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How It Should Be Done

(Illustration of sukkah viaHWPS, where you can learn a tidge more about Sukkot, if you so desire)

Well.

Mr. Twistie and I have been the social butterflies of late. Parties, concerts, more parties.

Yes, we went to another party yesterday.

You see, the lead guitarist in Mr. Twistie’s band held a party yesterday in honor of Sukkot and his own birthday. Yep, same day. Kind of cool.

There was vegetarian barbeque (Lead Guitarist and his lady are longtime vegetarians) and a bit of a potluck filled out with some family favorites and store bought party treats. They’d set up a sukkah in their backyard where most of us sat… and the musicians headed into the garage for a jam session. Did you know Hotel California sounds kind of awesome on a clarinet? I didn’t until yesterday.

But the coolest thing of all about this party? I hung out for hours with people of every size, age, race, creed, and dietary persuasion and do you know what I heard? Not. One. Word. of body shame or food policing.

People did say they really liked a particular dish here and there. There was a lot of praise for the couple’s fourteen year old son who baked his dad’s birthday cake from scratch… and rightly so. It was a delicious cake. There were a couple people who turned down a slice of said delicious cake saying they’d had high blood sugar readings that day. There were people, myself among them, who passed on the meat substitute burgers and hotdogs. But there was no pushing to find out why, nor was there anyone who made a fuss about having to go meat free for one, single meal. I did hear the hostess point out a dish that one guest might wish to avoid because of an allergy.

And that was that. People took what they wanted and left what they didn’t without comment from anyone. Most people looked well satisfied with their meals, and there was certainly plenty to go around.

This is how it should be done. The people throwing the party offer up enough to go around, according to their abilities and their beliefs. Where appropriate and welcome, others share what they have to share. Those who attend eat what they prefer and leave the rest behind without complaint. Those who find something particularly delicious say so. People don’t spend the entire party complaining about their own or anyone else’s bodies. Health issues (allergies, chronic ailments that affect diet) are recognized, but neither trumpeted to the skies nor belittled. Everyone is allowed to make their own choices for their own bodies, and nobody makes a big deal out of it.

Instead of making a big bad thing out of food, there were people making conversation about other topics, people making music… even one lovely lady making a fabulous crocheted purse. She and I had a delightful conversation about our various crafty pursuits as she worked.

I just thought in light of my recent posts about constant harping in otherwise festive situations, you should all get a chance to hear about the case where the ideal happened.

Horrors!

It’s that time of year again. The time when ghosts,goblins, and things that go bump in the night come to the fore and we cuddle up in front of our television, computer, and movie screens for a good scare or three.

When it comes to horror films, I like dread. Give me psychological terror rather than buckets of blood. I want the growing horror of the nameless thing lurking in the shadows, the suspense of waiting to see if it ever does suck someone right into perdition, leaving only some terribly disturbing clue behind.

There are a few slightly more graphic horror films I love. The Birds, for instance. Yes, there are a couple mildly (for today, not for when it was made) bloody scenes. But the parts that really freak me out of my socks are the scenes where we can see the birds gathering to attack, not the ones where they actually do it. I first saw that film when I was seven, and to this day the sight of a crow landing on a jungle gym or park bench is enough to make my stomach churn with dread.

Give me Rod Serling. Give me the work of Jacques Tourneur (particularly Cat People and I Walked With a Zombie). Give me The Sixth Sense. Pity about most of the rest of M. Night Shyamalan’s work… though I do really like Unbreakable. I love old-fashioned horror tales that rely on my brain to do most of the scary work for itself.

On the other end of the scale, I love movies that poke gentle fun at horror tropes. Every year I sit down at least once at this time of year to watch The Nightmare Before Christmas. And every year I sit down at least once to watch I Married a Witch with the late, great Veronica Lake. They make me laugh. They appeal to my romantic side, though neither is particularly sappy. And they’re a great antidote to the ones that make me jump at every funny noise or unexpected sight. I’m also fond of the (very) occasional foray into Just Plain Bad horror films, like those of Edward D. Wood, Jr. How can you beat Plan Nine From Outer Space for sheer cheeseball hilarious rotten horror movie making?

It’s also fun now and again to sit down with something that’s pretty darn cheesy now, but scared the bejabbers out of me when I was eight… like Them! That one had an amazing cast, but the last time I managed to take the giant nuclear ants seriously, well, I was several years away from my first kiss, back then. I still enjoy watching it.

What sort of horror movies do you like? Are you all about the slashers? Completely into the classics? Crazy about the Hitchcockian twist? Utterly in love with the sort of films that encourage hurling popcorn at the screen in scorn? A little each from multiple columns? Do you have a favorite obscure horror film to share with the class?

Isn’t Not Being Sick Enough?

Ahh, gluten, the latest bad boy of the dinner plate according to popular theory. There’s been a huge spike in the media sexiness of passing on wheat products. You can’t go anywhere without hearing the hype and seeing the products. You can’t go anywhere without someone having a hand-wringing session over it.

I’ve been around the block enough times at this point to know when a food issue is being blown out of proportion by now.

And no, it’s not that I think there’s no such thing as gluten sensitivity. If there’s a food out there, someone is allergic to it on some level. It’s more a case of stick around long enough, and some other food that a relatively small number of people have difficulty processing successfully will suddenly become the reason that ‘everyone’ is sick and become a media scare. That doesn’t mean it doesn’t make anyone at all sick. It doesn’t mean we shouldn’t be aware. We just shouldn’t panic so about it.

In fact, a friend of mine was recently put on a gluten free diet by her doctor because she showed specific symptoms that can indicate gluten sensitivity. This is what we call evidence based medical treatment, and I’m wholly in favor of that.

So a couple weeks into the new regimen, the scaly hand condition that nothing could solve… yeah, it’s going away after some five or six years. She’s got more energy and less digestive issues. In short, my friend really, truly is gluten sensitive and needed to do this for her health. It’s working.

The funny thing is, that doesn’t seem to be enough for some people. Just last night, my friend and I were out grooving to a local band (as it happens, the one Mr. Twistie and my friend’s brother are in) and a couple of her friends (as in: she knows them a lot better than I do, not as in they’re people I dislike) showed up to support the band and have a nosh at the cool neighborhood cafe the band was playing. My friend told her friends about going gluten free and how much better she was feeling.

All three more or less dismissed the ‘feeling better’ bit with a desultory ‘that’s nice’ kind of comment. Then they eagerly asked if it had any other benefits. As in: how much weight have you lost?

Seriously?

The end of a series of symptoms ranging from aesthetically annoying to seriously uncomfortable are going away in a matter of a couple weeks after years of suffering, and that’s not enough for you? It isn’t a good thing until she fits into smaller clothes?

And how sad is it that I didn’t know my friend was on a doctor-prescribed regimen for a specific problem until last night? Frankly, when I saw she had a book on living gluten free and was suddenly asking in restaurants what did and didn’t have wheat or barley in it, I was afraid to ask whether this was because of doctor’s orders or because she had decided this was going to finally be The Answer to her lifelong ‘weight problem’… just like low carb, low fat, sugar free, and dozens of other food trends have been The Answer as long as I’ve known her. For the record, not one has worked for her no matter how carefully she followed instructions.

This, my friends, is a perfect illustration of how screwed up our attitudes about food, and about health are at present. I assumed a medical intervention for a specific problem was probably another trendy diet, and all her other friends discount the specific good it is doing her because it’s not having the perceived good they expected.

We desperately need to get beyond weight as shorthand for health or illness. It’s bad for everyone.

You Asked For It: Twistie’s Baking Library

(Actual illustration of Twistie at actual size… only two hundred and fifty years ago and much smaller)

In response to my harrumph of last week on the response my week’s worth of baking delicious things for the annual block party, several of you (and you know who you are) begged for the recipes.

Darlings, I love you all like Plummy loves her granny pants, but I’m not typing out that many recipes. I made four fabulous treats, three of which required a minimum of two recipes to assemble. In fact, two of them took three each. That’s a lot of typing of other people’s copyrighted materials.

Instead, I’m going to reveal the sources of all the recipes, tell you where to get copies, and leave it to your own ingenuity and budgets to get them or not. I will further recommend that any of you who enjoy baking more than once in a very, very, very blue moon pick up at least one of these three volumes. Every one is brimful of clear recipes for delicious treats for all occasions.

(more…)

Can We Just Enjoy the Party, Please?

Yesterday was the annual block party on my street.

It was a great time, overall. There were games and a bouncy house for the kids, Mr. Twistie’s band played for the adults, though several toddlers were quite fascinated, too. Everyone came out of their houses and chatted with neighbors they hadn’t gotten to know well, yet. Mr. Twistie and I met the newest family on the block, who were quite charming people with an adorable small daughter and great taste in music. What? They loved Mr. Twistie’s band!

I spent the entire week prepping for this shindig in the kitchen. If you’ve read more than one of my missives here on this blog, then you know how I love to cook and especially bake. I pulled out all the stops. For this year’s party I made: apricot scones, a sweet ricotta galette, a white chocolate layer cake filled with homemade lemon curd and frosted with lemon buttercream, and a malted milk ball tart. I hasten to add that last one isn’t made from malted milk balls. It just tastes like one. Yes, I love to make desserts. Also, I make amazing desserts.

There were oohs and ahs as I brought out goodie after goodie. And yes, I oohed and ahed over many of the fabulous savory dishes on the table. BTW, if the creator of that incredible cucumber avocado salad with the ginger vinaigrette is reading this, I will not rest until I have the recipe. I could eat that endlessly.

So what’s the problem? Well, as I brought out my desserts, amid the gasps of wonder and delight, it seems I brought an unintentional passenger along to the table: body shame.

Yep, faced with lots of delicious sweet options, many people just could not deal with the situation without informing me that they couldn’t have any of them because they might ZOMG! get fat. Or fail to lose weight. One bite of cake might turn them into the Goodyear Blimp. And every single one of them chose to tell me how fattening my desserts were.

It’s not like I cared if someone chose not to eat one of my desserts. There were a lot of options on the table, both sweet and savory. All I wanted was to provide something delicious for people who enjoy delicious food. I don’t know who’s on a diet or who has a gluten sensitivity, or even who just isn’t big on sweet things. Eat it, don’t eat it, we’re cool. It’s not like I could have tasted everything out there, either. It was a truly table-straining repast. I tried a little of a lot of things, but I was full before I could eat some of everything, and there were things I passed on because they didn’t appeal to me.

But as my desserts were disappearing at record rate, I heard plenty of clucking about how eating desserts is a bad thing. I actually had a woman tell me that the reason her son is thin is because he stops eating when he’s full. I leveled a stare at her and said: “So do I. I just come from a long line of fat people. That’s why I’m fat.”

In the end, I brought about two slices of cake back… and three dishes that bore only crumbs and a trace or two of whipped cream. Since I hadn’t gotten a slice of cake at the party, I had one as a midnight snack. I’ll probably finish off the other slice for dessert tonight. Chances are high that I won’t be making another layer cake for weeks, maybe even a couple months.

And next year I will spend another week in the kitchen baking my heart out because I enjoy doing it and because there are people who have no problem enjoying what I bring out.

But to those who had to tell me how fat they are (and they were – to a woman and to a man – a hell of a lot thinner than I am), please don’t lay your guilt on me. Eat the cake, don’t eat the cake, it’s up to you. You’re all grown up and get to make these decisions for yourselves. But if you make the decision not to eat my desserts, don’t tell me it’s all about how it will make you fat.

I’ll be too busy enjoying all the food – savory and sweet – to give a damn about your waistline.

Twistie’s Sunday Caption Madness: The It’s All Tutu Much Edition: The Result

You fabulous things, you.

Last week I whacked you all across the faces with this exercise in animal cruelty:

… and seven of you fought valiantly back with hilarious captions for it.

In the end, though, there can be but one winner. This week it is the snarkalicious Smark for this bon mot juste:

Sarah Jessica Barker on the set of Rex in the City.

Congratulations, Smark! And thanks to everyone who played.

Twistie’s Sunday Caption Madness: The It’s All Tutu Much Edition

How do all!

It’s time once again to play Twistie’s Sunday Caption Madness. You all know how this works. I post a picture that’s begging for a caption like Oliver Twist wants more gruel. You provide said captions via the comments function. Next week I declare a winner and we all boogie down with glee.

This week’s image comes from the Sartorial Cruelty to Canines file and it looks a little like this:

Ready… set… snark!

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