Thursday, November 26, 2009

Game day lineup: Mom v. Turkey

Here in the Pacific Northwest people like to be connected to their food; where it comes from, how it’s raised, what toxic chemicals aren’t used to kill the bugs that live inside it. I’m from the land of granola-eaters and organic-fair-trade-shade-grown-coffee drinkers. People aren’t just eco-friendly, they are aggressively non-eco-hostile. My eighth grade teacher preached the benefits of consumer responsibility with stories about his time spent living off the land in the Oregon wilderness. I was unable to pick up too many pearls of wisdom because I tuned out as soon as he started in with the story on skinning an injured rabbit. “Just tidbits to help you on your life’s journey” he said. Ya, helpful maybe if I was intending to move to Appalachia and live off road kill. But that’s neither here nor there.

On Thanksgiving there is so much food around it is impossible to not consider where it came from. Some things are still pretty straight forward. Like the green bean casserole I created like magic entirely out of canned goods. Despite the simple deliciousness of the casserole, I don’t feel connected ethically or morally to this piece of preservative laden genius.

My mom, on the other hand, has a very involved relationship with our turkey. It’s intimate, raw (literally), and sometimes gets so graphic that I have to look away. It begins at the grocery store, where she finds the king turkey, the alpha male of the frozen poultry aisle. This is generally when I ask if everyone within a mile radius of our house is coming to dinner, that being the only logical reason for a turkey of that size.

Once home from the store the thawing process begins. Although seemingly simple enough to warrant a one-touch button on the microwave, thawing in my mother’s hands is a multi-step process that takes the attention of caring for an infant. The turkey is constantly checked on with maternal diligence and loving pokes and prods. It’s a frequent topic of conversation, ‘do you think the turkey is okay?’ ‘How do you think the turkey is doing?’ The rest of us just look at her blankly. ‘I’m sorry, mom, the turkey wasn’t alive when we first became acquainted, so I can’t really say…’ She doesn’t mind. She knows that none of us are on her level.

Then things get serious. Mom gets the pan ready and sizes up the toddler-sized bird floating in the sink. Her demeanor changes, the turkey is no longer something to be doted on, it’s something to be overcome. She looks at it like a worthy opponent, one that deserves respect but can be conquered. She greases her hands and starts rubbing the wrinkly, pale skin of the turkey with surprising strength and vigor for a woman of her size. The first time I saw this, I had to suppress a fit of dry heaves. My gag reflex was not prepared for the explicit scene happening in my kitchen. The stuffing step is done with speed and efficiency. And I have fewer mental images of this event because by this time I’m in the corner breathing into a paper bag.

Once the bird is in the oven, my mom feels as though she is rounding the final corner. The race is almost over and she is in the lead. My only remaining task is to rid my mind of a horrors I witnessed in time to eat the results of this exhausting process. Once I am dressed in my Sunday best, sitting in front of a plate of steaming Thanksgiving prizes, it is impossible to look at my plate and not see a fallen soldier. ‘I know what you’ve been through’ I think to myself as I stare into the shiny, brown bird stuffed with bread and celery. And all of a sudden I feel all too connected to my food.
Happy Thanksgiving. Bon Apetite.

Hug your children and kiss your wife

There is about to be a HUGE blow to the cosmetic surgery industry in America. Last week three men in Peru were arrested for killing overweight peasent farmers and draining their fat to sell on the black market for use in anti-wrinkle cream and other cosmetics.

I will pause to allow you to re-read the sentence. Breathe it in.

The men were caught running through the forest with syringes of liquid fat (WTF? LIQUID HUMAN FAT?) when caught by police. Apparently their extractions are worth up to $60,000 on the black market. This story raises so many questions it’s almost too much of a task to even think about. But I guess we should first celebrate, we have found a cure to obesity! I mean, why are gangs running rampant through the Peruvian jungles taking the lives of innocent, chubby farmers and sucking their fat out with needles when there are thousands of Americans who pay to have this done? (Sans the killing part, of course.)
Can’t you just see Quinn Quadbypass sitting in the doctors office stunned to learn that his years of double-fisting Big Macs are finally going to pay off?
“So let me get this straight, you will pay ME to suck the fat off my bulging abdomen?”
People helping people, it’s a beautiful thing.

So, what do you say, America? Let’s come together to Save the Fat Farmers. Poor guys. Not only is Peru the world’s second leading producer of cocaine, on international watch lists for human traffiking, has one of the highest murder rates in South America, and has a decrease in cave habitats which has led to a great number of Vampire Bat attacks on people, BUT NOW there are gangs running around at night killing fatties. How are people supposed to get a good night’s sleep? Hide in a bat-proof cage with an AK-47 and a sign on the door saying ‘Down with Trans- Fats’? This can’t go on. The farmers of Peru do not deserve to fear that every bite of tamale is one step closer to getting shanked by some guy with a big ass needle. There’s enough causes for guilt in this world as it is. I know I couldn’t handle it if while I ate a life-changing meal of blue-cheese burger and bacon cheese fries (last night’s dinner, jealous?) the little devil of guilt was sitting on my shoulder whispering “Bacon or your life, it’s your choice.” That is a scary thought on so many levels, first being that when I thought about those two options I hesitated for a long moment before deciding that my life probably has more value than a strip of fried pig product.

My other main concern with the recent events in Peru is the fact that there is human fat being put into cosmetics. Like, what?! And who buys this stuff? I can’t really imagine my mom at the department store being like “Hmmm, so none of the 300 anti-wrinkle creams here really do it for me, I think I’m going to go see what’s new on the black market.”
But since these men were going to get paid such a ludacrisly large amount of money for these vials of human fat, then clearly there is a demand. Maybe…. (conspiracy theory ready, set, go!) this human fat is being sold to corporate cosmetic companies. Which means, that there are people walking around the face of our pretty earth wearing the fat from deceased Peruvian farmers on their faces. This is when the life choices of log-cabin-dwelling hermits start to look really attractive. I get it now, I get why you would choose to sell all your worldly possessions, buy a goat and a Leatherman and embark on a self-sustaining existance in the middle of the woods. The world is a scary mother-f****** place.

Wednesday, November 25, 2009

You'll be the prince and he'll be the princess

So it’s Thanksgiving. Which means signs of the holiday season start popping up here and there. There is egg nog in the fridge and my Pandora is suddenly set to N’Sync’s Christmas album (…who touched my computer?!)
Around my house we love holiday music. And by holiday music I mean we really only like two songs: ‘Santa Claus is Coming to Town’ by Bruce Springsteen and ‘All I Want for Christmas is You’. My childhood being free from any religious education I associate Christmas with two things: Santa and romance. My brother, sister and I can sing the lyrics of Bruce’s Christmas classic, the live version, complete with his stutters and cheers to the crowd. The holiday season is a miraculous time, because it’s absolutely incredible that I haven’t gotten sick of this song. Nothing gets me more excited for the holidays than the Boss belting out lines about The Fat Man’s arrival. By the time he gets to the “and I’m tellin you why” I’m filled with the warm, fuzzy, secular, American holiday spirit.

Bruce's jam will always be my favorite, but coming in at a close second is, of course, Mariah’s holiday hit. Not only does this song encapsulate the majority of the Christmas wishes of everyone over the age of 12, but it has joined the ranks with the select few chick songs that are okay to be loved by men. A few others in this unique category include Taylor Swift’s ‘Love Story”; and Miley’s ‘Party in the USA.’ Qualification for this high honor requires a specific scientific formula; a song must be catchy and simple enough to sing along to and be cheesy enough that the manliest of men can claim they appreciate it on ironic terms.

When ‘Love Story’ was performed karaoke style every week at the bar near campus a female was rarely seen near the mike. It was just a gaggle of shaggy, inebriated boys being like “Man, isn’t this hilarious? Me with my 5 O’clock shadow and Timbs singing about crying on the staircase?! Frikken HILARIOUS, right? Cuz crying on the staircase is that absolute opposite of what I do, that’s where the humor is, get it? Ha….”

I am by no means opposed to this phenomenon. It means that my brother isn’t mad when we put Mariah on repeat, and in fact, he requests it. (He also lets my sister and I give him pedicures when we’re on vacation, but that’s a story for another day.) I like the acknowledgement that legends like Mariah, Taylor, and Miley are getting from my male peers, even if it comes with a facade of sarcastic disdain. There is just something to be said for lyrics that hit home, whether it’s coming from a snaggle-toothed teeny bopper, a has-been pop goddess, or The Boss. So I’ll be on the couch if you need me, with my egg nog, headphones, and a very exclusive playlist. All you meat-eating, flannel-wearing, power tool-using, crotch-scratching men out there feel free to do the same. I won’t judge.

Romeo save me i've been feeling so alone
I guess I never got the memo
Cuz all I want for Christmas is you.
You baby.