Lunch in the Time of Cholera

“MELISSA!” My eyes are all run through with wild, glued to the face of my phone with a fanatical focus. I’ve got goosebumps. My heart stammers in my chest.

“Did he leave?!” She says. Her voice is the flash of blue light between two conductors. Pure, live, energy.

I take my eyes off the screen long enough to nod once, slowly.

“He just left,” I say.

There is some dancing. Nothing shameful. Little action in the hips, mostly hands. Still though, dancing.

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“where is he?” she says, her voice still throwing arc flashes.

“26th and Pine,” I say. ” App says he’ll be here in 17 minutes.”

Her brow furrows and she goes to her computer like an ensign on the bridge, fingers flying at the keys.

“17 minutes? From 26th and Pine?!” Shaking her head now. She spins the screen to face me, shows me the Google Maps readout. “This says 8 minutes. Tops.” she pauses dramatically before she says ‘Tops” and it’s super badass.

I turn to stand at the kitchen window. Outside, the sun falls behind the Olympics, shining brilliantly through our Rhododendrons, casting shadows across my face as I fold my hands behind my back. It is a very General Patton move. I say, “Godspeed, Kevin. Godspeed” and it is super badass.

5 minutes of drama and stoicism pass.

“Melissa,” I say, “There are officially zero traffic lights between Kevin and our house.”

A wicked grin knifes across her face and she says, “17 minutes my ass!” and I do a very Robert Redford chuckle as we move to prep the airlock for receiving, by which I mean laying out old paper bags near the door, priming the Lysol. While we’re doing that, the muffled whump of a car door shutting, a rustling on the stoop. Dear God, it’s here.

I yell a frantic thank you through the window at the back of Kevin’s head as he’s sliding back into his Passat and my voice sounds unhinged even to me. During different times, with different stakes, I might have been embarrassed. But this a global pandemic and I’ve got a bag full of burritos on my doorstep. Shame is a luxury that (much like delivery burritos every day leading up to this) I simply cannot afford.

In the airlock, we carefully remove the food, plate it and nuke it for a few seconds in the microwave. We wrap the containers in old paper bags and toss them in the outside trash and then we sit down to the first meal that I did not personally prepare in weeks.

And there is some dancing. And it is shameful. Then we eat. The food is as good as it ever was, but the moments leading up to it, the ordering, the waiting, the receiving, are positively transformative. It is a view of a time when things were simpler and safer through eyes better suited to appreciate it. When I was in basic training, we would sit around in tents in freezing weather, clutching frozen rifles to our chests and we would talk about all the trivial things we took for granted before this. We would stand guard, staring off into the woods with nothing to do but pontificate on how crazy it was that we used to have cellphones in our pockets full of all the entertainment that man had ever conceived of, and that we would complain about being bored. And later, much later, when we were back with the world, our appreciation for those things would fade and we would forget how stolidly we had promised to never take them for granted again. But there was a sweet spot. A time right between the nostalgia and the undervaluing. In that sweet spot, we are really, truly, present. Really, mostly, happy. Wrapped in the warmth of that moment like beans in a weekday burrito.

Special shout out to Brewers Row for the burrito and to Melissa’s wonderful mother for the Doordash gift card. And to Kevin. Godspeed Kevin. Godspeed.

Written by:

Kellen Burden


Half Shirts and Whole Hearts. And Cheese Dip.

This was a week for making things. Without venturing down that twisty rabbit hole of “This virus is a blessing in disguise” (because that’s an easy thing to say if you’re not actively dying) I will at least admit that my creative juices are flowing in the midst of all this awfulness. I got out my wife’s sewing kit and I hacked up a bunch of my T-shirts and Monday night found me hunched under the warm glow of a single bulb sewing ‘end of the word’ masks. Its funny, I always imagined that my Mad Max face accessories would look more like this:

Mad Max: Fury Road 8x10 Photo Hugh Keays-Byrne Up Close and Scarey ...

And less like this:

But here we are. And it didn’t stop at sewing, either. I found a job posting on LinkedIn for a TikTok content creator, (a sentence that would have meant jack shit 10 years ago) and I slapped together a couple quick videos for a portfolio, only to find that the job had ceased to exist in the interim, leaving me with a weird profile full of pseudo hip videos like that old guy who puts his hat on sideways and tries to “talk Jive” with the “young go-hards”.

But most importantly (as far as this food blog is concerned) I have been cooking like it’s the only way to cure Corona, which, if it was, we could all finally go back to licking handrails and shotgunning stranger sneezes. In the last 7 days I have made this:

And this:

And this:

And this:

But the real show-stopper this week was this vegan queso dip recipe that I stole from a Pinterest post. I know what you’re thinking. You’re like vegan queso?! That’s like non-alcoholic beer! well that exists too. But open your mind. This is a brave new world. Adapt or die.

This is a preposterously easy recipe. You’re going to take a medium potato and you’re going to cube it up and boil the ever-living out of it. When it’s nice and soft, dump it in a food processor with some almond milk, olive oil, nutritional yeast, apple cider vinegar, salt, pepper, cumin, chili powder, garlic, and salsa (the quantities are in the recipe link.) Fire that shit up and in about 20 seconds you’ll have vegan cheese sauce to dip chips in or roll up in a burrito or smear all over your naked body (no judgement.)

As I draw this to a close, I would like to make what I think is an important point. This is a crisis. This is a fucking disaster. This is not a high stakes creativity incubator meant to weed out the go-getters from the do-nothings. I was out walking with my wife the other day and the sun was out and the lawn mowers were running and people were balls deep in their gardens, pulling weeds and planting things. My wife sighed and she said, ” Look at all these people using this time to get things done around the house,” and I waited while the sigh inducer found its way to the surface. ” I feel so lazy for not doing more right now.”

That is not your job right now.

Yeah, I’m feeling creative, but if we’re being honest that’s probably more of a coping mechanism than anything else. One of those neurotic things that everyone applauds because (purely by luck) it ends in something pseudo-productive. But in actuality, it’s really no more voluntary than making a funny face when something goes bang. So, if all you’ve got in you right now is lying in bed and waiting this out you’re fucking killing it. You’re doing exactly what you’re supposed to be doing right now. Surviving.

Try to imagine that you’re driving a school bus. Can some of the other bus drivers text while they’re driving and still get to school safely? I guess. Maybe Jerry can sing songs with the kids while he’s on his route. Good for Jerry. But if all you can do is get the bus there safely and it takes all of your concentration to make that happen, then guess what? You’re employee of the goddamn month!

So take it easy on yourself. Just get through this. Maybe make some cheese dip if you’re feeling it. But just remember what your job is: to get there in one piece. And maybe make a dope shirt while you’re sewing masks…

Whole Fridge Fritters

Bored? Hungry? A little scared?

This carousel is still spinning and the calliope music is getting a bit grating and I think we’d all like to hop off and pound a beer, but, you know: death, shame, logic and whatnot.

I don’ t know what it’s like where you are, but the shelves are still looking a little barren in my neck of the woods. The canned goods are picked over and the flour aisle is looking toothless. I’ve been doing a lot more cooking and I’m finding it harder and harder to come by the basic ingredients necessary to make all the sparkly, extravagant dishes that I’m finding on Pinterest.

4 eggs?

1 stick of butter?

A cup of all purpose flour?

I wiped my ass with my neighbor’s cat yesterday. You think I’ve got cup of flour laying around?

Anyway, so I stumbled on “recipe” for margaritas and it didn’t really have ingredients so much as flavors and ratios of them and it BLEW MY FUCKIN MIND. I made a couple of out of control adult beverages (more on that later) and I thought to myself, I wonder if this applies to cooking?

the long and short of it is: yeah, kinda.

So I banged out this recipe and I’m going to encourage you to add some twists of your own and see what happens.


  • First, reach over right shoulder and give yourself a pat on the back, because you’re Gordon Goddamn Ramsey and you’re about to dominate this episode of Iron Chef. Do a preemptive victory dance, give your mailman the fingerguns.
Petition · Citizens of this great country.: Make Finger guns a ...
  • Okay, now dump some sauce ingredients into a bowl and stir them together. Pop them in the fridge while you’re doing the rest of this. They don’t have to be refrigerated but it will make for a more exciting sensory experience when you’re dipping hot, crispy fritter into cold, spicy sauce. I’m sweatin’, just thinking about it.
  • Drain a can of chickpeas, mash them into meal in a bowl with the back end of a fork.
  • Next, take a grater to some root vegetables. I used russet potatoes and carrots, but I’ve seen recipes for sweet potatoes and turnips. (beets might be too wet and would prevent everything from binding)
  • Shred up some kale or parsley or cabbage. (Lettuce might be too wet also)
  • Mince up some onion and garlic
  • Dump all that in the bowl with your chickpeas. (Remember that your chickpeas are your main binding agent, so if you’ve got a crazy amount of veggies you may need to add more chickpeas.)
  • Add some spices. Get creative with this part. I went with Curry spice, onion powder, some cumin and cayenne. Turned out delightfully Indian. I imagine that you could mix it up and mash black beans instead of chickpeas, do it up with chili powder and cumin and end up with more of a Latin fritter. Up to you.
  • Next, mix all that up with a fork. You should have a semi-wet pile of mashed up hash. YUM! chill, it gets better.
  • Heat up a pan to medium high-ish, toss a dash of heat tolerant oil in it.
  • when the pan is hot, grab a handful from your pile and plop it in there. Press it flat the bottom of a spatula and let it brown up.
  • Flip it when it looks like its getting there, give another couple minutes to bind up and brown. Keep on plopping and browning until you’re out of mush and you’ve got a stack of crispy fritters.
  • Plate your fritters. Drizzle them with some sauce or dip them in it. You’re your own person. These have enough nutrition in them to be the main course or just a side for whatever out of control, next-level magic you’re serving up. I served mine with a green salad tossed in a tangy dressing. but I bet you could fold these up in a pita with some lettuce and tomato or scramble some eggs into it and have a banging hash.
  • Finally, do a little dance. Mush some home cooked food into your face. You are the Iron Chef. Also, don’t tell my neighbor about his cat.

Written by:

Kellen Burden


Up and Down, Together

This is might be our generation’s World War. Our Great Depression. Our Black Plague. One of those moments in time when everything changes, everywhere, violently and inescapably. One of those things that warps the iris through which we look at the world for the rest of our lives. Maybe we’ll gather together after this, anywhere we can, every time we can, just because we can. Or maybe the sight of a sea of seething bodies will look like danger from here on out. 

Maybe 50 years from now, a young stranger will reach out to shake your hand and you will physically recoil from it and he will not understand why and you will not be able to explain it to him. Maybe, when you’re 83, the sound of someone coughing in a deli will drive you right out the door, and not just you, but everyone who survived this. You will meet the faded gazes of those people in the parking lot and you will ask them where they quarantined. 

“2 bedroom in Florida,” they’ll say and you’ll nod. 

“Studio in Detroit.” and they’ll nod back.

The thing about experiences like these, the worldwide ones, the everybody-everywhere ones, is that, because we are all carrying this burden together, it can feel like it is our job to carry our share alone.

If you fall down while you are walking on a crowded street, chances are someone will stop to help you. But what if you all fall down together? who do you turn to? Is it every man for himself? 

It doesn’t have to be. 

Because the other thing about these worldwide, everybody-everywhere tragedies, is that if you’re feeling something, someone you know is probably feeling it, too. Your old co-worker went through it yesterday and she’s got some tips on getting out. A guy you went to high school with will be going through it tomorrow and they’d probably like to hear from you. 

So be open. 

Call your family, your neighbors, your co-workers. Ask them how they’re holding up. Tell them how you’re doing. 

Wave at your mailman. 

Facetime with isolated people. 

Donate what you can, if you can. 

If you need help, ask for it. If you’re worried about someone, call them. 

Because this might be our Great Depression. Our World War. Our Black Plague. 

Some of us won’t make it through this. Some of us will never be the same. But all of us will remember. 

We’ll remember the fear, yes. The boredom, maybe. But we will also remember the things we did to help. And we will almost certainly remember the things that we failed to do. 

I personally would like to know later, if I’m ducking out of a coffee shop because someone had the sniffles or getting off the bus because there were too many people on it, that I acquired these scars in the process of being the best person I could be. I personally would like to know that this experience took the bare-minimum from me because even though we all fell down together, we got up together, too.

This is my personal cell number: (805) 276-5247

If you’re feeling lonely or stir-crazy or you just need to talk, I am absolutely, positively, here for you. I’ll sing to your kid, I’ll dance for your grandma, I’ll read to your dog. I’m here for you. We’re all here for each other.

Some Resources:

Some free online fitness classes

Some people on Instagram who are doing exciting things:

This chef is doing cooking classes:


This is very therapeutic:


This account makes me so laugh so goddamn hard:


A bunch more:

Finally, this:

Written by:

Kellen Burden


King of the Wasteland Kitchen

We were going to let this die. We were going to leave this parked under the oak tree in the backyard like an ’83 Lesabre. Let the land retake it. Have it grow a mold you can’t scrub out. Let the internet equivalent of mice make a home out of it.

Goat Federation got us to where we were going. It put some miles beneath us, taught us some lessons, pointed us in the right directions. But eventually, the wheels kinda fell off it. 

Krishan opened a food stand that is turning out some absolutely, obscenely good bang-bang.

I whipped up some articles for a few different papers, created some content for some local blogs, then I went off to work for the State as an investigator. 

We moved on. 

For me, food went back to being one of those things that you slapped together when you weren’t doing other things. I cooked, yes. I went out to restaurants, of course. But I didn’t take pictures anymore. I didn’t write about it. The desk job certainly didn’t help. A 30-minute lunch break at a job site with ‘natural selection’ parking, doesn’t offer much time for dipping out for a bite to eat. My homemade sandwich and bento box game got strong

but my meal diversity took a leave of absence. 

And then…

Coronavirus swept the planet with an animal ferocity. Like a wildfire without the smoke. A meteor without the bang. We all watched it with exhausted disbelief as it went from being a thing that was happening somewhere else, to a thing that was happening here but to other people, and, finally, a thing that was happening to all of us, everywhere. Supply chains wandered into the darkened alley of a pandemic and got absolutely JUMPED by Panic and Human Nature. 

It is here that we get to the meat (or lack thereof) of our story. Because in the span of a week, I went from being a guy who had a fridge full of exotic food that I had to shovel down on a working lunch break, to being a guy with a rapidly emptying cabinet full of mundane nonsense and nothing but time to figure out what to do with it. 

It was terrifying at first. I would stand in front of my barren shelves, anxiety humming like a deep sunburn on my shoulders, wondering how long it would be before I could get bread again. Wondering if I was going to have to throw ‘bows at a Trader Joe’s for canned goods. 

I was standing like that in my pantry, thumbing through Pinterest recipes that had ‘lentils’ as a keyword, shaking my head because I had some of the ingredients, but not all of them and suddenly, something just clicked. or snapped. I don’t know, they’re similar sounds. Anyway, I just started grabbing things. I grabbed handfuls of ingredients and I Dr. Frankenstein’d my ass over to the stove and I started improvising. Canned tomatoes? I had some old tomato paste. Tomato Sauce? I had half a box of pre-made tomato soup. I spiced the bejesus out of it. Dash of this, sprinkle of that. Poured some juice from an empty jar of olives in there for a little briny-ness. I was doing it. 

The whole time, I was looking over my shoulder, trying to get this monstrosity cooked and plated before my wife followed the smell of failure into the kitchen and asked me what in the actual fuck I was doing.

20 minutes later found me sitting in front of two strangely colored bowls of spaghetti in a lentil bolognese. It was red-orange from the tomato soup. It was thicc from the tomato paste. But most shocking of all…

It was gooooood. 

After that, every night became a wasteland version of Iron Chef. Someone lifts the lid off a pile of nonsense ingredients and I scramble over and grab an armload of it and just start making magic out of it. 

Crackers out of nutritional yeast and masa flour. 

A twisted hummus with peanut butter instead of tahini and lime instead of lemon

A pinto bean version of Hoppin Johns with Cuban sensibilities. 

I wasn’t going to get a Michelin star for any of it, but I wasn’t going to get diarrhea or go to bed hungry either. And best of all, I felt human again. I felt passionate again. Powerful, even.

So as I said at the beginning of this crazy rambling: we were going to let this site die. We were going to leave Goat Federation to rust in the hungry woods of the internet because things had changed and we didn’t need the lessons that it had taught us anymore. 

But now things have changed, again. Now it feels like this old blog might have some new lessons left in it. So I’m giving the tires a kick. I’m giving the engine a jump. 

And I’d love it if you’d join me for the ride…

Acceptance Tastes like Egg Waffles

The gnashing of teeth and licking of fingers. The dripping of juice and the wide-eyed, desperate chugging of water. Crispy skin, buttery fat, salty meat. It is lunchtime and my father and I are folded into May May Hong Kong BBQ in Federal Way and right now, for these few moments, we belong. With our sleeves rolled up and our fingers glistening with fat, we are without race or age. There is no room in us for bias or judgment. We just are. We just are here.


The skin of this pork is crackly and explosive, the meat of the duck is rich and tender. The juices run down through them into the white rice, seasoning it gently. Between meats we nibble at the edges of our bok choy, cleansing our pallet. We eat like monsters and yet there is a reverence to it that has not gone unnoticed to the regulars that mean-mugged us when we pushed through the door. Our desperate love for this food that they love desperately has made us one of them faster than any diplomat or emissary could ever hope for.


Take notes, Peace Corps. Build all the schools you want, but until you make a sex noise at lunch and get a duck bone stuck in the hair on the back of your head, you’ll never truly be immersed. And you most certainly will not be offered secret dessert.

“Have you tried the waffle?” The owner asks, taking our decimated plates off the table.

I shake my head, no. A piece of bok choy falls out of my eyebrow. She is impressed. “You have to try the waffle.” She says and she leaves us at our table, stuporous with delight, glowing chubbily. It is winter outside the wall of windows that divides us from the gloom. Clouds swirl, cagey and wild behind the cascades. Rain slashes down on Pac Highway, falling sideways on a bitter wind. In here, though, it is warm and it is quiet and soon there will be waffles.


May May Hong Kong is hidden on the back side of a business park off Pac Highway. I’m sure that there are all kinds of other wonderful things in that parking lot, but I’ve yet to see another one with a roast duck on a hook by the register, so I’ve never made it past May May Hong Kong. The owner is friendly, the service is fast, the patrons are suspicious of me (as well they should be), and the food is obnoxiously good. Even the waffles.

The owner drops a plate between us. On it, sits steaming bubbly confection. No powdered sugar, no chocolate syrup, no berries. No waffle, for that matter, by my western definition of the word. Just a crisp, golden hunk of hot dough with pockets of heat and air like bubble wrap in an alternate fresh-baked-universe.


Later, some internet research will inform me that the standard “Hong Kong Egg Waffle” is rumored to have come about in the 1950’s. A restaurant owner was delivered a package of eggs that had been crushed in transit and rather than toss them out, they whipped them into flour, milk, and sugar and poured the whole concoction into a waffle press. The egg waffle was a street food classic ever since.

My father and I tear ours apart with cautious glee, as one does with frightening new baked goods.


Crunch like a waffle. Sweet and doughy, all on its own with no flash and sparkle of toppings. We ooh and aah and tear the thing into more pieces and ooh and aah. There’s a twenty-second period of time in which I snap my fingers trying to conjure a comparison that his hovering just outside my reaching and then the owner drops our check on the table with two fortune cookies atop it and I say,

“ Fortune cookies! It tastes like a fortune cookie!”

Like a soft, warm fortune cookie with pockets of steaming dough and a crisp on the outside. Like history and ingenuity in a paper wrapper. Like rain crackling against the windows of a restaurant in which we have been accepted with silent nods and secret dessert.

Written by:

Kellen Burden


Here’s another article I wrote about this place for the Federal Way Mirror:

Travelogue Day 4: Tierra Bomba

We are separated from Tierra Bomba by a 50 yards of sand and a narrow strip of water and yet, elbowing our way through the boca grande crowds, beneath pewter sky, it feels like it may as well be on the moon. The tour company we booked our boat through responded noncommitally to our booking request and then burned their phones and threw their computers into the sea. We had no way of knowing for sure if there was a boat and if we would have seats on it. One of those problems that you dump into the later folder until you look up suddenly and realize that later is now and now you’re out of options. It’s either down to the beach with a pocket full of hope or pouting around the hotel. I’m not much of a pout-er.

So we are elbowing our way through the Boca Grande wildness, past a jingling parade of vendors and a swarm of tourists embedded in the sand. waves whump into the beach. The honking of car horns on the wind like birds in the woods.

“It’s up ahead,” Melissa says,” I think.”

She’s reading treasure map directions from the booking company’s website. Past the hospital, by the red tents, 26 paces, yo ho ho.

The beach spreads out wide and flat in front of us, skyscrapers jutting up into the sky beyond it. Past the hospital, by the red tents, we see a gaggle of alabaster people shuffling to the water. They look lost. They are caked with sunscreen. Some of them look drunk already. These are our people.

“You guys going to Tierra Bomba?” I call to them.

They are.

We follow them across wet sand to a line of boats positioned at the mouth of an inlet, men working them with the lean, sure hands of water people. Tying knots, pouring fuel. We line up at the boats and a man with a clipboard checks us off of a list that we’re not sure we’re even on.

We are.

They push our boat out into that hungry water and we heave ourselves into it in the shallows. The engine roars to life at the end of a rip chord and we are away. Beneath our red tarp, from our salty bench we watch warm water and dark skies slip past and then finally green trees and sandy beaches rise up out of the nothing.

Our boat pilot is a fucking surgeon. He drifts the boat into the shallow harbor backwards, firing off the motor in measured bursts, anticipating the rising and falling of the sea, the uneven ocean floor, the boats around us. Feeling it all, going with it. We disembark without a dock or a rope, off the back into the shallows while his boat hovers impossibly in spite of the jostling of the sea. When we are all off, he roars away and it is just our gaggle of alabaster drunks on a foreign beach until a woman comes to collect us.

“Welcome to Tierra Bomba!”

Tierra Bomba is a 9 square kilometer dimple of beach and trees across the water from Boca Grande. A quick scan of Tripadvisor leaves one with a general impression of roughness. Litter, they say. Muggers, they say.

This wasn’t our experience.

Sure, there was a bit of litter scattered around, but honestly, There wasn’t a single beach, street or park that we visited in our time there that didn’t have at least a little loose trash in it. This is a developing country with a corrupt government fighting its way out of decades of violence, not a Sandals Resort. If a little garbage sours your experience, then you might want to get involved with space exploration, because we’ve pretty much totaled this planet and the only reason you don’t see all this refuse on American beaches is because we’re actively dumping it into the sea, where it can become someone else’s problem.

As for the muggers, not only did we never experience anything like that on Tierra Bomba, but honestly, I didn’t feel even remotely unsafe the entire time we were in Cartagena. And I’m not really a false sense of security, kind of guy. I almost punched a gypsy in Strasbourg. I got kicked out of a haunted house for doing exactly what you think I did. Not in Cartagena, though. Night time found us wandering together down shadowy alleys under halogen lights to the sound of bachata music through open windows, totally at ease. I saw an old couple salsa dancing in a bodega. I saw a Jack Russell Terrier barking at an iguana. I did not see a single fight, fire or robbery. Not in the walled city, not in Getsemani and certainly not on our little slice of Tierra Bomba. That isn’t to say that it doesn’t happen, or that it won’t, but it’s not really safe to be in a kindergarten in America right now, so pick your poison.

Our slice of Tierra Bomba includes a shelter, a hanging bed, a bench, a table and a hammock. It includes the sun, the sand and the sea. It includes a couple of bottles of local lager. Most importantly, though, it includes the signature dish of Cartagena, fried fish, coconut rice.

I am fresh from a swim, drip drying in the steam heat of the Colombian sun, when they bring our lunch out. It taps into a very visceral part of me, sitting in a hammock with saltwater beading on my skin, muscles taught from swimming, and a lunch that I didn’t have to make brought to me.It takes me back to my summers in Southern California, splayed out on a towel in the stoney sand, working on a paper plate full of sandwich halves and chips. .

Only this isn’t wonder bread and deli ham. This isn’t American cheese and Lays potato chips.

Steaming on the table before me is nothing short of an island masterpiece. Fish fried in oil that must have been absolutely moving. Dunked in it, still salty from the sea, just long enough to put a rasp on it, some color to it. It’s fantastic. Crispy, faintly greasy, tossed in some kind of lime powder. I pick it apart with my salty fingers and drop it steaming into my mouth to the sounds of wind through the palms and water in the sand.The coconut rice is everything that the fish needs to make the meal round and even. Nutty, hearty, sweet. A fresh salad on the side and a mouthful of beer to wash it all down.

Bliss on a plate in a hammock I wasn’t sure I’d reserved, on an island I wasn’t sure I’d get to.