May 4, 2017

Reading Log - April Recap

My fourth semester back at university has ended. It has been the most successful school term of my life! My classes were mostly food focused and that did help me stay motivated. April was a successful reading month for me, even though I continue to be well behind my reading goal for the year. It may have been a pipe dream in the first place.

I did finish SIX books this month and I do consider that an enormous achievement.

14. Liar and Spy
15. 15. The Omnivore's Dilemma
16. 365 Journal Writing Prompts
17. Stars So Sweet
18. Edible
19. The Circle

The last two I finished since my most recent update and one was AMAZING and the other was really super pretty bad. One was about eating bugs and the other was about the evils of social media and the control of the internet. Considering my interest in dystopia, they both strike different parts of interest for me. The Circle was one of the worst books I have ever read, yet I found it still to be intriguing. It played very much into my own personal interests regarding social media, dystopia, and control. But it was so poorly plotted and characterized. I thought that many elements of the social media system that was developed were interesting, but the clunky execution was a huge disappointment. I would not recommend this book to anyone, and I am curious if anyone is actually got to see the movie.

Edible, on the other hand, was amazing. It went beyond the need to eat bugs as a way to keep a sustainable food source; it also really explored the gourmet side of eating insects. I have always been a very picky eater, but that has changed a lot in the past few years. To say I wasn't adventurous would be inaccurate. I am willing to try new kinds of food. But I would always count out food that had disliked items included in the dish. In the past year or two, I have started exploring more. I will occasionally eat a tomato or mushroom, but eggs I still firmly avoid. But this book really got me in the mood to track down and consume some bugs. Recently I wrote a paper about the dangers of seeking out authentic food for status, but I am not beyond admitting that much of my interest in eating bugs is to be able to say I have done it. It may not come with a high status, since most will be grossed out, but it will be a kind of unlocking achievement.

School is over for a few months and I am not sure how that will shape my reading desires or the speed at which I complete books. I am hoping to read through several recipe books rather quickly, but I keep putting these off for titles with more cohesive narrative structures. I am still in the middle of a lot of titles. I pick up and put things down with my whims. I rarely intentionally put a book down permanently.

Here is what I am currently reading:
The Fireman
Silent Spring
Culinary Tourism

Hope to read soon:
Make Room! Make Room!
No One is Coming To Save Us

Next week I will be attending and presenting at the Ethnobiology Society Annual Meeting in Montreal. I am very nervous and excited for this opportunity. I am eager to hear about all the ideas that people have been working on. Ethnobiology is a very new interest of mine and stems from my interests in food. I get very inspired hearing what projects people are working on. As a class we recently completed a survey of local parents about childhood nutrition. I love all the ways that food can connect with different subjects in new and interesting ways. I am also hoping the travel time will help me get some extra reading time in.

What books will you be reading soon?

Apr 21, 2017

Reading Log - Third Week of April

Though my reading numbers haven't drastically increased, I am feeling particularly productive when it comes to reading. Partly it is knowing that the semester is ending soon and I will have lots of space and time to read whatever my heart desires. This semester has been very interesting and engaging for me. The entire semester who focused around food. The quantity of the things I was able to learn was astonishing, but I wasn't able to work on my own food related interests and projects because I had so much reading to do for my classes. I did finish a few books over the past week and that always motivates me.

15. The Omnivore's Dilemma
16. 365 Journal Writing Prompts
17. Stars So Sweet

Currently Reading:
Sassafrass, Cypress & Indigo
Save Me a Seat
The Fireman

Hope to Read Soon:
The Unsettling of America
The Vegetarian
The Circle

I have not picked up very many of the books I have hoped to read soon or have been in the middle of for a while. Over the past week, I really found myself in a reading slump and I am overjoyed to have pushed through it. Some of the topics I have been reading about for school are:

  • Farm to School
  • Community Gardens
  • School Gardens
  • Culinary Authenticity
  • Ethnic Food
  • Local Food
  • Big Agriculture
Do you have any programs in your area connected to these topics? What do you think about them? For one of my school projects, we connected with local organizations that connect people with food, nutritional information, and other resources. I have really enjoyed learning about what services these organizations offer and what kind of additional help they  need.

Apr 14, 2017

Reading Log - Second Week of April

It may just be futile to do these reading logs because I do a few weeks and then never stick with it. But when I look back over the past years of my blog, these reading logs are some of the most helpful posts to remind me about events in my life and books that I read. When I met Mr. X, I know I was reading Elantris. And there are other events that I know are correlated with books I was reading. I think it might be weird to remember what book I was reading and not what year it was, but that is just the way my brain works.

At my bookstore we do not have computerized inventory system. I keep most of the books and authors in my head. I also keep a lot of the customers' names in my head. Both first and last because we have a trade system that is filed by last name. We have not computerized our trade credit either, to the amazement of most. (And our cash drawer has a little bell that chimes when we open it.) Often people ask me how I can keep track of everything. I am far from perfect, but I rate myself as having an 80% accuracy for items in the store. The rest of the names and special orders and other details can be hit or miss. I have come up with many answers for my ability to keep track of everything. But the other day, I finally admitted the truth, "I'm a genius." I assured everyone in the room with a shrug. My friend called it a mic drop moment. So, there it is folks, I am a genius. I have an uncanny ability of remembering authors to books and what the covers look like and where they might be located in a bookstore.

This is how I can remember that I was reading Elantris when Mr. X and I, but not what year it was. I also know that it was the year that the first Johnny Depp Alice in Wonderland came out in theatres. So if I am ever in a pinch, Google will save me.

Reading has been very stagnant for the past week. School is getting the best of me, along with general stress of life and everything. I did not finish a single book. I made very little progress on the books I am currently reading.

Currently Reading:
The Omnivore's Dilemma (I will have this finished this weekend.)
Silent Spring
Let Them Eat Cake

Need to Finish: I have a few books I am in the middle of and need to pick up and finish.
The African American Heritage Cookbook
Vibration Cooking
The Ultimate Gullah Cookbook

I am writing a research paper on the role of authenticity in ethnic food and I may be looking through some books on the subject, but it is unlikely I will have time to read them cover to cover. I started Let them Eat Cake as something light to distract me from all of my school reading, but it isn't hitting the spot for me yet. I may have to pick another pleasure book. Let me know if you have any recommendations.

Apr 8, 2017

Reading Log - First Week of April

I have not made much reading progress over the past week. I have been jumping from book to book working on various research projects and chasing quotes. I managed to finish one more book for my yearly total.

14. Liar and Spy - Rebecca Stead

Another great middle grade selection by Stead. I loved it and I was worried it could not compare to When You Reach Me. I am happy I had a few years between the two titles so I was less inclined to compare them.

Currently Reading:

I am still working on Omnivore's Dilemma the most because it has been assigned for school.

The Ultimate Gullah Cookbook - I read this for my Festival of Excellence presentation. I have hauled it across the county a few times with the hopes of reading it. I am shocked at how much my own knowledge has transformed the experience of reading it. I restarted it from the first page.  I realized that I am in the middle of a bunch of cookbooks and pushing through them might bolster up my reading numbers so far this year.

I started Silent Spring when it was discussed in my Agriculture class. I jump back and forth between it and other books.

There are no new books that I am hoping to read soon. Some of the books from my last post are still on the list. But I doubt I will get to read many books cover to cover until school is over. And possibly not even then. The only addition is perhaps to finally buckle down and try to get through The Jungle. I know I should have it read, especially as I am considering journalism as a type of writing I would like to explore more.

Apr 7, 2017

SUU Festival of Excellence Gullah PechaKucha

Four semesters ago I returned to Souther Utah University to finish my undergraduate degree. I started on a new major. This time around I am a Sociology major and I am focusing on the topic of food whenever possible. Annually the school holds a conference where students can present the academic experience they have participated in. This year I had the opportunity to present on my work connected to a  series of trips I took to South Carolina. I chose to do a PechaKucha presentation to take advantage of the photos I took throughout my travels.

What is a PechaKucha? It is a presentation style in which 20 slides are shown for 20 seconds each (6 minutes and 40 seconds in total). PechaKucha is a Japanese word that means chit-chat. The focus of this type of presentation is to simultaneously be less formal and present concise information. The hope is that a presentation like this can start a conversation.

The following are the slides I used and the notes I wrote to accompany them.

#1Today you will be reminded of the true roots of the South. African ingredients are essential to southern cuisine. The African American contributions to the region have become invisible. Through selective narratives many have forgotten who fed the south. Slaves and black domestics prepared much of the essential foods.

#2 In the Carolinas and Georgia the descendants of forced migration are now called Gullah. Connected in identity with the creole dialect over half a million people still speak today. Just like there is no monolithic south, in the words of Psyche Williams-Forson, “Black food is more than kitchen scraps; black women are more than mammy figures, and black culture is more than a monolith.”

#3 Cornbread. Shrimp and grits. These are two iconic dishes of the south. They both feature key Gullah ingredients. Cornbread and grits were made from the corn meal included in most slave rations. South Carolina slaves were often allotted more time away from work. This time could be used to harvest shellfish, like shrimp.

#4 This cake is made of a lesser known African ingredient called sorghum. The cereal grain is also used to make a sweetener similar to molasses. Over the past year I have been studying Gullah culture and cuisine. I have traveled to South Carolina twice and had the opportunity to attended a fundraising dinner prepared by two Gullah chefs. These two chefs were instrumental guideposts in my research previous to meeting them.

#5  The first chef was Sallie Ann Robinson. Her Gullah cookbook was the first I found and read. She promised to cook me raccoon the next time I am in town. The second was Chef BJ Dennis. He says it is his goal to expose others to the Gullah roots of southern cooking.

#6  It was an honor to meet BJ because it was through him that I was exposed to such an extensive range of Gullah food. Tasting his food was a transformative experience. Through my culinary exploration of South Carolina I attempted to seek out particular ingredients of African origin and African inspired preparations.

#7 Much of African American language can be traced back to Africa through the understanding of Gullah. The creation of this creole can mirror the creation of the distinct culture that in the isolation of the sea islands. Referred to by some as the cultural heritage corridor.

#8 Chef Dennis aimed me toward Verna. She is the owner of a Gullah restaurant named after her late mother, Mama Lou. Verna wants to help people connect with their community and culture. She believe that knowing their history and providing an opportunity for creative outlets will help decrease violence and crime in her area.

#9 South Carolina slaves often had time to hunt, fish, and grow their own gardens. Ravenel Seafood is one of the road side icons of Gullah cooking. While I was there they brought in baskets of freshly caught seafood some of which was destined for tomorrow’s garlic crab. This dish is considered to be one of the most authentic representations of Gullah cuisine according to BJ Dennis.

#10 In 30 meals and 80 dishes during my travels I wanted to have a basis for understanding certain ingredients, spices, and preparations of southern food, Charleston food, and Gullah food. This was an enlightening and overwhelming experience.

#11 Many slaves brought to the lowcountry were sought out specifically because of their understanding of rice cultivation. Beyond this knowledge slaves brought with them West African cooking techniques, African ingredients, and even reintroduced unique preparations of new world ingredients. Rice is what brought Gullah people to the south, and okra is what they brought with them from Africa. The use of okra as a thickener is one of the deepest connections the South has to West Africa.

#12 Gumbo is essential to South Carolina the cuisine. Though it differs from the New Orleans dish of the same name. This soup has shrimp, is thickened with okra, and is topped with Carolina Gold Rice.

#13 We see the echoes of slave rations throughout African American cuisine. The off cuts, or offal, that the main house didn’t want were transformed in the pots of slaves and the Gullah people. They were resourceful to use what they were provided with stretching it with what they could grow, hunt, and fish.

#14 This restaurant, Hannibal’s, is one of the most highly ranked culinary experiences in Charleston. Here we see collard greens cooked with a larger portion of seasoning meat than traditionally used. Everything tasted fantastic but the building does not represent the expectations of an elite dining experience. This building is indicative of the simplicity embraced by Gullah traditions.

#15 At each of the restaurant I visited I scanned the menu for various indicators of authenticity. I photographed each menu and each dish ordered. I made the hard choice of connecting my hunger with my research. What we see in Gullah cuisine and culture is a respect for artistic expression and the ability for food to be a representation of skill, love, self, knowledge, and a nearly endless list of other symbols.

#16 The isolation of the sea islands allowed for the unique distillation of language, culture, and cuisine. Many island plantations didn’t even employ white overseers. Slaves took their rations and prepared them in the custom they were used to. The time after work held the memories of their West African life.

#17 The Penn Center was one of the first schools for freed slaves. It is on the barrier island of St. Helena, which holds the highest contemporary concentration of Gullah people. In this cabin Martin Luther King, Jr. found rest and restoration. He stayed here for the last time just a few months before his death. It is said that he drafted parts of his I have a Dream Speech on this marsh.

#18 Chef BJ Dennis told Civil Eats, “Doing this work is paying homage to the folks that came before me. Oftentimes, Gullah living was looked down upon by our own. It’s about respecting my ancestral lineage and embracing the culture.”

#19 Gullah food is a representation of love, a means to identity, a creative expression, translation of the self and soul, and always a reflection of seasonality. There is a simplicity in Gullah cuisine, akin to folk art creations.

#20  I will leave you with this closing thought, “Sometime I wonder if the so-called sophisticate hasn't lost something more precious than he has gained with all his culture and education, all his conveniences, and his complicated way of living.” Thank you.

Mar 31, 2017

What I Have Been Reading

My reading goals for 2017 were extremely lofty and somewhat unrealized so far.

My goal: 100
Currently finished: 13

While 13 is not a shabby number, it is half of what I am expected to have done to meet my goal this year. Despite a number of changes in my life this year, one of which going back to school fully time, I am stubbornly hoping I will find the time to make up the numbers of books read. Perhaps over the summer?

Books completed in 2017:
1. Sugar - Jewell Parker Rhodes
2. Sweetbitter - Stephanie Danler
3. Food, Genes, and Culture - Gary Nabhan
4. Chew, Vol. 5: Major League - John Layman
5. Ink - Amanda Sun
6. Underground Airlines - Ben Winters
7. The American Way of Eating - Tracie McMillan
8. Annihilation - Jeff VanderMeer
9. Authority - Jeff VanderMeer
10. Saving Seeds, Preserving Taste - Bill Best
11. Farmacology - Daphne Miller
12. Sleep Donation - Karen Russell
13. High on the Hog - Jessica Harris

Currently reading:
My Southern Journey - Rick Bragg
Vibration Cooking - Vertamae Smart-Grosvenor
Flight - Sherman Alexie
Good to Eat - Marvin Harris
Omnivore's Dilemma - Michael Pollan
The Culinary Imagination - Sandra Gilbert

Hope to read soon:
The Unsettling of American - Wendell Berry
In Search of Authenticity - Bendix
Culinary Tourism - Lucy Long

I have a few trends in my reading:
  • Food
  • Diversity/Multicultural/PoC
  • South Carolina
  • Slavery & African American History/Cuisine
  • Dystopia
I am fitting in less and less novels I get more in depth with my research. Some of these books are for research projects for school. One of the papers I am writing is about the role of authenticity in ethnic food. I am looking forward to exploring it more. One of the themes I may be addressing in this paper is the way that ethnic cooking can be seen as a kind of folk art, especially when the person cooking lacks a certain type of training. Experiencing ethic food as a transformative folk art experience is often represented by putting a bit of the self, often in the form of love, into the food. Though ethnic cooking is not the only vehicle through which food can be an expression of love.

Part of my blogging goals in the near future are to share aspects of these type of projects. Possibly even in their final format pretending on the assignment.

What have you been reading lately? What do you like the best about it?
Are any book recommendations for me immediately jumping to mind?

I find it mildly unfortunate that I am not more deeply read into very many of my currently reading titles. I don't have many I am expected to finish within the next day or two. I know in part I am going to help my numbers out by looking at a few comic books/graphic novels.  Especially the graphic novel Chew. Have you read that? I am planning on talking about it briefly as I get started on another writing project over the summer. But we will save that for another month or so to explain.

Mar 29, 2017

A Story

I want to tell you a story.

Hi, my name is Megan. I am mildly willing to admit I may have a problem with books. Problem is probably not the best term for it. I have an obsession, a mania, a philia. Some might call it a Gentle Madness.

In my home I have over 5,000 books. Books that I have never read. Waiting in piles for me to find time and energy for consumption. These piles around me used to be piles of guilt, but it was fairly recently that I discovered, even on the day I die, I want plenty of books to choose from. There is a certain sadness in thinking about only having one book left to enjoy in this mortal world.

But these piles of books are not my story.

Or not the story of today. Once, in my dark past, I used to be a person with lots of piles of books and a blog. These things were the entirety of my book passion. I was silent in my love for books until I was able to start describing them with poorly chosen sparse words. It was through my blog and twitter that I was able to connect with  other passionate book lovers. It was through these connections that I was really able to hone down what type of books I loved to read and talk about.

There is something a little hipster about it, but I loved dystopian fiction before it was cool. Before anyone even knew the term as a concept or genre. And that was how Lenore and I "met". Lenore Appelhans is a dystopian reading, cat loving, book person. We blogged about LOTS of books and read and discussed a few together. But Lenore lived in Germany, so opportunities for our physical lives to cross paths were slim.

One day I up and bought a bookstore, and one day she announced a book deal.

The way the world converges is just fascinating to me. My bookstore has at least 15,000 books piled up around me. The guilt is gone and the hope that these books will go to homes where they will be enjoyed, loved, devoured, consumed fills my daily life.

The special honor of  selling the books by friends who weren't published when we first connected. As it happened Lenore's first book was a dystopian young adult novel (these are my favorite kind of books) AND I now owned a bookstore where I could push it upon the masses. In a nice synchronicity of it all, Lenore's book came out on my birthday.

And one weekend in Vegas I had the opportunity to meet Lenore.

And that is my poorly written, meandering story. The way that life can be kissed with kismet and that the form of realty can have completion like that of a fiction.

Mar 8, 2017

I realize the irony in the matter, I own a bookstore but I rarely read books in paper. I love my paper books, but there are times they just don't fit into my life. As I get older the words get smaller and the pages get dimer and finding a comfortable position that doesn't cause me to fall asleep is a challenge. Some days I have accepted it. I am old. Scaleable font and backlit screens help me read in any position and not just when the lighting is right.

To me, reading is reading. I want everyone to be doing more of it. Recently that especially includes myself. I find myself with the time to read, but not the desire to invest in the storylines I am currently presented with. I think it is both common and interesting that as one gets older there is less room for books that aren't exactly what we are looking for. I used to never give up on a book I was reading, and I am still not eager to admit that I will never pick up a book again. But I am working on guilt free reading as time becomes more and more of an issue.

Mar 6, 2017

Food Identity


In my Food and Culture class we were challenged to find our food identity. For most students we had a deep desire to connect with our childhood. This video is a representation of my childhood food identity.

Mar 4, 2017


I am thinking about coming back to blogging. I flirt with the idea often, I even flirt with actions of blogging. Writing and posting a piece thinking it is the beginning of my triumphant return but my resolve fizzles quickly.

For many years I was the same thing. A book lover, a mother, and a basic writer. I talked about my life and my limited number of passions. But in the past five years I have become many more things. I have become a business owner, a foodie, a student, and a better friend.

The internet has the unique ability to create community. It was this feeling of community that I could never find in the town where I live, or even the town where I grew up. Family and community have always been a kind of mystery to me. Growing up I struggled with friendships. The solitude of my youth was echoed by my inability to effectively interact and communicate in a group setting. Owning my dream business let me realize the opportunity for community in my own town and beyond the scope of the passionate, generous, compassionate book lovers across the web. It has been exciting to connect with the other book lovers of my community. I have been looking for these people for years. In the library where I volunteered, in book clubs, and perhaps chance meetings while browsing at the bookstore. But we always missed each other. It was only when I stayed at the bookstore all day working that these bookworms started to emerge and reveal themselves.

Over the past year or so I have been able to go back to school to hopefully complete my undergraduate degree. And now I am studying food through the lens of sociology and it has been a fascinating transition. I love learning about new things. Now so many subjects are interesting to me. Ones that have never been intriguing to me in the past. Agriculture, botany, nutrition, and gardening. These new changes are very exciting for me.

One of the best things about keeping up on a blog is the way that it serves as a kind of memory book and since I have not stayed on top of it, there are gaps in my memory. I want to try and remedy this problem for the future.
Bibliophile Exploring Dystopia | Food & Community | Utopian Projects