Food

Airline food has always been this strange thing for me.

As a kid, at one point my mom was trying to be healthier or something and ordered a vegetarian meal on a plane. This was at breakfast. It amazed me, this bowl of fruit she was given. It just looked so tasty. Since she was my mom, she shared, of course.

Since I’ve been doing this “requesting food on international flights” thing, I’ve seen a range in terms of how it works to have special dietary preferences or requirements. When I flew back from Korea, they made a mistake and didn’t actually set things up for my “special meal request,” as they like to call it. Instead, they offered me a side dish of kimchi, since that was all they had that was vegetarian.

It was a hungry flight.

On my trip to and from Wales, there was some wackiness in planning (as in there wasn’t any. However, on this flight (run by American Airlines) they said that their standard meal options were vegetarian and non-vegetarian. A special request, in this case, was not necessary or even possible. On my flight back, they ran out of vegetarian meals before they got to me, and instead compensated with extra generous portions of their salad, rolls, and crackers.

My most recent adventure, a trip to England, had a very real, simple, and strange experience in classism on the way out. The oven broke and we had no food while first class still had hot food. Part of the strangeness of this came from the stewardesses being snippy about it and American Airlines not offering us any compensation, which seems to be something airlines do when they inconvenience people.  For this flight, I had gone out of the way to triple check the vegan status of my ticket. I even called. I assume my meal was vegan or something, or would have been had I seen it. The margarine that came with it, however, contained whey. This was weird, because they went out of their way to offer a vegan meal request without it actually being so. As I realized this, I had these horrific images flash through my head of vegetarians with whey allergies going into anaphylactic shock on planes.

However, my meal was obviously supposed to be different from the standard. Other people got cookies, I got fruit. However, it’s worth noting that the bread and crackers they gave me were the same as they gave everyone else. For their “snack” they told me there were no special options—it was exactly the same as those next to me—but they kept the yogurt out of mine when I requested it.

On my flight back (still American—and I’m on it RIGHT NOW), I was hooked up with a special meal request. As opposed to the American flight out, the oven was working. This time, the guy sitting next to me also requested a vegetarian meal (not vegan). We got the same food. It also happened to be gluten free, low-sodium, wheat-free, and a few other things. In short: healthy. Everything special was in one go. It also wasn’t vegan! There were eggs and milk in the snack and whey in the margarine. But there was a rice cake. Man, I love rice cakes. Seriously craving some with nutritional yeast on them now.

 

 

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Plans

I have lots of plans. For example, plans of things I wish to blog about but don’t–either due to time or inspiration.

Veganism
Why I became a vegan in the first place, why I became a vegetarian in the first place, how my opinions on both of these have changed, and how I wish I could give them up but I can’t.

Donations
My parents donated to Wikipedia and Wikileaks. Previously, they have donated to SIAI (the Singularity Institute for Artificial Intelligence) and the Hunger Project. Dad normally makes a point to also donate to microfinance groups. I have donated to MSF, but no longer do so. I have also donated to BNB, and would like to do so more. I would really like to find a good water infrastructure group, but they’re all kind of a let down in the end.

Citizen Photojournalism
Why I believe that, for the most part, photojournalists aren’t people and citizen photojournalists are leeches. I cannot emphasize “for the most part” enough here.

Seeing the Protomen At PAX
And how much I loved it.

Seeing the Protomen at the Middle East
And how it scared me.

The Death of Steve Jobs
And incidentally Iilya Zhitomirskiy. I don’t care that either of these people have died and I sort of think it’s important to explain why.

Paterno
As a Pennsylvanian (almost the same way as someone whose parents moved to the US from Italy is Italian–almost) I have strong feelings about what happened, as do many people I know. However, I think this is really just window dressing for a bigger issue in which I think we shouldn’t vilify pedophiles and how they need help. The relevance of this has almost passed out of the news. I also think writing it would get me into a lot of trouble. Part of why I want to is so people will argue with me about it and help me shape my argument.

Oh dear gods, these are just the ones I’ve been thinking about today. I have a backlog list of others.

Mormons

I wish I were a Mormon.

That’s my dirty little secret.

I was first fascinated by Mormons when I was in high school. I was on the subway and I saw some in the station. I didn’t know what they were. In Pgh, there was a Mormon who lived in our building. He would happily tell me everything I wanted to know about Mormonism. When I moved out to the cold house in the forgotten neighborhood, some Mormon girls came to our door. I’d never seen a girl on mission before. I gave them hot chocolate (because Mormons don’t drink coffee or tea!) and we talked. In Mongolia, I tried to hang out with the Mormons, but they wanted nothing to do with me because I was some American kid and they were there on mission.

Last year, I discovered Mormon housewife blogs. Mormon housewife blogs are amazing. Mormonism has a strong tradition of archiving, recording, and journaling, so blogging seems like a fairly natural extension of this. The blogs I have read paint a very specific picture of what life is like as a Mormon. They range from Stacie Lang’s stories of being young, with a small child and a husband in Arizona, to Stephanie Nielson, who is a little bit older and survived a plane crash with her husband. Most of these Mormon women are young, look how I wish I looked and dress how I wish I dressed. I’ve never been inside of an Anthropologie, but they all seem to love it. They eat lots of chocolate and candy. Most of them can’t cook. They spend their days making adorable crafts, taking all the peperoni on a pizza and cutting them into heart shapes for Valentine’s Day.

These women are pretty, their husbands handsome, their children adorable, their families close, and their lives, from a domestic perspective, seemingly perfect. They have community, culture, and a sense of purpose.

People like to point out to me that this is likely an act these women feel forced to put on. “They can’t really be that happy,” I’m told. “They’re just pretending because they think that’s how they’re supposed to be.” I like to think that, among the best of the Mormon housewife blogs, these women really are able to find some sense of joy from their lives and that this isn’t an act based on expectations. That’s what I want from them: some truth.

I don’t want the life they have. Yes, I want the community, culture, and sense of purpose that Mormons seem to have, but I know I can get that in other places where the fact I don’t believe in Jesus (as an idea) doesn’t matter. I like the escapism of it. Even though I want something different from them, I like the fantasy of it. The voyeuristic pleasure in knowing that there is this simple life that is what it is. That there can be joy in every day. The picture Mormons paint for us is not written by Arthur Miller: there is not some slow discovery of the discontent and horror underneath the seemingly happy exterior. The exterior is all there is.

I like looking at pictures of people being happy. I like hearing these simple stories about how it rained, so this woman took her daughter outside to play in it, and that that was enough.

Cool

Tonight I am going to see the Protomen. Sure, I Fight Dragons and Br1ght Pr1mate are also playing, but let’s be honest, I’m going to see the Protomen. I once started writing a post about seeing them at PAX East 2011, but I could never bring myself to finish it. Mere words could not express how much I loved the show.

Mere words cannot express the unnatural, unfamiliar, bordering-on-mad lust I have for music of the Protomen. I don’t know why, but they make me shake and weak in the knees. They make me want to scream and shout and melt and grab the person nearest to me to hold me up. They make me feel like I did when I was in high school and wanted to be cool.

When I was younger, I tried to look cool. In fact, when I was younger I think I looked pretty cool. Sure, I spent part of my teenage years decked out in cutoffs and t-shirts. I also spent part of my teenage years like some cross-breed between a lazy person uncomfortable with their body, someone trying to look like a punk, and an unmitigated nerd.

I looked cool in my combat boots and fluffy skirts, my suit jackets and tight army-navy pants. My plaid shirts and clashing plaid skirts. I wore my dad’s leather police jacket. I had large, square black plastic glasses. I had great, uneven haircuts, brightly dyed, and often faded, hair, chipped nail polish, bracelets, rings, and necklaces. I had braces with the brightest pink bands the dentist could find.

Then I gained a lot of weight, stopped caring, and retreated into a sad little self-punishing world of wearing oversized t-shirts, size-twenty jeans, and unflattering short hair styles I didn’t need to comb.

Those were dark days. No one makes affordable, cool plus sized clothing. When you have no money, you can’t afford the nicer things, but even those weren’t my style. I looked awful in anything I tried on. I’d been chubby all my life, but at a size ten it was manageable. I could still be cool. After I got puffy, when nothing fit anymore, the mere mention of clothes shopping would send me to near tears. I refused to go with anyone else, for the most part, because I wanted to hide my shame.

I got older, and lost some of that weight. I’m still pretty puffy, but less puffy than I had been. I’ve reattempted “looking cool” at different times. At parties or, most notably, concerts I’d wear one of my three or four shirts that aren’t totally lame and try to convince myself that I was as stylish as I remember being. I know I’m not, or at least I think I’m not. I think I look awkward and funny. I think things don’t fit. I still get upset when I go clothes shopping, but it’s not as bad as it used to be.

The last time I saw the Protomen, I wore a purple sweater and purple leggings, a blue shirt with penguins on it, a short green skirt, and blue chucks. A little nerdy, a little cute. It wasn’t ideal, but it was enough to convince myself I was trying. I don’t know why I was trying, who I was trying to impress or show I was cool, but I was doing it anyway.

This morning, I thought about my day. Work, class, and then the show. Regardless of what I do, I will be sweaty and smell a little off by the time I get to the Middle East. I didn’t want to haul with me, on top of my gym clothes, another outfit. My bag is already not small and pretty full. I have no clue what I’ll do with it tonight. More things inside of it would be even worse.

Still half-asleep, I looked at my clean clothes, quickly assessed that it is still the case that none of my pants fit, that I still look funny in the shirts I have, and that none of the even remotely unlame ones are clean or appropriate for my somewhat respectable office job. I pulled on one pair of ill fitting jeans, a soft shirt, and my sweater. I looked at myself in the mirror and acknowledged that I wasn’t cool at all.

Then I realized that was okay.

Just like that I let go of wanting to look cool. At least for tonight, I am okay being the dork at the show. No one is going to care what I look like, and I’m going to be too tired (and too sore) to give a damn anyway. My hair will be a mess. I will step on the bottoms of my pants. I will have an obnoxiously bright yellow jacket tied around my waist. I won’t look cool and I won’t care.

(Although, I still hold out hope that Raul will meet me after the show, fall madly in love with me, and talk to me every night in his wonderful, wonderful voice.)

Turkey

This post is alternatively titled “Why There Will Be a Turkey At Thanksgiving.”

This is my first adult Thanksgiving. I spent a Thanksgiving without my family, and the day passed in a breathless whisper. It was barely there. This year won’t be like that. This will be Thanksgiving, with a capital T, and my family won’t be there to plan it. I won’t be a willing participant in what happens around me. I will plan.

Co-planning it, really, with R and two friends of his. R is supplying the tables, the chairs, the dining room, and some of the kitchen space–others have offered their kitchens. Two of his friends, and maybe a third, were delighted to get in on cooking.

It’s not -my- Thanksgiving, in that it’s at my house. I will likely be cooking a minority of the food. Still, I feel like this is my first Thanksgiving.

We’re going to have a turkey.

A photo of a turkey in an oven.

Photo courtesy of Edsel_L on Flickr. CC-BY-SA

And not just a hand turkey cut out of construction paper, though there will be those too.

I’ve been a vegetarian for more of my life than I have not been one (I’m twenty-four, for those of you keeping track)–and this includes the (combined) year I took off while I lived in Asia and prepared for living in Asia. People I’ve talked to have questioned my decision for deciding this, even though I’m not the only one planning the event. I suspect I could lower the iron cleaver and declare that no animals will have been harmed for the creating of this Thanksgiving, but I won’t.

There will be green bean casserole and mashed potatoes with whole milk and butter, pumpkin cheesecake and whipped cream, coffee and tea with half-and-half. There will be corn pudding with egg in it. There will be a turkey.

If I was having a day even dominated by vegetarians, I would push for the full vegan experience. However, as far as I know, I am the only person there who does not partake in animal products. (I’ll be honest, if I was going to my aunt’s for Thanksgiving, I’d be eating that green bean casserole even knowing it was loaded with dairy. I’d feel bad about it later, but I would eat it and enjoy it because Thanksgiving is about family.) Even though for several of the participants, it will be their first Thanksgiving, they are omnivorous and will happily eat turkey.

Freedom From Want, by Normal Rockwell, depicts a family at Thanksgiving dinner. The mother is serving a turkey, while the father stands, waiting to cut it. Around the table sit their friends, their children, and their children's children.

I am pretty sure my only right to use this is Fair Use. It is exempt from my CC-BY-SA license. Click on the image to see the Wikipedia argument for Fair Use.


The culture of Thanksgiving is about the shared experience of being connected. We make that more literal by sharing food. To remove someone from this–from the eating–is to remove them from your family and your culture. I want to share as much of where I come from–of my aunt’s green bean casserole (can you tell how much I love that stuff?) and my mom’s cheesecake recipe–with these people and bring them into my culture.

As someone who cannot remember the last time she ate turkey, it is still a part of my culture as it is part of being an American. The image of a Thanksgiving dinner includes a turkey, and even vegetarian meals try to simulate the experience. They understand the cultural necessity of that centerpiece of the table.

Or they just like the challenge. I know I often do.

A photograph of two "hand turkeys" cut out of construction paper.

Two vegan turkeys, photo courtesy of eyeliam on Flickr. CC-BY

There will be lots of vegan friendly food. I’ve been heartily inspired by Vegan YumYum’s Thanksgiving menu from 2008. But that’s not -Thanksgiving-. That’s tasty, that’s fall food, but Thanksgiving is my aunt’s white ceramic dishes holding vegetables. Napkin lined wicker baskets full of food. Candles and wine. A turkey. And leftovers. I haven’t told the British about those yet.