Food Musings: Memorial Day, New Friendships

Since the beginning of 2016, I’ve been working with my friend Ann, sending her a photo of food every week, so that she can write a poem about it that celebrates peace and send it off to her subscribers. I’ve decided to write a companion piece to the photos I send, musing about the way that food plays into our lives.

Standard party spread. Extraordinary party company.

Standard party spread. Extraordinary party company.

Last week, George and I were invited to a backyard party thrown by one of the regular attendees in a Zumba class I’ve started teaching. I knew that some of the other regulars from the class would be there, so I would have a cushion of people to talk to, but the only person George would know there was…me. Which can be daunting, both for the don’t-know-anyone partygoer and for the invitee. Should he stick by my side the entire time? Will the other kids play nice with him? Could I leave him to his own devices after a few minutes? Since I’m fairly confident that George is a likable kind of guy and that the people at the party weren’t going to hit him with sticks, we took a deep breath and went to a party full of new people.

It was wonderful.

These people, who I only knew in a limited capacity (sweaty, shaking their moneymakers in my Zumba class) until the party, were warm and welcoming and funny. It took George and I thirty seconds–maybe less–to feel settled. And the ritual was the same. There was the greeting, the acclimation to the surroundings, waving hello and party-wide, informal introductions, and the piling high of plates filled with familiar picnic food. We broke bread and got to know each other. We made our way through heaps of beans and macaroni and chips and dips and crudites and fruit salad, all straightforward and comforting, like the people at the party.

And I’ve seen the same layout in New Jersey, in Texas, in Boston. Maybe some of the regional specialties were different, but the overall gist is the same. And it’s good. It’s a way to connect, to build community, to take part in something that is greater than the sum of its parts. For that day, in those few gentle, funny, happy, warm hours, we were all connected in a way that made the world a slightly better place than if we had eaten the same food separately, in our own houses. And that is the point of our being social creatures, isn’t it? To be greater together than we are apart?

Read Ann’s original poem here!

Advice: Non-Wedding Bell Blues

Dear Bartender and Priestess,

I was supposed to be getting married in less than a month. Instead, my ex-fiance and I have called it off and completely broken up. Now, I feel like I’m left to my own devices. I am overwhelmed by my sense of loss and pain, and am already seeing a therapist to process everything. I am heart-sick, and can’t even put everything to the side because I have to de-plan everything we’d planned. I never knew I could feel this exhausted.

But still. I am left wondering…just what in the heck am I supposed to do on what would have been my wedding day? I was supposed to be a bride, it was supposed to be the start of my new life. I’ve been told I should try something I’ve never done before, but I don’t really know what I would want to do. I don’t have the energy to plan anything. I understand that I am grieving and eventually this will pass, but that doesn’t change the amount of pain I’m in right now, and I stare at my calendar and the approaching non-wedding day with dread. What can I do to get through this?

–Signed, Never A Bride

P: I’m so sorry. What a painful, horrible thing. Your poor heart. Of course you’re grieving. No matter the reasons for the break-up, this was someone you’d planned to spend your life with and you had dreams together. Those dreams are now shattered. It may be that grieving is exactly what you need to do. And if you don’t feel up to planning something fabulously memorable, wait until you’re healed.

B: I know roughly where you’re coming from. I remember hating the calendar after my ex- and I split, wondering what on Earth I was going to do when our now-pointless anniversary date rolled around. I spent twelve years celebrating that date. And…now what? I remember the weight settling in my chest, the short, panicked breathing when I thought about what to do. It’s not fun. Yes indeed, your poor heart.

P: If doing something is something you want, where are your bridesmaids? They’re the women you wanted to stand by you in your happiness, are they ready to stand with you in your grief? If you want something fun, will they help? If you want to go out and build houses for habitat for humanity, will they go? Will they go out on a canoe trip? Or a museum weekend? If you want people to mourn with you, will they dress in black and come to the funeral? (more about this later.)

And are they willing to help you unplan? Have you asked them? Because they surely don’t know what to do to help.

B: Help. Yes. Ask for it. I’m a big fan of calling in your tribe. Like Ann said, talk to your bridesmaids. Your family. Recruit them, because you shouldn’t have to do everything alone. Most of the time, friends want to be there but don’t know how. They don’t want to intrude, or seem like they know best. So tell them what will work for you. You asked a community of people to stand with you and support you at your wedding. You should, hopefully, be able to call on those same people to support you during these more difficult times. We form social units for a reason, so circle the wagons around you. There is hardly more reason to call for support than when one undergoes heartbreak like this.

P: Just as a starter thought, and I’m sure your therapist has already brought this up, but what ever you do, stay away from the alcohol. Your body is already processing this shock to your heart. Alcohol often lowers your inhibitions so now you’re a hot drunken mess (usually in public, eek). And you don’t want to wind up having a fling or a rebound relationship with someone that you entered via alcohol.

Lots of us have done this. And you don’t need anything else to extricate yourself from!

B: Believe me: these are the customers that bartenders dread. Don’t be the drunk weepy girl at the bar. You may come in to my place but once; those stories live on forever.

That better be a Shirley Temple in that glass, young lady.

That better be a Shirley Temple in that glass, young lady.

P: The ritualist in me has two thoughts here. One is something private that might help. I had a lover “ghost” me, just disappear from my life a long while back. It was dreadful. Someone taught me this ritual and it worked really well. It worked particularly well because I did it in another state… It’s a ritual of release. It takes a week, so you may want to start beforehand and release on the day of.

You need Paper, Pen, matches, salt.

Draw a line down the middle of a piece of paper ¾ of the way down. Then draw a line at the bottom of your line. Under that line write: I release this relationship and my sadness in the unrealized dreams. (or whatever mission for this ritual makes sense to you.)

Then to the left of the line, right all the things you’d hoped for, all the things you’d liked about your relationship and this partner.

On the right, jot down every big problem and every petty annoyance that you had in the relationship and with the partner. Hated her hair? Write it down. Chewed with his mouth open. On the list. Wasn’t trustworthy? Write that. Write until you’re done. Take a couple days.

Then make a small circle of salt on some land or in a parking lot, or, or, or… I left my boyfriend by a fishing pond in Colorado. He liked to fish, I hated it, and I was never going back there.

Read your mission statement aloud. Read the good qualities. Put that aside. Then read the bad qualities aloud, adding anything else that occurs to you. Then set the list on fire and place it inside the circle. When it’s burnt, add some more salt to the ashes. I had to go back to that circle a couple days to add a few more “and another things.”

Then every day for the rest of the week, read your mission and the good things list. Because there were good things. You didn’t just make bad choices. At the end of the week, read your mission; read your list.  Then say I am done with this relationship and I release it to the world. Burn it and the mission, not inside the circle, and scatter the ashes. Walk away.

I was greatly relieved by the time I was done. Honestly, I did pieces of it again, because I was heartbroken. And I always felt as if I were taking a step in the direction of my own well-being and self-esteem.

B: You’re such a priestess. But I think you’ve hit what’s most important for the letter writer right now, which is rebuilding her self-esteem. We tend to define ourselves and our well-being by our significant others, which creates such problems in the aftermath of an ended relationship. We have to understand who we are, anew, without this other person beside us. The important thing is that you do reconnect with yourself. Figure out who you are and what you stand for. Figure out what you really like. You’re in therapy, and I’m sure there’s a lot of discussion with your therapist regarding your former relationship and its demise. But you are still here, with or without the fiancé, and you need to merit your attention too.

I say you should do what you want to do, on your not-wedding day. I don’t mean that you need to do something new and wild—you don’t need to hang glide, or travel to Tahiti, or spend the day building a better mousetrap. But you should spend the day honoring who you are. IF (and only if) that means spending the day alone, in your pajamas, watching Steel Magnolias and eating ice cream, then do so.

P: Seriously. You don’t have to overlook the possibility of a stack of sad love stories or movies and a huge box of tissues. You’ll need popcorn and chocolate. Your jammies. Eat bad things. Go to bed and cry yourself to sleep. Get up and remember, you may have sad memories, but no date is ever going to be that bad again.

B: The catch, though, to a day in bed with movies and tissues: you need to be moving toward something. You’re not allowed to dig out the foundations of a new rut to wallow in. Be in the moment as you cry and pound your fists and honor your pain. And then release it. Emotional pain should not be your closest companion. Honor and acknowledge it, because if you don’t, pain has a sneaky way of hanging around. Oddly, I’ve found that once I’ve said, yes, I hurt, yes, this sucks, yes, I deserve the cry of my life, yes, I feel miserable and all I want to do is shake my fist at the sky, the pain becomes less antagonistic. People often try to get their loved ones to turn away from the pain, because they don’t want to see them hurting. I say, embrace it, because you are human and your pain is real. What you’re going through sucks. Unfortunately, to get to the other side of something, you need to be in it, you can’t get through it from the outside. How’s that quote go? When you’re going through hell…just keep going.

P: And if you’re really feeling awful and want closure…

B: I hate the word “closure”. I think it’s overrated. Can’t she commemorate and move on?

P: Yes, sure. Whatever. Gather your friends, ask them to dress in black, and have a funeral for your relationship. There are three things you’ll want to pay attention to: Talk honestly about why this relationship ended, what killed it. Talk about the things you loved about it and the things that weren’t so great. And then talk about what kind of life you will now have, incorporating the wisdom you’ve gained or will have gained at some point when your heart stops hearting. Don’t hesitate to burn a picture and scatter the ashes. Or cut the ex out of a picture and burn that half.

B: It’s funny how burning pictures can help. Just be careful, of course. No errant flames, no injuries.

P: And then go out to a lovely lunch with your besties spending some of the money you get back from all your deposits, etc. Charge the cost of that to whatever (if any) money you’re splitting with your ex. Should she/he complain, point out that you’re doing the settling up of accounts and that it’s the cost of doing business.

B: My answer to my anniversary quandary was to have an anti-versary party. I gathered my friends and family around me. Like I said, I’m a big fan of circling wagons. It was a great way to remind myself, even though my life had gone so not how I had planned, I was still loved. And I know that can be difficult to remember, right now, but it’s true. You might not have the romantic love you’d envisioned, right now. But you have people who love you, and want the best for you.

P: Again. I’m so sorry for your broken heart and your dreams.

To sum up: be good to yourself.

To sum up: be good to yourself.

Thanks to Deb Slade for her Phabulous Photos!

Thanks to the Lewisburg Hotel for location, location, location!

Want to know more about The Bartender and The Priestess? Go here!

If you would like to ask us a question, email us at bartender priestess (at) gmail (dot) com; human non-spambots, remove spaces, insert appropriate punctuation.

Thank you for reading!

 

Merry Christmas!

I am an unapologetic Christmas junkie.  The lights, the colors, the sparkly decorations…they all totally appeal to my inner four-year-old’s desire to fly rocket ships through star fields of strung lights and roll around in an orgiastic riot of crinkly paper.

Full disclosure: I do that in my head most of the time, anyway.

So.  Here are some of my favorite photos of Christmas good tidings.  Enjoy!  And if Christmas isn’t your thing, then bear in mind that I wish you nothing but peace and good will, every day of the year.

Brookgreen Gardens, Nights of 1000 Candles, December 2013.

Brookgreen Gardens, Nights of 1000 Candles, December 2013.

A window diorama, Lewisburg PA, December 2013.

A window diorama, Lewisburg PA, December 2013.

This was one of my grandmother's ornaments.  December, 2013.

This was one of my grandmother’s ornaments. December, 2011.

Christmaxplosion!  Clifton, NJ, December 2013.

Christmaxplosion! Clifton, NJ, December 2013.

This is why I have a gym membership.  December 2013.

This is why I have a gym membership. December 2013.

Where at all began as a wee Paisley.  December, about a thousand years ago.

Where at all began as a wee Paisley. December, about a thousand years ago.

My Workout Tonight

I did a core workout tonight.  Mind you, I’ve done core workouts before.  Plenty.  But this was all new material.  New songs, new moves.

New ways to punish me for the sins of my (apparently dreadful, terrible, awful) past lives.

First it felt like this…

…and then it was like…

…and my instructor started going…

…and then my will to live surfaced and I got all…

...even though, deep in my heart, I know I actually was more like…

napoleon-dynamite_l

Skills.
Photo from newnostalgia.wordpress.com

And all in the space of 30 minutes.

Brutal.

Vote for Pedro!

Meanwhile, At the Restaurant: How to Get the Bartender’s Attention

Having spent an unreasonable amount of time in food service, in several different states in the US, I generally think that I’ve seen most of what can be seen (though I do realize that claiming I’ve seen it all does a grave disservice to “it all”.  But really, people.  I don’t need to know).  Despite the quasi-iconic public concept of the surly bartender who hides in the corner and has to be coaxed out like they’re a mouse and you’ve got a pocket full of cheese, most bartenders do want to offer their customers timely and friendly service in a welcoming atmosphere.  In a tips-based economy, it’s the smartest way to make money.  And in my time in restaurants and bars, I’ve encountered a vast and often confusing array of ways customers deem acceptable to get a bartender’s attention.  In the interest of public service and to help out my bar brethren across this great land, I give you the do’s and don’ts of:

Ta da!

Ta da!

THE DON’TS

The Tapper

mwatr01

The Tapper thinks the most effective way to get his drink refilled is to tap his empty glass repeatedly on the bar as though he’s tapping out distress signals in Morse code.  Unless you’re warning me about icebergs dead ahead, this is an inappropriate way to communicate.  I can let you tap all day.  Plus, if you’re that anxious that you need to bang your glass on the bar until you get another drink, then you don’t need another drink, and I would recommend trying some yoga, or perhaps taking up meditation.

The Barker

mwatr02

The Barker thinks that raising his voice above the din of a bar is a surefire way to entice a bartender over.  The Barker doesn’t seem to realize that he is the human equivalent of WRITING IN ALL CAPS and as quickly as I will delete the email written in that manner, so will I dismiss the person who behaves in this manner.  He may express himself in a way that seems callous (Hey, you!) or try to sound charming and/or endearing (Hey, honey, sugarplum, dollface!).  But no matter how you phrase it, he’s still the obnoxious drunk yelling at you from across the bar.  Avoid whenever possible.

The Whistler

mwatr03

Very closely related to The Barker, The Whistler shares the sentiment that making loud noises to attract the bartender is effective.  The problem is, The Whistler chooses the same manner in which he calls his dog in for dinner.  The Whistler doesn’t always necessarily whistle, per se, but he will clear his throat repeatedly or make “Pssst!” sounds.  One memorable time, the owner of the bar I worked in was on duty when a customer tried to attract his attention by making that repeated “psst psst psst” sound you make while trying to convince a cat to come near you.  The owner turned around and, without missing a beat said, “You’d better have some Friskies in your pocket if you’re calling to me that way.”  At least that once, the errant customer grew momentarily embarrassed enough to stammer out an apology before asking for a refill.

The Grabber

mwatr04

If I’m ever back behind the bar, do not–and I mean DO NOT–ever reach all the way across the bar and touch me.  I will wreck you.

And so we come to the end of my general guidelines for DON’T bar behavior.  This is by no means an exhaustive list, but it’s a good place to start.  Do note that the “DON’T” behaviors are generally demeaning and/or hostile and/or aggressive.  Use that as your measuring stick for what not to do, and you should be off to a good start.

THE DO’S

The Cash Presenter

mwatr05

Most bartenders, you see, are fairly bright, and understand that being attentive to the people standing or sitting at the bar impacts their tips.  If someone stands at the bar with money in their hands, bartenders will generally investigate such an event because people don’t randomly walk around holding money.  In a bar, it’s a specific signal that means, “I want something and I’m ready to pay.”  Yes, it’s true.  Money talks.

The Discreet Signaler

mwatr0501

You can gesture to your bartender, so long as you’re chill about it.  If your bartender looks like he’s in the middle of a conversation and isn’t likely to end it any time soon, you can gesture.  If you want to get drinks ASAP for yourself and that fine individual you’re successfully chatting up, you can gesture.  Or if you realize you need to leave, you can do the universal “I’m pretending to sign my name” gesture.  Gesturing does, for the most part, imply necessity so don’t go overboard pointing and waving at will!  Then you become the barfly who cried wolf, and your gesturing just becomes a silent extension of The Tapper and nobody needs to cross into hybrid signals because then everyone is unhappy.

The Empty Glass Bearer

mwatr0502

The Empty Glass Bearer is the mellowest of all patrons and has an inherent understanding that a bartender intends to do his job to the best of his abilities.  A bartender who’s even half-paying attention knows that an empty glass requires some sort of attention.  Empty Glass Bearers tend to be easy customers for bartenders to deal with–they’re not overly demanding, they don’t need babysitting, and their lack of aggressive behavior towards the bartender generally means the bartender will like them.  Bars are a great place to have a high-fivin’, belly-bumpin’ good time, but not necessarily with the bartender, who has five or fifteen or sixty other people to manage simultaneously.  Have faith that the bartender will get to you.  While people may think the squeaky wheel gets the grease, when you’re in a bar it’s the quiet glass bearer who gets the best consistent service.

It’s true.

I’d love to hear about other bartender-approach behaviors that I might have forgotten or have blocked from my memory.  Feel free to comment!

Meanwhile, at the Restaurant: Easter Edition

About a thousand years ago, I worked in a very small coffee shop in a very small town.  Every week, at least once a week, a quartet of ladies would come in after spending the morning together at the gym.  All but one had those stylie (she said facetiously) nylon track suits and all would be suspiciously un-gnarly after what they claimed was a “killer” workout.

When I’m done with a killer workout?  I’m not pretty enough to go anywhere, particularly not in the gym clothes I’ve just released five gallons of sweat into.  Funktastic?  Nope.  Just funk.

Anyway.  These ladies would come in and absolutely swoon over the dessert case, and then *tee hee* behind their hands about whether or not they should get cake (and they always did) and how “bad” that made them.  For these ladies, I always felt like they did think it was a breach of moral conscience to have some goddamned cake if they wanted it.  But who was I to judge?

Oh, right.  I was the surly employee.  That’s what we do.  Plus, I could go on about how deciding to have a piece of cake or not does not in any way indicate an assault on your own morality or standing as a member of the community, but that’s a different rant for a different day.

I don’t think the following incident took place on Good Friday but I know it happened during Easter week.  And quite frankly, it taught me the meaning of self-sacrifice and self-reflection in ways I’d never contemplated before.  Just bear in mind…I’m not saying they’re good ways.

Meanwhile, at the Restaurant: Easter Edition

I feel the presence of the divine already.

I feel the presence of the divine already.

I just report what I see, people.

Peace out, y’all!

Travel Theme: International Women’s Day

Ailsa’s travel theme this week at Where’s My Backpack? focuses on International Women’s Day.  Awesome.

When I finally decided to get my butt back into school, I had the very good fortune to go to Wellesley College.  Yes, it’s a women’s college.  Wellesley is academically top-notch, I got to study a subject that I loved, it opened up whole new fields of interests for me that I didn’t know I had until I got there, and I was surrounded by amazingly intelligent, funny, interesting women of all ages and backgrounds and orientations and histories, who never seem to want to stop learning and growing.

The school is still a source of mental strength for me.  I go back and visit when I can; it’s an astonishingly beautiful campus.  And the lessons I learned while I was there are with me to this day.  Going there wasn’t “easy” in the traditional sense of the word–I lost a ton of sleep to late-night cram sessions and smoked five times as many cigarettes as I should have–but it was one of the best things I have ever done for myself.

The Carillon.

The Carillon.

The academic quad.

The academic quad.

The library seen through the rhododendrons.

The library seen through the rhododendrons.

Down we go!

Down we go!

My old dorm! That porch was the setting for most of my late-night smoking.

My old dorm! That porch was the setting for most of my late-night smoking.

Me, rowing crew on Lake Waban.  (OK, so I didn't take this picture.)

Me, rowing crew on Lake Waban. (OK, so I didn’t take this picture.)

Reunion weekend!  So glad to be back around fierce women of all ages.

Reunion weekend! So glad to be back around fierce women of all ages.

Nosh: Thai Iced Tea Ice Cream

When you live in a small town with a limited number of recreational options, you tend to have home dinner parties.  At least, that’s what my friends and I do.  Invite some people over, cook something you can’t necessarily get your hands on at the corner bar and grille, have some cocktails and conversation.  Guests are often assigned to bring dessert and so, for the most recent dinner foray at a friend’s house, we brought homemade ice cream.  Since we knew said friend was making Thai curry (more easily available to us here than it was a few years ago but nevertheless, not standard takeout fare) I wanted something that would “go” with that.  I had a box of Thai tea laying around and so, Thai iced tea ice cream became a reality.

For those who have never had Thai iced tea, believe me when I say it is a glass full of realized happiness.  The tea is warmly spicy and slightly orangey and sweetened with condensed milk.  When I get one I have to pace myself or I swear I will drink the whole thing in one giant, straw-sucking slurp, social propriety be damned.

It’s that good.

So, turn it into ice cream.  Why not?  A former co-worker once said to me, “All the positive energy in the world goes into ice cream” and who wouldn’t want to bring that to a friend’s house?  I’m in.  I used this recipe with, of course, a few minor modifications and some suggestions along the way.  The first suggestion: make sure you get tea leaves that say they are a “Thai tea mix” or “Thai seasoning mix”.  The sort I used said it was “original Thai tea”, so it was a dark Ceylon, but it wasn’t nearly as spiced or orangey as I wanted it.  C’est la vie.  We live and learn.  And it was still delicious.

Of course, first things must be done first, and this is one of the pain-in-the-butt things about making ice cream, especially with the sort of maker we have.   There’s no, “Hey, I have a great idea!  Let’s make some ice cream NOW!” moments to be had.  The churning sleeve has to be frozen, so you really need to put it in your freezer overnight; if you hear any sloshy sounds when you shake it, it’s not ready to use.

It does take some planning.

It’s not that this is hard, but it does require planning.

So, next morning: assemble your starting lineup of ingredients.

I never said this recipe was designed for the health nut.

I never said this recipe was designed for the health nut.

As an aside, for those of you curious about the different between evaporated milk and sweetened condensed milk, follow this link for a very good, basic explanation.  Since I didn’t have loose tea leaves and lack the patience to cut open tea bags and measure the actual leaves, you’ll notice that I stuffed a bunch of bags into a 1/4-cup measuring cup.  I think I used eleven bags.  It was plenty strong enough.

Measure out the appropriate amounts of things and put all this–the cream, both milks, the tea, the sugar and, though it doesn’t call for it in the recipe, a goodly pinch of salt–into a sauce pan.  Warm it until it’s hot and almost simmering, and then take it off the heat and let it sit.  The longer it sits, the more the tea steeps into the cream.  I let this go for about an hour and a half.  Once you’ve decided it’s steeped long enough, squeeze the tea out of the bags and reheat the mixture to its previous temperature: hot, but not simmering.  Let it rise in temperature gradually, since you’ve got some other stuff to do and it’s easier to keep an eye on a gradual rise in temperature.

Meanwhile, separate five eggs since you’re just going to need the yolks for this recipe.  Here are some suggestions for what to do if you want to save the whites for future use; just remember to freeze them as independent entities and not all in one lump container, if you think you may want to use the whites for more than one purpose.

Okay, so one yolk broke. So sue me.

Okay, so one yolk broke. So sue me.

You’re going to need to create a custard for the ice cream which means, tempering your eggs.  When you temper eggs, you raise their temperature slowly, so they can be incorporated into a hot mixture not as scrambled eggs but rather as a silky ambassador of body and flavor and fats.  Pour the hot milk and cream mix slowly–sloooowly–in a thin stream into the eggs, whisking the entire time.  Take a break from the pouring to just whisk and whisk.  Once you’ve got about half the milk incorporated into the eggs, add the whole thing back into your saucepan, put it back on the heat and keep whisking.  Since I lack either a third hand or a prehensile tail, I couldn’t photograph myself doing this so here’s a nice tutorial and slideshow from Serious Eats.

Stir it until it thickens; the classic test you can do to check if the custard is ready is the back-of-the-spoon test.  Simply, stick a spoon into the custard.  If you can draw your finger through the custard across the back of the spoon and said custard doesn’t run back together, it’s ready.

Ready.

Ready.

It’s like I deforested it.  Anyway.  Now you need to let the custard cool.  Theoretically, you could let it sit out until it’s cooled naturally, and then put it in the fridge and wait for that to get it nice and chilled.  But letting it sit at higher temperatures would invite a greater opportunity for things like bacteria to take hold.  And let’s face it, that churning sleeve has been freezing since last night and waiting for the custard to cool on its own would add hours to the process; ain’t nobody got time for that.  Solution?

Ice bath!

Why wait?

Why wait?

It’s pretty simple.  Put your smaller bowl with custard inside a larger bowl half-filled with ice and water.  That will start to drop the temperature of the custard immediately.  Change out the ice as often as necessary.  Some recipes recommend putting the custard into the fridge to set up and chill out even more after it’s been bathed in ice but I just kept mine in as icy a bath as possible until it was time to churn and then?

Away wit' ye!

Away wit’ ye!

No, I have no idea what caused the crack in my ice cream maker’s lid.  Anyway. Twenty-five short minutes later…

Feast!

Feast!

We garnished the ice cream with orange milano cookies because…because orange milano cookies, that’s why.  It’s also good with an drizzle of sweetened condensed milk, if you have any extra laying around.  This ice cream was delicious, even if it wasn’t quite as orange-spiced as I would have wanted.  It was one of the most intense black tea experiences I’ve ever had.  Rich, dark, black tea, sweet with lots of cream…just like my grandmother used to make for me, only gone crazy.  I think I need to get my hands on a smoky Russian tea and see what happens with that…

Enjoy, everyone!  Have fun in the kitchen!

WTFery: Where The Girls Are (1965)

While trolling the stacks at a local flea market/treasure trove, I found a book called Where the Girls Are, published in 1965 by Peter M. Sandman and the editorial staff of Princeton University‘s student newspaper, The Daily Princetonian.

Feast your eyes...

Feast your eyes…

Truth: I don’t think I even opened this book at the flea market; I saw it sitting on a shelf marked “All Books 25 cents” and, entertained by the nymphs frolicking at the bottom of the cover, declared it mine.  I don’t even think I read the back cover.  I had no idea what I had in my hot little hands.

Apparently, Where the Girls Are is very difficult to come by.  A (not overly-extensive, but still several Google pages deep) search on the internet turned up listings in used book stores (with a first edition going for as much as $45!), but gave me no real excerpts.  Fine, I say.  I’ll make them myself.

You see, as a woman, and as one who went to college, I was of course attracted to something that promised to be a cornucopia of the craptastic and focused on the wimmens.    What I didn’t realize was just how malignant this book is.

It is, of course, a product of its time, and the perspective re: the battle of the sexes was markedly different in 1965 than it is today.  Even with that being said, Where the Girls Are is a nightmare of epic sexism, though at least the introduction written for the female college student reader admits that.  And I quote:

S.T.E.R.E.O.T.Y.P.E.  Stereotype.  We know it, we admit it, we proclaim it.  Where the Girls Are is loaded with stereotypes.  So what else is new?

Niiiiiiiiiiice.

Where the Girls Are (WTGA) is ostensibly a guide to which colleges have the most datable co-eds and having dated in the course of my life I get that dating can be one giant visual feast and con game.  However, the sneering tone with which the authors discuss things like female intellectualism, social class, attractiveness (or attractiveness in relation to their social class), the ways to engineer an invasion of dating turf and each college’s permissible levels of winking-at-the-indiscretions-drunkenness only leads me to believe the author(s) wrote this with the intention of inciting as many boners and/or date rapes as possible.  Consider their descriptions of two different California schools.  The 8,000 attractive, middle class co-eds at UCLA, they say, “…face almost no intellectual pressure and spend most of their time–weeknights, weekends, any time–dating.  They go out as much as they can with anyone who’ll ask them; they’ll go anywhere and do anything; they just don’t care.”  At Stanford, however, a different story unfolds.

“Nine out of ten California girls are beautiful and the tenth goes to Stanford.” So they say along the Pacific coast.  Leland Stanford Jr. University has 1,718 female undergraduates, which makes is undoubtedly the largest collection of Plain Janes in the country.  And what’s worse–O Infamy–most of them are serious book-weenies.  They study a great deal, which on the West Coast just isn’t done, and they earn better grades than their male counterparts, which just isn’t done anywhere.

Though there is some benefit to dating the Stanford female.  Again, I quote, “As one knowledgeable senior male put it: Well, they may be ugly, but they sure are rich.”

Damn.  I suppose I should be grateful for the honesty, since these are the things people think but do not say.  But damn.  At least there are no illustrations.  I mean, could you imagine the snark that would flow from the fingertips of the author(s) if there were illustrations that could be drawn to highlight whatever unflattering stereotype you wanted to highlight?  I mean, THAT would be like calling open season on….

Huh?  There ARE illustrations?  *checking*

Indeed there are.  The 1965-flavor staff at The Daily Princetonian did, it seems, deem it amusing to include drawings that represented various school stereotypes, and what the inquiring dater could expect on his search for the perfect co-ed.

Say, for example, you’re going to be somewhere near the University of Delaware and thought you might check out some local action.  According to WTGA, in 1965 the UofD campus was where “nineteenth-century ideals and mores [were] applied to twentieth-century technology”.  This was at the cusp of the sexual revolution, after all, so the UofD took its “no members of the opposite sex in dorm rooms/chaperoned parties/alcohol free campus/surrogate parenting” duties seriously.  Should the randy traveler find himself at the UofD in search of a date, he could expect…

Grim tidings from Delaware.

Grim tidings from Delaware.

…a scrawny drudge who goes to class with curlers in her hair.  The illustrated co-ed is one of “…all except the third who flunk out [that will] manage to serve their full term (translation: graduate from college), quiet and obedient.”  Of course, the next line reminds the reader, “Quiet and obedient girls can have their advantages.”

*swoon*  Take me away, Prince Charmant!

Or suppose our randy traveler (I need to write a story with a character named Randy Traveler) ends up on the outskirts of Philly, looking for something to do.  Bryn Mawr is close, and it’s a college full of young ladies.  Chances are good that they’re not all claimed by the men on campus, right, ha ha?  Only…

Don't make me philosophize all over you.

Don’t make me philosophize all over you.

Apparently, the women of Bryn Mawr can’t even be bothered to wear non-gnarly socks.  They are “…that dread word–intellectuals.  Not all of them resemble the owl on the school’s seal, but nearly every one of the 750 of them got higher college board scores than you did…”.  Oh, God, no!  Not another school full of smart women!  It’s a place where, “Foreign food is in.  Ivy League “preppies” are outnumbered among dates by the soulful beard-and-jeans set; at Bryn Mawr the description of “Ivy” is likely to be intended as an insult.”

Oh, really, Princetonian, Ivy League guy?  Should they forget the “owl intellectual” comment and throw themselves at your feet?  I mean, not every girl can be like those at the University of Texas.

Yee. Ha.

Yee. Ha.

The women of UT are, apparently, rope-’em sexy, and “part of  a pleasure-seeking herd” who “keep all signs of sophistication well-hidden.”  Apparently, all you need is a way in the front door (find a friendly bro and have him introduce you around; you’ll meet a herd girl), a working knowledge of football and mastery of the terms “Yes, ma’am” and “Y’all come on, y’hear” and you’re ready to take the ladies of Texas by storm!  No substance necessary.

My favorite description in WTGA is, of course, the one about my very own alma mater, Wellesley College.  He starts by talking about Hoop Rolling, the admittedly tepid springtime event celebrated even to this day where graduating seniors dressed in graduation gowns roll their hoops down Tupelo Lane.  It’s a throwback to a much earlier time when the hoop-rolling winner would be the “one to marry first”.  Sigh.  Now the winning hoopster is traditionally the first one to find happiness and success however the winner defines it, but it’s still a charmingly antiquated tradition.  And I digress.

Considering the derogatory evaluation given the skinny girls at Delaware or the “owls” at Bryn Mawr (see pictures to freshen up the old memory), you’d think Sandman & Co. would be glad to see women who have a reputation for athleticism.  Instead…

Hulk smash!

Hulk smash!

Code name: Lesbian.

This is only highlighted by the statement that “The Wellesley girl’s athleticism, by the way, is mainly confined to athletics.  The occasional juxtaposition of energy and romance is most likely on the shores of Lake Waban: If you walk around the lake three times with a Wellesley girl without proposing, she can throw you in.  She probably will.”

Translation: Don’t expect to get laid.  EVARRRRRRR.

Sandman noticeably leaves the Ivy League schools alone; there is no mention of Harvard, Yale, Princeton.  In 1965, most of the Ivies still weren’t admitting women as undergraduates, though there were a few that did allow students in as graduates.  There are two notable exceptions included in this book.  He talks about the “surprising number of uglies” at the University of Pennsylvania, trapped in the flaccid city of Philadelphia (elsewhere touted as a great place to go).  He also talks about the over-hyped intellectual rigor at Cornell, and that it’s easy to get around the admissions requirements.  Part of me thinks this could simply be sour grapes, and he’s swinging away at schools that have the wimmens close by, since his school doesn’t have any.  Smart money says Sandman’s UPenn girlfriend dumped him for a Cornell man and there is no small amount of vengeful backlash in these two entries.

Ultimately,  I don’t care that he thinks Wellesley women are wink-wink “athletic” or whether or not Stanford women meet his measure of attractiveness.  What I do care about is his anti-intellectual bias and the way he switches evaluative measures; women in this one school aren’t smart enough, in another they’re too smart.  They’re too skinny, too middle-class, too tied to their homes, so pretty they’re not available, not pretty enough, too free-spirited, too constricted, too outdoorsy.  It’s dizzying, and ultimately highlights the fluid nature of the “standards” women have been asked to live up to.  Menfolk: I get that there are a host of conflicting standards by which you are expected to live your lives, too (do you make enough money?  Do you use that money to control people?  Are you athletic?  Are you too much of a jock?  And so on, and so on) but I don’t have a book in front of me spelling it all out.  WTGA reinforces blatantly sexist stereotypes, and WTFery like this is still alarmingly relevant.  Don’t believe me?

Read any press ever written about Hillary Clinton over the past thirty years, and see how she’s been represented and misrepresented…smart enough, too smart, not mommy enough, overly emotional, not tough enough.  Nobody ever gave John Boehner a hard time because he didn’t bake cookies.

These women are too pretty to date.

This article addresses the recent controversy over the monitoring and protection of the femininity of female Olympic athletes.

This 2012 article says women have finally stopped playing dumb in order to find a man who will marry them.

This 2012 article discusses the anatomy of the “perfect woman” and includes the statement that “men report less marital satisfaction when the female was the breadwinner of the family. So success is hot—just not too much success.”

This article asks if Jennifer Hudson, overweight when she first achieved fame, is now too skinny.

In this article, Jessica Simpson says that when she saw her weight right after having her first baby, she “thought her life was completely over.”

And on, and on, and on.  Where do you find the balance in all of this?

I do find it ironic that Peter M. Sandman, author, went on to a career as a communications professor and that one of his areas of specialization was outrage management.  I’m fairly sure he’d tell me to get over it, as tongues were firmly planted in cheeks and boys will be boys, har-de-har.  I’m almost certain I’d tell him to go fuck himself, and he can bury his har-de-hars deep in his over-smug self-promoted stereotype, because after all, what are Princeton boys except for conceited tools with a false sense of entitlement?

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