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Filming Griot Good in Phoenix

© 2016 Lee-Sean Huang and Sophia Chang

© 2016 Lee-Sean Huang and Sophia Chang

#nomad2015 has concluded!

Introducing Griot Good

I spent the 13th and final month on the road in beautiful Arizona shooting the first season of my brand new cooking show with fellow storyteller Lee-Sean Huang.

Griots are West African traveling storytellers and musicians. LS and I have wandered the world eating and singing since our Harvard days (much longer than we care to remember) and now we're bringing you the goods in food culture!

© 2016 Sophia Chang

© 2016 Sophia Chang

There could not have been a better way to start 2016.

We cooked and ate until I had heartburn, did yoga, watched Melrose Place (the original) late into the night, hiked the stunning Sonoran desert in a desperate attempt to lose what we were gaining, and made mochi versions of everything.

Episode 1 is live now! We're dressing up in traditional Chinese wear and making Beer + Chocolate Short Ribs on a Spicy Slaw. It takes 100 subscribers to get us a personalized URL so we'd really appreciate if you subscribe to our Youtube!

 

We are @griotgood on all social media:

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I Stayed in a Tiny House on a Ranch and It Was Everything I Ever Wanted

My tiny home on the range © 2015 Sophia Chang

My tiny home on the range © 2015 Sophia Chang

I split my pants picking up a goat. 

I ate a burger topped with a hot dog topped with tater tots. 

I forded the river on horseback and didn't lose a single axle.

Yes. I stayed in a tiny house and it was everything I ever dreamed of.

EAT IT, OREGON TRAIL

Both the best and worst thing about Nomadic 2015 is not knowing where I'll lay my head next. Sometimes I end up airbnb-ing in the home of a Shanghainese family who neglected to mention their THREE CHILDREN or their 7 a.m. alarm known as crying infant.

But sometimes, the Hobo God smiles down on my wandering soul and fulfills a life dream: living in a tiny house.

I harbored no hipster illusions about this experience. Though often accused of being a hippie (I make ginger-cardamom tisanes for coughs and haven't owned a TV in a decade), I'm the last person who can live off the grid. The first thing I did was ask the owner if my cell phone could get reception in the canyons.

Luckily, this house has double-paned windows, two heaters, and electric lights all over the place. No wifi, but I took that as a sign to unplug. 

Just me and God/dog. #dogisgod

who the hell invented youtube

In the first night in the house, I used 75% of my brand-new-reset data plan watching Family Guy clips and videos of Robin Williams meeting Koko the gorilla.

I texted every person I knew photos of the house and videos of the turkey and duck who acted like they were at a marathon karaoke session.

Yep, I'm definitely in the Matrix.

Turkey and Duck...a delicious combination both aurally and orally

Between the stress of driving - my least favorite thing on earth rivaled only by Excel spreadsheets - in 100 desert degrees and constantly making sure my dog didn't develop heat stroke when the AC crapped out after the first hour, then figuring out what water was potable on the house and grounds for him to drink (turns out ALL), it took a little bit for my limbic system to calm down.

Replete with rustic farm gear and #nofilter, of course

Replete with rustic farm gear and #nofilter, of course

But when I sat down in my new, temporary backyard for my first mountain sunset, I was finally able to do what I'd gone off alone for.

I could face myself.

I cried.

As with many epic journeys in my life, this one was fueled by fresh heartbreak, but I was crying for more. I was crying out the exhaustion of major travel plans falling through after months trying to rescue them, the daily nervousness of overstaying a welcome, the chaos of rifling through trash bags in the trunk of my car to find my underwear.

These are first world problems, and I tell you them not for sympathy but to confirm that the nomadic lifestyle is just as rootless and anxious as you fear it to be.

And when I finished crying out the first layer of stress, I cried to clean my insides out. To feel the tender parts that have been hurt over time. Scrub some of that gunk we all pick up through living.

When I'd finished, it was time to sleep. For tomorrow, was the horse ride.

i am in control

The horse guy, as I call him, knocked on my door the next day to give me the waiver to sign. He was a hulk of muscle with that chesty, former Marine stance and I couldn't stop grinning at him.

Always ford #OregonTrailproblems © 2015 Sophia Chang

Always ford #OregonTrailproblems © 2015 Sophia Chang

"What brings you to the house?" he asked.

"It's been my dream to travel the country in one of these."

"Me too. Seriously. Except I'm looking at a Fifth Wheel."

Instant friends.

After HG led me racing up mountains and crashing through streams, I washed three different kinds of animals off me and changed for dinner. 

Positively obscene © 2015 Sophia Chang

Positively obscene © 2015 Sophia Chang

It was a double meat and potato concoction that gives my infamous Ramen Burger episode a run for its money: beef patty, pork hot dog, tater tots, and every condiment in the house, all held together by a steak knife through the whole contraption.

The rest of the week was no less indulgent. I rode with HG again, and he checked to make sure I'd learned the first lesson of horseback riding: I am in control.

We watched more Family Guy clips on his phone (at least ONE of us still had data plan.)

I went to a movie with a local waitress (small towns are a combination of awkward racial tension and extreme friendliness).

I made out with HG's goats. Got a black eye when I got too close to his dogs roughhousing with mine. You know, ranch things.

There was more, of course, much more than I can fit into a blog post. I'll save the details for the memoir.

I'm never gonna kiss again, the way I kissed... © 2015 Sophia Chang

I'm never gonna kiss again, the way I kissed... © 2015 Sophia Chang

I'd run off to the mountains to be alone and discovered that, in this world, I'm not often alone. I was sad to leave, although I looked forward to being able to flush my toilet more than once a day again. 

The afternoon before I left, HG sat with me in the backyard.

"You know, in another life, we would be married with a couple of kids," he said.

I held up a hand. "No kids."

But the rest sounded nice. A big guy with tattoos who smelled of fresh soap. Animals running amok. Nowhere to be but this land in the canyon.

The fantasy of the simple life had to stop at checkout time (noon). But hopefully one day, when my wandering is done, it won't. 


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Sophia Battles the Ramen Burger (and crawls home sobbing)

Why does this exist? © 2015 Sophia Chang

Why does this exist? © 2015 Sophia Chang

I'm supposed to be on a diet, which means I work out everyday and end up famished every night.

After candlelight yoga tonight, I just wasn't in the mood for the defrosting steak and 99 Ranch napa cabbage waiting to be cooked at home.

I hate cooking to begin with - after all, I am the founder of #ladiescookingclub (check out our #fuckyeahfatty exploits on Instagram) whose slogan is "Who's cooking? Not us!" and all I wanted was someone to bring saturated fats directly to my mouth like a true American.

10pm in the outer OUTER San Gabriel Valley left me only one option on Yelp: Cha Cafe.

It was time.

Cha Cafe's claim to fame is their ramen burger, served after 4:30pm in limited quantity - pre-reservations encouraged.

I'd been saving this moment for the right time, and that time - still sore from hip-hop last night and sleepy from my Downton Abbey marathon - was now. I called ahead and with an hour to closing the infamous burger was available.

"Do you want that with a fried egg as well?"

Of course I did. I placed an order for takeout.

Sophia Meets the Devil

Ten minutes later I waltzed in, giddy with the illicitness of my impromptu cheat meal, and declared I was too hungry to take it out; I would be dining in, if you please.

"I'll get you set up," the cheerful cashier said, even calling my AMEX card the restaurant's best friend. I should have known then I was walking into my destruction.

Barely able to contain myself long enough to take the Instagram photo, I dove into the deep-fried potato chips. CHIPS. I don't think I ate potato chips even when I wasn't on a diet. Now I was dipping them gleefully into the tub of lard they called spicy mayo.

My god potatoes cooked in cholesterol are an eighth wonder.

I faced the burger at last.

They seasoned the ramen. Before frying it in cardiac arrest.

To my credit, which was fastly depleting as I scarfed my new MSG-laden best friend, I only ate 2/3 of the burger. 

By the time I put the burger down, the bloodlust had dissipated. I looked down at the carnage, as dismayed as a new vampire whose closest artery was her own mother.

I stumbled out on shaky legs, dizzy as a new crackwhore, and hurried to my car, clutching the box of leftovers to my chest in shame. 

I had that feeling I imagine you get when you realize should have listened to your friend who told you not to go to that frat party or partake in that wet tee-shirt contest over spring break.

But now the pics are out; it did happen; there's no taking it back.

In a haze of hypoglycemic insanity, I took on the Cha Cafe ramen burger. Now, as I sip apple cider vinegar waiting for my stomach to stop resembling a profile of Hitchcock, I'm not certain it was worth it.

As a reporter for the LA Times told me over a double dessert last weekend, "You only live once."

*Bonus points if you can name the song this title alludes to!