Food


The scene: last week in my apartment.  I found the bright green plastic bowl underneath the kitchen sink, careless tossed into the milk crate that held bottles of various cleaning solutions and soaps.  A bulbous knob extended from one end with a smile, and eyes peaking from behind a thin red mask painted on it.  “What is this doing in here?” I asked my roommate.  “Oh yeah,” he said. “I wasn’t sure where to put it.  What is it?”  I looked down into its goofy painted eyes. “It’s my Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles cereal bowl,” I said.

Twenty years ago, when I first dug the bowl out of the bottom of a Cheerios box, I didn’t want it.   My TMNT obsessed kindergarten brain immediately recognized the red mask as the identifier of Raphael and no one wanted to be Raphael.  Whenever playing Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles with your friends, you would want to pretend to be your favorite turtle. Young “type A personalities” were drawn to Leonardo (succinctly described in the theme song with “Leonardo leads”), while the more creative kids wanted to be Donatello (“does machines”).  A rare few even liked Michelangelo (“a party dude”).  But no one, not a singe kid, liked Raphael (according to the song, he was “cool but crude”); and some unlucky latecomer who didn’t call dibs to be one of the other three early enough was general stuck playing Raph.  His other option was playing April O’Neil and she was a girl which was way worse (though I now wonder why no one volunteered to be Splinter, the giant rat that was the group’s sensei).

“Aw man, Raphael.” I remember saying with disdain, then turning to my mother, trying to enjoy her first cup of tea of the day, and inquired if we could run to the grocery store before school and get another box of cereal that would probably have a Donatello bowl (my first choice, but I would have settled for either of the other two) inside it.  Without having to say anything, I could tell her answer was a strong and definite “No.”

And so I made due with my Raphael bowl.  Years after the Ninja Turtle fad had died out, I found it again and brought it with me to college (mainly for its kitschy throwback value) and now keep it at the office so I can eat cereal at my desk (I had brought it home to wash last week, which is why my roommate didn’t recognize it).  And you know something?  Raphael has really grown on me.  What I mistook for a grumpy cynic was actually the group’s speaker of truths, who never beat around the bush and always said what was on his mind.  And his hot-headedness?  While many will agree that it constantly brought the group into dangerous situations, it was also the acting force on most of their greatest adventures (many of which forged their strongest alliances).  In essence, Raphael was probably the best Ninja Turtle and I am proud to own his cereal bowl.

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Well, it’s that time of year again. This Thursday is Thanksgiving, AKA Turkeyday.  And you know what?  I love this holiday. I love the food, the history, the traveling back home, and the togetherness.  It’s great. But you know what I love most about it? The fact that it’s total bullshit.

If you think about it, it makes perfect sense that Thanksgiving is a uniquely American holiday.  Its foundation is based on a brazen lie with a farce of imagery at the center: white English settlers dining in peace with Native American in celebration of their arrival.  Let’s focus on that this for a second.  Is there a holiday in Ireland, where they celebrate when the British came over?  Or in Germany where Germans and Jews celebrate a dinner their people had together? Did the early Americans invite their slaves to eat with them?  Maybe I’m being over dramatic.  But where are all the Native Americans now?

Look at how we celebrate this sham of a festivity.  We, adult children, go back home (if you made it out), a place we used every ounce of energy to leave before we turned twenty-three (once again, if you were able to) and sit around with our family, people we make every effort not to be with the rest of the year, and pretend to be a loving family.  So there you are asking your grandmother to pass the mashed potatoes while ignoring your uncle’s quasi-racist comments and doing your damnedest not call out your poser cousin.  Then, if you have the strength, you go out the next night to the local bar that EVERYONE you went to high school with shows up to and pretend that “everything’s just great” as they do the same (even though most are the same old fucktards you remember and all still hang out together). No one’s ever having a tough time when they’re talking to a former high school classmate.

So why do we go through it all? And why is it the reason I love Thanksgiving?  Because when push comes to shove, I’ll take the good self-aware lie over the bad truth without hope.  Because, more often than naught, what’s real isn’t good enough and we need more than what we deserve.  We all know that what we’re commemorating is a crock of shit, but who wants to strive for that?  Life sucks, but we can pretend it doesn’t for one day.

[Pic via]

I love evolution.

I love evolution.

Being an open-minded guy living in New York, I have a wide variety of diverse friends and acquaintances. Black, White, Hispanic, Asian, Gay, Straight, Christian, Jewish, Muslim, Atheist, Fat, and Skinny; basically I can get along with anyone. I even have a few friends who voted for McCain (though I find if we don’t talk about the election, there’s less of a chance for fisticuffs). But there’s one group of friends that I’m at my wits end with: Vegetarians and Vegans.

It’s not like I’m a big meat eater or anything. One of the big staples in my recipes-I-know-by-heart mental category is Cuban black beans and rice (other meals include spaghetti and ramen noodles) and I prefer soy milk in my coffee. But I just can’t take it anymore.

The tipping point for me was yesterday, when my buddy Chris posted on his blog an argument for the pros of vegetarianism that cites a study claiming meat eaters are 30% more likely to die prematurely from cancer or heart disease than non-meat eaters. For Chris, this is somehow proof that the eating habits of an herbivore will automatically make him live longer. It’s a classic case of confusing correlation with causation. Yes, if you are a vegetarian, you are more likely to be healthy and live a longer life. But that’s because a lot of people who are vegetarians are also health conscious (which meat eaters can also be). You can be a vegetarian, not workout, and eat crap—last time I checked, french fries, donuts, and Funions didn’t have any meat in them—and then drop dead of a heart attack. I wonder what percentage of people who have a balanced diet, work out on a regular basis, and are also likely to live a long life compares to people who do nothing for their health.

I think what bothers me the most is that being a vegetarian (or vegan) is a betrayal of your human nature. Your genetic ancestors fought and died for you to reach this point. If the hunter gatherer caveman that you directly descended from watched you turn away a juice steak, he’d smack you on the head with his wooden club. We’re omnivores, the cutting edge of evolution—it’s how we became the most power animal on this planet (beating out bears, lions, tigers, sharks, and kangaroos). All the other species envy and want to be like us. Just look a cow in the eyes and tell me he doesn’t wish he had the ability to kill and eat anything he wanted.

We’re on top of the food chain, behave accordingly.