Annaliese Griffin

Articles by

Annaliese Griffin

Annaliese Griffin is the editor-in-chief of Brooklyn Based. She has written about food, film, television and, of course, Brooklyn for The New York Times, New York Magazine, The Daily News and more, and was a professor of blogging at the CUNY Graduate School of Journalism. She tries not to let her obsession with procedural dramas get in the way of her work.

03/20/17 1:13pm
The noodles are perfect, the broth is delicious and the ramen bowls are handmade in Greenpoint. Photo: @Takumenlic via Instagram

The noodles are perfect, the broth is delicious and the ramen bowls are handmade in Greenpoint. Photo: @Takumenlic via Instagram

A few weeks ago a friend who lives in Long Island City invited me to come over, mentioning that if we got hungry we could pop around the corner from her house to a Japanese izakaya where we could grab some snacks and sake. I’ll admit it, I was dubious. Long Island City has lots of choices for Asian food, but none that I’ve loved. There’s mediocre Thai in spades, just like the rest of New York City. Mu Ramen has delicious food, but the wait is always a problem and frankly, they’re just not that friendly. Hibino I do like, but I wouldn’t call it an izakaya.

What I was shocked to find, tucked behind the 108th Precinct, less than a block from the Vernon-Jackson stop on the 7 train was a perfect neighborhood restaurant, a place you can indeed pop into for some snacks a beer, but that also feels fancy enough for a special night out. (more…)

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03/14/17 5:24pm

Let me be blunt for a moment. All those delicious Pi Day pies and snow day stews aside, this is the worst time of year for cooking. Late winter and early spring are a challenge in in the kitchen. The chicken pot pies, roasted vegetables and bean soups I was so excited to make in October feel heavy and boring now, and it’s going to be more than a few weeks before the first spring edibles show up at the farmer’s market.

We’re in luck though, fellow cooks. A new book came out today that will help get us all over the hump and into nettle, asparagus and pea season.

Vibrant India, Fresh Vegetarian Recipes from Bangalore to Brooklyn is the first cookbook from Chitra Agrawal, cook, writer and owner of Brooklyn Delhi. She wrote a great guide to eating all over the subcontinent by taking a day trip to Edison and Iselin, N.J. for us a few years back, and if you’ve always wanted to try your hand at cooking South Asian food, but have never quite been able to make sense of all the spice roasting and grinding, this is the book for you.

Agrawal’s recipes are not the heavy butter chicken and saag paneer type fare–which is generally Northern Indian in origin–that often represents Indian cuisine in the U.S. In the foreword she explains that her cooking is very much informed by the vegetarian cuisine of South India, Bangalore specifically, which is based around rice, beans, pulses, fresh vegetables and spices like mustard seed, hing and tumeric.

What does South India have to do with late winter cooking?

Many of the recipes in Vibrant India are variations on rice and dal, which are not just hearty, durable, winter fare, they’re also fragrantly spiced and lush with coconut, ghee and curry leaves. This combination of new flavors and cooking techniques is sure to hold your attention until the farmer’s market is full of ingredients for her spiced spring vegetable and coconut polenta recipe.

I’ve tried to wrap my head around how to build up a pantry of spices and the techniques for cooking Indian dishes at home several times, never with much luck. There are several South Asian cookbooks on my shelf and I’ve never prepared a single dish from any of them. I get overwhelmed by planning what to make, gathering the ingredients and understanding the techniques. This book feels so much more accessible and easy to understand than my past forays into subcontinental cooking. (more…)

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03/02/17 1:23pm

I need to be the adult here and break it to you, someone does. Just because it was 70 last week does not mean that summer starts at the end of the month. We still have a ways to go before the glorious outdoor movies and free concerts of summer are here. Until then, you’ll have to make do with some excellent art, scary theater, absorbing new books and the return of the best show on television.

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10. The Terrifying

Everything about The Terrifying, a new play written and directed by Obie-winner Julia Jarcho sounds, well, terrifying. It’s an intimate theater experience for just 60 guests who are seated on the stage “close enough to hear a faint whisper.” The setting is described as a “creepy little village on the cusp of modernity” and there’s a warning about strong language and sudden loud noises. We’ll be reviewing so check back for the full scoop on just how scary The Terrifying really is. The show runs from March 12-April 2 at the Arbons Arts Center, and tickets are $25.


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9. Art on Paper, March 3-5
As the name would suggest, Art on Paper is a giant show devoted to art committed to paper, like drawings, prints and photos. It’s also home to an incredibly inventive collection of three-dimensional work constructed with paper and some video work as well. The show is held on Pier 36 in Manhattan, March 3-5 (with a preview on March 2), and with participating galleries around the city. A pass costs $25 for a day, $30 for three days, and $40 if you want access during the preview as well. (more…)

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02/28/17 3:49pm

 

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Lent starts tomorrow. I’m not asking you to go to church or subscribe to any particular religious beliefs, or any beliefs at all. Just as the bunnies and eggs of Easter map onto pagan spring fertility rites, we can take other traditions, rituals and celebrations and find inspiration in them.

Lent is traditionally a time spent reflecting on the life and work of Jesus Christ, who, from a certain perspective, was one of the original grassroots organizers. He definitely did not care for the financial services industry. This year it seems fitting to spend it thinking deeply about how our own daily actions fit into our larger communities, into the larger world.

What do I mean?

Many of us exist in this place where we buy our way out of moral dilemmas. This philosophy, which has been a powerful agent of change in the food world, really works best when you’re talking about essentials. We have to eat, so buying food that creates positive change for the environment, for workers, for the larger agricultural economy, is the right thing to do if you can afford it. When it comes to non-essentials, like 90% of the clothing we wear, like conveniences and indulgences, it’s a little less clear. Even if you buy green, organic cotton t-shirts made locally the real question isn’t whether the t-shirt is better than the fast fashion version. The question is, did you really need that t-shirt? What does it mean to be in a position of power where you are able to make that choice? Is this the set of choices that you would like to define your life?

Now, I’m not saying luxuries are bad. I just bought a new dress I didn’t need for a wedding. I love watching procedural dramas, even terrible ones that are basically an advertisement for a police state. I’m thinking about getting up to eat a Thin Mint right now. The Girl Scouts illustrate this perfectly, those cookies are a luxury masquerading as a good deed, right?

In my experience, living in a city, looking for convenience and ways to treat myself as a reward for the work it takes to live in a city (yes, that’s tautological loop), there are two dominant types luxury to think about here: the $20 mani-pedi and the $200 t-shirt; the $4 coffee and the $200 farm-to-table dinner. Amazon Prime might embody both of these and a whole slew of other modern problems as well.

The mani-pedi, at least in New York City, is the perfect example of an affordable luxury that many of us have indulged in, myself included, without really examining what we were participating in. Instead of wondering how the service could be so cheap, we let ourselves believe that those small, mostly Asian women, literally kneeling in front of us and trimming our toenails were being treated at least okay. It turns out that for the most part, no, they are not being treated okay, or really even like humans at all. Cheap things, whether you’re talking about junk food or dresses sewn by children, are rarely actually cheap.

The $200 eco t-shirt has a different set of problems. I’m all for buying nice things and supporting small businesses and if all cotton was grown organically the health of our planet, and textile workers, would improve considerably. But there’s another way to look at this purchase, too. We all have too many things. Even if they spark joy. You are an economic actor and that $200 you spent could have gone elsewhere, to a charity, to making your shopping list even more local and sustainable, to your savings account so that you can work toward quitting your job in a lucrative industry you hate so you can work at something lower-paying that you love. You get the idea.

Buying our way out of moral dilemmas can be a good thing–think back to food, and hey, we do need to wear clothing. But when that becomes our only tool, voting with our dollars, it’s limiting; it reinforces the idea that the most important thing about us is our consumer choices, our money and how we use it.  We are not just the sum of our bank accounts and all the convenience apps on our smartphones; we’re interconnected human beings and we put up a lot of filters between ourselves and others these days in the name of convenience. This Lent challenge is designed to help us reconnect to a sense of shared purpose and intellectual engagement–that we have more important aspects of ourselves to develop and enrich the world with than our sense of personal style.

For Lent, let’s each chose something like the $20 mani-pedi problem–a small luxury that upon deeper reflection makes the world a less kind, just, interesting or vital place when we partake in it, and quit that activity. Other things that you could argue belong here include social media, reality television, fast fashion and almost anything you can do from your phone. Many Catholic grandmas I know used to give up chocolate for Lent. Google “chocolate and slavery” and that choice suddenly has more weight. I vowed never to buy anything again after moving last fall and then fell victim to post-holiday sales. No more shopping until after Lent.

For $200 t-shirt problem, just identify one way that you’re buying your way out of a moral dilemma and really examine it. Yes, those gorgeous sandals are made from local leather by artisans paid a living wage. But, do you actually need them? Is there something more truly liberating you can do with that money? They’ll still be there after Easter Sunday, if you decide you need them. Or, think about the time you spend watching television. Is there something more personally gratifying you can do with that time? I’m by no means an anti-TV activist. But, I do find that reading at night makes me sleep better and makes me feel more alive than watching television, especially my guilty-pleasure cop shows. For Lent I’m going to stop with the social media (that isn’t for work). I waste at least an hour a day scrolling through Facebook and trolling Instagram that could be spent plotting a garden, reading a novel or going for a walk.

Just sit with a question of your choosing, think about what you are making room for in your life, for the six weeks of Lent. As they say in yoga, see what comes up.

Here’s what to do this week to keep defending, and even expanding a more just and peaceful world. (more…)

02/20/17 2:59pm

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In thinking about Action Trumps Hate for this week I bookmarked dozens of stories on my phone and laptop, because there is such a blinding whirlwind of bad ideas being put into action every single day. Just now, while writing that sentence I remembered all over again that Scott Pruitt is heading up the EPA now. Say goodbye to breathing “air” and drinking “water,” folks.

The theme that emerged from the chaos of stories about non-existent terror attacks in Sweden, whatever that press conference was supposed to be and all things Kellyanne Conway was immigration.

A clear picture is beginning to emerge. The Trump administration is actively working to reduce the number of immigrants and refugees in the country through a two-pronged approach. One, by limiting the number of new immigrants coming in to the country by reducing the number of refugees we accept and attempting to enforce a travel ban on citizens from seven Muslim-majority nations, leveraging Islamophobia to do so. Two, by detaining and deporting immigrants who are in the country illegally, whether or not they have committed a crime, leveraging the deep socioeconomic divide in the country and working class despair to do so. (more…)

02/12/17 9:41pm

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I’ve decided to start going to Planned Parenthood again. I moved recently and I haven’t found a gynecologist to call my own yet, and while reading about the anti-choice rallies urging the government to “defund” PP last week I realized that I could support it with my body, as a patient. This feels right in so many ways.

I owe my life to Planned Parenthood. Not in the medical sense, but the quality of my life today was made possible by having access to birth control I could afford when I was younger. For many years I didn’t have health insurance and having Planned Parenthood as a resource meant that I knew I could at least get a Pap smear and a basic check-up. As a human female who has spent the past few decades having sex with a variety of human males, there’s just no way that without birth control I could have gone to college, worked approximately 46 different jobs in my twenties, lived in different cities, gone to graduate school, started a business and all the other great stuff I chose to do, footloose and fancy free-like, before I finally had my son at age 38. I recognize what a privilege this is and I also recognize that I’m a way better mom than I would have been at 20, 25, 30 or even 35. Everybody wins, especially me.

The Planned Parenthood in Downtown Brooklyn is very large and very efficient. The waiting room has a distinct resemblance to the DMV. Between the waiting room and your exam you linger in a sort of medical purgatory where you pee in a cup and carry it past a dozen other women doing the same thing in a bathroom with all the charm of a high school locker room. But then you get to your appointment and you are treated like a real live human person worthy of care.

I can’t tell you how rare and important this is, and I probably don’t have to. (more…)

02/05/17 2:58pm

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There’s been a lot of talk about how Democrats have voted in the cabinet confirmation process this week, calling out senators who have voted yes on Trump’s picks. I believe that on this matter reasonable people can disagree; it really is quite rare for nominees to be rejected, but then, these are unusual times and unusual nominees, many of them. Playing politics is, literally, senators’ jobs, and it’s not that surprising that many of them are more interested in confirming the devil they know (Ben Carson) than rolling the dice and getting a new, worse devil as a new nominee. But let’s be clear about one thing: there is no worse nominee for the position of Secretary of Education than Betsy DeVos. Let us count the ways:

She doesn’t understand or seem to care about basic education policy matters.

She doesn’t understand or seem to care about special education programs.

It appears that she plagiarized some of the written portions of the questions posted to her by the Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee.

Her many, many conflicts of interest are not just financial, though those alone should be enough to disqualify her. Her family’s money has been used to do little more than advance extreme right wing agendas and her brother Erik Prince is the founder of Blackwater–yes, the vile mercenary group.

So what are we to do?

The Senate vote is Monday (the calendar indicates it will happen after noon), so there’s not a lot of time left. Still, call, call, call. Now is the time to talk to friends and family who have Republican senators if you do not have one to call your own. Write a script for them and email it with the phone number. Offer to speak for them if they initiate a three-way call to the senator’s office. Make the script personal, talk about a child you know who deserves a real education. Talk about your own excellent public education.

It’s also time to get creative. If you have a child in your life get your best photo of them (ask their parents’ permission first!), and tweet it at every Republican senator with a Twitter account, or post to their Facebook walls. It’s a public way to register your opinion. If you’re not comfortable with a photo, just use a name and say, my daughter Libby, my nephew Frank–to personalize this is the point.

Here are a couple options:

This is my son. He deserves a SecED who believes public education is an American value. All children do. #dumpdevos

All American children deserve to be educated, not monetized. @BetsyDevos #dumpdevos

You get the idea.

Here are a few to start with @SenDanSullivan is from Alaska and the other Republican senator from the state, Lisa Murkowski, has vowed to vote no. @SenJohnMcCain occasionally shows some independence from his party and good sense, and @SenBobCorker from Tennessee has been floated as someone who could be turned.

This is how much Betsy Devos or her family has contributed to each senator on this list. Graph:

This is how much Betsy Devos or her family has contributed to each senator on this list. Source: Center for American Progress; Every Voice; Federal Election Commission.

If you don’t like the tactic of using cute kid mugs to shame these Republicans into voting in the interest of public school children, then use their own fundraising against them. Here’s a chart and an article about how much all of these Republicans have accepted over the years from Betsy DeVos and her family. Tweet something like:

.@SenJohnMcCain @BetsyDeVos paid you $50,600, but you work for American children #dumpdevos

Two different campaigns have been started to “buy” senate votes. The GoFundMe started by a Philadelphia teacher to buy Senator Pat Toomey’s vote against DeVos (@SenToomey) has raised almost $70,000 (the money will go to several Philly-area educational resources). A similar campaign in North Carolina has raised $6,000 (this will go to Public School Forum of North Carolina) to buy Senator Richard Burr’s (@SenatorBurr) vote. His last tweet was about the Puppy Bowl. Tweet at both of these senators about all this. Link to the GoFundME campaigns. Get it out there for transparency, if nothing else.

Here’s what your week looks like, and no, it’s not pretty. (more…)

02/02/17 12:12pm

The other morning my husband and I got into a bleary-eyed fight over a minor difference in opinion over a political matter of great importance. I’m being purposefully vague here because I don’t want to send you into the vortex of news-cycle misery we’re all struggling not to lose ourselves to right now. We did not manage to come to any enlightened conclusion about the state of the nation, or the issue we were bickering about, but we did reach one solid agreement–we need to engage with more non-political culture, together.

There’s a unique pleasure in watching a movie or reading a book and then talking about it with someone whose brain you enjoy. It makes us feel more resoundingly alive, and is a crucial reminder that being human is a very special, wonderful occupation. Here are 10 things to watch, read and ponder with someone you’re fond of this month.

tumblr_inline_ogl6z96gc61s6rwtx_50010. Not Even Happiness, Julie Byrne

Brooklyn Based-contributor Regina Mogilevskaya turned me on to Julie Byrne, who released a new album this week and is performing at City Winery Feb. 2-4 (those shows are sold out) and at Baby’s All Right on Feb. 15. I will admit that a certain amount of doubt enters my mind when I hear the words singer-songwriter, but the experience of listening to this lovely album can best be described as similar to the spreading sense of comfort and warmth that fills your whole body when you finally take some Advil and the tension headache you’ve had all day goes away. Put it on repeat for however long it takes. (more…)

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02/02/17 10:18am

February may be the shortest month, but it has a tendency to feel more like the longest page on the calendar. Instead of despairing that your work schedule or bank account won’t allow you to escape somewhere warm to recharge, find some inner sunshine with these three inward retreats, for less than you spend on your morning coffee.

7310557616_1aa99df928_z_0_0Lovingkindness Fridays
If you love the idea of guided meditation, but don’t want to wear yoga pants or feel like you’ve joined a cult, The Interdependence Project may be where you make more space for yourself in New York City. The approach is a secular study of all aspects of Buddhism, mixed with psychology and a deep exploration of meditation as a tool for living better and more fully. In addition to special classes, intensives and series they offer regular weekly sessions like introduction to meditation classes on Sunday afternoons and Metta meditation on Friday evenings, which focuses on exploring the Buddhist concept of “lovingkindness.” Many workshops and classes are also available online, including a series called Transforming White Privilege, if you prefer to dive inward in the privacy of your own home. The suggested donation for most classes is $10-20, and the center is committed to making sure that people of all incomes are welcomed and have access to the community. (more…)

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01/29/17 8:33pm
Protestors flocked to JFK Airport on Saturday to stand with immigrants and refugees. Photo: Kate Hooker

Protestors flocked to JFK Airport on Saturday to stand with immigrants and refugees. Photo: Kate Hooker

First off, apologies for the lapse in sending. This column has been finding itself as we move along into the brave new world of the Trump presidency. Immediately post-election one action a week seemed like the sane way forward. Right now though, trying to distill the chaos into a single story makes me feel crazy, like I’m trying to take the SATs, give a eulogy and play a hand of euchre, all at the same time. There’s so much to know and to do and I don’t want to leave out important information.

So for the foreseeable future, Action Trumps Hate will work like this: every Sunday night, starting tonight, I’ll send out a newsletter that focuses on one topic in depth in the intro, and then provides a calendar of actions and important events, protests and information, one item for every day of the week, below. Think of it as Your Week in Action. This way I can address more of the very many things going on, and also dive deeper into, or make an argument about a particular issue. Good? Good.

For many, the Women’s March was the highlight of January so far, and I found it energizing and uplifting as well. But there was something even better that I got to be part of, especially in light of recent events. I attended my sister’s nursing school pinning ceremony–essentially a graduation–at the City University of New York. It was an evening I will think about and hold close as we move through these perilous times, and not just because I’m proud of my sister.

Each name that was called, each student pinned, added a dot to a world map that surely covered at least five continents. In her speech, the valedictorian talked about the concept of the humblebrag, and the fact that there was no word for it in Russian, her native tongue. She thanked CUNY, and the U.S., for giving her so many opportunities as an immigrant. Judging from the number of different languages swirling around that room she was in the majority as a non-native English speaker. The sense of pride, of accomplishment, of forward momentum, transformed a decidedly non-fancy affair–it was held in the CUNY Tech cafeteria in downtown Brooklyn–into something that felt remarkable. The parents and siblings and children and aunts and uncles and spouses and boos there were overflowing with so much happiness and pride. There was a palpable sense of possibility, that the American dream still does exist, and yes, I know how sentimental that sounds, but I was inspired by being there with those graduates; it reminded me of what America can be.

Then, just about a week later, Trump signed an executive order that is government-sanctioned Islamophobia, disguised with the thinnest of veneers, while continuing to insist that we build a wall along the border with Mexico. Before Christmas I wrote a column about supporting refugees and resettlement programs–it’s still a good resource for helping people on the ground in Syria and for supporting resettlement work in the U.S. And of course, keep protesting the wall, keep speaking up for refugees and immigrants and against xenophobia of all kinds. We need to keep the pressure on. Call anyone and everyone, donate to the ACLU. But remember that it’s just the most incendiary action of the moment–there are several slow burners we need to keep an eye on as well.

This week, the thing I want to you to get good and angry about, in a productive way, is Trump’s refusal to release his tax returns and his allergy to transparency. There’s a connection here. All those refugees and immigrants who supposedly pose a risk to American citizens? They’ve been vetted more thoroughly than our president. This should make us all incredibly pissed.

(more…)