Tag: Mary Prescott

Mary Prescott’s Mom’s Thai Rice Soup (aka Porridge)

On December 19th, Mary Prescott presents Tidaan interdisciplinary performance examining intergenerational cultural identity through the artist’s maternal lineage. Integrating music, dance, and word, Prescott investigates her mother’s undocumented Thai ancestry, her experience as a Southeast Asian immigrant raising biracial children in Midwest America, and the resulting impact of these histories on her, her daughters, and granddaughters.

Tida is an exploration of my unknown personal history, which I have been researching through my maternal ancestry, and my Mom’s experience as a Thai immigrant who raised a biracial family in Minneapolis.

It comforts me, when I miss my Mom the most or when I just need relief from loneliness, to cook food that tastes like hers. Although by now she makes a lot of delicious American dishes, her superb Thai food is what has always stood out. It is home food, simple and delicious, and the flavors are uniquely hers. When I make it (although mine never tastes quite the same as hers), it still brings me back into her kitchen where I am together with family, cared for and content.

Since COVID prevents us from gathering in-person for the performance, I thought I would find a way for us to connect that is just as physical, sensory and special as sharing a space with one another. So, I invite you to make one of my Mom’s easiest and coziest recipes, Thai Rice Soup, to eat while you watch the show! It really is easy, and you might even already have many of the ingredients you’ll need in your kitchen. It is the taste of my home, my culture, and my comfort. And through this simple dish, we can share the experience of a performance and a meal together.”

Mary’s Mom’s Thai Rice Soup (aka Porridge)

Every year since I was little, I have awakened the day after Thanksgiving to a steaming hot bowl of what we in my family call porridge! Porridge is our version of a turkey and rice soup that my Mom makes with leftovers from the previous day’s Thanksgiving feast. What makes her version of this soup so special and unique are the Thai seasonings that she adds. This soup is a taste of my home, the flavors of my Mom’s cooking, of coziness and comfort!

Since turkey is something we usually only eat around winter holidays, I often make this soup with chicken instead. After roasting a whole bird, I separate and save any remaining meat from the bones, and use the carcass to make my own stock. I just simmer it in a crockpot with water, a couple carrots, stalks of celery, an onion, garlic and bay leaf overnight, then strain it in the morning. It’s all ready to go for porridge without any fuss! I like this method, because you use every part of the bird without wasting anything, and I feel that is a good way to honor the animal and the earth that gave us nourishment. If you don’t have homemade stock, you can use any store bought version that you have on hand.

This recipe is easily adaptable for vegetarians or vegans, with the exception of the fish sauce. I have seen vegan versions of fish sauce, but have never tried them, so can’t speak as to how well they mimic the real thing. You’ll have to try, and let me know!

Porridge is home food, meaning there are no real measurements for it. I’ll include approximations for how I make one serving, but please feel free to adjust anything to your own liking and quantity! There’s lots of room for improvisation!

Prep time: 5 minutes (use rice and chicken or turkey that have already been cooked!)
Cook time: 5-10 minutes
Total time: 10-15 minutes
Servings: 1 – 2 (easily adjusts to serve more… just multiply all quantities by number of servings)

Soup Ingredients:

  • 1 c. cooked white rice (I use white jasmine rice… that is the standard in Thai households, but any white rice will do.)

  • 2 c. chicken or turkey stock

  • ⅓ c. chopped carrot

  • ¾ c. cooked chicken or turkey, cubed

  • ½ T fresh ginger, julienned

  • Pinch of salt (not too much, as the sauce we will add later is also quite salty!)

  • A few twists of freshly ground pepper to taste


  • A few pieces of Thai pickled cabbage (I never have this in my kitchen, so I always leave it out, but my Mom loves adding this ingredient!)

Garnish ingredients:

  • 1 T roughly chopped fresh cilantro

  • 1 T sliced scallions

  • 1 clove of garlic, minced

  • 1-2 T vegetable oil (avoid using olive oil as it interferes with the flavor profile of this dish)

  • A drizzle of toasted sesame oil

Sauce ingredients:

  • Fish sauce (An essential ingredient to practically all savory Thai dishes. If you don’t already have it in your kitchen, you should be able to find it fairly easily at most grocery stores or online. Note: soy sauce is not a good substitute for fish sauce… it’s a totally different taste!)

  • Juice from one lime (MUST be fresh squeezed!)

  • 2 or 3 fresh Thai chilis, sliced (if you can’t find Thai chilis, you can substitute a fresh jalapeno or any other fresh hot pepper)


  1. Make the soup: In a 2 quart saucepan, heat the stock, rice, carrot, chicken, ginger, salt and pepper over medium-high heat until it reaches a gentle boil. Reduce heat, and simmer about 5 minutes, or until the carrots are cooked.
  2. Toast the garlic: While the soup is simmering, add vegetable oil to a saute pan over medium heat. Add garlic, stirring frequently. Keep an eye on this! The garlic will toast very quickly, in just a minute or two, and can burn easily if left for even a few seconds too long. As soon as the garlic starts to turn uniformly light brown, remove the pan from heat. It will continue to toast for a few moments after that. Set aside.
  3. Make the sauce! In a jar or small bowl, mix equal parts Thai fish sauce and freshly squeezed lime juice. Add Thai chilis or jalapeno.
  4. Put it all together: Ladle your soup into a bowl. Garnish with cilantro, scallions, toasted garlic (and the oil you toasted it in), and toasted sesame oil. Spoon a few spoonfuls of the fish sauce/lime juice concoction over your soup to taste. Add a lime wedge to squeeze over the entire dish if you like! Serve!

The sauce and fresh garnishes are really what make this soup so special and so flavorful! Also, once you have these ingredients in your fridge, you’ve got all the makings for another one of my favorite comfort foods, the Thai omelette. Okay… twist my arm, here’s the quick recipe for that: beat two eggs. Heat a couple tablespoons of vegetable oil on medium-high heat in a saute pan. When the oil is very hot (but not smoking), add the eggs, and then add sliced scallions, chopped cilantro, and spinach (if you like spinach, which I do!). Flip like an all-star to cook the other side. Done! Serve over a bed of warm jasmine rice. Spoon that lime/fish sauce “sauce” over the top. Devour hungrily like you need comfort and you need it now!

Mary Prescott: Tida premieres Saturday, December 19th 2020 on Roulette’s livestream channels.

Spotlight On Mary Prescott

For her Roulette commission, interdisciplinary artist, composer, and pianist Mary Prescott presents Songs Between Life and Death—a performative song cycle integrating music, word, movement, physical theater, and installation—on Tuesday, April 30th.

Tell us about yourself and what you do.

I’m a Thai-American interdisciplinary artist, composer, and pianist from Minneapolis. I trained exclusively as a classical pianist for most of my life, but “converted” to experimental generative work within the past couple of years for the same reason my sister converted to Catholicism in her early 20s. (Who converts to Catholicism??) She said she had been searching for something for a long time, and then when she encountered Catholicism, she felt fulfilled. Well, that’s exactly how I feel about my practice, and even though technically art is not a religion, maybe IT IS. It’s the place where I get closest to understanding myself and the world, and the place where I feel like I can begin to untangle some of life’s bigger questions.

My experiments started with piano music, probably because I felt “safe” with a medium that was already attached to my identity. But now I allow myself to create with whatever seems best, whether I know that medium well or not—although just about everything is performance-based. So I might project a film I made, or do a choreographed movement, or install a set piece that bears some significance to the rest of the work. And those things will interact within a performance and play off each other to more deeply express an overarching concept. One of the big hangups of classical training is that everything is expected to be perfectly executed according to a holy manuscript, and there’s a lot of prior experience and skill that one must develop to attempt it. But I think that’s a very limiting way to approach art-making, and actually, pretty exclusive, too. As hard as it was at first (and still is), I’ve tried to let go of that mindset, and I feel like it’s allowed my practice to grow in ways I never could have anticipated. 

Describe the project you are developing for Roulette.

I’m creating a performative song-cycle called Songs Between Life and Death for chamber ensemble. It’s about the conscious spiritual experience unattached from the physical body. Although I don’t intend for it to be morbid at all, I do acknowledge that it could go there for some people. For me, it’s more objective, maybe. About the first-person experience of what happens emotionally and psychologically when our spirit has disconnected from the physical world as we know it, but can look back in on it. I think the fear of this unknown has had a pretty heavy impact on cultural and social development, and I’m really interested to examine that dynamic a little more closely. And it’s also something I just want to spend more time with in focused contemplation…hash it out for myself, so to speak.

What is influencing your work right now?

So, this may seem sort of silly, but I recently moved into a place that overlooks the construction site of a new residential development, and watching these huge glass buildings go up gradually but actually really quickly has been kind of amazing. I’m seeing the foundational pieces go into the ground itself: enormous cranes hoisting gigantic slabs of material, locked into the sides of the building for support, the gnarly innards of the floors and walls, and then all the fine details of the interiors. The scale of each of those things is so extreme, the power and intricacies of movement. It’s mundane, but fascinating to watch workers systematically bust up the entire block of sidewalk with heavy machinery one day; and the next day, they are very carefully painting the corner edge of a living room or squeegeeing the fingerprints off the floor-to-ceiling windows with perfection and care. Seeing a project like that in all it’s enormity and detail, with all the steps it takes on so many planes, and with such a spectacular result…a year ago that was just an overgrown vacant lot. It is strangely really inspiring in a very beautiful, dirty, dusty way. 

How did your interest in your work begin?

As I mentioned before, I was trained as a classical pianist for most of my life, and even though I always had an interest in improvising, it seemed elusive for me to take on. Or maybe because I didn’t have training in it, I felt like I couldn’t or shouldn’t do it. It occured to me that I was only going to be able to improvise if I just did it. That seems really obvious, but I think it’s actually one of the more difficult concepts to wrap one’s head around. 

Anyway, a handful of years ago, my friend Jesse Stacken, a really great fellow Minnesotan pianist and one with a mainly jazz background, had just finished up a project where he recorded an improvisation every day for a year and put the results online. I thought, “that seems like a good way to hold myself accountable.” So without a moment to think twice about what I was getting into, I started Where We Go When, which became my daily blog to do the same thing as Jesse, but from the keyboard of a non-improviser. Without getting into too many details, I’ll just say, that project was hands down one of the most important learning experiences of my life. It’s still up on my website, and I still think about it and mull over some of the same questions I had when I was in the thick of it.

Where We Go When was really the very beginning of my generative work. Even though my practice has expanded a lot since then, it gave me a bit of courage and a really solid foundation for experimentation and trust for the process.

What artists are you interested in right now?

I am really into Pina Bausch right now. I saw her work for the first time at BAM just a year and a half ago, and it changed my life. This was right on the cusp of when I started interdisciplinary work, and is probably one of the main reasons I went in that direction at all. Her work really cut to my heart, and gave me that rapturous sense of cathartic understanding that I am always searching for. I really love the way she pulled seemingly ordinary and unrelated concepts and gestures together to express something so vulnerable and raw. And she could address really difficult social disparities head on without drama or propaganda. She just put the work out there. She wasn’t telling you how to feel or react. Through an utterly marvelous and totally genius set of physical expressions, she made available some truth of humanity. All the good and bad and ugly and beautiful. All the unfairness and injustice, longing and loneliness. You feel it all at once with her. Really powerful, potent stuff. 

Mary Prescott: Songs Between Life and Death takes place on Tuesday, April 30th 2019 at 8pm with performers: pianist Mary Prescott, violinist Ilmar Gavilán, trumpeter Jonathan Finlayson, bassist Nick Dunston, and vocalists: Nina Dante, Ariadne Greif, and Sara Serpa.