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Beef and Walnut Rendang, Alyssa Style

This one is a little different.

If the foodways of the coastal tropics have a unifying feature, it is the coconut. Spread by its own maritime machinations as well as human effort, Cocos nucifera is a large, flavorful, energy-dense addition to numerous cuisines and if there is anything about my people’s cooking that frustrates me, it is that it does not use enough coconut. Coconut has been my gateway into so many other delights and into so many different cultures’ recipes, and today, it serves that role again.

Enter beef rendang, or rendang daging in Bahasa Indonesia.

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Beef and Walnut Rendang, Alyssa Style

A Series of Silly Shipping Vignettes, Because I Am Not Going To Watch Debates This Year

The garbage fire of 2020 demands a little levity, and I am here to provide. So, here are some silly vignettes about unlikely relationships. You are welcome.

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A Series of Silly Shipping Vignettes, Because I Am Not Going To Watch Debates This Year

We Are All Entrapta

If there is one accusation that the allistic world likes to inflict on people like me, it is the idea that we do not care. Our norms flout theirs, our preferences are alien to them, our interests do not align with theirs, our emotions do not work like theirs, and to each of these, they levy their curse: you don’t care. They fling a tiresome welter of robot and reptile and cold and computer and alien at our feet, each a stiletto aimed at the part of us that is willing to believe them. Their only idea for who and what we are denies our humanity.

When I see the same accusation leveled at one of the most impressively competent and compassionate portrayals of our neurology in popular media, Princess Entrapta from She-Ra and the Princesses of Power, my irritation turns to icy resolve.

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We Are All Entrapta

Redemptive Sacrifice Done Right: On Shadow Weaver

Redemption through sacrifice is an old motif that has gotten more attention in recent popular media. Redemption arcs are powerful when done correctly, but they are also difficult to execute and require specific story structures to support them. Writers who want the powerful singular moment of redemption with less of the work required to earn it often use sacrifice as a shortcut. When a character’s life ends in the service of the people they have wronged, it can seem like the ultimate return payment for the harm they have caused, but can also be emotionally cheap. Without an effort to actually make right the wrongs of one’s past, a redemptive sacrifice can seem like an effort to suffer enough that some cosmic scale is balanced, a retributive impulse turned inward rather than a restorative one aimed outward. Worse, destroying oneself in a sacrificial blaze can also seem like an effort to escape accountability and prevent an honest reckoning with one’s legacy. For these reasons, I have grown to resent the idea of characters experiencing redemption through destroying themselves.

But one piece of media managed this difficult task with impossible grace, and that is She-Ra and the Princesses of Power. The story of Shadow Weaver might be the only time in my conscious memory that I have seen a redemptive sacrifice work. And to understand why, we have to go through Shadow Weaver’s story.

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Redemptive Sacrifice Done Right: On Shadow Weaver

Date Squares, Alyssa Style

Canadian coffee shops hold little allure for me, as a tea drinker who is well aware that her tastes are an afterthought in this space. I have spent a great deal more time in them than I ever wanted to, but I do appreciate one thing that happened in Canada’s coffee shops: me getting introduced to date squares. Invented in Newfoundland, this distinctively Canadian pastry is two layers of oat and flour crust around a filling of date paste, and it mingles crunch, sweetness, sourness, and general heft to satisfying effect. There is a strange irony to encountering dates more often living in Canada than I did in Miami, given that I come from a culture strongly influenced by Mediterranean cooking, but life has a way of surprising us.

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Date Squares, Alyssa Style

Pasta a la Boricua, Alyssa Style

Cuisine is a conversation. Foodways are not static and nothing traditional is the age people think it is. For a culinary tradition as circumstantial and inventive as Puerto Rican food, this is especially true, as new low-cost ingredients get incorporated into old patterns. That’s where this entry in our journey appears: pasta in tomato sauce, but make it Puerto Rican.

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Pasta a la Boricua, Alyssa Style