Thursday, April 15, 2021

I'm back at the movies and it's weird.

 I love movies. LOVE. Mostly art-house, but also action and sci-fi. You know that if you've read Heckasac. Give me a long French movie where someone just strolls around and talks about life and I'm in heaven, especially if one of those people is La Binoche or Huppert.  It's been a real bummer not being able to see movies, and one reason is because I have a hard time staying off my phone when I'm watching movies at home.

I'm fully vaxxed now so one of the first things I did was go back to Tower. I so far have refrained from eating popcorn so I can keep my mask on, even though eating movie popcorn as a meal is one of my other favorite things besides watching Isabelle Huppert sit on a beach in the south of France and whinge about something. I saw Minari.

Then, on Tuesday of this week I went to DOCO with Smiller and saw Nobody. That felt significantly less safet because a) the rest of the audience was all young people (less likely to be vaxxed, more likely to carry COVID19 and not GAF) and b) there were more people in the theater than at Minari. The closest folks were probably 8 feet away, and munching popcorn the entire time (no mask).

I did not feel super COVID safe at Nobody, and indeed, have a back-of-the-mind fear that I might have the rona right now (Based on nothing, and got my weekly negative test at work from yesterday). But I'm also like: is this how life will be forever now? I mean, I'm vaccinated so I'm very unlikely to get a severe case.

I don't know, I don't have any answers. But I like being back at movies, even though it's not as comfortable and relaxing as it used to be. Nobody is pretty good, I really love Odenkirk. It's kind of silly. I thought it was charming that the youngs in the theater were into it. RZA is wasted in it, he could have been given a way bigger/better role.

Thursday, March 18, 2021

So now I love rice and my maftoul journey

Growing up, rice was rarely served at my house. Maybe once or twice a month, long grain white rice as a side to meat (often a hamburger-based dish). No sauce or seasoning, except maybe butter/salt/pepper. I was not a big fan. I preferred any type of potato or bread as a carby side dish.

My eating has done a complete 180 since I was a kid. What I ate was shaped by a) we didn't have a ton of money and we were a family of 5 and b) my dad mostly cooked and the dishes were midwest by way of the military. He was not in the military but his dad and bro were and they liked military-style food. I know I have posted about shit on a shingle before.

Over time I ate a lot of rice out in restaurants, but at home as an adult I would make it fairly rarely, often brown rice with the thought that it was "healthy". I liked rice but did not love it.

Pandemic time, and my cooking went from 2 nights a week to 6 or 7, every week, for the last year. We def. averaged less than once a week for takeout. I feel guilty about this due to wanting to support restaurants but hey, I had nothing else to do and also for quite a few months the takeout containers and pickup process freaked me out as well.

I also started to crave rice. One of my first really good pandemic meals  I made was chicken katsu and I had some Nishiki short grained that was so perfect. And the rice and salmon as well I love.

Then jasmine rice, I have been making lots of riffs on Indian dishes with lentils and chickpeas and tons of aromatics and spices. Can't get enough of jasmine rice.

That's my rice story. Kind of lame, but it is mine.

Now, short journey to making maftoul, which was billed in the LA times as "the Palestinian cousin to couscous". I am lucky enough to have been gifted 2 different Palestinian cookbooks and I had some teeny tiny couscous and was looking for a recipe, and saw a recipe for a chicken maftoul dish. I knew I had to get some! I ended up randomly locating it on the Patagonia provisions website, and buying lots of overpriced energy bars and some tinned fish in order to get free shipping.
It's organic and fair trade, so seemed cool. Then I started to make the dish, but since I am for some reason pathogically unable to read recipes all of the way through it called for twice as many yellow onions as I had, but I threw in 2  plus some whole shallots (as a sub for pearl onions, which i could not get)
You know if a recipe calls for this many spices it is probably going to be good! I love nutmeg in anything, and I have a vague guilt that my cinnamon is probably not real cinnamon but I don't know how to fix that easily.
Here's the finished result with my typical and neverendingly bad food photography. The maftoul was boiled with olive oil and half the spices. The rest of the spices were with the chicken, which was seared and then boiled with the chickpeas and lots of onions. I sauteed the chicken and onion in ghee, which is like the best aroma in the world, especially when you throw all those spices in. The maftoul itself was completely unique in flavor, I love it! It's naturally sweet (no added sugar), chewy and earthy.

They are whole wheat flour rolled around bulgur! You simply must check it out.

Friday, March 05, 2021


 Newsflash: Heckasac is not a Substack now. I mean, if it was you wouldn't be reading it here, right? Also, where did the word "newsflash" originate? No one is ever like, "did you see the newsflash? Crazy!" Ah, Merriam Webster said it is often used ironically when something is NOT surprising. Which I guess is how I was using it.

I've been thinking about meals because 

a) I spend 34% of my time thinking about food (a percentage that has been a bit lower lately, maybe because I'm FINALLY a bit sick of cooking

b) I read the Deborah Madison memoir "An onion in my pocket" and the last chapter details memorable meals.

If you don't know who she is (that's her on the right): she's a cookbook author and she started the SF vegetarian restaurant Greens. Which was maybe the first fancy vegetarian restaurant in the country. I have a post-pandemic goal to eat there. I've never eaten there but when I looked inside a couple years ago I discovered it is gorgeous!

She is from Davis (her dad was a UCD botanist) and she was a member of the SF Zen center and a good cook so they kind of ordered her to open the restaurant. I didn't know that after opening it she only ran it for 6 months and has been mostly a cookbook author since. I have two of her cookbooks and they are pretty good. I feel like I should use them more.

Her memoir is great and she is a bit grumpy but in a way I agree with, like wanting food to be simple and not fussy. 

But: memorable meals! I will share one. Please share your own. I posted about it at the time, but I still remember it fairly clearly! 2009. Belgium. Hop growing area. We got a tour of the brewery and the guy who conducted it was also escorting a Japanese-speaking visitor with very little English (none of us knew Japanese) and he convinced us to go to a fancy restaurant. I was nervous because I think it had a Michelin star and I didn't know if we could afford it.

Our Saint Bernadus brewery worker companion gave a vibe that we were a bit uncouth from only knowing one language and being worried about the cost, so I remember a feeling of shame mixed with excitement.

The whole agriculture area smelled like manure very strongly, and the big deal was the the hop shoots were coming up at the time (spring). They are a delicacy in the area, and only available for a few weeks. We got (I think we split it due to the price) a pork steak with hop shoots on top. The picture is in this post.

The craziest thing was that somehow the steak had picked up the earthy, raw character of the manure-y smell of the fields (like a steak terroir) in a way that was not gross but uncanny.

Nice to discover the restaurant is still around! Share a memorable meal.

Monday, January 04, 2021

Is Heckasac a SubStack now? Good idea? Bad idea?

The New Yorker had an article about SubStack. I subscribe to a couple SubStack newsletters, and I pay for at least one of them (not sure about the other, I subscribe to so many apps and services that I can't keep them straight). The article got me thinking maybe I could do a SubStack newsletter to roll into the second decade of Heckasac.

Here are the problems

1) not interactive. you can do comment threads but that's not the same. but I should admit that with the exception of the weird spam in the last post and Cody's very welcome comment, that Heckasac is largely not interactive either and 

2) the SubStack newsletters I get always feel like somewhat of a drag to read, like a chore or something. They are both food-related, and both good, but for some reason having them in my inbox on a schedule I don't control makes it feel more like a to-do read than a pleasure

So yeah, probably won't do it? We'll see. I love the idea that I started Heckasac because The New Yorker explained to me what blogs are and then I could move onto another platform for the same reason! It's still my main way to find out about many things.

I'm currently in 3 book clubs. One is a neighborhood one reading White Fragility. We had our first meeting I think it went ok. I've organized a previous, work-based book club for this same book but this iteration is my first time with a non-white person in the group. That makes the discussion just a little different because so much of that book is "white people, stop doing this shit" but I am thoroughly excited and engaged to have the convo with a non-white person as well, with also not wanting to put extra pressure on them as far as the group dynamics

My other book club is reading Luster by Raven Leilani. It's actually not a great book club book because it's compulsively readable and it's also short, so some of the group had read over half of the book before we even convened and now we are already done and we just started! Next time maybe we'll read Ulysses, ha.

This post is boring me so I won't go into the third book club, suffice to say that it's an attempt to keep up the only friendship I have made during quar.

Now that the holidays are over, my year stretches out as a featureless blob. I am looking forward to eating Dungeness crabs in the backyard with one friend soon. I have an April camping trip planned that hopefully can still happen, but bummer we probably won't be vaccinated by then.  Oh yeah, and inauguration day to get rid of the creep.

Friday, October 23, 2020


 I watched First Cow last night, the new-ish movie from Kelly Reichardt (Meek's Cutoff, Wendy and Lucy). Really enjoyed it. I was apprehensive when I saw Alia Shawkat in the first scene because I'm not a big fan, but without spoiling I will say it's a cameo. Orion Lee, who plays King Lu is an enormously appealing and charismatic actor. I looked him up and looks like he's done a lot of theater.

I had a thought while watching it and thinking about all the movies I've watched recently that were made by female directors: what if male directors aren't very good? I think this might secretly be the case and I'm putting this forth without any kind of developed argument. 

Wednesday, October 07, 2020

New phase of quar: same phase of quar

These days I mostly just watch The Vow and as of last night I started hate-watching We Are Who We Are but I don't think I can get through it. Also, Smiller and I finished the Sopranos. He had never seen the ending! I had only seen it once, close to when it was first on (I  think, my memory could be wrong). Brilliant! Best ending.

As far as the list of brilliant female directors, the one movie I've watched lately is Red Road. Intense! Has one of the craziest sex scenes ever. Then I found out the director, Andrea Arnold (pictured), directed American Honey and also the second season of Big Little Lies. I also saw her movie Fish Tank, I think I went to see it, so that was 11 years ago.

As far as quar. phases go, maybe the new phase is just settling in and not going through any truly new phases? I have the ingredients to start fermenting miso but keep forgetting to start it. I have a camping trip planned, but I'm fully expecting either fires or rain to interrupt it since everything I try to do with friends gets canceled.

I am getting even less social, my 2 bookclubs are the only things I do consistently (well it's really 3 bookclubs but one is for work so I don't count that as social). 

Wow, boring post!!

Wednesday, September 02, 2020

Brilliant underappreciated female directors

Hi to you if you are reading this, but these days I'm posting just for myself since it's not much of an interactive space. I was watching La Cienaga last night, as part of the Criterion "Bad Vacation" collection (I've watched almost all of them - may rewatch Haneke's "Funny Games" although it's one of his weaker movies), anyway, La Cienaga is brilliant and is directed by an Argentinian woman and I was thinking since I often forget director's names that I should start a list of brilliant female directors so that when I'm looking for a movie to watch I can browse theirs.

So: Lucrecia Martel. She has quite a few and La Cienaga is her first full-length. She seems to be quite acclaimed so not sure why I haven't heard of her.

The other day Mike C. texted me to ask if I had ever seen movies by Lynne Ramsay and I said no and then looked up her movies and I've seen most of them! I think I was a bit confused by Morvern Callar, but I liked We Need to Talk About Kevin and liked but didn't love You Were Never Really Here. I need to watch Ratcatcher! That seems like one maybe Smiller would watch.

Then there's Eliza Hittman, Here most recent (this year) is Never Rarely Sometimes Always is super gripping and important. Beach Rats I remember liking. I need to watch It Felt Like Love now.

Then there's one of my FAVES: Maren Ade. Towering talent there, but OF COURSE does not get the props she should of would if she was male. She's only made 3 movies in 17 years so I hope she makes more soon. She probably can't get funding cuz she's a woman.

Then there's Atlantics, which is on Netflix and I hope everyone has watched it!! It's very arresting, for the setting in Dakar as much as anything else. And I love the soundtrack and horror elements. Directed by Mati Diop, who also starred in a Claire Denis movie, so she's multitalented.

I need to watch Portrait of a Lady on Fire although I don't tend to like those type of period pieces, but that's directed by Celina Sciamma and I know people loved it.

I'll think of more and add!