snobbery


Have you seen Stuff White People Like yet? I am a little eerily uncomfortable at how many of the posts describe me. From Paris flea markets to San Francisco, to marathons to riding bikes to work and granny bikes with baskets (and riding through the countryside in Europe on a lovely Spring day…). One of my favorite posts so far is Recycling. Derek has to haul in water to work for some weird reason like the plumbing at his building is messed up. He took one of those 24 packs of bottled water, and when he was done with them all, he went in to put it in the recycling bin. Another dude was there, and he said, “Hey man, aren’t you gonna recycle those?” Derek was a little confused, pointed to the recycling bin, and said, “Yeah, that’s what I was just gonna do.”

This guy was like, “No, I mean, aren’t you gonna fill ’em up again?”

Derek just read this over my shoulder and asked why they all talk like hicks at his office. “Phil’s like 66. He doesn’t say ‘Hey, man’ and he’s definitely not a ‘dude’.”

Anyway, Derek felt a little silly for not having thought about really recycling his water bottles.

Anyway, I guess I’m just like all other white people, since 85% of the posts apply to me. What about you?

p.s. NungNung, here’s a special one just for you.

Sometimes I meditate on the subject of what I would write on my postcard if I sent one to postsecret. Angela has tagged me for this 8 facts meme, and I’m ready. I’m going to try to remember all those “secrets” that I’ve been storing up for a rainy day. And I’m not saying I’m proud of all these. Most of them make me feel like a freak.

1. Every time I use a paper towel, I think about how I’m probably going to Hell. I hate being wasteful, but the convenience of grabbing a paper towel and then not having to wash it is too seductive. But I do save every single plastic bag I ever come in contact with. If I get one at the market, because I was dumb enough to leave the house without my canvas shopping bags or Mexican bolsas, and I have to get one of those crappy bags, I save it and use it as many times as I can. I reuse ziploc bags. I make Derek wash them. I save the bags from the bulk section and use them the next time I go shopping, and I don’t put veggies in any bag at all. Four zucchini? No bag. Dripping wet parsley? No bag. Twelve oranges? That’s what that canvas bag is for.

2. I wear my clothes until they’re visibly dirty. Don’t say ew. Americans have such a neurosis about being clean. Clothes last much longer if you don’t wash them every single time you wear them. So you use less water, put less soap into the water supply, use less energy for the dryer, spend less money on clothes, and have that nice, comfy feeling of not having to get into tight jeans every single time you dress.

3. I have to do everything myself. And then brag about it. I made a pie today from pumpkins that I baked. Next year, I’ll have pumpkins in the garden, so I’ll just run outside to get a pumpkin to make that pie. I made three and a half meals out of one tiny roasted chicken, including a great soup from the broth I made with the carcass. I made my kids their Halloween costumes. I’m knitting myself a scarf. I make our bread whenever I can. I’m planning on making all the Christmas presents this year.

4. I’m always deeply ashamed when I give people store-bought presents. Unless they’re from DI. Then they’re recycled, so it’s OK. I never send thank you cards, because I never get it together and actually make them.

5. I’m afraid of everyone. Even people I’ve known since I was 5. Even my own family. Even Derek. I’m always afraid they really know what a sham I am, or they’re just being nice.

6. Prepare yourself for this one. It will sound horrible, but read on. I think I’m smarter and more talented than almost everyone. Which is not to say that I necessarily know more, but that I have this inner demon that says, “I may not know that, but it’s only because I haven’t tried to learn it yet. It’s not like I can’t, I just haven’t had the time.” Don’t misunderstand me. I know this is a snobbery, and that it’s untrue, but my brain doesn’t want to change it’s mind. I was told at a very young age that I was very smart, by many people. Those things don’t just go away.

7. The people that I know are smarter than me make me the most terrified. Like they know I’m really just an idiot. I have to compensate for my feelings of inferiority by doing everything myself. Like somehow sewing puppy costumes makes up for my inability to even read the math Derek works on. Or speaking 9 languages makes up for my dismal lack of knowledge in pop culture. (It’s a total lie, I don’t really speak 9 languages. But for the record, I speak English as my native tongue. I lived in Mexico when I was 5, and learned fluent Spanish, which I lost in the years following, but regained in part when I went back to Mexico when I was 19.

I studied German for 5 years in High School, but I didn’t have my heart in it. I learned the vocab, but I never cared about the cases. Hmmm, how can you speak German without the cases?

I took Italian for 4 or 5 semesters in college, because when I was choosing my classes my first semester, all the Spanish classes were full. I went to Vienna, Austria for a semester abroad, and improved my German, then took 3 more semesters of it.

I went on a religious mission to the Philippines when I was 22, and learned Tagalog fluently. One of my native companions said that when she wasn’t looking at me while I was talking, she would forget that I was not a Filipina. I also studied Ilokano, a regional dialect, while I was there. I was never fluent in Ilokano, but I could talk about church and God pretty smoothly.

I stayed in Holland for a few weeks with a Dutch friend, and learned a bit of Dutch, after which I got some books in Dutch and studied it on my own. My friend once told me that it was funny hearing me speak Dutch, because instead of an American accent, I had a German accent.

I took a semester of French following my trip to Holland. Only one, but with the background in Spanish and Italian, all I had to do was learn the spelling and pronunciation idiosyncrasies.

After I met Derek, I took a semester of Russian. The teacher only let me in because I had the same last name as he did, but I turned out to be a crack shot at it, so he liked me all the more. Even when I skipped about two weeks… after getting engaged. Yes, I was one of those. Don’t make fun.

But since I’m afraid of everyone, I never speak any of the languages, so they pretty much don’t count anyway. Oh, I started learning Greek this summer. Yay for me.

8. I want to know everything. I honestly cannot think of a subject that I don’t want to know more about.

Are you sad you wasted your time on that?

I’m tagging Elizasmom, Kalli, my fantastic aunt Barbara, Sketchy, Honeyvine, Yardbird and that’s gonna have to be all! Because who else can I tag that hasn’t done this one or hasn’t decided to renounce all future tags?

Back to the food-snob issue. I love food. I try new stuff all the time. I read cookbooks like novels. I’m the neighborhood go-to girl when anyone has a question about a spice, a substitution, an ethnic cuisine, or bread, or when there’s a random ingredient someone can’t find, since I have such an odd collection of foodstuffs that are not commonly used. Here’s a non-comprehensive list of what you might find in my pantry:

1. Hazelnut oil. I used this last night on the salad of spring greens with baby sweet peppers and crumbled feta. Yummy. Speaking of oil, I also have a jar of coconut oil, some ghee that I clarified, 3 kinds of olive oil, mustard oil, sweet almond oil…

2. Trader Joe’s Marion-berry Blueberry fruit sauce. I’ve had this one for a year. It sounds yummy, but I don’t really make desserts often, so what do I do with it?

3. Sake Wasabi Mustard. Why did I buy that? If I needed sake wasabi mustard, could I not have gotten some sake, some wasabi, and some mustard, mixed them together, and not had a whole jar to deal with?

4. A bunch of spices most of my friends have never heard of: Kalonji, Aamchur, Black Salt, Asafoetida, Galanga powder, Achiote, Agar agar, Garam Masala, Tamarind pulp. I use these every so often, but I wish someone around here used them too, so I could share.

5. A bunch of more normal spices, but in quantities the average American cook has never even seen: 7 ounces of coriander – that’s the size of 4 hamburger buns, 1/2 pound of cayenne, same of ground ginger, cumin, bay leaves, black mustard seeds. I get my spices at Indian markets, where folks know what food is supposed to taste like.

6. All the weird whole grains that the health food people love to tout: Quinoa, Millet, Kamut, Rye berries, wheat berries, Spelt, Bulghur, Polenta, Steel-cut oats, whole oats, hulled barley. Not all of them are yummy. Millet, for example. Always a tiny bit crunchy. I also have flours made from all of the above.

7. A hundred kinds of rice. Mongolian red rice, Forbidden black rice, sweet rice, arborio rice, glutinous rice, basmati rice, brown basmati rice, long grain white, long grain brown, short grain brown, sushi rice. We eat a lot of rice.

8. A 25 ounce bottle of capers. I like capers, but what was I thinking?

9. Interesting varieties of sugar:  jaggery (palm sugar), honey, creamed honey, raw honey still on the comb, agave syrup, stevia (ever tried it? It’s not sugar, but it’s a weird kind of sweet that I don’t really like).

10. All the fixin’s for Halu-Halo. That’s a Filipino snack/dessert that has any combination of the following: Macapuno strings (strips of young coconut), marble sized tapioca pearls, Langka (jackfruit), Nata de Coco (sweet coconut jellies), red beans (or red mung beans or kidney beans), corn, rolled oats, coconut milk, sweetened condensed milk, and shaved ice. Yum!

11. Oh, and don’t forget the Pig’s Feet!

Can you top me?

I’m such a snob. I have so many snobberies they are hard to count. Many of them involve food. Sometimes I wish I weren’t a snob, so I could sit back and enjoy some of the things other people seem to enjoy, but I just can’t do it. I have converted Derek to the dark side, so at least we don’t have conflicts of interest when it comes to dining out, which we do often. I’m not aware of any cure for snobbishness.

1. I cannot abide a restaurant that calls itself something it’s clearly and blatantly NOT. I won’t go to any place that claims to be Mexican if it has no corn tortillas, soft tacos, Sidral Mundet, black beans, or fresh cilantro, or if everything on the menu has at least four pounds of cheese on it. I lived in Mexico for a year, and I love real Mexican food. There are many, many offenders in this category. Usually, they are chains. I also hate the two ubiquitous and tasteless “Italian” places that everyone seems to love, and will stand in line for an hour to dine at. No squishy bread for me, thank you very much.

2. Which brings me to my next. “Italian butter” comes from Italian cows, just like American butter comes from American cows. It is not green, you cannot pour it, and you don’t mix it with vinegar at fake Italian restaurants. I love a good olive oil, that has a flavorful, fruity taste, and bright green color. Not gray, green. Not yellow. GREEN.

3. Every restaurant, except awesome Asian ones where the menus are in Engrish, should spell-check their menu before printing it. And a little editing is never amiss. Whether or not it’s a typo from a crappy typist (like poor little me), or blatant disregard for the rules of the English language (or whichever language dominates the ethnic region of origin for the food), I can’t stand reading menus that are full of mistakes. My favorite is the place where you can get cremé brùleè. Why put in a bunch of random accents? Why not just learn which ones go where?

4. Also, please teach your waiters how to pronounce the items on the menu. I was at an Italian place once, and ordered bruschetta. The cute little waitress said, “Oh, you mean bruSHetta?” I couldn’t believe she would correct the pronunciation of a customer without knowing herself what was correct. I haughtily responded, “Yes, and it’s brusKetta, by the way, not bruSHetta.” My poor Derek was mortified.

5. When a waiter comes to the table and crouches down so as to be level with the people at the table, I cringe. Unless it’s a restaurant with red and white checked tablecloths that specializes in grilled cheese sandwiches for 4-year-olds, I think waiters should take orders, and not try to be best friends with their customers.

6. I also think waiters should occasionally scan the table to see if anything is amiss. For instance, if one of the customers has clearly not been served while everyone else at the table is half finished, I think the waiter should try to notice, rather than waiting to be questioned, and being surprised that he had missed anything. I say “he” because this happened yesterday, and “Chief,” as one of the other ladies at the lunch called him, looked so confused when it was pointed out that someone had not been served. He also asked half of us if we would like refills on our drinks, but neglected the other half. Maybe it was his first day.

7. And speaking of waiters, I will not want to return to a restaurant if the waiter tells me I’m making a mistake by not ordering the all-you-can-eat meat-fest. I choose what my “money’s worth” is, and it has nothing to do with the amount of food I can stuff into my belly in a short period of time. Especially if it’s all meat. Ugh.

8. Another one about the menu. I think things are easily misrepresented on menus to people who are not familiar with a certain cuisine. A good example is the wonderful experience Derek and I had recently while trying what we thought would be exciting authentic Peruvian food. A french fry by any other name…

9. I’m sad when a restaurant uses ingredients that are clearly inferior. Derek and I went to an Italian place for our anniversary once, and ordered Chicken Marsala, which can be fantastic, unless you use the cheap, disgusting supermarket cooking wine, and the cheapest, oldest chicken you can find. It was dog food. It looked, smelled, and tasted like dog food. I’d just as soon stay home and eat cold cereal for dinner, than order something that comes out and resembles dog food.

10. I can only think of 9 of my snobberies about restaurants. Or maybe… I’m just quitting before you think I’m too snobby to even call an acquaintance. I usually only bring up one or two snobberies at a time, so as not to drive anyone away. Everyone has a few, right? Do you have a restaurant snobbery that deserves the #10 spot?