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Growing up in Texas, I long believed there could never be too much spice — and that everyone shared that belief. But thanks to the northern waiters and waitresses who squint, push their heads forward like geese, and say, “Are you sure you want it extra spicy? It’s going to burn your mouth,” I have learned that testing the limits isn’t always preferable.

In this spice-laden issue of InTheFray, we ask when it’s best to say “when,” and when it’s worth pushing ourselves. We begin with stories about restricting our spice intake: Tran Le Thuy looks at how Iraqis are risking their lives — and concealing their identities — when accepting Fulbright scholarships to study in the United States. Meanwhile, in The spice of life, Rachel Van Thyn watches sugar and spice nearly kill her older sister and learns a valuable lesson about second chances — and eating healthy.

Speaking of second chances, the Amish school shootings give April D. Boland the wake-up call she needs to say that violence against women is no laughing matter in Breaking the silence. And while guest columnist Lyz Baranowski is not offended by Madonna’s use of the crucifix to raise money to combat AIDS in Africa, she sees it for what it is — self-promotion.

Rounding out this month’s stories are three tales of the upside of spice: Poet Jen Karetnick imagines what a food critic might serve up, while Lisa Tae-Ran Schroeder, hoping to discover that which American Chinese restaurants lack, goes Searching for spice on a visit to China’s Sichuan Province.

Finally, in Points of encounter ITF Board member Randy Klein gives us a hint about just how spicy the new ITF site is going to be when we formally launch the Activist’s Corner, our new department,  along with our new design in 2007. He talks with filmmaker Ronit Avni about her documentary Encounter Point and using a video camera to raise awareness about the grassroots efforts of Israelis and Palestinians to forge peace.

We look forward to introducing you to ITF’s new look and feel on January 1. But before we ring in the new year and our new site, we’d like you to vote for your favorite ITF stories of 2006. We will publish them next month in our BEST OF InTheFray 2006 issue. So what are you waiting for? Vote now (and not just for the Best of ITF)!

Laura Nathan
Editor
Buffalo, New York

In The Fray is a nonprofit staffed by volunteers. If you liked this piece, could you please donate $10?