wanted to do a little audio story about our outing, I felt a little less comfortable. I didn’t want to come off as if I knew more than I did, which is very little. Chad assured me that it would be fine, and I trusted his storytelling skills. Coincidentally, when we got to the beach, we discovered that Heidi was there as well teaching another class. That worked out perfectly for the story. Chad hung out with Heidi and her class for a bit, getting good audio clips from someone who knows what she’s talking about, then joined me and Elissa for our own adventures.
I love how the final story turned out. It was amazing to see how Chad was able to transform an hour of raw audio footage into a tight, three minute story, and it’s such a gift to have a pro documenting your fun times together. I’ve heard my recorded voice enough over the years that I’m no longer wigged out by it. Still, I was amused by how excited I sounded about finding Turkish towel. What’s not clear from the story is that it was actually Chad who found it, and the piece he found was a beauty!
At the end of the story, Chad shares a story I tell about kimchi, which was part of a longer, rambling story that didn’t make it into the clip. After I took the class, my friend, Jon, asked me to bring him along the next time I went. Jon and his wife, Linzy, are both nature and food lovers, and it didn’t surprise me that they wanted to go, but it turned out that Jon had other reasons. Jon is part Welsh, and Welsh people eat seaweed! Specifically, Jon wanted to make laverbread, a flat cake made from seaweed paste and oats. A few months later, we managed to find a patch of laver at Pillar Point in Half Moon Bay, which Jon converted into these delicious cakes.
I had only eaten seaweed in Asian food, and it never occurred to me that anyone else eats seaweed, which of course is ridiculous. Lots of cultures live by the ocean, and every culture has learned how to take what’s close to them and turn it into something delicious. But in today’s world, everything has gotten homogenized, and so we miss out on wonderful things like laverbread.
Food connects us to place and to each other in beautiful, often surprising ways. Riffing on this got me talking about how global our food systems have always been, and how different cultures have influenced each other in surprising ways. Prior to the 1500s, Korean kimchi was mild, because they had not yet discovered chili peppers, which come from the Americas. Similarly, as Bill Buford explains in his book, Heat, Italian polenta was made of barley and there was no pasta with marinara sauce, because both corn and tomatoes also come from the Americas.
Let me know if you want to go seaweed foraging sometime!
We poor myopic humans, with neither the raptor’s gift of long-distance acuity, nor the talents of a housefly for panoramic vision. However, with our big brains, we are at least aware of the limits of our vision. With a degree of humility rare in our species, we acknowledge there is much we can’t see, and so contrive remarkable ways to observe the world. Infrared satellite imagery, optical telescopes, and the Hubble space telescope bring vastness within our visual sphere. Electron microscopes let us wander the remote universe of our own cells. But at the middle scale, that of the unaided eye, our senses seem to be strangely dulled. With sophisticated technology, we strive to see what is beyond us, but are often blind to the myriad sparkling facets that lie so close at hand. We think we’re seeing when we’ve only scratched the surface. Our acuity at this middle scale seems diminished, not by any failing of the eyes, but by the willingness of the mind. Has the power of our devices led us to distrust our unaided eyes? Or have we become dismissive of what takes no technology but only time and patience to perceive? Attentiveness alone can rival the most powerful magnifying lens.
Over the past few months, I’ve been taking regular time in the middle of the week for “recess” with my friend, Yi Zhang. We basically hop on a Zoom, make art, and share. We mainly do it because it’s fun, but there’s a deeper meditation underlying these sessions.
We’ve observed that others seem to value us for how we bring art into our work, both directly and indirectly. However, this is usually seen as a nice-to-have, not a need-to-have, things that are best done on our own versus company time. Why, and what do we lose when we view art this way? As Yi exclaimed, “It’s not optional for me. I need to do this.”
Other things we often treat as outside the scope of work include rest, relationship-building, and self-care. Why, and what do we lose when view these as separate from our work? Some fields do integrate these things. In sports, rest is part of your training regimen. And, in primary education, recess is part of your school day.
Hence, recess. If it’s useful for my 10-year old nephew, it’s probably useful for me too. I don’t have anything too insightful to share about our sessions, other than that I love them, that they energize me, and that I want to do them more often with more people. I also track them on my timesheet as part of my work day. My timesheet is for myself, only — I’m not billing any clients for this time — but it still feels like an important declaration of values and boundary-setting.
This morning, I came across this blog post about a brand of CBD sparkling water called, “Recess.” Here’s their tagline on their website:
An antidote to modern times. We’re just here to help people feel calm, focused, and creative despite the world around them.
I chuckled when I saw it, I think their marketing is brilliant, and I don’t begrudge the person for sharing her enthusiasm (and a discount code) for it. My friend and colleague, Odin Zackman, has often talked about how we should not only take sabbaticals but find ways to bring the essence of these sabbaticals into our every day life. If drinking a can of flavored water does that for you, I am all for it.
And yet, I found it a bit sad for how reflective it seems to be of modern times. Suffering from the chaos of everyday life? There’s a drink for that! Or a drug. Or better yet, an app! Why have actual recess when you can buy a can of soda with the same name?!
Here are some related musings I’ve written about in the past:
In my most recent Faster Than 20 blog post on Journey Mapping, I wrote, “We often treat art as optional — nice, but not necessary. Doing this end-of-year ritual with my colleagues the past four years has helped me realize that this is a mistake, not just with Journey Mapping, but with many of my exercises. Practically speaking, when you create something that’s beautiful, you’re more likely to look at it again. More importantly, the act of creation leads to an understanding that’s far deeper and more meaningful than a set of sticky notes can convey.”
One of my regular practices for the past decade (!) has been Wednesday Play Days, which was inspired by Odin. And here’s the exhaustive story of my seven year journey to learn how to slow down and bring better balance to my life.
“Art” can sometimes have a narrow definition. In 2013, I wrote about how I consider my work a creative practice. I mentioned “social artistry” — a term I learned from Nancy White — and also shared some of Elissa Perry’s poetry. Both Nancy and Elissa have continued to inspire me in how they bring their art to their work (or their art to their art!).
I don’t know David, but his tweet made me want to know more about his yearly reflection process. Fortunately, he documented it on his blog. It’s smart and well worth reading. A few things jumped out at me:
His reflection starts with a review of his previous year’s goals
In addition to his yearly review, he does daily, weekly, and monthly reviews, and he takes notes for all of them
His planning naturally follows from his reflection
Even though he’s allocating a significant amount of time for end-of-year reflection and planning, his whole process is both integrated and iterative. As he explains:
There are a few interesting side-effects of the review process. First, they let me see the big picture across timespan we don’t normally have the time to think about. Big change takes time and we are often focused on very small time spans. The second side-effect is it let’s me see my accomplishments more clearly. I had a very good 2019, accomplishing a lot of my goals and pushing many things forward. It’s nice to pause to see the forest for the trees periodically. It also makes it easier to keep pressing forward on the hard things when I can see that I’ve made progress on them or similar hard things in the past.
His process nicely reiterates some things that I constantly find myself harping on.
First, planning and review / reflection are two sides of the same coin. Trying to do one without the other doesn’t work.
Second, long-term complements short-term reflection and planning, and vice-versa. There’s a school of thought that wants to claim that you shouldn’t plan long-term because the world is too dynamic and uncertain, as if everyday learning somehow conflicts with long-term goals, which is a fallacy. As David writes, when you do both, it helps you see both the forest and the trees.