New Orleans on a budget, cont…

Day 1, still….

Here’s one thing I did in New Orleans that didn’t cost me one penny (it was an installation in an art store that I walked into).

Looking is FREE!!!!!!

Looking is soooo FREE!

It was a mesh-like sculpture of a woman, with a cool shadow.

Later that night we went and had a drink at a jazz bar called Fritzell’s on Bourbon Street. And NO COVER!

That old dude on the piano could really jam. And yes, listening is also FREE!!!

Although drinks could’ve been free as well, if I had accepted one from a drunk doctor sitting next to me who was also visiting NOLA for a conference.

Accepting drinks from men, apparently, is an activity all on its own, if not a woman’s right. YEAH!!! When I moved to New York two years ago I made a point of curtailing my drinking for lack of funds. One of my good friends who had been in NYC for about five years already said to me “Uhh…why don’t you let guys buy you drinks?”

My inexperienced self says “But then I’d have to talk to them?”

“Who cares? Rachel (now his ex) and her girlfriends will have night-outs where they specifically have men buy them drinks.”

“I don’t care for drinks, really. I’m broke. I’d rather ask for the money instead.”

“You can try…I bet they’d give it to you…”

I thought about what I would say if it did happened. “Can I just have the ten bucks instead?”

Accepting drinks from men is a big no-no, one tells me, “…because you’re leading them on and signaling you’re interested.”

Yawn. Alright, alright. So, I guess, I don’t accept drinks from random men now.

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New Orleans on a budget, sadly…

Day 1

I’ll admit, it might have been a semi-bad idea to travel to New Orleans on a budget. But what the hey, there’s always another time. With $400 in the hole (my annual income is $0.00/year right now) for ticket, room, and conference fee, I figured I would strategize and eat the utmost important signature foods of NOLA – po’ boys, beignets and coffee from Cafe du Monde, a praline, and at least one sazerac. I know I know…I’m also missing gumbo, jambalaya, oyster stew, etc… I had to prioritize my money and caloric allotment.

So the point of my trip was to attend the Association for the Study of Food and Society (ASFS) conference held in New Orleans this year. Students and professors alike from all over the North American continent and abroad were present to share their research in all matters of food representing departments in agriculture, history, anthropology, sociology, French literature, and so on.

For those who are interested, a few of the paper presentations that I attended were:

  • “Appetite for Controversy: Market-based Resistance to Chicago’s Foie Gras Ban”
  • “Sociology of Agriculture and Food: Beginning and Maturity – The Contribution of the Missouri School”
  • “Corporate Agrifood Strategies Across Commodities: Accumulation, Legitimation, Social Movements, and the State”
  • “The American Omnivore’s Dilemma: Who Constructs ‘Organic’ Food?”
  • “Reconsidering Beef in Tucuman, Argentine”
  • “Nouvelle Cuisine: A Recipe for Frenchness in Postcolonial France”

There were so many other presentations that sounded beyond just awesome. I wish I could have listened to:

  • “Black Men in Black Tie: Race, Gender, Dinner Parties, and Film”
  • “Class and Knowledge: The Evolution of Alternative Food Movements in the Canadian Media”
  • “Your Friends Don’t Make You Fat, But…: An Exploratory Study of Social Networks and Eating Behavior”

And we all know that “talks” about food need to be polished off by actual food.

So here it is:

Our first course in NOLA

We saw these babies bubbling on an open flame just as we first walked into the restaurant: Parmesan and Romano cheese with an herbed butter.

Peach-Maker Po\'Boy

The Peace-Maker Po’boy: shrimp and oysters

And yes, it finally happened. I’ve waited my whole life for these…

Coffee and Beignets

Cafe au lait and beignets!!!

And the best thing about NOLA? Well, two things: $5 cocktails AND you can take them TO GO!!!

We walked into the Napoleon House ten minutes before it closed. The options were a) drink fast which, coming from San Francisco where last call is 1:30am, is noooo problemo. Or b) take them to go. WHAT?!!?

So we did both. Here are my roommates downing their Pimm’s Cups. And they were fabulous!

more to come…

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When food is used against you (or me, rather)…

What really irks me is when others use food to teach me a lesson. Patronizing, maybe. Paternalistic, very.

I don’t mind a heated discussion about the quality of the ingredients, the techniques used, overall presentation, or even its cost-value ratio. But what really pisses me off is when I specifically ask for something (kindly, of course) and then I’m told, “Okay,” to then learn that what I asked for never took place, just to see if I would like that whatever it was that I wanted prepared in the way I didn’t want it. Make sense? Who does that anyway? I mean, I’ll be 29 next week and I’m being taught a lesson?! Arggggghhh…

Anyway, all of this had to do with a grilled cheese sandwich.

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An appropriate use of food…

In relationships cooking is my secret weapon, which I use for evil much more than I do for good. I don’t have a problem misleading men into believing that should we date, I would be cooking up a storm to prepare meals for us at home. My discussion of farmers markets seems to bring out my maternal side. Men love my restaurant kitchen tales, which never fail to elicit the question “So do you watch Top Chef?” And my fading oven scars along my arm validates my time spent in a kitchen.

This sets the stage rather nicely for the first several dates, and if I’m lucky, even going into the relationship.

The real stellar men get smart and quickly settle into the gender stereotypes, only to come say hello to me while I’m cooking en route to the fridge for a beer. “You don’t need any help, right?” he’ll say as he walks away. Luckily for me the television takes priority, because the food cools way too fast as I carry dishes out one by one. No news is good news, since my complacency implies that things are perfect.

Weeks pass and it’s a fairy tale story, though soon enough, I begin to get antsy and start probing. “I haven’t been to a musical since I’ve been here in New York. Can we go to one?” The alpha men I prefer to date never fail to cock their eyebrow at such an obscene question. “Uh…I’m not really into musicals,” they blurt out, not to miss a single word of “Scrubs.” It’s good thing it’s Tivo-ed. “So…would you like to go to the farmers market with me sometime? It’s really fun.” “Sure, I guess.”

After a few more of those rounds and to no avail, I begin to get irritated. No, I get really pissed. And begin my plan to not plan any more home cooked meals. When 8pm approaches 8pm the next evening, he’ll ask, “So, what are we eating for dinner?” I refuse to look up from my computer. “I’m tired today, I’m not making anything,” That blows over peacefully, since I don’t get more than an “Okay.” And then he rummages through the freezer looking for the Costco burritos.  Sometimes when I do make something to eat (starving myself would only be self-destructive and would mean that I have major issues), I’ll take my plate to the table and say, “Yours is in the kitchen.”

A few days like this go by and one day he’ll say to me, “Is there something wrong?”  I inhale to open up my diaphragm. And then it begins.

“Yes there’s something wrong!” I preface.

What usually follows next is a “Just so you know, although I do enjoy cooking, it doesn’t mean that that’s the only thing I want to do! Especially for your ass!”

His eyes widen. And they should because there’s a lot more of that where that just came from.

So I’m excited to say that I’m going to see “Passing Strange” in the next month or so. And I’m also back in the restaurant-dining scene with a somewhat reliable eating partner. Moving forward my cooked meals evolve, becoming more strategic, sharper I would say, over time. Call me psychotic. Or them, assholes. But everyone eventually gets what they want.

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The little things in life.

I’m a woman and I like cute things, small things specifically. So can food be cute and small? Yes they can!

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This came in my American Airlines snack pack when I traveled to Europe this past summer. I loved it so much that I decided to save it (for no real reason) until now. So if you choose AA, you can look forward to these goodies inside:

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Free food always tastes better.

One thing about me is that I can never get enough of food that is free. I really think it tastes better than food I have to pay for. I go berserk and hoard mounds of it, whatever it is, good or bad, usually without having tasted it first. This might have stemmed my adolescence years when my parents and I used to attack the sample tables at Costco. But I have graduated from Costco samples and my tastes have now changed. I’m able to abstain from not-so-great food and my hoarding abilities are quite advanced. Now I take the good stuff – local, sometimes organic, and just-picked produce. Although I might have gone overboard this one time:

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Of course, then I started to stress out about what to do with all of this food. And when cooking tasks become reminiscent of my years in the restaurant, I cringe. But I persevere and decided to attack the peppers first: I roasted every single one and turned them into this:

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But then I couldn’t eat them fast enough, so then I pureed them and turned them into this:

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Roasted pepper puree. The container was full when I originally made it (it was that good).

Now I just have to figure out what to do with the rest…

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Grocery Shopping…apparently it’s in my blood.

For anybody who reads The Economist, you might have come across the essay, “Sex, Shopping, and Thinking Pink.” The essay discusses a study conducted by Joshua New and his colleagues at Yale University in which they pose a biological justification for the hunter-gatherer relationship; men hunted and women gathered. The site that was chosen for this study was one that, in theory, replicated a primordial natural environment – the Farmers Market.

A short synopsis: Roughly forty men and forty women were asked to peruse the farmers market, but only visit six of the ninety stalls. There they tasted samples of the thef ood and discussed their individual preferences. After, the volunteers relocated in the center of the market where they were individually asked to point to each stall using an arrow on a dial.

The results: Women scored higher when remembering the location of the stalls especially when the food possessed a higher calorific value, regardless of navigational ability (they were also asked to rate their own navigational skills: men rated theirs higher). The essay even qualified that certain attributes such as individual preferences and frequency of specific foods in one’s diet were independent of the results in study.

Conclusion: The study suggests a gender based biological, and not a cultural, element to the task of procuring food resources.

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Having not read the original study, a few questions and thoughts came to mind:

1) How accurate is it to make a biological conclusion about humans based on a study that relies on a culturally constructed, and gender biased, environment such as the farmers markets?

2) How does the study account for, or rather separate, the cultural background of each individual volunteer? If in fact the women in that study sample came from cultures where gender roles prevailed, wouldn’t that advantageously affect their memory skills at the market.

3) Depending on how the study was constructed, I’m curious how they concluded that foods higher in calories were best remembered. In most larger farmers markets today, the majority of stalls tend to be produce heavy resulting in a homogenous perception of all produce stands. The few stalls that sell meat, cheese, and breads would mostly like stick out and therefore be remembered.

Dr. New makes an interesting argument, like others before him, placing food at the nexus of gender based societal roles. What I’m interested in are his reasons for choosing farmers markets as the primary study site. It doesn’t seem appropriate for the hypotheses he’s exploring since the markets tend to be tailored toward women to begin with. Nonetheless the results of this study are provocative. I guess I’ll just stick to shopping, grocery shopping, no less; whether shopping is a skill is something I’ll argue ‘til the day I die.

If anyone agrees with this study, or rather, recognizes any holes please feel free to write them below….

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