Part of my aim for the blog, whether consciously or subconsciously, is to show others what's available around them so they can discover it for themselves. But I also get that venturing into new territory can be intimidating. I've long believed that the best way to learn about another cuisine, and by extension another culture, is through someone you trust introducing it to you firsthand. Learning about food through a friend makes unfamiliar dishes familiar, and teaches you about another culture without the prolonged history lectures.
The other aspect of blogging that keeps me engaged is the sense of community that gets formed -- learning from each other, making friends, and uniting over common goals. I don't often talk of current events, but it seems impossible to ignore the devastation in Japan following last month's earthquake and tsunami. Not that natural disasters and their toll should be ignored, just that my ability to do much about them seems miniscule. People do what they can with what they have, and I've always left it at that. A lot of bloggers have been reaching out to do what they can to help -- distributing socks, making quilts for survivors, or selling photography manuals for charity.
Recently, I pitched to my advertiser, Foodbuzz, the idea of exploring northern, central, and southern Vietnamese regional cuisine in Little Saigon for its monthly 24, 24, 24 series. It was accepted. Yay! And while I've done this a few times before, applying the stipend toward the cost of supplies or treating my friends to a nice meal, I'd rather use the stipend this time for something more.
So this coming Saturday, April 30, just in time for the anniversary of the Fall of Saigon, come explore Little Saigon with me.
For a $50 donation, or more if you wish, which will also include several meals, you'll have me as a culinary and historical tour guide to Little Saigon.
If you've been too intimidated to venture into the area by yourself, you'll have me to answer any questions you may have. If you've read my post about the history of Little Saigon and by extension, a history of Vietnamese Americans, a lot of this information will sound familiar. Apologies in advance, but my family and friends know I repeat my stories all the time. Just think! You can hear me drone on and on yet again!
Err, yeah, but in between, I will introduce you to Vietnamese food. Or if you already know what Vietnamese food is like, perhaps I will introduce you to unfamiliar northern, central, or southern regional dishes. Or if you already know plenty about Vietnamese regional cuisine, then just come eat!
So here's how it will work.
1) Email me at wanderingchopsticks (at) gmail (dot) com first to let me know you've read through this post, and that you're free on Saturday, April 30 from around 2 p.m until whenever. Let me know your level of familiarity with Vietnamese cuisine, whether you have any dietary restrictions, and whether there are any dishes that you've been meaning to try. Also, let me know how familiar you are with Little Saigon and/or Vietnamese American history if you wish.
2) After I tell you whether there's space available (I have no idea how many people will be interested in this), make a minimum $50 donation to either the Red Cross, Doctors Without Borders, or Mercy Corps. Not a non-profit, so not tax deductible for you, but I will also accept if you donate to Jason Kelly's Socks for Japan project. Reading posts about what Jason is witnessing firsthand at the shelters has literally made me cry. You can split up the donation amounts amongst the charities if you wish, as long as the total amount is at least $50. I know there are a lot of charities out there, these are just the particular ones that I trust and wish to support for my efforts. After you make your donation, forward the confirmation email to me to secure your spot.
3) By Friday, I will email you an itinerary for Saturday. Just show up to the designated meeting spot. Be prepared to eat and hopefully you'll have fun.
I don't believe in rigid itineraries. It all depends on how many people sign up and their eating habits and how crowded Little Saigon will be that day. We can carpool as we drive around Little Saigon, or you can drive yourself so you can leave when you want.
I will be using the stipend from my advertiser to pay for your meals, snacks and other incidentals are on your own. So look forward to eating at least three meals covering all the three regions of Vietnam from noodles to dumplings to rice paper rolls to crispy crepes to anything else that strikes our fancy. In between, I hope I'll have time to show you the Asian Garden Mall (seen in the first two photos above), the stone murals depicting Vietnamese history, and the Vietnamese American War Memorial.
Does that sound appealing to you? Three meals for a $50 donation. Sure, you'll have to put up with me, but that's a small price to pay for doing something good and getting fed for it. Please let me know by 5 p.m., Thursday, April 28 if you're interested.
I will email you an itinerary by Friday, April 29.
Meet up at 2 p.m. on Saturday, April 30 at the designated spot. You're free to leave whenever or stay until everyone passes out from food comas.
I look forward to meeting you, and sharing my food and culture with you!
May 10, 2011 Update: In case you missed it, the outing was documented in my Exploring Vietnamese Regional Cuisine, North, Central, and South, in Little Saigon post.
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