My first name doesn’t come on magnets

I’ve trained for decades in the art of patiently waiting for people to butcher my name. It’s often a teacher or customer service official who has to read aloud from a list. I listen to them breeze through Daniel and Jennifer and even Dwayne, but inevitably, there’s a break in their rhythm. “James! Carrie! Karima! Stephanie! Kevin!” Pause. “Bar—” Pause. They look around the room and then look back at their list. Their confidence falters. The declarative tone applied to the names before mine gives way to a weak, interrogative stumbling:

Barry? Barrington? Baracuda? Bartuna? Bartender? Bartunda? Bartholomew? Bart? Baritone? Baritone Dave? Barathunde? Bar—? Brad!!

The person who called me Brad was engaged in the most lazy and hilarious form of wishful thinking, but all the others kind of, sort of, maybe make some sense. This experience is so common in my life that I now entirely look forward to it. Like a child on Christmas morning who hasn’t yet been told that Santa is a creation of consumer culture maintained by society to extend the myth of “economic growth,” I eagerly await the gift of any new variation the next person will invent. Can I get a Beelzebub? Who will see a Q where none exists? How about some numbers or special characters? Can I get a hyphen, underscore, forward slash? Only after letting the awkward process run its public course do I step forward, volunteering myself as the bearer of the unpronounceable label and correct them. “That’s me. It’s Baratunde.”

—Baratunde Thurston, How to Be Black

A vegan kitchen: new cookbook day!

I pre-ordered a cookbook back in May and I’ve been eagerly anticipating its late-October release… and it’s finally here!


Isa Does It by Isa Chandra Moskowitz has finally hit the bookshelves and my pre-ordered copy arrived this afternoon. It felt like Christmas in my house, where the mail carrier played the part of Santa Claus, whose arrival I anticipated with tremendous excitement. When finally it was was delivered, I lovingly removed it from its box and carefully opened the covers, savoring the sound of the crisp pages turning for the first time. I was stricken by the gorgeous photos (taken by the incredibly talented Vanessa Rees), fun illustrations (drawn by the super skilled Erica Rose Levine), and quirky typography.

And then I started reading it. It’s no surprise that I’m a huge fan of Ms. Moskowitz (owning most of her cookbooks, reading her blog, following her on Twitter, and watching her videos) but, somehow, this book is making me like her even more. I love her no-nonsense attitude and her frank style of writing. It’s what makes me trust her and her recipes. She’s hilarious, too, which makes reading her cookbooks a pleasure:

…The eggplant really just disintegrates into the soup, to give it a meaty thickness. In traditional harira, lamb is used for that purpose, but, you know. . . .

This cookbook–whose subtitle is “Amazingly Easy, Wildly Delicious Vegan Recipes for Every Day of the Week”–offers recipes for every occasion, as well as a primer in the beginning of the book about how to stock your vegan kitchen. There’s also an adorable section on “vegan butchery” that shows how to butcher tofu and tempeh. Most recipes are simple and include just a few ingredients (all things you should be able to find easily in most supermarkets), with notes about common substitutions and ways to make the dish even more phenomenal.

The book is huge (311 pages, including the index and appendices) with eleven chapters:

  1. Soups
  2. Salads
  3. Handheld
  4. Pasta & Risotto
  5. Stews, Chilis & Curries
  6. Stir-Fries & Sautes
  7. Bowls (& A Few Plates)
  8. Sunday Night Suppers
  9. A Few Basic Proteins
  10. Breakfast, Brunch & Bakes For The Morning
  11. Desserts

It lies flat, too! This is great when you’re actually using it in the kitchen: your can of chickpeas no longer has to serve double-duty as a paperweight.

It’s the prettiest cookbook I own and, though I fear staining the pages with sauce and wine, I can’t wait to add it to my regular rotation. It’s sure to become a favorite in my kitchen.