The Soda Was A Lie

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Months ago I gave up all soda. Went a solid 5 months without it in my life.

Now, a little perspective is required. Because I know you’re thinking

That’s not a big deal, it’s just soda.

Here’s the thing. I drank at a time more soda than anything else. There’s really only about 2 liters of blood in the human body. At any given time there was more Mr. Pibb in me than blood in my veins. My blood volume was eclipsed by cola. 

That was a startling enough wake up call to cut the fizzy death elixir out of my life. 

But this isn’t a blog about why soda is bad. Or how it’s killing you slowly. This is about disappointment. 

I recently started a new job. And it has left me a little tired. I’ve been drinking coffee at a rate that scares me and I found myself today in need of a swift pick me up. 

I weighed the options heavily. A Red Bull would put me into my grave after so many cups of coffee already in my system and tea just wasn’t going to cut it. The vending machine in our break room had a seductive hum to it. It was a song I answered today. 

I gave in. 

I put in my 50 cents and got a Dr. Pepper. A staple beverage in my life pre-soda ban. 

I cracked the can open. The hiss and pop was like a sweet symphony. 

We missed you, Amanda. Return to us. Our bubbles will hear your every concern and wish.

Okay, maybe not that dramatic. But I poured out the syrupy concoction into a glass and braced myself for the first tantalizing sip.

Nothing.

It tasted like nothing.

Again, context is required. In my hay day of soda drinking, I was a Dr. Pepper Sommelier in my own right. I could taste each of the 23 Ingredients. I could distinguish them. I knew all of them. Each one tasted like something new. 

What I drank today was failure and shame mixed into one sugary mixture. I couldn’t taste anything. Just the blanket taste of SWEET. That’s all it tasted like. 

Crestfallen, I drank the contents, if only to prove a point. I finished the drink only because I had to. It was a matter of principal at that point. I felt bad. Disappointed that my streak of going so long without soda was broken. I was upset at the moment of weakness I had and instead of it being a redeeming moment of victory, it all blurred together into a caffeinated haze. 

I don’t think I’ll be going back to soda for a while. 

And for now, I’m okay with that. 

Learning To Live With Bugs

It’s been no shy fact of mine that I have a pretty almost irrational fear of insects. Of the flying variety, the crawling variety. My fear and paranoia knew of no limits.

I recently moved into my first apartment. And living on my own so far has been a wonderful challenge. I keep a clean house because I’m already aware that these things bother me. Creatures of a poorly kept house can be avoided. Or so I thought.

Apparently, to a certain extent, they are just a part of life. And all manners of creatures for that matter. The ones we frown upon and the ones viewed as less of a threat.

Recently I came across a roach. A single one and very small. The whole of me froze in protest. How dare such a thing be in my home? I killed it and sprayed enough pesticide in my tiny apartment to kill off a fleet of the tiny crawling bastards. But I was left feeling scared.I was left ultimately paralyzed emotionally by this encounter.

Logic and the collective poking fun of by friends led me to a startling conclusion that made me question my own fear of these things. “I’m bigger than them, what is there to be afraid of?”

In a moment of soul searching, I came to this conclusion:

The roach somehow was a moral failing. It somehow reflected that, in whatever way, I did not keep a clean enough or presentable house. It was an invader.

Though I fought off the invasion as if to defend against a horde of knights, I will keep this perspective in mind. Sometimes, we just have to live life with things outside of our realm of control.

This encounter did not make me any less a person, nor did it somehow reflect something greater than it was. But what I learned was so much more. I guess in a way, I’m almost grateful.

Almost.

Nutty B Confession 2: Irony is the Best Work Companion

Working at this cart for the past few years has given me a startling realization. Irony is my only constant friend. I stay this because I have one major confession to make: the product I sell with such vigor would kill me. I am deathly allergic to all nuts and nut products. Have been for years. So anytime a prospective customer asks me “Which is your favorite?” I usually laugh it off and say “It’s a subjective question.” And mention that it depends on personal tastes. The unwashed masses are fine with this answer. But some do press the question to which I reveal my horrible secret. The truth to the question is “They all taste like a slow painful death at the hands of anaphylactic shock to me.” The then response is typically concern. Most wonder how I do it. Then they buy something and I continue my day. Irony also appears when I sample and the response back is that the individual is allergic, to which I reply “Me, too.” Mostly because I find the food allergic community of the day takes themselves entirely too seriously. Sure, having food allergies is serious and should stand to bring us together and not provide a pretentious podium for entitled people to stand on. The reaction from those also in the allergic community is less than sympathetic. Why in the world would anyone willingly work in a place that in fact can and most likely will kill them?
The beauty of it is in the fact that I have very little actual interaction with the product. Between bagging and selling I don’t really touch anything. So even though the risk is always present I feel fairly safe. I do have irony on my side. He won’t let me die. Yet.

Nutty B Confessions Part 1: Questionable Fashion

I am always an aesthetic first. I try and find beauty in all things. But working in a mall for 2 years I have been subjected to some very questionable fashion choices. Now I am quick to say questionable over bad because firstly I’m not a total jerk and secondly which may be the most tragic part of this whole section is that these people really think they look good. Not just good; but damn good. I think of it as “They were lied to.” Because everyone does this; before they leave the house they ask someone “Do I look okay?” someone in clear conscience upon seeing such a fashion abomination said “Yes.”

Most offenders are women and the most common offense is the wearing clothes meant for a much much small girl. Being a larger girl I understand fit is always important. If I wear clothes that don’t fit quite right, I look like I ate the smaller girl who was supposed to be wearing this outfit. This crime is colorblind and we’ve all had crimes of fit before. But I’ve seen this nearly every day. Fat oozing out of half-zipped  jeans. Belts near bursting. Rolls spilling out of various too-tight layers of clothing.

 Now this isn’t the only offense. The next largest fashion concern I’ve seen just happens to be hideous clothing. Obnoxious patterns. Vomit-inducing colors. It’s enough to make anyone seriously consider skipping the Fashion Police and just calling the regular police. Leave the Aztec patterns for gift shop baskets and neon yellow for a rave you won’t ever remember.

Can I just get a few things off my chest?

  • Leggings aren’t pants.
  • Bras and panties are not outerwear.
  • For the love of all things decent, pull up your damn pants!

Now I’ve seen tons of great fashion. Talked to amazing people about clothes. I’d like it to happen more often though.

And don’t get me started on shoes. I know what heels can girl’s confidence but I’ve embraced that I am short and meant to remain closer to the ground. But shoes at such dizzying heights even from a humble cart worker’s perspective are just unnecessary.

Working here at this cart I’ve seen breasts fall out of shirts, various body parts uncovered, stains, tears, rips. Everything unimaginable and horrid. It isn’t my place to judge really.  This is less a judgment and more an observational survey. We are meant to question! It’s what makes us human. I just rather do so without having to see such horrible things while I’m trying to work. 

Nutty B Confessions Prologue

So this is meant to provide a little context before embarking on my next literary venture! A confessional about all the bizarre things that happen to me while at work. Now, I work at a kiosk known as The Nutty Bavarian. Affectionately known as The Nutty B. It is a kiosk specializing in the sale of nuts. Specialty nuts. Very special nuts. It is a kiosk. I work in a mall. Insanity must then, by default ensue. Come with me on this magical adventure in irony, fashion and pecan madness. 

Brunch at the Mad Hatter’s

This past Sunday I decided with my friends to follow the Southern tradition of brunch and we felt no better place to go than to the Mad Hatter’s Tea House located in just downtown in San Antonio. This artsy local spot has been raved about for years after celeb Rachel Ray visited a few years ago and fell in love with The Mad Hatter.

Now what I love most about The Mad Hatter is its concern for detail yet simplicity. Fresh made in house bread, pies and cakes. English muffins made from scratch. Homemade sauces and sides all made fresh with local ingredients and inventive flavors.

I ordered a brunch classic and one of my favorite dishes at The Mad Hatter: toast with strawberry butter.  Now this doesn’t sound like much but I promise you this is a small plate not to be missed.  In house strawberry jam is mixed with butter to add the perfect sweetness and texture to what is just a plain piece of toast.

Dishes that aren’t to be missed include their scrams filled with all kinds of veggies and unique flavors. Also their potato hash is a best seller: a savory combination of sweet and russet potatoes seasoned perfectly and griddled crispy.  Their tea sandwiches come in a variety of flavors and are the perfect small plate and great to share with the whole family.

Now, what’s a tea house without tea? And the tea selection at The Mad Hatter’s is like no other. My personal favorites include the oolong tea and any of their blended varieties.  And the drinks don’t stop at tea. Sunday brunch offers a lovely opportunity for a delicious mimosa.

The Mad Hatter’s also provides a small grocery for locals. Milk, eggs, bread, and yogurt can be purchased for home consumption.  This is great for local foodies looking for a little extra freshness close to home.

The Mad Hatter’s is one of my favorite brunch spots in San Antonio, and my friends and family make a habit to visit here as often as possible. The lines can be long but it’s well worth the wait. It can be a little hectic and it does get crowded easily especially during brunch. But the patio outside is great when the weather’s nice. The service is always great and the owners are often around the restaurant and easy to talk to but the only thing you’ll want to say to them is praises. This place is a personal joy and one of San Antonio’s true hidden treasures. 

Chinese Food in America

Amanda here sounding off on what is one of my biggest comfort foods and one of my favorite things to cook at home: Chinese food. Now I love Chinese food all from the gourmet type at upscale restaurants to the greasy MSG-heavy deep-fried orgy that lines each shopping center and mall in America.  But what is it about Chinese food that has become such an important part of the American vernacular? I think it stems from comfort. To the mall-centric generation that I grew up in there was no better afternoon spent that going to Panda Express for their candy-coated orange chicken that we admit to being oh so bad but oh so good.  Fumbling with the chopsticks and the cryptic and nearly psychic fortunes from the cookie chambers that held them in.

It’s taken a few years and my love of Chinese food hasn’t change. I’ve mastered the chopsticks, collaged the fortunes and do my best to recognize the kanji of each dish. Americanization? Forget about it! I’m not one to be bothered by the fact that I have no idea who General Tso is or why we eat his chicken (but the real story is pretty interesting) and why those candy-like sauces that cling so desperately to meat just seems to make my heart sing. What is it about fried rice that just seems to make any meal better? Why does adding a little sriracha and soy sauce make almost any flavor pop? I’ve spent my life searching for umami, the elusive epitome of flavor, and I found it within Chinese food.

When it comes down to it, unlike every other culture of food within the states Chinese food and the other tastes of Asia brings with it mystery, spice and wonder that we can’t find in our usual bag of tricks. With its strong flavors, rich traditions and exotic spices and ingredients there’s a stigma that it’s nearly impossible to create good Chinese food at home without shelling out lots of money on expensive equipment and special ingredients only to be used once.  

The truth is that you don’t need a bunch of one time ingredients and a new stockpile of what will prove to be useless equipment one must simply master the Asian trinity (garlic, ginger, chili) and gain a deep appreciation for soy sauce.

One of my favorite Chinese recipes is for a simple beef stir-fry.  Marinate beef in mirin( sweet cooking sake’) , soy sauce, honey, chili flake, ginger and garlic for no more than an hour. Blanch baby bok choy  in heavily salted water and shock in an ice bath. Add a sesame and canola oil blend to a hot sauté pan and add chili flake, ginger and garlic, let blend with the oil add the veggies of your delight in addition to the baby bok choy, add marinated beef with the marinate to create the sauce.  Let the beef cook and it creates the perfect well-done stir-fry.

So I encourage you all to try something new, something exotic, add some temari to your life. Purchase a wok. Buy a few new cookbooks and add some Asian flare to the average meal.  It’s well worth it!

 

Chocolate Chip Cookie Bliss

No scent is more indicative of childhood than that. The soft aroma of chocolate. The engaging scent of baking dough. Nothing is sweeter even despite the most bitter of childhoods.

It was after a week-long cookie craving that I finally got the courage up to ask my aunt if I could make them. After the brownie fiasco, she was weary. But when I divulged that this would be the time-honored traditional recipe she seemed more than happy to let me.  But this was no ordinary cookie recipe.  This was the traditional cookie recipe of the family.

Now, a little history needs to be known so the importance of this moment can be appreciated. My aunt Joyce has made the best chocolate chip cookies I have ever known since I was a little kid. These cookies have been the staple of every elementary school event, every class party, and each parent-teacher night. Kids clamored for “Joyce’s Cookies”.  These cookies graced each holiday desert buffet and any other special event in the family. She never made them just because; it was always for something which made them all the more special. They were the most seductively elusive part of my youth.

These were cookies made with the family. My cousins and I fighting over which beater we could each, how much dough we would have to consume before we died of salmonella, why my cookie got my chips than the others.  So in taking on this task on my own, it was cathartic. I got to relive a part of my childhood that at times feels so lost in days of writing and hazes of GPA panic attacks and working towards each deadline. Even in this lazy summer I find myself lost in a sea of my own worries instead of that child-like obsession with that summer bliss. These cookies have brought me closer to myself.

Now, the recipe is simple. It’s a packaged recipe millions pass by in the grocery stores daily. It could be found anywhere. By no means, is this some old recipe that my great-great grandma brought over from the old world during the slave times. But the way my aunt made them, adding a pinch of this, a little extra of that and less of this always made each batch wonderfully simple and simply wonderful.

I have tried a few times before to make them myself, resulting in varying disasters such as the butter-chip cookie and the anthropomorphic cookie blob. But today was different. Today, I not only made cookies but I remade a part of my life that was so simple and wonderful. Today, I passed the gauntlet and finished the recipe and made them perfectly.

I reached nostalgic bliss. Writing this article while enjoying a hot cookie and a nice cup of milk on a saucer very similar to one I would have used as a kid. So I think today we should all make cookies. To hell with cakes and pies just for a day, and let’s all sit down together with a plate of cookies and a gallon of milk. Let’s just go back to that innocent place where food was food and cookies were happiness. 

Does the Jersey Devil Have Rights?

I find myself a studier of monsters on the weekend and one that captivates me still is the Jesery Devil, a horrible beast known for its brutality and evil nature. But if it is some kind of animal and not just beast, does it demand respect? Should we treat it like a bear or moose and just give it space? Or should we do our best to destroy it since it could be a threat to us? Who are we to decide that monsters have no rights? And since we are all supposed to be one with nature, isn’t there then a little Jersey Devil in all of us?

Yalping

Yalping is not an appropriate way to express oneself in modern society. I find myself bitter that I don’t like Walt Whitman more. I feel like every writer should but there’s something in his work I cannot get over. This along with the transparent eyeball just leave me a very confused transcendalist on the fence. Not so jaded as to completely abandon ship but too callous to just yalp my problems away.