Monthly Archives: March 2011

Memoirs of a Coffee House 2: The Phenomenon of Wired and My Life

Over the next few months, I continued to visit Wired as the common meeting ground for several friends, but we never stayed long.

A concert took place around New Years, which was one of the more uncomfortable times for me. I was unaware that bands played on the weekend, and being in a room filled with numerous people with only one friend by my side was incredibly bothersome.

Once my other friends arrived, I felt much more comfortable, and eventually my own energy seemed to much into the place.

Next I discovered Open Mic night, which took place on Friday nights; I began to visit Wired on Friday, Saturday, and then I discovered, Sunday as well, because Sunday nights featured the potluck, one of my first venues for displaying my cooking skills (which were at the time still quite terrible.)

Spring Break 2004 rolled around, and I intended to visit Wired every single night in so far as I could- and I did.

The people at Wired were different; they were unique. When one walked into Wired, there was not an atmosphere of judging, nor an attitude of superiority among any of the people. Rather, the people were accepting, tolerant, and embracing of differences among individuals. One’s sexual orientation, one’s race, one’s background- none of these things mattered to Lily or to anyone at the coffee house, for we were a caravan of love, love, and more love.

This bring us to Rumi and Sufism. Turkey is a Muslim country, but Lily practiced Sufism, a form of mysticism highly influenced by Islam. Poetry and stories of the great Sufi and poet Rumi filled Wired.

One of my friends from California had been practicing Sufism at the time, so I was familiar, at least in part, with the tradition, but Rumi was new to me.

Sufism treats the relationship to God as the relationship between a Lover and his Beloved. It said that Sufism began as a heartache, and from my own experience, I would deem this to be accurate.

Rumi’s poetry was and is magnificent. He speaks of longing and love, he speaks of God and the joy of reuniting with the Beloved, and all-in-all, I understood him, perhaps too well. Rumi’s poetry speaks not only to Sufis but to the whole world; his Love poems blaze with an energy that is not of this world and is surely of the next. If you have never read anything by Rumi, I suggest you go do so right at this moment, as his words will affect you quite a bit more than my own.

Lily had a set of cards comparable to Tarot cards, except they were actually poems written by Rumi, and a few different times she read my fortune. One particular poem has always stood out to me:

“Hold me in the fire, and although I die, I know for Whom and Why.”

Another card in particular that I could never find struck me infinitely.

“Love smells sweetest when found where least expected: in detachment.”

Sufism is replete with imagery of the fire of love and passion transforming base materials of lead into gold, with the colorful idea of one’s polishing the heart to reflect the Light of God, and with dream interpretation and the sharing of parables and stories.

Needless to say, this energy permeated Wired, and thus to Wired were drawn the Seeker and the Enlightened, the Artist and the Poet, the Broken-Hearted and the Lover. Wired drew together a number of people who did not fit into the mainstream society in the South, who did not share the typical mores and folkways of the Alabamian mentality. Here, there were no rednecks, no country boys, but if there had been, they would have been equally welcomed to share themselves and their lives with the rest of us. No one was turned away; this was the nature of Lily’s kindness and hospitality (incidentally another Sufi trait.)

Wired is where I met the many kinds of coffee, and I picked up small pieces of the Turkish language that I can pronounce like a native speaker even today. I learned that I enjoyed mocha a great deal (even though in reality a mocha is chocolate milk mixed with coffee) and also that chai was a favorite. I discovered the delight of Lily’s chicken salad sandwiches and had a few incidents of overdosing on cheesecake (though many of my readers just gasped and asked aloud how it is possible to overdose on cheesecake.)

Wired is also where I met a good majority of the friends I have now and then ran into people I had known in high school but with whom I hadn’t exactly been friends.

Wired also saw my attempt to be a vegetarian, including no fish. That lasted for a little over a month or so, then I gave in.

This entry has become quite long; let’s take a break her, shall we?



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Memoirs of a Coffee House: The Phenomenon of Wired and My Life

This blog has been a long time in coming, and though I’ve made two or three attempts so far to write this series of entries, I’ve had trouble each time for varying reasons.

But without further a-do, I’ll present to you one of the most influential aspects of my life to date: the Wired Coffee House experience.

First, I should like to distinguish among a few commonly used words to explain exactly what I mean and why I prefer the term “coffee house” to others; properly, a coffee house is what Wired was and will always be in my heart, a place for relaxing, a place that has numerous people meet and greet, a place that is a home away from home. A coffee shop is more generic in nature and is something that is more or less like Starbucks; a get-in, get-out ordeal. A café, still, may not even necessarily serve coffee but specializes more in a cafeteria style hot-sandwich-and-drink style.

So despite the various names Wired took on, ultimately it was a coffee house, or at least that was the form under which I knew it.

The legacy of Wired began my second day of college and lasted until my final days at the local community college. The second day of school, a guy named Michael turned to me in my English class and began inquiring about me. My typically shy but polite nature required me to respond to his questions, and upon discovering my penchant for languages, he told me about Wired and how a Turkish woman ran it.

My mind only conceived of a Starbucks-like establishment and would never have dreamt of what I would later find; I didn’t think too terribly much about Wired at this point.

Several months later, a friend of mine and I went looking for Michael and stopped in at the coffee house, then known as the Wired Coffee Company. My mind was blown by what I saw in the small business: there were very few tables and chairs, and instead huge couches with decorative coverings and enormous pillows were situated around tables coffee tables. In an alcove, there were two guys playing chess. Music flowed through the coffee house, and art, painted by local artists, hung on the walls for sale.

Then came Lily.

She burst through a bead curtain, her dark hair, bright eyes, and olive complexion shining with that smile that only Lily could give; she greeted us warmly and told us about her coffee house, showing us her hand which had red markings on it that I didn’t understand until she explained that her daughter did henna tattoos, and suddenly what I thought were red blotches appeared as intricate patterns of beauty.

Lily’s slight Turkish accent was beautiful and melodic on English, hinting at her exotic nature.

That day, I ordered a meatball sub.

And it was good.

For those of you gasping, recall that this was 2003, and I was not, at that moment, a demi-veg as I am today. So stop gasping.

Lily encouraged us to return to the coffee house, to come see her and to come hang out, and we reassured her that we would; she promised us that there was a brand-new surprise coming the very next week and to be sure to check it out.

This is how the phenomenon of Wired began.



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How to Eat Sushi Video

In honor of Japan, let’s watch a video on the proper way of eating sushi!

Many times, one will have sushi bought at a store or carried out from a restaurant, so the ritual of it may not be as stringent in those cases. Also, if one doesn’t take alcohol, this can likely be skipped.



Posted by on March 29, 2011 in japan, japanese food


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Foreign Surprises: Snacks All the Way from Japan-land

Van Tilden had been promising to send me snacks from Japan for quite some time now, and then she finally mailed them out only days before the earthquake hit.

Now, I have the chance to blog and vlog about the fantastic snacks she sent me!

First, we have something that Van Tilden hates but I personally love: 健康フィッシュ、or “kenkou fisshu,” which means “Health Fish!” The cover mentions that they’re full of calcium and that the package includes almonds.

Kenkou Fish tastes really strange, not how you would expect: they’re crunchy and have a sweet flavor to them, most unexpected but truly delicious. Van Tilden’s first experience with these left the flavor in her mouth for 10 agonizing minutes, but the only agony I experienced was how quickly I ate all the fish and almonds.

The Kenkou Fish also has sesame seeds on it, which added an extra texture to it.

Next, we have the Jalapeño Almonds, which immediately terrified me because of my bad experience with jalapeños last year. These were actually a good idea, though, because the heat is mild and a good compliment to the almond’s nutty flavor.

Even so, I myself am not the biggest fan of nuts, but if I were to have some, jalapeño flavored almonds would be my first choice.

ソフトいか味天, which translates to “Soft Squid Flavor Heaven,” was one of my favorites. Again, the taste is surprising. Dried squid snacks seem to be commonplace in Japan, and they’re always really good. Think of squid as the beef jerky of Japan. This particular Soft Squid Flavor Heaven had a mustard-mayonnaise flavor to it. Naturally, it was chewy, and like the Health Fish, it had a sweet flavor to it, probably sweeter than I would have liked.

Saving the very best for last, we come upon the Cheese Flavored Kit-Kat. Van Tilden has long documented the Japanese phenomenon of “flavor of the week” which is taken in an extremely literal way: various items have updated, limited-edition flavors that are produced almost on a weekly basis.

From the moment she mentioned Cheese Flavored Kit-Kats, I knew I had to try them. She found some and mailed me four small ones. Serving sizes in Japan are much smaller than they are here in the USA, where more is always better and obesity is celebrated except in California and Miami.

The Cheese Flavored Kit-Kats are amazing. The cheese flavor is incredibly subtle but very much so there. Needless to say, I was not disappointed: in fact, I was quite impressed.

Thank you, thank you, THANK YOU, Van Tilden, and soon enough I’ll have a video posted of my giving more detailed (perhaps) accounts of the food.


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Naming One’s House

Maybe it’s never been brought up in a blog before, but the house in which I live is named Hickory Shade.

The naming of a house is incredibly important to me. We endow a house with a name, a title, a meaning that transcends the wood and stone used to build it. A house with no name is simply just another building out there, faceless and soulless. But to give a house a name implies that it means something, that it is more than just the dwelling of the people who live there.

Our culture sees us overlooking small, interesting things that should make us smile and enjoy life more all the time. We can’t do a whole lot about it, to tell the truth- it’s just built into our worldview to not notice things.

So that being said, I wanted to establish a legacy, a legend, an identity, a history for my house. This is part of the myth-making meme in humans. Give something a story, and then suddenly it means something.

Which is more important: the rock that you found on the side of the road, or the rock in the shape of a moon that your grandfather found the same night that he met your grandmother and that stayed on their mantel their entire marriage?

My house sits beneath a pecan tree. A pecan tree, as I learned, is a kind of hickory tree. Thus, as the house sits in the shade of a hickory tree, it is known as Hickory Shade.

But even I forget sometimes that the house has its own name, is its own entity, and that whoever might inherit it after we’re long gone, too, will inherit the legacy of Hickory Shade.

Maybe a new legacy of cooking and good food can unfold now. Let’s hope so.





Posted by on March 27, 2011 in non-food


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Van Random and Cleanin’ Fish: Southern Adventures in the World of Fishing and Seafood

Van Random called me one night recently and asked if he could do a video while he was talking to me on the phone, and then told me he wanted to do it on fish-cleaning. I declined because it wasn’t free to talk on the phone but encouraged him to do the video anyway.

People in the South love to go fishing. That’s just something we do. You hear people speak of going fishing all the time; you hear everyone, man and woman, talk about some aspect of fishing adventures. One such story was told to me by a neighbor a friend; she spoke of the virtues of getting up at 3 AM to go fishing and having coffee and cigarettes on the boat.

Now that’s what I’m talking about. Despite the relative unhealthiness of both cigarettes and large amounts of caffeine, in some ways you have not lived until you have smoked a cigarette while drinking a cup of coffee.

Doing that while out on the pond fishing must be orgasmic!

Ponds have a distinctive smell; fish ponds have even more of a distinctive smell that’s difficult to explain, but if you’ve ever been close to it, you’ll always remember it.

As a matter of fact, I have a small story to tell before we get to the video:

When I was 5 or 6, my family went on a fishing trip. I caught a huge fish- it was 16 inches long. My father threw it back, because there was some rule he said about not being able to keep fish that were that long. Later, he discovered that no such rule existed or had changed. That was the biggest catch we had of the day.

Later, my aunt Mimi married a man who owned two fish ponds, and as children we would go out to the ponds and fish. I don’t remember catching any, but I do remember sitting with my cousin Susanne on one such trip and watching her as she cleaned the fish.

I’m not the sort of person who enjoys getting dirty; anyone who knows me understands that cleanliness is next to godliness in my mind. Thus, putting worms and crickets on hooks was not going to happen, much less the cleaning of a fish.

Admittedly, though, knowing how to clean a fish is a good skill to have if you eat seafood and most especially if you go fishing yourself.

Now, back to my buddy: I’ve been friends with Van Random for years upon years. He and I are completely opposite as far as creatures go. The accent that you’re about to hear in this video is 100% real and honest and accurate: this is how the guy actually talks, no exaggerations.

Also, as a forewarning to the faint of heart: he uses a few strong expletives in the video. They are few and far in-between, but they are there. The video’s about cleaning and gutting a fish, so if you’re squeamish or super-vegan or part of PETA, don’t watch it.



Posted by on March 26, 2011 in food, southern food


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How to Be Alone

The post isn’t necessarily food related, but the Onyx Plate brought up something featured in it recently: she visited a restaurant and ate there alone, something I’ve never done. Maybe that should be a goal this year for me, to try this out, to see what it’s like.



Awesome wisdom.



Posted by on March 25, 2011 in comfort food, food, youtube


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