What's in a Resolution?

    What’s in a Resolution?

    After we had excitedly talked about sharing our resolutions together over Christmas, and I had spent more than a few hours thinking, talking and writing, I was looking forward to discussinf the new year with my partner. What challenges did we want to take on together and individually? What habits were we seeking to break […]

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    Moving Forward

    Moving Forward

    I was going to unpublish my last post, as I can see it needs editing, badly, and is not relevant in the way I would like it to be. But I’m trying to do this thing where I move only forward, not backward. Whether that’s me forgetting my cell phone at the house and making […]

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    On Morsel

    On Morsel

    I wrote this musing about what I do, or rather, what the company I work for is doing, some time ago but didn’t yet feel comfortable about where to put it or how I felt about it. After this week’s paltry excuse for an article in the Eater on the subject however (and my amazing […]

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    Knocking Down Knockbox

    Knocking Down Knockbox

    It’s the last day of Knockbox, the cozy couple-owned cafe on the corner of my block. I’m not going to lie, I more often end up at the hipster joint down Chicago, where the coffee is better, the baristas my friends and the patio sunny; but of that I am ashamed. The feel inside Knockbox […]

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    Fancy Friday

    Fancy Friday

    They come in droves. Some are really putting their muscle into it, spinning like that nasty neighbor in The Wizard of Oz who turns into the Wicked Witch of the West. They use every stoplight to pass a fleet, thinking the ground they gain might release them into the wide open for a brief moment. […]

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    Graph Paper Press

    I’ve been using Graph Paper Press for awhile, and I’m not going to lie, they awarded me a certain level of comfort when I had to posture about my own level of website experience. I fell into it for free, from an exboyfriend and am posting about it now because I’m addicted enough to the functionality […]

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    Blog

    What’s in a Resolution?

    puzzAfter we had excitedly talked about sharing our resolutions together over Christmas, and I had spent more than a few hours thinking, talking and writing, I was looking forward to discussinf the new year with my partner. What challenges did we want to take on together and individually? What habits were we seeking to break or build? How were we going to support each other through a thoughtful yet fun 12 months? Then yesterday, when I sat down to reveal the work I had put it, he shut me down. He pulled the whole, “I don’t need resolutions to live my life better, I know what I have to do.” He went on to ask me why I felt I needed to do something, implying that it was frivolous, perhaps even selfish and childish. It hurt me especially coming from someone I love, someone with whom I thought I was on the same page, and it deflated the fun and joy I find in discreet challenges. But he’s not in the minority of New Year’s naysayers. It reminds me of the people, of whom I know many, who believe depression and anxiety aren’t an illness but a sign that one needs to lace up the ‘ol bootstraps and work your way into a happier, healthier more successful life like a real red-blooded ‘mercan.

    And wouldn’t it be great if we all said we were going to do something and then we just did it? Bam! Dissertation written. Wham! 5 pounds lost. Poof! Finances in order.

    Right.

    Well, I like New Years and I like silly challenges just like I like craft projects, progressive dinners and the perfectly thrifted houseware. I like things that take that little bit of extra effort than buying a card, going out or shopping at Target. These seemingly silly efforts tickle my perspective, and bring depth to my reality.

    Moreover, I just it would be fun. It’s fun for me; it’s fun for my friends and family; it keeps me on my toes and thinking and gives me something to do on the daily that isn’t just the grind of working, dissertation writing etc. If anything, I’m going to gear these challenges to either facilitate my dissertation writing or be just the right distraction that keeps me writing and also throws a little color into a life that could be quite dark and lonely for the next 12 months.

    So why do I feel like I need these challenges? I don’t. But what the fuck else is there to do with this long life we have if not to mess around with it a bit?

    But don’t take my word for it; the Google gods know all.

    Moving Forward

    I was going to unpublish my last post, as I can see it needs editing, badly, and is not relevant in the way I would like it to be. But I’m trying to do this thing where I move only forward, not backward. Whether that’s me forgetting my cell phone at the house and making do without or letting mistakes I’ve made fade into the background without obsessing over their impact on my life. I have no way to fix the past and I’m a dweller…

    Today begins a week of heavy morseling. I track down farmers, chefs, mixologists etc. and pry stories about the ingredients they use from their begrudging mouths. The funny thing is that, yes, they do want to do it, but somehow the process of actually telling the story, to a semi-stranger no less, makes them prudish. It’s like it’s our first time, every time, and I’m some dude trying to get in some girl’s pants.

    Is it a privacy thing? Did they sign up for this by going to culinary school, starting a farm, making connections? Whose responsibility is it to grow their numbers in diners, buyers etc.?

    So far, this has been the most astounding thing as it is the worst part about my job. Is this because everyone wants a little morsel of a chef and we all fade into a buzz of little mosquitos wanting to grab and run. Sometimes that’s what I feel like, and yet, the more willing they are to be a part, the more depth and meaning I can get from them. Is this not what they are there for? It’s so hard to tell sometimes.

     

     

    On Morsel

    ellen

    I wrote this musing about what I do, or rather, what the company I work for is doing, some time ago but didn’t yet feel comfortable about where to put it or how I felt about it. After this week’s paltry excuse for an article in the Eater on the subject however (and my amazing co-worker’s reaction to said piece) I can’t help but at least start with something, as I’m sure I at least gave it more thought than that person did.

    The Taste of  a Story

    Before dinner service a chef sits down at the table with his staff, over a meal, and begins his story.  The cooks, the servers, the bussers, the host and the dishwashers all listen as a dish gets passed around. The chef talks about their inspiration, maybe a recent trip they took to Portugal, the Philippines or Kentucky, or maybe a dish their grandmother used to make every year for their birthday or maybe about the effort they are making to perfect the ideal version of a familiar food. Filled with this story, the staff shares and tastes the dish. As they chew they think about what the chef has said, what he is trying to achieve with the combination of flavors he’s put before them, and then they make their assessment. This is commensality, the act of sharing a meal together, of exchanging sensory memories and emotions and of substances, bringing to life memory and feeling (Seremetakis, 2008). Armed with this narrative and taste they prepare for a night of past-paced night of service on the dining room floor.

    How many diners will get to hear this explanation and share this experience?

    As tables turn and lines form out the door, the server has no time to transmit the chef’s story to the guest and certainly not the story behind each dish they order, or of the hand-crafted wood floors or antique clock they discovered in the restaurant’s basement.  But what if you could?

    As humans, with our large brains and penchant for language, we innately know that stories are important. Narratives not only help us to string together the events of our own lives, defining our person, but they also work to create shared understandings among us, forging bonds and representing cohesion across the social world. Stories give us a way to relate to others and to paint a picture of a reality that might otherwise be difficult to explain. All human societies have histories of folklore; the first histories were oral and many cultures still have strong oral cultures today. Award-winning journalists are usually those whose reporting is the most personal. People yearn for stories because they express connection and enhance our reality.

    Then there’s food, eating, dining. Food culture in the United States has changed drastically over the last decade. In regard to restaurants, diners have become more savvy, more open-minded and more curious than ever before. We often go into restaurants with pre-conceived ideas about the food based on a repertoire of experiences we’ve had before. These affect our expectations and alter how we experience our meal. What if we were able to, rather than knowing what Sally has to say about it on Yelp or John B. on Bon Appetite, sit down with the chefs themselves before dining in their restaurant? You may not be able to sit down and eat the day’s speciality along with the chef, like his staff, but can that human experience of commensality be transmitted through a story?

    We know that our lives are filled with stories that connect us, we know too that food, and the sharing of food connects us. Bringing those stories, from the mind and the lips of a chef, to the diner help forge an understanding that connects us to the chef, to the food and to others who have shared that story and that meal. And, since our sense of taste is as cultural as it is a biological function, we get to experience that connection through each bite. This is what you call synesthesia, or a union of the senses; this is the power of story.  It is building these social links between diners and the chefs, by understanding who they are and why they do what they do, that we can enhance and strengthen our community through food.

    Recently, Kristen Hawley, writer on food and technology, had this to say as part of her article, “Technology and the Future of Dining Out”:

    The best ideas combine elements of all of the above concepts into well-designed, interesting, and useful packages. They use technology to heighten our awareness and break down barriers. They apply technology to all of the elements of dining out to enhance — or even improve — the experience.

    New ideas and products should enhance the human experience of eating while respecting and honoring the strong social tradition of dining out. Restaurants work hard to create a memorable and enjoyable experience for customers; associated technology should be an extension of this important work.

    Chefs, whether naturally gregarious or on the shy side, are passionate about their food, including the entire restaurant experience that surrounds it. This is why they take the time to sit down with their restaurant family to tell the story behind each item on their menu. What would a window into that world look like? How would it change your experience of dining at that restaurant? With all that understanding, what else could you taste in the food, see in the atmosphere or feel from the story’s memory?

    This is what Ellen is building – a place to honor both the guest and the chef, something she has done for her entire life and knows more about than possibly anyone else. And now, she’s using the best tools of our day to forge that memorable connection. This is what media can be.