Monday, July 23, 2012

Farmer's Market Week

Food is the one budget item that makes both Melissa and myself feel a little woozy when we look at our spending trends on Mint. Melissa’s threshold is a lot lower than mine, but when I see us occasionally spending $1200 a month or more on food, it makes me feel sick, too. We’ve approached this problem in many different ways—making a meal plan for the week works the best—but when life gets very busy or stressful, we almost always slide back into old habits of eating out too much and not being creative with the ingredients we have on hand, therefore also going to the grocery store too often.

Last weekend I went to the farmer’s market and ran into a friend who said, “Yeah, we do most of our grocery shopping here.” This re-ignited a fantasy of mine, a fantasy that was recently fueled by the book An Everlasting Meal, a fantasy where we do exactly what my friend said: We buy all of our food at the farmer’s market and make it work all week. This fantasy includes a trip to the regular grocery store every other week or so to get things like tea and other items you can’t get at the market, but the farmer’s market would drive our eating*. My own little theory about this is that if we buy food that is interesting and high quality, I am less tempted to do things like eat out or run to the store at the last minute to get something easy to cook.

I mentioned this to Melissa last weekend after I was home from the market, and she said, “Yeah, I wish we did that.” We decided that at the very least, we’d come to the market this weekend and do some of our shopping. A few days later, I suggested to Melissa that we make a pact: For just one week, we’d try getting all of our food from the market. If she’d agree to this, I wouldn’t go out to get food at all this week, including coffee. Melissa jumped on this because, I admit, I spend far, far too much on eating out and coffee during the week, and I am the one most likely to go to the grocery store randomly.

The usual problem with this plan is that it takes time to cook and prep food and keep it from going bad in the fridge (which happens all too often to farmer’s market bounty in our house). However, I have a little extra time right now, and will until classes start mid-August.

We spent $105 at the market on Saturday morning, and there is a list below of what we got. I have no idea if we’ve over or under-shopped, and I think it’ll be interesting to find out**. I have been eating the hell out of this salad for the past week or two, which is why there are beets, and Melissa made carnitas on Sunday, hence the pork butt. I also have plans to make some panzanella and possibly fattoush, as those are things I want to eat all summer, and an eggplant salad that I found in the Penzey’s catalog, which is a surprisingly good source for recipes.

Breakfast sausage
Pork shoulder
Sweet potatoes
Red & green bell peppers
3 German Johnson tomatoes
2 eggplants
Loaf polenta bread
Loaf other kind of bread
Little potatoes

*An even better fantasy is having all of our vegetables come from the yard, but oh, we’re so far from this.

**Since I wrote this on Saturday (it's Monday now), I've leaned towards "over-shopped."

Sunday, April 29, 2012

My thoughts on North Carolina's anti-gay amendment

For weeks, I’ve been thinking, “I ought to write about the amendment and how it will affect my family.” I will write something sweet and lovely, I thought, an homage to my family and to all of us normal gay people out there just living our lives. There would be baby pictures, because I believe that just to look at my child is to love my family; he is that beautiful to me.  I thought, I will include a lot of facts that are not along the lines of “you are ignorant and on the wrong side of history if you vote for this amendment,” but more like “unmarried straight couples with children will be hurt by this amendment, too.” I thought that would be kinder and gentler and appeal to more people.

 I thought I will write this, and then I will share the link, and maybe one or two people out there who are undecided will see this and will be persuaded to vote against the amendment. Or, at the very least, my post would fire up someone who would vote against the amendment but who might forget to vote because it’s not that important to them. It seemed worth it to do this.

I kept not writing, though. I mean, I am very busy, right, so that’s one reason, but this is important enough to me that you would think I’d find the time. I didn’t, though.

I’m just too fucking angry.

I’m not easy to anger. In the midst of an argument a few weeks ago, my partner told me, “You never snap at me.” I don’t. I am much more inclined to disdain. I don’t get fired up. My version of anger is to sneer a little then pretend I don’t care until I’m over it.

This anti-gay “pro marriage” amendment, though, this has me full of rage. I haven’t done it yet, but I can’t guarantee that I won’t key your car or slash your tires if I see an anti-gay bumper sticker on your car. I have started thinking of people who speak out for the amendment, or have yard signs letting everyone know how bigoted they are, as “trash.” This—a word that has certainly been applied to my family more than once, a word that has caused many an eyeroll when spilled from the lips of random Carrboro/Chapel Hill liberals who secretly yet obviously hate poor people—is not an insult that comes to me easily, but I can’t think of anything else that fits. “Trash” carries the sense of worthlessness and irrelevance I want when describing bigots.

See, the difference between my kind of liberal and that kind of liberal is that I fucking expect you to be decent and act right, no matter how much money you have or don’t have. You don’t get the grace of “ignorant” or “uneducated” or “unworldly” from me. You fucking ought to know better.  I do. My mama does. My brother does.

A couple of paragraphs ago, I mentioned that my partner and I got in a fight. We do that. If I was in a different frame of mind, I might include that in a gentle little list of things that gay people do that are just like straight people.

But fuck all that. Fuck you, if you don’t have enough compassion and enough of a theory of mind to really get that most people aren’t that different from you, and that this truth is the basis of compassion and understanding. Something is wrong with you—yes, you are fucking broken inside and probably jealous and small and will always have a tiny, little, miserable fucking life--if you want to punish me for the way I choose to live my life. You can think I’m stupid and wrong all you want—I will do the same thing to you, particularly if you think your own private religious beliefs ought to dictate a single goddamned thing about public life—but do not try to fucking tear down my walls and tell me that I have no rights as a parent to my child or no rights as a wife to Melissa. Stay out of my goddamned life, and leave me alone, you terrible human being.

That’s why I haven’t written anything. 

Er. So. Feel free to share this with your friends. There’s a palate cleansing baby picture over here. Also, more usefully, if you want more facts and reasoned arguments about this, you should befriend my friend Nathaniel Grubbs on Facebook. He posts a lot of really great stuff, from a religious (Baptist, even) perspective.

Friday, February 3, 2012

A break from the internet

I never finished my travel stories from over a year ago and it feels really awkward to move on from that last entry without doing that, so let me sum up: Melissa got a terrible cold. We met Mel, a friend I'd known on the internet since I was 16, and that was cool. We visited the British Museum, which is my favorite museum of all the museums I've ever visited. Oh, we also visited the Tower of London somewhere in there, which was also extremely cool.

Are we good? Has some of the awkwardness dissipated? We're good if I don't even mention the baby we've had since we went to Europe? Great!

A couple of weeks ago, I posted this to Twitter: "Sometimes when I can't get to Facebook I have a small uplifting moment where I go, 'Maybe someone has destroyed it and we're all free now.'" Since then, I've asked myself over and over, "If I feel that way, why do I keep using these things?"

As you have probably guessed from the title, I am posting about the break from the internet I am about to take. "Why are you posting about that here?" you ask, very wisely, because it's not like I have posted here in a very long time and will be neglecting an audience if I take a break.

I am posting here because, see, I have a fantasy. I have a fantasy about a life where I do not hit the refresh button on my browser a thousand times a day. I have a fantasy where my free time is spent reading books that I love rather than rolling my eyes at the fifty utterly inane things my "friends" have reposted on Facebook in the past hour, things that weren't funny when they were first printed on cheap t-shirts in the 80s, or things about Jesus or Republicans or Democrats that get reposted due to some impulse that does not sit well with me, even when I'm the one who has done it. Where I don't have to put the word friends in scare quotes because my interaction with them is a little bit more meaningful and less dissipated through social media. Where when I read things, I read in big chunks and not little soundbites. Where I have time to think about something I've just read rather than flicking on to the next thing.

I don't think all social media is bad, or even most of it. But I am jealous of my time, and I have this fantasy. I'm posting about it here because, in this fantasy, my blog is the only place I post anything.

I've also been reading a book with a main character who reads constantly. She's 15. It's reminded me that when I was young, I read constantly, too. I took a book with me everywhere. I never stopped reading. I miss that. I still read plenty, but when I have a few minutes I am more apt to check my phone than I am to read a page or two of a book, and that feels somehow less true to myself. If I were about to die, one of my regrets would be "I haven't read enough books."

I don't know if everyone does this, but when I feel like this about something, I tend to make plans. How can I get from this fantasy to reality? I think. This is my way. Yesterday I sat outside (in the sunshine in February!) and wrote this list of rules down, and I thought about writing this post, and how it would be embarrassing to announce this on Facebook even if I was doing it just for accountability, and that thought made me want to do this even more, because one of the things that makes me most uncomfortable about Facebook is letting so many people back into my life that I was probably well rid of a long time ago.

The truth is, it's likely nothing would ever have come of this--who knows, really--because I am an old hat at making these kinds of plans, but I am also realistic and know that it's hard to break habits, and my flicking around the internet habit is very well ingrained. I usually make a plan like this and then carry on my merry way, possibly moderating my behavior a little bit, but nothing drastic. I tend to think that shaking things up too much can be stressful, and I do not need extra stress right now.

But this morning I mentioned my fantasy to Melissa and I said, "I was thinking about doing this until spring break, I probably won't, but..." and she laughed and said, "I'd be impressed if you did this for just one week."

Challenge accepted, I thought, and here I am. It's a good week for it, as I need to spend most of next week prepping for tests that are the week after, and I have a paper due. I am going to follow the rules I wrote down until next Friday morning. It may be unrealistic to think I could stay away from Facebook and Twitter until spring break, but hell, a week? I can do this. Right? I totally can. I've just deleted a bunch of bookmarks to make this a little more easy, and I went through Twitter and Facebook to remove all emailed notifications they might send. I'm about to update Goodreads since I finished that book last night. I'll post a link to this post at both Facebook and Twitter. Then I'm out, at least from a lot of things.

If I like it, I might keep right on until spring break. If it's a nightmare, well, I'll quit. And hell, if it's making me completely crazy in two days, you'll see me around in the usual places, because it's not worth it if I can't get anything done.