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.

Suburbanite Wannabes

Where I live is kinda rural (by my Florida standards)…a little place that’s a short drive into Santa Fe.

It’s called Tesuque and I’m not really sure if it’s a town, a township, an extension of Santa Fe (it’s still Santa Fe County), or some other classification that I’m not familiar with…https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Tesuque,_New_Mexico.

Like I said, it’s rural for me. So quiet. Horses in actual horse pastures. Lots of wild animals animals, too–deer, adorable skunk and raccoon families (good to help keep the pack rat population down), coyotes, and hummingbirds.

One Sunday I was cleaning, and I heard this weird noise out on the road. I was like “That can’t be what I think it is” so I went out and looked. Yep. It was a person riding a horse down the road. Clop, clop, clop.

There’s lots of lovely wildflowers, a gorgeous meadow within the complex itself, and did I mention the peaceful silence?

So, what’s wrong with this picture? Why am I blogging about it on my Sustainable Saturday blog?

As some of you may already know from a previous blog, it’s the mindset of the complex I live in as a whole.

I just don’t understand why people would want move into this rural, wild-ish environment, when they have such a strong suburban mentality. There are plenty of (gated?) communities in Santa Fe proper with perfectly pristine landscaped yards/landscaping. Why don’t you live there? Why do you have to come out here and ruin this lovely rural spot with your suburban wannabe mentality? To be frank, my (human) neighbours are an ugly taint on this otherwise picturesque haven. Plus, I’m also just plain pissed off that it’s twice in a row that I got woken up by a weed-whacker on my first day off after working with kids and teenagers all week. Because, by the time Saturday comes, I’m just so exhausted and drained, and just need one morning to sleep in. Just one. Yes, there was grumbling and cursing this morning. A lot of it. And I didn’t even care who overheard me. I was that pissed off. And then maybe I cried some. Which didn’t help my  already bleary-eyed fumbling as I tried to feed the cat.

Right now, the once-sunlit meadow full of beautiful waving grass is being chopped down by some guy with just a weed-whacker. (Poor guy! I imagine he’s not even making very much. If he were in Florida, he’d only be earning a pittance.) Not to mention the habitat loss of all the critters who used that meadow as sanctuary or for foraging or whatever other unseen animal activities take place in meadows.

They also routinely cut down all the lovely purple and orange wildflowers that the bees love.

So, I’m angry. Frustrated. Confused. Stressed. Hurting. Still exhausted.

But most of all, I’m heartbroken for the loss of the quiet beauty all around me that it seems only I appreciate. Well, me, and the animals and bees.

So, human neighbours, I don’t care if you smile and wave at me as you drive past. I’m not interested in being neighbourly with people like you. End of story.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Eating around the World: The United States

 

Luckily, I’m still feeling summery-lazy, so this will be a short list. I’ve lived and visited a bunch of places in the U.S. and, while I still pine for the international cuisine I sampled way too many years ago (French bread. Italian gelato and espresso. Indian food in the UK.), there are a few restaurants that stand out in my memory on this side of the pond. I tend to like my restaurants cozy, down-to-earth, and simple, but that doesn’t mean they aren’t good!

In Burlington, Vermont:

A Single Pebble is, quite simply, the best Chinese restaurant I’ve been to. I still get cravings for their Mock Eel–which, from their menu description, is “crispy shiitake mushrooms glazed in a ginger scallion soy sauce”. And it’s unbelievably good. I miss Vermont for a lot of reasons, but this tops the list.

In Asheville, North Carolina:

The Laughing Seed. Because of their amazing variety of vegetarian/vegan options. They also have a lot of stuff that’s gluten free, which I would have appreciated more if I’d known then that I was gluten intolerant. Anyhoo, I don’t see my favourite on the menu anymore (but, my brain is getting old, so…) but I think the Seven Seas Filet comes close to replicating it. (Maybe that was it?) Truthfully, the wait service was consistently poor, even from the viewpoint of this sympathetically patient former food service worker, but the delicious food made up for the rude and inattentive waitstaff.

In Sarasota, Florida:

Sunrise Cafe–A cozy, friendly, down-to-earth jewel in increasingly elitist and snobby Sarasota. Scottish staff is super friendly, and they quickly became friends of the family. One of the few things I miss about Sarasota. (and, yes, I try to keep my posts nice, but I have absolutely zero qualms about painting Sarasota and Florida for what it really is–especially since I was born and raised there, and have witnessed firsthand the crazy shenanigans that happen there.)

Bangkok Restaurant–The restaurant is just gorgeous. The owners told us one time that they brought over all the restaurant furnishings from overseas when they came. It has been a favourite of mine since the early 90s. Back when I could actually afford to eat/live in Sarasota (and, even then, only survived by working three full-time jobs), my friends and I used to eat there every week. And, yet, they still managed to mess up the dish I ordered every single time. *laugh* But it was so good, it was worth the wait. And the atmosphere, with incredibly carved dark wood tables…well, you just have to see it.

 

In Santa Fe and Espanola, New Mexico:

I’m not sure if  I’ve decided on a favourite, yet, this time around. Among contenders are The Teahouse, The New York Deli, the Tecolote Cafe, and the Five Star Burgers, and La Cocina.

 

(Not) Understanding the Suburban Mentality

 

Mulder: “I mean, is it so damn important for everybody to have the same color mailbox?”–The X-Files, “Arcadia”

Okay, I admit, the mentality of suburbanites and gated-community dwellers just plain mystifies me. I used to be a little more philosophical about it–live and let live–as long as I don’t have to live there. Or even visit people I knew who lived there. Until I really became aware of the environmental impact of the suburbs (back in my late teens/early 20s–so a while ago *wry laugh*).

Little Boxes: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=VUoXtddNPAM

Crabgrass Frontier: The Suburbanization of the United States

Let’s temporarily forget about (not that you should) the acres upon acres of wilderness (in Florida, where I’m from originally, it’s the already severely diminished wetlands and swamps) that fall prey to the developers’ chainsaws. Let’s look at the communities themselves. Instead of renovating an older home or apartment building, there’s this trend where everything has to be brand-sparkling-new. This one young person I knew actually said those specific words when she was complaining about her old-building rental. So, now, because people don’t want to live in a place that’s been used and lived in by someone else, they help contribute to the destruction of the environment, because of all the new construction materials that have to be manufactured to build these perfect new homes. And, typically, they are pretty cheaply built on top of that. Or, if there’s an old home on the site, it has to be demolished and carted away to a landfill, generating more environmental issues.

So, having ignored all of the above, I don’t understand why you would even want a cookie-cutter home that looks like all the others. Boring. Plus, how on earth do people even find their trendy brand-new home, after one too many mixologist-concocted drinks, if they all look alike? (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=gLxC1bJmF_Uhttps://www.youtube.com/watch?v=gLxC1bJmF_U)

Then, the lawn mania. It astounds me how obsessive people still are about having perfect green lawns. All day long, every day, you’ve got people or lawn crews out with lawnmovers, leafblowers, weedwhackers–the noise is constant and it’s all…day…long. One couple even had a ShopVac that they used to vacuum leaves off their lawn–seriously. People, having those green lawns, especially in Florida, takes a toxic combination of chemical fertilizer, herbicides, and pesticides. And guess where all that stuff is going, especially in coastal communities? Yep, right into the waterways. (http://www.rodalesorganiclife.com/garden/dark-side-lawns) And, it seems to me that it’s completely unregulated. Even organizations and people who are supposed to be advocates for environmental protection and protectors of our natural spaces not only use things like Round-up, but are strong supporters of its use. (I know, I contacted some local representatives of these organizations directly). You know what that causes? http://www.cnn.com/2016/07/01/us/florida-algae-pollution/http://www.cnn.com/2016/07/01/us/florida-algae-pollution/ (This recent news item is the main inspiration for this article, by the way.) I can also speak from personal experience. Red tide used to only happen maybe once a year when I was growing up. When I was living there more recently, red tide was happening practically year-round. When I was growing up, there were less turfed green lawns–now everyone seemed to have one. And, of course, there’s the dead zone in the Gulf. http://www.noaanews.noaa.gov/stories2015/080415-gulf-of-mexico-dead-zone-above-average.html. So, what can be done about it? Even for those of us trying to fight it, it’s difficult when the local city and state politicians are corrupt and firmly on the side of developers and tourism. See examples here: http://www.heraldtribune.com/article/20150630/ARTICLE/150639959  and  http://www.srqmagazine.com/srq-daily/2016-03-26/3713_Institutional-Corruption and http://www.heraldtribune.com/article/20150319/ARCHIVES/503191026

This paper espouses a stronger viewpoint about the state of things in Sarasota: http://sarasotaphoenix.net/

Sadly, even when people strive to implement xeriscaping, or try to use mulch beds in combination with native plants, they then resort to using Round-up to keep the weeds out. Which makes no kind of sense whatsoever. I mean, why bother with the environmentally friendly landscaping if you’re just going to dump Agent Orange Round-up all over it?

I hated to leave Florida without being able to affect any kind of change whatsoever. It felt like I was abandoning it to the mercy of the people who just wanted a beachfront paradise/condo–abandoning the swamps and the natural Florida I loved as a kid. But I couldn’t afford to live there among all the rich snowbirds, and an opportunity opened up to get out of that conservative hellhole.

So, I moved to New Mexico. Santa Fe. Where I’m at, at least had a little bit of a rural feel–a touch of the wild. There’s a ditch right by my driveway, and it was lined with beautiful flowers. Tall yellow flowers that followed the sun, and little orange and purple flowers. Essentially, lots of green growy things that helped take the edge off moving to the desert from green, lush Florida. And it was so quiet–no sirens, no SWAT teams running down the street, no gunshots,  and, best of all, no lawn equipment.

Then I was woken up (7 am on a Saturday morning, no less) to the sound a weed-whacker right outside my window. Yep, all the lovely wildflowers–gone. All the lilies around my rain barrel–gone. The whole lovely meadow, full of waving, shimmery grass in the compound–gone. And now the compound is coming after me because the area lining my gate looks “messy”, so, by the laws of the unit, I have to get rid of all the growing things along the fence.Or some of them. I still don’t understand what they are talking about. I don’t even know what I’m supposed to weed out. It’s no different than when I moved in. To me, it’s just beautiful, wild nature.

I don’t really feel like I belong in this world–it makes no sense to me.  I’ve never felt more like a social misfit then I have this week. And I’ve always kinda been the odd one out.

I have some things to figure out about where to take my life from here…to continue the fight and how best to make a difference for this planet and all its wonderful plants, animals, and other natural elements.

 

 

 

“On your mark, get set…Bake!”

Yay! The Great British Baking Show returns to TV land tonight!

In keeping with the British spirit, I decided to review one of my favourite local places in Santa Fe…The Teahouse!

I went here in winter, but the summery (and shady!) outdoor seating makes it even more fabulous!

Be prepared to spend a long time perusing the tea and beverage menu…they have an incredible amount of teas–all with intriguing, and sometimes comical, names. I was in tea heaven just on the selection alone. Plus, they have delectable tea latte blends that can be had hot or iced. With tea latte names like “Dublin Fog”, “Tokyo Fog”, and “Oxford Haze”, how can you resist? (My favourite is the “Smokey”, with lapsang souchong, milk, and vanilla.)

But, never fear, coffee lovers, they have a good variety of coffee drinks…everything from a classic espresso to  specialty iced chicory coffees cold-brewed in the New Orleans (cream and sugar) or New England style (cream and maple syrup).

And, yes, they have beer, sake, and lots of other alcohol-filled libations.

For tea nibbles, they have scones (of course!) served with clotted cream and lemon curd, as well as other pastries (flavours depending on the day)–and they also have gluten-free pastry options.

Even better they have a full breakfast and lunch menu! Breakfast choices, sandwiches & paninis, tantalizing entree dishes, and scrumptious desserts!

I generally have the Irish grilled cheese (aged Irish cheddar and mustard, according to their menu) on gluten-free bread. It’s so frickin’ good.

The Teahouse is located on Canyon Road in Santa Fe, which is lined with art galleries and other shops. You can walk up Canyon Road and check out the art galleries and other shops along the way, or you can drive straight there and park in their lot, or use public pay-for-parking lot right next door.

Let me know what you think!

The Teahouse
821 Canyon Road
Santa Fe, NM 87505
505-992-0972
http://teahousesantafe.com/

Random Acts of…Matchbook Collecting

So, this friend of the family gave me a collection of matchbook covers when I ran into them in a local thrift store last week. Some of the artwork on the matchbook covers have that cool vintage-y retro feel/fonts that I love (Not sure how vintage they are, or the era).

A couple of familiar places among them…

(Yep, that’s it for my “Throwback Thursday post…up late dealing with gas dryer/carbon monoxide emergency. *yawn* My cat was definitely not happy having to sit in the car in her carrier while we got the situation sorted. She’s still recovering from the “trauma” today. LOL)

 

SardisNewMexicoHawaii

 

 

 

 

Meow Wolf’s House of Eternal Return

So, I was lucky enough to have someone treat me to a trip to Meow Wolf’s House of Eternal Return. It’s an incredible exploratory and interactive experience.

Words can barely describe the feeling that you get when you are there.

You never want to leave…it’s a dream that you had when you were a kid but forgot about until now.

It’s every fantasy book you’ve ever read, come to life.

Alice in Wonderland.

Charles de Lint’s The Onion Girl.

The Victorian/Baroque feel of a Victoria Holt novel.

The Gormenghast Trilogy.

I could go on, but I’d rather you get lost in the House of Eternal Return, instead.

Just go. Get on a plane. Take a train. Take a portal. Cross galaxies. Whatever you have to do to experience it.

Visit the Meow Wolf website for more information:

https://meowwolf.com/about/visit/

New York Times slideshow (visual spoilers):

http://www.nytimes.com/slideshow/2016/03/21/t-magazine/inside-the-house-of-eternal-return/s/21tmag-house-slide-QY1U.html?_r=0