Thursday, December 18, 2008

Got a lot of time to read/watch a lot of stuff about food?

Granted, "a lot of time" is relative. Maybe 30-45 minutes, total. Two things:
Consider the Lobster, an article by David Foster Wallace who just died recently and apparently is some kind of good writer, and
Cookbook Peddler, a video interview (in like 8 parts) about a guy who really cares about cookbooks. Oh, and he walloped Barnes and Noble.

The first one is just interesting, and ethically challenging in that animal-rights sense. Read the footnotes (although you can just read them after, you don't have to keep cross-referencing).

The second is cool (go this guy!) because it unites two things I like: small, specialized businesses; and food. It's a little scary, though, because he says, basically, recipes won't work. The whole idea of thinking about food in a "pull" sense (that is, saying "I want fettucine alfredo, so I'll look up a recipe and then go to the grocery store and buy the ingredients") is wrong, and will only further mess up our relationship with food. My current thought is that the recipe way is better than not cooking at all.

Here's a good time to outline what I challenge/encourage you in particular to do about food, now that I've thought about it a little more, and then I'll get back to work: Kick it up one notch. If you're a fast-food-and-tv-dinners type, go to the grocery store and make recipes. If you're a grocery-stores-and-recipes type, go to the farmers' market and experiment. (course, if there are no farmers' markets around, because it is after all December, then go to the grocery store and experiment, but buy organic/local/sustainable/humane/etc food as much as you can.)

Enough about food! It's snowing here in Seattle. Apparently that is rare, but it is also very neat.

Wednesday, December 17, 2008

You came to save us...

Hey readers! All of you! I know at least some of you must have Chicago ties. I'm going to visit some friends there in a bit, and I know we'll find plenty to do, but is there anything I just shouldn't miss, you know, like, totally?

Tuesday, December 16, 2008


Me: Whole Foods's cheapest apples are $1.99/lb, and Safeway's cheapest are $1.50, but for $1.99 at Whole Foods you get organic gala apples, and the Safeway apples are crummy cheap apples.
Jared: Challenge.
Me: What?
Jared: I challenge you to a taste test.
Me: All right, I accept! I can totally tell the difference between an organic gala apple and a cheap Safeway apple.
Jared: What do you mean by "cheap" and "crummy"?
Me: I don't know. Red delicious.
Jared: Whoa hey, don't go into that argumen--
Me: I can totally tell the difference between an organic gala apple and a conventional red delicious.
Jared: Well, that's not the argument, I was talking about an organic gala apple vs. a conventional gala apple.
Me: Oh, well yeah, I bet I couldn't tell the difference between those. But the debate was between the cheapest apple at each place, and I say the organic gala is better than the conventional red delicious.
Jared: That comparison's not fair. It doesn't even make sense.
Me: Why not? I'm comparing apples to apples.

Saturday, December 13, 2008

Not worrying about Christmas presents, round 2

Hey, if you're a relative of mine and you want to buy me things, and you've already been over the previous guide for if you want to buy me things, and if you don't think I'm a jerk for thinking more about how people can buy me things than about things I will buy for other people, and you want to buy me some things, I could use:

- shirts (usually large t-shirts, medium real shirts, or 15-1/2 / 34-35. I like loud shirts.)
- socks that are cool (one size fits me, my shoes are size 11. I like loud socks.)
- sweaters/sweatshirts (see: shirts. I like good quality sweaters.)
- maybe even pants (32/32, more or less... ooh, I was looking for some corduroys. pants that are dark colors are neat because I usually ride my bike and mud splatters on them anyway. And I could use some new jeans, even.)
- speaking of which, bike fenders. or rather, a $20 gift certificate to Velo bike shop so I can buy them myself, because they're big to take on a plane.

Clothes are a good gift, I think: I'll need them anyway, and they wear out eventually (or I give them to goodwill) so there's little waste, and there's some personality involved in picking them out.

Does this make me a hypocrite, for hating on consumerist Christmas and then just playing into it? Err... maybe? I think the issue is, people are going to buy me gifts whether I like it or not, so if I'm just like "don't buy me anything", that just makes it harder for them. Plus, me being less hardline on anything is probably a good call, because on the one hand I'm saving the world, but on the other hand I'm being obnoxious to family and friends.

Tuesday, December 09, 2008

Gluten and lactose

Or "wheat" and "dairy" if you prefer.

It's all the rage to hate on these guys these days. What's the truth? I am open to the following arguments (I'll just use gluten, but they all apply to lactose too):
- gluten is a natural food, it's in wheat, it's totally healthy no problem
- gluten is hard on your digestive system, even if you're not allergic, so we should avoid it if possible (and it sure is possible)
- we've been eating bread for past couple thousand years so it's okay for us
- gluten was not actually eaten for thousands of years; most societies eat rice or corn or teff or whatever.
- we can eat them no problem, but not in the amounts we eat now (like meat), because ______

I am not open to the following arguments:
- some people are allergic to it so it's probably bad for all of us
- we've been eating it for the past couple hundred years so it's okay for us
- it's not so bad, anyway (i don't want to survive on things that are just "not so bad")
- come on, it's bread! shut up you dumb hippie!
- we weren't "meant" to eat dairy because it's food for a baby cow
- man, gluten is like, totally wack. you know? it messes with your internal rhythms, and it's just, it's just not good for you, you know?

If you know something, pipe up! I am interested. If I had enough reason to cut them out of my eats, I would, but I'd need to know they're more than just the fad of the month (see: fats, carbs).


I saw a beggar today with a sign that said "I bet you $1 I can guess the state you were born in." She looked about my age, not super shabby, and I heard her asking some other folks "Can you spare some change so I can get a Greyhound ticket to go home?" I was intrigued by her sign, I figured she was probably just a good guesser and most people ended up giving her a dollar anyway. I asked her what state she thought I was born in. "You were born in a state of infancy." It was worth a chuckle. I gave her a dollar as un-condescendingly as I could.

But it made me wonder. I don't usually give money to beggars because of the ol' "they'll just spend it on booze" argument. I didn't think she would spend it on booze. (oh, and she was young and white. I'm sure that had nothing to do with it.) I started to wonder how much I could make in a day, if I went begging, and how much an old black grizzledman could make in a day. What if I was all sharp-looking? What if I got all shabby and dirty? What if I juggled, or offered to juggle? (it's a fine line between begging and street performing) If I was friendly, or if I just sat back unintrusively? If I acted superior, or super humble?

Might be a nice way to get to know a different walk of life. (of course I would give the money to other beggars or something at the end of the day.) (and of course this is the kind of thing I'd talk about but never actually get around to doing) I just somehow want to humbly say "look, folks. I know I'm not one of you. But I don't think I'm better than you."

Thursday, December 04, 2008

Jewelry companies

Preface: this post makes no sense after my last one. Whatever, it's on my mind rather heavily, so I gotta spit it out.

My dad forwarded this video to me and my mom and sister, because it's funny, etc. (don't worry, Dad, I had this post brewing for a while before you sent me this.) Ugh, it's like 5 minutes long, so I'll spare you: a guy gets his wife a vacuum cleaner for Christmas, she throws him in "the doghouse", which is an actual place where clueless unromantic men go and they can never get out, unless they buy their wives diamonds.

Obviously, I should have seen the punchline coming: it's all an ad for JC Penney's jewelry counter, and I will only mention them by name (and give them free publicity) so I can rail on them.


Let me back that statement up. Of course this ad campaign is silly and over-the-top. I mean, look at the "how to get out of the doghouse" page. But we laugh at this, and the idea is still implanted in our minds: you have to buy your wife jewelry. Some ad campaigns are a little more serious, like one I saw on Black Friday, which I don't entirely remember, but it was something like "What would you do for love?" with a picture of a diamond. And some are more subtle. Fill in the blank:
A diamond is _____
Yeah. Right. You know how to finish that sentence. Thank De Beers. It's a cultural thing now! They've just created this market! And now a bunch of lily-livered men go out and buy their wives diamonds so they don't get put "in the doghouse."

So it's a good ad campaign, fine. Why is this worse than, say, Coca-cola? They're good at ads too, and they're making the world fat. But diamond ads are worse than Coke for three reasons, and many (most?) jewelry ads are guilty of the third:
1. Blood diamonds
2. Monopolistic business practices
3. They're preying on love.

And it's 3 that really gets me. Isn't that sacred? Can't we just agree that men and women loving each other is not okay to mine for advertising opportunities? Aren't we past the age of "the husband has to buy the wife pretty things because he's the big breadwinner"?

Isn't it really pretty scuzzy to implant into men the idea that "yeah, we know she'll still love you if you don't buy her jewelry, but maybe... just maybe... she won't find you quite so alluring... and maybe she'll get mad at you, or maybe not, but maybe she'll develop a thing for that sexy flashy high-roller at the office, or... I mean, not saying your wife would ever think something like that... just sayin'... well... you wouldn't want to test it, would you?" And then implant a nice societal faux pas on trying to break this system, ("Honey? I'm not buying you a diamond for Christmas because I don't want to support an insidious machine.") because it means you're cheap.

Third-to-finally, I wish I were a woman for 15 minutes so I could post this without just being accused of trying to avoid buying diamonds at some point in the future.

Second-to-finally, a source... did you notice that 80-minute documentary I posted at #2 up there? (ironically on a diamond seller's website...) I think I've seen this before, in Mr. Hess's 12th grade economics class, and I think it's a pretty good watch, if you have 80 minutes. I understand if you don't, I never do. It got me pretty convinced that De Beers and the diamond industry (more or less one and the same, at least back then) are really quite awful folks.

AND FINALLY, okay, NOW I'm done with hard-line rants for a while. I am all spent on righteous indignation (and generally tired, besides!). Thank you for reading, thank you for bearing with me, I love you all, enjoy the holiday season, and I actually do mean that honestly.

Chilling the &@*^$ out, again, again

I was thinking a bit. I think I've gotten a little too argumentative here on this blog and in life.
(not that I don't enjoy your comments. Please, I love talking with friends/family/whoever about topics I like! But sometimes I find it's adversarial, and that kind of wears on a person. Plus, sometimes I'm a jerk.)

Like the food thing. I want people to slow down their food more, to cook more, to eat more healthily, to buy local/sustainable/organic/humane/etc food, for a lot of reasons, but we can't go from fast food to farmers' markets overnight. So I'll stop looking down on your supermarket produce just because it's not THE MOST l/s/o/h/etc. and think, awesome, you're buying produce. (I will still look down on your big mac. :P)

And! You know New Years' resolutions? Here's mine. It's a month early. I resolve not to fret so much about Christmas presents. I will try to buy you something that is sustainable/unique/local/etc. AND non-commoditious, but I won't freak out about it.

And same with you. If you feel the need to buy me something:
1. You don't have to, really, obviously, but we're all older than like 11 now so I know too that giving a gift is for the giver and the receiver, so:
2. Really, the best gift you can give me is an experience, and preferably with you, and especially if I don't already hang out with you all the time. Heck, let's go to dinner somewhere, (or let's cook dinner!) or even just a caffeinated or fermented beverage (because it's a nice excuse for a conversation).
3. You know I like things that are sustainable/not-big-corporations/unique/good-quality/etc., so if you want to get me a thing, I will most likely enjoy it more if it is one of those.
4. But all that said, whatever you get me, I will thank you and enjoy it, and I will NOT worry about how it's just one more piece of plastic going to a landfill or whatever.

I'm not going to take all the fun out of Christmas presents by ponting endlessly in some philosophical realm about what is a "good" or a "bad" Christmas gift. That can wait until next year.

(oh, but I do have something to say about jewelry ads! Damn! Well, I'll post about that, and THEN I'll stop worrying about it.)

Bloggin' too much: Supermarkets!

Okay, so I'm a little hard-lined on food. I think you should buy the best (read: localest organickest humanest sustainablest) food you can, and farmers' markets are the best way to do that. I figuratively cringe a little when I buy, say, onions from the grocery store. I don't think the food crisis can be solved by the supermarket.

Mark Bittman does, though, and that's encouraging. I would like to think that the food crisis can be solved by people buying broccoli instead of meat at the supermarket. (ask me why sometime, it's kind of exciting) Better living through home cooking AT ALL, not just home cooking of organic local sustainable cage-free free-range grass-fed food.

So maybe it's worth it for me to take a softer-line stance. I mean, farmers' markets are still the best, but grocery stores (the produce section) are the "better", and making some change is better than none.

Wednesday, December 03, 2008

A little politics but mostly late-night delusions

First of all, Guantanamo is/was so bad, but you probably already agree. (China is pretty bad too!)

But more entertainingly, last night I felt all sick and stuff, went to bed at like 10, woke up at 2 and lay awake for an hour. When you're feverishly lying awake at night, sometimes the goofiest thoughts pop into your head. For example, I kept going in circles on this one:

Why was Smash Mouth such a bad band?

I mean, their first CD was really pretty good. And "Walking on the Sun," despite its heavy rotation in adult-contemporary stations, is a quality song. (debate if you want; I won't back that assertion up unless I need to) And then what was even so bad about Astro Lounge? Sure, you heard "All Star" too much too, but "Then the Morning Comes" was pretty good. It had a nice bridge and everything. The rest of the CD was pretty fun; safe for kids and adults alike, maybe, but that doesn't necessarily make it bad. The rest of the CD was more or less varied, from their upbeat pop opener with clever lyrics about aliens "Who's there" to laid back "I just wanna see" to reggae curiosity/disaster "Road man" to kinda-weird "Home." You know, a good effort and all. All right, when they ended up with a cover song on a Shrek soundtrack I kinda lost interest, but before then...?

Call it Barenaked Ladies syndrome. Guilt by association. Or call it "why the hell was I thinking about this at 2am?!"

Monday, December 01, 2008

Okay, politics again.

So, because I'm a flaming liberal, granola, dreadlocks, organic, etc, I think that when a whole lot of people are being murdered maybe we should step in and help. So does Obama's new UN Ambassador. Thank god. Don't get started on how this fits into whether the US should be the world's police or whether we should have invaded Iraq or whatever; I don't really care. Brain off, heart on for this one. Plus I'm at work and therefore not debating right now.

Recipe Challenge: fail.

Orgh. Three rounds in the ring with chocolate, cayenne pepper, and asparagus, and a winner is not me. It's really just that chocolate is difficult. Here's what I came up with, although you can do better by looking up any "vegetable burrito with mole sauce" recipe, I'm sure:

onions and garlic
a handful each of asparagus (diced), corn, black beans, rice
oregano, red pepper, cumin, salt
green onions and cilantro
some chocolate (I used about 40g)

Saute the onions in oil, add the asparagus, corn, beans, and rice. Saute all that, add the spices, then the green onions and cilantro.
Melt the chocolate (double boiler it yeeeee) and mix it in with everything. Note that you cannot thin it with milk or it will get all milky and not what you want for mexican food, and you cannot thin it with water or it will seize up and get solid again! And chocolate itself is really thick! Maybe you should roll it up in a tortilla first, then drizzle chocolate over it.
It's a little weirder than a normal burrito. I mean, it's tasty, but it just kinda tastes like chocolate. Or spicy chocolate.
What kind of chocolate do you use? I tried regular baking chocolate (unsweetened) and found it too thick/boring/rich or something. I actually liked it better with dark (70%) chocolate, but again, it just tastes like chocolate.

At any rate, I'm done with this. I'm open to suggestions, if you'd like to give it a try. (the challenge was: make something with chocolate, cayenne pepper, and asparagus.) It's taken me forever to try this again, for which I apologize to Julie and to you, dear reader.

Okay, now, Julie, back at you: lemongrass, honey, and spinach/lettuce/a green of your choice. (if you can't find lemongrass, i guess ginger would be okay...)