Interview with Sam Mason: Our Ice Cream Man

BROOKLYN, NEW YORK – Our ice cream shop is finally open for business. Eighteen days in, and life has completely shifted gears. Long days transition to long nights, little sleep, and no breaks. Is there such a thing as free time when you’re starting a business while raising a family? Mohan and I are first-time business owners, so it has been on-the-job training of the trial-by-fire variety as we try to figure out operations. Our business partner Sam Mason, on the other hand, is no newcomer. He’s been shaping the food landscape as an innovative pastry chef for decades (two actually). This post is about him.

Sam rocks. In the culinary world, he’s built a reputation for his quasi sci-fi techniques in creating playful food pairings and for blotting the salty-vs.-sweet line between dinner and dessert. As pastry chef at Wylie Dufresne’s molecular gastronomy mecca wd~50 in the Lower East Side of Manhattan, he’s won national recognition for his hypermodern reinterpretations of classic sweets. He was the affable chef host of IFC’s Dinner with the Band and challenger to Iron Chef Morimoto on Iron Chef, where he made skirt steak ice cream.  Today, he’s doing the Brooklyn business thing, with a dive bar (Lady Jay’s), a high-end mayo company (Empire Mayonnaise) and now – with us – a new-school old-fashion ice cream parlor.

 

 

 
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Interview with Divya Alter: Cooking the Ayurvedic Way

NEW YORK, NEW YORK – Cooking feels like a lost art in New York City. Given the number of culinary gems this city has to offer, opting out of dining out seems plain sacrilegious. Lately though I’ve been making most of my meals at home – and doing so by choice. It’s not easy - with the never-ending demands of caring for two newborns and the general supersonic-paced nature of city living, but it’s important to me that I bring my family together with home-cooked meals and nourish the babes with wholesome foods. I mean seriously, what’s better than fresh foods made with love?

While I’m not one to place a label on the types of dishes I cook (and don’t believe there’s one particular diet suitable for everyone), I’ve been making a conscious effort to prepare heart-healthy meals. These days, I rarely buy packaged foods and my shopping list consists of primarily whole foods (i.e. food requiring minimal processing). Though I’ve never been a junk food kind of gal, I do love baking and savoring sweets. So now instead of all-purpose flour, I  sub with almond or coconut flour; and rather than refined white sugar, I choose sucanat or turbinado. By making and eating what feels good, I’ve noticed a change in my body. I’m craving the healthier stuff.

Part of my journey to more wholesome foods was my discovery of the Ayurvedic tradition of cooking. Last November, I enrolled in an Ayurvedic cooking class with the lovely Divya Alter. Her class, which focuses on healthy, flavorful and fresh dishes, combines theory with practice. She begins by discussing the principles of what makes certain foods good for you and goes into the importance of achieving balance in one’s diet. Numerous spices and unfamiliar ingredients are introduced and discussed. Then we cook. The result: vibrant dishes, in a variety of textures and flavors, saturated with color and filled with nutritional goodness. Everything is vegetarian – and though I do eat meat – I’d have to say they are some of the best dishes I have tasted in my life.

Divya and her husband, Prentiss, started their non-profit educational organization, Bhagavat Life, six years ago to provide an array of courses based on “spiritual truths and tradition.” They traveled the world to countries like Guatemala and China leading mediation retreats, before planting their roots in the East Village three years ago and offering cooking classes

 
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Interview with Khin-huann Li: On Preserving the Taiwanese Language

TAIPEI, TAIWAN – For more than half a century the Chinese government did an excellent job of decimating the Taiwanese language. In 1949, the Chinese Nationalist Party a.k.a. the Kuomintang (KMT) fled the Chinese mainland to reconsolidate their power in Taiwan. There they banned the main local language, Taiwanese, from being spoken in all public institutions. Fines and beatings were enforced to ensure compliance, and Mandarin Chinese was established as Taiwan’s official language.

When martial law was lifted in 1987, so too was the practice of punishment for speaking Taiwanese. But by then it was too late. Young people in Taiwan were now communicating almost exclusively in Mandarin Chinese. Today, some experts estimate that 80 percent of the Taiwanese population in their 20s and 30s cannot speak Taiwanese, a statistic that infuriates one local professor.

 

 
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