A daily selection of the best content published on WordPress, collected for you by humans who love to read.
Are plantation tours meant to celebrate their owners’ ideas, or to document their complicated domestic lives? At The Negro Subversive, a call to look at the history of slavery head-on.
You may already know Brevity Magazine for concise creative nonfiction, craft essays on writing, and its prolific blog. For nearly two decades, the magazine has published work from emerging writers and well-known authors alike, including Roxane Gay and Sherman Alexie.
We asked Brevity’s editors to consider this exceptional body of work and recall the piece that speaks to them the most.
Dinty W. Moore, former zookeeper, is the author of many books and the director of the creative writing degree programs at Ohio University.
Dinty W. Moore, Founder and Editor Photo by Melissa Askew Debbie Hagan, Book Reviews Editor Photo by Pär Pärsson Julie Riddle, Craft-Essay Editor Photo by Kerrie DeFelice Allison K. Williams, Social Media Editor Photo by Jim DiGritz Sarah Einstein, Special Projects Editor Photo by Paco S
View Gallery5 images
“As with babies, there isn’t always a clean and clear-cut solution for translations.” At Ploughshares, Yardenne Greenspan reflects on motherhood and translating the untranslatable.
The Wonder is a short story by Emma Donoghue — author of Room — which was shortlisted for the 2010 Man Booker Prize.
“The newness will wear off though . . . and one morning, you will wake up and realize that you exchanged one mundane reality for another.” A chance encounter with a traveling Dutchman transforms a young woman’s life in this true tale on the rails.
“Precious dishes like phở perpetuate an ever-evolving culture, and connect us near and far with our loved ones. For me, phở is a key artifact in my own love story, but the soup itself is a grand romance.”
“The prose is so thick that to me it has the closeness of a summer day; you can feel yourself choking on the humidity, feel the grit of Macondo sticking to the back of your neck, and all you want to do is lie on the tile floor, eat a banana, and sweat.” Honoring literature with pie — a frozen banana pie, for One Hundred Years of Solitude.
At The Texas Observer, Asher Elbein writes on how wind farms and White Nose Syndrome are decimating bat populations and why preserving them is critical to the economy and ecosystems of Texas.
“We eat not to enjoy food but to brag about its origin to our friends or anyone within earshot. It’s getting out of hand.” At Little Stories, Abby rails against the reign of “self-congratulatory nutritional piety.”
Would a basic level of income change the world for the better? At FiveThirtyEight, Andrew Flowers writes on how guaranteed income is gaining traction.
Jenny Diski died on April 28, 2016, at the age of 68. Diski was an author of novels and nonfiction, a contributor to the London Review of Books, and blogger on WordPress.com at This and That Continued. At Longreads, Haley Mlotek compiles a reading list of nine stories celebrating the writer and her work.
I am devastatingly, enchantingly in love with phở. The Vietnamese rice noodle dish has bewitched me body and soul. I was first introduced to this sublime delight by my significant other, Vu, who is Vietnamese-American, and somewhat of a connoisseur of all things phở. In our time, we have frequented many phở joints together, and from my travels I have surmised the stats of a perfect bowl.
Phở is something of a national treasure in Vietnam, and has been steadily gaining notoriety in the US since it was brought over to America after the Vietnam War. In the States, the best places for an authentic bowl are those that make only phở, rather than larger restaurants distracted by cooking other things. Your best bet for a bona fide bone soup is found at any Pho 75 or Pho Royal.
Phở is a breakfast food in Vietnam, which makes sense when you encounter the awakening effects of the warm broth. A big, bright bowl is like aromatherapy; it envelopes my whole being with warmth. The soup itself is light, balanced, and quite rich. It is complex. It is not to be simplified.
For the uninitiated, phở (pronounced “fuh”) is a beef or chicken bone broth soup, with rice noodles, toasted spices, and green leafy garnishes. Endless iterations on the same theme exist: rice noodles in a beef or chicken broth, seasoned with ginger, shallots, fish sauce, black cardamom, cloves, cinnamon, and star anise. Other popular additions are cilantro, pickled onions, and pepper. Most popular are phở ga (chicken) and phở bac/ tai chin (beef).
(above: phở tai chin)
By far the best feature of the phở is its stock. The broth is a carefully assembled work of art, layered with spices and simmering for hours before enjoying.
Here’s my foolproof guide to enjoying your first bowl of phở:
First, when your bowl arrives at your table, take in the steam. And then the first sip, slowly. After your bowl is brought to you, your server brings also a big plate of greens: mint, cilantro and saw leaf over mung bean sprouts, and lime. I take a sip at each stage of adding these ingredients, savoring each new flavor.
With Vu, our phở meals are quiet, focused affairs, as we each render our bowls differently with additions brought to the table. We always ask for extra limes, but I never include the suggested jalapenos. He eats his bowl opaque, a deep rust color. I begin eating mine clear at first, how the broth arrives, and throughout the meal the soup encounters a steady progression of depth in color from my added seasoning, a pursuit to achieve spicier depths. Too much sriracha or hoisin sauce will cloud the broth, but a spoonful of each will improve it.
I have never encountered a bad bowl, only a lesser bowl. I have my handful of favorite spots in the DC-metro area, but I maintain that the absolute best is made by Vu’s mother, Chau. Her recipe has been made perfect with years of personal additions and adjustments that simply outshine any restaurant batch of broth. Her recipe, like all of the best ones, is known only to her.
On Saturday nights, we drive back to our hometown to have dinner with Vu’s mother. There is always too much too eat, which I love. We enter to find a counter top spread with several things at once, a veritable feast for three, with all of the best sauces and garnishes, and chopsticks, and maybe a fork for me. The best nights are when there’s phở, of course.
After eating, we watch Vietnamese television, which is my new favorite thing. Lately I have been really into the Vietnamese version of Dancing with the Stars, called Bước nhảy hoàn vũ. The language barrier with international television makes me a more attentive viewer. As an actor, the barrier is easily overcome for me as facial expression and body language are universal. There are a handful of Vietnamese words that I understand, but I seem to have only learned the names of my favorite foods, like bánh bao and how to say “I love you.”
Phở is an enduring fixture in Vietnamese and American culture. And with the bombastic popularity of sriracha, phở, too is on the rise in the West. Precious dishes like phở perpetuate an ever-evolving culture, and connect us near and far with our loved ones. For me, phở is a key artifact in my own love story, but the soup itself is a grand romance.
When I eat a bowl of pho, I think of Chau, of Vu, of unconditional love.
(my favorite pho date)