Survival of the Fittest…

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.

Fun Ways to Enliven Eating at Home! Even if You’re a Single Dweller!

In an offshoot way, I was a little inspired by Reflections of a Modern Philosopher’s post, Popular Prescription: Patriotic Porch Pie, which got me thinking about the food rituals we practice, which led to this blog’s inception.

When I was in undergrad school, I went to stay with a fellow student over one of the school’s holiday breaks. She and her mom would have theme dinners. When I was there, they had a “yellow” dinner–all yellow foods and yellow plates. It was such a fun idea, that I (almost) yearned to have friends IRL so we could all get together and have fun theme dinners like that. *laugh*

Somebody I knew, once, suggested we get together and cook dinner once a week, so that we (both single) could have a home-cooked meal. It ended up in an argument, because I was in the kitchen and I turned around to find this person sitting on the sofa, playing with my cat. “Oh, hell no,” were my exact words, I think.

So, I thought I’d post some fun ways to liven up your meals, regardless on whether you’re someone whose world is populated with hordes of friends, or a prickly loner like me. Most of these have a nerdy theme, of course!

The Geeky Chef has recipes ranging from the X-Files to Twin Peaks to Legend of Zelda! There’s even a cookbook!

Mulder: Did you bring enough ice cream to share with the rest of the class?

Scully: It’s not ice cream… it’s non-fat tofutti rice dreamsicle.

Mulder: Ugh… I bet the air in my mouth tastes better than that.

Check out this amazing database of recipes from everything from games to comic books to movies to manga/anime…can’t wait to try some of these! http://nerdyrecipes.tumblr.com/

Here’s a list of some fun cookbooks to get you started (some appeared on an earlier post): http://www.thatsnerdalicious.com/features/14-of-the-best-cookbooks-for-nerds-featured/

Here’s some menu ideas for geek-themed parties for all your (imaginary?) friends: http://www.sparknotes.com/mindhut/2012/10/04/geek-themed-dinner-party-menu-ideas

My preferences are all geek/nerd related (unless it’s Halloween!)–what sort of foodie themes would you like for your dinner-and-a-movie/TV/Book-nights? Share your creative ideas in the comments!

Speaking of Things I’m Proud Of… (re: award question by Somber Scribbler)

…I have an article coming out in Renaissance Magazine in their February/March issue…”Human Chess Matches”! This February/March issue has lots of other fascinating articles with titles (as listed in the magazine’s teaser column in the December/January issue I have) like “Painted Wagons of Anatolia”, “Seeking Sanctuary”–which looks to be exciting tales/exploits of those who “take refuge in a church” (<–as quoted from the Renaissance Magazine blurb)–, “Tarot Readers: It’s All in the Cards”, “Recreating Historic Gems”, “Whips and Knives” (no, to a certain sector of my blog readers, it’s the vanilla-flavoured version. *wink* LOL), and lots of great regular features/columns exploring costuming (for Ren/medieval faires, medieval/renaissance gardening, art, archaeology, herbology, cooking, and book/music reviews.

Check it out at: http://www.renaissancemagazine.com/

Thanks for all the support!

(Yes, still packing and not even remotely procrastinating at all *laugh*)

Native American Ancestral Cuisine Cooking Competition…

O…M…G…how I wish I was there! *pines* They even have a chef from Santa Fe’s Coyote Cafe! (if you haven’t realized it by now, I think Santa Fe, and New Mexico in general, is the foodie capital of the U.S.–of the states I’ve been to. The food/restaurants are so frickin’ fabulous!).

Check out this great foodie blog post from fellow blogger Oscar Hokeah:

https://hokeahoscar.wordpress.com/2015/01/01/aromatic-artistry-cooking-competitions-and-restoring-ancestral-cuisine/

Post-Thanksgiving Munchies…

So, I try to post “equal opportunity” recipes (well, not equal opportunity for the critters, but…) for all food preferences. Most times the meat recipes don’t bother me…I used to be a cook and was hoping to build a career in the restaurant biz at one time. Peel shrimp, slice meat, work the grill–all that stuff.

For some reason, today, I looked at one photo of a turkey leftover recipe on the Food & Wine page, and immediately went “blech”. It was like I could almost smell, and taste, the turkey, and it instantly brought back memories of childhood meals. *laugh*

When we were growing up, we “had” to eat everything on our plate, and the paper table napkins could only hide so much meat in them. Also, the closet that held the semi-masticated meat repository (usually a shoe box or plastic bag) was always raided and discovered before I had a chance to smuggle it out to the garbage can. Once, I was ratted out by a visiting family member’s dog as I went to the “bathroom” with my napkin-wrapped bundle of meat. Frickin’ dog.

About a year after I graduated high school (1991), I became vegetarian.

Vegetarianism is natural to me, just as maybe eating meat is natural to others. Some sort of internal body chemistry that dictates taste/food cravings? I don’t know…

Any foods you were “had” to eat as a kid that you can’t stand as an adult?

Anyway, here’s your “Foodie Feasting Friday” recipes! Hope I didn’t ruin anybody’s appetite! 🙂

Food & Wine: http://www.foodandwine.com/slideshows/thanksgiving-leftovers-to-love?xid=DISH112814TakesOnThanksgivingLeftovers

Great Ideas From Grist! http://grist.org/food/thanksgiving-leftovers-nah-turkey-empanadas-you-bet/

And (belated) vegan recipes, also from Grist: http://grist.org/food/13-vegan-thanksgiving-recipes-were-grateful-for/

Spice up the leftovers with a chili sauce!: http://www.loverofcreatingflavours.co.uk/2014/11/like-hot-aji-chilli-sauce/?utm_source=feedburner&utm_medium=email&utm_campaign=Feed%3A+LoverOfCreatingFlavours+%28Lover+Of+Creating+Flavours%29

Scrumptious Pumpkin Oatmeal (vegan)…MMMM: http://cookingwithawallflower.com/2014/11/28/pumpkin-oatmeal-dried-cranberries-toasted-walnuts/

Apparently, it’s National French Toast Day today: http://belikewaterproduction.com/2014/11/27/happy-national-french-toast-day-nov-28th-fluffy-french-toast/

And, if you’re like me and don’t cook (US only, sorry), here’s some restaurants for holiday dining: http://www.travelandleisure.com/articles/best-holiday-restaurants-in-the-us?xid=JustIn112714BestHolidayRestaurants

Make one of these and binge-watch garbage TV, and avoid the scary Black Friday nightmare: http://www.foodandwine.com/slideshows/thanksgiving-drinks-for-a-crowd?xid=DISH112714ThanksgivingDrinksToStart

Or Egg Nog: http://www.loverofcreatingflavours.co.uk/2014/11/great-50-sainsburys-food-voucher-giveaway/?utm_source=feedburner&utm_medium=email&utm_campaign=Feed%3A+LoverOfCreatingFlavours+%28Lover+Of+Creating+Flavours%29

Tips for Vegetarians/Vegans Who Don’t/Can’t/Won’t Cook

Okay, so it’s one of my pet peeves that when the subject of cooking comes up, and I tell people I’m terrible at cooking, plus I hate cooking, plus I started three mini-fires just by boiling water for mac ‘n’ cheese–I immediately, invariably get a patronizing lecture on how I just need to get over myself and learn to cook. It irritates me, because I know DAMN well that they are attempting on giving me the chastising lecture because I am female, and it’s apparently mandatory that I need to learn how to cook. Piss on their double standard. (Men who cook, on the other hand, are irresistibly endearing! *laugh*)

If you have the money, there are restaurants galore these days to compensate for a lack of cooking ability, even for vegetarians/vegans, these days restaurants are a lot more accommodating than they were when I first became a vegetarian (1991). Food trucks are a good option, I’ve found.

When you’re a broke vegetarian, like me, and hate cooking, and only have a toaster oven, it does make for some (temporary, I keep hoping!) limitations, but there’s still stuff I can find to eat without incurring the expense of eating out. For snacks, I was existing on chips for a while by Kettle Chips, http://www.kettlebrand.com/. Now, I get a jar of pickles or stuffed olives. Also, peanut butter/nut butters or hummus on rice cakes is pretty good. Sandwiches with veggie meat and Daiya cheese made a nice lunch change. http://us.daiyafoods.com/

For toaster oven/microwaves:

Amy’s Organic frozen breakfast, lunches and dinners (Vegetarian/Vegan/Gluten-free options). They also have a ton of burritos and wraps for lunches. Expensive? Sometimes, but Target often has them on sale, and, when I get my food stamps, I head over there and stock up. I wish I could afford to shop at local stores for these meals, but I have to budget.

http://www.amys.com/

Just add boiling water for yummy soups, asian meals, and even oatmeals:

McDougal’s Right Foods: https://www.rightfoods.com/index.php

For stove tops:

When I was in grad school, I lived on Annie’s mac ‘n’ cheese (http://www.annies.com/products/mac-cheese) and these boil-in-a-bag Indian dinners (http://www.kitchensofindia.com/US/Products/Ready-to-Eat/Dinners), which are actually really good!

Any other suggestions? *laugh*