Sunday, January 24, 2016

The vegetarian's plight

It has been over 14 years since I stopped eating meat. You'd think by now, I'd have figured out a suitably concise way to describe my eating habits to others, but no. After all this time, I still struggle to find the correct word for me when it comes to what I eat.

Usually I just call myself a vegetarian, but that term has so many meanings for different people that it really doesn't explain anything at all. When I introduce myself as a vegetarian, it inevitably launches a game of 20 Questions. "Do you eat fish?" No. "Do you eat eggs?" Yes. "Do you drink milk?" No, but that's a personal preference, and I do eat foods that contain dairy products. And for some reason, because being vegetarian apparently implies a whole lifestyle of rigorous healthy choices, I almost always get asked "Do you eat gluten?" The answer is yes. You can pry my gluten from my cold dead hands.

But back to the point. It has always bothered me a little to say I'm vegetarian when my diet, in fact, includes some items that are not strictly vegetative. Ovo-lacto-vegetarian is the most technically correct term for someone of my dietary persuasion...but just try using that word in a crowd of loutish meat-eaters and see how far you get.

I have tried sometimes, instead of trying to find a word that describes everything I do eat, to simply describe what I don't eat: meat. But then inevitably someone will assume that fish isn't meat. I blame Catholic Lenten practices for this ludicrous distinction. According to Webster, meat is "The flesh of an animal used as food" – clearly including fish – but nonetheless, to many people, being vegetarian is synonymous with being pescatarian. 

So sometimes, in an attempt to take into account this non-standard but common definition of meat, I say, "I don't eat animals." I'd think that would be pretty cut-and-dried, but, believe it or not, one time I told this to a woman in the seafood line at the state fair, and she exclaimed (with equal parts revulsion and bafflement, in the manner of someone who thinks you're a complete idiot), "Fish aren't animals!"

Allow me to be a tad condescending while I remark that that the state fair is probably not the best place to go looking for a highly evolved stance on interspecies justice, but one could at least expect a rudimentary knowledge of taxonomy.

Although I am sure that none of my enlightened regular readers need this lesson, for the sake of this self-righteous nincompoop, to whom the following paragraph is addressed, allow me to set the record straight.

All living things can be divided into categories. There have been many different classification systems over the ages, but never, in any of them, have fish been classified outside of the Animals group. Here's a chart that pretty much lays it out for you. If you are unable to read a flowchart, then you really are a hopeless case.

Phew, that feels good! By the way, this exchange at the state fair happened over a year ago, in August of 2014. I had to walk away because I didn't have time to school the woman in question on phylogeny, nor did I think she would listen. But it's been weighing on me ever since. I am glad I posted this, so the next time someone dares to tell me a fish isn't an animal, I'll give 'em a piece of my taxonomic tree!

Also, by venting all my frustrations into this (yet another excessively long) blog post, I've learned something valuable: No matter how clearly you express something, your efforts are wasted if your audience has the education of a toddler ... a different frame of reference. In other words, you can't please everyone.

But you can please yourself! And for me, after considering all the alternatives, I realize that the simplest and most accurate way to describe my eating habits is to say I'm an ovo-lacto-vegetarian. Sure, it will probably confuse 80% of the people who hear it, but at least it can be explained without getting into arguments that can only be resolved with a dictionary or a flowchart. Bring on the loutish meat-eaters!

Thursday, January 7, 2016

The perils of being indecisive

In Monty Python and the Holy Grail, there is a scene in which the heroes must, as the gnarly old bridgekeeper puts it, "Answer me these questions three," before they may be permitted to cross a certain gorge.

The questions are, for the most part, absurdly easy: "What is your name?" "What is your quest?" and "What is your favorite color?" Which is why it's funny when one of the heroes changes his mind about his favorite color mid-answer, and consequently gets tossed unceremoniously into the abyss by an invisible hand.

Funny to anyone but me. Were I to be the one crossing the misty chasm in that film, and assuming I were not asked a question about the airspeed velocity of an unladen swallow (the answer is to confuse the asker with more questions!), I would be the one to utter the dreaded "I don't know that!" and thusly meet my demise.

I am deathly indecisive about my favorite color. It has changed 6 times over the course of my life—currently it's usually green, but even that can vary depending on my mood and the context.

When you get right down to it, I'm dangerously unopinionated about pretty much everything—which is a cause of great anxiety when it comes to me and the Internet. I won't even begin to talk about my struggles to complete online personality tests (which I adore in spite of my fickle personality traits); I will jump right into a matter of much greater import: login credentials.
When websites ask you to create a couple of security questions in case you forget your password, I am often at a loss, because all the questions want to know your favorites. What is your favorite book? Don't have one. What is your favorite movie? Don't have one. What is the name of your best friend? Well, that, like my favorite color, has changed at least 6 times over the course of my life, too. What if it changes again between now and the next time I have to answer this question?

There is only one thing permanent in this life, and that is the past. When I am allowed to write my own custom question, I use the past shamelessly. I frequently refer to one of the many nicknames of my childhood pets, because – even though I'm linking you right to a post about them (surely security at its worst), there are so many more that no one (except maybe my brother) could possibly guess the correct answer!

So maybe, if websites were to start writing security questions like, "What was your favorite color the week that you started college?" (The answer is lavender), then I could feel secure in my security question. But until then, the best answer I can usually manage is "I don't know that!"

Tuesday, January 5, 2016

Savory Sweets white macadamia nut cookie

Before heading home from my Christmas visit to Ohio, I stopped at the Meijer gas station convenience store to gather provisions for my journey. I bought cashews and a Diet Doctor Pepper because they'd be easy to consume while driving, and a Giant Cookie because that's what I do.

It was very soft, I confirmed before I even left the store. And when I ate it, it kind of crumbled apart in my mouth...but not in my hand, so its texture was pleasant overall. The white chocolate bit was good and firm (unlike the chocolate chunks of the La Madeleine cookie), so I was quite pleased by the mouth feel of the cookie.

Likewise, the flavor was enjoyable, kind of rich, with a nice mix of salty and sweet

Actually, I was surprised to note that this lowly shrink-wrapped gas station cookie was quite comparable to a Cosi white chocolate cookie, except that this one actually had macadamia nuts. Which, if you don't recall, are an ingredient that used to be in Cosi's white chocolate cookies until they rudely switched to walnut and lost a good deal of my love in the process.

Sadly, I lost or never received the receipt for this purchase, so I'll never know how this gas station cookie compares in value, but I enjoyed it enough to be quite enthusiastic about giving it another try.

The Bottom Line

Taste: 5 out of 5 stars
Texture: 4 out of 5 stars

Monday, January 4, 2016

La Madeleine chocolate chunk cookie

Although I brought this cookie on vacation with me, I actually purchased it a few days before vacation, while breakfasting at La Madeleine. I wasn't sure if I even really wanted a Giant Cookie, but I was drawn to its lopsided shape (the others for sale were not so deformed; this little guy was a special anomaly), so I bought it and packed it in case of a dessert shortage while traveling.

I ate it the day after I returned home, and concluded it would have been much better as emergency rations.

It felt kind of dry and cakey, and possessed little flavor.

The soft center was good, and there were plenty of chocolate chunks, but they were a bit too soft. There wasn't enough variation between them and the rest of the cookie to appease my palate.

For this mediocre-in-every-way cookie, I paid 1.99$, or 1.76¢ per gram—an average price for an average cookie.

The Bottom Line

Taste: 2 out of 5 stars
Texture: 2 out of 5 stars
Price: 3 out of 5 stars

Sunday, January 3, 2016

Down Thyme Café Monster cookie

I got a little carried away and started eating the cookie
before I started photographing it.
Vacation time is typically, for me, also Giant Cookie time. I'm always on the lookout for new Giant Cookies I haven't tried yet, and where better to do that than far away from home? But also, vacation is a time when I never know what or when I will be eating, and Giant Cookies are the perfect (nonperishable, usually durable, and delicious) treat to keep in reserve for a moment of need. Of course, vacation time is also a time when I get fed a lot of desserts, so the moment of need rarely arises.

My last trip to Ohio for Christmas yielded 3 Giant Cookies, the first of which I shall now review: the monster cookie from Down Thyme Café in Fremont. At Down Thyme Café, my boyfriend outdid himself, buying 3 desserts for the whole table, so the Giant Cookie that I espied and hoarded for myself went uneaten until the night we returned to Maryland.

The inside was exceptionally hollow, consisting of basically air, chocolate chips, and M&Ms, making for a quite candy-heavy cookie. Which I don't object to in the least. Between the multitudinous M&M's were plenty of oats and still-doughy dough, which I'm pretty sure had a peanut butter flavor.

In short, this cookie contained all my favorite ingredients in great abundance, making me quite a happy cookie reviewer!

I give the cookie five stars all around, except, of course, in price, which, at 2.08¢ a gram, was just a bit above average.

The Bottom Line

Taste: 5 out of 5 stars
Texture: 5 out of 5 stars
Price: 2 out of 5 stars