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HJSoulma's Profile

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Chunky Aloe Beverage Produces Surprises

Many years ago I bought a can of aloe beverage in a Japanese grocery store, assuming it would be aloe FLAVORED, not aloe TEXTURED. I quite nearly vomited as the first chunk slid past my uvula. Never again.

Jul 01, 2011
HJSoulma in Features

How Much Should Houseguests Treat?

Isobel_A, although personally I don't like letting favors from others go unpaid (even from my best friends-- I simply don't feel right if they do something nice for me and I don't do something in return), you're totally right-- I would never, EVER expect them to do the same. Spending time with them IS enough-- and frankly, I know they wouldn't expect me to do them a favor for it, either, but I just like to-- it's it's nice to like to. (The wealthy lawyer thing, though, is fairly egregious-- seriously, if you're in a much more financially stable position than your guest, maybe you should be offering to treat them!) I think the offense I took to this article was the general disrespect both parties seemed to have-- you shouldn't expect your houseguests to treat you, but as a houseguest I feel you should at least *want* to do something for your friend in exchange-- while friendship is not a series of mutual favors, it's just nice to do nice things for people you like. On the flip side, as a houseguest you really ought to be polite enough not to steal un-offered food (at least ask!) or if you do, be willing to replace it if your friend was saving it or something-- but if you're the host, you also need to realize that you're opening your home up to someone and that it's rude to treat them like children and say "you are not allowed to do a b and c while in my home"-- I do, however, think it's okay to say "feel free to eat whatever's in the kitchen except the box of bla bla bla because I'm saving it for when my niece comes over" or something. If your houseguest is your friend, hopefully they'll be nice enough NOT to eat all your food.

Basically, the article turns hosting into a game of tit-for-tat, when what it should really be is mutual respect and kindness-- you shouldn't EXPECT a gift in return for being a host, but certainly if you're a houseguest it's nice to offer-- and not because of some sense of social acceptability, but because you're genuinely thankful and want to show your appreciation.

Jun 28, 2011
HJSoulma in Features

What's The Oldest Thing You Cook In/With?

I have a silly one! My rice cooker is older than me (not saying much, since I'm not yet 23), and I'm reasonably sure it's the oldest thing in my kitchen. My family isn't much of a cooking family, so I have not been the recipient of many hand-me-downs (alas) except some stuff that my mom never used and was happy to donate (crock pot, some unbelievably dull knives, the aforementioned rice maker-- she's even tried to gift me the bread maker, but I don't mind making bread by hand, and it would make me happier if she just used it...). The rice maker was, I believe, a wedding present, which dates it to about two years older than myself. The best part? After I told my mom how useful it was and how pleased I was to be its new owner, she went out and bought a new one herself. XD This is, of course, after letting the old one sit in a closet for twenty years.

Jun 28, 2011
HJSoulma in Cookware

How Much Should Houseguests Treat?

Please don't assume being a twenty-something means you're an inconsiderate jerk. I'm a twenty-something unemployed-recent-grad-school-graduate and basically dirt poor, but if I stayed at a friend's house for any length of time I would certainly take them out for dinner regardless, or at least invited them for a reciprocal dinner at my place some time. I would certainly not eat their cookies unless they offered them to me, and even then I would be certain to leave plenty. Most of the other people in my peer group who I consider friends would behave the same way.

Your friend's cookie-thieving "friend" just has no manners. It has nothing to do with his age-- if you can't tell the difference between "welcoming friend" and "mom" by the time you're oh... twelve? You need a serious brush up on visiting etiquette. (And seriously, by the time you're in your twenties, you really shouldn't be taking advantage of your real mom like that, either.)

Jun 28, 2011
HJSoulma in Features
2

When Restaurants Refuse Substitutions

I get the really ritzy-type restaurants doing this but... a burger place? Even if it's a gourmet burger place, that seems a little excessive. I understand that changing a dish changes its flavor profile (in fact, I sort of feel like if you don't know that, you probably shouldn't be allowed to blog or tweet or whatever about food...), but couldn't places just have something on the menu that says something to that effect instead of, oh, I dunno, refusing to omit a nut garnish? "Substitutions will change the flavor of the resulting dish. The resulting dish will not adhere to the chef's original intentions, and may make it somewhat less flavorful or appetizing."

I also understand the "eat something else/ go somewhere else" thing (as someone who does not eat meat other than chicken, turkey and ocean things, I would not go to a steak house of my own volition, and if someone wanted me to come with them to a steak house, I would find something even if it was just salad and be polite about it), but sometimes large groups have to eat together and it becomes difficult to decide on where to eat. My boyfriend's family, for example: two parents, six kids, three of those kids' significant others (plus me, I suppose, so four), and two grandkids. One of his sisters is a vegan, one of other his sisters' husbands basically only eats meat, one of the grandkids is occasionally a picky eater, and the other one is a baby. My boyfriend, for his part, is allergic to peanuts, treenuts, shellfish, milk and eggs (although he can find something to eat almost anywhere... maybe not, say, Joe's Crab Shack, but mostly everywhere. He just likes food.) Even so, you can probably imagine how many hoops they have to jump through to find a restaurant everyone will eat at, and I'm sure there are other large or multi-generational families out there who have similar problems finding good food. So basically, I really hope that this no-substitutions thing remains confined to the upper-upper-echelons of dining and snobby burger joints, particularly considering the amount of restaurants which are only just starting to become allergy-friendly.

Jun 21, 2011
HJSoulma in Features

Awesome Friends With Food Sensitivities

I think "allergic to soup" may be one of my favorite disorders EVER. That is amazing.

Jun 05, 2011
HJSoulma in Not About Food

Awesome Friends With Food Sensitivities

My boyfriend is allergic (deadly kind) to tree nuts, peanuts, shellfish, and then eggs and milk when they aren't in like... cake (baked goods are fine-- proteins are denatured or something. It's mysterious, and when he tries to explain it people often give him a "what" face.) But we can go out to eat basically anywhere (Thai is iffy what with all the nuts, but everywhere else is basically fine) and he's very easy-going and not at all picky about food. (In fact, we often don't even bother to tell people he has allergies, he just eats things that don't contain them.) Other people are always much more worried than either of us are (case in point, my family still has to ask him if he can eat things like plain pasta all the time. Yes, yes he can.) But he also actually had allergic reactions as a child (I.E., it wasn't a "let's test this kid for no reason" kind of thing) and his family never treated him as a pariah or like he needed to be coddled, so he has no issues with food. (Reading over my shoulder her just said "It was easier to have food allergies back before everyone had food allergies (or thought they did), because people weren't nearly so over-cautious and freaked out about that kind of stuff. My mom just taught me what to avoid, so I did.")

But y'know, he's also the kind of guy who thinks it's funny when I joke about making him peanut-butter shrimp cake for his birthday, so hey. Not everyone with food allergies is an uptight nutcase (although I have certainly met people of that variety as well)-- my University bred folks with allergies like wild for some reason, so I've met lots of very happy, normal, well-adjusted people with allergies and sensitivities and totally healthy relationships with food... as well as those who are like AHH I'LL DIE IF I LOOK AT A PIECE OF BREAD THROUGH GLASS and then don't read the labels when eating candy because of course CANDY couldn't have gluten in it. *rolls eyes* People with food allergies are just like everyone else-- some of them are normal, and some are... not. I think you probably just don't hear as much about the normal ones, since they don't tend to yell about their allergies as much.

Jun 05, 2011
HJSoulma in Not About Food

Looking for a Restaurant with Way Too Many Caveats... and oh yeah, for Tomorrow

Solea, unfortunately, would be too expensive. : / The small plates thing is tricky when no one likes the same food (there's also a lot of shellfish, which I should have mentioned my boyfriend is also allergic to. They grow them food sensitive at Brandeis! Lucky he isn't picky.) And Fiorella's was actually one of my first thoughts, but last time I drove by (middle of last week?) it said it was closed for renovations this month. It may be open again, though. Anyway, thank you for the suggestions! I think we're all set on doing Flatbread now, but let's just cross our fingers that no one changes their mind between now and tomorrow. ; D

-----
Fiorella's
187 North St, Newtonville, MA 02460

Jun 04, 2011
HJSoulma in Greater Boston Area

Looking for a Restaurant with Way Too Many Caveats... and oh yeah, for Tomorrow

Thanks for your suggestions, everyone (Not Your Average Joe's was actually on my list of suggestions-- we were worried about when "lunch" ended there). I brought a bunch of them up to my mom, and after some finagling she suddenly decided that Flatbread's pizza sounded like a great idea (???) and that it would be fine to drive to Burlington. Cue me cleaning out my car.

*sigh* My family is wonderful and generous and I could not have asked for a better hand in life, but sometimes... : D

Jun 04, 2011
HJSoulma in Greater Boston Area

Looking for a Restaurant with Way Too Many Caveats... and oh yeah, for Tomorrow

Alas, that's kind of what I figured. : D Thanks, though.

Jun 04, 2011
HJSoulma in Greater Boston Area

Looking for a Restaurant with Way Too Many Caveats... and oh yeah, for Tomorrow

So, I lurk much more than I post, but I have an impossible problem that maybe someone on here could help me solve.

My mom and my grandparents are coming from the South Shore to Waltham tomorrow (I know, late notice!), and they want to take my boyfriend and me out to dinner to celebrate me getting my Master's. I will eat basically anything as long as it isn't from a mammal or waterfowl, so I'm generally happy eating anywhere as long as it isn't bad food or a steakhouse (since everything smells like meat.)

However, my family is a different matter altogether-- we're eating lunch at 2, which means that a lot of places in the area are either closed or have started serving dinner already, and my grandparents have a fairly old-fashioned idea of "expensive," meaning that I will feel incredibly guilty suggesting anywhere where a majority of the entrees aren't less than $13. So my options are already fairly limited right there.

More problematically, no one other than Boyfriend and I like Indian, Mexican, Middle Eastern or basically any other so-called "ethnic" food, and we can't really do Thai or Vietnamese because Boyfriend has peanut and tree nut allergies. There goes 90% the food in Waltham and the surrounding towns. Furthermore, my grandparents don't really think they like Chinese/Japanese/Asian fusion-y food (although every time we've ever gone out for that kind of food they've found something they've liked; regardless, I feel like a jerk suggesting those kind of places). I also don't want to do somewhere too dive-y (say, Sabatino's or an "Italian" or pizza place like that), since I'm certain my grandparents will be nicely dressed even if I tell them we're not going anywhere fancy.

Basically, we are down to zero choices considering the time, price range and cuisines. I know technically the lunch is for me, but I can eat anywhere and just want my family to be comfortable and happy. I suggested Flatbread in Burlington, since everyone likes pizza and it's upscale enough that one wouldn't feel out of place not in jeans, but my mom thinks it might be too far to drive since they're already coming from around the Plymouth area. (I also offered to drive, but apparently 22 is still not trustworthy driving age despite the fact that I have an absolutely spotless driving record and have been driving in Waltham for 5 years. Frankly, I don't think they'll let me drive them when I'm 30.) So that also leaves out anywhere too far northwise or westwise, as well as towns that are "Boston-y" (parts of Arlington, Lexington, etc), because while I am perfectly comfortable driving there, they are not.

So, with this ridiculous set of rules, does anyone have any suggestions? I've run through every place I could think of, but I'm out of options. Part of me just wants to say "hey, why don't I cook for everyone!" but (a) my cooking tends more towards the food they don't much like anyway, and (b) I'm also currently recovering from something cold-ish and I'm a bit worried about making everyone sick.

Am I just SOL? Should I just call it a day and take everyone to Bertucci's?

Jun 04, 2011
HJSoulma in Greater Boston Area

My Thought on Intonation and Online Conversations

It's interesting, because I'm also a gamer and one of the few places I do a lot of posting is a gaming site-- where, generally speaking, there's a lot less "OMG WHAT DID YOU SAY ABOUT ME" kind of stuff then other sites I post on-- gamers must have a secret knack for understanding written tone! (Although everyone here seems pretty good at it, too-- I lurk more than I post, but I've definitely seen conversations that turn defensive straightened out fairly quickly by people realizing that there was simply a breakdown of communication and no offensive was intended.)

Truthfully, I get the feeling that a lot of missed tone/intent comes from the fact that so many of us are lazy typists. It's much harder to deduce the exact intonation from a post with no punctuation/capitals/etc, because those are the signals used in written-verbal communication to convey how the words on the page should actually be read. There's a big difference, tonally, between
"i cant believe it" and
"I can't believe it!" or, much more problematically
"I CANT BELIEVE IT!!!1!!"
While obviously it's the internet and very few people type like they're writing formal letters or the next great novel, from the composition side I think something we can all do to facilitate communication is simply to re-read our posts before we send them and make sure there's nothing that might get misconstrued. It's really easy to sound passive-aggressive on the internet, and that's something that sets a lot of people off. But you're right, givemecarbs, sometimes people are just going to read into anything you write whatever they want-- case in point, a few days ago on the gaming forum I frequent I commented on an article about a man stealing his 7-year old nephew (who has muscular dystrophy)'s Nintendo DS something along the lines of "What kind of a jerk do you have to be to do something like that?" to which another user responded, "What, are you saying that handicapped people are helpless lesser beings and it's worse to steal from disabled children than 'normal ones?'" ...... *sigh* Yes, by expressing sympathy, what I was *really* doing was expressing my hatred of the handicapped. Got me there, buddy. >__<

I think alkapal's note on emoticons is also helpful-- I know a lot of people don't really like them or think they're "cutesy" or something (and I agree that they can't and shouldn't take the place of actual communication), but they exist for a reason. A smiley face is often the only thing that separates a "playfully sarcastic" or "joking" forum posting from sounding like a "self-righteous jerkbag" post, and different smilies can convey a lot of information. : ) is different from : D is different from : p, and the tones they carry with them can really help to make clear one's intention.

I also used to do a lot of (very, very stupid and embarrassing) online role playing when I was a stupid teenager, so I also type a lot of "actions" when I post on forums. Stuff like " *rolls eyes* or *sigh* ", which work well as an alternative to emoticons or to express a more direct emotion.
"oh i just love jerks on the internet" is probably sarcastic, but if you replace "jerks on the internet" with, say... "canned meat," it might not be.
"Oh, I just LOVE canned meat! : D" is still sort of on the fence, and either way comes of as weirdly glib.
"Oh, I just LOVE canned meat. *rolls eyes*" is very clearly supposed to be dismissive of canned meat as a food genre, and very clearly sarcastic.

...no offense meant, of course, to any canned meat lovers out there. ; D

May 16, 2011
HJSoulma in Site Talk

Graduation Gifts by College Major

I like the assumption that journalism majors are screwed when English majors aren't. XD

However, I take (joking) offense to the idea that an English major won't recognize poets in a couple of years-- not all English majors only did it because they had already fulfilled most of the requirements with other classes. Some of them want to teach, which means they'll remember the poets but need to live on the ramen. ; )

May 12, 2011
HJSoulma in Features

Speaking of weird food/health news: Salt is healthy!

Yet another one-size-does-not-fit-all thing right there-- I become useless, lethargic and awful-feeling if I don't eat carbs regularly, but the smell and taste of meat makes me shudder and feel vomitous (and has since I was an extremely small child, it has very little to do with liking animals). To me, vegetarian/vegan eating makes perfect sense, but a low-carb diet sounds awful and "perverse." : P I would probably die if I went on a low-carb diet, because I'd starve to death. You're very right-- I think we all need to just stop assuming what's healthy for one person is healthy for another!

May 12, 2011
HJSoulma in Food Media & News

When you first started cooking away from home, what were some of your disasters?

My family doesn't really do the whole cooking thing, so I learned to cook in a college dorm, teaching myself almost exclusively by hoping I understood what recipes were asking me to do. To my great surprise, I guess I had something of a knack for it, because I really didn't have many big disasters (and I didn't start with easy recipes-- no, I stupidly decided to start with things like multi-hour curries and other such things. Brilliance! I basically went straight from plain pasta to trying to make serious fancy restaurant food for myself every night. Looking back, I'm surprised I never made many "oh god can't eat this" dishes...).

However, I was making totally-from-scratch tortilla soup one night that first year of cooking, and absentmindedly grabbed the wrong bottle of oil and poured olive oil into the pan I was going to fry up some tortilla chips in, and then walked out of the kitchen to check on something (I can't remember why), and next thing I knew, the entire kitchen was filled with smoke and the fire alarm was going off. The entire 6-story apartment building has to be evacuated, and the fire department came up to my room (I stayed inside trying to sop up the hot oil that had spattered all over the place) and were like "WHAT HAVE YOU DONE" and I had to explain the whole embarrassing story. *sigh* Luckily, my roommate wasn't home, so the only people who ever knew the fire alarm was my fault were the firemen....

Apr 29, 2011
HJSoulma in Not About Food

College Dorm Cooking Facilities

Graduated from Brandeis last year (although I'm a grad student there for another three weeks or so). Freshman year meal plans were not only generally required, but we had to have the most expensive plan (I guess they were afraid we'd starve.) The food at Brandeis is and was unbearably awful, so even as freshmen my hallmates and I were always trying to rig up ways to cook things in the dorms. There were, technically speaking, kitchens in all the dorm buildings, but (a) you couldn't get in without getting the key from the quad director, who was never ever around, (b) even if you did get in there were no pots/pans/utensils/anything, so if you didn't already own the stuff you were screwed (and freshmen at Brandeis aren't allowed to have cars, so you couldn't really go buy them, either), and (c) even if you did manage to get the key and scrounge up cooking vessels, the kitchens were so decrepit and spider-infested that by the time you finished cleaning the webs out of the oven, you were generally no longer in the mood to cook. Technically hot pots/coffee pots/toasters/etc weren't allowed, but most RAs would turn a blind eye as long as you weren't, say, using a fryalator in your room. (Case in point, pets were also not allowed on campus, and I had a hamster, two newts, a chinchilla and four rabbits during my time at college (one of the rabbits my mom eventually stole, and the other two rabbits still live with me. All of the other animals perished for non-living-in-a-dorm-related reasons, largely old age, except the last rabbit, who fell very ill and passed suddenly. Just because I smuggled them illegally doesn't mean I didn't take good care of them.))

Sophomore year lived in Brandeis' famous (infamous?) castle, which was very charming except for the centipedes and lack of hot water or heat, and my suitemates and I had a pantry, but no kitchen. That year I subsisted on Tootsie Rolls and cereal because I could not stand another day of Brandeis food, and decided that the next year I needed to be able to cook for myself or perish.

Junior year moved to Brandeis' off-campus-but-owned-by-the-university apartment buildings, which were basically disgusting mold-ridden bug-infested hovels (they were actually renovated as I was leaving, and are supposedly much nicer now) out in the middle of the woods and about a 20-40 minute walk to the top of campus, but each room or pair of rooms had a kitchen, so I taught myself to cook and refused to ever eat college food again. If you lived somewhere with a kitchen, the university wouldn't make you have a meal plan, but since (at the time of my matriculation; it's different now) the dorms with kitchens tended to be run down and far away from anything interesting, very few people wanted to go that route. However, it also meant that a lot of the dorms with kitchens tended to be populated by serious, mature students who could take care of themselves, so we didn't have a lot of drunken-apartment-burning-down. (To be fair, Brandeis is not much of a party/drinking school anyway, except for the hipsters who drink bad wine while doing their homework because they think it makes them erudite.)

I'm glad I was given an option to cook for myself, but I sort of get the feeling that a lot of college students these days aren't really "ready" to take that step towards adulthood (which, frankly, I think is immature and a sign of how poorly we've "marketed" adulthood to youth-- really, it's not so bad!)-- the state of disuse of the communal kitchen at my school seemed to attest to that.

Maybe colleges should have a cooking requirement! I could get behind that.

Apr 29, 2011
HJSoulma in Not About Food

Vegan Myths Dispelled, In Song

Ziv, I think you might want to remember that not everyone actually has the same tastes in food. I'm not a vegan, but from the time I was a very very small child the smell and the taste of red meat repulsed me. It has nothing to do with wanting to save the world or not eat animals, I just plain old don't like meat. If I go into a place that serves lots of steak/BBQ/etc, generally speaking the smell of meat cooking actually makes me gag. So while in your opinion, "meat usually tastes better than any vegan meal" and that "vegan food isn't satisfying," that is in fact *your opinion.* And it's not like I'm some sort of freak anomaly, many vegetarians and vegans I know legitimately prefer the taste of well-prepared vegetarian/vegan food to meat, even if they "gave it up" for moral/health conscious/etc reasons. Heck, I know a lot of pretty serious carnivores who have said that my cooking (which is mostly vegetarian, but very rarely features chicken/turkey/fish) is very flavorful, very satisfying and "could I take some home with me?" My boyfriend is one of these carnivores, and while I offer poultry and fish to him often, when given the choice he generally picks meatless dishes because he just really likes the way they taste. Maybe you've just never had GOOD vegetarian/vegan food? Or maybe you just don't like the way vegetables taste?

Apr 14, 2011
HJSoulma in Features

Gender and Food

Totally true. My boyfriend just opens the fridge and eats cold soup/curry/rice/pasta/whatever all the time, and, while I am an extremely un-feminine eater, I simply cannot imagine putting something so cold and slimy down my throat. Makes me shiver, and not from the cold!

Dec 24, 2010
HJSoulma in Not About Food

Gender and Food

I'm a woman, but I inherited my grandfather's "just cut the mold off" sensibility about food. If I drop stuff on the floor I just wash it off and eat it anyway, if the fruit is too old to eat I puree it and make sorbet, if it's "expired" but looks fine I'll eat it anyway (like the two-months-expired yogurt I ate not too long ago), and every guy I know (other than my grandfather) is just like WHAT ARE YOU DOING OH GOD IT'S OLD/DIRTY/GROSS NO STOP. It's partially a gender thing, but I think it's also generational-- we live in a world of (frustratingly) "expendable" food, so lots of people who didn't grow up in leaner times are freaked out by eating "bad" (which is almost always fine) food.

Dec 24, 2010
HJSoulma in Not About Food

Gender and Food

Find a guy with a food allergy-- they'll eat anything that isn't the food they're allergic to.

(I'm partially kidding, but I went to a college with a lot of guys with food allergies, and I discovered that they tend to be very good eaters-- my boyfriend, who is allergic to dairy, eggs, shellfish, peanuts, tree nuts (and maybe arrowroot but it really isn't in anything), who you would expect to be very difficult to find food for, is the easiest person to cook for I have ever met. He will eat ANYTHING that he can eat because there are so many things he can't eat. It's really good for my ego, too, because he even thinks my disasters taste good. XD

Dec 24, 2010
HJSoulma in Not About Food

Gender and Food

I am a messy, heartily-eating woman, and my boyfriend (thankfully) thinks it's adorable because, and I quote "he likes seeing me happy." I do wonder sometimes, though, if he secretly wants me squishier, because he's always encouraging me to have extra servings of things. Then again, he's also always telling me I should remember to do things like eat lunch (which I always forget to do because I get busy and then suddenly it's too close to dinnertime for lunch), so he might just be worried that I don't eat enough.

But yeah, double standards are stupid. I eat like I enjoy food because I enjoy food, and that's the way it is.

Dec 24, 2010
HJSoulma in Not About Food

Gender and Food

My boyfriend, who actually does love meat, does a lot of the same stuff. Whenever I actually manage to convince him to let me know what he wants for dinner (mostly that doesn't happen because he "feels guilty telling me what to do" and I end up cooking whatever I feel like) he picks vegetarian food. He's so cute. n__n He also loves sweets but can't eat a ton of them 'cause he's a very skinny dude, and he isn't afraid of things like... vegan food... and smoothies... and pastries.

However, he can't cook at all, so that's, I suppose, "manly." It isn't a refusal to cook, but a bizarre fear of breaking food and a feeling that cooking is strongly akin to being a powerful wizard. I'm okay with that, though, because it means I get copious thanks and praise every single night for cooking. XD

Dec 24, 2010
HJSoulma in Not About Food

Gender and Food

Oh lord, this just makes me think of the time one of my best friends (who is a gay man, but whom most people assume is straight because he's also a serious geek) and I went to dinner before seeing a friend in a musical-- we were seated at a secluded table with a nice view and candles, and suddenly realized they thought we were on a date-- that is, until the food came and I heartily dug in, generally getting rice all over the place and talking with my mouth full and licking curry off my fingers, and he slowly and methodically ate his food appropriate spoonful by appropriate spoonful. We started getting "crap, we shouldn't have given them the good table" looks after that.

So, okay-- apparently "real men" don't eat carefully, and "real women" eat like dainty flowers.

Dec 24, 2010
HJSoulma in Not About Food

The Curse of the Touchy-Feely Server

I am one of those super-lucky (*cough*) people who gets talked to by strangers and touched by people everywhere I go. It's not like I'm ecstatic about it happening, but seriously, unless the person touching you just touched raw meat or is fixing a toilet or sneezed onto that hand a second ago, or they're touching you inappropriately, what's the problem? They touch you, then they are done touching you and you walk away. Not a huge deal, even if you are briefly uncomfortable.

Dec 15, 2010
HJSoulma in Features

Whole Foods Makes Us Lazy Cooks

I think the only vegetable I would do this for is pumpkin. I hate chopping and peeling pumpkins so much, but this early year I discovered an amazing pumpkin-potato-chicken soup recipe and now find myself cutting rock-hard, rhino-skinned gourds at least once a month...

Dec 03, 2010
HJSoulma in Features

Gluten-Free Doughnuts Good, but Not Doughnuts

MommaJ, partially it is legitimate celiac cases-- food makers/stores/etc are just becoming more cognizant of allergy-sufferers. But partially there are more people just going on wheat/gluten-free diets because for whatever reason they think it'll be good for them (or worse, putting their children on gluten-free diets because a while back some doctors advocated doing that to curb bad behavior/ADHD/autism and a thousand other things that are not correlated to wheat in any way.) It's wonderful that more GF products are becoming available for people with allergies, but unfortunately it's also just one of those "magical fix all health things" that lots of crazy people have latched onto lately, which is, frankly, an insult to people who actually have dietary restrictions.

Dec 02, 2010
HJSoulma in Features

Gluten-Free But Not Annoying

While I would agree that Helena didn't really put out her opening statement in an appropriate way, as someone who (a) comes from a family of teachers and therefore hears a lot about what crazes parents are into and (b) has a lot of friends with medical problems, I think I see what she was *trying* to say. I dated a guy with celiac once, and he actually had a medical condition (he was also a serious jerk, but that's neither here nor there). That's fine. I had no issue waiting for him to cross-examine waiters or whatever. However, scads of parents in recent years seem to think that a gluten-free diet is the cure to every ill on the planet, and that's just stupid. If your kid is gluten intolerance, YES, by all means, don't let him eat things with gluten in them, but if your kid is ADHD or autistic, it ISN'T BECAUSE OF BREAD. Furthermore, one of my friends not long ago was told by her doctor that her fatigue was probably due to gluten intolerance, and I kept telling her she had no signs or symptoms of celiac, and then weeks later her doctor was like, "oh, sorry, I was wrong." This is becoming problematically common-- much like parents looking for a quick fix way to make their kids behave without actually having to do any parenting, doctors seem also to be using the spectre of gluten-intolerance as some kind of fix-all-your-problems panacea. I assume *this* is what Helena was talking about (or so I hope-- if she was just being an out and out jerk, then forget everything I said), the people who for one reason or another THINK they're gluten-intolerant despite having no symptoms of it nor ever being given any sort of diagnosis confirming it. Having a real medical problem is one thing, but pretending to have one because, essentially, it's the "hip" thing to do is ridiculous, and not only offensive to any company they keep, but to every person who actually suffers from the disorder.

Nov 30, 2010
HJSoulma in Features

tree nut friendly restaurant around Wellesley/Needham/Newton

My boyfriend is (anaphylactically) allergic to peanuts, tree nuts and shellfish and allergic (but not in a deadly way unless in very, very large amounts) to milk and eggs. We live in Waltham, and truthfully, when we first started eating out together (and when I cooked for him the first few times), I was totally paranoid and we only went to places in which nuts weren't part of the *idea* of the cuisine and so on and so forth, but over time we've learned that , basically, as long as you ask and make clear (in a polite, non-I'm-going-to-sue-you kind of way) your allergies, 99% of restaurants will be happy to accommodate you. In particular, Chinese restaurants are not nearly as much as a danger as you may think-- Chinese cooking occasionally uses peanut oil for frying, but not so much tree nuts-- and as long as you ask "are there any nuts in this dish," you'll basically be fine. I would, however, shy away from most Thai places, because they love their pine nuts. Vietnamese should also be fine, since again, it's more peanuts than tree nuts. Indian occasionally uses tree nuts, but they're almost always listed under the description of the dish. Don't go somewhere you know nobody speaks reasonable English. My boyfriend and I have had good luck all around the metro-Boston/Middlesex-county area, and seriously, don't be afraid of walking in, looking at the menu and walking out-- leaving because of a food allergy is not being rude, it's being safe.

I completely understand how scary it is having someone you love having food allergies (I am expecting that if my boyfriend and I remain together, our children will be allergic), particularly when it's "new." However, it's also very important *not* to make a huge deal out of it for the sake of your daughter-- teach her how to be safe, but not to be paranoid. My previous boyfriend also had a nut allergy (specifically, Brazil nuts-- I went to a college with a high preponderance of allergies; I swear don't have a fetish!), but his parents were ridiculously overprotective (not letting him go out with friends for fear of nuts, not trusting him to pick his own food at restaurants, etc) and so he had a very bad relationship to food and was weirdly cavalier about his allergies (I would often read the ingredient label before him), perhaps as a very dangerous form of rebellion. He was also incredibly touchy about and deeply ashamed of his allergies.

On the other hand, my current boyfriend is conscientious but neither frightened of nor dismissive of his allergies, because his parents didn't largely alter how they dealt with eating around him as he was growing up. They kept things he was allergic to in the house for those who could eat them, continued to eat out at the same places, and treated his allergies more like asthma or some other inherited, potentially dangerous but not necessarily crippling condition; they taught him to read labels and ask at restaurants, but trusted him to remember his epipen and make good decisions. He is totally unselfconscious about having allergies, will eat basically anything that isn't dangerous to him, loves going out to eat, loves helping me cook, and doesn't care when I decide to order something (or make something) that has ingredients he can't have, because he can fend for himself and knows I'm not stupid enough to say, eat a peanut butter and jelly sandwich and then give him a big ol' kiss.

Basically: you will have to be a little more careful from now on, but don't completely alter your lifestyle. If you turn the allergy into a sticky-panicky situation it's not going to be good for your kid. You need to teach her what she can and cannot have, not how she can and cannot live her life. Heck, as weird as it sounds, it can be kind of fun trying to find great new restaurants that also cater to your daughter's needs: turn it into a culinary adventure (let's see what this place serves!) rather than a chore (oh, we need to eat at a chain now because of your allergies). Furthermore, more and more kids these days are developing allergies (for whatever reason), so more and more restaurants are catering to people with them. Your daughter is also much less likely to be treated as an outsider than in previous generations, but avoiding treating allergies as some kind of stigmata at home is going to make it easier for her not to internalize that at school or with friends.

As for suggestions, my boyfriend and I's favorites are largely Waltham-y, but there really are SO many options, particularly in this part of the states (lots of vegans/etc., so restaurants are already used to special orders.) You will also still have to mention your daughters' allergies at most of these places, but we've had very good luck with getting orders special-tailored/etc. Let's see...

Sushi Yasu in Waltham has Japanese, Korean and other Asian food, and they're very good about catering to special concerns
Dragon Chef in Waltham is very traditional American-Chinese food (read: salty and greasy, really only for takeout/delivery), but is surprisingly good and VERY cheap
Little India in Waltham is good standard Indian fare
Kaguya II in Arlington is quite tasty Japanese/Korean/Thai, and my boyfriend actually got to try some Thai food there

if you're willing to do some trekking, Sakura in Chelmsford was allergy-friendly and also has kitsune udon, which to me is a fairly major selling point (although I don't know if it would be to anyone else...)

......Um... I can't think of any more of the top of my head, but my advice is just to ask when you go to restaurants. Look at the menu before sitting down. Figure out if there's anything your daughter likes, ask the waiter if they know if it has tree nuts (or if they can go ask the kitchen staff for you), and if they don't know what a tree nut is, explain it to them. You just have to be proactive! I wish you and your daughter good luck in your food hunting journey!

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Sushi Yasu
617 Main St, Waltham, MA 02452

Dragon Chef Restaurant
411 Washington St, Brighton, MA 02135

Nov 05, 2010
HJSoulma in Greater Boston Area

"Women are lousy tippers"--perhaps a self-fulfilling prophecy?

Totally self-fulfilling/profiling. I'm female, very young-looking (I am in grad school and often mistaken for high school-age), and don't drink any alcohol, and always order water with my meals because I don't much like soft drinks-- when I go into a restaurant, *no one* assumes that I almost always tip 20% unless the service is atrocious. I've found, however, the best way to get around this is to use the profile to its advantage: since they think I'm young, I act sugary sweet, and suddenly they're being nice to me even if they don't really want to.... I can't tell you how many time I've started out with a grumpy/standoffish waiter who, after lots of needless smiling and thanking and carrying on, has suddenly become quite friendly.

Of course, I guess you could say this is a lot of work just to get waiters to be nice to you, but... I don't know, I guess I'd rather try than not.

Nov 04, 2010
HJSoulma in Not About Food

Good Parking + Good Food in/near Boston = Possible?

I can't think of a specific restaurant, but parking in Boston is AWFUL. Just plain, bottom-line awful. Very few decent-but-not-ridiculously-expensive restaurants have anything but roadside parking, and trying to park at a garage in Boston for any length of time really means you'll be spending upwards of $25 just on putting your car somewhere. I have a teensy weensy subcompact and I still have trouble parking, and it sounds like you're bringing a number of people.

In short: I would strongly recommend parking at one of the outside of Boston T-terminals, be it Braintree, Newton, wherever, and just "commute" in. If the aforementioned elders are wary about having to walk, I'm sure you can find a good restaurant near an accessible T-stop. Of course, if they're completely unwilling to go on the T, then I suppose you have an issue, but seriously, I live 7 miles from Cambridge as the crow flies, and I *still* avoid having to drive into Boston (not because of traffic/etc, I actually find driving in Boston just fine) because parking is such a nightmare most of the time.

Of course, I totally just missed the part about you having to catch flights, so all my advice is probably moot, since you'll have to have baggage with you... Oops.

Oct 27, 2010
HJSoulma in Greater Boston Area