Archive for the ‘Holiday’ Category

Tuesday, December 1st, 2009

We Feel Fine hits stores today!

I’ll see you on page 164. I think.

I hope you get a chance to pick it up. It makes a great coffee table book, and content is generated by bloggers!  I’ll be writing a review when I get my copy, which will probably be in a couple weeks. wefeelfine In the meantime, here’s the product description at Amazon:

“In this dazzling exploration of contemporary human feelings, digital whiz kids Sep Kamvar and Jonathan Harris use their computer programs to peer into the inner lives of millions, constructing a vast and deep portrait of our collective emotional landscape. Armed with custom software that scours the English-speaking world’s new Internet blog posts every minute, hunting down the phrases “I feel” and “I am feeling,” the authors have collected over 12 million feelings since 2005, amassing an ever-growing database of human emotion that adds more than 10,000 new feelings a day. Drawing from this massive real-world stockpile of found sentiment, We Feel Fine: An Almanac of Human Emotion presents the best of the best — the euphoria, the despair, the passion, the dreams, and the desires that make us human. At turns touching and thought-provoking, humorous and heartbreaking, We Feel Fine combines the words and pictures of total strangers to explore every corner of the human experience. Packed with personal photos, scientific observations, statistical infographics, and countless candid vignettes from ordinary people, We Feel Fine is a visual, fiercely intelligent, endlessly engrossing crash course in the secrets of human emotion. Are men or women happier? Does rainy weather affect how we feel? Is beauty the bridge between happiness and negativity? How do our emotions change as we age? What causes depression? What’s sexy? What’s normal? What’s human? We Feel Fine finally provides a way to answer these questions that is both quantitative and anecdotal, putting individual stories into a larger context and showing the stories behind the statistics — or as the authors like to say, “bringing life to statistics and statistics to life.” With lush, colorful spreads devoted to 50 feelings, 13 cities, 10 topics, 6 holidays,5 age groups, 4 weather conditions, and 2 genders, We Feel Fine explores our emotions from every angle, providing insights into and examples of each. Equal parts pop culture and psychology, computer science and conceptual art, sociology and storytelling, We Feel Fine is no ordinary book — with thousands of authors from all over the world sharing their uncensored emotions, it is a radical experiment in mass authorship, merging the online and offline worlds to create an indispensable handbook for anyone interested in what it’s like to be human.”

If you get a chance to check it out, let me know what you think!

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You Scream, I Scream, we all Scream…Tofurkey!

Saturday, November 28th, 2009

This is not a vegetarian blog, but I try to write about the things I encounter in daily life, and well, it’s Thanksgiving.  For most of us, that means gathering around a roasted turkey (which yes, does smell utterly delicious), piling orange potatoes on our plates, and generally appreciating the circumstances in which we exist.  Though I may bristle a bit at its origin, I am a fan of Thanksgiving.  It’s a time to lay cynicism down and appreciate the people I love.  I can dig that.

But there is no turkey in my holiday repast.  I’m a vegetarian.  Don’t think it’s not hard – I smell rotisserie, and yes, yes, I miss things like slow cooked turkey and chicken caesar salads and even the occasional taco.  I made this choice though, and I’m stickin’ with it.  I’m happy to.

So this year’s Thanksgiving posed a problem; I can’t eat turkey.  I despise cranberry sauce, loathe yams, and am genuinely frightened at what people try to pass off as green bean casserole these days.  So far, all that was left was the mysterious spinach my grandmother brought, and the dessert plate friends placed waaay too close to my chair.  The former could make me gag and the latter would only result in summer swimsuit nightmares.

In search of protein, I bought a Tofurkey roast, which came in a box – a concept that scared me a little.  Hmmm, unknown soy meat lookalike carefully packed much like a bar of soap?  Sure.  Right.

My mother the Thanksgiving hostess would have naught to do with it.  She sneered at my fake meat box like Britney Spears would to a recording studio denuded of Autotune.  Mom was polite, but I could tell she regarded my Tofurkey as a kind of holiday abomination, an apostate to the Giving of Thanks creed.  Surely no small child would trace his or her hand with crayon on paper and then name it a tofurkey.  That’s not natural.

Photo credit: Brandon Vogel, Gwen Feldman, Fake Turkey

Photo credit: Brandon Vogel, Gwen Feldman, Fake Turkey

Still, what’s a veggie to do?

Don’t get me wrong; I was nervous.  I packed a shopping bag full of extra firm tofu and nutritional yeast (please stop gagging, it’s distracting) for a quick ‘fu fry in the case that things got disgusting.  I didn’t want to be hungry at Thanksgiving dinner.

I arrived at my parents’ abode early to cook my Tofurkey.  The fake meat frightened others, I think.  Mom told me its preparation was in my hands.

It took a few attempts to secure the strange looking oblong mass from its plastic encasing.  The Tofurkey loaf was part football, part luncheon mystery meat, and part spaceship.  Or it seemed that way.

Loosely following instructions, I prepared a marinade consisting of olive oil, soy sauce, pepper, dried garlic and salt.  Using half, I basted the loaf in its casserole dish and shoved the sucker in the oven at 350 degrees.  An hour and a half later, I painted the rest of the mixture over the cooking fake turkey and stuffed it back in the oven.

A few minutes later, the last of our Thanksgiving party arrived, and I was thrilled to find there was another vegetarian among them.  Not only was he happy to try my Tofurkey, he was willing to carve it.  That means a lot when you’re clumsy and not allowed near knives, like me.  You can check out the carving of my fake bird meat loaf above.

So was it a dead ringer for our feathered turktastic friends?  Absolutely not.  The texture was a little like you’d expect from a chicken sandwich at McDonalds, or from a cafeteria meat.  The processed nature of the non-beast was evident.  But the flavor was not disappointing.  I think the loaf would have been okay on its own (though I love tofu and paneer – bland things that could perhaps be indicative of my tastes), but the marinade I’d whipped up went a long way in flavoring the mass.  I ate most of my serving and enjoyed it.  The other vegetarian at the table was left rubbing his tummy in appreciation.

The texture gave the faux-nature of the Tofurkey away, but it wasn’t unpleasant.  I was able to easily cut it with a knife, and the “meat” had a fake “skin” to it, which tasted like the real thing, with the exception of the little bumps (of which I am not a fan, anyway).  The marinade miraculously sunk in most of the way, flavoring the stuff pretty well.

The Tofurkey loaf came hollowed out, a portion filled with vegan “stuffing.”  I’ve not touched stuffing since 1987, when it inspired me to vomit profusely in front of my mother’s Mah Jong group, and I wasn’t about to try swallowing the animal friendly version this time around.  It’s a texture thing.  The other veggie at the table scarfed it down though, and proffered two thumbs up.  He also ate the vegan mushroom gravy that accompanied the Tofurkey, and declared it satisfying.  To me, sauces are used to disguise evil.  I don’t go for them.  So I practiced restraint when the “fravy” was passed my way.  I was told that it was delicious, though.  Sorry, guys.

I’ll be honest – Tofurkey is not a turkey clone.  But then again, I don’t think that any of us who eschew meat are expecting that.  Anything too close would be…too weird?  But when you regard it as a protein replacement/supplement, especially in the setting of a large, communal dinner, it more than fits the empty turkey place.  Follow the directions and I think you’ll be satisfied.  I was.

Non-veggies might even enjoy Tofurkey on its own merits – you never know.  I would have liked it six months ago when I used to eat chicken sandwiches.  Still, even if you hate the stuff, if you’re about to entertain vegetarian guests, Tofurkey may just be a great way to fill their bellies.

Is it perfect?  Nope.  I’m certainly going to try products by the brand’s competitor, Quorn.  But so far, Tofurkey seems to get the holiday job done.