Every Friday, we’ll have an author that highlights five things to read, watch or check out online. This week’s post comes from David and Leann Augsburger, two semi-retired people who co-lead a home base church (Peace Mennonite Church, Claremont, California) and volunteer to welcome, care, and connect people in the San Gabriel valley.
1. All Under Heaven (2016, Ten Speed Press, 515 pages): This is a work of love and art by Carolyn Phillips and it is a monumental work of recipes, stories, pen and ink illustrations that presents
the best of 35 unique cuisines from the many cultures of China. It is a comprehensive, scholarly, yet kitchen-friendly and chef-creating book of beauty and depth. Leann went to Taiwan with her husband, Rick Wentland, in 1976. She returned alone (no, with daughter Kate soon to be born) in 1978 after his sudden death, bringing also a wealth of memories, including the loyal friendship of artist and food anthropologist Carolyn Phillips, their fellow student of Chinese culture. Now, 40 years later, holding this awe-inspiring and scintillating book awakens memories of tastes and smells and scenes of incredible charm from one of the world’s greatest adventures in the arts of food preparation.
2. Ixcanul (Aztec for volcano) is a movie that allows you to join a family living in simplicity high on the side of a volcano in Guatemala and to experience love, joy, human need, suffering, obligation, loss, deceit, and other complexities of life on the boundary of indigenous and Spanish cultures. Pictorially perfect, this is a narrative of a family working out survival and solidarity as tragedy occurs and injustices are done to innocent people. If it is not being screened in your community, put it on your wish-list for ordering as soon as it becomes available online.
3. The Underground Railroad: The new novel by Colson Whitehead is a long work of fiction that narrates the story of Cora, a slave on a Georgia plantation, and the network of safe houses and secret routes that helped a fortunate few to escape bondage and make their way to freedom. “The story is terrifying and relentless,” the New York Times review says tersely. Inhumanity is ugly, and our past contains aspects of gross evil we push down into the memory hole, but it must be remembered and remorsed (if that is not a word, it should be). “It was the grave the runaways fought against, for that was their destination if these men prevailed and returned them to their master.”
4. “Terry,” is our new Garmin GPS. We have worn out two previous Garmin guides. The first we named Ethel because we needed an unusual name that referred to no one in our wide circle of friends. When Ethel froze mid-journey, we replaced her with a new version whose somewhat sultry sound reminded us of Jacqueline Kennedy. It was Jackie who got us out of Paris from the Gare (station) in 25 minutes and helped us trace the steps of the Albigensian heretics across southern France to Beziers (“Kill them all and let God decide which are which,” the pope said when the city was surrounded in 1209). Eventually Jackie also gave up the chase, so this month we received our Garmin III, and she sounds for all the world like NPR’s Terry Gross. So we put our trust in Terry when doing the back roads in the central coastal areas. We love our paper maps, but Terry’s voice is so wise.
5. It is pepper grinding season at the Sriracha Hot Chili Sauce factory in Irwindale, California, a few miles west of our home in Claremont. The fiery red condiment that is known all over the country and abroad is made by a local genius, Vietnamese immigrant David Tran. The air is perfumed—if you love chilies—by the ripe jalapenos and Fresno chilies unloaded by the multi-ton trucks into state of the art pepper processing machines. With our fellow Mennonite pastors, Sue and Hyun Hur and Sharon Andre we are going to breathe deeply, taste boldly and celebrate meltingly as our eyes burn in response to the capsaicin-laced breezes. If you cannot join us, you can go to your refrigerator and touch your tongue to the green cap on the bottle—certainly you own one of these astounding sources of flavor and warmth with its trademark rooster–and give thanks for all that has blessed the world from South East Asia which we Americans stupidly sought to control. Extra: Check out this article about the history of Siracha.
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