I started this newsletter three years ago as a way to share my many, many opinions. It’s followed the thread of my life, from baby discoveries to toddler recs, job transitions to consulting adventures, always heavy on the food optimization. Then 2020. Quarantine lifesavers, antiracist resources, get-out-the-vote tactics, and other gentle suggestions for navigating this scary and uncertain world we’re living in.
So where to go from here? I’m in between projects and giving myself permission to take a beat before the next thing. I’m thinking about how I can send more good into the universe, whether that’s by using this small platform to amplify minority-owned businesses and important voices or by working with social-impact founders and companies. It’s a WIP and I’ll keep you posted. One small thing I’m excited to try: I am offering free office hours every week (currently Thursday afternoons) for any BIPOC people who would like to chat about brand, startups, grain bowls etc. (Why only BIPOC? Simple: I find that white women and men are more likely to just cold outreach, and I want to help people who might not feel as comfortable doing that.) You can sign up here. I also angel invest and advise and am especially passionate about founders taking on interesting problems and consumer pain points. Reach out to me at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Thank you for bearing with the musings, and I promise to continue bringing you important food advice and useful kid recs. Here are some ideas to close out the month:
Black History and Black Futures: I was talking to my friend Raisa about how to think about Black History Month and loved the way she is thinking about it: “This is a checkpoint in time — a way to hold ourselves accountable and revisit the goals we set for ourselves since last June.” I’m trying to make sure Black History and Futures are part of our day-to-day, in the things we buy, books we read, and things we teach our kids.
So many good pods: For most of the past year, my podcast-ing has been pretty minimal (no subway ride!) but I’ve gotten in the habit of listening while I meditatively mop (one of the few chores I enjoy). Here are a few recent gems: I smiled and cried through Jenna Wortham and Wesley Morris‘ 2018 episode about Aretha Franklin, then immediately queued up Franklin’s “Young, Gifted, and Black” album. I also loved Sam Sanders talking with Black Girl Songbook’sDanyel Smith about Whitney Houston’s iconic 1991 Superbowl performance and why it was such an important cultural moment. Again, immediately pulled up the video—gives me chills and tears every time. Finally, this Code Switch about “Who’s Black Enough for Reparations” is thought-provoking and will stick with you.
New storytime faves: I can’t say enough good things about the ABC’s of Black History by poet Rio Cortez and illustrator Lauren Semmer. It’s visually striking and addresses hard topics head on but in a way that works for even little kids; it also has gotten Lilly excited about reading other books about black figures, like our much-loved Become a Leader Like Michelle Obama and newly acquired Radiant Child: The Story of Young Artist Jean-Michel Basquiat.
A must-read on racism: I just started Heather McGhee’sThe Sum of Us: What Racism Costs Us and How We can Prosper Together and it’s already clear that it’s going to be required reading for years to come. McGhee has spent the last couple decades studying and designing solutions to inequity and is currently the board chair of Color of Change. Buy the book but for a preview, the NYT has an expert where she makes a succinct and compelling argument that inequitable social and economic policy hurt white people as much, if not more, than Black people. I also love her TED Talk from last April.
Can’t put down: I only recently became familiar with Octavia E. Butler, the legendary science fiction author, and I’m quickly trying to catch up. (Stephen Kearse’s NYT piece is a good cheat sheet.) I’m starting with Kindred, her beloved novel about a contemporary Black woman who gets abruptly pulled into the antebellum South. It’s the kind of book you want to stay up all night reading, and wake up thinking about.
Sheet pan dinners, where have you been all my life: I know, sheet pan dinners. How exciting can they be? Well, if you don’t want to do dishes and do want to eat something delicious, the answer is: VERY EXCITING. There’s something freeing about dumping everything on a pan and knowing it’ll turn out delicious. Some to try: Yewande Komolafe’sChicken with Sweet Potatoes and Fennel; Yasmin Fahr‘s Feta with Broccolini, Tomatoes, and Lemon; and Julia Turshen‘s Flounder with Roasted Tomatoes and Black Olives.
Kid-friendly Lunar New Year: Last week, we had a rolling Lunar New Year celebration with the kids. Lilly is newly excited about, in order, dragons, lai see envelopes, and dumpling making. For the latter, we used Woks of Life basic recipe with wrappers and other ingredients via Asian Veggies (if you’re in New York, highly recommend for produce as well as every Asian condiment your heart desires). I also bought Lilly I Dream of Popo, a beautiful book about a young Taiwanese girl who has a special relationship with her grandmother. While I can’t get through it without crying, it’s been amazing to tell Lilly stories about my Popo, the wonderful grandmother, mother, artist, and cook she is named after.
Climate-friendly snacks: Last month, I was lucky to connect with Julia Collins, founder of Moonshot Snacks. She’s building a food company that creates carbon-neutral products and then a platform that helps other brands do the same. It’s incredibly inspiring, and the crackers are a new household favorite. Bonus; Learn why soil health is so important in this “How to Save a Planet” episode.
Holy dryness: My hands get horrifically dry during the winter and this year it’s even worse thanks to frequent hand-washing and outdoor socializing. I just ordered Klur’s Surrounding Surfaces hand and cuticle oil, which supports SummaEveryThang Community Center (also re-upped my Skin Soil exfoliator and Gentle Matter cleanser). I’ve also been slathering both myself and the kids in Bubbsi’s Coconut Oil Body Cream and Balm.
Team Sotomayor: My brilliant friend Irin continues to amaze me with her reporting. Her profile of Sonia Sotomayor is wonderfully contextual and sheds light on what impact the Justice could have on the court and our country in the coming years.
Last thing(s): If you’re looking for a way to help people in Texas who are without power or clean water, and grabbling with the fallout of the recent extreme weather, here are some ideas: Representative Alexandria OcasioCortez has put together a fundraiser that benefits seven organizations across the state; you can also send money directly to mutual aid organizations like San Antonio Mutual Aid and Houston Mutual Aid; or consider supporting Feeding Texas’ Crisis Relief Fund.
It’s also been sickening to hear about the increase in violence and racism against the Asian community. If you’re interested in learning more and helping Asian communities, NY Mag has a comprehensive list of ideas. I started following @dearasianyouth for info and resources and have supported Heart of Dinner and #EnoughisEnough.
Thanks for making it to the end! See you in March for the one-year anniversary of lockdown (wow).