(Yes, it took me two months to get to day #5 of the 31 day writing challenge I started in January. But here it is in all its lackluster glory!)
I adore grocery shopping. One of my ideal Saturday night plans is lingering amidst the lemons, ambling around the apples, perusing the pickles and zoning out by the zucchini. Shopping for food is more like a hobby than a chore. It’s like a little trip to a food museum, and on a Saturday night, I don’t have to rush. I don’t have to get back to anything except for…the rest of Saturday night.
Normally on a quick weeknight shop, I have to stay on the route, focused and predictable, purchasing the necessities: kale, lemons, garlic, cilantro, quinoa, carrots, sweet potatoes, apples, oranges, almonds and sunflower seeds, cans of chick peas and black beans, tortillas, and don’t forget the salsa, yells my husband, Keith (or the coconut milk!). I have the list down pat in my head. I know what we need for a typical week of meals feeling we’ve got enough balance, bounty and color, fiber, sweet, sour, plain and fancy….but…. Saturday night at the Pacific Central Food Coop, the world is mine. I can spend time reading labels and comparing ingredients, (wow, this brand has guar gum while this one uses carrageenan), discover new products, (There are 37 different brands of green tea and 19 sorts of grainy crackers!), sneak a taste of something in the bulk bin, (what exactly is in those gritty little chunks of marbled nuttiness?) look at product in the freezer that I’ve never seen (frozen chicken gizzards? Eek!)
31 Day Writing Challenge Day #5: My Vitamix: A Non-Human, Non-Gendered Specific Member of My Family.
Food Writing Prompt : Write about a kitchen gadget you or someone you love bought late at night online or via TV or as a whim at the store. Did the gadget work well or disappointingly?
It might be true that life changed when I bought a Vitamix in the year 2000. It seemed like an enormous investment (and also ridiculous that a contraption made of metal and plastic should cost as much as a room in an apartment in New York City where I lived at the time) , but I was working a short term consulting job where I made $400/day and I figured that the Vitamix (at $399) was my reward for one day’s work.
It came in a big cardboard box emblazoned with a photo of itself filled with whole fruits and vegetables, surrounded by happy and healthy customers. The contraption was covered in mounds of plastic and peanuts, a clear polycarbonate blender jar and what felt like a 46 pound base with knobs and wheels and an electric cord that wrapped around its innards.
I plugged it in and essentially threw in the contents of my fridge’s Crisper drawers, just like the commercials indicate and next thing I knew there was a glowing emerald green purple smoothie concoction in my blender jar which quickly made its way into a glass and then down my gullet.
Food Writing Prompt: Gross!
Write about a gross food that you had to hold your breath to try to choke down your throat. Detail the setting and add as many of the five senses as possible in your description
There were nights in my childhood when the oh, so slimy zucchini, upon orders from my mother, had to make its way off my plate and down my throat before I could leave the table. I would stare at it on the plate: glistening with Mazola, the yellowy-white mush peeking out of faded green skin. I usually waited until the very last minute of the meal, and then, breath and nose held, shoved it into my mouth, swept up my glass of milk to provide extra accompaniment on the journey to my stomach, took 3 bites and swallowed. Clean plate. Permission to exit from the dining room granted.
People claim it doesn’t have much taste. Oh,I beg to differ! (Why beg? I don’t need to do that, I can simply differ.) It has a pungent tastelessness that is easily recognizable to my palate. And its texture, when cooked to an extreme is like the stuff that you swallow after sniffing the contents of your sinuses back to your throat. Truly awful. I adore vegetables, but I cannot stand to eat cooked zucchini. I may tolerate it in a flavorful soup when joined by enough veggie friends that it gets lost in the crowd, but I’ll be honest: I cringe when I see it.
When a waiter proudly presents the seasonal side order of vegetables: a "zucchini medley". God help me. Who on earth wants a zucchini medley? Why would I want a medley of zucchini? I don’t even want a slice of zucchini! It’s a pity since zucchini’s are healthy, yes,healthy! And moreover they are the rabbits of the vegetable world. You can rely on zucchini to multiply a plenty. No concern that there won’t be enough of a zucchini harvest. People are getting rid of the stuff – leaving it on peoples’ doorsteps and then running away. (I wonder if some feel like I do, but the need to celebrate the prolific nature of this summer squash.) What? Another one just popped out of the garden? And it’s the size of foot ball player’s calf? Yup, that’s zucchini for you. Impressive in size and its growing stamina.
I have walked by farmer market stand which has proudly displayed a small bookshelf -sized zucchini for $1.50 and been tempted to buy it just for the sheer price to portion ratio. You almost MAKE money by eating a large zucchini. I thought I could handle grilled zucchini thinking the magic of the grill must impart flavor that masks the tepid zucchini-ness but no. Even zucchini on one of those sheek shish ke·babs sticks doesn’t make my disgust wane. And throw on a yellow squash there, my heart sinks even further. Oh, the feeble yellow squash. This is essentially a yellow zucchini. These two live in the same family of ickiness. I have no issue shit talking them, but they are the only ones I swear. I don’t want to hurt the feelings of other loved ones in the vegetable world – they are my friends and I am grateful for them but please, take my zucchini, enjoy my medley, remove that beast of a veggie from my garden so I don’t have to use it as a mallet in croquet.
Food Writing Prompt : The After-School Snack
What was your go-to after-school snack back in the day? Was it delicious or did you want something else that was forbidden before dinner?
The moments, minutes, seconds, really, after coming home from school with the knowledge that a treat awaited, oozed with anticipation. I knew there was almost always going to be some Breyer’s strawberry ice cream in the freezer and I could grab the cold cardboard carton, and sit watching Brady Brunch Re-runs while I gingerly spooned the cold gob of glee into my mouth, felt it melt, tasted the silkiness of the cream, and the subtle sour sharpness of the strawberry slices. Total and utter joy.
Mint Chocolate Chip also by Breyer’s, was another favorite,- not St. Patty’s Day green like The Baskin Robbins’ version, but pure white giving it a somewhat healthier veneer, with specks of chocolate peeking out of the velvelty mound. The crunch of those chips between the teeth followed by the quick melt on the tongue led to eyebrows and lip corners raised in sugary pleasure. It was always sad, gathering those last few spoonfuls in the bowl - liquid leftovers, afternoon treat officially over as the Brady Bunch credits rolled. I knew I could have more, unwrap the carton from its plastic and dive in again, but only at the risk of a tummy ache, and a heavy nausea from sweet creamy overload, not to mention a potential finger wagging from Mom, supper being "spoiled!".
Other snacks that I discovered later in my high school years were Combos – but these were usually purchased at the food truck outside school and were munched on during the bus ride home. “Total junk” my mom might have said. Did I even like them? It was more the novelty of having access to a pile of food bits in a transportable bag. They were brittle to the bite, with an unidentifiable taste of briny cheese-like goop inside. The throw pillow shape of the snack itself, appealing visually, was predictable, contained, easy to maneuver and pop right into your mouth. It really “cheeses your hunger away” was the claim, a sentence that made absolutely no sense. What does it mean to “cheese hunger away”?
”Bite sized pieces” all those snack food pronounced. But bites seem bigger now. Bites can now fill an entire oral cavity. Bites are larger than a thumb ½ worth of hardened cracker mass with inert cheese substance stuffed inside.
Food Writing Prompt: A Spoon Quote Prompt
“I have measured out my life in coffee spoons” – T.S. Eliot. Write a spoon memory. It might be at a diner, around your kitchen table, at a friend’s house, or at a cafeteria.
There is a set of spoons that make their way into our dishwasher and which, after selective plucking by my husband show up on my desk in my home office. Why, you ask, would he be putting spoons on my desk? An attempt to make the day sweeter with a spoonful of sugar? Perhaps a gesture to help me recollect a childhood game of "Spoons"! where one spoon fewer than people was laid out in the middle of the card table, and upon completion of a certain combination of Jacks, Kings, Queens (who remembers?) you would grab one of the spoons until one person was left spoonless? Nope. Not it. Could be he is encouraging eating my morning green smoothie with this helpful utensil? Negatory. It's because I am a spoon thief. Unintentional of course,(for the most part) but true. It's out of laziness, or forgetfulness, or disregard for the onerous task of putting something back in its proper spot.
And its spot? The big reveal: The kitchen at my work place. Yes, it is me! Spoon Thief of the Office. I'm sorry you ate your African Peanut soup with a fork and knife today because of me. What happens is, I grab said scooper and take it back to my desk or lounge to eat my quinoa salad or chia seed pudding, it gets popped into my food sack, it's rightful home ignored with a promise to "put it back later", since I still have few bites left of that chia seed pudding! And the utensil drawer becomes more and more bare until people start complaining and send out emails with subject line: "Where are all the spoons?"
These are not exceptional spoons (which, ironically, is why my husband spots them easily in the dishwasher). They have been procured from Goodwill, or the basement of someone who worked formerly at a cheap kitchen supply store - (we are nothing if not scrappy at our office.) They have no weight, no flowery hieroglyphic design, perhaps just a line down their flat middles. Some appear flat like they spent a bit of time under the heavy wheels of a car missing the curvy orb which brings calmness to the mouth.
There is something soothing about a spoon in general:no prongs on which to potentially JAB oneself when taking an extra vigorous bite. The spoon slides gently in, allowing the lips to cup it and lip-nibble the morsels off. Large spoons are more challenging - difficult to wrap one's mouth around, particularly a smallish mouth like my own. I'm not trying to sound dainty, the truth is, I had 4 teeth extracted to make room for them all in my mouth. - yes four ADULT teeth. Trauma, really to be pumped full of fall-asleep medicine at 10 years old, and then wake up to a mouth of gauze and blood and the feeling that you've simply disappeared from time, hearing nurses saying kind things about your freckles and barrettes. Then home to eat slippery liquid and soft things, probably with a comforting spoon. No wonder I keep them near me at all times.
TODAY BEGINS THE 31 Day, 500 words WRITING CHALLENGE!
Hail to Chia, thou mighty seed of grace and goodness. Crackle thyself in my mouth as I tenderly place you between my teeth, roll you around with my tongue, tasting and feeling you with my mucilaginous flesh. Thoughts of your salubrious nature churn in my brain as I remind myself the litany of benefits your small little wonder offers. Alone and solo as a seed, you are so puny, so inconsequential, but armed with 100’s of your fellow chia soldiers, you are a battalion of force! A yummy army not to be reckoned with. I shall not try to stop you as you forge your way down my throat and into my belly (your battlefield of acid) and pass into my intestinal safe haven where you digest slowly offering potent minerals to help build blood, muscle, skin and nails. You offer up your fiber, your fat and your protein and I gladly accept. I yield to your power and exalt your economical bang for the buck.
Your namesake conjures up mocked commercials from the the decade of the 70's, but you and I both know, you are more complex than a jingle. Your artistry extends beyond simply growing out the head of ceramic tiger, sprouts a waste as animal hair instead of nurturing the inside railway tract of the abdominal world.
Yet,you remain unfamiliar to most despite your power and glory understood and acclaimed by those in the nutritional know. We send tantalizing recipes of plumped "chia seed pudding" replete with vanilla, cardamom and honey to tempt others to cross over to this seedy world, join the ranks of those who appreciate the power that you can yield.
There is more to you than than your unimpressive grain-of -sand appearance and I can just feel you bubbling around in my mouth as you begin your descent to my belly.
I remember Sesame Street and learning numbers and words and feeling like furry monsters were friendly and loving and being messy was OK. I remember wanting a large plastic pony on which I could sit and pretend, and screamed when it appeared on Christmas morning, hidden under a Batik blanket. I remember squeezing in between my sleepy parents and their tray of coffee and steamed milk on Saturday mornings and re-telling dreams I had had the night prior to which they patiently listened. I remember my dad as my “fairy godmother” who drifted into my room once a week , his head and body draped in a white silky comforter, his feminized high pitched voice asking me what I wanted. I remember chicken and soy sauced-peppers and onions over rice as my favorite meal, gobbling it down so I could have seconds. I remember dancing into the kitchen begging my mom to feed me spaghetti noodles from her hands like a bird feeding worms to its babies. I remember putting paper outfits on paper dolls, watching them transform from girl with bloomers and camisole to princess, to tennis player, to Joan of Arc. I remember coloring in figures from my Women in History Coloring Book and thinking that Amelia Earhart wasn’t as pretty as I wanted her to be. I remember playing monopoly with my brother for hours on one Christmas eve, hoping that the Top Hat might speed the night along. I remember treasure hunts with obscure clues on my birthday, and discovering a vat of gifts in the laundry basket, the dryer, the bath tub, under the bed. -- Oh! The thrill of youth. The wonder, the fun, the lack of responsibility, the simplicity of a dandelion.