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. 

Dim Sum With Carlos

You learn a lot about someone when you share a meal together._  Anthony Bourdain.png

A death in the family brought me home to suburbia for a brief time. But despite the mourning and family obligation, I made time to have brunch with Carlos. It was a much needed break to decompress and after very little planning, we settled on where we would go. We decided on Kirin Court, a place that is utterly mythological for the two of us.

The legend goes a little something like this. A few conventions ago Carlos, myself and my then partner were staying in a hotel room. We were hungry after watching an anime that emotionally scarred me and we were each tasked with looking for a restaurant that would feed all of us. I pulled up a few places on my laptop and I remember things as clear as day. I looked to my associates and said: I think I found the perfect place.

I gave them no context, nothing.

When I turned my laptop around across the webpage slithered dragons in the corners. Soft music played in the background. It felt like all the yakuza animes I’ve ever loved.

We went there, the three of us, and enjoyed a meal that we didn’t feel deserving of. We ordered too much and shirked the greatness of the dim sum in our attempts to fill our stomachs with rice and candy-coated chickens and nearly mostly naked chickens.

I was afraid that when my then partner and I broke up, I’d never be able to return to Kirin again. It did help that the restaurant is in my ancestral homeland but Carlos was persistent and I really wanted dim sum so we did Kirin Court again: just the two of us.

Kirin Court has become an important part of our friend mythology and now when I am home, we go to Kirin; hell, we’re already planning on our yearly visit for Christmas to exchange gifts.

We talked a lot. We talked about what we’re watching and how work is. We shared stories and do all the things we usually do when we catch up. And while we were there, we started with things that we usually order. I start with tea and water and entirely too much sugar. I got Carlos the barbeque pork buns he loves. I started with my Hong Kong egg waffle and Chinese broccoli and oyster sauce. We laughed and talked, chopsticks moving in and around each other like a fun little dance we’ve learned over the years.

But this time, things were different. They’ve added things to the menu!

It started with sausage rolls that made me let out a noise that sounded like a mix between a soft contented sigh and a shrill squeal. Next up was the salt and pepper calamari which I practically snatched off the cart before the plate could be placed on our table. Carlos picked up fried shrimp from the same cart and I was thrilled with the first bite of calamari. Coating pieces of fried squid in chili oil was a great idea and requesting hot mustard for the sausage rolls was worth it as well. I don’t think Carlos has seen me eat with such gusto in a while. It’s a bit of a joke but most of my friends are always worried I don’t eat enough (as I am writing this, my dinner has been mostly made of water and biscoff cookies) and even though my start at Kirin was heavy with mango pudding with milk, egg waffle and pineapple buns; he was happy to see me eat something that wasn’t a dessert (listen, I have an anime boy reputation to uphold, that means I consume sugar, angst and the fear I have instilled into my enemies).

I lost track of how many times I poured myself tea. I lost track of time even though I had to get back on the road. I simply lost track in time as carts flew by and plates stacked up and chatter filled the space that looked like every 90s anime version of a host club is hidden in the back of a restaurant.

I get asked a lot about if I’d ever move back home. I get these questions especially after visiting family which is…well, it’s visiting family. You can’t ever go home again and now Dallas/Ft. Worth despite being my homeland is no longer my home. Going to Kirin Court means I am visiting and thus means I will leave.

And while Carlos and I caught up since we do only see each other a few times a year I said something that I think encapsulates my feelings on the whole “going home again” thing.

I’d never want this place to be something we do every Sunday.

There. I said it. I said the thing I never thought I would. I admitted to missing my home and missing the great food and the shopping (oh the shopping) but I would never want this to be a place I could in theory go anywhere I want. I have a restaurant like that here in San Antonio: MiTierra. It’s a restaurant that meant a lot to my family and I tend to only go there during special occasions or when family and/or company is in town.

It’s a special place and merits a special occasion even though I could in theory go there and embrace technicolor culture any time I want.

And what’s amazing is that out of all the places Carlos could frequent without me, he doesn’t. He’s even said a few times that going to these places without me feels a little like an infidelity.

Kirin Court is one of the most special places in the world to me. It means I am home, it means I get to spend time with one of my best friends and it means I get to fill my stomach with food that I know is good and that even my anxiety will accept. I always leave full and happy and in these trying times, it’s remarkable and wonderful to have a place that still feels sacred.

Thoughts from Fredericksburg

I have long been convinced that my artistic ideal stands or falls with Germany. Only the Germany that we love and desire can help us achieve that ideal.- Richard Wagner.png

It’s no secret that I’m a huge fan of German culture. I spent 6 weeks overseas in Austria and some of my most beloved and most important trips in Europe were of the German persuasion. Seeing King Ludwig II’s castles, seeing and being accosted by German swans. Learning a nearly impossible language. Texas’ history as a diverse state has made it rather easy to find handsome little pockets of Deutschland all across this great state so here are some of my thoughts after a day trip to Fredericksburg with my historian friend, Amber.

  • So the hill country is gorgeous but I hate that I don’t get cell service out there.
  • Giant crosses are a great landmark.
  • Indian Motorcycles apparently still live outside of the city limits.
  • The drive to Fredericksburg is perfect. Just within a few hours of the city limits so it feels like a trip while being close enough to do a day trip with no concern.
  • Some of the best conversations I’ve ever had have been in cars.
  • Amber only keeps me around because I speak German.
  • Postcards are amazing!
    • Seriously, I love sending out postcards so I may start a mailing list or something.
  • German culture is spectacular and the German history of Texas could be its own blog post.
    • I didn’t think out of all the places in Europe I saw, that I’d miss Austria and Germany the most.
  • Parking in downtown Fredericksburg is like surviving The Hunger Games. At times, sacrifices must be made and at times, you must park nearly a mile away from your destination.
  • Walking on a nice day though, is pretty special.
  • I feel remarkably guilty playing Pokemon Go in front of other people. Like I’m not giving them enough attention.
    • I’m sorry. I just needed my streak bonus…I didn’t ignore Amber. I promise.
  • There’s something to be said about knowing your history so it’s always a little weird as a black person to visit destinations that glorify the men that wanted to keep my ancestors in chains.
  • Also, restored and recreated houses are great but when they feature terrifying narration that is triggered by movement: it’s terrifying.
    • Some of these houses also have mannequins, so you just walk in and see a shape of a person and freak the hell out. Or at least, I did. Twice.
  • Fluffy chickens are the best chickens.

20170121_112752.jpg
LOOK AT THEM!

  • German food makes me so happy. Any place I can get potato pancakes, mustard and applesauce are places I rather just stay forever.
  • There’s nothing like speaking German to someone who doesn’t expect me to know German.
    • It sort of makes me feel like Broomhilda from Django Unchained. A confusing but pleasant oddity that is a black woman who speaks a little German.
  • The Hill Country has a lot of wineries.
    • A lot.
  • Comfort bites are apparently Frankenstein’s monster-esque foods that are probably going to kill you and you don’t mind that so much.
  • Fun fact: you can walk along downtown Fredericksburg with a glass of wine or beer in hand.
  • There’s a lot of places that offer to sell you wine in Fredericksburg. The main street is full of wine tasting rooms and breweries.
    • Lots.
      • Amber and I went on 2 wine tours in the hill country and keeping the glasses so far is the best part of it.
  • The history of wine in Texas could also be its own blog post.
  • Bathroom cats are apparently a thing outside of Welcome to Night Vale.
  • My taste in wine is changing. I can now stomach red wine without getting a headache and a serious case of ennui.
  • Apparently there’s a wine bus tour that lets you tour all of the wineries and not have to worry about driving afterwards.
    • You know, if you’re looking for a gift for me or something.
  • I also love and hate words used to describe wine.
    • Amber and I had a glass of Orange Muscat at a winery and I said the finish was “medicinal” and Amber agreed. But think of how asinine it is to say something has a medicinal finish.

I could go on forever about the how much I love German culture and German food but I’ll end on one note. Germans have a proud culture and the history of that tragically has some not so rosy parts of it. It’s difficult at times to express a love of other cultures when their history is so tarnished. I love Japanese culture but with that means accepting when Japan and my homeland were at war. I love German culture but loving Bayern means knowing that their history is marked with immense darkness. But what I love about Fredericksburg, what I love about Texas and what I love about culture is that just for a moment; a brief fleeting moment filled with excess, wine, beer and potatoes: it’s just good to be German.  

But for Today, I am Prussian

-Food is our common ground, a universal experience.”

I’ve never been coy about the part of me that is truly culturally a pluralist.  I in-spirit renounced my American heritage long before I took my first steps across the Atlantic and by the time I emerged onto Germanic soil, I was already at least in a cultural sense a French man, Japanese schoolgirl and English poet.

That was until, of course, I went to Bavaria. I experienced a land and culture so far unlike my own but with the same cultural feelings of strength, hard-work and enjoying what you have. I spent 5 weeks overseas, mostly in Germanic countries and I left with a love of German food and the slight and occasional German phrase.

Once I returned stateside, my desire for the German flavors I came to crave were mostly left to languish. I was from a part of Texas that was no more German than scotch and the even mention of “German food” conjured to them faint images of sauerkraut and bratwurst and men clad in lederhosen (which are an undeniable segment but not the only aspects of German cuisine.).

It wasn’t until I moved back to San Antonio and moreover the part of Texas that was at times intensely German that my love of German food was able to take form again but really only to the occasional trip to New Braunfels to have it in one or two special places once or twice a year. What I was missing was the cornerstone of what made German food so amazing: it’s accessibility. The food I was eating in Austria and in Germany were available anywhere, everywhere and at nearly any time of day. This is where I came to love the concept of a double starch often enjoying two different potato dishes alongside pasta and a slab of whatever-schnitzel (it was often chicken for me, but the cafeteria where most of my meals came from produced schnitzels I didn’t think were possible). The food was unpretentious and humble but delicious and satisfying.

The beauty of it was that it didn’t feel foreign.

So when I come to find out that I can fill my cravings for German food in a downtown, historical eatery I had to check it out. This led me to lunch at Schilo’s.

This place has apparently been around forever and is a place I walk by all the time, but I was always a little afraid to go in there, having been lied to time and time again with the promise of “authentic” German food. My cynicism led me to miss out on so many opportunities to visit this wonderful establishment.

Never have I been so wrong.

I sat down, and immediately enjoyed the prospect of seating myself. I ordered something simple, potato pancakes. Now, this is a dish I came to love overseas and finding it well-made here stateside has been an awful challenge if I can find them at all.

Now, when I see house-made root beer on a menu, regardless of whatever image-based soda detox I’m on, I’m ordering one. Or several. Schilo’s did not make me regret my choice to imbibe in the fizzy elixir.

My lunch arrived and the waitress asked me the very traditional question: “Would you like sour cream?” to which I said “yes.” far too emphatically and quickly. I waited patiently for the curdled milk product and continued to do something non-traditional. I smothered the potato love stack with Schilo’s house-made hot mustard (another German favorite and this one has an ingredient list that you can understand and maybe has 6 total ingredients. As mustard should.) the spice was wonderful. Then came applesauce, far more traditional for a meal like this which was absolutely spectacular. I wish it was socially acceptable to order “vats” of anything.

Each bite I felt like I was in Muchen again. Potato. Mustard. Sour cream. Applesauce! Potato. Mustard. Mustard. Potato. Sour cream. Potato. Potato. Applesauce.

It was fantastic. I ate with gusto. I ate with pleasure.

Schilo’s was a place that I had to stop myself from replying to questions in German.

Danke would be unknown there, as would Bitte. Prost would make no sense and Bier would be unheard of.  But in my heart, I was in Bavaria. I was Prussian. I was in a local biergarten enjoying lunch and doing German things in Germany or at least I was in my heart.

It’s been a few years since my global trek and I never thought I’d miss Germany and Austria more than Italy. I didn’t leave craving pasta, I craved potatoes.While I swooned over pasta frutti de mare, I desired schnapps and wienerschnitzel.

So for an afternoon I was Prussian until my need to return to work snapped me out of my pipe dream and I heartily thank Schilo’s for letting me for a day be back in Bayvern.

Danke.