by Crysta Coburn
Eat Your Way Around the World With Chrissy Barua
Local blogger Chrissy Barua has lived in many different places. “I lived in Florida until I was 14 when my family relocated to Flint, MI. After high school, I hopped around various places for school: South Bend, New Orleans, D.C., and London before settling in Chicago for ten years,” she said. Two years ago she moved back to Michigan to be closer to her mother.
Barua launched her blog The Hungary Buddha Eats the World in 2012 “on a complete whim.” She told me, “My friend and I had just returned from a trip to Ireland (where the food is fantastic!) and I was back home lamenting how boring my everyday food was. In an attempt to eat at home as well as I eat on my travels, I decided that I would ‘cook the world’ from the comfort of my own home.”
The name comes from her heritage. “My mom is Hungarian/Czech and my dad was Burmese. So much [of] what I love about food and the traditions surrounding it came from my parents, so the name fit. Plus, I liked the play on words with Hungary/hungry!”
She posts three times per week, “two recipes and a Sunday roundup of all my favorite readings from the internet each week.” The truly enticing recipes come from several sources; family recipes, restaurant recreations, magazines, friends – anywhere! Barua is a self-taught photographer, and the pictures that she posts on her blog are beautiful and mouthwatering, taking us readers on a real food journey. I can almost smell the fresh parsley and minced garlic in February’s Chicken Vesuvio right through my computer screen.
“The blog has opened more doors for me than I could have imagined!” Barua said. “I do work with brands, and some have been more behind the scenes, doing recipe development, which I frankly love doing the most, and food and travel writing for some large and small media outlets.” Barua also made friends in the vast blogging community of Chicago, has attended exclusive events, won contests, and “collaborat[ed] with some cool outlets. I’ve even been on TV a few times!”
Barua hopes to continue working with other businesses and brands via her blog in the future “both national and locally.” Blogging from Michigan has proven to be different than when she was in Chicago. “It’s taken me a bit to figure it out, and how I can continue to contribute to that scene, perhaps in different ways than I have in the past,” she said. “Blogging has always been a passion project for me, and it allows me to scratch the creative itch that neither being an attorney nor a fundraiser has scratched. It’s something that I love doing, and I have become very proud of what it’s become. As for the future of it, I truly believe the sky’s the limit!”
Visit Chrissy Barua’s blog at thehungarybuddha.com. She can be contacted at email@example.com.
Inside the Cage with Teacher and Author Judy Wenzel
“I was totally unprepared for teaching in a federal prison after growing up and raising a family in Northern Michigan,” said Judy Wenzel, local author of the book Light from the Cage: 25 Years in a Prison Classroom. Wanting to move from elementary to secondary education, Wenzel came to Ann Arbor to become certified in English and social studies at the University of Michigan. “When a job did not appear by September, I put my name on area substitute lists. A woman in the office in Milan said, ‘Why don’t you check across the hall in the Community Ed office? There’s a full-time high school program at the federal prison across the road, and they’re looking for teachers.’ I was hired immediately, and I say now that a short walk across the hall changed my life.”
In her 25 years as a teacher with the prison system, Wenzel “watched mass incarceration grow as more and more young Black, Hispanic, and Native American men were being convicted of drug offenses from the inner cities and around the country.” She admitted, “I had a steep learning curve to meet the needs of men who needed materials and lessons in their own culture and history…. Diverse materials were scarce in the 1980s, but became better and better.”
Wenzel knew that there were important stories that needed to be told, and “with the help of [her] inmate classroom aide,” she organized several years’ worth of notes and papers, and, after retiring in 2010, Wenzel wrote her book. “Much of that time was taken up with building a platform needed to interest any big publishers,” she shared. “I was getting very discouraged when a friend told me about Fifth Avenue Press, the new publishing program at the Ann Arbor District Library. I cannot say enough about how helpful and encouraging they were!” (For more information of Fifth Avenue Press, see the Crysta Goes Visiting Column in Issue #70)
“I am not surprised to hear negative attitudes about our citizens behind bars. The combination of our extreme punitive policies, depictions on TV, and the power of the prison fence with its double rows of razor wire do not send any positive messages,” Wenzel said. “After so many years and knowing so many men who were compassionate and caring, funny and winsome, I wanted people outside the fence to know who they were – and how important education was – and is…. My students’ stories are compelling, poignant and funny, and I’ve loved sharing my men with all kinds of groups in the last few years.”
Wenzel was clearly inspired by her students. “I could not have asked for a richer or more diverse classroom, and I learned as much as I taught. I made a lot of mistakes, but can see now that the mistakes made me a better teacher.”
Judy Wenzel can be reached for books or to talk to groups at firstname.lastname@example.org or 734-994-1389. Her book is available wherever books are sold and for check-out at the Ann Arbor District Library.
Rethink Skincare with Sri Lankipalli
While perusing the soaps and lotions at local artisan market The Eyrie, my eyes were drawn to one brand in particular. Petals + Butter the labels read, and they were decorated with bright watercolor flowers and included peaceful phrases like “relax,” “set a positive intention,” and “inhale mindfully” in the directions. This was a skincare line clearly made for people like me, who can use these kinds of gentle reminders. So I tracked down the person behind Petals + Butter, Sri Lankipalli, a smart young woman with a bright smile, to learn more about what inspired her to create her skincare line.
Lankipalli originates from “a diverse little town in South India called Chittoor.” She first came to Michigan in 2013 to pursue a master’s degree in Information Systems at Eastern Michigan University. “I still remember the moment I stepped out of the airport in Detroit to be hit by the coldest wind I ever experienced in my whole life.” When it came to skin care, she said, “Growing up … my skincare was pretty simple, and it was a traditional grains and herbs recipe passed down through generations in the family…. When I came to the U.S. and went to Meijer for the first time, my mind practically exploded at the variety of everything! Shampoos, lotions, soaps, washes.” Lankipalli bought “a ton of stuff” and used these U.S. products for the next two years. But, “My skin would burn and didn’t have its natural glow anymore.”
The reason didn’t occur to her until she returned home for a visit. “My mom gave me our traditional stuff for shower. And the change I felt in my skin was instant! I came back swearing I am never using anything but my traditional skincare products,” she said. A later trip to Czechia, where she found life to be simpler than in the U.S., cemented her desire to live “a clean, simple, and joyful life.” She continued, “That was when I thought, I can introduce natural alternatives to skincare to the Western world. And my parents were such supporters of me and my ideas, that they couriered me all the ingredients and herbs I needed.”
Lankipalli uses the traditional herbal grains, masks, and oils that she used growing up and that have “been passed down generations in most traditional Indian families…. My teachers are the various Ayurvedhic books and herbalism books and my mom and grandma.”
Her sources are direct. “Some herbs and grains are native to India and my parents source them directly from small scale farmers there, wash and dry them in our home, take them to the local mills to grind them to fine powder and ship them to me in small batches so they stay fresh,” she said. “I grow some botanicals and herbs in my backyard. Butters like cocoa and shea and organic oils, I get from a local person, Jerome, who gets them from Ghana…. If there are other essentials I cannot find locally, I try to order them from ethical or small scale companies online. The idea is to keep money within the community, you see.”
Lankipalli keeps her prices low so that people of every income level can afford them, believing “every class of the society deserves to enjoy simple joys of life.”
Find Sri Lankipalli online at petalsandbutters.etsy.com. Reach her through Facebook and Instagram @petalsandbutters. Petals + Butters products can be found at The Ypsilanti Food Co-Op and The Eyrie in Ypsilanti, McPherson Local in Saline, Provence Bath and Kitchen Boutique in Dexter, and Made in The Mitten in Royal Oak.