Confessions of a wannabe foodie

chicken-fried London broilMy relationship with food is like having an abusive ex-boyfriend: He keeps coming back and coming back, every day, even though you don’t want to see him. You want to get rid of him but he won’t go away. It’s not an analogy of “I eat because I have to” and “I can’t really live without him.” It’s that you really don’t want want food in the house the way you really don’t want him to come back. That’s where the analogy stops.

And yet, I must eat. Because DEATH.

Anyway, part of my frustration is how I taste things, meaning, I like the taste of things, but I don’t like the texture. That leaves a lot of things out. A lot of things in a lot of dishes I would like to try. But don’t. Because basically, I’m afraid of wasting money. Yes, I said it. Afraid.

[Aside: All the eating Victoria and Emilio do in PASO DOBLE is an expression of my unwillingness to experiment and lack of ability to appreciate whatever flavors come my way. My palate is less sophisticated than a three-year-old's.]

All this means is I hate cooking and I hate trying new things. Because what if it’s icky? This worked well when I was single and low-carbing because all I had to do was throw a steak under the broiler and fix a salad. Alas, children have a way of growing up and eating you out of house and home and they have expensive taste in meat. My fault.

[snip rest of psychological profile]

For various reasons, today I tried something new.

I had a three-year-old (yes, that too) slab of London broil in my freezer. I wanted to marinate it, but I have no soy sauce, no Teriyaki sauce, no wine. This will be rectified in the future, but suffice it to say I couldn’t run out and get any right then. So this slab, I had intended to use to make beef jerky. It’s a long process. I had thawed it out intending one thing, changed my mind to another, changed it a second time, realized my lack of ingredients, but had a slab of London broil waiting for me to do something with it, so I went with door number four.

I sliced the London broil into 1/4″ wide strips, all the while wondering what to do with it. Then I wondered…chicken fried steak?

Soooo I got out ye olde almond flour*. Mixed it with parmesan cheese, onion powder, and garlic powder. I cracked an egg in a plate and scrambled it well. Put on a skillet with oil to heat up. Dipped the strip in the egg, coated it with the “breading” and fried it up. When the few strips were finished, I made gravy with the drippings (not a lot because there wasn’t much oil) using water and arrowroot powder.

Dude was the victim. He pronounced it pretty okay. Then he dipped it in some bleu cheese dressing. He liked that better.

I ate a bite plain. It was pretty okay. Needed spices (like a package of Italian Seasonings). I had a piece with gravy on it. That was really okay. I had a piece dipped in mayonnaise blended with some Italian Seasonings. That was awesome.

Next time I’ll put the seasonings in the “breading.” The meat is tender and moist, but my only complaint is I wish the “breading” was crispier.

My first victory. I’m not a foodie and I’m never going to be. But this was a food victory for me.

 

 

*This post makes more sense if you know I’m still trying to live a low-carb lifestyle, with varying degrees of success on a day-to-day basis.

Two new books

Best friends forever...until the first kiss.

Best friends forever…until the first kiss.

Sometimes love isn't enough...until it is.

Sometimes love isn’t enough…until it is.

PASO DOBLE
&
WE WERE GODS

go on sale today!

The print books are available at Amazon, Barnes & Noble, and all the regular places.

The ebooks are available from me (see links above), Amazon, Barnes & Noble, and all the regular places (iBooks coming soon). From now until May 15, 2014, they will be priced at $1.99. After, they will be $5.99 and $4.99 respectively.

Get ‘em now!

Scheduling fun?

Laissez le bon temps roulez!I’m asking a question, but I’m not sure I’ll understand any responses I’ll get.

A long time ago, I wrote this post: Mommy, why don’t you smile anymore?

I was doing a psych eval for clearance for a surgery I hope to have some time this coming summer, and the shrink said, “You don’t know how to relax, do you?” Why no. No, I don’t. I don’t remember the last time I had actual fun that didn’t involve guilt for being unproductive.

Twittercrank linked me to this: Young/Old. I’m some depressing amalgam of each. I have a comfort zone. Some of those things I can violate. Some I can’t. Depends on the day and time of the month.

I was cruising Pinterest (as I do) (does gorging on eye candy qualify as fun?) (especially if I feel guilty for the DIY projects I’m not getting done?), and I saw this: How to plan for a busy week {college students}. Doesn’t apply just to college students. On the poster’s “must-do” list is to have fun (paraphrasing).

How does one do this?

I scheduled a fun night out with a friend who had a conflict at the last minute. I didn’t go. The fun part was having a friend to go to a thing who would also enjoy it. Dude offered to take a night off and go with me, but he would have hated every second of the three hours, and who wants to put their spouse through that, especially if they have to take time off work to do it?

Went out with Dude yesterday for lunch. Was it fun? Well, I enjoy being with Dude and I like the restaurant’s food and it was calming and relaxing, but is that fun?

I don’t find the same things fun that my kids do. WTF is fun? What is the concept of fun? Am I fun-deficient? Do I not know how to have fun? Rather, do I not know how to have fun with other people? Am I not paying attention? Is my attention span really that short?

Or have I just gotten so cynical that I’ve lost some sense of wonder about life? (Hint: This is the correct answer.) What I want, really, is to be able to laugh with my kids and husband and have fun with them.

Suggestions? How can I scale back my cynicism? How can I scale back my sense of guilt for not being productive constantly? How can I expand my narrow lifestyle’s worldview to fun so I can laugh with my kids? And, well, what is “fun”?

Blogging again

You may have noticed.

I have some things on my mind I’ve wanted to discuss, but my attention span these days is pretty rotten. I’ve been tweeting (and then Facebooking) way too long to be able to put a small essay together in a coherent fashion.

• Sunita has me thinking about productivity protocols and stationery.

• An ancient Twitter conversation has me thinking about doorstopper books.

Victoria and Emilio have me thinking about how / why I eat.

• Mike Cane has me thinking about the citizens of the world v their respective governments.

A whole bunch of people have me thinking about what to read when I’m out of writing mode.

Author friends I made when I first began this self-publishing journey have me thinking about author life post-debut title.

• Various Twitter conversations have me thinking about feminism, racism, privilege, and tolerance.

Liz Harrison and Missy Bourdius have me thinking about each week’s Conservative Feminist radio show, which should be renamed the Kinkservative Feminists.

Chris Henrichsen and Lee Stranahan have me thinking about newsletters. (The universe just threw up in its mouth a little, those two names in the same sentence.)

Minx Malone has me thinking about Google+.

• Emilio (see above) has me thinking about picking up an embroidery needle again.

• Mike Cane also has me thinking about power, from an original article by Leftsetz.

• Dave Grohl has me thinking about following your bliss.

• Various other conversations here and there have me thinking about really good movies I’ve seen.

I used to blog a lot. Building my brand. I got tired. The catchy titles that now read way too cutesy, trying way too hard. I thought I ran out of things to say, but I was saying them on Twitter in 140 characters because why blog asides and snark and memes? Then Tumblr came along and that’s what Tumblr’s for. And porn. People told me to get on Facebook and indeed! That is where the fans are, but I’ve covered that topic. Pinterest lets me post a crap-ton of pretty pictures, but I don’t think people browse other people’s pinboards just to see what they like.

But I decided to blog asides and snark and memes, along with things I’m thinking about because I need to get back into the discipline of essay writing. It’s always been my pet medium and I’ve neglected it terribly.

So to those of you who’ve got me in your RSS feeds and follow my mirror posts on Goodreads, you may have a deluge of posts for a while.

On parenting

Paradise by Judith McNaughtTess: “You know this makes us like all the evil meddling parents in all those novels who pay off the boyfriend from the wrong side of the tracks, and then are responsible for the seething hatred between their daughter and her boyfriend until they meet up twenty years later and have angry sex.”

Étienne: “You say that like it’s a bad thing.”

Tess: “But by that time, the boyfriend has used his seething hatred to make a billion dollars just to show her father up and comes back as a master of the universe to get his revenge on the parents and his girlfriend, even though she has never stopped loving him and was heartbroken that he never tried to contact her—”

Étienne: “This is the part where the evil parents had never passed his letters along to the girlfriend, right? And hers got waylaid on the way to the post office? And then she finds out her parents threw money at him to get him to go away, and she turns on them?”

Tess: “Right. So it’s all a giant drama, and the evil parents get their comeuppance.”

Étienne: “I don’t think we need to fear a raging billionaire coming after us in twenty years.”

Tess: [sighs dreamily] “I love those books.”

Étienne: “You know what I like about you, Tess?”

Tess: “Which thing?”

Étienne: “You’re worse at being human than I am. You just have a better filter.”

On credibility

“I,” Emilio said to his youngest brother, “am a manslut. That is a direct quote. Don’t be that. There will come a day—”

“A girl you like says, ‘Let’s be friends.’”

“You’ll turn forty-two and find out the woman you’re in love with thinks you’re the scum of the earth.”

Face(book) On, Face(book) Off

Oh, fuck no.I don’t like Facebook. I never did. I wouldn’t even get on it to talk to my relatives. There was always something faintly nefarious about Facebook I didn’t feel with Twitter (which may simply be better at hiding it). I also didn’t like and didn’t understand either the interface or its functionality.

But I’m an author and as authors will do (or try), we must market. And marketing was happening on Facebook. And, not coincidentally, that’s where my fans were, too. I made a page. I have a personal account, too, that’s really not so personal. So I went there and I posted there. Then Facebook changed the way it displayed what I posted, which was to say, there was a precipitous drop in how many people were shown my posts from one day to the next. Facebook is doing Things, and those Things are cutting out the end user from stuff they want to see. Therefore, why should the content creators continue to supply content?

I will be ramping up my blogging again because there is no reason for me to be on a platform I hate if my readers won’t be shown what they have asked to see.

I will also be starting a newsletter for those who don’t care for blogs.

Because you know what? I have two (yes, two) books coming out on May 1, 2014, and I’d sure like people to know about them. Facebook’s not going to help you find out about them anymore.

Paso Doble

Paso Doble“You’ve been smooth as a baby’s butt since you were gored three years ago,” Victoria said.

“You’re supposed to be smooth,” Emilio replied, suddenly irritated. “That’s the point.”

“Yes, but! Your posture isn’t quite straight enough when it should be and your shoulders aren’t back quite far enough and you don’t lean in quite close enough to the bull. When you go down on one knee, you’re right in his blind spot. When you make the kill, you go a little too far left and you have to reach for it. Your veronicas are a little too studied, and I haven’t seen you do a mariposa in, oh, years. Your faenas are a little too cautious, the time it takes you to turn the bull a little too long, and the horns are a little too far away from your legs.”

His mouth had dropped open with her first criticism.

“Every time I’ve seen you, you’ve left the ring without a drop of blood on you. Everybody else might like watching a torero do a perfect Viennese waltz with a bull and leave the ring pristine, as evidenced by your standings this season, but I don’t. I want to see a paso doble, but now if I want to see a good one, I have to watch Strictly Ballroom. Again.”

• • •

PASO DOBLE
Tales of Dunham: LaMontagne 1
Release date: May 1, 2014

Thoughts on Facebook

Oh, fuck no.I have been increasingly frustrated with the way Facebook has been hiding what I post from people who have requested to see what I say. For those of you who don’t know (maybe don’t even care), this is a good explanation: Getting Facebook Slapped: Understanding Facebook’s Big Lie

Pertinent points:

  • FB uses the data its users provide and have been providing for 10 years to advertise to you. But there ain’t no such thing as a free lunch, so they get what they deserve—ads.
  • On the other hand, users have been providing free labor to collect the data for other purposes. FB users perform very valuable work for free.
  • FB’s raison d’être was to allow users to “Connect with Your Friends • Discover and Learn • Express Yourself • Control What You Share • Stay Connected with Your Friends on Mobile Devices” except…now you can’t. Because it won’t let you.
  • The users who built the database, collected the followers, followed the brands, participated in the community, are being stabbed in the back. It happened overnight. One day you reached all the people who opted in to see your page. The next day, you didn’t.
  • Unless you pay to boost your posts. Except…you don’t know if FB is lying to you or not because there is no third-party verification of stats. Except…it’s the work the FB users did. FB users are expected not only to build the database, but to PAY to use it.

My personal experience is the same, but what keeps my rage fueled are the DAILY emails from FB reminding me to post on my page. Really?

I am not posting on my page anymore and this is why: Nobody sees it. Not even the people who requested to. Yet FB wants me to continue to support my brand on FB by nagging me to do it.

No.

For a moment, Facebook was the only good game in town, which was why many of us were stuck here. However, once the users (not the page owners who are being throttled) realize they’re not getting the information they want, they’ll leave.

The sooner the better.

I am an expert witness because I say I am*

In the Garden of AllahSomeone sent me to an interesting article on a book I haven’t read, The Revolt of the Masses by José Ortega y Gasset. I hesitated to write this because I haven’t read the book, but I’m actually commenting on the post itself.

“The Smartest Book About Our Digital Age Was Published in 1929. How José Ortega y Gasset’s The Revolt of the Masses helps us understand everything from YouTube to Duck Dynasty.”

Are you, like me, puzzled to learn that Popular Science magazine recently shut down comments on its website, declaring that they were bad for science? Are you amazed, like me, that Duck Dynasty is the most-watched nonfiction cable show in TV history? Are you dismayed, like me, that crappy Hollywood films about comic book heroes and defunct TV shows have taken over every movie theater? Are you depressed, like me, that symphony orchestras are declaring bankruptcy, but Justin Bieber earned $58 million last year?

Why yes, I AM wondering what’s up with Duck Dynasty. I AM pissy about the constant retreads coming out of Hollywood. I AM annoyed that Justin Bieber can finance a country’s worth of symphony orchestras. (I’m not really sure about the Popular Science thing, though.)

All is well. I’m intrigued. I’m invested in this piece. I’m even slightly nodding at this:

Put simply, the masses hate experts.

It’s so true! They so do!

But there’s a little tickle in the back of my mind at the use of the word “experts.” Then come a few more phrases that make me squirm a little.

If forced to choose between the advice of the learned and the vague impressions of other people just like themselves, the masses invariably turn to the latter. [...] The upper elite still try to pronounce judgments and lead, but fewer and fewer of those down below pay attention.

Huh.

  • Experts.
  • Learned people.
  • Upper elite.

Ortega couldn’t have foreseen digital age culture, but he is describing it with precision. […] He would understand why Yelp reviews have more influence than the considered judgments of restaurant reviewers. He would know why Amazon customer comments have more clout than critics in The New Yorker. […] a friend who is affluent, educated, and a noted wine connoisseur. [who] now relies more on wine advice from websites where anyone can post their evaluations of different vintages.

And this is where the article loses me, but not because I’m in high dudgeon over the key words.

There are several practical/pragmatic variables here that the author of the piece hasn’t accounted for:

1. product accessibility
2. expert accessibility
3. artificial restrictions to #1 & #2
4. fallibility of experts
5. accessibility of product and information
6. unfulfillment of desires

1. The masses aren’t likely to have access to the restaurants a critic would. They may not have access to the symphony. They may not have access to wine.

2.

a. The masses aren’t going to be reading reviews of restaurants they can’t afford to go to. Further, before Google, one had to know where to look for this information, and one isn’t likely to look for that information for places they can’t afford.

b. There are only so many experts for so many things that we as a culture experience or want to experience. Not every book can be reviewed, much less in the New York Times, the holy grail of book review sections. There are not enough restaurant critics or column inches to review every eatery in any given town.

3. The point of an expert review isn’t to educate or recommend or dissuade or make such things desirable/accessible to the masses. It’s to put up a wall between the “experts,” “learned people,” “elite” and the masses. It’s a bright line: This is our turf. Do not cross. Who chooses which books and restaurants and wines get the column inches? The experts, the learneds, and the elites, who have absolutely no interest in talking to the masses at all. Those column inches are jealously guarded.

“Amateur” reviews on Yelp and Amazon are plentiful and varied. Every thing that the masses are interested in have an opinion behind them that they can use to evaluate their own choices. There are no column inch limits. There are no carefully curated lists, leaving off what the masses are actually interested in.

4. Experts. Now there’s an interesting concept. Expert. One who is more learned in X thing than all the other learneds in X thing. A synonym is “consultant.”

Except the masses have seen the experts. They have listened to the experts. They keep listening to the experts, because the experts are more learned than they are—and they know it.

And then … what they see is that the experts are wrong quite a bit of the time. They are confused. “This expert is saying X, and I want to believe him, but my lying eyes are telling me something else. Which one do I believe? DAMN MY LYING EYES!”

So they go on about their business because, in the grand scheme of things, people aren’t going to change if something’s working for them, even if an expert tells them they’re wrong, even if they want to believe that the expert is right. They’d rather just live with their vague feeling of being wrong because they can’t reconcile the viewpoint of the expert with their own experience.

5. The masses will go for what’s accessible, be it product or information, and they will turn away from carefully curated lists to find what they actually want. If they don’t find what they actually want, they’ll go for a substitute. Miley Cyrus is not Britney Spears is not Madonna is not Cher. But Madonna’s a decent substitute for Cher, and Britney’s a decent substitute for Madonna, and Miley Cyrus is—

My apologies to Britney, Madonna, and Cher.

Not only are these things accessible, they are in their faces. I do not see experts in their faces, giving them a reason to find a more erudite alternative.

6. The masses can’t make what they really want to have, what their ears and eyes want, so they have always had to take what they can get, whether they like it or not.

This is why genre self-publishing has taken over NY genre publishing. People found authors who will give them what they already know they want, but were not being provided. Authors don’t make tastes and trends. People who are looking for stories that resonate make those tastes and trends. Publishing takes pride in its gatekeeping, but it has a lousy record on what people actually want.

The article goes on with this:

The same people who denounce expert opinion about movies or music will praise a skilled plumber or car mechanic.

An expert opinion about movies or music is just that: an opinion. It has no basis in skill or objective measure. Further, movies and music are not staples of life; they are spices.

A skilled plumber will come out in freezing weather to replace a hot water heater. A skilled car mechanic will keep a piece-of-shit car running so someone who can’t afford a new car can get to work to feed their families.

How is this apples-and-Volkswagen comparison being made without irony and with a straight face?

The value of blue-collar expertise is accepted without question. The same people who get angry when I make judgments about the skill level of a pianist, would never question my decision to pay more to hire a superior piano tuner.

Shocking.

This is a peculiar state of affairs …

No it’s not. It’s a fundamental misunderstanding of what it is to be part of the masses.

At one point in The Revolt of the Masses, he complains about a woman who told him “I can’t stand a dance to which less than 800 people have been invited.” So how would the Spanish philosopher respond to the crowd mentality that seeks out viral videos with a hundred million views?

This is not difficult to comprehend. There are more people to choose from. This is not analogous to how many people vote for a YouTube video. This is analogous to having a billion YouTube videos to choose from.

Lastly, some more vocabulary:

… the possibility for barbarism to flourish in tandem with technology; or the unbalanced specialization which favors science over the humanities; or (in his words) “the loss of prestige of legislative assemblies.”

  • Barbarism.
  • Unbalanced.
  • Not prestigious.

The masses are asses. My dad used to say that when observing what made popular culture. The case can be made, yes. Mobs have regularly shown themselves to be asses.

I’m not above making judgments on the taste of the masses, although I’ve learned that it’s wise not to do it publicly.

But to say that the masses are asses because they don’t listen to the experts is missing the point: they know who the experts say they are, but they don’t trust their advice and they know that the self-proclaimed experts aren’t there to sweep them into culture and a better appreciation of the humanities.

The experts are there to keep them out.

* “In the Garden of Allah” by Don Henley lyrics | audio