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Huntington Ranch blog and the “food forest”

14 Jun

This is not strictly speaking Fukuoka, but many of his ideas of cultivating wildness have drifted into the gardens and repertoires of permaculture and urban farming folks.

The Huntington, in Pasadena, has a new experimental farm they call the “ranch,” which uses the food forest idea, which is not unlike that found in Fukuoka’s work…Here is a link to its blog.

Gardener Scott Kleinrock compares this food forest to a conventional food garden...

Public link for Wednesday’s reading + reading questions for Tanizaki

23 May

Link will take you to a .pdf file here.

I’ll also give you a hard copy in class.

Tanizaki discussion questions

  1. What kinds of language does the narrator use to describe appetites?  Find one or two passages and discuss.
  2. What kinds of experience does the Chinese restaurant promise to offer the narrator? Find one or two passages and discuss
  3. Does the language of a Jonathan Gold restaurant review from the LA Weekly–see below–seem to echo Tanizaki’s in any way? See “The Gourmet Club,” p. 116. Find one or two further passages and discuss.


Cold as a Kudzu Vine in Winter

Yu Chun’s naengmyon for a hot summer’s day

A A A Comments (1) By Jonathan Gold Thursday, Jul 29 2010

Is there anything more refreshing than naengmyon on a blistering summer day? Because if anything can reduce ambient body heat more efficiently than a bowl of the cold noodle soup at Koreatown’s Yu Chun Chic Naeng Myun, medical science has yet to discover what it might be — drifts of strong broth, so cold that they rise from the bowl in airy snowdrifts of beefiness, as tart and sweet and chilled as a properly made cocktail. (Is ice the bartender’s flame, as Eric Alperin suggests? Very well: Ice is also the flame of the naengmyon chef.)


Chillin at Yu Chun

The noodles, made from the ground roots of the same kudzu vine that is the bane of gardeners in the American South, are wire-thin, impossibly stretchy and of a tarry blackness, at least when wetted, that is intense enough to suck light out of the air. (When the waitress comes over to snip the noodles into manageable lengths, she uses what I swear are heavy-duty garden shears.) There is a halved boiled egg, a few slivers of pickled daikon, and a slice or two of cold boiled beef. You are given the opportunity to doctor the broth with stinging spoonfuls of Korean mustard, like the Philippe’s condiment multiplied by three, but you probably won’t bother.

You’ve had naengmyon, at least I’m pretty sure you have, that odd cold-noodle dish that shows up toward the end of a Korean barbecue meal: a big, chilled stainless-steel bowl from which you sample two bites before you push it away in favor of the last burnt tentacle that had been hiding under the charred clove of garlic. The ignored naengmyon tends to come in one of two varieties — either as mool naengmyon, floating in a gamy, underseasoned meat broth that tastes like way-overboiled beef; or as bibim naengmyon, sealed in a thick, sweet chile sauce, often with chunks of boiled stingray. You can alter the beef broth with vinegar and Korean mustard. You’re kind of stuck with the red goo, although you can always requisition some of the sharper chile paste, called gochujang, which is undoubtedly hanging out in a small dish somewhere on the table. Naengmyon, even in its more exalted forms, has never seemed like one of Koreatown’s more exalted attractions.

Yet sightings of great restaurant naengmyon have been floating around Koreatown for decades, and when you try the famous places, the noodles can be pretty good. Ham Hung, a restaurant I first paid attention to when it ran an exotic-meats buffet in the 1980s, is far better known in the community for the stretchy potato-starch naengmyon, a specialty of the North Korean city from which the restaurant takes its name. The restaurant Chung Ki Wa has always been known for its especially beefy, buckwheat naengmyon, although most of the customers seem to come for the inexpensive barbecue.

And of course the weird but compelling naengmyon served at the Corner Place is a Koreatown cult item, sugary and mysteriously refreshing — and rumored to include 7-Up as one of its ingredients. As generations of K-town denizens have discovered, it may be easier to steal gold from Fort Knox than it is to smuggle naengmyon out of the Corner Place: Nobody is going to reverse-engineer the broth on Corner’s watch.

Chil Bo Myun Ok, the other famous Koreatown naengmyon specialist, also forbids takeout orders of the noodles — the last time a friend tried, I was sure that we would all be permanently barred from the restaurant, although we got away with a warning instead.

Yet it is at Yu Chun, which has all the aesthetics of an army mess hall, where the flavors are most compelling; at Yu Chun where you see men raise the massive bowls and drain them as if they were flagons of ale; Yu Chun, where the only other permissible thing to order is mandoo, dumplings the size of a fat man’s fist filled with minced beef and a surprisingly modest slug of chopped cabbage kimchi. (You would not be entirely out of line if you tried the restaurant’s take on pork-kimchi bibimbap, served on a superheated stone platter.)

Yu Chun’s mool naengmyon is cold enough to give you an ice cream headache. Yu Chun’s naengmyon is so cold that the waiters customarily bring mugs of peppery hot soup as you eat it, which may be the restaurant equivalent of St. Bernards bringing hot toddies to travelers stranded in the frozen Alps. Yu Chun’s naengmyon is cold enough to eat for lunch today.

YU CHUN CHIC NAENG MYUN: 3185 W. Olympic Blvd., Koreatown. (323) 382-3815. Open Mon.-Sat., 10 a.m.-8 p.m. MC, V. No Alcohol. Valet parking. Lunch or dinner for two, food only, $20-$26. Recommended dishes: chic naeng myun, kimchi mandu.

Food truck map of LA

20 May

As per Nicole’s question, here’s a site that maps of LA food trucks. It has a couple of pretty good features.

–you can plug in an address, and see who is out and about;

–you can plug in a time, based on when you want to eat, and it will tell you who WILL be out and about.

You can also select particular cuisines, like "sushi" or "Japanese"...

Let’s Help the Community!

3 Dec

Occidental College, a private liberal arts institution, has always been dedicated to positively contributing to the Los Angeles community. A large community oriented advocacy organization based at this college is the Urban & Environmental Policy Institute (UEPI), and within this organization is the sub-group called the Center for Food & Justice, or the CFJ.

The Center for Food & Justice is a very progress-oriented group with two main objectives. Firstly, they look to improve access to fresh, as well as healthy foods in all communities. For now, they are primarily focused on the underprivileged communities where access to healthy food is scarce, and for now, they are focusing on the Los Angeles area.

Their second objective is to promote community development, social justice, healthy eating habits, preserving the environment, and positive uses for land.

A USC community garden could prove very useful for the first objective. Imagine if children from the underprivileged schools were allowed to take trips to a USC-owned plot of land (a large one, preferably), where we could get master gardeners (like Florence Nishida) and others to teach them how to properly grow their own food. By doing this, the children could learn about how to eat healthily, and how to grow their own natural food. In addition to showing them how, all of the food grown in the USC garden could be donated to the children in these schools.

Currently, the CFJ partakes and leads many programs designed to accomplish their goals. One example of their programs is Farm to School which teaches communities how to pick up good farming practices. Another one, Project CAFE works to implement community-directed activities that relate to food and health in low-income areas within Los Angeles. The CFJ is also involved in the Grocery Accountability Project, or GAP, which engages in research and works to increase the performance of food retail corporations in the areas of food access, labeling, supply, health, and labor standards. Another program, which holds special interest for me (as it should with other Modernology students), is Project GROW. The main purpose of this is to explore the potential for gardens and healthy food as a way to improve the lives of clients and staff of grassroots domestic violence agencies. Young people literally jump with joy when they realize that as a result of their actions, some fruit or vegetable has grown.

I’m willing to bet that if a USC program similar to what I have described previously were to actually come to fruition, some bigger-named speakers would be willing to participate to help the community to help with the CFJ’s second objective. Let’s make it happen! Also, the CFJ, as well as all of their projects, are running quite low on funds. They are accepting any and all donations. For more information, please visit

LACMA on Sunday

6 Nov

If you come to the LACMA thing, feel free to radio in and connect, at the museum. I will have my gadget with me. It is typically the time of semester when people get kind of overwhelmed by various timings and commitments,  and don’t venture far from home. But if you do, holler!

Here is a program. It is hard to find on the site, but the LACMA director of education passed it on to me.


For EC, you would attend a minimum of 2-3 out of the 52 performances/events and write them up, in light of things we have discussed in class or read.

Olive harvest @ Caltech

6 Nov

It’s always interesting to see how other campuses are working with the urban nature on their grounds. On Friday, I stopped by a festival at Caltech, in Pasadena. The occasion was a harvest on their famed Olive Walk, which sports many of the 130 olive trees on campus. The day featured the last of the harvest, which had begun a few days earlier, when the Grounds crew picked some of the olives from the higher tree branches. This is what olive-picking looks like:

Volunteers pick olives, which then fall to the ground onto tarps.

The olives are then collected and put into large bins. This is what the take looked like, toward the end of the harvest.

Bins of green and black olives waiting to be taken for pressing.

According to organizers, the last festival was in 2008, when volunteers–mostly students–harvested 2500 pounds of olives, and the Grounds crew harvested another 3500 pounds. This yielded about 127 gallons of olive oil. Some cooking demos and a lunch accompanied the olive-picking. Here, one volunteer presides over pots of herb-infused olive oil.

Mythili Iyer (class of 2012) serves up samples after a cooking demo.

And another stirs pots of herby, buttery escargots to be eaten on french bread.

Volunteer Jim Workman dishes out escargots.

The event is the brainchild of Tom Mannion, Assistant VP of Student Affairs and Campus Life at Caltech. Tom also teaches a for-credit course called “Cooking Basics,” which he mentioned is the most popular course at Caltech. It is also worth noting that Caltech is the intellectual home of Harold McGee, the author of On Food and Cooking: The Science and Lore of the Kitchen, the go-to book for understanding the scientific mysteries of the kitchen, including the health benefits of fermented milks, the effects of rigor mortis over time on shellfish, and  breakdowns of species of rice and their growing environments.

There are a few differences from our setup–this is a one-day event, with a lot of help from college staff and workers, whereas you have been tending the garden from scratch all on your own. Their connection to the larger communities and spaces around them, though, is something we might use for inspiration. The project started through student initiatives and experimenting with your old friend vernacular creativity:

In 2005, Kristen Kozak (’09) tried to preserve some olives by dry curing them, that is, using salt to remove the bitter taste. Unfortunately, the olives were infested by flies. The experiment was repeated with better olives in 2006 by Kristen and four other students  (Alex Roper, Robbie Xiao, Dan Rowlands, and Cathy Douglass, all also Class of ’09) and met with mixed results. What worked very well, however, was pressing them for oil. These students picked both green and black olives and pressed them with cheesecloth to separate the pulp from the oil and juice, and put the liquids in a jar to separate. The oil rose to the top and was then skimmed off. The students ate the oil plain and on bread. Also in  2006, undergraduates Dvin Adalian and Ricky Jones did their own olive oil experiment. Using a remedial set of tools and a set of instructions they devised themselves, they managed to purify 550 mL of oil. (For a more detailed account  of the process, click here.)  They distributed the oil throughout their residence (Ruddock House) and the biology division, to Caltech president and first lady Jean-Lou Chameau and Carol Carmichael, and to their friends and families. The verdict? “It was delicious.”

Are there similar resources waiting to be cultivated at USC? Keep an eye out on the grounds as you walk around. It took a couple years of prepping the olives to get rid of flies and make them consumable, but with a little planning, experimentation and collaboration, they did it!

For people interested in the LACMA exhibition–topical debate

25 Oct

BP Grand entrance @ LACMA. Photo from

Some folks who do contemporary art in LA are aiming to think critically about the politics of large museums and big money in LA. Here is a very interesting piece by Robbie Herbst, “Social Art, Ambiguity, Oil, Critique, Compromise, and Los Angeles Art Museums,” which talks about some of the debates that are happening as LACMA engages local artists–most relevant to us, in the Nov 7 array of shows and performances, and one key event by Fallen Fruit. At issue is the 2007 $25 million donation by BP, and the dependence of local artists on (for the recent exhibitions under discussion, minimal ) funding for public art projects that actually critique environmental degradation and runaway corporate greed. Interesting to see people within the art community taking this on, as they think and articulate their relation to the “publics” in public art, and also make some connections to the corporatization of higher education…

Localness: food access in South LA

17 Oct

Intersections, an on-line publication at USC’s Annenberg School, recently did a workshop and a follow-up investigative report on food access in South LA–which includes where we are at USC. They documented fewer grocery stores in South LA as compared to West LA–about half the stores per capita–along with a chronic problem of outdated products–food displayed and sold beyond its expiration date–on grocery shelves at major markets.


Outdated product on grocery shelf, from Intersections investigative report


We have been training ourselves to think “where does our food come from?” It may be just as important to look anew at “when does our food come from?”

View the full article here, and watch videos of local residents talking about the slide in quality markets like Ralphs–where the above photo was taken–as well as the slide to more industrial purveyors, like 99-cent stores.


John Harriel, resident/activist who brought the issue of food access to Intersections workshop


Click on the image to link to the webpage with videos.

Eat LACMA events–Nov 7

15 Oct


'LACMA Score' 2010 Fallen FruitEATLACMA

A year-long investigation into food, art, culture & politics

Fusing the richness of LACMA‘s permanent collection with the ephemerality of food and the natural growth cycle, EATLACMA’s projects consider food as a common ground that explores the social role of art and ritual in community and human relationships.  EATLACMA unfolds seasonally, with artist’s gardens planted and harvested on the museum campus, hands-on public events, and a concurrent exhibition, Fallen Fruit Presents EATLACMA (June 27-November 7, 2010). It culminates in a day-long event (November 7, 2010) in which over fifty artists and collectives will activate, intervene, and re-imagine the entire museum’s campus and galleries. EATLACMA is curated by Fallen Fruit—David Burns, Matias Viegener and Austin Young—and LACMA curators Michele Urton and Jose Luis Blondet.

See a map of several garden-related installations on the LACMA grounds here.

You can find the full info here.

Gardening class @ Museum of Natural History (Sept-Oct)

11 Sep

This will be a rerun to any of you.

But if you have friends who are interested in learning to grow their own veggies, and they live in the USC vicinity, they get a 50% discount–so overall it would be $50 for 4 classes. Note: registration is required: email or call (213) 763-3520.