Welcome to Screen Gems, our weekend dive into queer and queer-adjacent titles of the past that deserve a watch or a rewatch.
The Erotic: The Lost Boys
Sucking blood! Get your head out of the gutter, dear reader.
No doubt director Joel Schumacher, the openly gay helmsman behind The Lost Boys, had more than a little homoeroticism on his mind when he called action on this film. A hit in 1987, it helped launch the careers of its stars, Jason Patric, Corey Haim, Corey Feldman, Alex Winter & Kieffer Sutherland…not to mention landed them in ever teen heartthrob magazine at the time.
The plot: two teenage brothers move to a small California coastal town following their recently divorced mother. As the pair struggle to fit in their new community, they begin to notice strange happenings on the local pier. Michael (Patric), the older brother, falls for a beautiful young woman that hangs out with a creepy local gang. Sam (Haim), his younger brother, falls in with a pair of occult-obsessed militants (Feldman & Jameson Newlander), who try to convince him that the small town is actually run by vampires.
The Lost Boys plays on many tropes that would become hallmarks of the period: latchkey kid mayhem, teenage horniness, and single moms falling for interloper boyfriends. It also pumps up the volume on the homoeroticism: the vampire gang, as led by Sutherland’s David, revels in their eternal youth and beauty, and seem less interested in women than in hanging out (at times, literally) together, often in unbuttoned shirts. The David-Michael rivalry also has some undertones to it: is David mad that Michael has stolen his girlfriend, or does he just want Michael for himself?
Creepy, sexy and loaded with a lot of tongue in cheek humor, a rewatch of The Lost Boys is a fine way to honor Schumacher, who died earlier this year. It’s also a fun way to welcome the witching season with a movie that knows just how gay it is, even if its characters don’t.
The Dyke Kitchen is a bi-weekly series about how queerness, identity, culture and love are expressed through food and cooking.
Kamala & The Waffle Maker
Back in February, before we had a full view of what was in store for us in 2020, my mom texted me frantically one evening to say that her favorite waffle iron was on sale, and did I want a version of my own. I said yes, of course.
I love waffles. The are perfect for toppings. I also really like that while, yes, there are traditional types of waffles, the waffle iron, as a tool, is an invitation to make whatever kind of waffle you want! When I lived in Oakland, I spent a lot of weekends hauling my mom’s 4-slice All-Clad stainless steel waffle maker — it’s very heavy, so that’s just one of the reasons I wanted my own — to my own apartment to make bacon & chive waffles, cornmeal waffles to eat with salsa, waffles made from dosa batter, regular sweet ones smothered in butter and truffle honey.
Long story short, I didn’t know in February that I wouldn’t be seeming my mom again until August. So on my last trip home, after six months of built-up anticipation, spending every brunch-ish moment of quarantine thinking about the waffles I would not be making, I did finally receive the gift of my very own waffle iron! It’s a 2-slice, but it’s just as amazing as my mom’s. And I knew I wanted to break it in with something special.
When my close friend Vinh;Paul told me that he was bringing his air fryer back from his mom’s house (this great story is below!), it seemed like the perfect reason to put our new kitchen tools together for our own style — always-original, always-sorta-Asian — of chicken and waffles. So here you have our menu for a night we spent making a tiny hen and waffles, and guzzling really great watermelon cocktails made by Sarah — those are also below! For texture and freshness, I also made a very similar cabbage salad to the one I made with these scallion pancakes, though this time, with the addition of peaches.
Vinh;Paul & The Air Fryer
Mother and I love TJ Maxx HomeGoods. We take great pleasure in buying fun gadgets at discount prices, loading up the house with conveniences that we only use once or twice before shelving it in the laundry room. If there’s a gadget, Mother definitely has it. From a yoghurt maker to three different kinds of high-speed blenders, a food dehydrator, garlic presses, a dedicated almond chopper, and my personal favorite: the Yonana Classic, a contraption that turns frozen bananas into soft serve.
Some may find Mother’s penchant for these conveniences excessive. And though we’ve gotten into some arguments about her laundry room being too cluttered to wash clothes, she’ll have it no other way. Mother grew up in the countryside of Việt Nam, during an extra tumultuous time in Việtnamese history: post-French colonialism but still in high tensions due to the American occupation. When she had to suddenly flee in ‘75, or else risk persecution, she lost everything: keepsakes, photos, and a link to her parents and eight siblings, all of whom were too far away to leave with her.
But don’t feel sad for Mother. She’s done wonderfully — if this wall of gadgets could talk, it’d probably say, “She has soft hands because she doesn’t believe in exerting effort when a machine can do the work for her.”
And what better machine than an air fryer! No more heavy cast irons filled with hot oil greasing up the kitchen. “You can have fresh eggrolls anytime,” Mother said, “without wasting good oil.” She grew up with so few things, only to still lose everything. I don’t think she ever imagined a life of such ease. Since I moved to LA, our trips to TJ Maxx HomeGoods have become a thing of the past, but the spirit of convenience still lives on. During this pandemic, while everyone has been sheltering in place, Mother donned two layers of masks and went right back to shopping the minute the discount doors of the Maxx reopened.
It may seem silly to some, but Mother and I certainly have a deep care for each other, even if it’s gone mostly unspoken. As her youngest child and also her queer little baby, I know that helping me live a life that is filled with ease is her way of saying, I love you. And I feel very lucky about this. Despite our differences, she has always opened her arms wider to show me tenderness, the intuitive nature, and How can I anticipate your needs before you know you even need it?
The last one is my favorite. Anticipating someone’s wants before they want it is so fun to me. When Kamala told me her mom was giving her a waffle maker, I thought, What better way to honor our moms then by using these gadgets together! Fried chicken and waffles was an obvious choice, but knowing Kamala so well — and Kamala knowing me so well — a regular chicken just wouldn’t do. I like food to be fun, delicious, offbeat — a touch of my weirdness in every bite — a kind of performance piece conceptualizing flavors. I’ll admit that frying a cornish game hen isn’t that weird, but what it lacks in novelty it makes up in being damn tiny and super cute — sometimes eating up cuties is my favorite thing.
How To Make Savory Cheddar Waffles
I wanted to make a waffle that would be a good match for the air-fried hen that Vinh;Paul was making. In my dreams it would be light and crispy, and I wanted it to have a savory flavor. I ended up adding some shredded cheddar for the sharpness, and also because I love how cheese melts in something very hot, like a waffle iron. I also added some dashi and yogurt to the batter. Lastly, I employed my mom’s greatest trick for a fluffy waffle, which is separating the eggs and whipping the whites into stiff peaks.
This made about 10 waffles in my iron.
2 cups of all-purpose flour 3 teaspoons baking powder 1 teaspoon sugar 1 teaspoon salt A few grinds of black pepper 2 egg yolks 2 egg whites whipped so they are very stiff (you should be able to hold the bowl upside down) 1 ½ cups warm whole milk 2 tablespoons of plain whole fat yogurt ⅓ of liquified, browned butter 1 tablespoon of concentrated dashi ½ cup of sharp shredded cheddar
Get out your waffle iron and set it to the desired setting so it starts heating up.
In a large mixing bowl, combine the flour, salt, sugar, baking powder, and black pepper.
In a small or medium bowl, add the egg yolks and the dashi and mix them together.
In a liquid measuring cup, warm your milk (I did mine the microwave for 2 minutes) and then add the yogurt to the milk and stir it up so it’s more or less combined. Add this to the bowl with the egg yolks and dashi and stir to combine.
Brown the butter, and when it’s ready, add it directly to the flour mixture and stir them together.
Now add the bowl of warm milk and egg yolks into the large bowl of flour + butter and stir to combine.
Now that you have one bowl of batter, toss in your cheddar (I really just grabbed a big handful and added it) and stir to get them evenly distributed.
Whip your egg whites into stiff peaks and then gently fold them to your batter until they are fully combined. They’re going to lose some air as you combine them, but if you’re slow and methodical, you’ll still get a lift.
There was enough butter in this batter that I did not need to grease the waffle iron. So I put about a third of a cup of batter into each waffle square and cooked them to crisp level 6 on my iron. My iron beeps when it’s ready to cook and when it’s time for me to take out the waffles, so the actual cooking I can’t say I put much effort into.
In the end, they were light and fluffy, success! They cheese was delicious and the dashi is hardly detectable, but does add a savory undertone to the waffle itself, so it has a depth of flavor that makes it enjoyable to eat on its own.
How To Make The Cornish Game Hen
When I originally cooked this hen, I soaked, dredged, air fried it whole. The flavor was right, but as one side crisped up, the other side would go soggy. The extra step of cutting the hen in half will solve this soggy bottom problem by giving it enough space to breathe and get super crunchy. In honor of our moms, and their love of gadgets, I hope you enjoy this recipe and make it into a delight that you will also share with those you love.
Hen prep: 1 cornish game hen weighing approximately 2 lbs 2 cups buttermilk 2 tbsp salt 1 tbsp black pepper ½ tbsp turmeric powder ½ tbsp garlic powder
Seasonings: 2 tsp salt 2 tsp black pepper 2 tsp garlic powder 2 tsp onion powder 1 ½ tsp oregano 1 ½ Italian seasoning 1 ½ dry rosemary 1 tsp turmeric powder 1 tsp paprika 1 tsp cayenne pepper 1 tsp aleppo pepper powder** 1 tsp Korean gochugaru** ½ tsp nutmeg (optional)
*Buttermilk substitution: combine 2 cups whole milk + 2 tbsp white vinegar and let sit for 5 minutes to sour.
**Flavor is personal! And we don’t always have some of these ingredients on hand. We just happen to prefer a spicier fried hen and have these spices around the house, but feel free to add or omit herbs and spices to taste.
Dredge Station: 1 cup flour 1 cup panko breadcrumbs 2 eggs 2 tbsp Frank’s Red Hot or other vinegar based hot sauce of choice (optional) 2-3 tbsp of olive oil or any other cooking oil on hand
The night before: Using a sharp knife, cut cornish game hen half lengthwise, from center of breast bone, for two even pieces. Discard gizzards or save to make stock.
Combine 2 cups buttermilk, salt, pepper, turmeric powder, and garlic powder in a large bowl. Marinate cornish game hen in refrigerator for at least 4 hours but preferably overnight. Marinating the hen before frying allows the acids in the buttermilk to tenderize the meat, resulting in a succulent and tender bite.
Day of air fry: Remove cornish game hen from the buttermilk and set on a rack for 30 minutes, allowing the hen to come to room temperature. Meanwhile, combine seasonings in a small bowl.
Prepare the dredge by combining 1 cup flour and half of seasonings into one large bowl; 1 cup panko breadcrumbs with remaining half of seasonings in a second bowl; 2 eggs with hot sauce whisked together in a third bowl. Taste flour and panko breadcrumbs mixture. Add additional spices or herbs if desired as this will be the final taste of the air-fried hen.
Taking one-half of the bifurcated cornish hen, dredge in flour, then quickly cover in egg mixture, and cover in panko breadcrumbs. Set back on wire rack to rest for additional 15 minutes. Repeat with remaining half of game hen.
When ready to air fry, brush or spritz cornish game hen with a light and even coat of olive oil. Do not skip this step! The hen needs a little oil or else it will not crisp up.
The air fryer does not need to preheat. When ready, place one half of the cornish game hen — cut-side down — onto the air fryer tray, cooking in 2 batches. If using a large air fryer, both halves may be placed on the tray at once, as long as there is enough air flow.
Set air-fryer to 350° and start timer for 30-35 minutes. Brush with second coat of oil halfway through cooking (about 15-18 minutes), checking for doneness, when the internal temperature of the hen has reached 165°.
Let it rest for 10 min before carving and enjoy with country gravy (we used a packet for convenience) or any other sauce preferred.
Note from Kamala: This air-fried game hen was very tender and tasty and better than a lot of chickens that I’ve had! The brine that Vinh;Paul made added to the flavor of the meat, and all parts of it were tender, none of them got too dry — I think the small size packed in the flavor and made it easier to cook it evenly.
How To Make Sarah’s Wet Ass Watermelon Cocktail
This drink requires some prep, but once all the elements are ready you can easily make more drinks for your guests (and yourself) all night long.
For each drink you’ll need
1/2 cup of watermelon juice 1/4 cup of tequila Juice from one half of a lime 5-6 mint leaves 1 tbsp simple syrup 1/4 tsp of smoked sea salt
For the watermelon juice I think it’s funny that grocery stores call the small, juicy seedless watermelons “personal watermelons”, but I digress. Cut the rind off your personal watermelon and slice into cubes small enough to blend.
Blend all the watermelon until it’s a smooth pulpy liquid.
Then pour through a strainer into a large bowl or pitcher. If you don’t want any pulp, strain the watermelon juice through a cheesecloth. Press softly on the watermelon flesh to release the rest of the juices.
For the simple syrup Bring 1 part sugar, 1 part water to a boil. Let cool and pour into a glass container.
To make the drink In a glass jar with a lid, add 5-6 mint leaves, the juice of half a lime and 1 tbsp of simple syrup and muddle (a wooden spoon works just fine).
Add 1/4 cup of tequila, 1/2 cup of watermelon juice, and 1/4 tsp of smoked sea salt.
Lid the jar and shake until the mixture is frothy.
Unlid the jar and serve it to the lucky mouth that gets to drink it. Maybe it’s yours?!
One of the first picture books about a gender creative boy, published in the 1970s but long out of print, is now available in a new edition produced by its illustrator, Marian Buchanan. She recently shared with me some details about the lengthy journey to its reprinting and why it still holds lessons for today.
Jesse’s Dream Skirt, written by Bruce Mack (under the name “Morning Star”) was first published in 1977 in the second and final issue of Magnus, a gay men’s magazine, with illustrations by Larry Hermsen. It was picked up by Lollipop Power Press, a small, feminist publishing collective in North Carolina, who put out a call for a new illustrator. Buchanan, who belonged to a women artisans’ co-op that sold their books, submitted samples of her work. Lollipop Power and Mack chose her to illustrate the revised story that they published in 1979. (See her blog for an interesting discussion of their specific revisions.) Lollipop Power in 1979 also published the first LGBTQ-inclusive picture book in English, Jane Severance’s When Megan Went Away.
In Jesse’s story, we meet a young White boy who likes to wear things that “whirl, twirl, flow and glow.” One night, he dreams of a skirt of his own and his mother agrees to help him make it. She asks gently, though, if he’s considered what other kids might think. Jesse is undeterred.
When Jesse wears his skirt to daycare, the teacher, a Black man, is supportive. Some children smile but others criticize; one calls him a “sissy.” Jesse is upset.
The teacher then gathers the racially-diverse class and asks why they were teasing Jesse. They have an animated discussion about their own varied experiences with gender and clothing. This variety of perspectives is “one of the book’s strengths,” Buchanan said.
Jesse’s Dream Skirt: Interior image of Jesse and teacher by Marian Buchanan. Used with permission.
Most of the children, it turns out, like Jesse’s skirt, which prompts him to share his dream. The teacher then takes a piece of material from a box and wraps it around his waist. Some children follow and make dresses, capes, or turbans from pieces of fabric. They parade and dance around the room, although “Jesse didn’t mind that some just watched.” On the last page, he twirls in his skirt, just like in his dream.
The teacher provides a good model for adults in similar situations, Buchanan observed. He facilitates “an exploration of [the children’s] feelings and behavior rather than telling them off or guiding them towards any particular perspective,” which may help children hearing the story to have “a similar exploration and discussion.”
Additionally, she said, in some other books, bullies simply “become villains rather than small children under the influence of the culture of prejudice in which they’re being raised.” In contrast, Jesse shows readers how to engage with bullies and sometimes bring them over “to a more open-minded point of view.” Yet the book also conveys “that this isn’t about trying to convert anyone to being a certain way themselves; it’s about letting everyone be the way they are individually.”
Despite its strengths, Jesse’s Dream Skirt was never reprinted as a standalone book after Lollipop Power closed in 1986 and Carolina Wren Press, a non-profit North Carolina publisher, acquired the rights. Jamie Campbell Naidoo, in his 2012 book about LGBTQ children’s literature, Rainbow Family Collections, opined that Jesse, which was “much more blatant in its treatment of gender nonconformity,” was overshadowed by the 1979 publication—from a larger publisher and an established author—of Tomie DePaola’s Oliver Button Is a Sissy, about a boy who prefers drawing and dancing rather than sports.
Still, some found great value in Jesse’s story, as Buchanan discovered when she investigated reprinting it for its 30th anniversary in 2009. She found expensive used copies online and realized it had become “a sought-after classic in some educational and LGBTQI+ circles.” The San Francisco-based Lesbian and Gay Parents Association and the Buena Vista Lesbian and Gay Parents Group had included it in their 1999 anti-bullying guide “Preventing Prejudice – Lesbian / Gay / Bisexual / Transgender Lesson Plan Guide for Elementary Schools.” That, too, went out of print (though not before rousing the ire of some conservative Christians, who claimed Jesse’s story was pushing children to “‘become’ homosexual,” Buchanan said).
When she contacted Carolina Wren, they suggested she republish Jesse herself. She didn’t want to do so without Mack’s permission, but none of them had his contact information. She eventually discovered that he had died in 1994 of complications from AIDS, she noted at her blog. She later tracked down his heirs—his brothers—via a genealogy website, and they agreed to a reprint at the end of 2019, just in time for the 40th anniversary. The updated edition has the 1979 text and interior images, a new, full-color cover, a clearer font, an introduction by Buchanan, and reader testimonials.
She admitted that the black-and-white illustrations are “a little dated.” Nevertheless, she said, she’s gotten praise for their “soul and emotion,” adding, “The story itself is not outdated—which I suppose is unfortunate in a way, because it means there’s still a need for this kind of counteracting of stereotyping, prejudice, and bullying.”
She does think there’s more “awareness and acceptance” of many diversity issues today, including “non-conformity to culturally defined gender expression.” Yet she reminds us to remain aware of the differences between gender expression, gender identity, and sexual orientation. Jesse is not necessarily transgender or gay, she notes in her introduction. “He may just be what is nowadays called a ‘pink boy.’”
Whatever Jesse’s identity, the book remains a gem of thoughtfulness about a gender creative child. This new edition, available only at Amazon.com, should find its way back to many bookshelves.
Originally published as my Mombian newspaper column.
(I am a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program, an affiliate advertising program that provides a means for us to earn fees by linking to Amazon.com and affiliated sites.)