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Interview with Ayun Halliday, “Dirty Sugar Cookies”

05-Jun-2006
 
In the blogging world, especially the food blogging world, it’s common to follow other bloggers and their activities. There is a huge community aspect to it all and we are constantly welcoming new members to our group.  I try to keep up on all the new folks who are out there but it isn’t always easy.  Still, I try to take note when someone who tells particularly good stories, or has great photographs, or has an entertaining style comes along.
 
A few months ago I became aware of Ayun Halliday and a new blog called, Dirty Sugar Cookies.  This blog led to her other projects and I found myself perusing her various endeavors and laughing along the way!  Ayun calls it like she sees it, which is sometimes just a bit in your face, but yet in an entertaining way.  Although her Dirty Sugar Cookies blog is new, Ayun has been writing for many years. 
 
While Ayun has done lots of interesting projects in her life, her newest venture is a book, also called Dirty Sugar Cookies.  Each chapter is a particular food memory and as you read it, it’s like you and Ayun are sitting with a cup of tea at the kitchen table having an afternoon chat as she spins story after story.  Read a couple chapters and you will soon feel as if you know her. 
 
As part of the book’s release, Ayun is doing a "virtual book tour" and many bloggers will be "interviewing" her throughout June.  What follows are her answers to a few questions I posed to her.  (I had many more but wanted to make this interview a manageable read for you.)  And, after reading her answers I had even more questions but those will have to wait! At some point she may be going an actual tour – in the fall, I think – and I hope she makes it out my way so that I can meet her face to face. 
 
In the meantime, go out and buy this book!  The stories will entertain you and each chapter includes a recipe so that you can almost participate in Ayun’s experiences!  
 
The Interview 

You seem to have a wide range of interests and delve into all of them!  Is this a planned way of living or is it just because you really can’t stick with any one thing too long?  (Note to the reader:  many of these questions are meant to be a bit teasing, once you see Ayun’s style, I think you’ll understand… I actually ask this question, as I’m a little jealous of some of her interesting adventures!) 

I think it’s more of a cumulative effect. There are things I wish I had pursued before the (unplanned) kids came along. Used to be the wind blew, and I blew with it. Now I’m like,
"Take me with you! I beg you! Aw, dang." Will I ever learn to play the accordion? Will I ever get to write that book where I attend every production of Oklahoma staged in any given year, then report on my findings? Your guess is as good as mine. As far as sticking with something, I’ve been publishing my zine, the East Village Inky every three months since 1998, and issue 31’s on the drawing table.

 

Between your pursuits and your husband, Greg Kotis’ projects, life must be pretty interesting or maybe pretty hectic in your household.  How do you guys coordinate it all? (I’m always amazed how interesting people meet and couple with other interesting people.) 

Near total lack of housekeeping, save cooking, grocery shopping and loading and unloading the dishwasher (and by the way, we’ve got a little rule that the cook doesn’t have to clean up.) We can keep that up for a while and then one of us – invariably me – flips out. The other night I was buckling under the perceived stressfulness of Greg being in technical rehearsals for his new play, and the million little publicity tasks surrounding the publication of Dirty Sugar Cookies, and the children’s upcoming birthdays, and trying to figure out a way to get to London this August, and the end of the school year, and trying to get our costumes together for the Coney Island Mermaid Parade …  After about five minutes of this, of me shooting down his every attempt to comfort me, Greg was like, "But let us not forget that there are many others who would be glad to have problems such as these." 

 

You have an uhmm, interesting (read rather whacky!) style – how does your daughter respond to your ventures?   

She hasn’t read the books, but she’s down with the zine. Lately I’ve felt the need to strap on a partial muzzle out of respect for her eight-year-old privacy, but she’s not a particularly reserved child. The public school she and her brother attend is so diverse economically, racially, and culturally that the administration actually has rules against making fun of people’s mothers. No doubt this policy was put in place on behalf of children whose moms wear the hijab, but it also benefits the kid whose mother displays half an inch of ass crack every time she squats down to tie someone’s shoe, whose favorite t-shirt has a picture of Ralph Wiggum announcing "I’m special!" As long as we live in NYC, I don’t think I’m too great a liability, and if I am, maybe she can work it out in a memoir some day.

 

Why did you decide to write a food memoir?  How do we know your memory is good enough for any of it to be at all accurate? (I ask as I’m trying to remember what I did last week…)   

James Frey was actually the first to encourage me to try my hand at a food memoir, back when we were cell-mates in prison. To pass the time, I’d entertain him with stories from my travels and about growing up in Indiana, and he was like, "God, Ayun, it’s amazing how you can remember entire conversations dating all the way back to third grade! You owe it to the world to get this shit down on paper! With recipes!"

 

What’s your favorite chapter in the book?  Is that because of the memory, the recipe or?  

I really like the chapter about Gnawbone Camp, probably because I always enjoy hearing about how kids behave when they’re loosed from the parental tether. I get a big bang out of that scene where I’m feeding the horses watermelon rinds, praying that one of them won’t accidentally bite my arm off.  

My absolute favorite thing in the book, though, is the phrase "a lifetime supply of lingonberries". For some reason, that just fucking slays me.

 

Is there anything you forgot to put in the book that you’d like to share now?  

I’d like to thank my friend, Allen Brown for putting together a power point presentation, juxtaposing close-ups of fried eggs and pancakes with these incredibly erotic nude photographs taken by our friends, Delta and Aeric. I’m performing an excerpt of the Post-Coital Breakfast chapter tonight at this reading series called Smut, and I wanted to hedge my bets.

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