The Wanton Waste of the Social Internet

I downloaded TikTok for the same reasons most sad millennials did, thinking that the app would be a nice temporary source of serotonin. That was months ago and after even posting a few videos myself, I’m on TikTok fairly often now. I’m not here to discuss how it’s an app run by the Chinese government that may or may not be spying on me or the ethics (or lack thereof) when it comes to user data but I am here to talk about food waste. 

Yes, I said food waste. 

There’s one TikTok user that regularly “reviews” (I say this very loosely) who regularly goes to Dollar Tree and picks out items that you basically know can’t be good at a dollar store like steak or frozen meals and snacks; really the whole thing is obnoxious but he always claims they’re bad and then sprays them down with silly string. It’s a whole bit and the entire time I’m watching this video and quickly realizing that I am not in the age demographic to find videos like this funny I had a thought: this is incredibly disrespectful and wasteful. I have been dollar store food broke (I’m not here to wax poetic about my troubles) and for many Americans who are facing financial troubles now during the actual damn pandemic outside; for some Dollar Tree steak is a valid way to feed your family. 

However, it wasn’t just an immature Gen Z kid that got me thinking about how much goes to waste for the sake of clout on the social internet. I’ve been watching crush it videos, as well. For those that don’t spend time on strange sections of the internet: crushing videos with a subsection of shredding videos are videos in which items are crushed by a hydraulic press, destroyed in a wood chipper or blender: basically just items are destroyed. Yes, I promise I’m well-adjusted. I’m fine with some items being destroyed, sometimes it’s damn near beautiful to watch items be crushed or shredded but it took me noticing several watermelons enter a wood chipper to remember that those could have gone to a family or something. 

I thought initially that I was just getting old but then I remembered that this has been a thought lingering in the back of my mind for a little while now when it comes to being on social media. I could usually rationalize it because a majority of the food channels I follow are test kitchens or at least the cooking divisions of major media companies. Buzzfeed gives their food to employees since their campus is so large. The Bon Appetit Test Kitchen (which I am not going to talk about in more depth because yes, I am aware of their drama and that is not what I’m here to talk about today) has an entire gaggle of very eager gourmets to eat whatever experiment Brad has fermenting in Fermentation Station. But this restraint and reuse flies in the face of the Internet I grew up on that included a little show called Epic Meal Time. Yes, I was one of those Internet goblins. For those that don’t know of this obscure piece of Internet History: Epic Meal Time included a bunch of Canandian dudebros turned “chefs” and made copious amounts of food using mostly fast food, bacon, cheese, fast food sauces and booze into what can only be described as monstrities of food including a Human Centipede-inspired pig dish, sushi made with candy, giant (truly giant) burgers stuffed with all sorts of fauna: but the show’s scale was always fascinating to me. Watching these dudes order hundreds of burgers or hundreds of fries, clear out a shelf of bacon at the grocery store was entertaining when I was in college and had nothing better to do with my time but as the show went on and I grew older, I just couldn’t help but think of all the better places these resources could go to. Sure, they always had lots of people (mostly “babes”) there to eat the food along with other dudebros but for the amount of money spent on copious amounts of fast food…probably several starving families could be fed. 

Food photography is a science, more like magic, if I had to be honest. Painting on grill marks and using probing cameras to get every single nearly pornographic angle of milk being poured of fruit being sliced. Many of the things done to make food its most tantalizing ruin it for human consumption like puring wood glue over pancakes to mimic syrup or floating cereal on paste to keep it from getting soggy and as commercials also need to be viral and as fast moving as the next Tweet; they all have to be done exceedingly well and quickly thus upping the amount of food that doesn’t go anywhere but the trash all to get the so-called money shot of a burger that looks nothing like it’s advertised. 

I’m far from advocating for a radical redesign of how the social web approaches food waste and overconsumption. I’m not a saint, either. I have been guilty of food waste. I have a picky appetite and like food to be a nearly sensual experience, which means that I am selective and don’t mind paying more for something I really enjoy. Paying more for fancy mustard is not fixing the world’s food waste issue.

I am contributing to the problem; I am aware of that. And if you twisted my arm, I still take in a decent amount of the very content that I just several hundred words complaining about. I still like crush-it videos or watching people make impossible cakes of impossible items. I still like those kinds of videos and it’s absolutely okay if you do, too. No one has an easy fix for this and if they do; well, I have several questions. 

I just found that the older I get and the more aware I am of the world outside of myself, it’s gotten a little harder to stomach some of these egregious crimes against food and wanton destruction of resources. 

What I Have Been Eating During the Pandemic

I haven’t been shy about talking about my diet (or lack thereof) and my struggles with cooking as a single Southerner. But there has been something particular about this moment in history, you know, with the pandemic and all; that has made me very aware of food as comfort, routine and escape. So let’s talk about some of the ways I’ve used food to cope: for better or worse. 


Domino’s Pan Pizza with Pepperoni and Ham

I moved last year and this complex has a gate that works and is entirely too big. I was fine with ordering carry out and picking food up (obviously, based on my weight) but I hadn’t had something delivered in a while. I don’t know what turned me back onto Domino’s but something did and I discovered that their pan pizza is perfect. Fatty, rich, greasy, cheesy and exactly what I needed on days where I was either too busy or too apathetic to do anything but have food delivered to my home. Go figure, luckily, my complex is a pretty regular stop so no driver has gotten lost yet. They leave my pizza on my doorstep, wait patiently for me to pick up my food and sign my receipt and the whole thing is over: sorta like paid sex in an alley. But the weekly routine of ordering pizza, watching it go through the Pizza Tracker until it arrives at my door; hot, inviting, comforting and ready to distract me from the pains of the day. 

Breakfast

Breakfast is possibly one of my favorite meals of the day. Working an office job and having a mental illness means I don’t get to eat breakfast very often or eat one that’s of any nutritional value (I do love breakfast tacos even though I know they’ll be the death of me) but now with a medication that I have to take in the morning that absolutely wrecks my stomach if I don’t eat; breakfast have become a beautiful ritual in the morning. I’ve reminded myself that I love cereal and love waffles and pancakes and lots of maple syrup and bacon and toast with butter and jam. Coffee is a stunning alchemical reaction made possible by my Keurig and the smell of maple syrup warmed by pancakes. Also, an aside to cereal, I love cereal. I rarely keep it in the house but good lord I can go through a box of Honeycomb or Captain Crunch. Breakfast has become a sacred kind of prayer and a vital part of the routine that helps me settle into working from home. 

Chocolate Silk Pie from Whole Foods Market

I have a huge sweet tooth. This is not new information. What may be a shock is that I can be very picky about my sweets. Chocolate silk pie is something that is rarely done well but when done can be as close to God’s light as possible. Chocolate cookie crust, chocolate custard filling, sweetened whipped cream and chocolate curls; just sublime. But if you cut corners during any part of these ingredients you get what is essentially a dirt cup in a cheap pie shell. Luckily, my podcast means I am often at Whole Foods Market hunting for fine cheeses and that means I get access to slices of their very delicious and very sweet and very well made chocolate silk pie. Each piece is a little taste of decadence that reminds me of a time far more simple and far more kind than the current pandemic world we live in. 


What I’ve Been Cooking

Long time readers of the blog will know that I have struggled to cook for one person since my girlfriend left me and now that I am in a new apartment with a nicer and larger kitchen, that struggle has continued. Thanks to the clarity of antidepressants and the need to cook due to restaurants being open and cravings not understanding how pandemics work: I have been cooking more than ever. So here are a few of the things I’ve made that I am particularly proud of. 

Chicken Katsu 

I love chicken katsu. Absolutely love it. It may be one of my favorite Japanese dishes. It may be a simple chicken cutlet with sauce that is too sweet but dammit it’s the exact kind of comfort food that speaks to my soul as a dual-culturalist. There’s something wonderfully satisfying about frying food at home, even though it is a little messy and I did question many times if it was worth the effort until I took that first crunchy bite and was told that yes, it was indeed worth it. 

Pickled Daikon Radish and Carrot

Like most millennials, I have started pickling as a means to run away from the existential pain of realizing that we are helpless in the face of a capricious world in the midst of a pandemic. Pickled carrot and daikon is a staple of Korean BBQ and something I will easily get from my friends or fight for: the tang of vinegar and sweetness of fruit always makes me happy and I’m more than fine with stealing my friends’ portions if they don’t go for it quickly enough much like I am with gari (pickled ginger) while at sushi restaurants. It wasn’t a difficult recipe to make: just mirin and sugar and time. I did have a small struggle finding a daikon radish during a pandemic until I remembered I have a ton of Asian grocery stores around me and of course, Tim’s Oriental Market had the radish I needed. The crunch and tang of vinegar was fantastic and eating what counts as a veggie made my friends quite happy as well. 

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Apparently I can pickle now.

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Cakes. Too Many Cakes

So. I stress bake. What is a pandemic but stress? I’ve been baking for myself, for friends, to keep busy, to try new things, to find meaning since the pandemic began. It mostly started as a kind gesture for some friends who had their store opened back up way too soon despite being far from essential as a little token of goodwill and support. From there, I just kept going. I’ve made cinnamon maple apple muffins, gooey butter cake, caramel apple monkey bread, strawberry cake with vanilla frosting: anything to keep my hands busy and more importantly; anything I can do to help ease some of the stress my friends are going through. 


These are a few of the things I’ve been eating during the pandemic. It hasn’t been healthy, I’m not ashamed of that; but in places it certainly has been comforting. The return to the routine of making food sacred is nice and comforting especially during these uneasy times and anything I can do to help make those I care about smile is something I’m more than happy to do. 

Stay safe, stay well, stay kind. 

You Are What You’re Allergic To

 

-The American public is not aware that there might be potential allergenic and toxic reactions. With regular food, at least people know which foods they have an allergy to.-I have food allergies. I have also allergies to almost everything.  When I was a kid, my allergist’s best advice to my family on what to do with a daughter who was allergic to nearly everything was to simply leave the state of Texas for drier climes. It’s easier basically to list what I am not allergic to than to list what I am but we’re here to talk about food allergies. As far as food allergies go here are mine: I’m allergic to peanuts and tree nuts. As far as other allergies: I’m allergic to most forms of pollen, animal dander, and molds. I’m highly sensitive to ant venom and I have a sensitivity to Aspirin, nickel and latex (let’s not ask about the latex allergy 🙂 ). These are personal, sort of, but that’s why I want to talk about food allergies and continuing to live a healthy, sheltered life.

I found out I was allergic to peanuts when I was 6. I took a bite of a peanut butter cookie and immediately had a reaction. This was back in the 90s so of course my parents were doting, supportive and caring to their daughter who would be removed from the world of peanut butter. Further testing found that I was also allergic to tree nuts, which is apparently rare to be allergic to both. Back then, food allergies were serious. They are serious. I got special lunches from school. I often ate in the kitchen in primary school and I made great friends with kitchen staff. It made birthday parties interesting: my parents had to always ask and peanut snacks and cakes were removed from the school to keep me alive. Having a food allergy was alienating but being special was always welcomed as a school kid.

Through my junior high and teen years having a food allergy was a quiet companion. I only had a few close scares but for the most part it was easy to cope with. I stopped carrying around an Epi-Pen because I am for the most part old enough to avoid my allergies but I do plan on carrying one around again in the near future (DON’T NORMALLY STOP CARRYING AN EPI-PEN) and if anything it was a punchline to me and my friends. I have my foods that I’m willing to ignore being allergic to still enjoy like Nutella. My favorite creamer is Hazelnut. (Fun fact: there’s an allergic scale and hazelnuts are very low on the scale so it’s not that bad and hazelnut flavoring is basically just double vanilla and some vague other flavors.) I accepted that there’s plenty of places to not eat: Thai is almost out of the question, of course, and plenty of other foods. I don’t miss peanut butter cups or anything like that. Peanut oils are used in a lot of Asian cooking: Goodbye, some Chinese restaurants. (This is actually because many Chinese restaurants fry in peanut oil but in most cases peanut oil has no allergens in it UNLESS you make it the way some older Chinese restaurants do by frying peanuts in vegetable oil which is FULL of allergens.) Cross-contamination is also a big deal which is why many places will flat out say “If you have a nut allergy, just don’t come here.”.

Let’s actually talk about that.

I was a P.F. Chang’s recently and one of the first questions asked was “Hi, do you have any food allergies or sensitivities?” before the waitress even told me her name. I said “Yes” and that I had a nut allergy and she circled a space on my ticket immediately. I felt a little alienated. I never gave my allergy much thought and I have had issues with P.F. Chang’s before because of their damn lettuce wraps (so delicious, so deadly). When my dish arrived it was on a special plate I was pretty surprised. I couldn’t imagine what that looks like to the kitchen. Does the chef has to leave the main kitchen? Go to a special sequestered space? Does he have to rinse off and then down with bleach and chemicals? Why do I need a special plate? I’m not a child. I’d like a normal plate, please. I am an adult. I pay bills. I want a non-special plate, dammit.

But what I hate especially is the judgement that comes to answering the question of “do you have any food sensitivity?” Because I have to answer the question “yes”.  But that immediately lumps me in with a gaggle of people who simply like avoiding certain things because of their waistlines. And that doesn’t mean I don’t ‘believe’ in celiac disease or gluten sensitivity: I have friends that suffer from the condition and others like lactose intolerance.  But what people don’t seem to understand is that for me eating peanuts or tree nuts is a matter of life or death not worrying over how I look in a bikini. I will die if I eat peanuts. Or at least have a quick and painful anaphylactic reaction. And for my friends that suffer from celiac or lactose intolerance it’s a matter of intense discomfort and not insecurity over a dress silhouette.

What’s even more interesting is that I think my friends are more worried about my allergies than I am. Many are more curious about what I can and can’t eat. Dinner plans have been changed and moved around. Entire cuisines have been axed because of my allergies. My friends will speak up for me when I order dessert and are appalled when I’ll taste something not sure if it’s Nutella or chocolate syrup. Or when I’ll take a bite out of a cookie not sure if the firm substance is a pecan or an odd chocolate chip. I actually wasn’t even sure I wanted to write about this topic but another friend encouraged me to. He was actually very supportive of P.F. Chang’s giving me a special plate and the forthcomingness asking about food allergies. And not just P.F. Chang’s.

Having food allergies makes you adapt. You learn to ask about menu items that are questionable or just play a very fun and possibly deadly game of “Guess what’s inside this dish?”. You learn to make subtractions and additions to recipes: you accept that macarons are never going to be a thing. You embrace that friends may not understand and you always have a dish you can bring to a party. You embrace having to go out to eat after dinner parties. You commiserate with other food allergic and food sensitive friends after you both eat something that was likely not the best choice. (Please feel free to ask about the time Amber and I both ate foods we regretted at a local Italian joint. So much cheese. So many hazelnuts. ) You learn to eat around what you’re allergic to. To avoid open candy dishes. Ask before digging into anything from office cake to office cookies and sharing food is an absolute no. You ask significant others if they have had your allergen before kissing them (because YES you can have a reaction from kissing or touching someone who was in contact with your allergen). You question why every restau

Plenty of places now are more aware of what it means to cross-contaminate or put people at risk but having an allergy for so long…I’ll admit I tend to ignore those. If that was the case and I listened to everything single allergy worry then that removes almost no processed foods, no mall food, no eating out really. If I had to exclude all of the items that had ‘traces’ or ‘came in contact with’ peanuts or tree nuts well then, I’d lose a lot of weight quick. But it’s been an interesting evolution to see food allergies go from an annoying inconvenience that made a kid that one child who ruined peanut butter cups and school parties to being a serious American problem that people are more conscious of it than they ever were when I was a kid. I remember vividly flat out being told to leave certain places because the risk of cross-contamination is too great. I’ve had places that just refused to serve me because they were afraid of my not always so calculated risk of how much I can play tree nut Russian roulette.

So this was a little ranty in places and I stand in solidarity for my fellow allergic brothers and sisters. From reading menus. To checking out if a place is safe. To calculated risk. To ignoring allergies for favorite foods. To avoiding entire styles of food. To being happy when you can go to a restaurant and order something allergen-free. To being surprised and scared when you encounter an allergen even AFTER asking about it (Looking at you, Cheddar’s. I almost died that night over a cookie. Thank you, though, to Benadryl: You’re the real MVP.). Stay strong, stay hungry and keep reading those menu keys.

Feast-A Review

Feast is one of those places that caught me completely off guard and made me willing to change my perspective on dining in San Antonio forever. To think it all started with by accident. I had joined a friend out to celebrate my very first San Antonio First Friday and we stumbled upon a rather new building that we had never seen before despite our numerous treks downtown. We decided that after shopping we’d pop in, since we had already had a heavy dinner just a drink and dessert. We were wrong.
Feast is a modern hip spot downtown that anyone can enjoy, and we learned that as soon as we walked in. This was a beautiful restaurant and almost seemed out of place here in San Antonio, but I won’t complain.
Feast is situated perfectly in the King Williams District and is right at home with the artsy crowd of the area. The food at Feast was fresh, inspired and overall absolutely delicious. These were menu selections that I thought I could only find in the highest class restaurants of New York and here they were right in my own backyard.
Since we had already eaten we decided light plates. I ordered a butterleaf salad with a honey lavender vinaigrette and pink peppercorns. Each bite was succulent and delicious with and filled with me being able to clearly taste each and every single flavor possible in the dish, I tell you I have never been more excited for a salad in my entire life. The floral notes of the lavender and honey paired so well with the spicy notes of the peppercorns and the rich crisp taste of the lettuce.
For dessert I ordered a pot de crème, a luscious cream flavored with anise and cardamom. This was served with hand-fried churros and they provided the perfect crunchy partner to the rich cream. It was the perfect sweet compliment to what may be one of the best meals of my life.
The sweetest part about this meal? The price. For my salad and dessert I only paid around 12 dollars. Far less than I expected to pay for such a high class meal. And for the little more that I would pay for an entrée, the quality and skill that would be put into the meal would be far worth it as far as cost. I had never one felt such a strong regret for not coming to a certain restaurant first. Feast, you accomplished that. I was stuck in a blissful yet angry state of “Why didn’t we come here first?”
Feast is a place almost too good for San Antonio, with its modern hip vibe and daring inspired menu, it feels at odds sometimes a strip with local taco trucks and the theme restaurants I’ve come to know here in San Antonio, but this place changes everything. This is willing to make me stomach everything negative I’ve said about eating in San Antonio and better yet has given me something to look forward to. Most likely if you go to Feast you’ll see me there.