Theater seats

I’ve always liked the Cooks Illustrated magazine a lot.  I’ve previously mentioned that I enjoy reading Chris Kimball’s letters in the front of each issue.  I also love the fact that the magazine has no advertising – so no need for me to analyze their food industry politics, as I did with Cooking Light.  Their independence from sponsors is refreshing.  I enjoy the detailed walking-me-through the recipe development articles.  And I love, love, love both the “Kitchen Notes” section and the “Quick Tips” submitted by readers.  It’s all very down to earth and person-to-person.

Just spent 90 minutes at an event featuring the staff of America’s Test Kitchen, the folks who publish the magazine, as well as producing the ATK TV and radio shows and the sister magazine, Cook’s Country.  I laughed and I (figuratively) drooled and thoroughly enjoyed myself.  Kimball and his crew are all very personable and I could have listened to them chat about their work for hours – if the seats in the old Brattle Theater had been slightly less painful.

I am so bitterly tired of uncomfortable seating, on planes, in restaurants and theaters.  Those new-fangled [sic] cup holderscupholder that were added to the already narrow old seats in theaters make wedging myself into the seat a real production.  And I was not the largest soul in the crowd tonight, nor in the restaurant with the in-laws on Thanksgiving.

I loved hearing a bit of the back story for each of the Test Kitchen folks tonight.  It would be such fun to interview them about their Food Life Stories.  In fact, Adam Reid, one of the ATK staff, is the friend of a friend and agreed some time ago to let me interview him.  Guess I need to get on that!  So eager to get back to my interview list, in general.  Time.

I have been able to get more deeply into the writing this week.  NaBloPoMo really did give me the jump start I had been seeking.  These twice weekly posts may have a different tone for a while, a little less soul-baring, but I have also learned, by experiencing (is there any other way to truly learn?) the value of writing in this public voice and hitting that ‘Publish’ button.  So, thank you again to WordPress & BogHer for the structured challenge.  And thank you to any readers who are curious, as I am, to see where this Food Life Story project will take me.

Happiness, joy, habit and shame

I love sticky rice.  I love making it and I love eating it and I just plain love the look of it.

Although this drawing hasn’t ‘made it’ onto a towel or tote bag with EAW designs, it’s still a favorite.  Certainly the color makes me happy.

And how does this relate to the topic of this blog?  Well, I’ve been reading in Brené Brown‘s book about the difference between happiness and joy.  One way that she defines them:

Happiness is tied to circumstance and joy is tied to spirit and gratitude.

When I make sticky rice for my family, I have created circumstances that make me happy.  I enjoy the soaking and the rinsing and sight of the rice cooker steaming away.  I love the dousing with rice vinegar and the mixing with the wide, flat bamboo spoon that I brought home from Kyoto.  So I have made myself happy.

The beauty and simplicity of the cooked rice and the memory of the little side-street bamboo shop in Kyoto awaken my gratitude.  Those pearlescent grains remind me of the joy of cooking whole foods and connect me to all that I have en-joyed in this life.  That’s an especially wonderful thing when I’ve been raking muck, about PPFIC and personal shame history, as I have been so often lately.

So what about Oreos?  Am I happy when eating Oreos?  Not an Oreo; Oreos.  Me and the rats.  What circumstances take me to the Oreos?  None of the sensory pleasure that I’ve been extolling about the rice, that’s for sure.  In fact an Oreo eaten whole can be a bit dry.  I’m not a ‘dunker’; although tea or water does help.  But it’s that creamy white center: sugar and fat whipped up together to seduce my bliss point.  Pleasure centers in my brain start ringing and singing and, as I understand it, producing a spurt of happiness chemicals.

But memories? Nothing but shame.  No gratitude or joy to be found.  Sneaking cookies, hiding cookies, eating cookies when I wasn’t hungry.  All for that unbelievably brief illusion of happiness.  How did I respond to that flush of shame?  How did my body respond to the shot of sugarfatbliss?  I would reach for another Oreo.

But to repeat the question:  What circumstances take me to the Oreos?  I believe another important piece of the puzzle is habit.  Okay, maybe that seems ridiculously obvious, but the thing is that while the pleasure centers are being zinged by the creamy filling, neurological patterns are being reinforced in my brain.  Every time I would reach for that Oreo, the habit became a bit stronger.  Again, that may seem too obvious, but understanding the process has been eye-opening for me.  It’s all part of the same show.

I read Charles Duhigg‘s book, The Power of Habit almost as soon as it was published in 2012.  I am rereading now, along with the other sources I’ve been writing about, because it so clearly dovetails with my explorations.  I want to make sense of the connections between the PPFIC’s push toward producing addictive food products and personal habit and shame.  It’s all there, it’s all of a piece, I am sure of it.

A final note about getting the car into position for jump-starting.  It has taken years of sweating and pushing to turn the vehicle of my life around, so that a jump start was even  possible.  So that this writing exploration could begin.  And as you know, you can’t push a car by yourself, even a 1960’s VW beetle.  Standing shoulder-to-shoulder with me, believing in me when I have not, reminding me I am not alone no matter how hard it gets and helping me onward by sharing her own courage, I am ever grateful to my dear friend and writing ally, jc.  Tea and toast for two.

Jump start

The end is in sight.  The end of NaBloPoMo raises a question…what shall I do on December 1st?  Right now, I think the answer is:  keep writing.  In fact, I know that’s the answer.  The jump-start I was looking for has taken effect; engine is humming and I am off down the road.  I supposed the general understanding of a jump-start is hooking cables from the battery of a running car to the battery posts of a car that is out of juice.  That image works a bit.  But what I’m really remembering is the jump-start that was possible before cars had computers, automatic transmissions and all that.

Indulge me.  A car with a standard transmission, circa 1966.  A Volkswagen beetle or my old 122S Volvo.  Dead battery.  Get that car pointed down hill on an incline.  Doesn’t even need to be a hill.  Release the hand brake and start rolling.  Pop the clutch and shift into first gear.  The engine kicks in.  Give it a little gas, and go.  Bee-U-ti-full, every time.  That purring sound, forward motion and an exhilarating sense of power, control & freedom.  Yep, that’s what this month of blogging has done for me.  Took a while to get the car into the proper position, but now…

I know what I need to do next, how to approach the ideas I want to express and I’m more ready than I’ve ever been.  I think my blog postings will go down to twice a week for the time being, so that I can put daily writing time into the larger piece.  Truth is, some of what I need to write is exploratory and personal in a way that isn’t ready to be shared.  Some of it can be, but I see now that the major work is to be done privately for a while.

My writing allies in W3 ‘uttched’ (nudged, pushed) me toward clarity yesterday, with their thoughtful, caring questions.  Thank you E, L & L for all that we share.  And while I’m at it, thank you to the (one or two) regular readers of this month’s EAW blog.  Your support means a lot to me.  As I’ve mentioned before, I’ve done an awful lot of writing over the years that has never been shared.  Hitting that ‘Publish‘ button every day this month has eased me over that roadblock to public writing.  Actually, the image is more like a wind-up car or toy that makes its way into a corner and gets stuck there.  The whining noise continues, the wheels or legs keep moving, but the nose is stuck against the wall and stays there till the spring runs down.  Hmm, writing with my nose in a corner.  Interesting.

Real cars and toy cars; not what I expected to be writing about today, but it’s always satisfying to find metaphors that really feel accurate.  As my local food pantry preps to hand out turkeys and trimmings tomorrow evening; grocery stores and kitchens overflow with (mostly) real food for the food-focused holiday this week;  I find that I have less appetite for spitting nails at and about the PPFIC.  I’m not done with that, but for now I more drawn to a compassionate consideration of food and addiction.  Here’s an old drawing of a sweet potato chip to close this post.

SwtPot         Sweet Potato = autumnal harvest.   Chip = addictive food loaded with S S & F.