Tuesday, November 27, 2012


Last night I dreamed that I was trying to explain to someone how to make arepas, and I said "it's real easy, it's up on my blog." But in fact it is not on my blog. I'm here to rectify that, at great personal sacrifice because I have no arepa fixings in the house and now I have to write about them.

Arepas are a South American food, made from a special kind of cornmeal called masarepa. I use Goya brand masarepa because it's easy to find. Goya masarepa is made from white corn, but I hear you can get yellow masarepa as well. This page describes which brands of masarepa are available in the US, and also introduced me to the existence of sweet arepas and arepa toasting machines. I wonder if I can use my sandwich toaster to make arepas, except they'd be triangular arepas which is just wrong.

I can hear you saying, but what is an arepa and how do I make them? Here are some pictures of delicious, delicious arepas, and here is a recipe:


  • 2 cups masarepa
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 2-4 ounces grated mild white cheese, such as Mozzarella or Oaxaca
  •  3 cups boiling water
  • cooking oil


  1. Put masarepa into a large metal bowl and stir in the salt, then the grated cheese.
  2. Make a well in the center and pour in the hot water. Mix well and let sit for 5 minutes, or until cool enough to handle.
  3. Heat a large skillet or griddle and pour in a generous amount of oil. (You will be frying the arepas, not deep-frying them.)
  4. Form masarepa into patties, whatever size and shape is convenient for you. I find it hard to make really thin patties, but some people do it that way.
  5. Put arepas into the skillet and fry over medium-high heat until brown, about 3-5 minutes per side. (The cornmeal is actually pre-cooked, so you don't have to worry about under-cooking.)
  6. Drain arepas on paper towels, and enjoy!

How to Serve Arepas

I like them with fresh salsa (storebought or home-made), accompanied by sauteed mushrooms and kale, but there are many, many variations. Some people make their arepas thick enough to cut in half, and then make little arepa sandwiches. I haven't tried that yet.

Some people make arepas with cream cheese instead of mozzarella, but I'm not fond of cream cheese so I haven't tried that. Likewise, you can make them with milk, but I find that if there is too much dairy in the dough then the arepas stick to the pan while cooking. You can also make vegan arepas, with just masa, salt, and water. I tried that but they don't get nice and brown.

Oh god, what have I done? Now I want arepas.

Thursday, November 22, 2012

Transgender Day of Remembrance

On Sunday I went to my first Transgender Day of Remembrance ceremony. It's a gathering, usually held sometime in late November, to honor all of the trans people who were murdered over the past year for being trans. The organizers had a list of something like 268 people around the world who were murdered last year - and they couldn't get data from all countries. 17 people were killed in the US. Here is some more information if you're interested.

This all sounds very depressing, and I had never wanted to go to a TDOR event before, because I don't like feeling sad. But in fact, although we talked about a lot of sad things, I felt happy too. Mostly because we were all there together. We are still here. And we know about these others who have been taken from us - even that is something. They are not forgotten and we are not alone.

Some people stood up and talked about their lives. I started wondering what I would say . . . and I still don't know how I would describe my life, but it brought back one memory.

In September 2005, I finally admitted to myself that I was trans. It was around the time of my birthday. In fact I had been thinking about this for six months, but . . . to make a long story short, I had been thinking of it as something that was unique to me. I wasn't thinking of myself as a "trans person" like other "trans people," I just thought of it as some imaginary thing inside my own head. But that September I started to realize that I might have to do something about it. It might have to come out of the closet and become visible in the world.

Monday, November 19, 2012

White Bean Soup with Mushrooms

I have kind of an "Ebony and Ivory" thing going on with soup lately. Last month I made black bean soup - this month it's a new kind of white bean soup. This is based on someone else's recipe for white bean soup with mushrooms and butternut squash. But I didn't feel like messing around with winter squash, so this is what you get.


  • 1 lb. dried cannellini (white kidney) beans
  • cooking oil
  • 1 large onion, chopped
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • 16 oz mushrooms, cleaned and chopped
  • 1 carrot, sliced
  • 1 bay leaf
  • salt and  pepper to taste
  • other seasonings: I used cumin, sage, thyme, and a little soy sauce
  • 1 bunch kale, stemmed and sliced


  1. Sort and rinse the beans and soak overnight covered in cold water. Drain the following day, add to a medium saucepan and cover with fresh water. Bring to a boil, then reduce heat to low, cover, and simmer for 1 hour or until the beans are just tender.*
  2. Meanwhile, heat a large soup pot over medium-high heat. When hot, add the oil, then saute the onions and your chosen herbs. When the onions are golden, add the garlic and the mushrooms. Sprinkle mushrooms with salt and cook them over moderate heat until they start to shrink.
  3. Pour in water to cover, add the carrot and bay leaf, and bring to a boil. Add the beans along with their cooking liquid and reduce the heat to medium-low. Cover and simmer gently for 20-30 minutes or until the carrot is tender.
  4. I prefer to rinse out the bean cooking pot and use it to steam the kale separately. But that's up to you.
  5. Discard the bay leaf and season the soup with salt and plenty of fresh ground black pepper. Add the (steamed) kale and continue to simmer for 4-5 minutes or until the kale is wilted but still bright green.

*How to tell if the beans are done: if you've been cooking them for a while and they seem like they ought to be done, lift one bean out with a spoon and blow on it. If it is cooked the skin will split open. (Sometimes they will split open simply on being exposed to the cold air when lifted out of the pot.) You may choose to cook them a little while longer but at least you will know that you've avoided the dreaded Beans that are Still Hard.

Friday, November 9, 2012

this Natalie person

Occasionally I've come across blog posts by Natalie Reed, a trans woman who lives in Vancouver. I like her posts. Realized today that I want to start reading them on a regular basis. She blogs as part of a consortium, and I can't figure out how to subscribe to her posts only. So I'll add her link to my blogroll and hope I remember to check it.

Here's a couple of her posts that I really like:

Wednesday, November 7, 2012

Obama Won Again

In 2008 I had serious doubts that a black man could be elected President. I was wrong. This time I was cautiously optimistic. And once again it appears that although the haters are vociferous, they are in the minority.

The pundits say that it's unprecedented for an incumbent President to be re-elected when the economy is in such bad shape. But we trusted Obama in 2008 and we trust him now.

This is America. And I can say with Michelle Obama that I'm so proud of my country.

Thursday, November 1, 2012

Biden: Transgender Discrimination Is "Civil Rights Issue of Our Time."

This, as the Vice President would say, is a big f***king deal. No, it won't immediately end discrimination, but Biden 1) acknowledged the existence of trans people and 2) didn't refer to us in a negative way. That alone makes me happy.

I wonder if Biden's interest in trans rights got started when someone informed him that although the repeal of Don't Ask Don't Tell benefited gays, lesbians, and bisexuals in the military, trans service members are still labeled mentally ill and subject to discharge. God willing (or should that be Iinshallah?) the Obama-Biden administration will be able to do something to improve the legal situation of trans people in the future.