Special Interests: Food and Culture

Recipient of a Special Mention Award from the Symposium for Professional Food Writers, 2011

• Visit my blog East Bay Ethnic Eats »

East Bay Ethnic Eats blog

Selected Articles
Washingon Post

Mozzeria - Washington PostAll Signs Point to a Hit in San Francisco

One of the few Deaf-owned restaurants in the country offers Neapolitan pizza from their wood-fired oven and creative small plates. Melody and Russ Stein have created a “deaf-friendly” spot where all waiters all sign and customers give it a big thumbs up . . . Read article »

Oakland Magazine

Bagels - Oakland magazineBagels: They’re Hot, Hot, Hot!
New Fans for the Reinvented Roll with a Hole

March-April, 2013

Bagels, whose circular shape is said to represent eternity and continuity, boast a long history. When Jews fled the pogroms of late 18th-century Europe, they brought their bagel recipes with them. Some immigrants settled in New York, while others headed north to Montreal. For more than 200 years, their descendants perfected the art of crafting these beloved bready rings. But a recent flock of migrating East Coasters were shocked to find that what passes for a bagel in our Bay Area food mecca is merely a flabby, steamed roll with a hole in it . . . Read article »


Avyads - Oakland magazineRooting for the Ayyads
Palestinian Couple Transforms Jinxed Spot into Culinary Oasis
July-August 2012

When I’m handed the menu in Zaki Kabob House, a cozy Middle Eastern restaurant on the Berkeley-Albany border, its pages of photographs, resembling a family scrapbook, pique my interest. Among the usual hummus, falafel and shawarma, I find Palestinian, Jordanian and Egyptian dishes with exotic names and intriguing descriptions — “molokhia … popular since the time of the Pharaohs.” Curious to learn the story behind this 3-year-old family-owned restaurant, I ask Ramzy Ayyad, the son and business manager, if I can speak with his parents. My meeting with the Ayyads, the eatery’s founders, on their restaurant’s patio a week later, begins a bit awkwardly . . . Read article »


Cultural Adventure - Oakland magazineIn the Market for Cultural Adventure?
Ethnic Groceries Dish Up a World of Culinary Possibilities

November 2011

Outside the crimson and yellow arched entrance, dozens of split-chickens grill to a golden brown, emanating tantalizing scents. Inside, popsicle-hued piñatas dangle overhead, as the infectious beat of mariachi music welcomes families arriving en masse. While the children scamper toward cakes festooned with neon pink and blue frosted flowers, “holas” are cheerfully exchanged among the crowd members. No, this is not a fiesta; it’s a trip to the market. Not that Mi Pueblo resembles your everyday market, but it may exemplify a constellation of ethnic stars in Oakland’s food-shopping firmament . . . Read article »


Alameda Magazine

cover of 'Alameda'Beloved Semifreddi's: A Bakery Rises in Alameda
March-April, 2011

Picture a baker’s skilled hands carefully fashioning sourdough baguettes on a floured tabletop. When the crusty golden loaves emerge from the oven, each displays its own personality. Multiply that process by a hundred thousand and place it in a 33,000-square-foot, state-of-the-art bakery that operates around the clock . . . Read article »


East Bay Monthly Magazine

cover of 'The Monthly'Family Flavors | The savory sagas of four East Bay clans
April, 2011

In 1933, milk sold in Oakland for 7 cents a quart, rump roast cost 18 cents a pound, a dime could get you 10 cupcakes, and ads touted cigarettes as a nerve-calming digestion aid. Like many others in the bleak Depression economy, stone-mill salesman John Denis lost his job. But Denis was a remarkably resourceful man: He and his father (a steelworker who helped build the Golden Gate Bridge) set up a few unsold mills, peddled their own whole-grain flour door to door, and eventually opened a little shop in the Laurel District called The Food Mill . . . Read article »


KQED Bay Area Bites logo

Handmade Tofu and Mochi Keep Traditions Alive in San Jose’s Japantown
June, 2014

Amy Nozaki patted the jiggly block of tofu she has just uncovered after pressing it in a wooden crate and pronounced it “perfect.” She and her husband Chester run The San Jose Tofu Company, which may be the last local shop to make tofu the traditional way, completely by hand. This physically demanding, time-consuming process creates creamy blocks of utter freshness: sweet, silky, slightly nutty bean curd that is as far from those chalky chunks packed with preservatives in plastic tubs as a loaf of Acme’s Pain au Levain is from Wonder Bread . . .
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This Lunar New Year the Horse Gallops in with Traditional Foods of Tết
January, 2014

As the Tran family gathers to celebrate the Lunar New Year, which starts this Friday, they will share wedges of thick, sticky rice filled with peppery pork and mashed mung beans (banh chung) , slices of a cold cut made from chopped pig ears and snout (gio thu) , pickled vegetables, and perhaps some fish in a caramelized kho sauce. When friends and relatives come by to visit over the next few days, there will be endless cups of tea, served with dried fruits and nutty sweets . . .
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Deaf Foodies Savor Gourmet Ghetto Tasting Tour
in Sign Language
  • Watch the YouTube video »  
March, 2013

My pair of professions straddles two worlds. By day, I work as an American Sign Language (ASL)  interpreter and otherwise, I’m a food writer. Although these domains rarely intersect, it’s a thrill when they do. In 2011, I broke the news of San Francisco’s first Deaf-owned restaurant, Mozzeria and followed up last spring with an interview of the owners in ASL.  But there are plenty of Deaf Bay Area food lovers who aren’t chefs, and I recently took a dozen of them–software developers, college professors, actors and retired folk–on an only-in-sign-language tasting tour of Berkeley’s Gourmet Ghetto through Edible Excursions . . . Read post »


Persian New Year Welcomes Spring
with Symbolic Traditions and Treats

March, 2012

Why do customers travel from as far away as Sacramento and Eureka to a little shop on Albany’s Solano Avenue every March and leave with bags full of crushed sumac, sprouted wheat, and flower-shaped chickpea cookies? To celebrate Norooz (also spelled Nowruz)  or Persian New Year, a secular holiday, observed in thousands of homes around the world on the first day of Spring . . . Read post »


Eat With Your Hands For a Sensuous, Intimate, Mindful Meal  • Watch the YouTube video »
February, 2012

Cultural misunderstandings always grab my attention—especially when food is involved. So I was hooked the moment I read this recent headline:

Norway authorities take away Indian couple’s kids, say feeding with hands wrong.

Although the details of this ongoing story have yet to be fully revealed, it spotlights cultural stereotypes often associated with dining etiquette. While North Americans and Northern Europeans deem that transferring edibles to the mouth with a metal-pronged stick is somehow more refined than using the utensils we were born with, members of the many cultures who have been eating with their hands for thousands of years beg to differ . . . Read post »


Berkleyside Nosh logo

Sunhui Chang’s Korean cooking makes sparks fly
February, 2013

Odd squeaks emanate from a large bowl of choy sum (an Asian vegetable related to bok choy)  as Chef Sunhui Chang massages the chopped green leaves with vinegar. It’s Monday and FuseBOX, the hot new dining spot tucked away on an industrial street in West Oakland is closed, but Chang and his crew are in the kitchen preparing pickles, kimchi, marinades and sauces that will be used throughout the week . . .
Read post »


In Berkeley, slide the door for homey Japanese food
November, 2012

I first met Noriko Taniguchi as I was examining a package of gray speckled noodles at Berkeley’s Tokyo Fish Market. The pixieish grandmother leaned over her shopping cart and whispered, “Yam noodles — very good for the digestion.” As we chatted, I learned she owns a Telegraph Avenue restaurant that features home-style Japanese cooking and promised to visit . . .
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From Ecuador, via war-torn Iran, to melting pot Berkeley
May 2011

In a little shop that carries a medley of middle eastern foodstuffs on San Pablo Avenue, Jeannette Jafarzadeh hands me a piece of warm flatbread straight from the oven. Her melodious voice has an indefinable accent, but warmth clearly emanates from her dark brown eyes. We have chatted before, during my trips to the Middle East Market, which she owns with husband Mehrdad, when I have gone there to pick up ingredients like rose-water or her sesame sprinkled flatbread . . .
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Boomer Women Travelers logo

Anna Mindess in KyotoKyoto Free Guides Open Doors to Food Adventures
April 2013

As my fingers squish the yeasty mulch of rice bran, miso, salted water, seaweed and red peppers according to the instructions of a master pickle maker — who only speaks Japanese — I realize this experience could never happen without a generous group of volunteers, the Kyoto Free Guides, who combine practicing their English with kindly taking tourists to visit the gardens, temples or tearooms of their lovely city. . .
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Freelance Writer

Special interests: food and culture. Read more


Author of ground-breaking texts in the field of Deaf culture. Read more

Deaf Culture DVDs

Co-producer of two popular DVDs. Read more

ASL Interpreter

More than 30 years experience as an ASL interpreter.
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Lectures, presents workshops and trains interpreters.
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Cultural Detective

Co-author of Cultural Detective: Deaf Culture.
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