Wednesday, November 21, 2012

Salt Ponds (San Francisco Bay)

In the Omnivore's Dilemma, Pollan mentions his 'not so perfect' experience collecting salt in the San Francisco Bay salt ponds. He describes the colors as "...a sequence of of arresting blocks of color-rust, yellow, orange, blood red-laid out below you as if in a Mondrian painting" (393).

While glancing over a blog, I came across the same salt ponds referenced in our class reading, and MY OH MY are they spectacular!

Take a look!

Tuesday, November 20, 2012

Process Writing :)


My poor writing skills really influenced my decision to enroll in the Food and Travel Writing Seminar, and I am very glad I ended up taking and enjoying the class. I started off on a rough patch for the first few weeks. Trouble lingered around when I wrote my memoir. I wanted to write about my disease because I thought it would offer some kind of catharsis. However, the process of writing my memoir piece presented much difficulty. It ended up more like throw-up all over a blank canvass.

This leads to one of my first difficulties/frustrations, the lack of focus in my writing pieces. I often have so much to say, and then go into very little detail. What is left is a vague skeleton of what happened, making it incomprehensible for readers. To battle this ambiguity, I found the workshops very helpful. Classmates provided pertinent feedback that gave me guidance on elaboration of details within my writing pieces. Otherwise, my mind would fill in the blanks within each essay. Having classmates evaluate my work and leave comments gave a new perspective that could not fill in missing information. The feedback of other students in the Food and Travel Seminar really helped me provide clarity for my work.

The most important idea I learned from this class is to find your voice. I have often relied on a formal tone to rely my ideas on paper. By taking this course, I found that having voice is important. It encouraged me when my voice was well received. I first started integrating my voice in our restaurant review (Rasa Ria). I incorporated small jokes. Yet upon reading them, I worried it was too corny or informal. It surprised me that students in class actually laughed at the jokes. Buzzing on confidence, I went full out on “My Perfect Meal” assignment, and the results were positive. I realize that not every opportunity allows for so much personality, but I will definitely feel more comfortable with voice in writing.

This seminar “Food and Travel,” really helped improve my writing skills, and it did so much more. I enjoyed our discussions, debates, and readings. This course was absolutely stellar. I think the chemistry with the group along with the oversight of Marin, our professor, really created one of the best classes I have ever taken. The enjoyment I felt toward the class made learning fun and enjoyable, I couldn’t have asked for a more ideal situation. 

Monday, November 19, 2012

My Perfectly Imperfect Meal: Final


In my quest to make anything "perfect," I always opt for the back seat approach. For me, it is no use to plan out an ideal situation, or even have high expectations, because sooner or later reality will come up short. So, when I received an assignment to cook a perfect meal for a writing class, zero planning took place. I gave myself simply one rule: if there is food in the kitchen, then cook it. Low and behold, on the day of dinner perfection, I opened my cupboards, refrigerator, and freezer of my campus house kitchen to check out the loot. Hidden beneath the Lean Cuisines and Pizza Rolls in the freezer I spotted pink meat marbled with white fat, vacuum sucked in a Ziploc bag. A diamond in the rough some would call it; I plucked that chicken out of the freezer as fast as I could.
With upcoming exams that required studying, I quickly tossed the rock hard meat on to the counter to thaw. Well, thirty minutes later, upon returning from Upjohn's Library on Kalamazoo College's campus, I found that the meat was still frozen. A search on Google guided me to microwave the meat for fifteen minutes to defrost. The online food forums also warned against de-thawing meat on the counter, but I figured “carpe diem” and pretended like nothing happened.
While the microwave cooked the meat, I decided to take some initiative on the rest of the meal. First, I needed some motivation and inspiration. My 3D glasses are always a must when cooking. They provide optical confidence with their busted out shades, and sleek black temples that lead into square frames. They proudly read "Real D 3D." I often tell my roommates that they let me see another dimension, or they allow me to gaze into the future. In reality, they give me another person to be for an hour. With my 3D glasses, I suddenly take on strange French accents, and become the top chef in the world! Escalating the insanity, I needed one more thing to prep me for the perfect meal: some funky music.
Squished between books, I forced my laptop out of my backpack and I logged on to 8tracks.com.  Only one set of songs can ever get me pumped up for a culinary explosion: “the nineties//summertime” playlist. The first song "Steal my Sunshine" popped on and a smile grew across my face. Ready to go!
I danced on over to the fridge, and pulled out multiple bags of fresh produce from the bottom drawer. The clouded plastic bags crinkled their way to the counter. After opening them, I uncovered part of a leftover onion, a lone sweet potato, garlic, and sprigs of rosemary. I thought "I can work with this," until a microwave ding interrupted my flow. I opened the door to find a sad, warm chicken breast oozing out juices. I pried it off the plate and sat it in a glass pan, leaving a white crust and fluids in its wake. I prayed that no one would become sick as I decorated the poultry in two tablespoons of butter and the rosemary. I slid the pan in the oven and turned my mind elsewhere to avoid the worry and guilt coming over me.
I pulled out two pots from the cabinet and filled them with a few cups of water each. While they were heating up, I skipped on over to the cutting board and began to chop up the onions and garlic. As my head bobbed to the music, I lost my control over the vegetables and a rampant garlic clove slipped between the counter and stove, waiting to be eaten by a hungry critter. I was careless and laughing, and the pots began steaming, cutting off my oxygen. A mad scientist watching her chemical reactions, I turned to my pots to watch them boil. Though the saying goes, "a watched pot never boils," by the graces of the 3rd dimension of my glasses, the water in those two pots started to simmer. Peering into the black bottom, the air bubbles rose until the water strengthened into a fierce boil. I felt on top of the world, and ready to take on the rest of the meal.
I plopped rainbow rotini into one pot, watching the orange, yellow, and green noodles tumble from the box to the water. Next, I cut up the sweet potato into circular rounds. Previously, I have been unsuccessful in thoroughly cooking my sweet potatoes, so I was hoping the small pieces would cook faster and prove edible for my meal. They ended up in the second pot, and soon enough my work reduced from cooking to dancing.
I was getting my freak on singing "I just want to fly, put your arms around me baby..." when I heard some one yell "schioasht" coming from the foyer. My friend Laura just returned from dinner at a local eatery, "Food Dance," the aroma of the house startled her. Laura’s gibberish words indicated that the scents stemming from the kitchen were well received. It took me this incident to wake up and smell the rosemary, or something like that. I took a big whiff and realized that the baking herbs filled the room with a natural woodsy fragrance. Brought to my senses, I checked all my dishes in progress.
The pasta now saturated, I drained it and tossed in butter, onions, and garlic. I topped the pot with a lid to allow the vegetables to steam, and looked to the sweet potatoes for my next move. Stabbing a fork into each circle revealed that the orange rounds were ready. I set each chunk on a small plate and garnished them with cinnamon, brown sugar, and butter. The mix of bright oranges and browns made me think of  fall memories with the friends who were about to sit down and enjoy my meal, but first a few finishing touches. I dished out the colorful pasta into a bowl, and placed the white chicken breasts on a plate.
My friends arrived on time and eagerly awaited my meal. Haubert, Marie, and Sam were able to share this feast with me. As our eating commenced, it became evident that my guests did not have the same tastes as me.
Haubert only ate the noodles leaving the onion and garlic to the cold. He kindly explained, “I never like onions or garlic. I enjoy the flavor from them, but I am not going to eat that.” Meanwhile, Sam tried explaining why she doesn't eat sweet potatoes because she was force fed them as a child. “When I was a young, my Uncle Ben always made sweet potatoes and he covered them in marshmallows. I hated them and it sucked. Now I can’t stand them! They’re just super gross and nasty.” Marie was the only compliant diner guest. Still, I ended up eating their leftovers, with no complaints about the noodles seasoned with soft onions and garlic, then the bright starchy rounds sweet with sugar and butter. My stomach was satisfied with carbohydrates and starch, when I remembered the protein.
Nobody had touched the white meat christened with rosemary when the conversation started to wane. Their attention turned to a football game, or was it basketball? I quietly took a bite of the chicken, a servant making sure her king and queens would not die from poison. The butter and rosemary made it taste fresh and the meat was cooked perfectly. I offered some to my friends and no one got sick while eating it. In fact, the conversation completely dissipated when Marie chimed it, “Katherine, this is like really good.” She thought it was tender, with a slight flavor, nothing too overpowering. I was very grateful for the positive review because I made a lot of mistakes. Everyone agreed that the meal was very natural, especially for a college diet. The unprocessed approach really showed off in my results. They even recommended that I make this a weekly event, which I declined.
My alternate French persona failed to churn out a foie gras, yet I had fun in the process of cooking my modest chicken dinner. I was happy to have a positive experience while preparing the food, taking myself lightly, and then sharing the meal with friends. Sometimes small expectations allow for the enjoyment of the simple pleasures of life, and I think that's perfect.

60mg of Hunger: Reworked


I sat in a sterile room at Detroit Children’s Hospital listening to the nurse take role call: Cellcept, Plaquenil, 81 mg Aspirin, Levoxyl, Naproxen, Vitamin D supplement, and Prednisone. She spoke in a different language that I couldn’t follow. So I focused just behind this stranger, to the silver sink where there the spout reached tall over the basin, and then to the neutral colored wall even further beyond. The words she spoke fell into a muffled blur until a cold stethoscope brought my attention back, the doctor was here. Everything happened fast, yet I sat waiting for hours. It’s funny how illness has a way of skewing the perception of time. I filled this time trying to understand it all, yet I came out understanding very little. All of that time reduced to the few moments of clarity. Here is what I knew: take ten pills in the morning, three at lunch, five at night. After consuming my medicine cocktail, a lovely spell fell over my body. The waves of pain that crippled my joints vanished, the chronic fatigue was curbed, and the possibility of blood clots diminished. Yet the magic fathered emotional agony that led me to question the importance of my medication. There was one, in particular, that became the ringleader of trouble. For me, Prednisone never really escaped the connotation associated with the word “steroid.”
My affair with food began here, a lust affair. When I taking steroids, everything looked tantalizingly edible, and a small snack easily turned into a feast. We had just gotten our kitchen redone that year, and I had found a sanctuary within it. Pomegranates, apples, and oranges crowded around the fruit bowl and reflected off the beige granite begging for me to taste them. The produce on the counter represented a mere offering of what the sub-zero refrigerator had in store. Milks, cheeses, lunchmeats, veggies, dressings, and more awaited me there. I had access to all of it. Prednisone created a bottomless cavity looking to be entertained. I ate all the time because of the chronic hunger. This continuous consumption even helped fill the gaps of confusion. The mist surrounding my life needed to be solidified by something, and food was something.
Yet all that food, as comforting as it was, took a toll. Soon the weight of the food began to find permanent residence within my body, and the side effects of Prednisone became visible. My cheeks began to swell, and my embarrassed eyes hid beneath them. The structure of my face elicited comments like, “Are you packing nuts for the winter? Your cheeks are huge!” I could tell when kids at school were talking about me. The side glances in my direction and a whisper in a friend’s ear became an easy indication. Soon enough, my thoughts were consumed by food and how others viewed me, and academics started to lose meaning. The school shortened my schedule to a half-day because I became tired, apathetic, and riddled with doctor appointments. As I walked through the halls, I realized that people had a hard time looking at me; even my friends couldn’t shoot me a straight stare. A recognizable glance and a responsive wave would have saved my day, but nobody wanted to meet those two slits in my face. So I sat through classes and headed back home alone. On my way, I walked parallel to the troop of students driving off to lunch with their friends. Their Jeeps bouncing as the declined driveway of the parking lot met the street. They were ready to go to “The Big Salad” or maybe “Lunchbox Deli.” I could almost smell the vinaigrettes trailing behind their cars. A poignant raspberry with bleu cheese crumbling after it, tossed in a mixed green salad. My mouth watered at the thought of their food fun. With each step, I hoped one of those cars would stop for me, but none ever did.
Upon my arrival home, I would sit in the kitchen waiting for my mom. She could always give me a straight stare into those bloodshot and inflamed slits, but I had no intention of meeting her condoling eyes. Her pity only led me to believe I was even more pathetic. There must be someone that could look at me, and not see anything. I started to personify food. A Pink Lady became the apple of my eye. I glided over to the fruit bowl and picked out a fresh one. I rubbed my hands along the rounded curves until my fingers come to a stop in order to cup the Lady. I closed my eyes, sunk my teeth through the skin, right into the meat, savoring the sweet nectar as it filled my mouth and trickled down my throat. I would eat a million apples and crunch them so loudly that I didn’t have to hear words like “Lupus.” Then after, I would feel full and satisfied, something that social interactions could not provide at the time.
The social and physical implications of the medicine helped established understanding of an ulterior side of Lupus. The nurse’s foreign words began to take on a deeper meaning than the medical terminology recited at the time. Words that ultimately constructed the significance of my disease: I was different, and very alone.
I walked out of Children’s with the looming uncertainty of having an ambiguous disease. One that meant pain, but never a clear, definite hurt. The doctor started me on 60mg of Prednisone during that first visit, a mistake that cost me dearly. My symptoms and blood test results didn’t deserve the dose that I received. The side effects brought on by Prednisone were not ideal: the obvious weight gain, a roller coaster of emotions, confusion, and a stutter that paralyzed me in front of class.  It was hard to hold a conversation with my classmates when the thoughts and worries of one another don’t coincide. Through all of this I learned, always growing in my own ways. I found that food could be a lot more than physical sustenance. As people we want to be understood by everyone, or someone. And food, it became an emotional backup for me. Sure people criticize the use of “comfort food,” but where were you when I needed a friend? 

Rasa Ria Revisited Pt. 3


By revisiting my expectations of Rasa Ria, I realized the extent of my misguidance. Now I did not expect to walk into a 5-star restaurant; I also didn’t anticipate walking into a one-room hostel with an Internet connection. To say the least, I was under impressed with the ambience of Rasa Ria. The self-service and casual atmosphere denotes the kind of customer that would frequent the quaint restaurant. This wasn’t where I ate when I was with my parents. Instead this kind of restaurant represented what college has become for me: a place to experience and try new things. Most importantly somewhere I would be able to grow by stepping outside of my comfort zone. I think that Rasa Ria definitely presented a unique cultural experience was different from my own.

The restaurant included many recipes that were Indonesian, with a Malaysian flare brought by the Gome family. Rasa Ria is authentically fusion. It is a mix of Asian cultures brought to the American table. Through this course, I came to realize that the term “authenticity” is very subjective because of the evolution of culture. The authority who might call a dish authentic or not is also disputed. Therefore, as a relatively uncultured, liberal arts college student, I will call food served at Rasa Ria authentically fusion and authentically delicious.

I hope to continue my exploration with food beyond the confines of my Food and Travel Seminar. It is my greatest hope that I will be able to study abroad in Ecuador for my Junior year at Kalamazoo College. With the application process underway, I can only imagine the exotic food I will be eating. I envision fruits with spikes, fresh fish, or flan. I look forward to go into any future culinary experience with an open heart and mind. Not every taste is for me, yet I will try my best to enjoy the effort and respect the culture of each dish. And after completing the Sophomore Food and Travel Seminar, I have found it is often not the taste that makes the food, yet the context in which you surround yourself. 

Sunday, November 11, 2012

My Perfect Meal 1st Draft


In my quest to make anything "perfect," I always opt for the back seat approach. For me, it is no use to plan out an ideal situation, or even have high expectations because sooner or later, reality will come up short. So, when I was assigned to cook my perfect meal, there was little planning involved. I gave myself simply one rule: if there is food in the kitchen, then cook it. Low and behold, on the day of dinner perfection, I opened my cupboards, refrigerator, and freezer to check out the loot. Hidden beneath the Lean Cuisines and Pizza Rolls in the freezer I spotted a pink meat marbled with white fat. A diamond in the rough some would call it, I plucked that chicken out of the freezer as fast as I could. I was grateful to have found some protein that could provide a meal with sustenance.
With upcoming exams to be studied for, I quickly tossed the rock hard meat on to the counter to thaw. Well, thirty minutes later, upon returning from Upjohn's Library on Kalamazoo College's campus, I found that the meat was still frozen. A search on Google, guided me to microwave the meat for fifteen minutes to defrost. The food forums also warned against de-thawing meat on the counter, but I figure you only live once and pretend like nothing had happened.
While the meat was in the microwave, I decided to take some initiative on the rest of the meal. First, I needed some motivation and inspiration. My 3D glasses are always a must when cooking. They provide optical confidence with their busted out shades, and sleek black temples that lead into square frames. They proudly read "Real D 3D." I tell my roommates that they let me see another dimension, or they let me see the future. In reality, they give me another person to be for an hour. With my 3D glasses, I suddenly take on strange French accents, and become the top chef in the world! To add on to this insanity, there is one more necessity before I am ready to cook this perfect meal...some music.
I force my laptop out of my backpack; it is squished between all the books in my bag, and log on to 8tracks.com. There is only one set of songs that can ever get me pumped up, and that is the summertime playlist of the 1990's. The first song, "Steal my Sunshine" pops on and we are ready to go.
I dance on over to the fridge, and pull out multiple bags of fresh produce from the fridge. The clouded plastic bags crinkle while they make their way to the counter. Opening them, I uncover food that I can work with. Part of a left over onion, a lone sweet potato, garlic, and twigs of rosemary. I am thinking "I can work with this," when my thoughts are interrupted by the microwave ding. I open the door to find a sad, and warm chicken breasts oozing out some juices. I pry it out of the plate and set it in a glass pan, leaving a white crust and fluids in its wake. I am praying that this is safe as I decorate the poultry in 2 tablespoons of butter and the rosemary. I slide the pan in the oven, and turn my mind elsewhere to avoid the worried and guilty feeling coming over me.
I pull out two pots from the cabinet and fill them with a few cups of water each. While they are heating up, I slide on over to the cutting board and begin to chop up the onions and garlic. As my head bobs to the music, I begin to lose my control over the vegetables and rampant garlic slip between the crack separating the counter and stove, to be eaten by a hungry critter. I am careless and laughing, and the pots are beginning to produce steam, cutting off my oxygen. A mad scientist watching her chemical reactions, I now turn to my pots to watch them boil. As the saying goes, "a watched pot never boils," but by the graces of the 3rd dimension taken on by my glasses, the water in those two pots began to bubble. Peering into the black bottom of the pots, the air bubbles began to rise until the water strengthened into a fierce boil. Needless to say, I felt on top of the world, and ready to take on the rest of the meal.
I plopped some rainbow rotini into one pot, watching as the orange, yellow, and green noodles found their way from the box to the water. Next, I cut up the sweet potato into circular rounds. Previously, I have been unsuccessful in thoroughly cooking my sweet potatoes, so I am hoping the small pieces will cook faster and be edible for my meal. They end up in the second pot, and soon enough my work has been reduced to waiting, or dancing.
I am getting my freak on singing "I just want to fly, put your arms around me baby..." when I hear some one yell "schioasht" coming from the foyer. My friend Laura Manardo just returned from a local eatery, "Food Dance," and was startled by the smell of the house. Here gibberish words were an indication that the food smelled good. It took me this incident to wake up and smell the rosemary, or something like that. I took a big whiff of the air I was inhabiting and realized that the baking herbs were filling the room with a natural woodsy smell. I was brought to my senses and began to check all my dishes in progress.
The pasta was now saturated, and I drained it only to occupy the space with butter, onions, and garlic. I topped the pot with a lid to allow the vegetables to steam, and looked to the sweet potatoes for my next move. Stabbing a fork into each circle revealed that the orange rounds were ready. I set each chunk on a small plate and garnished them with cinnamon, brown sugar, and butter. The mix of bright oranges and browns left me remembering my fall and all of the friends that were about to enjoy this meal with me. But first a few finishing touches. I dished out the colorful pasta into a bowl, and placed the white chicken breasts on a plate.
My friends arrived on time and eagerly awaited my meal. My friends Andrew Haubert, Marie Bunker, and Sam Foran were able to share this feast with me. As we began to eat, it was evident my friends did not have the same tastes as me.
Haubert only ate the noodles leaving the onion and garlic to the cold. Meanwhile, Sam was trying to politely explain why she doesn't eat sweet potatoes because she was force fed them when she was a child. Anyway, everyone enjoyed the chicken. The butter and rosemary had left a slight yet fresh taste to the chicken, The meat was cooked perfectly, and no one got sick after eating it. I was very grateful for this because I made a lot of mistakes. Everyone agreed that the meal was very natural, especially for a college diet. And everyone seemed to enjoy my combination of spices. They even recommended that I make this a weekly event, which I declined.
My alternate French persona was not able to churn out a foie gras, yet I had fun in the process of cooking my modest chicken dinner. I was happy to have a positive experience before the meal, taking myself lightly, and then sharing the meal with friends. Sometimes small expectations allow for the enjoyment of the simple pleasures of life, and I think that's perfect.


Tuesday, November 6, 2012

FreeWriting 11/6

One meal that I had was last night with my friend Laura Katherine Manardo. Here is what happened:

Laura and I were downstairs cooking up a storm, preparing for our upcoming cooking show, and we started looking through everyone's cabinets. We were investigating the eating habits of our housemates, and having fun. While conducting our own little research, there were pots on the stove boiling with pastas and sweet potato.

This is the difference between our housemates and us. While we had no problems with their Chef Boyardee and Ramen, it wasn't for us. It was the chopped up onions and garlic we most admired, and the fresh rosemary and chives that facilitated the discussion and conversations we had.

Laura and I bond most when we are cooking. We share experiences together like tasting the different flavor combinations and making weird gasping noises at the intense smells. One person adds one thing to the mix, and the procession keeps flowing. Soon enough, we have a feast of food, and a kitchen that smells amazingly fresh and natural.

Last night, we cooked pasta, lightly buttered with onions, rosemary, and garlic. The sweet potatoes had sprinkled cinnamon, brown sugar, and butter. This is what we crave... a good meal that would inspire smiles and laughs.

A picture for you...

I am more confused about this sandwich than all of the voting proposals in the world.

American Eating (7)


In the third part of Omnivore’s Dilemma, Michael Pollan discusses his adventures hunting, gathering, and foraging for food. This section goes into depth of the different subjects including how the human body is made in such a way to feed off the earth, the evolution of American eating, ethics of eating, and his experience cooking his own meal. I was most intrigued by the discussion regarding the American way of eating.

In my family, we sit down together every night for dinner prepared by my mom, in semi homemade cooking style. She might used some canned beans, fresh apples, pasta out of a box, or create a casserole out of fresh onions and cheese. Either way, there was always a mix of fresh ingredients included in with convenience foods. However, as the four children in my family grew up, my mom started to work again. The food was tasty this time around, but very much so compromised.

The food that was now being served had vitamins and minerals infused into them, and a high dose of fats and sugars to keep the consumer hooked. This is the way that Pollan describes the USA’s eats in his section, “America’s National Eating Disorder.”

When this new food was introduced into my family’s diet, the nightly conversation dissipated and family time was severely compromised. These new foods take much of the culture and togetherness out of the family and food equation. Of course, my mother still cooks when she can, but it is a shame to know that for many families, this is an everyday thing.
The fact that convenience is chosen over culture is a big indication of how our society is set up. The United States of America is not deeply rooted in any one culture, and instead adopted an efficiency-based lifestyle. I really enjoy that our culture is an infusion of so many, yet I often feel like it starts to lose its identity. Maybe this is because so many people feel the pressure to assimilate into the “American” way of life. Whatever the reason, it is truly a shame because we have missed out on a lot of exceptional diets.

For example, in France they have a unique way of eating. “They eat small portions and don’t go back for seconds; they don’t snack; they seldom eat alone; and communal meals are long, leisurely affairs” (Pollan, 301).

Americans have been incorrect about food assumptions, which has led to a rejection of a lot of great diets. We often are so caught up in dieting fads that we lose sight of what is healthy and not healthy. In France, they eat fatty foods and live a great life, yet Americans hold on to these myths about fats and carbohydrates, and they are causing a huge gap in our diet. Our face-paced lifestyle is also poor for our health. If we treat food as a sense of enjoyment and community, we will be able to bond together more as a society.

The American food system is very much broken. With education, and taking a few steps back, more and more people are beginning to realize that food is best when it is natural, simple, and shared with the people that you love.

Sunday, November 4, 2012

PB&P

PEANUT BUTTER PICKLE SANDWICH

this article is causing waves... maybe just ripples, i thought i'd post it in case you haven't seen it.

i'm hoping to uncrustable this $$$$$$ <- big bank

Thursday, November 1, 2012

Rasa Ria: Through a lense or a hole FINAL


Florescent lights shine from the ceiling and reflect off the yellow laminated menus sitting at the front desk. Behind the counter, an emotionless waiter is glued to his computer screen and hardly glances at incoming patrons, leaving new customers unsure of their actions for ordering. The style here is self-seating, which the regulars who frequent this quaint eatery have the benefit of already knowing. Customers may choose from six to seven tables that are loosely huddled around the kitchen. The décor in Rasa Ria is simple, wood trim lining the bottom of the walls, and neutral colors on top. Posters of far off Asian destinations give some privacy to the customers.
Rasa Ria is a family restaurant started up about 9 years ago by the Gomes who hail from Malaysia. An Indonesian twist came from a close friend of the Malaysian family. This unique restaurant came about because of simple reasons: there was no Malaysian restaurant in the Kalamazoo area at the time. The restaurant has since been valued for its delicious Asian food. It is located on West Main passed Walgreens and across the street, if you are headed here from Kalamazoo College.
The waiter pauses his play at the computer to sit at a nearby table and take orders. A water pitcher and empty glasses are placed at the table. The customer at Rasa Ria is expected to be very independent. And looking around, that is what you see at this restaurant. This isn’t the run of the mill “American” eatery serving burgers and fries. And, this isn’t where the Smiths will take their 2.3 children out to eat after church. Here you will find the progressive college student drafting a paper, a mixed racial couple and their child, and a husband with a ponytail and a wife with boy cut enjoying their meal. No one here is trying to keep up with the Jones, simply trying to eat at the Gome’s.
And for good reason, the food here is incredibly tasty and affordable. Flavors such as curry, coconut, and soy are a commonality between many of the dishes served. The Tofu Rendang is a delightful dish that encompasses many of these flavors. Served with a side of rice, the main course consists of a soupy mixture of tofu and potatoes resting in a milky broth brightened by curry. The spice of the meal was balanced by sweet coconut milk and lemongrass, allowing the meal to be tolerable without compromising its adventurous qualities. The tofu is spongy and absorbs the flavors of the soup beautifully.
The rice completes the meal, cleansing the palette after the mix of flavors presented by the Tofu Rendang. This meal is a favorite for many of the regulars at Rasa Ria.
For a side order, the curry puffs are a great route to go. From the outside, their appearance resembles empanadas. They are light brown and crescent moon in shape. Right until the crunch biting into the puffs, it is reminiscent of its Spanish cousin, yet this is where the parallel ends. Upon arrival into the mouth, soft shards of chicken, spiced by curry, activate every taste bud. The minced meat is zesty and contrasts the greasy, flaky shell beautifully. A new taster might find themselves with a runny nose on such an occasion; a small price to pay to benefit from the rich flavors.
Two subtler tasting dishes are the Chicken with Black Mushrooms and the Fried Kway Seafood. The Chicken with Black Mushrooms is a stir-fry dish complete with carrots, baby corn, and snow peas marinated in a dark soy sauce. The dish is nothing spectacular, yet can entertain for a night if the consumer is hungry. The vegetables are thoroughly cooked, and remain light despite being enveloped in sauce. The salt in the soy sauce brought nice flavor to the chewy mushrooms. All is just fine for this traditional dish, no extreme risks are taken.
The Fried Kway Seafood is a surprisingly textured dish, however the variation of such texture is lacking. From the shrimp, to the calamari, and flat noodles, everything is just extremely slick. Still, the taste and consistency of the meal is not lacking. The seafood as well as the sauce introduce many flavors, and the range of consistency ranges from easy, soft noodles to the chewy ringed calamari. The Fried Kway is a great entrée for the nautical tasters.
The one mistake of the evening was a drink called Milo. The chocolate malt beverage is served hot in a plastic cup. The beverage would better be served alone to warm up children after a long day in the snow.
Any food bought at Rasa Ria is money well spent, yet consider ordering takeout. The ambience, or lack their of is worth surrendering to a night in the dorm. Similarly, the service is also poor. The dishes may have only taken 10-15 minutes to appear, yet they came scattered making the experience awkward for polite patrons accustomed to eating once every meal is delivered. The dining experience may not be for those looking to spend a night on the town, spurring intense conversations with young intellectuals. Instead, people come here for good food and a casual atmosphere; a hometown diner of a different culture. The selection of food rests primarily on that of Malaysian and Indonesian roots, and maintains a sense of cultural purity. That is the ingredients are consistent with those of the Asian culture, the spicing is for the chef to decide, and the shouts coming from the Kitchen are not exactly English. Even better, the food is affordable. Entrees range from $6-$9 and side orders and drinks anywhere from $1-$2.
Rasa Ria is known as a hole in the wall restaurant, it is simple yet, upon willingness, is able to offer some of the most unique food in Kalamazoo.
There is no reason to make a reservation for a casual night at Rasa Ria. You might catch it closed during open hours, so call ahead of time, it’s worth it.

Tuesday, October 30, 2012

Reading Response: The Omnivore's Dilemma pt 1 (6)


I have come across parts of The Omnivore’s Dilemma from time to time, yet have never sat down to really give it a good read. I found that the information dolled out about corn and its travel from the field to the factory incredibly interesting. The dissection of this simple idea of “food” produced a story that is so easy to overlook, and that’s the scary part. Corn is something all around us, and apart of us. One of my favorite lines in the book referred to us as “…processed corn, walking” (Pollan, 23). It is so engrained in American culture that it had the potential to be abused by American corporations.

My interest lies elsewhere, for while I do think it is a shame that corporations have taken advantage of the American populous, whose fault is that? In my opinion, the consumers have been pointing the finger too much at these big corporations. To be fair, these big companies deserve much of the blame, but what I am saying is so do the citizens living and eating in the United States of America.

One of the most indicative stories of the lack of education in Americans is the story about Pollan’s son. After a meal eaten at McDonalds, Pollan asked his son if his chicken nuggets actually tasted like chicken (compared to the old recipe), to which his son replied, “‘No, they taste like what they are, which is nuggets…’” (112). This is somewhat of a sad tale, especially because this is our youth and future generations. Backtracking to our discussion in class and Kelsey B.’s CYOA, many children are not educated about food. Our society has removed itself so far from the source, that we do not even know what we are eating anymore.

My little sister is 11 years old, and she will eat good food when my mother cooks it. However, she prefers fruit snacks, gushers, lunchables, and go-gurts. She likes these things because her friends have them, and they taste great because they are loaded with sugar. I realize that not every family has the luxury to cook meals from scratch with fresh ingredients, but it is so important for our society to reverse this trend. Processed foods are hurting our bodies, our farmers, and the land. 

There are so many problems with the environmental effects of producing corn. Runoff from the synthetic nitrogen and phosphorus, fossil fuel inefficiencies in producing it, excessive use of antibiotics, and more are some of the problems with current farming practices. The rich loam that once wrapped our lands has been abused, and cannot withstand much longer. Sustainable farming is required if we wish to feed off our land for years to come.

There are so many faults exposed with our farming system in The Omnivore’s Dilemma. One basic solution for this structure is education. It is so important to educate consumers, so they make informed decisions. It is necessary for school systems to educate children in the classroom about these practices to ensure a healthy future for our people and our planet.

Tuesday, October 23, 2012

Rasa Ria, through a lens (or a hole) DRAFT


Florescent lights shine from the ceiling and reflect off the yellow laminated menus sitting at the front desk. The waiter is glued to his computer screen and hardly glances at incoming patrons, leaving new customers unsure of their actions for ordering. The style here is self-seating, which the regulars who frequent this quaint eatery have the benefit of already knowing. Customers can choose from about six to seven small tables in this classroom-sized restaurant. The tables themselves even resemble old school desks at an elementary, displaying their faux wood laminate on top. The décor in Rasa Ria is simple, it is a family restaurant started up about 9 years ago by the Gomes who hail from Malaysia. An Indonesian twist came from a close friend of the Malaysian family. This unique restaurant came about because of simple reasons: there was no Malaysian restaurant in the Kalamazoo area at the time. The restaurant has since been valued for its delicious Asian food. It is located on West Main passed Walgreens and across the street, if you are headed here from Kalamazoo College.
The waiter pauses his play at the computer to sit at a nearby table and take orders. A water pitcher and glasses are placed at the table. The customer at Rasa Ria is expected to be very independent. And looking around, that is what you see at this restaurant. This isn’t the run of the mill “American” eatery serving burgers and fries. And, this isn’t where the Smiths will take their 2.3 children out to eat after church. Here you will find the progressive college student drafting a paper, a mixed racial couple and their child, and a husband with a ponytail and a wife with boy cut enjoying their meal. No one here is trying to keep up with Jones, simply trying to eat at the Gome’s.
And for good reason, the food here is incredibly tasty and affordable. Flavors such as curry, coconut, and soy are a commonality between many of the dishes served. The Tofu Rendang is a delightful dish that encompasses many of these flavors. Served with a side of rice, the main course consists of a soupy concoction of tofu and potatoes drowning in a milky substance colored highlighter yellow. The tint of the liquid made is a dead ringer for curry, which is sweetened by coconut and lemongrass. The tofu is spongy and absorbs the flavors of the soup beautifully. The rice completed the meal, cleansing the palette after the mix of flavors presented by the Tofu Rendang. This meal is a favorite for many of the regulars at Rasa Ria.
For a side order, the curry puffs are a great route to go. From the outside, their appearance resembles empanadas. They are light brown and crescent moon in shape. Right until the crunch biting into the puffs, it is reminiscent of its Spanish cousin, yet this is where the parallel ends. Upon arrival into the mouth, little shards of soft chicken spiced by curry are activating every taste bud. The minced meat is zesty and contrasts the greasy shell beautifully. A new taster might find themselves with a runny nose on such an occasion; a small price to pay to benefit from the rich flavors.
Other dishes worth mentioning are the Chicken with Black Mushrooms and the Fried Kway Seafood. These dishes are less adventurous sticking to subtler tasting and spices. The Chicken with Black Mushrooms is a stir-fry dish complete with carrots, baby corn, and capsicums marinated in a soy sauce. The dish is nothing spectacular, yet can entertain for a night if the consumer is hungry. The vegetables are cooked nicely, and not weighed down with sauce and soggy. The salt in the soy sauce brought nice flavor to the rubbery mushrooms. All is just fine for this traditional dish, no extreme risks are taken.
The Fried Kway Seafood is a surprisingly textured dish, however the variation of such texture is lacking. From the shrimp, to the calamari, and flat noodles, everything is just extremely slimy. Still, the taste and consistency of the meal is not lacking. The seafood as well as the sauce introduce many flavors, and the range of consistency ranges from easy, soft noodles to the chewy ringed calamari. The Fried Kway is a great entrée for the nautical tasters.
The one mistake of the evening was a drink called Milo. The chocolate malt beverage is served hot in a plastic cup. Everything from the temperature, to the rich taste, and the presentation felt out of place. The beverage would better be served alone to warm up children after a long day in the snow.
Any food bought at Rasa Ria is money well spent, yet consider ordering takeout. The ambience, or lack their of is worth surrendering to a night in the dorm. Similarly, the service is also poor. The dishes may have only taken 10-15 minutes to appear, yet they came scattered making the experience awkward for polite patrons accustomed to eating once every meal is delivered. The dining experience may not be for those looking to spend a night on the town, spurring intense conversations with young intellectuals. Instead, people come here for good food and a casual atmosphere. The selection of food rests primarily on that of Malaysian and Indonesian roots, and maintains a sense of cultural purity. That is the ingredients are consistent with those of the Asian culture, the spicing is for the chef to decide, and the shouts coming from the Kitchen are not exactly English. Even better, the food is affordable. Entrees range from $6-$9 and side orders and drinks anywhere from $1-$2. Rasa Ria is known as a hole in the wall restaurant, it is simple yet, upon willingness, is able to offer some of the most unique food in Kalamazoo.
There is no reason to make a reservation for a casual night at Rasa Ria. You might catch it closed during open hours, so call ahead of time, it’s worth it.

Friday, October 19, 2012

Expectation and Anticipation: Rasa Ria


My search for a restaurant to visit led me to one of my dear friends, Ellen Murphy. She knows a lot about the Kalamazoo community and the food world, so it seemed fitting for me to contact her first. She recommended an ethnic place called “Rasa Ria.”  “It’s a family restaurant, with a good story,” she promised. My next step was to do some light research on Rasa Ria, and was excited to find that it was listed as serving Indonesian, Malaysian, and Asian Fusion food. I also spotted a picture of the restaurant online, and it proudly wore the words “Rasa Ria: Authentic Malaysian and Indonesian Cuisine,” as I read this I couldn’t help but allude back to our reading on Tuesday and Lucy Long’s chapter on “Tasting an Imagined Thailand: Authenticity and Culinary Tourism in Thai Restaurants.”
I imagine our discussion dictating my upcoming experience. I will forever be wary of calling anything “authentic” and will challenge all of the indicators of authenticity at Rasa Ria. The restaurant claims to authentic, yet is also known for serving Asian Fusion food. A fusion of many different foods begs the question “Is it really authentic of one thing in particular?” In my judgment, and of opinions in Long’s article, it doesn’t have to be “Appadurai believes the term {authenticity} should not be applied to culinary systems at all, because it cannot account for the inevitable evolution that occurs in cultures in cultures and their cuisines” (Long, 54). I am expecting the food at Rasa Rias will be authentically fusion, using ingredients from both Malaysia and Indonesia to create interesting and unique plates. Which according to Appadurai is part of the evolution of cooking and culture.
At Rasa Ria, the plate I plan to order Tofu Rendang, which has been highly recommended by many reviews online. I am a little apprehensive about this because the only tofu I have tried has been from the caf, and it tasted like disintegrating rubber. Hopefully this Rasa Ria can redeem my opinion of this Asian cuisine. I plan on having a lot of new and unfamiliar tastes, which makes me very nervous to write a critique. However, many of the reviews mentioned the use of coconut within the dishes. I happen to like coconut, so this news was somewhat ensuring. On the other hand, I want to be able to give a fair assessment of the food I am about to eat, but if I am not accustomed to all the flavors, it might hinder my ability to rate the taste. Also, my lack of knowledge with Asian food might make me unsure about my experience, and therefore my writing will lack confidence.
Despite some of the apprehensions I have, I am excited about my upcoming dinner tonight. I am anticipating surprising tastes, flavors, and spices that I hope to enjoy. Our discussion on Tuesday really sparked many ideas about authenticity. I really look forward to evaluating the restaurant experience and include many of the ideas about our readings and dialogue. 

Thursday, October 18, 2012

Counting Calories (5)


After reading the food critiques from the New York Times and various other places, I found myself very, very hungry. So after I made some lunch for myself, I began to reflect on the topics discussed in the writings. Of course there were very precise critiques given by Sam Sifton, I found the most interesting part to be his food diary and Q&A. I particularly was entranced by two things, A. After all that food how does he still look amazing (even with exercising, I mean c’mon!), and B. his response to having calories on menus.
For starters, I did find the pictures of Sifton at KFC a little creepy, but became very intrigued by his maintained physique. This question has undoubtedly come up, and his response is the excessive exercise he maintains. Sifton never counts calories, yet just exercises based on what his trainer feels appropriate. Which brings me to my next interest, should calories on menus be more utilized?
Sifton argues no, “I don’t want to be thinking, as I do so, about how many calories are in this slice of (delicious!) olive bread, or in that crème brulee or pile of pea shoots sauteed in sesame oil with garlic. And I certainly don’t want to see that information on a menu. Two words that have no place on a good restaurant’s menu: ‘Nutrition information’” (Sifton.) At first, I was a little hesitant to see Sifton’s point. For example, with so much food and so widely available food, many people overeat and could use calories as a guide to help them make healthier choices. People would be more educated on their cuisine and be able to assess the appropriate meal for them based on the nutrition information. Smart eating choices would lead to less heart problems and other chronic diseases, and therefore a healthier society as a whole.
Yet after reading all of Sifton’s Q&As, I realized that the culinary world is very much so a work of art. It isn’t necessarily about providing the best nutritious information.
“Restaurant criticism ought to be about deliciousness and sociology and art. It shouldn’t ultimately be about nutrition, this exchange notwithstanding” (Sifton.) Not everyone eats out all the time, most Americans consider it a treat. Sifton’s job is unique in that he is required to eat out so much, he is required to indulge.
To be honest, I really motivated by the decision to put calories on menus, like here (for example.) Yet I find that the places that do have these listings are often more everyday places, which differ from fancy places. These places are often where families might eat a few times a week, and are looking for some nutritional guidance. Overall, I agree with Sifton that high-end restaurants should not have calorie indicators because it can take away from the unique experience. However, I do find mobile apps and devices helpful for times when I am on a diet. I particularly like “MyFitnessPal” because it’s free and easy to use! Overall, fine dining is a indulging experience that should be enjoyed catch free, and Sifton’s unique situation makes him susceptible to different criticism and inquiry.

Tuesday, October 16, 2012

A Thai Experience, Kinda (4)


This term of culinary tourism is new to me. I imagine myself gliding through life not knowing I was a tourist, curious about other cultures and tastes. The truth of the matter is that I don’t think I have given much thought to other culture’s culinary experience until this year. Usually, I would just follow my friends to the restaurant of their choosing and wanted to taste something delicious. The chapter on “Tasting an Imagined Thailand” really got me reflecting on my experiences with “authentic” food and what was all staged for my pleasure.
Some years ago, when Thai restaurants began to popup everywhere, our town received “TN Thai.” This was a lovely little Thai place in the midst of our downtown and it was good food. The experience was also fun; it was different from my own dining style, yet drew enough parallels that I wasn’t freaked out or anything. Before every meal they brought out multicolored chips that looked like styrofoam and had a nice crunch to them before they melted in your mouth. (Upon a small internet search, I was able to distinguish these as shrimp chips.) This was comparable to potato chips before a meal, paralleling like a pro. Next, I would order a meal with rice, eggs, chicken, peas, carrots, and other vegetables. Easy enough, the veggies were like the one’s my mom cooked as a side dish, this; this was familiar. I played it safe every time I went there because I wanted to be satisfied with my meal on a taste basis. I repeat, I was not looking for some adventurous experience that would open my eyes to a new culture. That was NOT me. For example, when it came to the spiciness of ingredients, I was all for “’All meals are individually prepared and suited to your palate.”’
During my first year of college, my friend Tay became a huge influence on my life for many different reasons. Zeroing in, she really helped me to channel my adventurous attitude into acceptance and exploration of “otherness.” Tay studied abroad in Thailand and throughout LandSea, a backpacking trip sponsored by the college, she would tell about her experience. I became curious of far away places and different cultures. I remember one particular evening, Tay and her Thailad study abroad friends let me tag along to a Asian market in Kalamazoo to buy some food for the night. They purchased different veggies, rice, and spices. They cooked this kind of stir-fry and offered me some. So I gladly excepted because I was hungry like always. As I started eating this food, I realized my mouth was actually on fire. I ate the food as fast as I could because I wanted it to be over as soon as possible. I just wanted this taste to go away, but as I swished water around it just spread all over my mouth. They had been used the spice from their journey to Thailand, yet it was so foreign to me that it was a culture shock at the least. I love experiencing new cultures and definitely try to be “authentic” even though that is a malleable word. My authentic encounter with Thai food may not have been the most idealistic one, but I learned putting yourself out there is something within itself. 

Thursday, October 11, 2012

60mg of Hunger- Memoir Final


I sat in a sterile room at Detroit Children’s Hospital listening to the doctor take roll call: Cellcept, Plaquenil, 81 mg Aspirin, Levoxyl, Naproxen, Vitamin D supplement, and Prednisone. I consumed these words practicing for the pills to come, but my heart sank as he fell down the list. Falling into a pit of confusion, I tried to grasp on to the little reality I could manage. Here is what I knew: take ten pills in the morning, three at lunch, five at night. Upon consumption of my medicine cocktail, a lovely spell fell over my body. The waves of pain that crippled my joints vanished, the chronic fatigue was curbed, and the possibility of blood clots diminished. My responsibility in life had been reduced to the size of a few pills, and in turn the pills let me live a life with responsibility. Unfortunately, this mutual agreement we formed stopped short of symbiosis. And, the magic fathered emotional agony that led me to question the importance of my medication. There was one, in particular, that became the ringleader of trouble. For me, Prednisone never really escaped the connotation associated with the word “steroid.”
This here is where my affair with food began, a lust affair. Everything on steroids looked tantalizingly edible, and a small snack easily turned into a feast. We had just gotten our kitchen redone that year, and I had found a sanctuary within it. Pomegranates, apples, and oranges crowded around the fruit bowl and reflected off the beige granite begging for a taste of my mouth. The produce on the counter was a mere offering of what the sub-zero refrigerator had in store. Milks, cheeses, lunchmeats, veggies, dressings, and more found their home in this chilled box. All the food in the world was at my fingertips, and Prednisone had created a bottomless cavity looking to be entertained. I ate all the time because I was always hungry. This continuous consumption even helped fill the gaps of confusion. The mist surrounding my life needed to be solidified by something, and food was something.
This constant procession of food that fell into my mouth did not continue without consequence. Soon the weight of the food began to find permanent residence within my body, and the side effects of Prednisone became visible. My cheeks began to swell, and my embarrassed eyes hid beneath them. The structure of my face elicited comments like, “Are you packing nuts for the winter? Your cheeks are huge!” I could tell when kids at school were talking about me. The side glance in my direction and a whisper in a friend’s ear. Soon my thoughts were consumed by food and how others viewed me, and I had given up on academics at this time. The school shortened my schedule to a half-day so I could attend all my doctor’s appointments. Lucky me. In this half-day, I walked through the halls knowing that I was the ugliest thing in the world. People had a hard time looking at me; my friends couldn’t shoot me a straight stare. A recognizable glance and a responsive wave would have saved my day, but no one wanted to meet those two slits in my face. So I became lonely. After a few hours of classes, I headed back home, walking parallel to the troop of students driving off to lunch with their friends. They’re Jeeps bouncing as the declined driveway of the parking lot met the street. They were ready to go to “The Big Salad” or maybe “Lunchbox Deli.” I could smell the vinaigrettes trailing behind their cars. A poignant raspberry with bleu cheese crumbling after it, tossed in a mixed green salad. My mouth watered at the thought of their food fun. With each step, I hoped one of those cars would stop for me, but no one ever bothered.
Upon my arrival home, I would sit in the kitchen waiting for my mom. My mother could always give me a straight stare into those slits that were bloodshot and inflamed. I absolutely hated her stares because she would get teary eyed. Her pity only led me to believe I was even more pathetic. I only wanted a friend that would remind me of the unfortunate life I was living. I started to personify food. A Pink Lady became the apple of my eye. I glided over to the fruit bowl and picked out a fresh one. I rubbed my hands along the rounded curves until my fingers come to a stop in order to cup the Lady. I closed my eyes and sunk my teeth passing the skin and going right for the meat. Crunching on the apple to diminish the bulk of the insides to juicy blood. Sweet nectar filling up my mouth until a swallow allows the juice to enter the cavity. I would eat a million apples and eat so loudly that I didn’t have to hear words like “Lupus.”
I walked out of Children’s with the looming uncertainty of having an ambiguous disease. One that meant pain, but never a clear, definite hurt. The doctor started me on 60mg of Prednisone during that first visit, a mistake that I have always had a hard time reconciling with. My symptoms and blood test results didn’t deserve the dose that I received. The side effects brought on by Prednisone were not ideal: the obvious weight gain, a roller coaster of emotions, confusion, and the stutter that paralyzed me in front of class.  It was hard to find a conversation with my classmates when the thoughts and worries of one another don’t coincide. Through all of this I learned, always growing in my own ways. I realized that food could be a lot more that physical sustenance. As people we want to be understood by everyone, or someone. And food, it became an emotional backup for me. Sure a lot of people criticize others for using “comfort food,” but where were you when I needed a friend? 

Saturday, October 6, 2012

Choose Your Own Adventure



I’ve watched this TED talk numerous times and can’t help but share it. Dan Barber travels to Spain and discovers a fish that tastes so delicious, and the farm that leaves positive effects on the environment. His talk centers on an idea so simplistic, yet almost forgotten in these times of processed nutrients and calories. Barber questions the run-around of many fish suppliers and challenges these big companies. As consumers, I think it is important to consider our intake of food, where it comes from, and how it affects the surrounding environment. Also, with “social justice” being advertised throughout campus, I believe this conversation to be especially relevant. Eating fresh, sustainable food might not seem realistic to many, but I think Barber presents a valid argument as to why these practices are so imperative. After viewing this clip, I began to compare and contrast the benefits tasty, healthy, and environmentally conscious food to the access of less expensive, but perhaps more damaging to the body and surroundings.

Dan Barber kept me truly engaged throughout the whole talk with his great wit and knowledge. I hope you enjoy this as much as I did, and I look forward to discussing it on Tuesday!


Saturday, September 29, 2012

Memoir


I sat in a sterile room at Detroit Children’s Hospital listening to the doctor take roll call: Cellcept, Plaquenil, 81 mg Aspirin, Levoxyl, Naproxen, Vitamin D supplement, and Prednisone. I consumed these words practicing for the pills to come, but my heart sank as he fell down the list. Each interval bearing the weight of the reality that more pain loomed around the blank walls of sickness. Looking back, stomaching this information seems easy; she didn’t know what was coming.

Wave 1.
Fast breath and wake. Confusion. A rampant dream I can’t control. Its deadly grip forcing me to comprehend that this is real. There is nothing dreamy about this nightmare.

I began a regiment that lasted for the next year. Nearing ten pills a day, none affected me as much as Prednisone (a steroid that is used to subdue the immune system.) This is where my affair with food began, a lust affair. Everything on steroids looks tantalizingly edible, and any snack turned into a meal. We had just gotten our kitchen redone, and I had found a sanctuary within it. Pomegranates, apples, and oranges reflected off the beige granite begging for a taste of my mouth. The fruits on the counter were a mere offering of what the sub-zero refrigerator had in store. Milks, cheeses, lunchmeats, veggies, dressings, and more found their home in this chilled box. I ate all the time because I was always hungry, and it filled the gaps of confusion. The mist surrounding my life needed to be solidified by something, and food was satisfying.

Wave 2.
An epicenter becomes clearer. One knee, two knee. A pain so searing there must be a bomb inside my legs. I stagger to find my mom, but mothers don’t always know what to do.

The constant procession of food that fell into my mouth did not continue without consequence. Soon the weight of the food began to find permanent residence within my body, and the side effects of Prednisone became visible. My cheeks began to swell, and my embarrassed eyes hid beneath them. The structure of my face elicited comments like, “Are you packing nuts for the winter? Your cheeks are huge!” I could tell when kids at school were talking about me. The side glance in my direction and a whisper in a friend’s ear. Distance grew between me and the other kids. I started to personify food. It felt sorry for me and consoled me because I had lost the game.

Wave 3.
“Mom kill me, please just kill me. I can’t take it. Fuckin’ kill me.” She is sweeping my hair back. It sticks to the top of my head, matted by sweat and tears. I’ve never felt this pain before; I couldn’t have even comprehended if I tried.

My favorite food at this time was granola crunch. The sweet nodes of honey and sugar were followed by the deafening sound biting into the mixture. I would listen to the inside of my mouth, and tune out whatever stresses my parents released. The kitchen that year became the hub of all information. Everyone passed through and left an opinion lingering there to be kneaded, mixed, and cooked. As the toll keeper for the kitchen, I tasted everyone’s problems, but none stung as much as my father’s. The constant drain of the economy had made him a tired, jaded man. Financial hardships were his only topic of conversation. He didn’t understand that a house was supposed to be filled with love. He didn’t know I didn’t want that negativity and that the only toll I needed was a hug.

Wave 4.
Scream, bloody murder, SCREAM.

I had given up on academics at this time. The school shortened my schedule to a half-day so I could attend all my doctor’s appointments. Lucky me. In my half-day, I walked through the halls knowing that I was the ugliest thing in the world. People had a hard time looking at me; my friends couldn’t shoot me a straight stare. After a few hours of classes, I headed back home, walking parallel to the troop of students driving off to lunch with their friends. Upon my arrival home, I would sit in the kitchen waiting for my mom. My mother could always give me a straight stare, but I hated her stares because she would get teary eyed. There is nothing more pathetic than having your mother cry while you’re staring at each other, absolutely nothing.

Wave 5.
Two floors down, my brother has heard me cry. Seated on a chair across from my mother’s bed, he catches my eye. I can see him through my tears. My brother has always been overprotective, yet he just sits there. A helpless adult. There is nothing anyone can do for me. My mom and brother watch as my body is tortured, killing itself from within.

I had lost the game a while ago, positive that I had nothing left. I stopped any effort toward school and even tried to facilitate an imminent end. Sometimes, an end means a beginning of something new. Other times, it means that you’ve come to terms with things and you keep living them.

Today, I’m in the kitchen making dinner and writing a memoir. I watch as the steam escapes the rows of kernels on my corn; I am reflecting. What started as a prompt of my dietary restrictions, quickly transformed into a wave of emotion that was my life. I am better now, and sometimes I’m even happy. Sure, I have Lupus, but if I eat right and find control in life, then I can manage. Making sacrifices to preserve my health is a small compromise. I eat more vegetables, cut out most dairy, and relieve myself from stressful situations. Another flare up can always be around the corner, but everyone has pain. And this is my battle to fight. Although many people will try and offer empathy in times of pain, I’ve found the most important virtue is understanding. People want to be understood by everyone, or someone.