Tag Archives: food

We have a problem

girl-with-smart-phoneI’m shallow. Perhaps that’s more than a bit of an understatement from someone who has been writing a blog about said condition for nigh on three years. And if you’ve been with me for all or even some of this time I suppose that to some extent at least, you have come to know about me and my ways. As such, I am sure you would concur when I say I do my best to accept life as it comes, let bygones be bygones and live and let live. What you might not know is that I am an avid observer of human behaviour. Let’s face it. Anyone who spends as much time as I do sitting on a patio sipping lattes ought to notice something about humankind. And as much as I hate to admit it, I have become quite bothered of late by what appears to me to be an ever growing problem shared not by a few, but by the vast majority of people I have encountered in not one but many situations. Having thought about it for some time, I have decided to use this medium of mine, limited as it may be, to share (some might say vent) my feelings on this rather troubling phenomenon. So fair warning…this is gonna be a rant.

Here’s the thing. Everywhere I go, everywhere I look, whether walking on the beach, driving down the road, shopping for (let’s just say) a bar of soap, or enjoying that heretofore mentioned latte, people are on the phone. And if they’re not actually talking on it, texting on it, or taking pictures (primarily of themselves for some reason I hesitate to try to explain) with it, they simply have it in their hand. In fact it is a rarity these days to actually see someone without a phone. The thing has become ubiquitous. Never mind the notion that future generations will be born without a baby toe because, as we all know, who really needs that? All things being equal, if we continue on our current trajectory, I figure future iterations of this species of ours will be born with special little grooves on our dominant hand into which we can permanently slip our miniature talking devices. But back to the point. How did phones, of all things, become such an insidious and, from where I sit, annoying aspect of our lives? How is it that we have become so dominated by this comparatively new, in the scheme of things, piece of technology? How is it that we have let them take over?

Get ready, because I’m just going to go ahead and say it. In the “good ol’ days” when you were out you were out. Business was business and pleasure was pleasure. Now no one knows what’s what anymore because you have your phone.  You’re walking down the beach, the sky and water are a brilliant shade of turquoise blue, not a cloud in the sky, the cool wet sand is cushioning each and every step you take, waves are crashing against the shore, rocks glistening in the sun, but do you notice? No. You’re on the phone talking to some shmo’ who got stuck at the office on the weekend because he spent so much time answering emails that he couldn’t get his work done and now he needs you to help him out.  And he knows you can because you have your phone.

In the good ol’ days when you sat down to eat you inhaled the delicate smells of the freshly cooked meal in front of you, admired the array of colours artistically arranged on the plate making each part of the meal look more appetizing  than the next, wondered where to start and which succulent bite you wanted to experience first. Now when that meal comes to your table you take out your phone and take a picture of what you imagine will be a most delicious treat and then, before reaching for your fork, you post that picture on Facebook so that I can see what you are not, at least at that moment, eating. And here’s the thing. No matter how good that picture looks, no matter how delectable that meal appears to be, I’m still going to be chowing down on yesterday’s leftovers which I might decide to warm up if, and that’s a big if, I can find the energy to do so.

Just one more so bear with me please. In the good ol’ days when you were driving that’s pretty much all you were doing. Sure, you might be listening to a few tunes on the radio, singing along to some “oldies but goodies” on that easy listening station you favour, and the kids might be bickering in the back seat, the sounds of their chiding almost driving you to distraction but you keep your eyes peeled on that road because the kids are in the backseat. Now, sitting at a red light looking over to the person in the hot rod next to me, invariably they are on the phone. And if they’re not talking on it they’re texting that all important two line message to someone who is likely in another car doing the very same thing. Apparently that $20.00 fine they face down here just doesn’t seem to make a difference but perhaps the day they wrap that car around a tree, or even worse, yours or my car around a tree, will.

Right about now you might be thinking “What’s with the shallow gal? What’s her problem? I like my phone. And here’s the thing. I like my phone too but let me just be bold and say it. Just because you and I like our phones doesn’t mean that we don’t have a problem. And just because I’m shallow doesn’t mean I’m not going to say that we do.

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What are the Chances?

freeSome things just happen. This might be hard to believe but as a shallow gal I’m not much of a believer in “other worldly” phenomenon. As a matter of fact, I’m pretty sure I have never used “karma” or “kismet” in a sentence, until now that is. But even a non-believer like me has to give their head a shake every once in a while. Because there are times when a series of events are simply unexplainable without at least considering the possibility that there does, in fact, exist a mysterious force with a preconceived plan for us. Some might call it “fate” and as fate would have it, this just might be one of those times. I’m guessing you’ve figured out by now I have a story to tell so sit down and get comfy ‘cause you’re gonna need to let this one sink in.

But first, let’s take a few steps back. You’ll recall that not more than a week ago I had a decision to make and in an effort to meet the needs of my readers I asked you to determine whether I should focus my efforts on finding the best pizza or fro-yo in SoCal. Well in what can only be described as an overwhelming majority, pizza emerged as the clear winner. I should mention that the outcome surprised me just a little bit but, as my Mother would say, there’s no accounting for tastes. And so, at the behest of my readers and because it’s the right and only thing to do, I embarked on developing a strategy for determining the best pizzerias in the area and how and when to visit them. Well perhaps not so much a strategy, but I did start to try to figure out where the heck people eat pizza around here. And as most of you know, it’s not that hard these days since all you have to do is tell Siri what you want and she’ll locate it for you. Just a couple of cautions here. Speak very clearly or you’ll find yourself taking quite a long drive to where she “thinks” you should go for a slice. And, remember not to fall in love with her even though she appears to be the “perfect woman” having all the answers to all your questions. But that’s not really about pizza at all. Anyway, a list was made, order of preference determined and schedule created so we were “all set” as they say here in the U.S. of A. Or so we thought.

Fast forward one day. We’re booked to volunteer at an upcoming run but, since it was on the way, we decide to do a little outlet shopping at the local mall. Doesn’t take long for us to decide it’s time for our “free ones” (yes it’s still January so the drinks are on the house) so we make our way to the, requisite in any mall, Starbucks. As we approach we can’t help but notice the incredibly long line and while it’s a nice, sunny day, there’s no time to dawdle so we’re starting to think the free one will have to wait. On closer examination however, we realize that the line up is not for the coffee house but rather for the joint next door. Which, you guessed it, specializes in none other than pizza. We’re thinking what you’re thinking. All these people can’t be wrong so this pie must be really good!

Turns out it’s a big promotion and today, of all days, everyone gets a free pizza. Now you’re thinking this can’t possibly turn out as good as it sounds because everyone knows there’s no such thing as a free lunch, or dinner. I mean, what are the chances? But it does. Long story short. We come back after a hard day of handing out T-Shirts, get into line and wait. Come on people! It’s free pizza. And if you’re anything like me (and you might or might not be) you’re gonna take this opportunity to make new friends. Friends you might even eat that pizza with. So of course it’s worth the wait. Because once you get through the door, in just 180 seconds these people will hand you a great tasting, thin crust, wood-fired pizza with anything you want on it. That’s right…anything! Feeling creative? Design your own. Decisioned-out? Just pick one of theirs. And if you were paying, which I may have mentioned we were not, the whole kit and kaboodle would cost you 7.65 U.S. which right now for us Canadians is about 10 beans. But the best thing, and I mean the very best, were the people. These kids (well that’s just about anyone to me) worked their behinds off serving free pizzas all day long and each and everyone of them did it with a smile. Free pizzas with a smile. Someone somewhere is looking out for us.

I know. This is not really a “comparison” but when the shallow gal has a story to tell she just has to tell it. Before you go: Pizza recommendation #1. Blaze Pizza in the Carlsbad Outlet Mall. Hope they don’t mind getting a thumbs up in the shallow blog.

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Blimey! What’s that you said?

DSCN0795smallSo here’s the thing about travel. It’s complicated. First there’s the security line with all of its rules and the decisions you have to make. Do I take my shoes off or don’t I? Should I throw out my water or drink it, a decision I may later regret should the seat belt light stay on too long after take-off.  Was it a 1 litre bag or a bag of 1 litre bottles that I’m allowed? Should I opt for the machine or the pat down? Once you get through all of that there’s the airport signage to decipher and the total recall you’ll need to try to remember whether your gate was B39 or D93 which, given the long and opposing corridors in many terminals, could significantly impact your chances of making it onto your plane.

Now as a shallow person I do my best to live my life in a way that is as uncomplicated as possible. For that reason I have a distinct preference, once I make my way through all of the previously mentioned chaos, to disembark at a location where I am able to understand what is being said.  And while I can read, write and say “the house is near the garden” in Hebrew, I’m not sure that qualifies as a second language. As a result, I am most comfortable in my native English. Which, imho, made my recent foray to London a particularly good choice.  At least I thought it did.

Let me start by saying that having grown up during the “British Invasion” (no, not the 1812 one) I was aware that I would find some discrepancies in the meanings of words between my homeland and the Mother country. Face it, how many times did one have to hear Mr. McCartney refer to his “blokes” before realizing he was talking about the gentlemen standing beside him. And it’s pretty common knowledge that a “lift” is something that elevates you and  a  “brolly” is used for protection from the rain. Of course it didn’t take me too long to figure out that at the end of every meal when I politely inquired as to the location of the “washroom”, there was a reason for the funny look I got as the server wondered why it was that I wanted to bathe before going home. And I will admit the use of “toilet”, in this case, is much more direct and to the point. I can’t say however, that I was always prepared for the challenges I faced as I encountered a rather heretofore unfamiliar version of the language I speak each and every day in my home and native land.

Now don’t get me wrong. Some of the local banter is rather intuitive. I mean I  get why they call their subway the “tube” because the little round cars that you can barely stand up in live up to the name. And it doesn’t take much to understand why the “lady” on the loudspeaker repeatedly reminds you to “mind the gap” since if you don’t, you’ll find yourself removing the wheels of your luggage from the rather significant space that exists between the train and the platform in the 10 or so seconds you have to exit your car. “Take out” and “take away” mean pretty much the same on either side of the pond although the latter seems infinitely more popular than the former. The same can be said about walking on a “footpath” because you’ll actually think you’re on a  “sidewalk” even if one sounds slightly more “paved” than the other.

Smooth sailing? A cakewalk? Think you’ve got this carpet beat? Well hold on ‘cause the ride’s not over. It’s not all peaches and cream and at times it gets downright confusing. So you’re at the theatre and you feel like a little popcorn. You ask for the “concessions” and a nice young man lets you know that senior’s tickets are available at a discount through the wicket. Which I suppose is the true meaning of the word. Then there’s the time you want “fries” and have to ask for “chips” or you want “chips” have to ask for “crisps”. But I was particularly flummoxed by the tendency to make less more by turning “Yield” into “Give Way” and “Detour” into “Diverted Traffic”, which seems slightly more complicated not to mention the resultant need for larger signs. But all of this pales to what you might face when you want to eat. So listen carefully.

When confronted with “bubble and squeak” on a breakfast menu all I can say is “Don’t order it! Just don’t order it!” because it has nothing to do with either of those things. Which brings me to a little tidbit I would like to share with you should you decide to venture into a land where you have little experience with the spoken word. This is important. If you learn nothing else before you go, learn to say “chicken” in whatever language(s) you think you may encounter. Here’s why. One evening you may find yourself comfortably seated in a four star restaurant and upon carefully perusing the menu settle upon something called “rognons de veau et champignons à la sauce moutarde” because you remember a little of your high school french but clearly not enough. When it arrives at your table a very polite server looks directly at you and says “the kidney is for you madam?”. Your look of astonishment will tell the tale but, even so, the lovely woman from Miami sitting at the next table won’t be able to stop herself from proclaiming “I wondered if that was what you really wanted”. To which you reply (but only in your head) “Well if you knew, why didn’t you open up your mouth and say something when it mattered?!” all the while wishing you had stuck with the chicken. Perhaps however, that’s a story for another day.

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Food is Food

Washing machineSo I know you have been waiting with bated breath to find out how things went in Denver and I thought I would use this space to fill you in. First, and I’m going to come right out and say this because it’s my blog and I can say what I want to, it seems to me that the right guy won. Second, the whole “birthday away from home” thing went better than expected with lots of people buying me drinks and making quite the fuss but most importantly, reacting with disbelief when I told them the milestone I have reached. I know! I don’t believe it either! And last but certainly not least, I learned some more stuff at the conference. And here’s a tidbit I would like to share with you.

On the last day of the conference I decided to go to a talk on how to make engaging presentations. Having attended numerous other sessions over the first few days I wondered to myself why this particular topic hadn’t been scheduled much earlier in the program however I figured it was better late than never and entered the room. Now please don’t misunderstand. If I have to say so myself (and sometimes I do) I am a pretty awesome presenter but I also know that there is always room for improvement so I listened intently to what our speaker had to say. While there were lots of good tips and tricks provided the one that really stuck with me was her suggestion that in order to create a connection with your audience it is important to share something personal to help people get to know you. In essence, you want to make yourself “real” to those who have taken the time to listen. And as she said that I thought, maybe that’s what I need to do on the blog. Maybe I haven’t become “real” enough to my readers. And so today I want to tell you something about myself that you may not already know. Here it is.

My one and only household responsibility is doing the laundry and I’m really good at it. Every Sunday you will find me and the cat in the basement sorting clothes into neat piles of colours, whites and delicates. I know what goes in the dryer and what needs to be hung up to dry. I know exactly how much clothing I can safely add to a load and how it needs to be distributed in the washing machine to prevent it from sounding like a mild earthquake is taking place in my basement during the spin cycle. I have detergents for regular washes, detergents for delicates and detergents for keeping black clothes black. I have fabric softener. I check pockets carefully to ensure there is no homework left behind. I will admit that very occasionally I discover, after the fact of course, that I missed finding a tissue that lay in some deep recess of someone’s clothing and when it happens it is enough to put me into just a little bit of a funk for the rest of the day. Most often however all goes well and there are no serious incidents to be reported. And that’s all that I do around the house. I don’t clean and I don’t cook because there are other people who do that for me. Which is a good thing. And here’s why.

I’ll start by telling you that the cleaning part is not the real issue. I’m a pretty good cleaner when I have to be but I just don’t like it. So best to let someone else take care of that. It’s the cooking that really becomes problematic because, as a shallow person I have for some time held on to the somewhat admittedly draconian belief that “food is food”. If someone cooks it for me, I’ll eat it. Because I have to. To me the whole concept of  eating is rather utilitarian and not something to be fussed over. I mean if a little cheese and crackers will do the trick, well get out the cutting board and make some. If it’s greens you need, chop up a lettuce, add a couple of carrots and you’re done. If it’s a lack of fibre that’s got you down, eat some bread. And in this house that’s how we would all be eating if it was left up to me. And that’s why it isn’t.

I know it’s hard for you to believe that someone like myself, someone who is otherwise so sophisticated and discerning, would feel this way about food so perhaps to alleviate some of your dissonance I should let you know that there are a few things I don’t like. For example, butterscotch always seems to give me a headache, and I have developed a distinct and surprisingly ferocious dislike of coconut which perplexes me a little because it wasn’t always this way. Not to mention that rather deadly MSG allergy I need to contend with. And it’s not like I don’t eat good things. Why just the other night I had an opportunity to sample “duck fat fries” and not long before that a rather pleasant helping of “fish in a bag” which, for those of you who don’t know, consisted of gulf fish, caramelized onions, fennel and crab fat  all steamed in a parchment bag creating a rather delicate and delightful sauce. And I eat sushi for lunch at least once a week. And while it’s all good, to me it’s still just food that does one thing. It fills me up when I’m hungry. And no one wants someone who feels this way about food cooking for them.

So that’s why I don’t cook. And that’s why you’ll find me in the basement on Sunday doing what I’m good at. And with any luck, my sharing of this otherwise little known personal tidbit about myself has made me feel just a little bit more “real” to you.

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A Shallow Person’s Guide to the Folk Fest (Part 2 of 3)

What to Bring

Don’t minimize the importance of getting this right. There’s nothing worse than finding yourself at a great spot at the bottom of the hill only to realize that you left your favourite recycled plastic yoga mat you were going to carry to all of the side stages, at home. Along with the requisite sunscreen, bug spray, hat, sunglasses, and reusable water bottle I suggest the following:

The Chair: Veteran or newbie this year everyone is going to need to get new chairs. Remember those rules I talked about yesterday? Well there are new ones for chairs this year and I’m afraid that means trading in your Costco “Rio”, which only about ⅔ of the festival goers have used without incident over the past 5 years, for something a little shorter. On a recent trip to our local camping store I discovered a tie-dyed number that meets all of the official requirements and, at first blush seemed to me to be the perfect folk fest accessory. But in retrospect I’m a little worried that some people will exercise both this and the tie-dye t-shirt option (you’ll read about that tomorrow) and, as a result, have the unfortunate experience of finding a complete stranger sitting on top of them because they were indistinguishable from their surroundings. So just to be safe I would go with something in a solid colour.

The Tarp: You’re going to need a tarp and you better make sure it is 8×10 (yes, it’s a rule) or you’ll find yourself on the wrong side of this fence. I’m going to say you go with blue on this one. Yes it’s true that’s the colour of 95% of the tarps at the festival so yours will become just one more fish in a rather large sea. But here’s the thing. At some point in the week-end someone you know is going to want to meet you at your tarp. The only way to get them there is to figure out how many rows you are up from the bottom of the hill and in from the side and to pass on that information. Of course there are no real “rows” at this fest which leaves your directions open to some rather significant interpretation. The thing is, if your tarp was let’s say orange, you would be making things all too easy for your friends and what’s life without a challenge or two?

The iPhone: I know, you’re wondering why on earth you’re going to need this technology from your “other life”. Well there’s more than one reason. First, when your friends can’t find your tarp (that tarp counting never works) they’re going to call you so you can talk them through the crowd. Of course this will be of minimal use since there is so much noise they’ll only pick up every few words. Never mind, they’ll find you, eventually. Next, I think it’s a good alternative to the “candle” thing that goes on every night on the hill. There’s nothing more disconcerting than watching free spirited children run around with lit candles while their free spirited parents pay little or no attention to them. So to get around this rather dubious practice I think we should all download a candle app which will make swaying to the music, light in hand, all that much safer. The effect will be the same and the fire chief can breathe a sigh of relief. Finally, download the Folk Fest app. It will come in handy as you move from one stage to the next and perhaps more importantly, you’ll save the five bucks you would have spent on the program.

The Food: You’re going to have to eat while at this shindig and unless you plan on spending a good portion of your time standing in the food lines, you will want to bring some of your own. Please remember that there are people on all sides in close proximity watching, so what you do here will have a major impact on your folk fest persona, especially if there are children involved. Trust me on this, if it says “Hostess” on the package, leave it at home. For this event you’ll want to buy in bulk, but if that’s not possible, at least make sure it looks like you did. No plastic bags please, only reusable containers made of BPA free recyclable plastic. I’d suggest glass but that won’t get through the security check (have I mentioned the rules?). Adding something “ethnic” to the menu will add significantly to your currency. Organic juices can be refreshing although this year I’ll be toting flavoured Perrier as I think it’s just retro enough to be cool. If what you really crave is a bologna sandwich, remember that Yves veggie slices are almost indistinguishable from the real thing and I dare say you will be safe as long as you don’t offer a bite to your vegan neighbour.

The Other Stuff: You’ll need a bag to carry all of this stuff in and I’d like to suggest something colourful and woven if at all possible. If you insist on leather just make sure it is well-worn and handcrafted by a local artisan from cows that have been raised for this purpose. Perhaps something that matches your belt (more about that tomorrow) would work. For some evening fun bring an inflatable beach ball and if you can find one with a “world” imprint, all the better. Unfortunately since this will be used to create hours of fun being tossed from one tarp to another as the night goes on, you won’t be getting it back so a trip to the dollar store may be your best bet. While you are there, pick up a couple dozen glow sticks as without them, no one will be able to see you dancing in the dark. A note of caution: While at the dollar store you will want to avoid anything that’s made in China.

Tomorrow: Stay tuned ‘cause you’re going to want to know what to wear.

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