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An interesting perspective that should be taken more seriously.  

An interesting perspective that should be taken more seriously.  

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Not the fact that you have to consume nutrients and vitamins to stay alive. Not the fact that you must scurry to your cupboards at 0800 to follow the strict guidelines of your latest life-commanding diet. How about the excitement of the flavors that the day can bring?  The wonderful concoctions of ingredients that can grace your presence in the form of at least three large portions a day?

In the Introduction to Glassner’s The Gospel of Food, the American food-way has, for the umpteenth time this semester, confused and disgusted me.  Living abroad for four months gave me some true insight to the way that other cultures view their food habits.  I could not help but smile at the comfortable banter that occurred between the person in front of me and the fruit stand vendor.  I could barely avert my eyes from the table next to mine at a Trattoria (casual eating setting in Italy) where the couple was devouring their dishes with their eyes and noses before even lifting a fork.  Reading through Glassner’s observations and comments I feel myself itching to uproot and move to Europe, and for good this time.

People in America seem to eat for all of the wrong reasons.  I can not imagine eating something in order to impress the people surrounding me just as much as I can not fathom cutting potatoes out of my diet in order to increase my life expectancy.  When I’m enjoying mashed potatoes with my steak, fleeting thoughts surrounding health issues do not stand a chance.  

Americans walk around with a lackluster aura about them, brought on by too many worrying factors planted by the media, family obligations, the million and one extra curriculars, career responsibilities, and so on.  Enjoying a delicate piece of cheese, a hearty bowl of pasta or even a good glass of wine can not occur without the concerns of extra miles on the treadmill or clogged arteries.  

I thought it was interesting when Glassner discussed the effects of finding genuine joy in eating.  The text says that people that enjoy eating less tend to be “more dissatisfied with their bodies” (pg. 2).  This makes some striking sense, as all of our perceptions and interactions with food are intertwined.  Just in the way that a good fresh sandwich can make my day, it’s calories can break another person’s.  In American culture, food does not seem to equal joy in any way.  Maybe that is our first problem.

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I don’t know how many people make it to Marshal Street, but if you do, you have to check out The Owl House for a delicious, eclectic, and reasonably priced food experience.

The building is in fact a house, originally built for the deputy sherif and his family.  In the 50’s, it was converted to a commercial restaurant, and is currently revamped to appeal to the adventurous palate.  The restaurant provides a delectable menu, largely catering to the vegan and vegetarian diet.  The decor is trendy but simple, adorned with colorful walls. The walls of the restaurant posses local art that holds customers attention just until the enticing menu is placed in front of them.

With mason jars as drinking glasses, and every table presented with their own water pitcher, a friend and I were exited to sit and enjoy the atmosphere.  Tables around us were happily chattering, and the closeness to the kitchen provided some tempting aromas.  The specials list, which changes daily, had unavoidable options.  Everyday there is a special soup and grilled cheese.  You might not think that a special grilled cheese sandwich sounds like anything that you would have to leave your house to obtain, but The Owl House creates combinations of cheeses and vegetables that one cannot easily think up at home.  

We ordered the sweet potato fries special.  I love sweet potato fries, but especially when they are decorated with delicate globs of goat cheese and strewn with homemade strawberry Sriracha sauce.  We also had to try the specialty cocktail, a concoction of plum gin, blood orange liqueur, sparkling wine, and a fresh orange slice.  It is obvious that they take pride in the marriages of flavors for fun and inventive appetizers as  well as cocktails.

We laughed and talked about the looming end of undergraduate education as our meals came.  I enjoyed a steak salad, with fresh greens, feta cheese, candied pecans and plump raspberries.  My friend was thrilled with her tilapia, hot sauce, and pickle sandwich.

The Owl House provides a very laid back and friendly ambiance.  They make in-house deserts and offer locally brewed coffees.  The menu is spectacular, with quirky combinations and dishes unlike any others in Rochester.  As everything is very reasonably priced, I suggest that everyone give The Owl House a go.

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We are all products of our environment.  Of course, there are cases in which this isn’t the most applicable saying to explain the way that humans evolve, make choices, and behave.  I strongly believe though that the character of a person can be traced to their upbringing, their relationships with caregivers, and their interactions with various contexts in which they are involved.

Food is no exception.  Interactions with food happen variously throughout each and every day of human existence.  I find it interesting to see that people raise families without much care to the way that they interact with food. In chapter 18, the authors touch upon relationships that children have (or don’t have) with food, and how they are directly linked with the way that food was treated while the child was growing up.  The chapter highlights different ways in which parents or caregivers perceive food and eating habits, and how raising your child to believe the same thing may cause detrimental effects for them as they grow up.  The text though points to the fact that success can come from involving children in the food related processes, such as allowing them to help grocery shop, assist in the kitchen, and the ability to make specific choices pertaining to what it is they will ingest.

When I was growing up, my parents introduced me to all different kinds of foods.  As Brenna always laughs about in class, my parents too raised me on cous cous.  Grits and corned beef hash were also prevalent at our crowded saturday breakfast table.  Our freezer contained no TV dinners, the cupboards were free of Fruit Roll Ups and Hostess snacks, and the refrigerator repelled soda and Kool-Aid.  For these reasons, I was a young enthusiast for green vegetables, various meats, and all the ways that they could be combined and prepared.  My mom always encouraged me to peruse the grocery aisles alongside her, while we eagerly dreamt up new and exciting recipes.  

Another behavior I picked up as a child was that act of cleaning the plate.  My grandmother, God rest her feisty soul, would bark at me to finish every last crumb, as the poor kids across the river didn’t have anything.  While some children would grow up to rebelliously challenge these commands, I happily obliged.  Through her menacing threats, she taught me the importance and scarcity of food resources, and that I had to appreciate them when I had them.

The struggle continues though.  The text refers to studies conducted to analyze various tactics of food-communicating families.  Children should be empowered in their food related habits and behaviors, but the guidance needs to be implemented thoughtfully and strategically.  The child cannot be forced to eat that lump of green mush “because it is healthy!”  That type of insubstantial communication is bound to cause resentment.  But then again, they can not be serving themselves syrup covered sugared cereal for every meal either.  In my experiences, I believe that the best results will stem from open discussions about healthy food behaviors, the joys of indulgence, and why everything in between is important.  Children are unable to be in complete control if they have no standards of understanding to base their choices on.  

Much like all personal behaviors across all contexts, people are more likely to act in a certain way if they feel that THEY are the ones choosing it for themselves.  If caregivers can provide the framework, children will grow up making positive decisions regarding food and healthy habits.

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Check Out Rochester Eateries

The 2012 deal is here! If you’re interested in checking out some new eats in Rochester, here’s your week to do it!

Just ate at Tavern 58 tonight.  The place was cozy and quaint and the food had HUGE flavor!

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More Portlandia Fun -- looking at the "other"

I’m sorry if anyone feels that I am pushing Portlandia on them, even though maybe I am…

Last night in class we discussed McCullen’s “The White Farm Imaginary” chapter.  In talking about a lot of realities in the farmer’s market landscape, we discussed the “face” of the farmer vs the “face” of the vendor, and the fact that the face that is involved in the interaction with the consumer is “white”.  Portlandia, in a sketch about an unattended dog, brings up the issue as well.  Fred Armisen’s character, inquiring to a waitress about the owner of this dog, illustrates expectations that are racially rooted. He asks the waitress to ask the dishwashers if the dog belongs to them.  To push it even further, he tells her to ask them in Spanish, making the quick assumption that the dishwasher is of the “other”.

Although the assumption is in this case is positioned in a comedic context, it is highlighting and reflecting cultural values of people in the U.S.  Some of these things are so inherent in the “white” mentality and value system that it’s frightening.  Why is it that ethnicity (that “white” escapes all-together) is expected to be in the back of the restaurant? 

Armisen’s character then pushes the race envelope even further.  He establishes him and his partner’s status by stating that “we speak Spanish, we travel a lot, like we went to Ecuador”.  By clarifying these unnecessary facts, Armisen’s character is constructing and preserving a distinction between him, the customer, and the “other”, the dishwasher.

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Paula Dean at her lovable, blunt, butter-loving best

Paula Dean at her lovable, blunt, butter-loving best

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I found Vincent Cheng’s chapter “A four-legged duck?” interesting on multiple levels.  Besides discovering more about the history of the Asian population in America and the terrible racism that they had to face, I realized where a lot of our current stereotypes materialized from.  

Other than the harsh realization that Egg rolls aren’t a true Chinese favorite, Cheng’s section entitled The History of Chinese Restaurants in the United States was disturbing.  It’s something about the American mentality— we desire difference within the confines of our own country- but we want it OUR way and on OUR terms.  The expectations too often dictate the results, instead of encountering pure and true experiences.  Cheng discusses the methods in which Chinese restaurants had to overcome racism, ridicule and stereotypes that were rapidly arising from America’s shifting cultural ideologies.  In order for Chinese immigrants to find success, they had to morph into what was expected and accepted.  The food industry especially.  The “Clean up Chinatown” campaign resulted in what we all know of today as “chinese food”.  For immigrants, abandoning authentic cultural practices and adopting a “familiar-yet-exotic” framework was imperative for survival (201).

The atmosphere in a Chinese restaurant is overwhelming.  Lurid colors schemes and excessive decor reflect what Americans’ believe to be the true “Orient” (201).  Not only are the decorations and overall ambiance amplified, but the dishes have been made to match.  The reading states that “…cooks began inventing and serving a variety of ingeniously concocted “Chinese” dishes that used local ingredients and catered to American tastes” (201).  

"Familiar-yet-exotic".  The analysis of Chinese restaurants provides a specific depiction for something that we’ve been discussing all semester.  American’s pride themselves on being diverse and courageous in terms of cultural understanding.  Culinary tourism can be difficult to pin down. There is the constant battle of wanting to experience other cultural offerings, but not having the ability to financially or what have you.  I believe we are very lucky to be a part of a country that is known as the "melting pot".  But this chapter has made me realize that all of the ingredients in said pot are stirred and controlled by American influence and overarching principles, at least to a certain extent.  So, in the case of Chinese food, we expect that we are gaining insight to culinary customs of another culture and country, but in fact are feasting on a system that was adapted solely to appease our not-so-polite requests.  Because the target market in the U.S. is so diverse, Chinese restaurants had the ability to reach new audiences through the invention process.  These new hybrid dishes would never be found in China because of the lack of diversity and very different expectations from consumers.  

I have heard stories of people actually visiting China and stating that “they’re doing it wrong” upon realizing that the customs surrounding food there do not in fact reflect what we indulge in within restaurants in the U.S. It’s interesting how telling our interactions with “Chinese” food is and how it accurately reflects American social ideals.