I’m going to preface this blog post (just to put it in context, though, yes, I can be quite misanthropic at times, and I’m okay with that) by saying that I’ve been living quite comfortably in my introvert bubble for the past year or so: http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2014/10/16/understanding-introverts-_n_5989656.html. With the exception of work, and a few laid-back meet-ups, I’ve had the luxury of just hanging out with me and my sweet senior kitty.
Paradoxically, I’m subscribed to several Meetup groups that I look at, even add to my calendar sometimes, but never attend. I make my day job the scapegoat–it’s so tiring for this introvert to deal with oodles of kids of varying ages, and so when I come home I just want to chill out. And I have this weird geographic homesickness plaguing me. I miss the siren lure of the ocean and the mystic magic of the green swamps that are usually strong enough to lure me out of the house.
So, after the allergy doctor said I was probably lactose intolerant, I decided to go to a vegetarian Meet-Up about ways to cook without dairy. I’ve never been to a cooking demo, but I imagined that it was just a visual demonstration of cooking, and maybe some recipe handouts. I didn’t think it would take more than half an hour or so. Holy crap, was I wrong. They had about four (?) vegan chefs there, if not more. Between them, they prepared an astounding ten recipes in all. But the thing that really amazed me was the attendees. I have no past experience, so maybe this is normal and accepted behavior for one of these events–I don’t know? Maybe they’re used to it, being more social and extroverted? (This blog entry will probably put me on some vegan/locals blacklist! LOL) I won’t fall back on cliche metaphors that are actually an insult to some of my favourite non-human lifeforms (vultures, wolves, sharks) but the civilized, gracious air that was present when I first walked in quickly disintegrated into a crazed feeding frenzy. It was just like being at one of these socialite events my folks used to drag me to when I was a kid. They would have free food out, and we would always eat before we went (or after) to avoid being trampled by the horde decked out in outfits and jewelry that cost thousands of dollars. Once, I was so hungry that I braved the crowd at one of these events, and this elderly lady stared me down, then deliberately kicked me in the shins, and almost knocked me over on the way to the buffet table. Put a buffet table at an Ultimate Fighting Championship and I tell ya, she would have been a contender.
Anyway, back to the horde of ravening vegetarian zombies. Here I am, only taking a small helping just for taste, so I know how to prepare it, because I’m more of an intuitive cook, and I’m dumbfounded watching these people take three, four, or even five helpings, once, and shoving them in their mouths so fast that they seem like victims of a famine, instead of so-called “first world” citizens. I mean, I don’t even like taking free food–as a previous worker in the food industry, I’m suspicious of food that’s just left out all day–with good reason. People are so barbaric when it comes to the free-sample phenomenon. Once, I was in a grocery store, and I literally saw a women reach into a sneeze-guard-covered plastic serving container of chips that had been left out to try, flatten her hand and press it all over the surface layer of the chips, before taking a handful. I have no idea what the heck she was doing, but I reiterated my vow to never even be tempted to take any free food samples unless they were hermetically sealed.
Still, even worse was the disrespectful behavior of the attendees. It was like they thought they were just hanging out at an all-you-can-eat buffet restaurant with their friends, and they were just chatting away and not even paying attention to the chefs’ demonstration. They were so frickin’ rude. And then they would interrupt their own discussions to yell at the poor chefs “I can’t hear you” in a really snotty, demanding tone, after they’d just been sitting there yakking away and stuffing their tenth helping in their faces instead of quietly paying attention to the chefs’ presentation. At one point I gave in to my teacher instinct and even shushed the obnoxious attendees, because they were yakking so much I couldn’t hear the chefs, and I had a front-and-center position.
The best-behaved attendees were two little kids, about elementary-school age. And that reminded me of the code of behavior and the expectations that are present at the schools I sub at. There, the kids have to use indoor voices, be quiet and focused and attentive and not talk when the teacher is talking and make sure they raise their hand and put their listening ears on and don’t interrupt the teacher. I tell ya, in comparison, every single one of those adults would have gotten a red card and probably even been sent to the principal’s office, on my watch. It made me so sad and angry to come to the realization of the double standard we impose on kids. We are so hard on them, and then they go out in public and have to witness grown-ups who have the freedom to act like complete jerks and then have to go back to class and toe the line even at the elementary school level. I’d be so pissed off, if I were a little kid and had to see the hypocritical examples grown-ups set for the little tykes. Kudos to those kids and their amazing parental figures!
And then, after I braced myself to take a free sample, then, at least, some of the attendees got up to help the chefs pass out samples. The attendees seemed to be a pretty close-knit bunch, as previously demonstrated by all the yakking going on. But then it seemed like they united together and worked to ostracize me, the irregular attendee to their meet-ups. At risk of sounding paranoid, the same thing happened at the last event I went to by this same group, and I finally left because they were shutting me out every time I had a question about a product on the supermarket tour. I mean, the woman passing out the samples would look me straight in the eye, then walk right past me, turn her back to me, and handed out multiple helpings to her friends. I really wanted to try the vegan cheese sauce for pasta, so I had to go chase down the bowl that people were having a free-for-all with (I tried not to think about the double-dipping going on) and nearly lost some fingers in trying to get a little taste. To be fair, I think this was one of the chef’s helpers, so they had every right to eat the leftovers after all their hard work, but one attendee literally grabbed the serving bowl and, with the huge serving spoon, was shoveling spoonfuls of the remaining cheesy pasta into their mouth as fast as she could. I tried not to think about the cross-contamination, but lost what little appetite I had at this point. I was hard-pressed not to throw up, actually.
Finally, we got to the Alfredo pasta sauce. This is my ultimate favourite, so I couldn’t wait to sample it. But, again, I got the shut-out. The same woman that had passed out the samples before was making sure all her buddies had at least one sample (I didn’t notice whether she was hooking them up with multiple servings like she did before, but I suspect she did), and there wasn’t any left that I could try. It was at that point that I decided to leave. I just couldn’t take any more, and figured I was going to do something I regretted because I was so pissed off. Not because I didn’t get a sample, but because of how rude and disrespectful people were being to the chefs. Or puke all over an attendee, because I was, seriously, feeling nauseous at their unchecked greed. I was so embarrassed to even be a part of such a crowd of people, and I hated to even take a small sample, because it classed me with the rest of the crowd. I mean, it was like these people hadn’t eaten in a year.
Since this was my first time at a cooking demo, I wasn’t even sure if this was typical behavior. Have any of you people been to a cooking demo? Is this a typical situation? Have I just offended 99.9% of my blog readers? If so, so be it. Because, in my opinion, I still don’t think that a cooking demo should be treated like an all-you-can-eat buffet. Respectfully take a sample–it’s a taster, not a substitute for a restaurant-prepared meal–and keep in mind that you are not there to hang out with your friends. Keep quiet when the chefs are talking. If you want to go eat and socialize with your friends, get off your cheap a**es and go to a nearby restaurant with your friends. Don’t ruin it for the rest of us who are sincerely there because they need to educate themselves about dairy alternatives. I was so mad that the people there were not even taking it seriously, and being so disrespectful to the chefs and to those attendees who were actually being quiet and listening to the presentations. I’ll spare you the gruesome TMI details, but it sucks to be lactose intolerant. Like one of the chefs there said, she was really bummed when she found out that she was allergic to dairy and had to give up cheese. I was right there with her, and I was so frustrated with the rest of the rude attendees continually disrupting the demo that I felt like crying by the time I decided to leave. (I did cry, in the privacy of my car, in the parking lot, because you know, I’m an adult, and I didn’t want to be immature in public.) It was easy to make the transition to being vegetarian back in 1991, but, I admit, I’m finding it hard to make the transition to being completely vegan, especially at my age.
So, to wrap this (introvert-fueled?) diatribe up, I vowed never to attend another Meetup by this local group (famous last words, right?). My first experience was only mildly unpleasant/stressful (again, from an introvert’s perspective)–this second experience was a complete nightmare. As soon as I got home, I went to the group’s Meet-Up page, and immediately withdrew from the group. Any feelings I had of being rash, impulsive, and petty were negated by one of the comments on the event listing–one individual/zombie was asking if there was going to be another huge plate of food there. If I’d seen that comment before the event, I probably would have known better than to waste my limited introvert social credits on such an outing. Ugh. I’ve never been happier to be a misanthropic introvert, I tell ya. Frickin’ humans.
Not that any local people will stumble across this, but a big, fat, greedy THANK YOU to the chefs and to BODY in Santa Fe for hosting this event–you have a beautiful space, and thank you for being my client all those years ago. I really appreciate it, even though I was rude enough to leave the presentation early. Please accept my apologies. I really appreciate the time you took out of your day, chefs, to host this event, and the valuable knowledge and recipes you shared. They will help make this transition a lot less intimidating. And, what samples I got were very tasty, especially the Macho Nacho Cheeze and the Cheezy [Pasta] sauce. I would have volunteered to help clean up after the event, but I, as quietly and unobtrusively as possible, stormed out. I just got introvert-overwhelmed. Forgive me! *laugh*
If you’ve made it to the end of this, any thoughts you’d like to share? Post up in the comments.