Jam Series : Ani / summer 2015 / by SAEHEE CHO

Ani and I first met at our Calarts MFA orientation.  We bonded over her really cool shoes and general first-day-of-school discomfort and I adored her immediately. Sometimes, with friends of the heart, you know without hesitation, that they'll resonate for the long run.

Since then, we've been writing collaborators, performance partners, workshop pals, co-hosts for our reading series: "The Unkindest Cut", and the occasional awkward date at various family/friend functions.  We dream big---some day we'll have a cottage by the sea and bake in the morning and then wash-off flour in the ocean and live out the rest of our old lady lives with too many dogs.

It was without question that Ani would be my first in the SOO N Jam Series.   Each month for my Jam Series, I'll be attempting to create a very personal interpretation of friends and family through fruit/sugar/acid.

Ani Jam is made of Strawberries, Balsamic Vinegar, and Black Pepper. I use Albion Strawberries from Sea Wind Farms in Orange County.  I love a strong acid note, especially in jams to cut through the sweetness.  With balsamic vinegar the acid note becomes more earthy rather than bright as the sugars in the balsamic cook down.  When thinking of what flavors would somehow represent Ani, I focused in on her gorgeous fiction.  Her work is equal parts heartbreaking and hilarious, because for Ani, these things are necessary bedmates, they, together, make wholeness.  I tried to modestly mimic this contradiction by pairing a strong acid with strawberries, which are seasonal and perfect right now but also for me, represent a kind of ideal sweetness---straightforward and uncomplicated.

SOO N: Tell us about yourself! —like how you’re an extraordinary writer, and how you teach yoga, and how you write for short films, and how you make music with the band BRAAINZZ.

Let’s start there, even though we both know there’s more.

ANI: I spend most of my time teaching yoga and running in the mountains, but I also watch an obscene amount of cop shows and crime procedurals.  I write fiction that I think is funny, but other people think is sad.  I play in a band called BRAAINZZ, and while I think many of our songs are sad, they might actually be funny.  The most important thing on earth is my basset hound, Janeane-- go on, ask her.

S: You mentioned a recipe with Tequila for Ani Jam.  Please share!

A: In this order..

1. muddle a small handful of rasberries in a highball glass

2. add 2 teaspoons of Ani Jam, stir

3. throw in a couple of ice cubes

4. shot or shot point five of chile-infused Tequila *

5. fizzy water to taste

*Recipe Note: buy a bottle of Tequila, pour out a glass to make room for chiles--  place a handful of dried arbol chiles inside the bottle (you have to stuff them in there and then make sure they get submerged), let sit for a couple of hours.  Here's the thing-- those chiles infuse FAST, so I wouldn't recommend leaving them overnight.  Seriously, a few hours is enough! ALSO, when your drink is fizzing from the bubbles, DON'T INHALE because your nostrils will burn like hell.  OR, if you're congested, do inhale and get a nice cleansing effect.

S: You are a world famous snacker—between you and me, no chip bowl is safe.  Tell us about your favorite everyday snack.

A: I just want to be snacking all the time, so at any given moment, there is a bowl of almonds, popcorn, chocolate, or chips on my desk.  But really if I had to choose a last-meal caliber snack, it would have to be french fries.

S: You’re vegan, and in general very conscious of what you put into your body.  Can you tell us more about the importance of food to you and your lifestyle?

A: I am a vegan for a variety of reasons, some pertaining to my health and some pertaining to my beliefs.  However, I have mad respect for those who responsibly buy, cook, and digest animals (I mean that last part, my body would literally implode if I ate a steak).  I rarely drink or eat sweets, but I don't view them as "bad," because I think that sets up a weird binary in which "good for you" means guilt-free, and "bad" equals regret.  If I'm having a cocktail or a slice of cake, it's not because I'm "being bad," or "cheating," it's because I chose to treat myself.