The Arrow

There are no answers; only choices.

Archive for the ‘food’ Category

Not the Best Dieting Strategy

Posted by thearrow on June 9, 2010

Watching a Jamie Oliver show on the Cooking channel while eating dinner. I ended up eating a lot more than I had planned. It doesn’t help that their slogan is “Stay Hungry” either. My appetite has grown, too, recently, and I’ve packed a few annoying pounds I haven’t been able to shake off yet. I suspect it’s all the biking I’m doing, clocking at 26 miles (40 km) a day. It might take a lot less than one hour and a half each way and less effort if I had a road bike but my budget doesn’t agree with getting one. The earliest that can happen is next spring.

I sure hope I’ll get back to my normal weight way before then, though.

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Vegetarian Rant

Posted by thearrow on January 11, 2010

I’ve been a vegetarian since 1994. I shouldn’t say “vegetarian” since I do eat fish, seafood, eggs, and dairy, but I prefer to use the term because it’s easier to understand.

I’ve noticed many times that people sort of expect that I make do with less food than everyone else. Well, while I’m a vegetarian, I don’t eat little. I might be paranoid, but it seems to me that someone who piles a lot of different dishes on his/her plate is fine in other people’s eyes, whereas when I pile two veggies, people tend to be surprised.

Grrr.

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And What Are We Eating?

Posted by thearrow on February 6, 2009

This is what my boss asks me if he happens to walk by my office when I’m getting ready to eat. With few exceptions, I always cook once a week and pack my lunch. It’s too expensive to buy it every day and I like to know what and when I’ll be eating because, when I’m hungry, I don’t want anything to stand between food and me.

So there is this endless curiosity about what I cook, which presumably is very different from what other people eat :). It used to drive me nuts, because 1. I had to stop to explain what the heck I was eating and 2. it made me feel like some kind of exotic stranger. We all have our own offices, which is neat, but when someone stops in your doorstep and puts you on the spot about your lunch, the office turns into a cage. All of a sudden, you’re the savage with weird eating habits. I’m exaggerating, I know, because there has never been the slightest trace of disrespect. Regardless, the simple question reminds you that you’re different.

But I’ve decided that being amused is a better option. I couldn’t bring myself to tell my boss that I hated being asked about my lunch (and he’s not the only one, but he does it the most often), so I came to terms with his curiosity. Or, rather, with my being different. It’s not the actual difference that bothers me, but the fact that its existence means I have to spend energy on explaining the recipe, putting it in context, be it geographic or cultural. And building all these bridges of understanding used to take an enormous amount of effort in my first years here. That’s unavoidable when you start living in another country. It’s also exhausting. So I think my annoyance has something to do with the trauma of all this effort, year after year, in the first place. I felt like I had to go through it all over again after I thought I was done. I guess you’re never done with this. However, feeling like you’re an exhibit in a cage has its share, too. But now I just smile and explain.

Then, I continue to be the crazy feta-cheese woman at the Lebanese store behind my apartment building. All the workers there are Hispanic, so they’re probably not too familiar with the Balkans. One of them asked me if I was Lebanese the other day. Heh-heh. I started explaining that I’m from Romania, which is close to Greece and Bulgaria, and that everyone in that region eats feta cheese; that’s a staple in our diet. And they, too, were curious how I eat feta, so I had to give them a few recipes. Then they asked me if I had tried pupusas (which I haven’t) and said that I’d probably like them because they have cheese :).

Posted in cultural differences, food, immigration | Tagged: | 2 Comments »

Ode to Coffee

Posted by thearrow on December 4, 2008

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I came across this in The New York Times this morning and really liked it. Christoph Niemann’s opinion art on coffee and New York City. My romance with coffee goes back to college days, when it helped me cram stuff the night before exams and put me in a great mood.  Now I’m happily caffeine-dependent and can’t emit an intelligible sentence before I’ve had a mug. I do emit many thoughts of deep appreciation every day for the colleague who comes in early and brews the coffee, though. I know this may sound pathetic, but it makes the office feel like a second home for me. Not that it isn’t, but having fresh coffee every day when I get there makes it a lot more bearable. We have our own little coffee club — filter, grinder, the whole shabang; we chip in two bucks a week and buy and brew our own stuff, which is far better than what the employer offers. But I digress.

Niemann’s ode to coffee couldn’t have been timelier since these days I had to hook up the filter directly to my brain. I’m always way behind with my sleep after visiting kitty goes back home (loud, persistent meows at 4:30 am do get to me at some point). Yesterday I had two mugs of coffee and a double espresso, and yet my head was about to hit the desk every five minutes or so. I had to leave early.

Today I felt better and, by mid-afternoon, I wanted a double espresso for the sheer pleasure of it. On my way to Stabucks I started thinking that maybe I should have had something weaker, like filter coffee, since I was planning to go to my spinning class, but my craving won. (Then of course, my heart rate was off the charts the whole class, pumping between 170 and 187. ) And what do I see in the store? A blackboard with caffeine info for each type of coffee. It was one of those moments I really like, when I’m launching a question into the universe and then I get my answer. Turns out there’s less caffeine in a double espresso than in filter coffee! Who knew? When I got to read how much caffeine is in a venti coffee (which is about the size of a bucket), I burst into laughter. Note the exclamation point next to it. I think the baristas should have written “400 OMG (!)” instead 🙂

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I Ate at a Brown Bag

Posted by thearrow on May 1, 2008

The horror! 🙂 Not only that, but I ended up being the only one who was eating. I initially just took some almonds with me to nibble on because I wasn’t hungry, but the speaker was running late and my stomach started giving me nervous signals. “Send some food down here!” So I nuked my lunch and ate it after pretty much everyone was finished and I didn’t think twice about it.

If you don’t remember, this is related to the post in which I was describing how I cannot eat at brown bags for anything in the world. HA and HA! The only explanation is that I feel more comfortable. Sometimes I wonder how my blog would’ve looked like had I started it when I just got to the States. I can’t even begin to imagine what outrageous stuff I would’ve written back then 🙂

Posted in American culture, food, immigration, work | Tagged: | 12 Comments »

Brown Bags, Business Lunches, etc.

Posted by thearrow on February 6, 2008

There are a lot of things I really like about American culture (understood broadly as “the way people do things”), and I think I have a fair amount of affinities with it, but there are also some things that I just don’t see myself doing. Such as, you guessed, the two things mentioned in the title.

For those who don’t know, brown bags are informal meetings at which everyone brings their lunch and listens to a presentation. Where I work, we have a lot of brown bags; it’s a research institution and at least twice a month outside researchers are invited to talk about their recent studies. People bring their food, everybody eats for about 10 minutes, and then the speaker starts his/her presentation while people continue to eat. Except for me; I eat before or after. I consider it disrespectful to stuff my face while someone is talking about their work :). I’ve been told that I’m too formal sometimes and, if that’s true, this would be an example, I guess.

Another reason I can’t do it is that I would be able to neither enjoy the food, nor concentrate on the talk. But, while this is a secondary reason with brown bags, it’s top of the list with business lunches or, lower on the formality scale, work lunches. I’ve been spared the blessings of doing business lunches since it’s not a requirement for the job. Whew! But I remember having to do a work lunch once, in an otherwise very friendly, collegial atmosphere. I ate before and went to the meeting to, well, work, since that was the purpose :). My colleagues asked me why I didn’t bring my lunch and I admitted that I wouldn’t have enjoyed it if I had eaten while working. (Mind you, I didn’t say I wouldn’t concentrate on work if I had to eat. No, my primary concern was enjoying my food :). To which one of them exclaimed, in an amused but admiring way, “how European!” It didn’t even cross my mind that it was such a big difference and I really didn’t mean to be obviously different, but the thought of eating while working, well, that just doesn’t sit well with my stomach :).

This would have been ok, but the difference turned out to be much bigger than it seemed. I did have to meet with someone for a business breakfast once. So, while the other two people I was meeting with, who were waaay more important than I, just nibbled on some insignificant crumbs of whatever, I treated myself to a nice cappuccino and a croissant :). It was on my dime, but when I realized the difference I felt utterly ridiculous. The importance I attached to enjoying good food was at least ten notches over theirs. I saw immediately what was going on but felt completely helpless. I was too immersed in my culture, my way of doing things, and just wasn’t able to concentrate on work more than on the food. That was my first job in the U.S. and my first business meal (so to speak), and I had no idea about this big cultural difference. But now that I know better, I’m relieved I don’t have to do business lunches :).

And, in the same vein, I’ll say that one of my major pet peeves is, naturally, to be interrupted for work issues when I’m having lunch. My boss choses to be particularly uninspired (to put it mildly) when he does that. I used to believe that my transparently unpleasant face would deter him from doing that but I’ve started to suspect it’s the other way round :). So from now on I’m going to close the door to my office (and I can consider myself lucky for having one) and eat while I’m reading The New York Times.

Funny how, just as I was contemplating writing this post, Oblia wrote on a similar topic, wondering how someone (the Romanian president, in this case) can train his stomach to eat when he’s perhaps not hungry. I have no idea how business executives and government officials do this day in, day out, but I think the word “train” is key here. I assume it takes discipline and that one eventually gets used to it. All I know, though, is that I want to enjoy my food :).

Posted in American culture, cultural differences, food, immigration | 14 Comments »