Foodspotting #4: No compromising

One of the hardest part of this entire journey is:

Finding the dining partner.

In the previous post, I may have alluded to what happens when the company is horrible. But what if the company flakes?

Despite an inner desire to learn how to dine by myself and enjoy the solitude of dining, I have the greatest anxiety of entering a restaurant and trying…to be normal…and eating. Sure, it’s easy to do at a take-out food stand type place. But at a nice restaurant—even a five-star one…awkward.

I love the act of enjoying food with someone. To compare our different preferences of flavor. I love how…food lets me discover the parts of people. It’s a ritual at times, but it’s also a way to break down barriers. Because there’s no other activity in the world that breaks down borders. We put things in our mouth and we chew the same. We all do.

There’s something about food that calms us and can express so many memories. Not like music, the bitter taste, the sour taste…perhaps it will remind you of something.

But my point is…how do you find the someone who will be ok with your choice of restaurant? How do you find someone who never compromises when it comes to food? When it comes to doing stuff? When you say, “I want to go there”…there’s no question.

I guess that’s why they call it a companion.

Foodspotting #3: The third most important part is the company

A great dining experience is a combination of these three things: food, service and company.

The company defines the experience. If it’s great…the quality of food and service almost doesn’t matter. It just needs to be adequate. If the company is horrible, then the taste, the desperate attempts by the servers…anything…won’t help.

These are the qualities that make great company during dining:

1. Shared interest in trying new foods

2. Willingness to share dishes

3. Good conversationalist. Or at least the ability to be curious.

And that’s all!

Awkwardly, I mentioned how my experience at Front Porch was not the greatest because the company that I was with. He asked me how the current dining experience was like. Without thinking, I blurted out bluntly, “So-so.” Then I realized that I couldn’t apologize for the truth. Because 1, 2, 3 were not fulfilled.

Foodspotting #2: My wallet is emptying


My credit goes down on the bill.

Every time, I put it down. I think to myself—it’s the experience. It’s the value of the food. The fact that I am (usually) supporting locally-grown, organic food. That I am helping paying the health insurance (usually) of the restaurant’s employees. That I am supporting the arts of cooking and quality food.

Awhile ago, I read a blog that pointed out that people who are broke don’t know how to budget. It’s not that they waste money. It’s more that they don’t know how to figure out what really makes them happy. Everything does. And that’s what I mean by value.

I decided a few years ago that enjoying the arts of food was my favorite past time. And in the last year, I indulged. I take part in community food events. I relish cooking books, thinking of ideas for cooking. Traveling is about food. And restaurants—oh yes, restaurants, because they are the inspiration for my cooking.

So yes, I do wince…every time in the last few days in my rampage to do the 7×7 in one month…when I have to put a $50 on my card. Sometimes $70. Or more.

Foodspotting #1: I decided that today I wanted to be a bar-hopper.

Every so often, I wonder how it’s like to be a lover of alcohol. Or at least a lover of the bar scene. In graduate school, I finally tried my hand at hanging out at the bars. But I kept my own persona, preferring to drink water and sit with others.

But when I decided that I had to compete for the 7×7 challenge, I had to be someone else.

At least 10% of the list were cocktails. After years claiming some unknown reason for why I don’t drink, in the end, I realized that I hate hate hate the taste of alcohol. Granted, I never had enough to ever experience its effect.

But in my determination to try the list, I did it.

What is it like to go to Magnolia Pub appearing like the standard yuppie bar hopper? What is it like to be a swanky club-goer dropping by for a drink before things get going at Rye? Or how about the frequent visitor for the drink after a long work day at Alembic?

Last year when I took improv, I learned that a lot of it simply required slipping into another persona.

So while sipping a basil gimlet at Rye, the shrub at Nopa, the old-fashioned at Alembic, the shanghai buck at Heaven’s Dog, the blue bell bitter at Magnolia pub, an obscure belgian beer at Monk’s Kettle, a bottle of burgundy at RN74…I had to be someone else. At Magnolia Pub and Brewery, we were suddenly yuppies and guys were chatting us up about local sports at the crowded bar. Then at Heaven’s Dog, we ran into a former coworker who had finished a post-theater drink. And at RN74, we talked to a group of Germans who enjoyed the most expensive elixirs without a bat of an eye.

Sure, it’s all really pretentious. Since it’s following some guy who created the list. I wonder though…by doing that list, are we becoming him? Or her?

Here’s an embarrassing moment #301

This one.

And I am never ever drunk.

Sending a text message to someone else. Like a friend. Like a client. When it was intended for someone close to you. Because you let your phone be jostled in your bag while its surrounded by grocery items and similar things. Because you are using a different bag.

And now you sit in front of your computer, appalled to find out that yes that PHONE number matches the PHONE number that you didn’t watch. And you just want it to go away.

Then you think. Well at least, I didn’t drunk dial him. Because you don’t get drunk anyway. You just lazily put your phone in a place where the buttons are easily pushed the things in your bag.

At least you didn’t start sexting with him.

There should be a Don’t Disturb Sign on my seat

“Sorry to wake you,” the conductor said last week as I let out a soft scream, being audibly woken up by the loud “TICKETS, PLEASE!”

It is the most polite form of post-waking-up that I have experienced on the caltrain. Usually, it’s the clatter of keys on the side of the train waking everyone in the car. Followed by a barely audible thank you.

There’s just something wrong with this picture of me soundly sleeping for the 40+ minute ride on the caltrain, being suddenly disturbed by the lawful conductors. Because as it says when I board the train, THIS IS A PROOF OF PAYMENT SYSTEM and I am doomed to stay in anxiety having my validated ticket at hand.

Isn’t it wrong?

I dreaming of the time away from work, away from feeling like I am traveling in a metal tube going at 70 mph in one direction, all these yuppies willing to spend money on a $20 taxi…ugh.

What happened to the system I have experienced on the LIRR and the commuter train in Chicago? Where I can clip my ticket near the seat. By god, that means that no conductor has to reach over me to the person sitting in the window seat. No, they don’t have to lean toward me to touch my curry-filled hands because I yet again spilled my lunch under my eat. No, they don’t have to notice that yes my feet is up…because it’s so much more comfortable than feeling like I am stuck in an airplane. By god, it would be incredible if they only had to look outside my seat and realize that YES SIR, I did pay for my ticket.

Although I can say this. There is nothing worse in disturbing my sleep when I hear a conductor yelling at a passenger who purposefully or not purposefully did not have the right ticket. Thrown off, yes. With protests, whining…and all I want is settle into my yuppie-ness of dreamlessness sleep.

This is how I spend money

This is how I qualify spending. In determining the value of something.

1. Will it make me happy 24 hours later?
2. Will it make me happy one week later?
3. Is it replacing something that I am sorely missing?
4. Will I receive something in return? (e.g. social currency)
5. Does it help an organization I believe in?
6. Do I desperately need it now?
7. Am I paying significantly under full price?

If the the item, the meal, the experience…answers positively at least 5 of the questions, then I smack down the money.

Riding a taxi rarely if ever answers 5 of those.

If I could fix anything, I would fix this

On hearing that a friend did Lasik recently, I declared that there would be nothing I would fix. Plastic surgery?! Such an abomination to my morals!

But then wait! There is one thing. As a constant sufferer of a runny nose, watery eyes, and sneezing, now that is one thing I would fix. If I didn’t have to sit in an important meeting and be distracted by an annoying internal pinching inside my nose that can mean only one thing. Clear liquid will pour out. Then my eyes will water.

And I would have to fake my attention because of that pinching. I will take a tissue and rub my nose, catching some of the liquid. But no, it’s never enough! The tissue becomes wet and I became anxious, because the tissue is not in the same room.

And by god, this is in front of a client. What will the client think of someone who is constantly sick in their meetings and not capable of answering a question coherently.

I contemplate living in an empty room with no pillows or blanket.

But argh! So later, I decided to take an antihistamine—hit it all…AT ONCE. And it hits, but so hard that I am so drowsy. There’s a cloud over my world and I literally fall asleep at my desk.

When was the last time that I had a clear mind and non-soggy face?

And thus, it would be my allergies. If there was a miraculous cure. I am game.

Being your true self around your partner

Not to succumb to little boys fascination about letting out wallops or any bodily “indecent” sound, but while eating dinner the other day, Chris pulled up a recent blog entry answering questions from readers. Particularly this section:

Q: My best friend swears that in over five years with his girlfriend he has not farted in her presence. Which lead me to two conclusions. 1) I can’t believe they’re still together, and 2) this has a make him a huge pussy, right?

A: Sure does. What’s the point of having a girlfriend if you can’t terrify her by dropping ass in the middle of some terrible movie she rented? On a deeper level, not farting around your girlfriend (or boyfriend, for that matter) suggests that you really aren’t all that comfortable around her. I mean, really. Five years and you don’t feel comfortable enough to let it rip with your old lady around? What, are you still trying to maintain the illusion of courtship? Ridiculous. You should WANT a girlfriend who you feel clear to nuke the couch around. That means you’re yourself, instead of some dipshit guy putting on airs whenever his chick is around. I hate guys like that.

At some level, this…bodily sound is immature. Is it because it’s primal? Why is it so private? Because it reminds us that we are at the core…animals?

But the core of the question is about…how long can your facade (the perfect side of you) last? Beyond bodily sounds, when are you ok with letting your frustrations air? When are you going to be ok with sharing the fact that you too make mistakes—like yes you do slip and fall, that you spill food on yourself…that you have bad habits too?

A few years ago, a friend who I was semi-interested in overheard a conversation I was having about the state of my room. My room in Pittsburgh was a puny room the size of a walk-in closet with a sloping roof with only room for a twin bed and a desk. And I simply could not keep it neat. Being brazen, my friend asked me, “Will you clean it for me, Jenn?”

All at once, I was slightly irritated compounded with constant nagging from my mom to clean my room when I was a teenager and the desperate need to be neat in this society. Immediately, I said, “No.”

But what I was trying to say was that there was no way I would ever change for anyone.

Returning to the Bay Area with a solid education and better social skills, I was finally comfortable with myself. And when I ever did “date”, I would lay it all out. There was no reason to pretend to be perfect. In contrary to popular dating logic, I preferred to talk about all the things that may annoy people—particularly my natural social anxiety, my dislike of being too girly, not drinking…and freely pooting.

My favorite movie critic

So often after seeing a movie that was so inspirational, emotional, impactful, I would find a movie review. Not because I wanted to really know about the rating, but rather I wanted to relive the moments.

And there was nobody that I trusted more than Roger Ebert. I rarely ever watched the TV show, but ever since I was 12 I started reading his reviews, discovering his book in the library. He embodied a quality unlike any other—to summarize a movie deftly in words. Not a word wasted. With personal views not to talk about himself, but rather to give the review a different perspective.

There was a period in college when I wanted to be a movie critic and actually created a website here for it called OMG reviews. But then I found that I had nothing inspirational or impactful to say.

Unlike Roger Ebert. Surprisingly, I only just discovered his recent condition. Like so many writers out there, words are not lost by the loss of voice. They are lost when there is no method by which to communicate. And yet he’s more honest and open than any writer. Having worked in creative services for awhile, I am used to the spin employed to shape everything for the better even when worse. What’s admirable is that he doesn’t try to hide it at all. There’s no spin. Because that’s how he is right now.

Being almost silent during most of my life…perhaps embarrassed that I couldn’t speak that well…I preferred the printed word. For many years even now, I prefer the concreteness, the absoluteness of the printed word. It meant that I could think about it. I could explicitly say what I want to say.

Roger Ebert hates one of Chris’ favorite movies—Bad Boys II. He said it was a bloated, unpleasant assembly-line extrusion in which there are a lot of chases and a lot of killings and explosions. All true. Did he change my mind of the movie? Not really. But like many film critics…he offered an opinion. A well-created opinion that built my understanding of the human condition.