Growing up, I was a picky eater. Tomatoes were persona non grata on my plate. Though I recognized that the “I’m-A-Fruit-Masquerading-As-A-Vegetable” meant well, I couldn’t understand why tomatoes insisted on encasing their precious seeds in something the consistency of snot. Oranges were also out of the question. If we were meant to eat them, why would the powers that be weave all that stringy, pulpy crap throughout an orange’s flesh? Bananas? Fuggetaboutit! After three bites, the funniest of fruits becomes slimy on the inside, almost as if a tomato had dropped by for an evening of inter-genus plant sex and didn’t bother to clean up the wet spot post-coitus.
Despite the lure of a red-lipped, ginger psycho clown, I may have been the only kid in America who didn’t want to devour a McDonalds’ hamburger – or any burger, for that matter. Ground meat could contain, well, anything. Animal bone. Truck parts. Factory workers’ fingers. Bits of curling, ginger, evil clown hair. My fears were confirmed when my parents forced me to eat a homemade hamburger and, with my very first mouthful, I bit down on a piece of dreaded gristle. Okay, no one ever called it the dreaded gristle but me. Still, when your mother tells you to spit it out and continue eating, you realize that the gristle shouldn’t have been there, much like Michele Bachmann at Drag Queen Bingo. It didn’t help that no one would explain to me exactly what gristle was, how it ended up in my burger, or what would happen to me if I accidentally swallowed a piece of it. All I knew was that it sounded a lot like grisly - as in grisly murder.
On the rare occasion in which I did chow down on a slab o’ meat, it had to be completely exorcised of the sinister fat that wound its way around and throughout the cooked piece of carcass. Fat was disgusting. Like gum, it could be chewed and chewed, but unlike gum, it didn’t taste like fruit, nor could it be blown into pink bubbles. It did introduce me to my overactive gag reflex which is called into action anytime my mouth comes into contact with something that doesn’t belong in it. Okay, maybe not everything. Nonetheless, every round of Junior Miss Snarky Pants vs. Fatty Porkchop ended the same way: with little balls of masticated pig flesh hidden in my napkin or beneath the rim of my dinner plate.
Perhaps the most baffling part of my childhood was spent trying to figure out (1) why people ate fruits and berries that were covered in hair or fuzz; and (2) why people would bother eating foods that required one to spit a portion of that food back out again. With regard to the first, I couldn’t and still can’t comprehend why a human being would deliberately ingest hair. Is it not generally considered bad form to lick one’s cat or dog in order to groom them? If so, then why would a person consume a peach? Or a strawberry? Any fruit that wants to be eaten should have the decency to shave first.
Likewise, it was puzzling to be told by my mother that when eating watermelon, I should spit out the seeds. Although I didn’t harbor the fear that a watermelon would grow in my stomach if I swallowed one of its teardrop-shaped seeds, I was offended by the watermelon’s audacity to have so many seeds, not to mention the fact that it allowed them to spread throughout its flesh like those obnoxious people in the airport terminal who plop all of their carry-on luggage on the empty chairs so that no one else can sit down. Watermelon is a fruit that has no respect for the people who eat it, unlike, say, the apple – who keeps its seeds under control, confined to its core. An apple begs – no, pleads – to be eaten; small and encased in a protective, but edible, skin, it promises to be fast about it and not waste your time. Watermelons are so laissex-fucking-faire about the whole thing. Come eat me, the watermelon purrs, but don’t make any plans because you’re going to need a chainsaw in order to open me up and then it’ll take all afternoon for you to sort through my flesh with your tongue, reserve the seeds in the side of your cheek and then spit them out before starting all over again. This is why watermelons are only eaten at picnics on lazy Sundays and not during your half hour lunch break at work. Sorry, Kitchen Slattern, watermelon vodka shots don’t count. If they did, I’d reach the suggested daily allowance of fruit by 10:30 a.m. each morning.
So why the diatribe about my awkward relationship with food, which, by the way, was accurately diagnosed as texture issues by someone with no medical or psychological background whatsoever? Because although I wasn’t a fan of certain foods as a young child, it didn’t prevent me from correctly identifying a vast array of veggies, fruits and berries – even if I didn’t like them. Today’s kids – and teenagers, for that matter – don’t know the first thing about fresh produce. Now before you begin typing out an indignant comment in which you paint your particular child as a lover of all fruits and vegetables, one who personally tends to her own organic garden and orchard which she fertilizes with homemade compost, take a moment to watch celebrity chef, Jamie Oliver, as he asks a classroom of first graders to identify some common fruits and vegetables:
My only consolation is that the child pronounced potato as po-tay-toe instead of po-tah-toe, like some Downton Abbey lord of the manor. That and the knowledge that if the little moppet had been sired by a migrant farm worker, he would’ve known the difference. You may be thinking to yourself, “These children are merely six years old.” Yeah, well those six year olds know how to write binary code, count to 1,000 in Mandarin and recite the entirety of the Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows verbatim. The reason they can’t tell the difference between a potato and tomato is because everything they eat comes out of a can or a box. How would a non-breeder like myself know this? Because these processed food-eating
garbage disposals kids eventually grow into the teenagers who work as cashiers at my local Super Wal-Mart – the same cashiers who inevitably hold up the line for twenty minutes as they scan page after page of laminated, illustrated produce printouts because they’ve never seen a butternut squash in their entire lives. Or an avocado. Or spinach. Or a tomato – or was that a potato?
Despite my attempts to assist the cashier by saying, “Erm, that’s a butternut squash,” the confused teenager will call for manager assistance – probably because customer-perpetrated produce fraud is sooooooo rampant these days – and then me, the cashier and the twelve shoppers in line behind me will all wait. And wait. And wait. Eventually, the overworked Wal-Mart manager will arrive and declare the foreign substance in the cashier’s hands to be a butternut squash. Before I can say, “Hah! Don’t tell me that I don’t know my gourds,” the manager has raced off to another checkout stand to announce that baby carrots are coming through (no, they don’t wear diapers), and to a third aisle to identify a bell pepper that had the nerve to be both red and green at the same time. In the end, it doesn’t matter because the manager will have to revisit my aisle multiple times because the cashier has confused red cabbage with iceberg lettuce, and doesn’t know the difference between a zucchini and a cucumber. Which means Hubby’s ice cream has melted and my almond milk is warm. Grrrrrr.
Of course, the larger issue is that if a teenager old enough to work at Wal-Mart can’t identify most vegetables and fruits just by looking at them, he or she probably isn’t going to buy those fruit and vegetables for the children that he or she will one day spawn. Within two generations, we’ll be surrounded by millions of Honey Boo Boos, who eat nothing but roadkill, ‘sketti and cheese balls. For those of you who have wisely resisted the urge to tune in to watch Honey Boo Boo and her talking belly, ‘sketti is spaghetti noodles served with a sauce made from ketchup and margarine. I’m pretty sure that Bizarre Food’s Andrew Zimmern, who, incidentally, follows Miss Snarky Pants on Twitter (I know…OMG!), just threw up in his mouth.
Much in the same way that we describe alcohol as being distilled multiple times, the fruits and vegetables of the future will be processed again and again until they no longer resemble their original selves. The only way we’ll be able to distinguish pureed carrots from pureed sweet potatoes will be by reading the printing on the frozen, cardboard box they come in – because, Lord knows, our kids won’t be able to tell by looking at the photo. If we don’t make changes now, our fresh produce will be molded and shaped by technology, becoming – in the process of being, erm, processed – as unrecognizable as that chick from “Dirty Dancing.” What was her name again? Jennifer Grape?
If you enjoyed this post, please eat a banana – or share this blog with your friends on Facebook or Twitter!
What foods did you hate when you were a child? Do you eat any of them now?
If being a vegan is akin to belonging to a particular religion, then I must be
Catholic-Lite Episcopalian. What? you say. Vegans are nothing like Episcopalians; they’re militant, strict, judgmental – and they’re anxious to convert carnivores. Rather, vegans are the epitome of dogmatic zealots, much like the speaking-in-tongues, snake-handling, Born Again, fire and brimstone Charismatics that pepper the deep hollers of Appalachia and star in the Super Congregations we see on Sunday morning television. And you, Miss Snarky Pants, are nothing like that.
And you would be right about one thing; I am nothing like that. Although I grew up neck deep in a Pentecostal Christian guilt so mucky I was sucked beneath its surface every time I so much as played a Hall & Oates album, I am no longer that person. To be clear, though I once believed that only the metaphorical blood and body of Jesus – aptly played during Holy Communion by Welch’s grape juice and a stale water cracker, respectively – could save my soul, deep down a part of me was always asking pesky questions:
But there’s, like, hundreds or thousands of religions. How do we know that we’re right? What if the Jews nailed it from the beginning – they’re awfully good with money and just look what they’ve accomplished in the film industry?
What kind of God would send innocent people to Hell just because they live in a third world country and have never heard of The Bible? Is it because they have rickets?
Why would God want elderly people living on Social Security to tithe 10% of their income when they can’t afford their diabetes medication? Is God punishing them for Supersizing one time too many?
Why does God only heal people who attend church on television? And why don’t they have diseases or injuries that we can see? You know, like leprosy or missing limbs?
Despite my early indoctrination into the Assemblies of God faith, I’ve never been much of a follower in other areas of my life. I mean, once you’ve committed yourself to serving an invisible, holey (pun most definitely intended) half-man half-diety, his oft angry dad with a penchant for dishing out natural disasters, and some sort of third-wheel ghostie, becoming a member of the drill team is a bit anticlimatic.
As it turns out, my prospects as a leader were nil. I didn’t like leaders; they were typically mean girls who were good at kickball and quick with insulting and alliterative nicknames for their victims. Though I’m sure I could have become skilled at the latter, my legs were created to bang into stationary furniture with sharp edges. Kicking a rolling ball in a particular direction was beyond my capabilities, prompting me to ask more of my pesky questions:
Why does God want me to be picked last for kickball every single day of my life? Why did He make me so smart that the other kids hate me for setting the bell curve? Why can’t I grow breasts? Does God hate me, too?
As I aged, my disinterest in either leading or following left me in a precarious social position. Though I was no longer unpopular, I refused to fully commit to any particular clique. One day I’d eat lunch with my Smiths and Psychedelic Furs-loving friends and the next, I’d hunker down with my buddies-of-color so that we could argue about which one of us was going to be Michael Jackson’s first ex-wife. Then there were my Journey-loving compatriots; I’ll spare you the painful images of these mullet-sporting, muscle shirt-wearing, air guitar-playing fans, all of whom wore gold eighth notes around their necks in honor of their leader, Steve Perry. Athletics were out of the question. I declined my invitation to join The National Honor Society. Drama only held my interest if I had a lead role which was, erm, never.
After law school, I experimented with multiple careers, but none – including legal practice – satisfied me in the way writing does, though all paid considerably more. I know…poor, little lawyer girl. I’d hate myself, too, but then, I’ve seen my law school debt – and you haven’t.
If I was a devotee of anything at all, it was cow teets. I loved dairy. Cheese was something that I could commit to – after all, it could be sweet, sour, stinky, melty, salty, chewy, stringy, sharp, mild, nutty and creamy. It was as diverse as my interests and never expected me to tithe. Until I was introduced to the chocolate martini in my mid-thirties, milk held the title as my favorite beverage. Sexy, huh? Nothing says “fuck me” like your date ordering a glass of moo juice with her filet mignon.
So when I suddenly decided to abandon the
greatest love of my entire life second greatest love of my entire life (because, of course, Hubby is the first) to join the Church of Vegan, I can assure you that more than a few of my friends and family members were perplexed. After all, these are people who had, over the years, become accustomed to asking me, “What is it you do, again?” Hell, if I couldn’t dedicate myself to one career path, why should they believe that I would deliberately eschew meat and all animal products for the rest of my life just because it’s supposed to be healthier? That never stopped me from mainlining vodka.
However, as the weeks turned into months, it appeared that I had finally made a true commitment. I started cooking, posting photos of one vegan meal after another on Facebook
like those people who have absolutely nothing better to do with their time. Hubby and I joined a gym. I gave up hard liquor. I became the poster child for the kind of person who had embraced a plant-based diet; a kinder, gentler Miss Snarky Pants. Through the Internet, I met other local vegans and soon I was inundated with invitations to attend one non-carnivore event after another. Vegans adore newbies. And like Pentecostals, they love to recruit. Why else would they have some kind of vegan/animal rights festival every bloody weekend?
Being vegan made me feel accepted by a closely-knit group of people who looked at the world with the same pair of eyes. Despite the fact that Hubby and I had only moved to Tampa a few months before my big conversion, new friends were practically crawling out of the woodwork, ready to hang out just because I’d abandoned many of my beloved food choices. At restaurants, I no longer had to worry that the waiter would think I was cheap if I ordered a vegetarian entrée. Nope, all I had to do was explain, “I’m vegan” and every bit of judgment on the server’s face would vanish – only to be replaced with fear. At Whole Foods, it was as if I was wearing a flashing, neon sign around my neck. As the cashier rang up my items, she would invariably ask, “Are you vegan?” Before I could do more than nod, she’d burst out into a huge smile, then whisper loudly, “Me, too! Isn’t Daiya soy-free, vegan cheese the best?”
If by best, you mean barely edible and tastes nothing at all like cheese, then yes, it’s the best!
Gradually, I discovered that worshiping at the Church of Vegan was complicated. Initially, I thought I was giving up dairy, meat and eggs, but there’s a whole lot of small print in the Vegan Bible. Did you know that gelatin is made of horses’ hooves and other disgusting stuff? Adios, Jell-O. Sayonara, marshmallows. See ya later, candy corn and jelly beans. Don’t even think about taking that Nyquil Gel Cap. And what about animal bone char? It’s utilized to refine sugar and turn crude oil into petroleum jelly. Oh, and it’s also used in making many kinds of BEER. Did I type that loudly enough? BEER. At least six thousand newbie vegans just said, “What the fuck?”
However, as a non-beer drinker, my first what-the-fuck? moment occurred when I was informed that I could no longer eat honey. “Why?” I asked a vegan friend. “The bees are just doing their thing. Making honey is kinda like their job…and the last thing we need in this country is a higher unemployment rate.”
“The bees are enslaved,” she responded, without a hint of irony. “They’re exploited by humans.”
Suddenly, my brain was flooded with images of bees humming “Swing Low, Sweet Chariot” and picking cotton. I imagined them cringing in front of a white-hooded beekeeper, buzzing, “Don’t blow that smoke at me, Massa! I’ll eat mo’ nectar and vomit up mo’ honey!” It occurred to me that some vegans were more concerned about honey bees’ rights than they were about the rights of immigrant field workers – the people usually responsible for raising and harvesting the plant-based diet that sustains the vegan lifestyle.
Shortly after the bee incident, being vegan really hit me where it hurts the most: my liver. At a cooking party I was hosting, a guest advised me that the wine I was drinking may have been clarified with isinglass, a substance derived from fish bladders. Having given up the hard stuff, wine had become my slower, but still lovely, intoxicant. “You’ll want to go online and research the brands of wine that you enjoy. You might have to switch,” she suggested.
Seriously, God – you really hate me, right? You don’t just plant the “Become a Vegan” idea in my head, then casually – at a much later date – drop the wine bomb on me. Oh, and God, in case you’re wondering, I’m officially agnostic.
I realized that these people were serious. Veganism wasn’t a diet; it was an admirable commitment to living life in a way that doesn’t exploit animals in any manner whatsoever. Yet, as much as I respected my new friends for making this difficult, moral choice, I also recognized that I had to be true to myself…and my embossed leather Coach bags. If I didn’t opt for a more compassionate non-leather sofa, I’d soon be a hypocrite – not to mention, I’d spend every spare moment removing fur from
a friggin’ cat hair magnet a cruelty-free fabric recliner. It became clear that I was not an ethical vegan, as most of my friends called themselves. I was doing this for my health – and unless the occasional teaspoon of honey was going to give me cancer or cause Bob Barker’s head to explode, I wasn’t really worried about it. Where did that leave me? Was I an unethical vegan? And, more importantly, why was I letting the word vegan define who I was and what I ate? Vegans aren’t like virgins – you can be just a little bit vegan.
Thus, in the interest of not being a vegan fraud, a hypocrite, a sober person or just plain grumpy, I’ve decided to start my own church: The Church of Vegan-Lite. With all of the health benefits, but only half the guilt and no rosary, a Vegan-Litist, as I like to think of myself, is mostly vegan, but makes exceptions here and there. For example, though I will inform food servers that I’m a vegan, I am quick to reassure them that I’m not militant about it and won’t douse them with a bucket of red paint if they suggest the steak tartare special to Hubby. Likewise, I’ve chosen to integrate certain foods back into my diet, but those foods can’t be too decadent or I’ll be required to self-flagellate like an albino monk. Thus, I’ve reintroduced egg whites to our refrigerator; after all, they’re fucking egg whites. Is there a less-offensive and healthier non-vegan food out there? Doctors practically prescribe them. Dr. Carrie Rubin, back me up here, will ya?
I’ve also discovered that if I drink a sufficient amount of vino, I completely forget all about fish bladders and bone char. Problem solved.
The only remaining issue is my hesitancy to lead – or follow, for that matter – which is why the Church of Vegan-Lite currently has only one member. So if any of you vegans out there are just jonesin’ to spoon some honey into your mug of cruelty-free, organic green tea, go for it. I grant you permission to become the bishop of your own Vegan-Lite parish. Just promise me one thing: switch the Welch’s out for a nice cabernet sauvignon, would ya?
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If you’re an ethical vegan, please know that I respect your views (and the fact that you aren’t, apparently, tempted by cheese every moment of the day) even though I don’t necessarily agree with them fully. So don’t be a hater. I really do love you guys!
***Photo credits: Communion: therubicon.org Madonna: articles.dailynews.com Holy Trinity: catholicbible101.com Kickball: keanradio.com Cheese: igourmet.com Daiya Cheese: mfablog.org Slaves: bbc.co.uk Dog Hair: blog.sfgate.com Albino monk: aveleyman.com
Thomas Edison legendarily tested potential employees by inviting them to dinner. If they sprinkled salt on their food before tasting it, he refused to hire them, viewing their thoughtless salting as a sign that their preconceived mindset would prevent them from analyzing a situation thoroughly before taking action. To be fair, this method of eliminating job applicants has also been attributed to Henry Ford, IBM, and General MacArthur, to name just a few.
And I think it’s bullshit.
I love salt. A dash brings out the subtle flavors of food. Salt is to the beefsteak tomato what Matt Damon is to Ben Affleck – the ingredient that makes it worthy of notice. Though I often taste my food before sprinkling it with salt, I like to think that my decision to pre-salt my bowl of Fly Bar’s truffled macaroni and cheese doesn’t make me incapable of critical analysis, but rather demonstrates that homo sapiens are able to learn and make choices based on previously acquired knowledge. Sure, it’s possible that the restaurant could hire a new chef who knows how to properly season food with what I affectionately call The White Devil, but an extra dash of salt never hurt anybody.
And pepper – make mine freshly ground and applied as liberally to a dish as Donald Trump’s self-tanner is sprayed onto his Oompa Loompa orange face. Black pepper is fine, but a gourmet combination of black, white, red and green peppercorns is sublime. If I had a dick, fresh ground pepper would make it hard.
The day I was Freshly Pressed, the gifted author of The Book of Alice - an utterly charming blog about parenting by the mother of an adorable toddler named Alice – bestowed upon The Paltry Meanderings of a Taller Than Average Woman , the highly-coveted 7×7 Link Blog Award. After gushing and blushing appropriately, I came to realize that I was now expected to do something. What, you ask? Hire Brad Goreski (screw Rachel Zoe and the toothpick she rode in on) to select the perfect couture gown for me to wear to the awards ceremony? No. Write a sanctimonious acceptance speech in which I take credit for killing Osama bin Laden and inventing paper clips? Uh-uh. Polish my golden statuette? Nope. Apparently, I don’t get a shiny trophy to set on my fireplace mantle – which is a good thing because then I’d have to go out and buy a fireplace. With a mantle. This blogging thing is getting expensive. But I do have to do something. Twenty-one somethings to be exact:
1) Reveal seven things about myself that you don’t already know (a.k.a. PART ONE);
2) Link seven of my posts to the following categories: Most Surprisingly Successful, Most Underrated, Most Popular, Most Beautiful, Most Helpful, Most Controversial and Most Pride-Worthy (a.k.a. PART TWO); and
3) Bestow this tremendous award – and responsibility – upon seven other bloggers and share with you why I believe they are so deserving (a.k.a. PART THREE).
Now, PART ONE is simple. I know thousands of things about myself. Billions, really, since I’m not a Creationist. PART TWO was a little trickier until yesterday. See, the day I won this award, I only had five blog posts – and one of them barely counts because it’s just a photo, followed by an excuse for not having written a real post. Now I have a few more and that should make my responses a little more interesting. PART THREE was also a challenge because I hadn’t had the opportunity to read many blogs yet – and I’m not one to run around, handing out 7×7 colored stars willy-nilly to random people just ’cause they’ve got a catchy blog name and know about RSS feeds (which I don’t!)
This first part has got to be my favorite. Why? Because I’m going to pretend that I’m completing the “20 Things You Don’t Know About Me” questionnaire that’s published every week in US Magazine, but I’m going to stop at number seven. Not really, but I’m going to keep the other thirteen in my jewelry box until the tabloids come a callin’.
1) My first crush was William Shatner. I was five. I can prove it and that makes me cooler than all the hipsters out there who have suddenly discovered my man, Bill, in the last few years. Yeah, I’m talking to you, Seth MacFarlane.
2) Though I’m sure my cats all know my actual name, I think they call me “Food Lady” when I’m not listening. But they spell it “Fud Ladee.” At least that’s how they write it on my birthday cards.
3) When I was in high school, I’d planned to have seven children. As it turns out, I have no kids, but I’m very fond of dwarves and little people. Also, I’d consider renting someone’s child on occasion in exchange for blood or a spare kidney, should the need arise.
4) I saw Stephen King tonight at the movie theater. This is the second time we’ve passed through one another’s orbits. The other time was at Barnes & Noble. I thought about talking to him that night, but what would I say? “I’m batshit terrified of clowns and it’s all your fault.” Like he’s never heard that before.
5) I’m the direct descendant of the second and third people (and first married couple, ever) to be put to death for witchcraft in America. So don’t piss me off ’cause that magic shit might be genetic.
6) If I was filthy rich, I’d pay someone to ride a horse up and down the cobblestone street in front of the fabulous London townhome I’d own every night until I fell asleep. The sound of horses’ hooves on stone is like rain to me. Oh, and the rider would be naked except for a thong and a sombrero. That last part’s just for kicks.
7) My husband and I sleep under a red, plaid blanket emblazoned with the Hogwarts coat of arms every night. It’s soft, it protects our pretty comforter and the cats like to knead it. I like Harry Potter. There, I’ve said it. I’ve read all the books and own all the movies. I identify with Hermoine Granger. Butter beer is amazing (especially served up with a butterscotch garnish) and one of our cats looks a lot like Mrs. Norris. Wanna fight about it?
Most Surprisingly Successful: Why I Hate Witty People I’d have to say that this is my most surprisingly successful post because it was catapulted from absolute obscurity to the front page of Freshly Pressed without warning. In fact, I wasn’t really sure what Freshly Pressed was, how one made its pages or if I even wanted to be there. For the record, I’m no longer confused about the latter; it was an awesome ride and I definitely would love to be there again. People keep finding this post and identifying with it in one way or another (apparently, there are an awful lot of unpopular witty people out there) – and that is just Wilde. Ha ha. I did it. I inserted a pun and there’s nothing you can do about.
Most Underrated: In Search of ”The Holy White Man” This post was actually doing pretty well until I was Freshly Pressed, and then Why I Hate Witty People kinda stole its thunder. I’m wondering if people think that this is some spiritual piece about my search for Jesus. It’s not. In fact, Jesus is ruled out early on. And, for the record, I’m not searching for him. I’m agnostic. But there may be a Holy White Man out there – a “being” to whom my friend’s aunt used to pray and call by this incredibly racist name – and I’ve got some theories about who this dude could be. And it’s not Chuck Norris. Ever since he endorsed Newt Gingrich, he’s become a pussy in my book.
Most Popular: Based on the sheer number of hits and “likes,” Why I Hate Witty People remains, without a doubt, the most popular post on my blog so far. That said, my page Copyright Stuff has garnered a surprising amount of interest. People, it’s just basic copyright language. It says that you don’t get to steal my stuff and, if you do, I get your first child’s kidney. Why so interested? You planning on stealing my stuff? Has your firstborn been annoying the heck out of you and only has one kidney? Erm, that’s murder, you know. Bloggy don’t play that!
Most Beautiful: I suppose if I was a really arrogant little twat, I’d say my About Me page is the most beautiful – because it features a photo of…well, me. But, honestly, people, the photo of me with my recently-deceased Uncle Danny in Farewell, My Favorite Redneck is much cuter, so check that out instead. Oh, yeah, I guess it’s also my most beautiful post because it is my heartfelt tribute to my favorite redneck, Daniel Drymon, whom I’ve known and adored since birth. If you want to see a sliver of who I am and where I come from, this is the best set of window blinds to peek through. It’s also an opportunity to discover what a groovy guy my uncle was…even if none of the stuffed dead animals in his living room agree with that notion.
Most Helpful: Considering the number of sauce addicts who have admitted their problem in the Comments section alone of my post, Hittin’ The Sauce Hard, I’ve got to assume that I’m helping my readers with this one. Admitting you have a problem is the most important step, right? Writing this post helped me come out of the pantry as well. Now that people know about my little problem, they’re going to ask that bottles be removed from tables at restaurants and they’ll raise an eyebrow the next time I order a filet mignon. I suspect I will also receive a number of spoons for Christmas next year. Didn’t get that last reference? Then read the post, silly. In the meantime, I’ve got to run to the store. I hear there’s a BOGO on A1 Steak Sauce at Publix!
Most Controversial: Without a doubt, 5 Reasons Why God Loves Short People Best seems to strike readers in the very marrow of their bones. It can’t be helped that some people’s bones are longer than others. Dozens of shrimpy, little half-pints have taken the time to comment on why they disagree with my belief that the Christian God loves them in the same way he loves the Jews – they’re His chosen people. They’re His favorites. Likewise, lots of lovely, lanky tall people with their ankles exposed to the elements also commented that they agreed heartily with this proposition, though most seem happily inclined to remain the minions of short people, forever handing the squatty ones jars of mustard off the shelves they can’t reach. Actually, I seemed to have garnered a number of both tall and undertall readers with the post – and I’m grateful. Like I said earlier, I’m quite fond of dwarves and little people.
Most Pride-Worthy: Ever created something so heinous, so awful, so painfully bad that you know it will never bring joy to another human being (Kathy Hilton – now’s your time to speak up!)? Back in college, I did such a thing when I wrote – against my will, I might add – the sonnet, “How Ironic,” about my dead dog, Daisy. In my post, The World’s Worst Sonnet About A Dead Dog Ever , I discovered that I now understand, though still loathe, iambic pentameter, and that I can make people happy by sharing with them the most God-awful sonnet ever written. Ever. Anywhere. Think Ishtar. Think Gigli. It’s the literary equivalent of Lindsay Lohan lying drunk in a ditch. It’s Tara Reid with her boob hanging out of her dress. It’s Megan Fox’s man thumbs. You can’t look away. Why does this make me so proud? Because by dissecting my sonnet – much like a science class frog pinned to a slab of black wax – I’ve been able to determine exactly what makes it so bad, make a few people giggle in the process, and dissuade others from embarking on such an endeavor. Thus, my excruciating poem has now brought joy to others in it’s own ugly little way. Sniff. Makes a momma proud.
Can I just point out, here and now, that I am officially more qualified to become President than Rick Perry? Okay, moving on…
Here are the seven bloggers whom I have determined, solely on the basis of talent, favoritism, political-leanings, ability to trill the letter R and other important criteria that have slipped my mind, are worthy of the 7×7 Link Blog Award. These blogs are not listed in any specific order – other than the amount I was paid by everyone who made the list. Not in advance. These bloggers don’t even know they’ve won this award yet. I’ll send them their bills later.
The chain letter of blog accolades, the 7×7 Link Blog Award was created by someone, sometime after the year 2000-ish (probably) to honor those who apparently blog. I personally think it should be renamed the 7x7x7 Blog Award or the 7×3 Blog Award or the 7 Cubed Blog Award or the 21 Things You Now Have To Do Blog Award, but regardless, you seven bloggers are now: IT!
1) Gemini Girl In A Random World : This sharp and witty blog is the creation of Stacie Chadwick, my new Blogging Bestie. In it, she posts about life as a mother of three, the wife of a man who is learning the art of non-verbal communication, and being the groovy Gemini that she is. I like it because, in addition to being HIGH-STERICAL (she lives in Denver and that was pun number 2) and extremely well-written, this dual-natured Gemini Girl regularly takes me down memory lane to visit the likes of skating rinks, the original Wonder Woman (Lynda Carter lives on, my friend), Charlie’s Angels (again, the original), and Melrose Place. Andrew Shue, sigh. Also, her blog made my husband laugh. And that ain’t easy, lemme tell you.
2) The Shared Brain of Baggott, Asher and Bode : As I’ve already admitted previously, I’m a blogging newbie. Not only did I not blog, I didn’t really read other blogs – except this one. I was turned on to the alternatively hilarious, literary, twisted and compelling voice of author Julianna Baggott (and her alter egos: Bridget Asher and N.E. Bode) by a mutual friend and became immediately hooked. Though I’ve never met her personally, I’m convinced she lives in a Willy Wonka-esque factory manned by Oompa Loompas who are all incredibly prolific writers. No one can write this much, this well, raise a veritable army of children, and teach – creative writing, no less – at Florida State University (Go, ‘Noles!). Read this blog. More importantly, pre-order Baggott’s new post-apocalyptic novel, Pure – due out next month and bound to be the next Hunger Games.
3) The Adventures of Trans Man : This is a brand new blog by an extremely prolific and talented author whom I am proud to say I’ve known for well over twenty years. When I knew him eons ago, he was a woman. Now, he’s not. This is about his journey and it’s a must-read for everyone. Everyone! Yes, you over there reading your Bible. And you, the one with the question about what’s between Chaz Bono’s legs. I’m not even being funny, here. Trans Man knows what you’re thinking, has heard it all before and, now, in his witty, addictive, compelling voice is going there. This is a rare opportunity to actually understand an incredibly brave man who made the decision to be true to himself – so he could be a better person and a better parent. Yep, he’s got kids. And he’s single, ladies…
4) Jumping In Mud Puddles : Looking to reminisce about someone else’s childhood because yours sucked? Join Vickie as she explores, with plentiful humor and jocularity, her idyllic past as a fascinating, but domineering, color-inside-the-lines kind girl who hated her remedial reading group, probably has mercury poisoning from regular exposure to Mercurochrome, and was secretly-tranquilized by her mother – daily – because she was hyperactive. I thank God my mom didn’t know her mom. If she’d known she could drug me legally, I’d have slept my way through elementary school. Try not to pee your pants when you read this because, if you’re like me, your mom never remembered to send you to school with an extra pair of undies either.
5) Bringing You Beirut : This blog chronicles “the adventures of an English girl in Lebanon” and is luxurious in its language and sensuous in its imagery. Blogger India is well-educated and her work as assistant to her calligrapher boyfriend, freelance journalist, translator and babysitter have given birth to some of the most interesting perspectives of a beautiful and exotic country. Until I became familiar with this blog, I never processed the fact that Lebanon has snow – and skiing. Don’t expect an over-processed travel journal, here. These are the real life experiences of someone experiencing all the true flavors of a foreign country – savory, sweet and bitter.
6) Kitchen Slattern : This blog is written by a pro. Though she claims to be a mere “housewife, mother and writer who lives in Brooklyn,” I suspect she’s been Freshly Pressed more times than the shirts in my husband’s closet. And he likes to iron. A lot. As a person who finds my corkscrew the most useful tool in my kitchen, I don’t read a lot of food or cooking blogs. C’mon – I eat A1 out of a bowl with my finger. Wine is good if it costs less than 10 bucks and even better if it’s Buy One Get One Free. However, this blogger had me sold the moment I discovered that Martha Stewart makes her “ass ache” and that she recommends being drunk before you tackle cleaning the bathroom. This is funny stuff, folks. She’s my kind of broad.
7) Live Clay : Few bloggers are truly talented in multiple arenas, but Laura Bruzzese is an accomplished artist – both with a brush and a potter’s wheel, a writer and… a creator of funeral urns. If only I’d known about her when my dog died all those years ago. I could have named my sonnet, “Ode on a Canine Urn.” A single mother living in New Mexico, Bruzzese’s experiences raising a teenage daughter, coupled with her artistic eye that always seems to be seeking out the unique and beautiful everywhere she travels (most recently, Haiti) makes for intriguing, substantial posts that both charm and inspire. She’s also developed a method for making her three young nieces WANT to clean. Compete to clean. If there’s only one reason to read this blog (and there’s thousands), that’s it!
That wraps up the 7×7 Link Blog Awards presentation. Ladies and gentlemen, start cracking on that list of 21 Things You Must Now Do. I’m gonna watch It’s a Brad, Brad World and try to forget that this post took me at least twelve hours to write. Congratulations…suckas! No, seriously. Congrats. It’s apparently a really big honor. Truly. Thank you again, The Book of Alice . Erm, I think.
Okay. I’ve got a huge confession to make. Lately, I’ve been hitting the sauce. Hard. I do it alone, during the day, when my husband’s at work. I do it at night after he’s drifted off to sleep so that he won’t notice the smell. I’ve gone through so many bottles in recent months, I’ve taken to hiding them in the bottom of the garbage can under vegetable cuttings, instead of rinsing them and disposing of them in the recycling bin. I’d be mortified if the neighbors found out.
I’m not a desperate kind of addict. You’ll never catch me dumpster-diving behind a Ruth Chris Steakhouse holding nearly-empty bottles up to my lips, trying to suck out the last few drops. Now, I’m not above filling my shopping cart with the long, slender bottles if the store has a Buy One, Get One Free sale – which doesn’t happen very often – but I’ve got no choice. It’s an expensive habit. The stares I receive from other shoppers is, of course, embarrassing. You can practically hear them thinking, “Leave a bottle or two for the rest of us, would you.” That said, they are standing there, waiting to buy some as I clear the shelf with a broad sweep of my arm, so they’re not exactly innocent. Perhaps they’re more casual users. Maybe they only use it “socially.” That’s how I started. But when you start stocking up during sales, the bottles call to you during the day. Just take a nip. A little bit won’t hurt. No one will know.
As you would expect, my esophagus no longer likes me. The stuff burns on the way down even though I’m careful to hit the sauce very slowly. But sometimes, I just crave it. I can’t control myself. When I imbibe too much, it causes my tongue to crack into angry crevices like a parched desert at midday. I’m not sure if it’s the sodium content or the vinegar, but A-1 Steak Sauce is harsh stuff – straight, anyway. And I’m not talking about a few drops on a piece of steak either. That’s strictly for amateurs. I eat it out of a bowl. Off my finger. Oh, please. Like you never wiped up an awesome bit of sauce with your finger and stuck it in your mouth. It’s not like I don’t wash my hands first. And I don’t have cooties. Anymore.
My relationship with sauce – not just A-1 – is long and enduring. Some would say it’s unhealthy. For the most part, I view food as a “sauce delivery system.” This may sound strange, but it’s not exactly a new concept. Back in 1996, the U.S. Justice Department’s criminal investigation into the tobacco industry revealed that cigarettes contain chemical additives that promote addiction to nicotine. At the time, Jeffrey Wigand, a whistleblower and former V.P. with Brown & Williamson, indicated that cigarettes were considered by the tobacco industry to be “nicotine delivery systems.” This was a revelation of Sixty Minutes’proportions and Big Tobacco got sued. And they lost.
Tonight at dinner, my friend insisted that burgers are just a “ketchup delivery system.” I was shocked to hear her use a term so familiar to me – and one that I was already writing about. Even more shocking was the fact that my husband chimed in and claimed that cake frosting also has a delivery system. When prodded to reveal the nature of the system (i.e. cake, cupcakes, brownies), he responded, “Frosting.” Ah, so what he really meant is that a spoon is a “frosting delivery system,” since he’d never use his finger because he thinks that’s gross. By the way, I’ve never seen my husband actually eat a can of frosting. If you remember from earlier posts, this is the guy whose favorite shirt reads “I Make Stuff Up.” Then again, perhaps he’s doing it while I sleep. Hmmmm.
Regardless, I know I’m not the only one. Still, for years now, I’ve felt ostracized, hiding my secret from friends and family. Hiding? Really, you ask. Yeah. Picture the scene: several friends have joined us at our home for something meaty I made in the crock pot because that’s where food comes from…at my house anyway. As I gather up the empty plates, the inevitable question is proffered, “Dessert? We’ve got ice cream.” All heads nod and, a few minutes later, I serve bowl after bowl filled with Breyer’s vanilla – the kind with the specks in it. Then I join them with a bowl of A-1 and my finger. The dribbling of caramel and pouring of chocolate sauce stops momentarily as all eyes quizzically focus on the contents of my dish.
One friend – we’ll call her Molly – puckers her lips and makes her stern face. “Are you eating a bowl of chocolate sauce? Do you know how many carbs are in that?” She shakes her head, eyes my waist significantly, then shares uncomfortable glances with the other dinner guests. As this is an imaginary dinner party, I immediately jump up, turn into a huge, hairy monster and eat Molly whole…except for her hands. I take the time to dip each and every one of her fingers into the bowl of A-1 before I crunch them down.
Assuming I restrained myself and didn’t eat Molly, the dinner might have continued in this manner. Smiling awkwardly, I say, “Molly, you crazy bitch, you. Just like I’d never tell anyone about your third nipple, I would never eat a bowl of chocolate sauce. That’s just crazy talk.” After Molly bounds out her chair, presumably running towards the bathroom for a good cry, the rest of the crowd begins to demand to know what it’s the bowl.
“Is that some kind of tofutti ice cream, you got there, Cristy? Looks like it’s melted a bit.”
“No, it smells familiar. George, don’t you think that smells familiar?”
“It’s pudding, isn’t it? She’s eatin’ pudding. Now there’s nothing wrong with that. Ummm, it is diet pudding – right, Cristy? Regular pudding’s got a lotta sugar in it, you know.”
My veins pulse and my muscles begin to bulge, ready to split my clothes to shreds (except for a few strategically places bikini-esque loin cloth pieces) as my body begins the process of turning into the huge, hairy monster, so that I can eat stupid Pudding Girl and suck the A-1 from her fingers. However, just in time, I take a sip of my perfectly prepared dirty martini (shaken, not stirred) and manage to relax sufficiently to reverse the process. Waving my free hand in front of my sweat-dripping face, I say in a hushed voice by way of explanation, “Perimenopause.” That’s one of those conversation finishers. Usually.
But these dinner guests – they’re not the sharpest crayons in the box. Think about it. If you were going to debut your bizarre food habit, would you do it in front of clever, insightful people who’d spend the evening discussing what Freud would make of your obsession and then blog about it the next day? I think not. You invite your Tier 3 guests – the kind who would somehow mistake A-1 Steak Sauce for melted tofutti. The kind who grew up next to a nuclear power plant and has an extra nipple - and a prehensile tail she’s never told you about.
“Perry-men-all-pause?” one man with an accent thicker than the tires on his John Deere repeats, confused. “You mean like when that Governor tries countin’ to three.” Okay, I might have invited a few relatives.
“No, forget it. Look, it’s A-1 sauce. In my bowl. I like the way it tastes, okay. ‘Variety is the spice of life,’ right?”
“You mean the steak sauce?” I nod. “The stuff you put on steak?” I nod again. Does this really need clarification? “The stuff in the brown bottle that you put on beef?” Oh, Lord. It’s gonna be a long night.
“Yes. A-1 Steak Sauce,” I state firmly. “The stuff you put on any kind of beef you could ever think of. Ever. You don’t even have to mention all the kinds of beef because, I assure you, they’re included.”
“Yes, even London Broil.” The next person to name a cut of beef dies.
Having returned to the table by now, Molly’s eyebrow shoots up as she self-consciously pats down a small, suspicious bump in the middle of her stomach. “Didn’t you dip the roast beef we had tonight in that stuff?”
“Yep, I did. Is it warm in here? Anyone want me to turn the air-conditioning on?”
Molly shoots me her stink eye. “You poured it over your veggies too, didn’t you?”
As I walk over to the thermostat to turn the air on full blast (Shoulda’ worn a band-aid over that third nipple, sweetheart!), I reply, “Yep. And now I’m gonna eat a small bowl of it with my finger for dessert.” As I punch the temperature button lower and lower and lower, I glance over my shoulder at Molly. “Got a problem with that?” She crosses her arms against her chest and shakes her head.
Pudding Girl, on the other hand, still won’t quite let it go. “Have you got a piece of meat swimmin’ somewhere in that sauce?”
“Nope. I’m eating it plain. I’m a purist.” That should shut them up. How do you argue with a purist about anything? It suggests that I’m a connoisseur. That I’m an expert. And, in reality, I am. I don’t ever wander into flavored A-1 territory or settle for HP Sauce or (shudder at the thought) buy a store brand.
But that doesn’t stop Pudding Girl. “Why don’t you use a spoon?” Granted, it’s a fair question.
Everyone around the table nods and I swear, I can read their minds: After all, you weren’t raised in a barn. Nope, I wasn’t…because there weren’t a lot of barns in the suburbs of Miami.
So why don’t I just use a spoon? It is, after all, a neutral, non-caloric delivery system. It could serve the same purpose as my finger. The answer is simple. A-1 is some caustic stuff, let me tell you. A-1’s second ingredient is distilled vinegar and the fourth is salt. Know what a paste made up of vinegar and salt does? It removes lime deposits from chrome sink fixtures. It also kills grass, cleans rust, polishes brass, and removes mineral deposits from shower heads. If meat condiments were whiskey, A-1 Sauce would be moonshine – 150 proof easy. You don’t just shovel this sauce down your throat – or you might not have one come morning. A delicate teaspoon delivering a stream of A-1 sauce down between the tonsils, unimpeded by taste buds, is no different than swallowing a gallon of lye. The finger, unlike the spoon, doesn’t serve up a dangerous river of sauce; the finger is coated in a thin layer of A-1 that can be licked cautiously. Your tongue absorbs the brunt of the blow, much like it does when you eat a bag of Salt & Vinegar potato chips. Much more subtle than a spoon, the finger is a measured sauce delivery system. If fingers weren’t more subtle in every way, people would type with spoons now, wouldn’t they?
So why do I eat it? It’s so yummy. Just the right balance of tomato and vinegar and saltiness and garlic and citrus. Hello…people put it on their filet mignon. If you’re gonna put anything on filet mignon, I have to assume it doesn’t suck. And I’m an addict. When it comes to sauces, I go through phases. For awhile, it was cheese sauce and there are so many acceptable delivery systems for that, let me tell you. Bar-be-que sauce is lovely and I’m convinced that the only reason God created eggs was so that we’d have a valid reason to eat Hollandaise sauce in public. (And yes, I totally clean every drop of Hollandaise out of the little cup with my finger after my eggs are gone. Okay, I’ve been using a spoon lately because my husband glares at me if I don’t.)
By the way, this problem of mine is genetic – as most addictions are. My mom is one of those would-you-like-a-little-bread-with-your-butter kind of person. Come to think of it, she’s also a would-you-like-a-little-hard-boiled-egg-with-your-butter and would-you-like-a-few-French-fries-with-your-mayo kinda girl, too. When I was growing up, she used to make me cauliflower drenched in a browned butter sauce. Swimming in it. It looked like little brains floating in oily sewage, but it tasted divine. Manna from Heaven – which I still believed in at the time. Want the sauce recipe? Cook about a pound of salted butter until it browns and sprinkle in a few breadcrumbs. I’m amazed I didn’t stroke out by the time I was nine. Now, as you probably know, plain cooked cauliflower doesn’t have a ton of flavor. Thus, this was my first exposure to food as a sauce delivery system and I bought into it hook, line and sinker.
My husband loves my mother’s cauliflower, incidentally. In general, he’s a sauce enthusiast. But the difference between me and Matt is a chasm the width of the San Andreas fault. How so? When Matt finishes a meal in which a sauce delivery system is utilized – let’s say, fettucini alfredo – he leaves the remaining sauce on the plate. On the plate! He has absolutely no qualms about scraping that perfectly good sauce into the garbage can or rinsing it from the plate’s surface and down the drain. He wouldn’t dream about surreptitiously carrying his plate into the kitchen and wiping up those last few creamy, savory drops with his finger. He’d never – and I mean, never – lick his plate clean. With his tongue. I’m not saying I’ve done that. I’m just saying Matt hasn’t. You infer what you like from that, judgment mongers.
Me, on the other hand, I’m a green kinda girl. I drive a hybrid and in order to reduce my carbon footprint, I don’t just throw sauce away, willy-nilly. I’m not gonna feel guilty about starving kids in Africa because I don’t waste my béarnaise, thank you very much. I appreciate my sauce and I show my gratitude by finishing it.
“Ummm, Cristy. Doesn’t A-1 Sauce have an awful lot of sodium in it?” Pudding Girl picks the bottle up off the table and examines the label. “Omigod! There’s like 280 mg per serving.”
“How big’s a serving?” Molly pipes in, shivering.
“A tablespoon.” Pudding Girl eyes my bowl, fear clouding her face. “There’s gotta be at least ten tablespoons in there. Lord, that works out to…to…”
“2800 mg of sodium,” Molly pipes up helpfully, smirking as though she just won the Mathletes award. Yeah, ’cause multiplying stuff by ten is soooooo hard. Puleeze! “Girl, you’re a walking heart attack. Do you know that the recommended daily allowance of sodium is only 2400 mg.” When did she become a freaking nutritional chart? She’s only a Tier 3 dinner guest. She’s got the intellectual curiosity of George W. Bush.
Okay, no. I didn’t. But it’s not like I do it every day. And I’m sure that this whole “recommended daily allowance” thing is averaged. If I hit the sauce hard one day, I’ll just eat plain broccoli for the next two days. Still, Molly didn’t stare at my waistline when she said it.
“Yeah, but how many calories does it have?” I snipe back. I know I’ve won here. Wresting the bottle from Pudding Girl’s hand, I examine the nutritional content chart, then crow loudly, “Ha! Only 15 calories. This bowl of A-1 has fewer calories than that giant spoon of caramel-drenched ice cream you’re about to shovel into your mouth, Molly.” Gotcha there, you three-nippled wench.
Dropping her spoon with a clink that warms my heart, Molly offers me a tight smile. Then, it’s as if the proverbial cartoon light bulb clicks on above her head and she basks quietly in its smug glow. “True, but sodium makes you retain water,” she says slyly, then glances at my waist.
If you’d like the recipe for Molly’s A-1 braised fingertips, just shoot me an email.