A watched pot (turtle nest) boils in Oak Island

A volunteer waved us left as we approached the tiny runway shaped to help guide baby turtles towards the sea. During our evening walks we noticed these small runways lined with green edges, centers brushed smooth carefully made ready for turtle nests incubating in the warm July sand past 50 days.  

“They’re coming. Please walk over and behind.” The excitement of new life. A small group of people composed of “nest mothers”, volunteers, and the vacationing and local curious was hovering over the patch of sand with a square grate the size of a doormat. The patch had a small crack where the sand caved in the size of my hand. This was an indication of restlessness, cracking, and movement below. The crowd of children, adults and more volunteers grew on either side of the runway as the sun began to set. We all waited. And waited. So did the turtles. They were waiting for the sand to cool as a sign of the waning sun that would make it easier to hide from predators. As the sun dipped, they rose and boiled like small dark shadows rising out of the growing hole in the ground.

Am I seeing this? The instinct is to shed light on this miracle. But light is exactly what they are avoiding. Light disorients budding life. They turn away and go in the wrong direction. “They have been listening to the ocean this whole time, they know to move towards the sound,” a volunteer explained while encouraging us to use our “inside voices” so the turtles can hear the ocean calling them. Or is it the magnetic pull? The ocean is like the mother’s heartbeat for a human baby emerging out of a uterine water sac. The baby moves towards the light, and a turtle also moves towards the moonlight on the water. Lights on the beach confuse them, they move in the wrong direction away from the water and into the grips of a predator. The beauty of turtles rising together. This I’ve learned affords survival of the species, many are sacrificed to predators so a few can live and serve a larger commitment to life. We humans have so much to learn from these tiny dark, squiggly, directed shadows. We can stand by, watch, guide, and mostly care enough to stay out of their way and keep other humans from staying out of their way…waving them to go around or stop shining light on the fragile eyes looking for the ocean. It is a practice of humble awe. A gentle suggestion that perhaps we are not the center of all life.

Sea turtles are a protected species. The Oak Island Turtle Protection Program is on a mission to monitor and protect the sea turtles and to foster community-based conservation…basically to wave us away from trampling the turtles and to welcome us to come close without shining light and with hushed reverence. In the three weeks of living here sitting on the sand alongside the turtle runway was the first and most satisfying sense of community I have experienced. No power, monetization, or exclusivity. The simplicity of a random community of curious humans channeling and watching small shadows scurry to glistening dark waves. It was magnificent.

The turtles are protected from industrial pollution and natural predators. We are among that list of natural predators. In my efforts to learn about the region I now call home, I researched a few cookbooks available at the local library. One of the cookbooks entitled “The Beachcomber’s Handbook of Seafood Cookery” by Hugh Zachary (1969) shares a Sea Turtle Stew recipe. The author prefaces the recipe with a story about gathering eggs from the beach, a culture of turtle hunting, followed by a plea.  He writes,

“I saw a couple of huge loggerheads that had been killed, wantonly killed, on Long Beach, not for their meat, but just for the fun of killing something so large, apparently. I like turtles. I like turtles better than I like some people – namely people who would kill a big loggerhead just for the experience. Loggerhead turtles are a vanishing breed. It’s fun to go turtle hunting during a full moon in a warm month on a nice night. It’s an interesting experience to find a big turtle on her nest and watch her lay eggs and cover them with her awkward, instinctive, and utterly laborious movements. My sympathy goes out to the big beast who comes out of her natural element to try to fight the odds against the survival of her species.

Let’s don’t eat loggerheads.”

Zachary, Hugh. (1969) The Beachcomber’s Handbook of Seafood Cookery. Kingsport Press: Tennessee.

On the margins of this recipe page, the library added a note about the law protecting sea turtles.

from the Beachcomber’s Handbook of Seafood Cookery (1969)

We humans can be both predators and conservators, vicious and curious. Sitting there watching the baby turtles a representation of life itself flapping, flailing, scurrying, blind and confused, I was reminded of the choice. As food curious as I am, I am okay letting turtle meat remain a mystery. I don’t know what my line is for eating other living beings, is it endangered animals? Or like Mr. Rogers who avoided anything that had a mother? Eat flesh out of necessity or politeness? Practice a generally plant-based diet? I don’t have my own answer, let alone have one for you. All I can say is that I hope to be aware of and own my choices today. Tomorrow may be different. Last evening it felt good to be among a community of humans who chose to stand together and aside watching life emerge out of a dark small crack in the earth.

Thank you baby turtles. I hope you live a long life and return to this beach as a place of safety and care. We’ll wait for you.

For lunch today, cereal with frozen blueberries sounds refreshing.

Wishing you thoughtful eating,


Food Poem – Recipe for a Salad by Sydney Smith

To make this condiment, your poet begs
The pounded yellow of two hard-boiled eggs;
Two boiled potatoes, passed through kitchen-sieve,
Smoothness and softness to the salad give;
Let onion atoms lurk within the bowl,
And, half-suspected, animate the whole.
Of mordant mustard add a single spoon,
Distrust the condiment that bites so soon;
But deem it not, thou man of herbs, a fault,
To add a double quantity of salt.
And, lastly, o'er the flavored compound toss
A magic soup-spoon of anchovy sauce.
Oh, green and glorious! Oh, herbaceous treat!
'T would tempt the dying anchorite to eat;
Back to the world he'd turn his fleeting soul,
And plunge his fingers in the salad bowl!
Serenely full, the epicure would say,
Fate can not harm me, I have dined to-day!

“Recipe for a Salad” by Sydney Smith. from the Writer’s Almanac 2/3/2022

I love the part about the onion, lurking in the bottom, animating the whole 🙂

May you be serenely full,


Food Poem – Everybody Made Soups by Lisa Coffman

After it all, the events of the holidays,
the dinner tables passing like great ships,
everybody made soups for a while.
Cooked and cooked until the broth kept
the story of the onion, the weeping meat.
It was over, the year was spent, the new one
had yet to make its demands on us,
each day lay in the dark like a folded letter.
Then out of it all we made one final thing
out of the bounty that had not always filled us,
out of the ruined cathedral carcass of the turkey,
the limp celery chopped back into plenty,
the fish head, the spine. Out of the rejected,
the passed over, never the object of love.
It was as if all the pageantry had been for this:
the quiet after, the simmered light,
the soothing shapes our mouths made as we tasted.

Lisa Coffman, “Everybody Made Soups” from Less Obvious Gods. From Writer’s Almanac 2/2/2022

Wishing you warm “quiet afters” on this snowy day in the Midwest,


Food Poem – In the Produce Aisle by Kirsten Dierking

In the vivid red
of the fresh berries,
in the pebbled skin
of an emerald lime,
in the bright colors
of things made
to be transitory,
you see the same
you find in your own
delicate flesh,
the lines fanned
around your eyes
charming like
the burnish
of plums,
your life like
all the other
fragile organics,
your soft hand
hovering over
the succulent apple,
you reach for it,
already transforming.

Kirsten Dierking, “In the Produce Aisle”  from Northern Oracle. © 2007 Kirsten Dierking published by Spout Press. From 1/5/2022 The Writer’s Almanac

Food Poem: Living in the Body by Joyce Sutphen

Body is something you need in order to stay
on this planet and you only get one.
And no matter which one you get, it will not
be satisfactory. It will not be beautiful
enough, it will not be fast enough, it will
not keep on for days at a time, but will
pull you down into a sleepy swamp and
demand apples and coffee and chocolate cake.

Body is a thing you have to carry
from one day into the next. Always the
same eyebrows over the same eyes in the same
skin when you look in the mirror, and the
same creaky knee when you get up from the
floor and the same wrist under the watchband.
The changes you can make are small and
costly—better to leave it as it is.

Body is a thing that you have to leave
eventually. You know that because you have
seen others do it, others who were once like you,
living inside their pile of bones and
flesh, smiling at you, loving you,
leaning in the doorway, talking to you
for hours and then one day they
are gone. No forwarding address.

Joyce Sutphen, “Living in the Body” from Coming Back to the Body from the Writer’s Almanac, 9/20/21

I eat a slice of chocolate cake every year to celebrate a loss I’ve had. This poem reminds me of living and of celebrating despite and because of loss. Some years I bake a cake to freeze slices to enjoy throughout the year. A way to keep both the sadness and the gratitude in my body.

The body is everything. Let’s promise to be in ours today.

With warmth,


P.S. Next time I bake a cake for the occasion, I’ll have to take a picture to share. For now, I rely on stock photos online.

Food Poem: Breakfast by Joyce Sutphen

My father taught me how to eat breakfast
those mornings when it was my turn to help
him milk the cows. I loved rising up from

the darkness and coming quietly down
the stairs while the others were still sleeping.
I’d take a bowl from the cupboard, a spoon

from the drawer, and slip into the pantry
where he was already eating spoonfuls
of cornflakes covered with mashed strawberries

from our own strawberry fields forever.
Didn’t talk much—except to mention how
good the strawberries tasted or the way

those clouds hung over the hay barn roof.
Simple—that’s how we started up the day.

Joyce Sutphen, “Breakfast” from First Words, Red Dragonfly. from the Writer’s Almanac, Monday 9/13/21

A simple start to the day with a loved one is so comforting. What is your favorite morning ritual?

First World Food Warning: Taco trucks at every corner

Usually, I post benign, seemingly non-political musings about food as social glue. I know this is old news but I’m fascinated by a perceived immigrant threat represented through food. In this case, the threat that increased latin immigration in the U.S will result in food trucks at every street corner turned into a joke, as most enjoy tacos regardless of political views on immigration.

The threat that increased latin immigration in the U.S will result in food trucks at every street corner was projected as, cultural and culinary. That’s funny in a deeply meaningful kind of way, right?

Think of it, french fries, hot dogs, pretzels, spaghetti, pizza, all are cultural “impositions” in the U.S. I’m not even going to address European imposition on Native American culture. I don’t know how because the imposition was so overwhelming and complete.

The problem with this argument is that in most cases no one is “forcing” another to eat a certain type of food. I may want to impose samosas on an unsuspecting American culture. But how would I? Sell samosas everywhere, perhaps every street corner? But here is my problem. Selling. People would have to buy and want samosas at every street corner for it to work. [Unless people are starving and samosas are the only option. This is why the scarcity of water is so scary. There is no choice, we need water to survive.]

Historically the imposition works the other way to “Americanize” immigrant foods. For example historian, Jane Ziegelman writes of Italian immigrants in 97 Orchard: An edible history of five immigrant families in one New York Tenement,

In the hostile environment first encountered by Italians, food took on new meanings and new powers. The many forms of discrimination leveled at Italians encouraged immigrants  to seal themselves off, culturally speaking, from the rest of America.[…….] Harsh critics of Italian eating habits, Americans tried through various means to reform the immigrant cook. The Italians were unmoved. Despite the cooking classes and public school lectures, and despite the persistent advice of visiting nurses and settlement workers, the immigrants’ belief in the superiority of their native foods was unwavering.

Don’t we all think that our food tradition is better? Regardless, compulsion in cuisine, whether by immigrants or natives, seems difficult. There has been historically failed efforts to force new foods or limit certain food types (like the Futurist effort to ban pasta in Italy or the parent struggle to make kids eat vegetables) Still, in democratic, capitalist America, the taco truck warning does seem laughable and serious at the same time.

The fact that Marco Gutierrez, founder of the group Latinos for Trump, a Latino! issues the threat is extra confusing.

“My culture is a very dominant culture, and it’s imposing and it’s causing problems. If you don’t do something about it, you’re going to have taco trucks on every corner.”

Should I be worried about imposing my Bengaliness on my unsuspecting American, ethnically European friends and family? I, the hungryphilosoper, am so confused. This first world food problem certainly requires more consideration.

For now, here was one response to the “food fight”: Guac the vote.


Thank you, dear Latin people for your contribution to my personal taste buds…I and my South Asian peeps very much appreciate the chili peppers.

Off to find a taco and wish there was a truck on the corner,









Navigating Brooklyn’s Food Mecca as a Broke, Millennial Foodie – Guest Post

Immediately after accepting an internship offer in Manhattan last April, I started to fantasize about how fabulous my summer would be. The first thing on my mind was not the crazy nightlife, the many free summer concerts, or the various world-renowned art museums – it was Smorgasburg, an outdoor ‘flea’ market that hosts dozens of vendors selling the trendiest and most Instagram-worthy food.

Since getting to NYC, I’ve been to Smorgasburg twice, giving me ample opportunity to sample the spread that this market has to offer, convincing my companions to split dishes with me to maximize the diversity of dishes we could try. Mostly serving as a guide for when HungryPhil visits me in a few weeks, here’s a rundown of my Smorgasburg highlights:

Grilled Summer Corn from Bisska

blog-1 blog2Seemingly simple, this corn was definitely one of my most favorite things I’ve had since getting to city. Cooked to order on a charcoal grill in front of you, this charred corn is topped with a mayo and paprika based sauce and served in a paper boat. The sweetness of the corn, the smokiness of the paprika complimented by the charcoal, and the creamy mayo tying it all together made this an unforgettable summery eat.

Chamoyada from La Newyorkina

blog3 blog4

This beverage had a lot going on, and I was incredibly intrigued with how this sweet/spicy/salty combination would turn out. Somehow, it all blended together perfectly, and served as a refreshing, cold respite from the 90 degree weather. So many of these flavors were familiar to me individually in a South Asian context, but this Mexican slush combined these to create a whole new, unique experience. 

Shaved Ice from People’s Pops


Although my first thought, when seeing them chisel ice on-the-spot, was that they were trying too hard, this hand-shaved ice definitely added a layer of complexity to a usually mundane summer treat. Each flake was shaped differently, and melted differently on your tongue, allowing the Arnold Palmer flavoring to absorb at different rates. It served as a good, refreshing palate cleanser.

Mozzarella Sticks from Big Mozz


Again, another seemingly mundane food has a ‘foodie’ makeover, and comes out beautifully. Lactose-intolerance be damned. These mozzarella sticks had nothing fancy going on, just quality, hand-pulled mozzarella deep-fried to order with some fresh marinara sauce on the side. Simplicity won in this round.

The Ramen Burger


This was my second foray into the famous Ramen Burger territory. The burger consists of a small beef patty, sandwiched in between two disks of compressed, spongy ramen, and covered with a soy-sauce based dressing, arugula, and scallions.

As with many things that are hyped up, the burger (on both occasions) failed to live up to my expectations. There’s no denying that it was delicious, with the bun melting in your mouth as you bit into it. It was, however, very one-noted – there didn’t seem to be the complexity of flavors that I usually expect in a burger, something to balance the super-savory meatiness of the patty. Something like a spicy kimchi slaw would really elevate this burger – perhaps I just need to make my own DIY version at home.

Spicy Mayo Salmon Poke from East Coast Poke


This quite possibly was my favorite dish out of everything I’ve tried at Smorgasburg. Kind of like deconstructed sushi, poke is a traditional Hawaiian dish. This version was served on a bed of seaweed salad and soft, sticky sushi rice. A creamy Sriracha mayo pulled everything together. Although semi-skeptical of eating raw fish that was being served outside in the summer weather, I really enjoyed how simultaneously refreshing and substantial the poke was.

Hopefully with throughout the rest of the summer, I’ll be able to expand this list, but for now, I think I’ve done some decent damage to exploring the 75+ vendors at Smorgasburg.

L.E.S Eats Continued …

The Meatball Shop

I had soft fluffy chicken meatballs in classic marinara over creamy polenta. Hearty and refreshing at the same time. The vegetable meatball slider had an earthy mushroom flavor. Small place, great service. The homemade ice cream sandwich was well worth it. The mint ice cream center tasted of actual mint…not artificial mint flavor. Giving the ice cream sandwich, like the meatballs surprising lightness. Love NYC contradictions on a plate.

I CE NY Ice cream Speaking of ice cream. Here is a different perspective in the smashed and rolled ice cream. The frozen treat is created before your eyes on a cold metal plate through a process of folding, smashing, folding again. Human labor powered ice cream churning. I had the Thai iced-tea flavored ice cream with Lychees and condensed milk.  It was the unique performance that was worth paying for. Crowded tiny store, like so many NYC establishments.


Like so many others, it was Chef Gabrielle Hamilton’s words in Blood, Bones and Butter,  that drew me to her restaurant. I was not disappointed. Her food was just as elegant, clear and raw, as her writing.  We had her classic eggs benedict, oyster omelet, and an unusual breaded, soft poached egg over a light chickpea curry. I want to try and taste her perspective in all her menu items. I bet even the toast will be fantastically precise. Tiny elegant yet unpretentious dining room, almost hidden residential neighborhood. Again, NYC contradictions of elegance and intense personality. The outdoor light fixtures say it all..literary, nostalgia, simplicity, clear and feminine. The potato rosti speaks the same language of crunch and softness, buttery richness and technical lightness in the shredded potatoes. Perfection.

A good place to walk off a good brunch is the High Line.

Chelsea Market: Tukomi Taco

Tuna tartare over nacho chips, no cheese, refreshing, crunchy, smooth, spicy…who knew! Apparently, Tukomi Taco did. Ironically, I didn’t enjoy the namesake, taco as much as the nachos.

La Contenta

One of the most beautiful and memorable meals this trip was brunch at La Contenta. Notice the care in the ice-coffee alone. Three beans perched on a layer of frothy milk over coffee. The chicken enchiladas, guacamole, shrimp and spinach and fish tacos all showed the same care in preparation. This was not heavy cheesy Mexican fare. Here again, NYC strong flavors meet elegant approach in a tiny unassuming space. No grandeur, all skill.

The Metropolitan Musem of Art is another good place to walk off a uniquely delicious brunch. I like to think that my yoga efforts help me convert from this………….

To this…………….

In NYC we embrace that we are always both, struggling and serene. The food shows that duality of effort and skill, beautifully plated and served to a crazy diverse crowd.

Wishing you all serenity and deliciousness,


Cuban Coffee Chronicles – Final Day 9

Our last day in Cuba ended with a visit to Fusterlandia before we headed to the airport. A crazy Picasso meets Gaudi situation where the artist converted his home and many others in the community into glistening, colorful, funny, joyous celebrations of art, community and Cuba. A very befitting way to end our trip.

What a trip from Santi Spiritus to Habana! In between, I discovered the creativity and resourcefulness of the Cuban people. I was impressed by the role of music, dance and art, by the ration cards that held information about each citizen’s medical needs,  by availability and respect for education, by their efforts towards sustainable development, by their surprisingly entrepreneurial spirit, by their awareness of the dangers and benefits of tourism, by their efforts to be energy efficient and ecologically sensitive, by the general safety and scarcity of crime and gun violence, by the active and respected role of women, by their racial diversity and much more. Yes, often the ideology does not translate into reality.  However, the effort seemed genuine and hopeful. On the other end of the spectrum, no fishing boats are allowed for fear of citizens escaping to Miami. They import fish while they have fish available off the coast. There is certainly a level of control and suspicion that we as foreigners were not privy to. The dual currency system of CUCs and pesos frustrates everyone to no end. The infrastructure is lacking, as in the case of highways or crumbling, as in the case of old Havana. There is so much in need of repair. Housing and food seemed to be the biggest concerns for Cubans. Given Cuba’s slave trade past, elimination of native population, harsh and exploitive sugar plantations (like many countries) it offers a humble history lesson about working for one’s self and the sanctity of labor.

Personally, I will carry two lessons learned in Cuba onward.

  1. For us, what we own, in particular, home ownership, to a large extent defines us. Cubans seem to define themselves by what they do, instead of what they own (most of what they ‘own’ comes unofficially from family living abroad or the black market..flat screen TVs seem to be the highly prized). This was a worthy reminder for me. What would I do if I couldn’t define myself by what I “own”?
  2. Each home was an independent business in all the towns we visited, whether as a casa particulaire (bread and breakfast), paladar (restaurant) or craft studio. The living rooms of most houses visible from the street were devoted to selling something they made. Despite limitations, there is always something one can offer, even if that is five mangoes and two bananas on a table. What can I do with whatever skills and abilities I do have?

I was humbled by my Cuba experience and thankful for all the gifts I enjoy. The struggle towards a world without starvation, homelessness, violence, ignorance and sickness are fundamental human material needs (and not mere ideology) practiced there. How we get there is worth ongoing discussion. Cuba is an important voice in that discussion. Viva Cuba!