22 December 2013

Lentil Stew

Anyone who has been on the internet lately is probably aware of my recent live-tweeting of the Book of Genesis.  It was a pretty big deal: two random people retweeted one of my tweets, and another two people favourited one of my tweets.  Suffice to say, it made waves. 

One of the tweets (which was neither retweeted nor favourited, but deserved both) was about the time when Esau was tricked into giving up his birthright by a bowl of lentil soup:

“Once when Jacob was cooking a stew, Esau came in from the field, and he was famished.  Esau said to Jacob, ‘Let me eat some of that red stuff, for I am famished!’ (Therefore he was called Edom.) Jacob said, ‘First sell me your birthright.’ Esau said, ‘I am about to die; of what use is a birthright to me?’ Jacob said, ‘Swear to me first.’ So he swore to him, and sold his birthright to Jacob.  Then Jacob gave Esau bread an lentil stew, and he ate and drank, and rose and went his way.  Thus Esau despised his birthright.”
Gen. 25.29 - 25.34

There’s a lot going on in this passage.  First of all, Esau was always out in the fields.  You’d think that by this point he would have arranged with his mother to have dinner waiting for him or to pack a lunch with him for the day.  Second of all, that’s pretty cold, Jacob.  Your brother thinks he’s dying of starvation and you take advantage of it to get your hands on his birthright?  Esau is your twin brother!  At the same time, it would be really difficult to not take advantage of someone that stupid (Jacob does it again when his father is on his deathbed and steals Esau’s blessing).

Esau is an idiot for two reasons: 1) He obviously wasn’t starving to death.  He was just hungry.  We’ve all been there, Esau.  It feels like you’re starving, but there’s no reason why you couldn’t have followed The Kitchn’s advice and popped a potato in the oven.  2) There’s no shame in trading your birthright for food if you are in fact starving to death, but two points here: a) Esau should have driven a harder bargain, like, “Okay Jacob, I will give up my birthright to you, but you have to cook for me for the rest of my life,” and b) lentil stew?  Come on. There’s no way I would trade anything for lentil soup, even if it was something that I didn’t even want in the first place because I would be so offended at the suggestion.

Does it look like I'm casually relaxing in a bowl of lentil stew? That's the look I was going for, but I have a feeling it
didn't quite work out. Whatever. Do you even know what photo editing software I'm using? The answer is none.
Will someone please give me PhotoShop for Christmas?

Now that I've laid the groundwork for why I am even thinking about lentil stew, let's get on with the post.  I will be the first to admit that I honestly did not know that lentils were for consumption until I was about 9 years-old, and not because I started eating them, but because that's probably the age I stopped using them for craft projects.  Even now I don't have a very good handle on them.  I know what they look like, but I don't know what they are, so I have always thrown them in the legume category, and likewise, I have no idea what "legume" even refers to.  They look like someone cut a bunch of small peas in half and then dyed them different colours.  Why wouldn't you just eat the peas?

The question you're all dying to hear the answer to is: Would I eat lentil stew?  The answer is no, absolutely not.  It looks like diarrhea.  Worse yet, it looks like it induces diarrhea.  Lentils are something that I hope to one day have in jars in my home, but they're not something I ever expect to eat myself.  Of course it should go without saying that another major strike against lentil stew is not just the lentils, which presumably are the primary ingredient, but this is, after all, a stew. 

I want so spend a bit more time talking about the stew aspect, because this post, after all, is supposed to be focused on lentil stew, not just lentils.  While I'm not entirely averse to hearty foods, the word "stew" is really off-putting, and seems to me to resist any stable ingredient list, so you can never really be certain what's in there.  Although in this case you can be certain that lentils are in there, which is the main indicator for me that I would not eat this.  I've actually had some pretty good experiences with stew in the past.  My mum used to make this dish called "hamburger soup," which was actually more of a stew, and when I was in Norway I was cornered into eating a mystery stew that came from a can.  It was pretty good.  But a general rule of thumb for me is to avoid stews.

Reading Genesis got me thinking about just how hard life must have been back then, even if God was your personal BFF and walked among you sometimes. Can you imagine?  Can you imagine how much work you would have to put in every single day just to survive, and at the end of the day, all you got was a bowl of lentil stew?  Not worth it. 
This picture really did not work out the way I thought it would. It was supposed to suggest that the pillar of smoke
that guided the Jews through the desert originated from a disgusting bowl of lentil stew, but now it doesn't look like
that at all. I repeat, someone please give me PhotoShop for Christmas. This picture, if anyone is interested, was taken
during my cross-American journey with my sister in 2008, when this pillar of smoke actually did guide us through
this desert-like region, that may or may not be Idaho.
And unfortunately for lentils, not much has changed--they're still not worth whatever effort you must first put in.  Because we used them so frequently in craft projects, I've always assumed that they're really cheap.  And when a food is that cheap, I assume that the only reason to eat it is out of desperation.  If it's cheap enough that you can easily afford to throw it away on children's art projects that will then actually be thrown away because no one likes those craft projects, it's probably a good idea to just throw them out in general.  I know what you're thinking: isn't rice the exact same?  Well, yes.  But one of the crucial differences between rice and lentils is that when you cook a pot of rice, it doesn't look like it's already made its way through the human digestive system.  Another obvious difference is that rice is not a legume, and even though I still don't know what a legume is, they sound really gross.*  I have just confirmed that lentils are in fact legumes and additionally, legumes are described as being "an edible pulse."  So if you can read that and continue to eat lentils in the future ... There is nothing I can say.  Edible pulse.

*I say this even though I think that peas and green beans are probably also legumes, and they are my top two favourite vegetables. 


What can we learn from Biblical hermeneutics? 
That for the wandering tribes of the Semetics,
Food was a question of necessity and never of therapeutics.
Or that no one in Genesis is as dumb and hairy as Esau

Who for a bowl of lentil stew his birthright he would disavow.

You couldn't pay me enough to eat a stew made of lentil 
 And I apologize if I'm being too judgemental,
But aren't they reserved just for children's crafts?
For these reasons and more, lentil stew gets the shaft.


20 December 2013

Potato Update (3): Potato Round-Up

Here are a few pics I snapped of some of my recent potato meals. They are not in order of consumption.


I ordered these potatoes in a Hungarian restaurant in Toronto.  I initially went to try the cold cherry soup, but it seemed disgusting and wrong to eat that as a meal unto itself (I was right), so I ordered these fried potatoes as a warm-up. They were only okay. This type of potato is really common, but I can't quite put my finger on what's wrong with them.  I guess it's that the shell is maybe too crunchy? I don't know. They're definitely my least favourite "homefry."




Here are some panfried potatoes I made for myself. Obviously they were delicious, because just look at them. Sometimes I cut up the potatoes into little cubes and sometimes I leave them in these rounds. I typically leave them in the rounds when I am too lazy to cube them, but even though there's an extra step involved in cubing, I typically find it to be a faster process. Certainly the cooking time is a lot shorter.


Ho-ho! What a beaut! Obviously these potatoes were the best of them all. With a very small exception, I ate the entire pan.  They looked even better before I ate them because they had had more of an opportunity to brown up, and the onion wasn't so blindingly white. These might have been the best potatoes I have ever made.




These are some mashed potatoes that a Hungarian made for me, with a side of fried ham. Usually I have to add a tonne of butter to the mashed potatoes that I eat, but these were truly perfect: really fluffy and buttery.


Finally, here are some potatoes that were included as part of an all-day breakfast special. Even for me they were a bit too greasy. And the "all-day breakfast place" was running out of fried potatoes by 3 o'clock! How can that even be the case? Is there such a thing as an all-day breakfast without potatoes? How could any responsible business ever run out of them? I got the last few, but it was like half of a normal serving, and I wasn't even compensated with extra sausage!

19 December 2013

"Dear Food Thoughtz:" Hamburger-Pizzas; Breakfast Ideas; & Attire Choices

Welcome to the very first installment of Dear Food Thoughtz, a free advice column where I do the thinking so you don't have to!  All relevant questions welcome.  Email: food.thoughtz@gmail.com
Dear foodthoughtz

Last night I ate pickles on a pizza. Don't freak out - hear me out. Everyone has heard of cheeseburger pizza before. All pizza chains - especially the grossest ones - have it. Who even orders it? It's just ground beef, tomatoes, and the addition of cheddar cheese to the mozzarella.

This cheeseburger pizza was different. It had the regular ground beef, tomatoes, cheddar. But it also had pickles, and mayo and mustard zigzagged all over it.

Foodthoughtz, this was the best pizza I've ever eaten. I can imagine what you're thinking, and let me just say I'm not thrilled about it either. Today I didn't do anything other than wander around aimlessly, crying, wearing tights as pants and wishing I had that pizza.

I need your tough love, foodthoughtz. Help me.

Sincerely,
Pining for pizza on the prairies

Dear PPP,

Thank you, first of all, for being the first to write in to Dear Food Thoughtz.  Your support does not go unnoticed.

Now onto the pizza!  I think I'm going to have some surprising advice for you: when it comes to pizza, as long as it doesn't have pineapples on it, just be true to yourself.  If a pizza with hamburger toppings is what you're into, then don't be ashamed!  Honestly, I'm not thrilled about the pickles -- and especially not since M admitted to once melting a block of cheese with old pickle juice in a microwave and then eating it. 

I am not sure why you were expecting tough love from me, or if you wanted me to forbid you to ever eat this pizza ever again.  The mythical hamburger-pizza is actually something I've spent a lot of time thinking about.  Not because I would ever eat one, but because I am fascinated by those who would.  I say "mythical" because we clearly have two very different ideas of what a hamburger-pizza entails.  I don't doubt that your pizza had hamburger-influenced toppings, but it's not, in my mind, a hamburger-pizza.  A hamburger-pizza must have literal hamburgers as toppings.  Pizza Hut came pretty close, but as far as I know, this pizza only exists as a photoshopped image and probably in real life in Japan:

Admittedly this would be really difficult to eat.  I've never understood the appeal of those novelty foods that are, like, 80 burgers stacked on top of each other and then someone eats all of them as one giant burger.  That is so disgusting.  When you bite into a burger, you should be able to get a piece of everything in your mouth at one single time.

Another option that I thought of last night was to have a hamburger baked into a pizza, like a calzone, only to wake up this morning and discover it already exists on the internet!  In a way it bothers me that it's a calzone and not an actual pizza, but this seems like a really practical way to bring these two worlds together.  I honestly don't understand why calzones always get so much hate--they seem delicious--but it's true that they are not pizzas.

Finally, a Burger King restaurant in Time's Square launched a pizzaburger which is probably one of the best fusions of these two foods I've seen because it maintains crucial characteristics of both foods.  It's in the shape of a pizza, but each slice is clearly a bun.  Inside, there's a hamburger patty topped with pepperoni and mozzarella.

So these, to me, are hamburger-pizzas.  You just ate, I don't know, a pizza.  There's nothing to stress out about.  It's definitely not as disgusting as a dessert pizza or a Hawaiian pizza or lord knows what else.  Own it.  I mean, really.  Sure, there are a lot of foods that I think are disgusting, and by extension, I think that the people who eat those foods are disgusting.  But at the end of the day, what Food Thoughtz is really about is acceptance.  Not accepting others for their food choices, but accepting yourself for your own.
Dear FoodThoughtZ advisor:

Could you please comment on what would be an appropriate breakfast to serve for:

    a 32-year old daughter who will eat anything,
    her 3-year old daughter who will eat everything,
    a 26-year old daughter who will eat buns, rice and potatoes,
    the last-named's friend who is a vegan,

all of whom are visiting for breakfast on December 23.
Dear Nameless,

I’m confused as to why you are asking this question at all seeing as you have already answered it: potatoes. 

At least this would be the answer if you had not neglected to mention that the 3 year-old daughter of the 32 year-old daughter does not in fact eat everything; she does not eat potatoes.  There is no reason to force the other guests to abide by her strict dietary needs, so I would still recommend pan-fried potatoes, perhaps with servings of fruit, toast, and yogurt on the side to appease your fickle guest.

Coffee, of course, is expected.

Also, you have the date wrong.  Two of the four will likely be there on the 23rd, but the other two will not be arriving until the morning of the 24th as part of a Christmas miracle.


 dear foodthoughtz

I am really confused. What are you wearing in this picture?
your sister
Dear Inquisitor,

First of all, I am going to assume that your sign off as “your sister” was meant as a ruse to trick me into addressing this response to “Dear Sister.”  It did not work.

To answer your question, it’s a dusty pink boyfriend-style women’s shirt from the Gap that I bought on sale in Spokane.  It’s weird that the style of shirt is called “the boyfriend” given that these shirts are so lesbian-y.  I'm wearing a charcoal-grey cardigan overtop, purchased at the Gap Factory Outlet Store in Toronto.

I assume this question was meant as an insult, but it fell flat because I love this shirt.  In the future, please limit yourself to food-related questions.

18 December 2013

The Sandwich - pt. I

Whenever the topic of my peculiar eating habits comes up—typically with a new acquaintance—the conversation zeroes in on sandwiches almost immediately, as if sandwiches were the be all, end all of the human diet.  They’re not.  It is actually inconceivable to almost everyone that I do not eat sandwiches.  Truth be told, I have had two kinds of sandwiches in my entire life: grilled cheese and peanut butter with slices of banana. 

I want to address grilled cheese first because I’m actually quite fond of them, but I don’t think of them as sandwiches.  I’ve mostly stuck to what I have always referred to as cheese toast: a slice of cheddar cheese toasted on bread or a bun in the broiler.  Every once in a while I’ll have grilled cheese sandwiches, but almost exclusively when I can’t have cheese toast (like in a restaurant).  Grilled cheese sandwiches are good, but honestly I think there’s too high of a bread-to-cheese ratio there.  Also, if you enjoy eating something like cheese melted on toast, it only makes sense to me to divide it up into two separate servings to maximize pleasure.  Once you’re done a grilled cheese sandwich, you’re done.  But eating one piece of grilled cheese takes more or less the same amount of time to consume as one grilled cheese sandwich, and when you finish one piece, you have another to look forward to!  The other benefit of open-face cheese toast in a  broiler is that you can get the cheese to burn a bit, forming those brownish bubbles that are so delicious.
Here's a picture of me eating a grilled cheese sandwich that my sister made.
The peanut butter and banana sandwich will likely come as a shock to anyone who knows me, and so it should.  It was one of those situations where someone you don’t know well and feel obligated to be polite towards asks if you’re hungry, and before you realize that if you say yes they will probably suggest something that you absolutely don’t want to eat, you’ve already said yes.  This kind of situation has happened to me before, and I have successfully managed to back out without committing myself to eating something disgusting and then pretending to be thankful for it, but it can be a pretty difficult manoeuvre.  This is the kind of situation I found myself in when I ate that peanut butter and banana sandwich, and knowing that that’s the kind of sandwich it would be, I decided to cut my losses and just go for it.  After all, I like bread, I like peanut butter, and I like banana, so it really wasn’t as dire a situation as it could have been.  But it was really disgusting.  Banana and bread?  That’s so wrong.  In hindsight, I have no idea why I didn’t just ask for peanut butter and bread.

I have two major issues with sandwiches.  One is that I simply won't eat most of the normal sandwich ingredients: I don’t eat tomato, I don’t eat lettuce, I don’t eat cold cuts, and I certainly don’t eat any of the condiments usually associated with sandwiches, like mustard or mayonnaise.  The second issue is that I have a serious problem with the combination of different textures that I am adamant do not belong together.  A third and more minor issue is that sandwiches are often pre-made, so all of those textures that don’t belong together  in the first place are left to fester, and I can only imagine that a sandwich wrapped in Saran for several hours is probably a lot worse than a freshly made sandwich.

I want to take the same general approach with this post as I did with salads because, like salads, the term “sandwich” applies to an expansive and varied food grouping (although it bears mentioning that the word “sandwich” is much more valuable than “salad,” in that it typically refers to an easily identifiable way of preparing and combining food.  As far as I know, all sandwiches include two pieces of bread with varied ingredients in between, whereas “salad” has virtually no reference point whatsoever).  Having written most of the second part, the post is already over 3,000 words, so bear with me.

The Sandwich - pt. II

Now onto the sandwiches themselves.  As with the salad post, I’m just going to list all of the sandwiches I know of and jot down some of my food thoughtz.  Without further ado, here we go!

BLT

I love bacon.  If I could eat bacon for the rest of my life, I would.  But I would only ever eat bacon plain because that is how it was meant to be eaten.  Once I tried bacon in a hamburger and didn’t like it, so I know what I’m talking about.  Bacon is probably the only saving grace of a BLT, because otherwise there’s just a whole lot of wrong going on there.  We all know how I feel about the tomato, so the BLT is  out right off the bat.

I’ve tried lettuce once and didn’t like it.  I didn’t necessarily hate it either, but only because there’s really not much there to feel strongly about one way or the other.  The thing that bothers me most about lettuce is that it reminds me of the word “gnash,” as in “gnashing one’s teeth,” because I always imagine lettuce being gnashed between the two rows of teeth and then a little piece breaking off and forming a film over the top of a molar.  I kind of like the word gnash, but I always associate it with Frankenstein because Mary Shelley apparently loved that word as much as I do.  So not only do I think of a little lettuce-film on a molar, but I imagine that molar belonging to Frankenstein’s monster, and I didn’t particularly like the book. 

It goes without saying that mayonnaise is the most disgusting thing in the entire world.  I probably could have saved us both a lot of trouble and just mentioned mayonnaise at the beginning.

Nope.
But the problem with a BLT sandwich is so much more than just its ingredients—it’s all of those ingredients together that is the real problem.  First you have either some bread or a bun.  If it ended there, I wouldn’t have a problem (I’m kind of into buns).  But it doesn’t.  Even mayonnaise on a bun, if you’re really into mayonnaise, I could understand.  But it’s when you add the lettuce, tomato, and bacon—kind of the staple ingredients—that things really start to go south.  There will inevitably be little drops of water on the lettuce and the tomato (even if there wasn’t water on the tomato, there’s so much moisture there that it really doesn’t matter), and thinking about these little drops coming into contact with the mayonnaise-coated bun is actually sickening.  At best you could hope that the oil in the mayonnaise would repel the water so that it would sit in little beads on the surface, but the worse case scenario is that the water would permeate the bread, even the tiniest bit.  I cannot abide soggy bread.  Maybe you think this problem would be avoided if the bread was toasted, but you would be wrong.  That would make it even worse!  Because if I have toasted bread, I expect it to be crunchy.  I don’t want to encounter even the smallest dollop of moisture there.  Then add to this the bacon, which is both hot and greasy, and the result  is intolerable.  Hot strips of fatty meat cannot go with moist, cool vegetables.  And then grease + oil + moisture from the vegetables?  No.  Absolutely not.

Peanut Butter & Jelly

Nope.
Of all the sandwich possibilities, this one offends my sensibilities the least.  I could probably eat this if it became absolutely necessary, although I can’t imagine what situation that would be.  If given the choice, I would probably opt for just a piece of toast with peanut butter, because honestly, I don’t really know what jelly is.  There’s no reason to resort to jelly when there’s always a plentiful supply of jam.  The more I think about it, the less I like the idea of peanut butter and jelly going together.  I don’t think their consistencies are a good match.  I also always associate the peanut butter in a peanut butter and jelly sandwich to be like Skippy or Squirrel, and although I was raised on that peanut butter, I can no longer tolerate any peanut butter that isn’t Adam’s peanut butter.

More than any other sandwich, these are the ones that I imagine tightly wrapped in cellophane at the bottom of some kid’s backpack for half a day.  Thinking about it getting crushed by whatever else might be in the backpack plus the jelly probably soaking into the bread make this sandwich impossible.

Egg-Salad Sandwich

All of the no's in the entire world combined
to make the most decisive NO! of all time.
I can’t even deal with this one.  This is all of my most-hated things combined into one ungodly terror: boiled eggs masquerading as salad sandwiched between two pieces of bread.  One time my mum admitted to bringing one of these onto a plane with her, and I nearly threw up just imagining myself in that situation.  Either situation: bringing the sandwich on the plane with the intention of eating it, or being a passenger and having to be in the vicinity of that foul-smelling concoction.  Watching someone eat one of these things is like a scene from a low-budget horror movie but worse because you have to smell it at the same time.  If these sandwiches don’t put you off food and humanity, I don’t know what will.  Egg-Salad Sandwiches came straight from the fiery depths of hell just so Lucifer could finally prove beyond a shadow of a doubt that Man is a disgusting, foul creature, totally undeserving of God’s love.  ...  Oh my god.  I just made the terrible mistake of googling this and found out that there’s mayonnaise in it—as if things couldn’t get any worse!  No wonder it’s so creamy and vile.  I hate this so much!

Tuna Sandwich

After egg-salad, this is probably the second most offensive sandwich, mostly for the same reasons: it smells foul, looks foul, and it has tuna in it.  Tuna is a kind of fish, in case you didn’t know.  I don’t know if any of you grew up with the same adorable deck of “Go Fish” cards that I did, but up until just now, I always imagined tuna fish were these really small kind-of-cute-for-a-fish fish that were all named “Mac” and smoked a cigar.  They’re not.  They’re enormous monsters of the deep.  I think people keep talking about these things going extinct, but good lord, it couldn’t happen fast enough! 

Nope.
I’m under the impression that tuna sandwiches are typically tuna-salad sandwiches and that for whatever reason, “mayonnaise” is the key ingredient that makes it a salad.  I’m guessing the same goes for egg-salad.  The salad portion is disgusting enough on its own, but I know that once you try to contain something so unruly between two slices of bread, it’s going to inevitably smooth out once you bite down, and then whatever ungodly creature is actually eating this mess is going to get little bits of tuna-salad in the corners of their mouth and probably won’t realize it for a while.

Chicken-Salad Sandwich

Nope.
Enough already!  These are all so disgusting I can’t even deal with it.  The thing that really bothers me about the chicken-salad in particular is that, while I have eaten chicken before, I’ve only ever been able to keep it down as long as it was really, really dry.  Any time I have been presented with a moist chicken I've been on the verge of throwing up.  So to imagine chunks of chicken just marinating in mayonnaise is impossible for me.  I don’t even want to try because I’m afraid that if I do manage to imagine it, I’ll never be able to get it out of my head again and I will keep revisiting it over and over and over because moist chicken—especially when it has been moistened by mayonnaise—is a kind of trauma and that's how we deal with trauma.


Croque-monsieur/Ham & Cheese

I could almost get on board with this sandwich, but I think that at the end of the day, I just want my ham on the side.  Once I was accidentally given a ham and cheese croissant and, thinking it was just a plain croissant, actually bit into it.  It was horrific.  I made my tongue into a point and nudged the food out of my mouth because I wanted it to come into contact with as little surface area as possible.  This is how I know I could never eat a croque-monseiur.  But still, this is a huge improvement on all those salad-varieties just mentioned.

Panini

The only thing I like about a panini is that it seems compact and highly portable, and because it’s grilled, probably doesn’t sacrifice the integrity of any of the ingredients.  That said, what are the ingredients?  Does "panini" just refer to a particular grilling method? Whatever they ingredients may be, you can be certain I wouldn’t eat them.

Club Sandwich

To give a sense of scale of
how big my "no" is.
What in the hell?  Are three slices of bread in these things?  Is that their defining feature?  I will be the first to admit that the only possible good thing about a sandwich is the (plain) bread, but this is a bit too much.  If you really need that extra piece of bread, couldn’t you just order a side of garlic toast?  Better yet, why not forgo the sandwich all together and just get one of those frozen loaves of garlic toast instead?




Roast Beef Sandwich

I guess the only defining feature of a roast beef sandwich is that it’s comprised primarily of roast beef, and I think (although I am not sure) that the roast beef is cold.  I want to take this example as an opportunity to talk about all sandwiches made up of folds of cold meat.  And then not talk about them, because why that's disgusting is pretty self-explanatory.  Folds. Of. Meat.


Cucumber

Nope.
What I learned from “The Importance of Being Earnest” is that it is not at all important to be E(a)rnest if it necessarily involves cucumber sandwiches.  It is my understanding that cucumber sandwiches are made of soft white bread cut into small triangles with no crust, cucumbers, and who knows what else.  Butter?  Maybe butter.  Whatever the other ingredient is, let’s hope it’s not mayonnaise.  The point is, I think they’re too soft and maybe too spongy.  Another problem is that I can’t even imagine anyone thinking that cucumber and bread could possibly go together.  I’ve had a slice of cucumber before, and the only thing that could have made it worse would be to have with with a slice of un-toasted white bread, possibly with mayonnaise.  Texture is really important to me, so it might come as a surprise that I find these sandwiches so troubling.  What could be wrong with softness?  I’m not quite sure.  But I do know that the idea of them is disgusting. 
I also picture people making little muffled sounds of satisfaction while their mouths are full of these things.  Or perhaps trying to speak, but spitting out little food-bits onto whoever might be unfortunate enough to be standing in front of them or having little clusters of moist food lodged in the corners of their mouth.  Whoever eats these sandwiches is also probably so self-involved that they wouldn’t even notice how rude they’re being. 


Sloppy Joes

I have no idea if these are widely considered sandwiches or if they are a food group unto themselves. I am going to include them here because I can't imagine writing a whole separate post for something that is so far off my radar that the only reason I even thought about them in the first place is because for some reason I was thinking of Sixteen and Pregnant.  Although I've never seen the show, I assume it's about white-trash middle-America, which is exactly where I place sloppy joes. I don't mean to comment on your class (I mean that both as in economic status but also social refinement and grace), but I've always thought of Sloppy Joes as the ultimate white-trash food.  That being said, it's hardly the reason why I would never eat one of these. I wouldn't eat this because the only people who would obviously have never heard of a hamburger before.  Look, you can either have a bowl of chili or a hamburger, but you can't have them both in the same dish.


Corned Beef


Nope.
These smell pretty good, but I know they would be really gross.  A good rule of thumb is that if something is supposed to be eaten with mustard, you can be guaranteed that it’s disgusting.  I have no idea what “corned beef” is, but if you’re using “corn” as a verb, whatever it is you’re corning is not going to turn out well.  
"Corn" as a verb is harmful both to language and to foodstuffs, and the adjective is not much better.*  I had ample opportunity to try these sandwiches when I lived in Montreal, but I always opted for a side of fries instead.


Pulled Pork

Although I would never try one, I believe people when they say these sandwiches are good.  Aside from all of the preliminary problems with any sandwich, what really bothers me about these is that the pork is shredded, and I’ve always had a problem with shredded food (also carrots, beets, whatever) because I always imagine someone’s face being forcibly grated on the grater.  It’s always a man saying “Arrrgh!” but struggling to do so because their face is pressed against a grater.  The image flicks off before the eye meets the metal, thank god.

Reuben

The only thing that could have been more disturbing than that one time my grandfather suggested I marry my cousin Reuben is if he was referring not to the cousin but to the sandwich.  These sandwiches truly are revolting.  It’s sad, because if it just didn’t have the sauerkraut, it would probably be an improvement on the regular corned beef sandwich. 



Submarine

Shortly after the Subway opened in Grand Forks, I went there with my mum and my sister. I got a bun with a slice of cheese in it and I was not impressed.


***

In summation, this post was a failure before it even begun.  There was no conceivable way for me to write a truly all-encompassing post capable of explaining all of the different aspects of sandwiches that I think are wrong.  Sandwiches are constantly in the process of being made: they are always being constructed and reconstructed.  There is no singular “sandwich” to which I could refer (they’re very post-modern), so for that reason, this post has been difficult for me, and not just emotionally (see: salad-sandwiches).  I get the impression that a lot of sandwiches people eat are just some random ingredients thrown together between two pieces of bread.  So before I close off this post, I just want to go over some of the major issues I have with sandwiches.

Obviously sandwiches are a problem for me because I don’t like the majority of the ingredients and I generally don’t like my food mixed/touching.  But more than that, sandwiches openly flout the social conventions of decency.  I admit that sometimes I am too strict about mixing foods, but there’s no way some of these ingredients go together.  It’s not even a question of texture, but, like, their very being.  A sandwich is, by definition, layers of ingredients bookended by a bread product, but these strata so rarely go together, and this is not just me being weird about food.  It seems like a lot of sandwiches have un-melted/un-grilled cheese as an ingredient, but that has no place in a sandwich!  It must be jarring and unpleasant to bite into something like that.  Adding a slab of cold meat to it could only make it worse.  If you have soft bread, un-melted cheese, and then a layer of cold meat, what you’re getting is really soft, almost spongy/springy bread, then met by the slight resistance of the cheese, and then the chewiness of the meat.  It just doesn’t make sense.  It’s not that the ingredients are too different to be held together in one element; it’s that they’re almost too similar.  Maybe it’s like orange and pink together—they’re too similar to actually stand side-by-side.  What makes it even worse is that you’re getting this clash from the top and the bottom.  But toasting the bread wouldn’t even improve anything because it’s like setting yourself up for disappointment.  As soon as your teeth touch the bread, you’re setting yourself up for some potentially interesting contrast, but then you get into the centre and it’s just one big mess.  Obviously the salad-sandwiches are the worst culprits.

Things just get worse if you have the audacity to add tomato, lettuce, or other vegetables to this.  There’s a lot of moisture in there, and while I thought I could never possibly defend salad, at least a salad can account for added moisture.  Sandwiches can’t.  The layers of a sandwich are either too similar to one another or else so moist that any boundaries that might have existed between the ingredients are blurred in a really disturbing way.  Not blurred in a potentially beautiful way, but just like, ugh, why did you have to do that?  You know?  I’m not a fan of typical sandwich ingredients at the best of times, but why did you have to do that?  Some people--and I have to give credit where credit is due--will bring their sandwich ingredients with them to work or school in separate compartments do that it doesn't get too soggy and so that the cheese doesn't have time to sweat.  An admirable solution, but here's an even better one: just don't eat sandwiches.

The sandwich is essentially a food of convenience
And in this central quality lies my crucial grievance:
Layers upon layers, it devolves into one sloppy mess—
What’s the point of many if you can’t parse one from the rest?


*A Hungarian had to explain the difference between a verb and an adjective to me because I do not know English.

16 December 2013

Pillsbury Sugar Cookie Dough

Oh boy, this is going to be a difficult one for me.  Ever since I spent a week in Lethbridge with my sister when I was 13 during her first year of university (which, irrelevant, but: we have since both agreed that she was really irresponsible), I have been in love with Pillsbury’s raw sugar cookie dough.  In case anyone is wondering about the connection here—although it should be obvious—my mum bought my sister one as part of a large grocery-haul and it just sat in the fridge.  Every single one of you should be familiar with the product I am talking about because it’s delicious.  I’m talking about the holiday sugar cookie dough that Pillsbury releases during specific holidays (definitely Halloween and Christmas, but I think Easter as well) that has coloured images of reindeer or pumpkins dyed into the dough itself.  It used to come in a tube and you had to slice off the cookies yourself, but now they come in pre-sliced pieces on a flat slab. 
For whatever reason, I was left to my own devices one evening, and I devised to slice off a sliver from the tube in my sister’s fridge without her being any the wiser.  But then I continued to slice off slivers until I had eaten over half the tube.  I was in love.  Ever since then, I have bought this cookie dough at least once a year, and sometimes several times during a single season.  I always go into it knowing that I am a disgusting human being, and with that in mind, rarely feel any shame when I eat the entire package in one evening.  My consumption rates probably peaked during my first year of university in Montreal because I lived in such wretched squalor and subsisted entirely on brown rice and coffee that more than once I suffered from fainting spells and needed to compensate by eating as much sugar as I possibly could as quickly as possible.

More recently, I bought the Halloween cookies this October while R was in New York on business.  I waited for him to leave so that he wouldn’t judge me (only to later find out that he also loves this cookie dough, but only eats it cooked, whereas I only eat it raw).  Again, I ate the majority of the pack in one evening, only to be crippled by pain and nausea.  It states quite clearly on the package that you should not eat the cookie dough raw, which is weird, because it’s not as if there’s any other way to eat it (no matter what R has to say about it). 

This pictures is the worst, but you
get the idea.
Following that harrowing experience, I abstained from buying any more cookie dough, even when the Christmas themed dough came out.  Until R came home from work with a package, and I allowed myself just one measly little raw cookie.  I did not get sick.  I am fairly certain that the reason I got sick before has less to do with the raw eggs and more to do with the sheer quantity I had consumed.

At any rate, no matter what this dough has done to me in the past, I have continued to love it because 1) raw cookie dough is delicious, 2) it is even more delicious when it comes in a package and you don’t have to make it yourself, and 3) there is so much dye in each cookie that it has that amazing artificial taste that I love so much (artificial colours is my favourite food).

It's embarrassing to admit that this was the "best series" of
pictures that I took documenting this moment... but it is.
Even though my hand looks like a novelty gag present from
Spencer's Gifts.

But there’s another kind of Pillsbury sugar cookie dough that comes in a shrink-wrapped tube and resembles a loaf of polenta or some gross sausage-type “food.”  And this is the sugar cookie dough that I am not happy with.  Not because the dough itself tastes any different from the seasonal cookie dough (with the obvious exception of the artificial dyes), but because the package showcases these beautiful star-shaped cookies with white icing and blue sugar crystals and promises “perfect shapes every time.”  And then Pillsbury was too cheap to throw in a complementary star-shaped cookie cutter or any icing and sugar!  And I know they could because I went through a pretty dark phase last year in which my diet consisted almost entirely of those Pillsbury cinnamon buns, which come in one a menacing vacuum-sealed tube that literally explodes open, but which also includes a little tub of icing that fits perfectly in the packaging.

Pillsbury easily could have repackaged these sugar cookies to accommodate the frosting and tacked on a cookie cutter, perhaps to the exterior of the package, for added value.  It wouldn't even have to be a stainless steel one; I would be perfectly happy with plastic.  Additionally, the cookies, when sliced from the loaf, didn’t even make perfect round cookies.  They cooked poorly and ran together and refused to lift off of the baking tray, which is a problem I never had with the seasonal sugar cookies.  When I wasn’t eating the dough straight from the loaf (ew, such a gross sentence), I had to eat the half-burnt/half-raw crumbs with a spoon because that was just the way these Pillsbury sugar cookies crumbled.

This was the most successful baking attempt. The photo
has since been instagram'd to Pillsbury and I am still
waiting for a response or a free voucher or something.
I'm not really sure where to go from here.  I've always found the Pillsbury brand really endearing: the "Pillsbury poke" really worked on me because that doughboy is beyond adorable.  I want to keep supporting this company partly because I imagine some of the money going directly to the doughboy and partly because Pillsbury is owned by General Mills, and I typically like their products (Lucky Charms, Green Giant), but it's hard to stay true to a brand you love when you no longer want to give that doughboy a playful poke in the tummy, but rather a forceful slap in the face. 


These "perfect cookies every time" are as broken as Pillsbury's promises.
To close things out, here's a picture of the wrapper itself:


You might also notice the "Do not eat raw cookie dough" warning.
This, just as much as the "Perfect shapes every time!" claim, is a bald-faced lie.
“Perfect shapes every time” — what a joke!
Forget your tummy, doughboy: your brain needs a poke.
Next holiday season when you roll out this sugar cookie dough,
Remember Pillsbury: you reap what you sow.
Don't be surprised if your sales take a tumble,
Your empire, like your cookies, will inevitably crumble.

But then again, let's stick to reality:
I gobbled these up in their entirety


14 December 2013

Update

Dear friends, adversaries, and dad--

The future is upon us: Food Thoughtz will now be accepting food related problems of all kinds at food.thoughtz@gmail.com. Advice will be doled out in special Dear Food Thoughtz posts at my convenience. 

Because I expect very few to actually use this service, some of the advice provided might be in response to my own problems.

23 November 2013

Issues of Consent in Dr. Seuss's "Green Eggs and Ham"

This summer, while reading bedtime stories to my two-and-half year-old niece, I revisited one of my favourite books from my childhood: Dr. Seuss’s Green Eggs and Ham.  I was pretty fond of Dr. Seuss in general.  At some point I managed to memorize The Grinch Who Stole Christmas and I remember really loving some of the illustrations and colours in Oh, The Places You’ll Go!  But Green Eggs and Ham is probably the story that I enjoyed most, and it was not until this summer that I realized just how troubling it actually is.

The central meaning behind Dr. Seuss’s Green Eggs and Ham is pretty easy to tease out: you don’t know if you like something until you try it.  (I don’t know if you know this, but I studied English in university).  It’s not the worst message to instil in the minds of young children, but the method by which Dr. Seuss approaches this topic raises several serious concerns about the issue of consent and personal agency.

For any of you who are not familiar with the text, here is a brief summary: Sam-I-Am asks an unnamed character whether he likes green eggs and ham.  The unnamed character politely responds that no, he does not: “I do not like them, Sam-I-Am. / I do not like green eggs and ham.”  Sam-I-Am proceeds to ask the same questions in multiple different ways (“Would you like them here or there?”, “Would you eat them in a box? / Would you eat them with a fox?” etc.) that becoming increasingly threatening, coercive, and violent as the narrative progresses.  When presenting the scenario of eating green eggs and ham in a car, Sam-I-Am shifts from asking to demanding: “Eat them! Eat them! Here they are.”  The unnamed character refuses the green eggs and ham nearly one hundred times.

Not only is Sam-I-Am endangering the lives of those in the car
and the train, but also whoever might be driving that boat.
The story begins with the unnamed character peacefully reading.  Sam-I-Am invades his personal space and begins to ask whether or not he will eat green eggs and ham, and when the unnamed character declines, Sam-I-Am presents increasingly extreme scenarios to pose the same question over and over again.  But Sam-I-Am does more than merely ask whether or not this unnamed character would or could eat green eggs and ham in thirteen different scenarios; he actually puts him in those situations.  These are not hypothetical questions.  When Sam-I-Am asks, “Say! In the dark? Here in the dark! / Would you, could you, in the dark?” he has literally brought the unnamed character into a dark tunnel with him.  Many of these situations actually threaten the safety of the unnamed character and draw attention to the violence and coercion that underscore each one of Sam-I-Am’s questions and demands.  A particularly vivid example is the penultimate scene in which a Sam-I-Am, the unnamed character, a fox, a mouse, and a goat are together in a car—that Sam-I-Am has presumably illegally commandeered—on top of a train that careens off of a cliff and into the sea.

In the end, the unnamed character ultimately does try the green eggs and ham, and he likes them.  He even thanks Sam-I-Am for being so insistent.  But it’s important to point out that he does not try them because he wants to, but out of sheer exasperation: “Sam! If you let me be / I will try them. You will see.”
Here we see the evolution from resigned acceptance of defeat to mistrust and sadness at the reality of having to eat
green eggs and ham, and finally to the relief and jubilation of actually enjoying them.  Even if green eggs and ham
truly were delicious, it seems really unlikely that they still would be after all that Sam-I-Am put that open platter of
food through.  There's no way that that food didn't get wet when they crashed into the ocean, not to mention that
they're obviously cold by now. 

What troubling precedent does this narrative present to young readers?  What are the ramifications of such a story?  Why is it Sam-I-Am who is praised in the end for being so insistent?  Are we left with the impression that the unnamed character was too uptight, that he should have tried green eggs and ham sooner, and that this is all his fault?  And why does he have no name throughout the entire narrative?  Why is Sam-I-Am given an identity through naming that is denied to the other character?  How does this technique influence our sympathies?

Sam-I-Am, from the very beginning, is given a name, and implicit in his name is his own power to name himself.  At times the unnamed character refers to him as Sam, but the “I-Am” portion is also built into his name.  Sam is the first character we are introduced to in the story, and we are introduced to him by Sam speaking his own name.  This signals to Sam’s assertion of his subjectivity.  It is also worth noting that the name “Sam” is a very generic one, which serves to reinforce a sense of normalcy in Sam’s character.


These elements, taken together, contribute to some of the issues surrounding consent in the narrative.  Sam-I-Am is given a level of authority and power that is denied to the unnamed character.  This is demonstrated not only by his name and ability to name himself, but also the way by which he does so: he rides in to the scene on some cat-like beast, which highlights an ongoing trend in Sam's character to assert his dominance over others.

Issues of consent are often talked about in the context of medical ethics.  The general idea is that patients should have at least some control over their own care.  A patient's preference should be consistent over time and across multiple scenarios.  In "The Green Eggs and Ham Phenomena," Lachlan Forrow uses the Dr. Seuss text to question what he perceives to be an oversimplification of patient preference:
"There are three important lessons in this story.  First, although the Patient [the unnamed character] unequivocally states his preference seventy times in thirteen different scenarios, it becomes clear at the end of the story that the Patient has never known what green eggs and ham are like.  The fact that a patient can express a preference with utter consistency does not tell us anything about whether or not she or he understands what is at stake in the choice.

Second, the story makes it clear that the very process of being asked to provide a response, then reaffirm it over and over and over, leads the Patient to express a stronger and stronger sense of certainty about his preference.  Even if the Patient had started off somewhat uncertain about his preference, by late in the story he is absolutely clear and convinced in his own mind.

[...]

Why is the Patient in this story so ready to reject the offer of green eggs and ham from Dr. Sam-I-Am?  Why is he refusing something he seems to know nothing about?

The answer to that is clear in the opening pages of the book.  There, Dr. Sam-I-Am is seen racing back and forth around the Patient, clearly very busy, but paying no attention to the Patient himself.  In fact, unlike almost any other important character in Dr. Seuss' many books, the Patient is never given a name.  And Dr. Sam-I-Am certainly never gives any indication that he even cares to know this patient's name.  The opening words in the story, spoken by the Patient, are quite direct: 'That Sam-I-Am! That Sam-I-Am! I do not like that Sam-I-Am!'  In fact, the entire story as seen from the Patient's perspective has nothing whatsoever to do with his opinion of green eggs and ham (remember, he has never tasted them), but has everything to do with his relationship--or lack thereof--with the person who is offering them to him." (30-1).
Okay, Lachlan Farrow.  First of all, it's not necessary to have tried something in order to know whether or not you like it; having not tried something does not preclude the possibility of making informed decisions about it.  There are any number of ways to gather information on a given subject without having it in your mouth first.  For example, I haven't "tried" AIDS, but I know that I don't like it.  Secondly, it's not necessarily explicit in the text that the unnamed character has never tried green eggs and ham.  It's possible to infer that he hasn't, but he does not once state explicitly that he has never eaten them before.  His first refusal is simply, "I do not like them, Sam-I-Am. / I do not like green eggs and ham."  Thirdly, Farrow might be correct in stating that the unnamed character's refusal to eat green eggs and ham is influenced by his dislike of Sam-I-Am, but that's a totally valid reason to not try something.  Sam-I-Am is a self-centred asshole, and there's no reason to believe that he has the unnamed character's best interests at heart.  After all, we're talking about green eggs and ham, not medicine, and Sam-I-Am isn't held to an ethical code in the same way doctors areAnd just as a final note: it's likely that the ham and eggs are green partly to appeal to the market audience (children), but also for poetic reasons.  That said, I am probably one of the few people who really enjoys artificial colouring, but even I wouldn't eat that (obviously not the eggs, but not the ham either).


Green Eggs and Ham is, in the end, a story for children.  But what message does it provide them?  That you can't possibly know your own likes and dislikes, or that someone other than you has a better sense of your own needs and desires?  That you should give up your power of consent to anyone who asks you to do so?  Or more troubling yet, if someone says "no" to you, all you have to do is pester them and threaten them until they give in?  At the end of the day, it really doesn't matter why the unnamed character doesn't want to eat green eggs and ham and it doesn't matter that he ends up liking green eggs and ham.  What matters is that he doesn't want to eat green eggs and ham.  In order to build a healthy society--one that doesn't privilege the desires of some over those of others--we need to begin by empowering children to say "no."

I feel a bit weird posting something like this, because I really don't care about empowering anyone, ever.  But I do feel strongly about this, and not as an analogy for rape culture or medical ethics or the unnamed "Other" or whatever.  As someone who has spent a great deal of time over the course of her life refusing to try certain foods in the face of incessant harassment, I find it troubling that a book like this exists.  And what I also find troubling is that people's notion of consent only goes so far.  There are a few posts on the internet condemning Dr. Seuss's treatment of consent in Green Eggs and Ham (here and here), but both talk about the text in light of rape culture.  I feel like most people don't take the right of consent seriously when it comes to something as seemingly frivolous or harmless as trying new foods.  But for me, feeling the pressure to eat something that I really do not want to eat is actually traumatic, and right after I finish posting this, I'm going to start a petition on Change.org to demand that a big shiny "Trigger Warning!" sticker be included on all future copies of this book.


Forrow, Lachlan.  "The green eggs and ham phenomena."  The Hastings Center Report 24.6 (1994): 29-32.  Print.

21 November 2013

Review: What is going on in The Kitchn's "How to Bake a Potato: Three Easy Methods"?

Before we begin, I suggest all of you go and familiarize yourself with the text.  This gem was sent in by a loyal reader and has since become one of my favourite food-related posts on the entire internet.  I also want to point out that the post we will be looking at is "How to Bake a Potato: Three Easy Methods," not to be confused with "How to Bake a Potato in the Oven."

This article grabbed me from the very first line: "As long as there are a few potatoes in the pantry, I know that I have at least one option for dinner.Let's give the author the benefit of the doubt and assume that "the pantry" she is referring to is her pantry, but a more general statement that gets the same idea across could be: "As long as there is food in the house, I know that I can eat it" or "As long as there is air in the atmosphere, I know that I can breathe it."  Like, of course you can eat those potatoes. And you have so many options (I covered a lot of them in my potato post), so don't just limit yourself to baked potatoes!

But she has limited herself to baked potatoes.  The purpose of the article is to educate the reader on all the different ways to bake a potato. There are three (and a half):

1) You can bake a potato in an oven.

1.5) Same idea, but this time wrap the potatoes in tinfoil (hot tip: before you put them in the oven)

2) You can "bake" a potato in the microwave.

3) You can bake a potato throughout the course of the entire day in a slow-cooker while you're at work instead of just coming home and using methods 1, 1.5, or 2.

For each method the author includes brief instructions for how you might go about baking that potato, but if you find yourself struggling with methods 1 and 1.5, don't worry: there's a whole separate post on how to bake a potato in the oven.

This article is obviously ridiculous because everyone already knows how to bake a potato.  Or, if they don't, they can probably figure it out.  I mean, the people who are going to want to bake a potato are already aware that baking a potato is something that can be done.  If you are aware of the possibility of baking a potato, then the only question you have to ask yourself is what item in your house is capable of baking something and go from there!  The other major drawback of this post is that it doesn't talk about any of the ways that you can experiment with baking a potato.  Potato squashers immediately come to mind, but she also overlooked simply slicing up potatoes in a pan and putting them in the oven.  The latter method is sometimes referred to as "roasting," but because I typically use the convection bake setting on the oven, I count it as baking a potato.

The world is a sad, bleak place, everyone.  If anyone is still confused, here's a helpful gif:


potato on Make A Gif
Step 1: Grab a potato from your pantry or from a bag on the floor
Step 2: Admire it on the counter for a minute. You might also puncture it
with a fork at this point.
Step 3: Make sure the oven is on.
Step 4: Put the potato in the oven.

20 November 2013

Frosted Mini-Wheats Cereal

This is probably the highest level of
frosting I've ever seen on a Mini-Wheat.
I used to eat this cereal quite a bit when I was younger, but then one day I stopped and to this day I am not entirely sure why.  Prompted by a reader’s recent comment on the Lucky Charms post, I decided to investigate the matter further and I bought a box of Kellog's Mini-Wheats cereal (the frosted kind).

Like most other cereals, I used to eat these without milk.  I would typically skin the frosting off with my teeth before tackling the wheat square.  This is probably because there’s so little frosting for so much wheat that it seemed like a waste to not savour the frosting in some way.  The wheat squares were usually pretty difficult to swallow on their own because they’re so dry, but I was never driven to trying them with milk.

Until last night.
In hindsight, one of the reasons that I may have abandoned mini-wheats cereal is because they actually were pretty difficult to eat and always scratched at my throat on the way down.  I was pleasantly surprised to discover that this is not the case when eaten with milk, but I still don’t think I’ll be reintroducing them into my diet any time soon.  I mean, they were okay, but they were just okay.  Eating them seemed more like a necessary chore than an enjoyable pass time.  Even though the frosting ratio is really hit or miss with mini-wheats (someone should really talk to quality control about that because it's been a problem for forever), it was definitely less of an issue with milk than it is if they’re plain.

I guess Kellogg's recently re-branded
Mini-Wheats, and the result is
even worse than the original.
I also always found the mascot to be kind of lazy.  Lucky Charms has Lucky, Trix has the rabbit, Froot Loops has Toucan Sam, Honey-Nut Cheerios has the bee, Cap'n Crunch as the Captain... And Mini-Wheats has... what?  A wheat-square with a cartoon face slapped on it?  C'mon, Kellogg's.  Does that mascot even have a name? Lazy, lazy, lazy.

Of course I'm still going to finish off the box.  They're perfectly fine to eat, but I guess what I'm realizing is that with so many other cereals out there, these just aren't worth the effort or the cost.

I used to eat mini-wheats, but then I ceased;
They were never really a food worth the feast.

19 November 2013

Okra

I was reluctant to write this post at all because, as of yet, I have seen no convincing evidence that okra is even a food.  If I had to hazard a guess, I would say it is the cocoon belonging to a particularly frightening moth.  And then I google imaged it, just to be sure, and saw the cross-section slices.  For I moment I thought that perhaps it truly is a food, but upon examining the image closer with a well-trained eye, I realized they were just freeze-dried slices of cucumber.
If people are actually eating this—and I can’t in good conscious suggest that you do, because what you’re eating is a disgusting pupa and that silk encasement probably has better uses, like my future pyjamas—please don’t tell me about it.  I don’t need to know what disgusting activities you engage in.

I hate when people say that they really love okra
Because it always sounds so hopelessly bourgeois.
But it has another, much more tragic flaw:
It's actually the temporary home of a moth

So it's not really something on which you should gnaw.
Wouldn't you rather have some fine silken cloth?

17 November 2013

The Oyster

One thing I’ve learned about myself over the past twenty-six years is that life—or at least my life—will never be worth the kinds of struggles that are sometimes asked of us and that I do not have a survival instinct.

Have you ever wondered about how we’ve learned that certain foods are okay to eat and that some are not?  I mean, trial and error, I guess.  But have you ever wondered about what kind of person is desperate enough for food that they’re willing to scrape an oyster up off the ocean floor, hold that craggy mound in their hand, smash it against a rock, and then slurp out whatever is inside?  And then, once they’ve done it and realized it didn’t kill them, just do it again for pleasure?  Because if I was ever in the situation where I was stranded by the sea with nothing to eat and I had absolutely no knowledge of what I could eat, I don’t think I’d be going for what I have always equated with the ocean’s waste.  Or even if I did know what I could eat, and I knew that one of those things was an oyster, I think I would just say no thank you, because no matter how hard or painful it may be to die of starvation, I know in my heart of hearts that it hasn’t got anything on trying to swallow a moist, fleshy mass that lives on the ocean floor all day and filters seawater.  Also, I wouldn’t say “thank you,” because being offered an oyster is not something to be thankful for.

My hatred and disgust of oysters might be linked to my mistrust and fear of the ocean.  The question of what I would do if I was on a sinking ship has been asked of me a surprising number of times, and when someone for some reason fails to ask me this question, I will often volunteer the answer because I think it really speaks to the kind of person I am.  The answer is that I would kill myself.  Immediately.  Even if there was a 99% chance of being saved, I would kill myself before I hit the water.  Even if there was a 100% chance of being saved but it meant spending even 30minutes in the ocean, I would kill myself.  Because I can’t think of anything worse than spending time out in the middle of the ocean, hoping that someone would eventually rescue me and risk being brushed up against by a giant squid or nibbled at by some fish.

You guys! Here I am, making gifs! I
probably could have come up with
something more oyster related, but
frankly, oysters aren't really the most
gif-able creatures.
The possibility of actually dying in the ocean and having my water-logged corpse slowly float to the ocean floor while various sea creatures nibble at my decaying flesh that is waving openly in the ocean’s salty depths like so many anemone fingers swaying in a current is abhorrent.  Of course, if I killed myself on a boat I would still meet the same fate.  I am hopeful that adrenaline would take over and I wouldn’t have time to think about it before I died, whereas if I was bobbing around in the ocean, I would be forced to confront what would happen to me after I died.

It’s seems unnecessary to now talk about whether or not I would ever eat one of these briny pockets of phlegm.  The answer is no.  Like, absolutely never.  Remember when I just said that I would commit suicide if I was on a sinking ship?  I think I might actually do the same if I was faced with eating an oyster.  Sometimes when I watch movies or tv shows that have torture scenes, and there’s always someone jamming a sharp object under another person’s fingernails or branding them or whatever, I always take a minute to pray that 1) I will never be the victim of torture, or 2) that whoever is torturing me will not find out about how I feel about oysters, because nothing would pain me more than having to eat an oyster.  Which is why I am writing it down on this blog right now (because I can be certain that absolutely no one will read it).

Maybe I don’t have any authority on what an oyster tastes like, but what I do know is that oysters are nothing more than a small blobs of flesh that live in  gnarled, knobbly shells, and that they do little more than filter sea water all day.  I’m going to go ahead and assume that they taste like the ocean at low-tide.  But an ocean taste that is palpable and fleshy.  And that some people willingly eat, probably because they are perverted and deeply disturbed masochists. 
Here's me, crying amongst an oyster bed because that is the only way I would know how to respond to being
surrounded by so many oysters. Plus, I bet it smells so, so bad there.
There’s probably a way to prepare oysters so that they don’t taste like oysters.  Sometimes I think that developing new ways to flavour otherwise disgusting objects would be a worthwhile endeavour.  Like maybe someday someone will develop a new flavour for charcoal.  The texture of charcoal kind of appeals to me because it reminds me of Lucky Charms marshmallows.  But why would you drown out the original flavour of something that by nature has a disgusting and vile texture only to make it more palatable?  It seems like marinating oysters in (garlic?) butter is probably a thing, but whatever you use to mask the taste, you still have to deal with getting that oyster to go down your throat.  The texture is probably the biggest obstacle for me when it comes to oysters (maybe just after my moral aversion to the sea).  You know how sometimes you accidentally swallow a half-congealed blood clot or a particularly viscous clump of mucus?  That's the only thing that I can think of that might be remotely similar to eating an oyster, but I bet an oyster tastes a whole lot worse.

The practice of eating oyster is also really crude.  I don’t know what it is about seafood that makes everyone abandon their etiquette rules, but it’s disgusting.  Are these people actually just bringing a shell to their mouth and then slurping a slab of fleshy muscle down their throat?  Those people are barbaric monsters and they need to stop it.

I typically try to refrain from learning anything about whatever it is I’m writing about because I think that these blog posts should reflect my impressions of food as closely as is possible without being coloured from outside sources.  (This is a general rule that extends to academia as well.)  But I just googled oysters and I learned two things:
  1. They look like a slug somehow managed to get inside of a small, cramped, moist space and then died. And then rotted.  I used to spend entire days collecting slugs only to throw them into the ocean.  I guess now we know what happened to them all.
  2. There is more than one kind of oyster!  Apparently people don’t eat oysters that produce pearls, but I don’t understand why not.  Those pearl-producing oysters are so stupid and deserve to be eaten (even though eating any oyster is a crime against humanity, or at least a crime against my humanity).  If some little grain of sand found its way into my body, I would try to either eject it or absorb it fully.  Probably the last thing I would do is build a larger casing around it.  
For any of you seriously committed to eating oysters, let me just close on this note.  Obsessively worrying about dying in the ocean has convinced me that one day I probably will die in the ocean.  And all those little bits of flesh that are nibbled at by fish and pooped out, and all those little flags of tissue that pull away from the bone and drift through the open water... Those are the things that get filtered through oysters. I mean, probably. I don't know what else oysters eat if they don't just filter sea water.  And my dying wish is that some of my hatred will be bound to those miniscule pieces of fish poo composed of my digested tissue and those little flaps of water-logged corpse-flesh, and that you will spend the rest of your days full of self-loathing and disgust because that it what you deserve.

Finally, here's a quote from Tobias Smollett's The Expedition of Humphry Clinker:

“Of the fish I need say nothing in this hot weather, but that it comes sixty, seventy, fourscore, and a hundred miles by land carriage; a circumstance sufficient, without any comment, to turn a Dutchman’s stomach, even if his nose was not saluted in every alley with the sweet flavor of fresh mackerel, selling by retail. This is not the season for oysters; nevertheless, it may not be amiss to mention that the right Colchester are kept in slime pits, occasionally overflowed by the sea—and that the green color, so much admired by the voluptuaries of this metropolis, is occasioned by the vitriolic scum which rises on the surface of the stagnant and stinking water.”
None of us will ever read this book, but Smollett has a point. 

I’ve never understood why eating an oyster is a privilege to flaunt
Because if the world is my oyster, it’s not a world that I want. 

These people brag about how eating oyster is a sign of refined taste
But what they're slurping down their throat 
is nothing more than discarded sea waste.

15 November 2013

The Future is Now

Today I learned what a gif is and how to make one.  I also learned about the lovestruck feature in PhotoBooth.  Clearly I am not very good at making gifs, but sometimes the first step towards success is failure.

14 November 2013

Lucky Charms

I have always loved Lucky Charms cereal — presumably just like every other child always has because it’s not even cereal, just marshmallows and sugar-coated crunchy-pieces that pay lip-service to the idea of “cereal.” When I would have a bowl of Lucky Charms, I would spend twenty minutes painstakingly picking out and eating the cereal bits until I was left with a bowl of marshmallows. The appeal of eating the marshmallows on their own has always been that the marshmallows are firm in their structure, but offer no resistance when you bite into them. There has always been a bit of a thrill in biting a marshmallow and half, and then examining its cross-section. Sometimes I would put a marshmallow—usually a red balloon, because they were my favourite—in my mouth and suck on it until it disintegrated. It’s a different experience than letting chocolate or a popsicle melt in your mouth because you can actually feel individual bits of sugar coming loose from the balloon until nothing is left. These two approaches to eating the marshmallows is contingent on their dryness.
Here's a screenshot of a picture I uploaded to Instagram of the first bowl of Lucky Charms that I ate after buying the
box, including a caption lambasting all of the fools who have eaten Lucky Charms with milk.

Here's a picture of what's left after
picking out the cereal bits.
One time, I think in the summer of 2006, I spent an entire day eating all of the cereal bits so that I could make a ball of all of the marshmallows in a single box of Lucky Charms and bite into it like an apple. It once occurred to me that I should just pick out the marshmallows and throw out the rest, but I realized that one of the best parts is the delayed satisfaction of eating all of those marshmallows all at once. This method of eating Lucky Charms taught me that if you work hard for something, the payoff will be that much sweeter than if you just go straight for the reward. For the record, I have not carried this life philosophy over to any other aspect of my life.

I typically always ate cold cereal dry. Rice Krispies is probably the only cold cereal that I consistently ate with milk (always with sliced up banana and a bit of sugar), and to this day, I have never had Cheerios, Golden Grahams, or Honeycomb cereal in milk. The thought of cereal and milk never disgusted me, but I was always certain that it would take away some crucial element from the cereal. I thought of it as a practice that was widely accepted, but never closely examined. I have always thought that cereal is best when it’s crunchy and that its crunchiness was central to its very identity. While I had often entertained the idea of eating my cereal in milk, I never did because I have always been a firm believer in sticking with what you know and what you know you like. Even if something turns out to be not bad, why waste that one experience when you know for sure that it could be as good as it has always been? For the record, this is a life philosophy that I have carried over to every other aspect of my life.

You can tell this is a store brand cereal
because the flakes are a much lower
quality than I have come to expect
from the branded cereals.
Things began to change when I went to Europe—the land of self-discovery—in 2005. I bought an 8€ box of Special K Red Berries and I had it with milk. Although I had had Special K Red Berries without milk in the past and really enjoyed eating those dried strawberries, after having a bite of my friend’s cereal, I realized that the strawberries only improved when they were soaked in milk and had the opportunity to soften up a bit. It was also around this time that I made the crucial switch from skim milk to homo, and while I still prefer skim milk for drinking, homo really is the best when it comes to cereal or milk in your coffee. The next cereal I tried in milk was something like NesQuik. It went over really well because on one hand, it turns the milk into chocolate milk, and on the other hand, those chocolate balls were always too dense and too hard to really enjoy. The milk softened them up an appropriate amount.

Ever since, I have been on a bit of a cereal-with-milk tear. As I mentioned, I still eat cereals like Golden Grahams and Cheerios without milk, but I’ve introduced a lot of new and exciting cereals into my repertoire as well—all of which I eat with milk. Over the past few years, I’ve really gotten into Kashi, Vector, Raisin Bran and any cereal that has dried berries in it (Jordans Morning Crisp, Honey Bunches of Oats with Strawberries, or the store-brand take on Special K Red Berries).

Lucky Charms is something that I’ve eaten less and less of over the years. Every once in a while it will go on sale so I’ll pick up a box, but in general, it’s just not a part of my diet anymore. There are probably a few reasons for this. Part of it has to do with how expensive it is, but more importantly, having a bowl of dry cereal has always been a mindless snacking activity for me. I eat it when I am watching tv or doing school work. I don’t want to have to focus on what it is I’m eating, and Lucky Charms is a cereal that, if you’re eating it dry, you have to give it your full attention. So it came as a bit of surprise to me when I picked up a box at Metro the other day (it was on sale for $2.99, down from the usual $5.50), but I was really excited to tuck into it.

At first I ate it as I always have. I poured a bowl, painstakingly picked out and ate the cereal bits, spent some time appreciating the beauty of all the colourful marshmallows alone in the bowl, and then gobbled them up. R was in the kitchen with me at the time and mentioned that his parents would never buy him Lucky Charms, but that sometimes his grandmother would. When I said that I never eat them with milk, he said that he had always enjoyed them with milk and that he would try to eat the cereal bits first because they were best when crunchy, but that the marshmallows really improved when saturated in milk.
On the cusp of trying something new. I regret getting rid of that box
because I could really use a new toque right now.
And then something happened. I don’t know what. I wanted to try it. I poured myself another bowl, added milk, and prepared for the worst. My main concern was that I would have less control over the cereal once it was sloshing around in a bowl of milk. I wouldn’t be able to pick out the cereal bits very easily, and I knew that I would inevitably miss some. I knew, going into it, that there would be times when I would have to eat spoonfuls that contained both cereal and marshmallow, and although I wasn’t thrilled by the idea, something—some force outside myself—urged me on. It will probably come as no surprise that I liked it. I really liked it. I’m still not sure if I like it more than having it dry, but I do like it. I liked it enough to rush out and buy another box to do the whole thing over again.
Something changed in me that day. It wasn’t life altering, but more like a little sliver of doubt entering my consciousness. I was so sure about Lucky Charms. So sure. I knew how I liked it; I was so certain that it could never be better. I’m not sure that it is better, but I think it’s probably just as good. My approach to food has always been premised on a strict hierarchical system. There is a very small group of food that I like, and within that group, I have always been adamant that there is a singular best way to enjoy that food. Potatoes are best fried; pasta is best with bolognese; broccoli and cauliflower are best with cheese. There are, of course, other ways I will eat these foods. I like potatoes baked in an oven or mashed, and I like pasta with either just cheese or sometimes just butter, and I like broccoli and cauliflower steamed plain or with butter, or sometimes even raw. But there is always, always, a “best” way to enjoy these foods. What’s different about Lucky Charms is that I’m worried that I like them with milk as much as I like them plain.

What does that mean for me and my diet? What if postmodernist theory was right? What if there is no such thing as a singular truth? That it’s all a construction? That there’s more than one approach to something, and that one is not necessarily more valuable than another? It’s an exciting time in my life right now, but also frightening. Does my experience with Lucky Charms gesture towards a flattening out of my diet, a horizontal expansion that knows no bounds? And where will I go from here? How will I ever approach a box of Lucky Charms ever again? How will I know how to eat it? How can I ever be certain of what I want ever again? The future is marred by uncertainty, and I have never been more afraid in my entire life.
Ever since it happened, news has spread like wildfire throughout Toronto.


















I've approached my diet with unflinching certainty:
Confidence in my taste is central to my identity.
To experiment with food was an impossibility,
And Lucky Charms with milk was an incomprehensibility.

That I liked it suggests potential dietary malleability,
And more frighteningly yet, that singular truth is a fragility. 
What if trying new things is within my capability?
Does this signal towards a new versatility?