Tag Archives: Food

A Day in the Life Of Fakename

This day would be Friday, April 25th, 2014. Nothing special about this day, other than I happened to inhabit it.
First, I made my first ever trip to Whole Foods, because 1) it was the only grocery store between the hair salon where I got my hair cut and my workplace, and 2) I was having a food emergency, namely, I was starving. Had I not been in such a rush, I could do a whole Grocery Voyeurism post on the customers of this establishment, and I may have to go back, just in order to do a more detailed job of reporting. At a glance, I can say that the customers were of the Birkenstock-wearing, cloth bag-carrying variety. It isn’t nice to make fun of people, but some people just lend themselves too well to stereotyping, so I can’t help myself.
I also made a flying trip to the library on this day, since besides having a food emergency, I had a book emergency (didn’t have one). When I arrived, there was a guy standing at the ground level elevator. This elevator only goes up one level, and is there mostly to accommodate the handicapped. Because our library has delusions of grandeur and thinks it’s the U.S. Supreme Court. There are a gazillion steps leading to the entrance, which I think are supposed to remind you of the power and majesty within. So I take the elevator too.
About the time I arrived at the elevator, the guy standing there started to walk away. I said, “Isn’t it working?” And he replied, “I don’t know, I don’t know how to operate it”. This was like an immediate stab to the heart for me. I said, “Here, you only have to push this button”. Inside the elevator, he told me I’d come along at just the right time, and didn’t it look like it was going to rain? And lest you think badly of this guy, I realized later this was not one simple push button. It was an entire panel with another button to call for assistance, and another area for firefighter operation which you usually only see inside an elevator. And the button to actually call the elevator was not labeled.
I seem to have some sort of karma involving the library elevators. Once I was there and a woman got trapped and was screaming hysterically. Once she was freed, my flying trip was delayed by about 20 minutes while I sat at a table with her and pretty much cooed and talked nonsense, and said things like “You’re going to be okay”. I knew she was okay when she pulled out her cell phone and asked someone to come and get her. Good idea. No way was she driving.
At the end of my day, I had a truck towed from a parking space, because it was blocking the car next to it. In case you too ever manage parking, when you have a vehicle towed, the customer does not call you up and say, “Thank you so much for towing my vehicle. I now see that I behaved badly and I’ve learned my lesson.” Especially not at 4:00 P.M. on a Friday afternoon.
After making a couple of other feeble excuses, the guy finally said that he was there first. This made it a physics problem. I asked if he could explain to me how the customer he blocked managed to wedge herself in beside him so as to block herself?
Then I came home, read my book at the picnic table, drank some wine, played with the dog and the kitten, and watched the birds. The End.

Grocery Voyeurism (New Episode)

It’s been a while since we’ve visited this topic, or the topic of food in general, but I didn’t stop being a grocery voyeur, nor did I stop being interested in (and eating) food.

To refresh your memory, grocery voyeurism involves observing the items the person in front of you is buying in the express checkout lane, and making up stories about it.  You should try it.  It’s fun.  So say the person has a dozen eggs and a can of spray furniture polish.  Okay, you are having guests over and need to polish the dining room table, and you are baking a cake for dessert.  There are many alternate theories here.

I started this because standing in line, even a short one, makes me crazy.  If there is more than one person ahead of me, I read a book.

One day last week I was in line behind an older Asian lady who had four items:  a container of grapes (half red, half white), a container of cookies from the bakery, one parsnip, and one mystery vegetable the cashier didn’t recognize.  Me neither.  So the cashier asks the customer, What is this?  And the Asian lady shrugs and says she doesn’t know.  You don’t know?  Okay, wait a minute.  Let me get this straight.

It instantly brought to mind all the stereotypes about Asian cooking you have ever heard.  Like we don’t know what this is, but let’s see if we can eat it.  We will put it in a soup and see what happens.  If you keel over and die while clutching your throat, we can assume it’s poisonous.  Although maybe not, if we cooked it a different way, a la puffer fish.

In all fairness, it looked like some sort of root vegetable.  It was almost round, and vaguely purplish.  So you could assume that you could roast it or slice it and put it in…a soup, like a carrot.  Apparently the cashiers have pictures of food on their cash registers, so while the cashier is scanning those, I offered helpfully, “Is it a turnip?”  I knew that wasn’t right, but it sort of looked like a turnip that was the wrong size and shape.

The cashier is unsuccessful and is about to call a manager when the cashier in the other lane just behind her says, it’s a rutabaga!  “Our” cashier checks her screen again just to be sure, and sure enough, that’s what it was.  Now we all know.  Me, the cashier, and the customer who bought it.

Looking back, I now think the customer did know what it was, but didn’t know the English name for it.  So she didn’t mean that she didn’t know what it was, she just didn’t know how to tell the cashier what it was.  And over a small thing such as this, this is how cultural biases and prejudices start.  You know, “They” eat weird stuff.  “They” are not like “Us”.

People say that music is the Universal Language.  Probably so.  But so is food.  It may create barriers in some cases, but mostly, I think, it breaks them down. There is some sort of craving we have as humans to connect.  We are willing to share “their” food, and offer “ours”, because whatever our differences, we do share a universal need for food.

And now after all that uncharactistic profundity, let’s examine the humble rutabaga.  First of all, I was kind of right!  It’s more or less a kind of turnip, thought to be a hybrid between a turnip and a cabbage.   A couple of its other names are swede (or Swedish turnip) and yellow turnip.  (They are yellow in the inside.)

The two following photos are from Wikipedia.

A herd of rutabagas

One of the most interesting things about rutabagas is that in Ireland and Scotland, it isn’t pumpkins, it’s turnips (or rutabagas) that are used as “jack-0-lanterns”.  Frankly, if I were an evil spirit, I would be warded off too by the carving below.


Depression…Or Not

I pretty much earned the Girl Scout badge for depression, although it was a long time ago.  But because of it (and lots of therapy), I can say that I recognize the signs very well.  And this week, I was headed toward depression, which culminated last night.  Fortunately, this is very rare, in fact so rare, I barely recognized it.  Because I had to learn to change so much, to perceive things differently.

But depression FEELS different.  It isn’t the same as being sad.  It isn’t the same as having a bad week.  I’ve been both for at least a week.  And as always, it’s a combination of things.

I can remember having a conversation with the psychiatrist about the kinds of things that made me depressed, and I would say, but that can’t be it.  It’s just too minor to make me feel this way.  And he would say, Yes, but what about Y and Z?  Couldn’t X, Y, and Z together make you feel this bad?  When I said, surely not, he would say Why not?  Hmmm.  So we would (or I would) painstakingly pick apart X, Y, and Z, and put them back together in a new configuration.  A way that wasn’t as scary and made just as much sense as my old way.  He was a genius, although I had to do the work.

So this week, here’s what happened.  I read a book that left me feeling very unsettled.  My sister’s dog died.  My boss sent me a snarky email.  (Okay, that one was easier to get over, but it just added to the general downward spiral.)  My bookkeeper and my assistant manager at work did a couple of really stupid things and I had to have a word with them.  (It IS my job, but I still hated it.  They are both marvelous, admirable people.) I found out that my neighbor’s dogs had been seized by Animal Control and one of them was euthanized.  Since I reported the neighbors in the first place, this is of course all my fault.  (Not.)  I’m having trouble with my computer.

I’ve been having trouble sleeping.  I always have very vivid dreams that I can remember, but I’ve been having nightmares that wake me up.  Yesterday the newspaper posted the videos of interviews they did with breast cancer survivors, which I participated in.  And that was the last straw.  All I could think about was how old I looked, and to a lesser degree, how I should have worn something different.

Last night I couldn’t even go to sleep, much less stay asleep.

Spiraling into depression is hard to describe.  It’s like falling down a well.  I had forgotten.  So what you have to do is refuse to fall all the way.  You have to grab onto the bricks on the way down and cling, even if your fingernails break. You have to dig your toes into the cracks between the bricks, like a rock climber, and cling.

The mental equivalent is that you have to force yourself to focus on the good things you saw or experienced lately, because they are there if you can find them.  A friend (that I didn’t think was speaking to me) unexpectedly dropped by my office and took me to lunch.  While reading at my picnic table this week, some sort of little black waspy thing that was annoying me captured some sort of very fat white larva.  It was apparently so heavy that the black waspy thing couldn’t fly.  So when I tried to wave it away, it would just waddle to another part of the table, because letting go of the prize was not an option.  I was so amused I was practically in tears.  But there is a serious lesson there…it might seem like a small thing.  It might seem like too small a thing to counteract the bad things, but it is, if you will let it be.  Plus, never let go of the bricks.

Last night when I couldn’t sleep, I was surfing TV channels. First I watched a little of Discovery ID (No.  Women killing people.)  Then NatGeo Wild.  (Okay better.  Wild cats killing food.) But the next program was about spiders.  No.  No spiders.  I finally ended up at the Cooking Channel where Alton Brown was doing eggplant dishes, followed by bananas.

I fell asleep somehere around Bananas Foster.  Today I feel cured.  Who knew that all it would take was eggplant?

No Thanks, I’ll Just Starve

In a recent conversation, a friend and I were discussing things we won’t eat…or we would have been, if I could have thought of anything I won’t eat.  Now granted, we were talking about normal everyday foods.  We weren’t talking about the kinds of  things they feed you on Survivor, like live Madagascar hissing roaches.  I will say that I have eaten chocolate-covered ants (they taste like chocolate).  Normally I’ll try anything once, but as I recall, I once passed on fried grasshoppers.  

Now, thanks to today’s New York Times, I’ve just discovered something else I’ll never try.  Now, all these years I’ve thought they were kidding about this particular food item.  Silly me.  Behold the following picture from the NYT:


What you’re seeing here is a judge, in the yellow jacket, gazing at a tray of the signature item at the International Comstock Mountain Oyster Fry in Virginia City, Nevada.  Mountain oysters are the testicles of castrated calves and lambs.  All I can say is, I read this article at about 6:30 this morning, and it’s a good thing I don’t eat breakfast.  For more than you ever wanted to know, here’s the full article:  http://www.nytimes.com/2009/03/18/us/18oyster.html?_r=2&hp

It must have been weird food day for the Times, because another article talked about the growing popularity of Whoopie Pies.  Now, I don’t know about you, but when I think “whoopie”, the next word that comes to mind is “cushion”.  It certainly isn’t “pie”.  I don’t think I’m in any danger of trying them either, because from now on, they will always be linked in my mind to Mountain oysters. 

I think I’ll go have something normal for dinner, like an eel.