*click* *crrk* *KA-CRACK*

My knee is making interesting noises. As a precaution, I’m going to see my doctor (and if he gives me bullshit about my weight again I’m going to tell him that even dropping to only 1500 calories a day and working the job I do and working out, the weight just Will Not Fuck Off. …almost said ‘bugger off’ but here in America that’s considered tame—probably because no one learned its actual meaning, and this makes Nigella Lawson’s lament in last week’s episode of The Taste that much more interesting, as she was basically able to drop a Precision F Strike that didn’t even get noticed.)

 

I can tell it’s trying to do a thing because the day before yesterday, it woke me up—by sliding right the fuck out of joint. Cue Onion Knight-like howl of pain as my brain tries to parse what just happened so I can fix it. Even if we can’t DO anything about it, I do believe I can get a stronger painkiller. Kinda need it. I have lost all faith in this knee.

 

Which makes the fact that I’ve spent quite a bit of time on the other one in search of my Memory Stick even odder. (I’ve had some highly irritating days recently. I’d like to beat the fire out of some AIs, maybe improve my Kefka.)

 

I’ve also spent some time trying to click my brain back on so I can write. I’ve fallen into a bit of a slump and can’t eve focus straight. The good news is flipping my mattress so that the part that’s caving in is on the foot end did help a bit, but I still am going to need a new mattress very soon—it’s a tad crowded.

 


Heads up!

 

100 Things makes its official return on 2 February. Be ready for some STRANGE rambles, sometimes.

 

Got Noms?

 

I am going to begin working test kitchen operations again. Everything that I’ve cooked up is now going to be noted, recorded, and set up for repetition and refinement. I’ve also been introduced to one of the weirdest things I’ve ever seen, Cooking With Dog, and its huge bank of recipes has inspired me to try actually doing something again. Who votes Valentine’s melonpan?

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On Finding the Meaning of Thanksgiving.

For some of you out there, you are getting ready to celebrate a holiday known as Thanksgiving. A uniquely American holiday, it commemorates the teamwork and camaraderie that allowed the pilgrims (does anyone else think it’s more appropriate to call them ‘expatriates?’ Because ‘pilgrim’ is too religious for my blood…) to survive the harsh conditions they found in the New World. Working together with native Americans, these people learned how to use what they found here and not only survive, but thrive.

(That whole ‘oops we totally brought a bunch of foreign germs and you’re all going to get really sick, so sorry’ thing shall remain un-expounded upon.)

However, at the same time, I can’t help feeling a little bit conflicted about the whole damn thing.


It’s always felt a little weird for me to celebrate Thanksgiving. Tracing my ancestors as far back as we were able to in the year 1999, I learned of the first (black) member of the family. A slave woman from coastal Africa, she escaped with some slick tricks—step one, make herself useful on trips. Step two, make herself useful on a trip heading to the free North. And step three, BOUNCE. Bingbangboomfreedom!

Tracing my mother’s side of the lineage was more difficult. I learned her mother’s name, but never had the chance to meet Ms. Maria Argupitha Garcia Martinez (Unchanged for unfindability!) For the record, if anyone knows this generously nomenclatured woman, please dish. I’ve googled, bing’d, dogpile’d and even Alibaba’d her name and found nothing.) And as difficult as Grandmother was to find, Grandfather was even more so. See, he went by one name, and kept to himself near the border (no fence, no problem).

I never had the chance to meet either of them. But I’ll never forget what my mother and my uncle Saul* told me: Grandfather was a medicine man. A real live (oh, shush. You know how I mean) shaman. My uncle, on telling me this, then gave me a box of unset rough turquoise. I would later ask my father if my uncle was being facetious—and as it would turn out, he was not. But he was loath to talk about that side of the family, and it would be all I could find out: the records stop fairly quickly in the whole legibility department.

*Name changed at request!


.Here’s where I start feeling a little weird about it: neither ancestral side of my family came over in that quest for freedom from the Anglican Church. One side had been here long before, and the other side came long after, against her will. One side had no real reason to celebrate, and the other—well, being dragged from her homeland and then bought and sold like a horse really has no merits to celebrate.

It wasn’t for a while that I began to think of it a little bit differently. After finding out that I was a little blue preemie that very nearly kicked her mother off this mortal coil, I started feeling kind of lucky. Blessed, even.


This year, a whole lot of bad happened. I got out of a destructive relationship. (Not entirely willingly. Stockholm Syndrome, what what) I got deep into a barrel. Climbed out of said barrel when the taste of alcohol became more unpleasant than the flashbacks and voices I was trying to shut up. Had a huge mental break when the flashbacks got stronger, and was sent to the loony bin when I admitted I wasn’t sure if I was going to be waking up the next morning. Formally diagnosed with PTSD that had been allowed to slowly fester over the last three years. Went on more meds than anyone I’ve met.

It wasn’t easy.

So very often, I caught myself saying, “Fuck this. I’m gone,” but the little part of my mind that was sane still went, “Really? You haven’t done anything you thought you would. You’d be ditching friends—and all because you hurt? Suck it up, you selfish little bitch” and I didn’t go through with it. Whenever I was about to do something profoundly stupid, they’d stop me. I stuck it out because they stuck their necks out to help me.

And I’ve yet to thank them all properly.

So here it is.

I am thankful for all of you for not letting me quit this life.
I am thankful for the motivation you all give me.
I am thankful for the people who would forcibly stop me when I started to do something stupid.
I am thankful that I am still alive to have people to thank for keeping me that way.

And now that I know it’s going to be just fine, I sign off and say:
Itadakimasu. (Thank you for the food.)

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100 Things #22: Cooking.

(OH, DON’T PRETEND YOU DIDN’T SEE THIS ONE COMING.)

I’ve said it before. I like to eat. A lot. I like to eat a lot. I love food. I’m a firm believer that one should live to eat, not eat to live.

Which makes the fact that I’ve been living with an eating disorder for this long incredibly amusing.

I learned to cook when my grandmother would cut off my limit for food at the table. I worked at a Hardee’s at the time, where I could get enormous burgers whenever I wanted to and had the money for. I would often get a charbroiled burger from there before I got home because otherwise the dinner that would be waiting for me would be meagre. As I also tired of the repetitive selection, I started using my check to fiddle around with making things.

…the first few times, it was a disaster. I smoked the kitchen up one day trying to make pancakes. I learned from that mistake, though, and began playing around with different things. Eventually I picked up some base skills—the grilled cheese sandwich, the perfectly toasted fish fillet. My first foray into REAL cooking, however, came from me needing to bum a ride to a place. I paid attention to the flavors of my cousin’s favorite food, and by the time I needed to get things done, I had a plate of hot wings ready to bribe him with. Frankly I was hoping for “It’s edible” as a response.

“…Wow, cous,’ when did you learn how to cook on us? This is actually good!”

I swear, I was floating on air. That year was also the year I made the Christmas dinner and completely floored them.

Since then I’ve taken it to a whole ‘nother level—it’s always kind of gratifying to have a little light lunch on the building common area and watch the faces as I pull out one of my simpler dishes with a gourmet spin—like my California roll. Deceptively simple to make, but so pretty that people don’t hesitate to stop, stare, and demand where I got it. I love watching their faces when I answer that I made it myself. It stops the “but OUR people don’t eat that” argument in its tracks when they find out THAT little bit of information.


Another thing I like about cooking is that I know what’s in the things that I eat—only the things that I put in them. If you’ve ever looked at the label of a back of a microwave popcorn package (full disclosure, YUM), and then compared it to just popping it at home…some of the things in microwave popcorn are…er…alarming, to be nice about it.

I can actually make a few things after I’ve eaten them a few times. I like to dissect a recipe until I can replicate it as exactly as possible—and then improve on it. As a result, I’m just a little bit of a food snob on some things. (“Excuse me. This soy sauce contains no soy—and I’m beginning to suspect no sauce.”)

Presentation is a big thing, too: I prefer my food to look as good as it’s going to taste. This is part of why my favorite Iron Chef is Masaharu Morimoto: his food is so pretty that I feel guilty about being just about to watch the judges scarf it down. Food must be a feast for ALL the senses, not just the taste. I get the feeling if this attitude were more prevalent in America, the obesity rate would drop. I’m a terrible binge-eater, and if I stop to make my food look as beautiful as it tastes, I eat less—and feel better.


I get a lot of grief for being into what’s called “food porn.” No, it’s not what it sounds like. Go search for www.foodporndaily.com. I’ll wait. If you need a snack afterwards, I’ll still wait.

See how beautiful the food can be? Involved dishes can be beautiful, as can simple ones. Making the food a visual feast helps one enjoy it more. I flatly refuse to eat something that hasn’t even had the barest attempt at making its plating attractive. I even try to make my soups attractive to look at—lemon wedge perched at the edge of a bowl anyone? I think that food loses something if it’s just thought of as human fuel.


…Now, I’ll do you guys a favor and shut my mouth. Because I CAN go on for hours about my philosophy about food, and I DO have other entries to get to…

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100 Things #20: Grocery Stores.

(OH COME ON, LIKE NONE OF YOU SAW THIS COMING.)

I like food. I seriously like food. Like, as in people sometimes ask me if I used to be a fat kid. For the record, I didn’t, but I understand what they’re getting at. Sometimes I feel kind of like a fat kid in a skinny girl’s body. The shenanigans that my grandmother pulled didn’t help.

Short version: In high school I hit a healthy weight of 120 lbs. The doctors stopped worrying. People quit commenting on my ‘skeletal wrists’ and such. My grandmother immediately began rationing food at me—I couldn’t eat to full. She called me fat. She told me to get thin again. I started working out aggressively. I began to see a fat girl in the mirror instead of actual!me. I got a job so I could afford to eat more—if I bought my own things, she couldn’t keep me from eating (wrong, as I found out). Basically, I wound up with body dysmorphic disorder by proxy: she thought I was fat, called me fat often, and I started believing it.

Eventually I got past this, but my fascination for going through the aisles to find the healthiest tasty things remained. I was fascinated with the ‘new’ diet foods like yogurt and wheat germ, and the exotic fish I could get from stores when I shopped by myself. The combination of my grandmother’s neurosis and my family’s fascination with foods we (usually) couldn’t afford but kept seeing on Food Network conspired to turn me into a foodie. (And, I will admit, maybe a little bit of a food snob on some things.)

I like to wander the aisles a while before I buy anything. I walk in with a shopping list, of course, but I want to know about all the new good things, the new healthy things that are out (Chia seeds? Who knew?), and I want to try as many of them as I possibly can. This is how I wound up with a pound of chia seeds on top of my refrigerator. (For the record, they are amazing. My energy shoots up when I eat them, and they let me do more on less food. Now if only I could get past the gel’s texture…) One of my favorite things to do on the major run to the store is to find one thing I haven’t tried and give it a shot. Goat cheese was the most recent thing I tried. Delicious, tangy, strong but with a smooth finish.

I wonder what I’ll try next month. I want an exotic fruit or something.

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A Rant: Can’t Eat a Protest.

Recently the bill that improves the nutrition, and limits the calories of, school lunches, was put into effect. As a result, the maximum caloric load for the public school lunch is about 800 calories, maximum. The intent is to combat obesity by balancing their dietary intakes.

Students were not amused by this. The largest complaint is that they’re still hungry after eating their plates. What do they do in reaction?

 

They throw away the food in protest and  make a video on Youtube that dramatizes just how hungry they are.

 

You’ll excuse me if I don’t have much sympathy.

 

You see, there is no way that this will do much of anything. It’s a completely counterintuitive thing to do—WE’RE HUNGRY, AND SO WE ARE GOING TO REFUSE THE FOOD WE’RE GIVEN. Way to make your point, kids. Show us your passive protesting and let us revel in the wisdom of NOT EATING the food you’re allotted. Because NOT eating will help your hunger.

Again, I really don’t have much sympathy. If you’re so hungry, then eat the food. Don’t complain about it being ‘not enough food’ and then throw it all in the garbage. Not only is that wasteful, you’re not eating anything. And therefore, you are hungrier. This lunch could be your one solid meal for the day and you’re refusing it because you don’t get as much of your favorite junk food in the lunch?

You’re allowed seconds of certain parts of the menu. Why not take that option, instead of pitching it all down the chute?

The athletes who complain about not having enough protein and stuff—why not bring things from home to supplement the hot lunch at school? That’s not that difficult.

 

But no…throwing it all in the garbage is a perfect way to make your point. You’re sitting in class on an empty stomach now and complaining about lunch after having thrown it into an overflowing garbage pail.

 

Why the hell would this make sense?

 

Kids…JUST EAT IT. You’ll adjust to not having deep-fried everything in the middle of the day. And learn how to provide your own supplementation from home if it’s not enough.

 

DON’T point at the government, blame them for your hunger, and then complain about the food that you could still be eating.

100 Things #16: Favorite Stores

I’ll admit it right now: I’m not one of those girly girls who shops for the pleasure of shopping or ‘just because.’ I don’t get it. I mean, you’re spending money that could be put to other things that are actually NECESSARY!

I don’t have the stereotypical fascination with shoes or makeups, either. As a kid, I was hard to shop for because—with the exception of the Barbie Corvette—I wasn’t into the ‘girly’ things.

Which makes the fact that some of my favorite stores have some of the GIRLIEST things I’ve ever seen.

Chocolate Chocolate Store.

There’s a store called the “Chocolate Chocolate Chocolate Factory.” It specializes in…chocolate. I realize that sounds a little obvious, but the fact is that this place specializes in the GOOD stuff—we’re talking the $5/pound stuff. I don’t go there often because I can and WILL eat an entire 1-lb brick of chocolate in a single sitting if you let me. The place also serves excellent chocolate-covered bacon—lean, meaty, applewood-smoked bacon coated in the smoothest mid-dark chocolate you’ve ever had. I can’t have it often but when I do, I savor it.

Teavana

In the local mall, there’s a Teavana store now. It’s located in what used to be a Panera/St. Louis Bread Co. store. At first I was mad because the place had closed down that restaurant, and then I found out that there was a tea store coming. My first experience there was memorable. I was looking or something completely unrelated to tea when suddenly I smell this light, sweet and fruity scent. I literally follow my nose and before I know it I’m standing in front of a ‘free sample’ dispenser tasting things. Their tea isn’t cheap, but it’s one of the higher end places—the highest end brand is Republic of Tea, I believe.

I can’t go into Teavana and come out empty-handed. Even if it’s just a tin of tea cookies, I leave with something.

Huh? How much tea have I got? …I don’t have an hour to do inventory. I’ll guess that in total I have about 3 pounds of various kinds on hand. (Guesstimating up, here.)

World Market/Cost Plus.

Around here it’s World Market but in other places they go by Cost Plus. However you butter that piece of toast, it has a wonderful selection of international fare. This was the first place I ever went that carried Pocky. And if I remember right, this was one of the first places I ever cut classes to shop at (Yeah, I know, but it was a college course I was already doing well in—and then it turned out that class had been canceled anyway).

The place has saved me from several interesting craving situations. I can now have a Vegemite or Marmite sandwich WHENEVER I WANT. …now, granted, I usually just dunk a spoon in the stuff and eat it like a salty lollipop, but still. It’s also got some of the cutest dinnerware I’ve ever seen. As my hand-me-down plates slowly lose their structural integrity (Microwave a potato! Watch the plate explode!) I’ve begun planning on what I’m going to replace them with—all things that can be found here at World Market. In addition to food things, the place also has some of the coolest furniture I’ve ever seen. I have my eye on a minibar/standalone cabinet thing that I will PROBABLY not be able to afford this year, but ONE DAY *fistshake*

The Arcade.

(I know the arcade doesn’t seem like a store but you spend your money to do things that normally don’t do. Ergo, store!)

I know what you’re thinking—There’s still arcades? But there are, even though there aren’t really a lot of them anymore. I usually go to arcades to play DDR (That’s Dance Dance Revolution, for the half-dozen of you who don’t know) because there’s just something about going there and cracking a few records. And even if you don’t crack a record, it’s kind of fun to showboat for the audience. (I do a badass “face the back of the machine when that last note pops” thing. Works better when I actually DON’T MISS the notes.) They also have some of the best racing games. I remember my first time playing Maximum Tune in the arcade, tricking out my vehicle and saving my records and junk on my Tuning card. A lot of those records still stand, even though the arcade that the machine was originally in has gone under.

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100 Things #11: Places: Home

This wasn’t always a candidate for the answer. I grew up in a situation where I’d alternately be begging to go home and then the next day I’d want to be anywhere but. I still bear the marks of that time, but this is a lighter day, a brighter time, and I’m not going to put a damper on the day by going back there.

 

My job is an exhausting one, and by the end of the day there is nothing more that I’d like to do than just go home and flop over onto the side of the bed (and sometimes I don’t even get that far, as tired as I get after a shift of hauling laundry, making beds, and generally rendering a portion of the hotel I work at presentable and rentable for the guests). I live on my own, which means that everything that has to be done has to be done by me—I get to do MORE housekeeping, my own cooking, and the like.

 

But that means I get to do my own housekeeping and my own cooking and the like. 🙂

 

I love not having to answer to other people’s whims when it comes to doing things that I want—you have no idea how much I danced around when I found out that I got this place for myself and wouldn’t have to deal with the peanut gallery anytime that I wanted to eat something that wasn’t—well, let’s just say that my tastes in food can run a bit underground, and having to listen to family members insisting that my taste in food is strange and that “we” didn’t eat such things because that wasn’t part of our heritage? That got old quick.

 

You may have noticed that I seem to mention food a lot in these posts. Well, to be fair, I do like food. I’m a 167lb woman, tiny in some places and bigger in others, and because of my metabolism I had to deal with the problem of eating enough in a day to make sure that I didn’t just drop off to the point of turning around and vanishing.

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