Wednesday, November 11, 2009

Blog on hold / Thai Curry did me in

"I'm writing a book.

I've got the page numbers done."

-Steven Wright


This blog is going on hiatus for a while. I am suffering from a dreadful mental condition.

Writer's block

I write for a living. My law practice is writing. I teach a class on writing. I even am writing a book, which I have to finish by January.

So it makes no sense that I have writer's block. But I do.

A few weeks ago, I promised that my next post would be about Thai curry. I haven't been able to write that post -- or any post. For some reason, I lost all inspiration to write about food.

First Try: Asia Market

After starting a curry series, I knew I had to write about Thai curries. They are my favorite curry. But they also don't quite fit our concept of curry. Surely there would be much to write.

I sought inspiration in Asia Market's wonderful red curry, Kang Dang.


I planned to argue that Thai curry is not what we think of as curry. It is not a mix of dry spices. (Massamun is the exception). Instead, Thai curries are a mix of hot peppers, coconut milk, onion, kafir leaf, galangal or ginger, and other garden (or jungle) ingredients.

Thai curries are usually about the balance of the sweet creaminess of coconut milk and the heat of the peppers. They are not curries as in an earthy blend of spices, like an Indian or Pakistani curry.

Beyond that, I could not think of anything interesting to say. What to do? Maybe eat more curry?

Second Try: Vieng Thai

A curry on the menu at Vieng Thai caught my eye. Gang Pa is a "country-style red curry without coconut milk." I wondered, without coconut milk, would it still be Thai curry?

This dish was more like a spicy pepper soup. It lacked the sweet/spicy/sour balance of most Thai dishes. It was just spicy and sour, like a really peppery bowl of Tom Yum. Apart from the peppers, I couldn't decide what made it a curry.

So what is curry? Heck, I have no idea now. The word curry doesn't make any sense.

Is it a mix of spices? Not if you include Thai curry. Is it a hot and spicy sauce? Not if you include Japanese and French curries, which have little heat at all. Is it a thick Asian sauce? Not if you include Gang Pa, which has the consistency of a thin soup.

Worse, curry is a fascinating food. You could write a book about curry. But I can't. I seem to have lost the ability to say anything interesting about food at all.

Why a hiatus?

A few months ago on Technology Bytes, Jay Lee criticized Houston food bloggers. He asked what expertise they have to write about food. Is it because they eat? We all eat, Jay argued -- in his snarky way. So is everyone qualified to write a food blog?

I have no qualifications other than the fact that I think a lot about food and culture. [If I have something interesting to say, then I'm qualified.] But when I don't have anything interesting to say, Jay is right. There is no reason to write a blog.

The new restaurants are not inspiring . . . yet

Perhaps I will find inspiration in all the restaurants opening this fall. But probably not.

Straits is a good attempt at upscale Malaysian. But honestly I don't have much interesting to say about it that I haven't said about the more interesting, and cheaper Banana Leaf.

Haven might be worth a post or two - if it ever opens.

And Stella Solla is at least giving us a lot of gossip. But I don't write much gossip.

The other 10 or so high-profile restaurants opening this fall sound pretty dull, pretty mainstream.

New steak restaurants? Yawn. A seafood restaurant inspired by Boston's Legal Seafood? Yawn. A gastropub serving short ribs? Yawn. Italian restaurants by chefs or restauarantuers who peaked in 1990?

I could go on. The crop of new restaurants two years ago was fantastic, perhaps the best Houston has ever had.

This year, the bad economy means retreading, going with the safe bet, simple foods. I understand. I watch Gordon Ramsay. But I'm not inspired.

So for the next several months I am going to go to Disney World (Tim Keating is at Flying Fish), write my book (not about food), and practice law. Maybe the New Year will bring me some sort of inspiration.

Maybe we can talk more then.

Bye.

44 comments:

HoustonWok said...

wooh wooh wooh mate, if for everytime someone criticizes Houston Bloggers because all we seem to know is what we eat, that will eliminate half of Houston food bloggers in general. If Jay Lee is sugesting that we tuck our tail hide behind and tree than I say to JAY GO FLY A KITE! There aren't credentials needed to start a food blog, it's more a pictorial memoir of what we like,what we don't like, and if he doesnt like our rhetoric, than chose not to read it. With all due respect to his blog, it's awesome, but the difference between he and most of us, he has financial backing where as we don't. Get the hell outta here. As for writers bloc, it happens to the best of us, take some Emergen-C, go have a good meal at one the many Asian cuisines and get back to what you have been doing since I could recall. Which is helping to elighten us on Houston eateries. "What gives us right," the constitution, the 1st ammendment, freedom of speech, "what gives us a right."get the hell outta here

Approachable Photos said...

I empathize with you... I've had artist's block for a couple of months now and while I'm trying not to panic, it's getting harder and harder to get myself into the studio.

Take a break, have some fun and if and when you come back, write about what makes your heart thump harder and have fun with it. F*ck what other people think.

I, for one, will miss your blog and will keep it near the top of my list in the hopes of catching you when you come back.

Tom said...

I understand, I think. I sometimes feel like keeping up with my wine blog is work, rather than fun. It ebbs and flows, and work pressures certainly play a role in that. But I will miss your great posts while you're on hiatus. Your posts have helped me and my family enjoy several excellent restaurants we otherwise would never have found, or if we found them, tried. Forget that lame comment by the Technology Bytes guy. Sure, everybody eats, but not everybody cares about and thinks about what they eat, and very very few people care about and think about what they eat as much and as well as you. If and when you're ready to blog again, your readers will be be there happy to hear about and see what interesting stuff you're eating.

Anonymous said...

My heart goes out to you - Critical or not - why does one write a food blog - what part of the food experience directed you to write words on a blog - have your read Mr. J. Towers? Or perhaps Richard Olney et al? I am praying for the Houston food scene, really. The chefs here are used to and way too comfortable in their own standards and are critical of anyone who challenges them. It takes a very special kind of energy plus everything else to make it happen - We all have our why's or why nots. But if you stop writing and discontinue your journey we all loose by default. You need a fire, son. Maybe a good snob and a great bottle of wine too - don't quit. Don't you dare.

artyeater said...

Actually it makes perfect sense that you have writer's block. You're way over exercising that writing muscle. Cut yourself some slack, man. I agree with HoustonWok who said to go have fun for a while. All of us creative types get blocked I think. It's temporary. Relax and best of luck.

Sarah and Erwin said...

Breaks are good. I like your blog and will miss it. For an interesting low key food blog check out Bunrab.com daily feed. He doesn't feel the need to say something new or go to new places. Just comments on what he eats.
Hope to see you blogging in the future!

Anonymous said...

love the blog. look forward to its return.

AndyG said...

Come back soon - I love your blog and have read it avidly since moving to Houston last year. You have introduced me and my wife to fantastic restaurants.

Alice said...

You don't have to write posts that follow a theme. Just write reviews of different restaurants/dishes you try. It's very helpful for those of us who are stuck at home with a child and cannot get out of the house but twice a year to dine at a restaurant that doesn't serve food that start with "Mc." If I'm dining out without child, I better be sure that it's going to taste good.

Jacey said...

For the record, I enjoy your blog. I've been to some of the restaurants you write about, and have plans to try some of the others. You should only do this if it gives you pleasure, but when it becomes a hassle, I can understand the need for a break. I'll still have your blog in my reader, and I look forward to your return.
Good luck with your book.

Karen said...

I could say ditto to many of the other comments. My husband and I have tried out more than a handful of places you have commented on in this blog. We're new to Houston and appreciate a little commentary before we venture out to new places. No "expertise" required.

Come back when something inspires you, when you have the writing urge again. In the meantime we'll do our own exploring of Houston's cuisines.

anonymouseater said...

Thanks for all the kind comments and suggestions.

I realize I omitted a sentence in the discussion about Jay Lee and his comments on the radio. I meant to say that, even people without "expertise" can write a useful blog when they can say something interesting.

The problem is that I have run out of interesting things to say, and I am not inspired by the new crop of restaurants. Hopefully, if I take several months off, I will get inspired again.

Jay Francis said...

Yeah, I know what you mean.

Sometimes I just want a Whataburger.

I hardly ever take my camera out with me anymore.

Misha said...

Oh, common. Kata Robata is serving edible sushi. In Houston. That's huge.

And you never made it out to Chez Roux. It's brilliant.

Kelli said...

My goodness, how terrible that anyone could really criticize what makes a food blogger when his title is "Technology Bytes", a radio show, not even a blog. And what makes a blogger is one who, well, just wants to blog their thoughts. I for one have been reading your blog for nearly 2 years and really it's my favorite. Can't wait for you to return because I feel you will only be better. Enjoy yourself to the fullest in the meantime.

Mary said...

WHAT seafood restaurant inspired by Legal Seafood? I love Legal Seafood.

Anonymous said...

Come back soon... Your readers will miss you!

Commandrea said...

I was a food writer/editor for two local magazines and I can empathize with you- it is hard to keep writing on the same subjects, coming up with rearranged adjectives describing another version of another dish of the same food. Moist, juicy, succulent, tender, savory, flavorful, divine...geez, it's just chicken. Yeah. You have burned out for now but keep writing for pleasure on your topic of choice, even if it's just for yourself, and eventually culinary inspiration will return. It took me a while and now, while I don't have a regular column in a publication, I enjoy posting to my food-blog when I feel like it. I love Asia Market by the way- not necessary the greatest food but it has a lot of personality. (Tom Kha Kai is excellent, as is the Ram Won and the fried fish. And you get to rummage through the freezer full of pigeons, grubs, and other mystery ingredients while waiting for your order. Sweet!)

Caroline said...

I look forward to your return to the Houston food blog world. You write about the food and the experience in a way that draws in the reader, without resorting to flowery speech or long-winded drivel.

Have a great holiday season and winter break from teaching. I hope you regain your voice through many visits to amazing restaurants!

Anonymous said...

great article. I would love to follow you on twitter. By the way, did any one learn that some Iranian hacker had hacked twitter yesterday.
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Term papers said...

Thai curries are usually about the balance of the sweet creaminess of coconut milk and the heat of the peppers. They are not curries as in an earthy blend of spices, like an Indian or Pakistani curry.

katherin said...

Try posting a delicacy from the philippines. They have the best delicasy also.

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fromlipstofingers said...

It's time to return!! we need to read your brilliant posts. I enjoy your blog and have been reading for quite some time...reminds me of another favorite blog appetites.us. maybe it will inspire you!

midnight macaroons said...

I hope your book is a success. I've enjoyed trying all the fabulous restaurants you've posted on. I selfishly hope you return to blogging shortly.

Vieng Thai was absolutely delish. Thanks for the amazing tips for wonderful food around Houston.

Gigi

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Free Credit Score said...

Curry is one of my favorites! Have you tried Malaysian curry before?

Peter said...

The bloggers here are very enthusiastic about any topic. I am so happy about the way people interact in this site. No online stadium fence whatsoever. amazing

Alison Woo said...

Hi there! I'm a New Yorker who came to Houston for business and was looking for a great place to eat. LOVE your blog! As a blogger myself, I understand the hiatus but please come back! You obviously enjoy what you do...and you're very good at it.

Houston needs you!

Alice said...

I've got the restaurant to cure your writer's block. Cheese Berry in Chinatown. The kimchi bulgogi pizza is delicious.

School Lunch Box said...

Well regarding your writers block, this was a very good post and it kept me glued to the screen!

christine said...

I see that you’re interested and fascinated in food stuffs. This is a good blog! You see, we have this food site Foodista.com (http://www.foodista.com) that is a food and cooking encyclopedia that everyone and anyone can edit. Maybe you are interested in sharing some of recipes to us or share your knowledge about food stuffs and techniques,Or maybe you just like to write reviews about food, restaurant and recipes...why don't you
visit us sometimes, if it's food you're interested in, then we are interested in you. Don't hesitate to check us out.

I hope to see you there.

Cheers!

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geomark said...

I live in Thailand and it took me a long time to even begin to like Thai curries. But masaman is seriously growing on me now. I'm even starting to read about Thai food, what the...?

ที่ดินเขาใหญ่ said...

I'm also sort of confused about what people are calling Thai curries. Some of them don't have any curry in them at all.

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Anonymous said...

Maybe the reason for your lack of inspiration is the fact that you're trying to write about "curries" from places where the concept of curry did not originate which is India. Indian curries are much more authentic to the word and therefore more inspirational and intriguing.

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marc said...

I remember the last time I ate Thai curry and how I wasn't the same for a week

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