Dating, 20s vs. Dating, 30s (guess which is better)

For a long time I tried really hard in relationships.  I tried earnestly to be fair, to be loving.  I went to therapy and tried to figure out how to fix problems.  I gave thoughtful gifts.  I said I was sorry first.  I tried to talk things through.  And I stayed in relationships with mostly decent guys who sometimes withheld sex and affection, who ignored me, who cheated on me, who made me wait for hours when they said they’d be there, who ignored my birthday, who disregarded my principles about eating animal products, who tried to one-up me, who texted during dinner, who didn’t call when they said they would, who insulted me to my face.
And then, sometime after my 30th birthday, I turned thirty.  And I stopped caring about having a boyfriend, and I stopped believing in magical, romantic thinking about relationships, and things got…different, mostly better for me.
He’s Just Not That Into You was a great book, although by the time I “read” it I pretty much already had the lesson down.  It was a good confirmation, though.  This is how I read it: I went to Amazon, looked at the table of contents, and read the titles of each chapter.  The message was pretty straightforward.  You don’t need to buy it.  If you’re too lazy too even click over to Amazon, let me sum it up this way.  If it’s not clear that a guy loves you, try getting rid of him.  That should put your mind at ease.

I’d add a last but crucial chapter: if you’re not that into him, get rid of him.  Ignore well-meaning family and friends in this case.  You know the truth.  If the sex isn’t mind-blowing and you don’t have to fight back an irresistible urge to jump on him in front of everyone when you see him, let him go so some other girl or guy can feel that way about him.
It worked great for me:

 

Calling, 20s. He doesn’t call or text for what seems like a long time.  I get upset, worry, wait for his call.  In certain cases, I worry that something bad’s happened to him and get all anxious.

 
Calling, 30s.  He’s been calling or texting and then he stops.  Has something bad happened to him?  That would be unfortunate, but it’s not my problem at this stage.  I don’t date hermits, so if he were dead, someone else would have found his body by now.  Maybe I call him.  Or I forget about him until he shows up again.  That’s the best of all: a nice surprise, like finding a $20 in a coat pocket, only you can have hot sex with it.

 
Valentine’s day, 20s.  You’ve been dating me for about a year.  You sleep over and in the morning I present you with a flan in the shape of a heart.

 
Valentine’s day, 30s.  Valentine’s Day?  I’ve had magical Valentine’s Days where I felt like a queen, and I’ve had Valentine’s Days where I was an evil cut-off-his-head queen, my day ruined by silly overblown expectations.  And I don’t care anymore. Maybe I go out with someone I’ve been seeing. Maybe I stay home and bake a doggie treat in the shape of a heart.  Maybe I feel sorry for all those people in struggling relationships who have to cope with the expectations and comparisons that Valentine’s Day foists on them.  But I don’t feel sad about being alone on Valentine’s Day.  I save that for times that actually matter to me, like the night of the 2008 presidential elections, the annual Sly Fox Goat Races and Beer Fest, and prime camping season.  Not “holidays” that shameless status symbol peddlers and impoverished worker exploiters like DeBeers tell me ought to matter.

 
Fight, 20s.  I try to understand your point of view and try to get you to understand mine.  Maybe I try to convince you that I’m right: “I understand your favorite philosopher says birthdays are another meaningless ritual of modern life.  But in this case, it’s not a meaningless ritual.  It’s showing you care about me.  We’ve been together for four months and I would think you would like to take me out for it or at least call and say happy birthday.”

 
Fight, 30s.  You ignore or forget my birthday?  That’s great that you’re really practicing your favorite philosopher’s ideas.  Will Hegel ride backwards cowboy, tonight, too?  My favorite philosopher says, “We’re done, jackass.”


“Talking,” 20s:  I think that we can talk our way out of a problem.  If you’re doing something that bothers me or if there’s some problem in the relationship, I want to talk about it.

 
“Talking,” 30s: If there’s something I don’t like, and I decide I can’t live with it, I’ll tell you. Maybe once, maybe twice.  And then I’ll just leave.  For example, I hate generic terms of endearment.  Please don’t call me sweetie, honey, cariño, sol, or worst, baby.  It doesn’t make me feel special.  It just makes me throw up a little in my mouth.  If you persist after I tell you I don’t like it, I’m going to decide we’re incompatible, because you have some strange blockage to addressing me like an adult human.  There’s nothing to talk about, baby.

 
“Public Scenes,” 20s.  We have a disagreement in public, say in a restaurant or on the street.  It’s not loud or dramatic, but it’s possible that other people will notice.  You try to shut me down with this warning.  I shut up, and later if I bring it up you try to make me feel bad that I ever said anything.

 
“Public Scenes,” 30s.  If you disrespect me in a public place, I’m going to respond in a public place.  Embarrassing you is not intentional—you embarrassed yourself.  (Don’t worry, I’ve done it plenty!) I don’t give a shit what the next table at the restaurant or the college kids hackey-sacking in the park or the family waiting their turn at the windmill on the putt-putt course think.  And the truth is, neither do you.  You just want me to shut up, and I will, but first I’ll tell you what I think.  And then I’ll walk out and leave you at the table with a full glass of wine, or in front of the Picasso to stand there and pretend to figure out what it means.  It means you’re a jackass.  You might as well finish your wine.

 
One shitty thing about consumer capitalism is the tendency to replace rather than repair.  Nowadays if your blender or your space heater breaks, it’s usually cheaper to get a new one than to have it fixed. But I don’t want a new one.  I want someone to fix the old one!  It makes me sick to think the whole thing is going to waste because the people potentially fixing it in the US cost far more than the semi-slaves in China who make new ones.  Add another black mark to my carbon footprint.

 
Now who knows, maybe your blender can be fixed with a new part.  But if the frame on your sunglasses breaks, gluing it won’t work. I’ve tried it more than once.  You can use your strongest glue, and even clamp on the frame, but soon after, the pieces just snap apart again. Short relationships are less like a blender and more like a pair of sunglasses.  People are the parts, and if they don’t stay together right, the whole thing’s screwed.  Get a new one.

 
“Magic words,” 20s.  “I love you.”  Uh-huh.  Few things in life are so widely cited to justify decisions, yet as irrelevant to reality as the experience of romantic love.  Yeah, it feels good.  So does eating watermelon.  You may as well say, “I like watermelon.”  It has as much relevance to the trajectory of a relationship.

 
Real magic words, 30s. “This isn’t working.” When I say them, we both suddenly grow up.  The action stops and the actors stop acting—proud or defensive or needy or caring.  Both of you have to admit that when it comes down to it, you’re in a relationship it for the pleasure you get from it, and you’re not getting enough pleasure from this one.  That simple fact overrules all objections.  There might be a short question-and-answer period, and then everyone goes home.  Because you’re professionals now, and that’s what professionals do.  People might have relapses, e.g. drunken calls at 2 am, but assuming you’re both sane, the wisdom of the breakup prevails.

 
And unlike a new blender, getting a new part(ner) doesn’t burn fossil fuels.

A Retort to Racist and Anti-Gay Chanters of “USA, USA”

This is my retort to the chants of “Got a green card?” and “USA, USA” called at a Latino player, an American citizen, at a recent basketball game, and chants of “USA, USA” shouted at two men who were escorted out of a Santorum rally for kissing to protest the candidate’s anti-gay rhetoric.

I am disgusted with people using my country’s name to cheer on racism and anti-gay-ism.  People use the name of the USA to cheer on other malignant things, like predatory capitalism and interventionist foreign policy, and that pisses me off too.  Get off our country’s name!  If the US had Ten Commandments—which, FYI right-wingers, it doesn’t because we’re a nation, not the governmental arm of your religion—this would be #4: “Thou shalt not use the name of the United States of America for evil purposes.[1]

Oh wait, we do have ten commandments.  They’re called the Bill of Rights, and in addition to ensuring the right of the people to keep and bear arms, they decree, right up there in #1, that Congress “shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or the free exercise thereof.”  U-S-A!  U-S-A!  U-S-A!

And to supporters of Rick “Santorum” Santorum—also have a gander at the ninth amendment some time.  It gets less public attention than others, maybe because it’s towards the end of the list and the people chanting USA! as an insult towards other citizens of the USA can’t read real fast, but it basically says that just because certain rights aren’t specifically mentioned in the Constitution doesn’t mean we don’t have them.  So just because the right to marry or have earth-trembling or maybe just mediocre sex with the adult human of your choosing isn’t guaranteed in the Constitution doesn’t mean it isn’t a right that all Americans, even Americans who might choose to marry and breed with other fat, stupid oafs who wouldn’t know the Constitution if it ran them over in a Wal-Mart truck, have by virtue of being alive.

So let’s not even argue about whether states or the Fed should “give” same-sex couples the right to marry.  See, our Founders had this radical, progressive idea that ended up becoming the basis for our Constitution: the State never grants individual rights—those rights are inherent to all humans.  The State doesn’t exist to tell people how to live or hand out sweet delicious rights to good little children.  It exists, at the will of the people, to protect their human rights.  This is something every citizen ought to remember.  We the People agree to put the State between us and “might makes right.”

The USA chanters do talk about rights and freedom a lot, but those are mostly just catchwords, because the chanters fail to understand that if you want to have your own freedom, you have to have justice for everyone—you have to stand up for other people’s freedom too, even if you don’t really like them or what they do with it.  Without that kind of freedom, the USA chant is empty, just an acronym for a B- bureaucracy with an A+ military, another nation-state in a world history full of nation-states that rose and fell on no principle but power, so many angry waves churning up and finally dissolving into foam on sand. But with freedom and justice for all, USA is something worth getting teary-eyed about.  To a lot of people, it’s been worth giving up everything for. And living up to this principle of freedom and justice for all is what actually makes a person worthy of the United States of America: a real American, if you like.

But these chanters don’t really want to honor the USA and our idealistic foundations.  Instead, they want to reduce the grand experiment in human freedom that is the United States of America to a cultural showdown, in which they claim territory for themselves based on selected cultural markers.  They want to say, “If you don’t worship this god and speak this language and adhere to this particular mid-20th-century-US-dualistic-patriarchal framing of the hot fascinating mess that is human sexuality, you’re not a real American,” although being an American has zero to do with any of that shit.

But have pity on them.  The truth is they’re afraid because they know they’re an endangered species.  Cultural change thunders on as always, and they will be left behind[2], treading water at the stagnant edges of a nation of increasing ethnic, religious, linguistic, and sexual diversity.  But don’t feel too bad for them.  No one is pushing them to those cultural margins.  They’re clinging.  They have concluded that rejecting diversity will preserve their culture.  They couldn’t be more wrong.  Their resistance freezes their culture in time, precluding it from interacting with other cultures, learning, and evolving.  Most ominously, they reject science, ridicule the academic disciplines, and recoil at the whiff of rigorous thought.  They are already victims of their own endogamy: their dialogues distorted into echo chambers, their culture doomed to become a caricature of itself.  They’ve surely even shuddered at themselves in movies, only they didn’t recognize themselves because they were wearing white hoods, or a bit farther back, wielding pitchforks and torches.

So it’s unfortunate that they’re looking for a cultural showdown.  Because they’ll lose.   Not because human history inevitably moves toward “progress.”  It doesn’t.[3]

They’ll lose because we have a culture that’s worth fighting for: the culture of freedom and justice for all.

Or to rephrase the old saying: don’t bring a pitchfork to a culture war.  Honeys, it is on.


[1] For those of you used to hearing “Thou shalt not take the Lord’s name in vain” and who grew up thinking it was a mortal sin to say “OMG!” when you’re excited or “Jesus Christ” when something shocks you, I have it personally from a now deceased ex-nun that this is a frivolous interpretation of the commandment.  The real meaning is that it’s a mortal sin to say, for example, “We’re going to have an Inquisition and torture and murder these Jews and Muslims who converted to Christianity to avoid being driven out of their homeland because that’s what God wants,” and then go and do it for a few hundred years, of course, or, for a more recent example, to convince some angry and depressed young men that God would really really love them if only they crashed some planes into big buildings.

[2] “Left Behind,” as many Santorum supporters imagine we heathens will be left behind at their Apocalypse, which is essentially their guided-fantasy revenge for the leaving behind that is happening to them in the actual world.

[3] Don’t let that erroneous thought, subtly suggested in grade school history textbooks, lull you into complacency.  Please see, for human rights, the post-Reconstruction South (recommended: Isabel Wilkerson’s The Warmth of Other Suns).  Regardless, when history does trend towards improved human conditions, left unattended, it takes way too fucking long.

How Not to Buy Condoms in Spain

1. Don’t do it in a small town where everyone is somehow cousins, even if you happen to be living in said town, and are stopping by your apartment which happens to be near the pharmacy to grab a change of clothes when you get a text from your boyfriend telling you he’s out of condoms.

 
2.  If you walk into the farmacia and three employees are standing behind the counter, and they stop chatting to look at you and one of them offers to help you, you should say you need aspirin or bandaids.  By all means do NOT say, “Necesito condones.”

 
3.  If you failed to heed #2 above, thick-headed reader, be assured that the oldest of the three employees, a plump grandmotherly woman wearing bifocals with a cord, will point you towards a shelf with a small selection of prophylactics and ask which kind you prefer.  Do not panic, and blurt out like an idiot, “I don’t care what kind.”

 
4.  As the employee wraps your box of Durex Lubricated in paper, and you hear that familiar chime telling you that you have received a text message, ignore it.  UNDER NO CIRCUMSTANCE should you look at this text from your boyfriend and inform the kind grandmother that you prefer “extra sensitive.”

 
5.  Pay for your purchase and exit the farmacia without making eye contact.  Eye contact could, of course, result in spontaneous combustion.

 
6.  Locate the nearest hole and promptly crawl into it.  Stay there until everyone currently alive in the town who may have witnessed or heard of your purchase has died of natural causes.

You’re an animal

Well, you are.  So am I.  One interesting aspect of humans’ relationship with the other animals is the way we use their species as epithets.  In Spain and the US, certain animal names mean the same thing:

A worm (gusano) is passively manipulative in both cultures.  I guess this has to do with the way worms hide out from light, and get into hidden spaces.  Maybe worms thing we hide from the dark.  I guess it depends on what kind of worm we’re talking about.  A tapeworm, whatever jokes weight-conscious people like to make, is not a helpful animal to humans.  But our friends the earthworms certainly are.

A vulture (un buitre) is greedy.  This is usually used as a friendly joke in the US, i.e. “I’ll take the rest of this cake into work tomorrow for the vultures.”  But a vulture is almost always negative.  That’s kind of stupid.  To see a vulture as “bad” simply because it scavenges devalues the vulture’s role in the ecosystem.  It’s like saying garbage men are bad.

A rat (una rata) is a traitor in both the US and Spain.  Where humankind goes, rats follow.  Common wisdom says that rats spread disease, and they carried the flea that spread the Black Death in Europe.  Yet in the era of modern medicine, domesticated rats have played an important role in research into human diseases and treatments.

A pig (un cerdo) is a dirty, chauvinist, or bad-mannered person in both cultures.  Pigs are interesting animals, and they’re really not dirty when given the space and clean straw to keep themselves tidy.  Sure, their shit smells, but whose doesn’t?  I learned some fun facts about pigs at The Oatmeal…maybe we should reserve the “pig” name-calling for those lucky people who super-long orgasms.

Some animal names are very different between Spain and the US.

A billy goat doesn’t mean anything in the US, but a cabrón in Spain roughly translates to the English jerk or asshole.  Are billy goats assholes?  I don’t know.  The ones at the Sly Fox goat races are usually pretty chill.  Maybe we should ask a nanny goat.

Dog is complicated.  If a Spaniard tells you, no seas perro, it means “don’t be lazy.”  This makes sense for most of today’s domesticated dogs, but only from an anthropocentric perspective.  You might think you’re dog’s lazy because he doesn’t do housework, preferring to lie around on the sofa while you mop floors, but he may be very industrious when it comes to doing the things he wants to do, like digging a hole or fetching a stick.  And can you blame him?  Without opposable thumbs, you’re not much use at cleaning, although my dog does a fabulous spot-cleaning job on food stains.

In the US, if you call a woman a dog, your meaning is that she’s ugly, but what it really means is that you’re an asshole.  But  if you call a woman a female dog in the US, it means she’s mean, or more likely, that she’s more assertive than your passive-accommodating female model.And if you call a man a dog, it means he’s constantly throwing himself at potential sexual mates.  That one seems kind of accurate, I must say.   All of these insults seem quite ironic for a population that loves its dogs as much as we do in the US and Europe.  With everything from hand-knitted sweaters to chemotherapy for our dogs, perhaps it’s time to rethink our dog-based idioms.

Una urraca is a bizarre one, from an outsider’s perspective.  The urraca is a bird that takes other birds’ eggs back to its nest for food.  The name can be used to describe a person who likes shiny things and tends to pick them up.  This can be good or bad depending on the circumstance.  If you lost your keys, maybe Luz found them…she’s una urraca.  Or maybe she stole your necklace.  This is so specific I don’t even know what to say.  Definitely a good one.

 
A hen (gallina) – is a coward.  This is similar to the American use of “chicken” to call someone a coward.  Are chickens cowards?  Depends on the chicken.

A leech (sanguijuela) – is the same in both languages.  It’s a funny thing that an animal that sucks blood, in popular culture, is someone who sucks up other people’s money.

 

This was supposed to just be a list of different animal insults in the US and Spain.  But I see a common thread.  All of the insults based on animals come from an highly anthropocentric—and uneducated—point of view.  Calling another person a pig or a rat as an insult, however common, reveals a narrow perspective of the natural world.  It shows a lack of understanding of these species’ behaviors, and an ignorance of the way domestication and natural ecosystems work. Maybe it’s time for us humans to step outside of these old perspectives, and try to see other animals on their own terms and in terms of the ecosystems we humans have moved into as we populate the world.

So I’m not saying we necessarily ought to give up these terms—but we need to rethink them, the outdated views they reflect, and the effect they have on our psyches of reinforcing an anthropocentric, dominance-based worldview.

 

 

My next foray into this terrain will be to pick apart epithets based on body parts.  After all, where would we be without our assholes?

 

Foods I Miss & New Ones Found

For all my fellow foodies back in the U.S. or here in Spain.

The main thing I miss is spicy foods.  Spaniards generally shy away from anything que pica, whereas for me, hot chiles and other palate-searers constitute a crucial part of cuisine.  I schlepped a bottle of Cholula Chipotle back on the plane, and found canned jalapeños and chipotles, and some dried chile de árbol.  For the spring, I’m planning to grow my own from seed.  So it’s not that España doesn’t have the heat…it’s just a BYOS: Bring Your Own Sauce.  Hot mamá!

But let me begin with

Great New Foods Found in España

Whole risotto-style rice grown in Valencia.  Rare in the U.S..   And here it is, cheap and great and available at every supermarket.  It doesn’t quite fill the shoes of brown Basmati in certain favorite combinations, but it does the job.
Judías verdes – flat, broad green beans available fresh still, even in December, and delicious.  Sauteed in olive oil with garlic and some chopped tomatoes, I have literally licked the plate.  I shit you not.

 

Wild thyme – out here in el campo, it grows all over the place.  On most sunny days, I usually take a long walk with the dog out in the country, through the olive groves and into hills populated by lichen-covered rocks and fragrant shrubs.  I pick a handful of thyme, and put it in my jacket pocket, where I forget about it until the next day when I’m going to stick a lip gloss or something in there, and I’m greeted by that fresh sharp smell.  Why do they even sell thyme in the supermarkets here?  Huh?

 
Valencia oranges, of course, and clementines.  Holy vaca, how great is it to be able to buy sweet, juicy oranges grown a mere 4 hours away?!

 

Wonderful garlic.  For me, garlic forms one part of the holy trinity of flavor, and here, it’s worth getting down on your knees (although you don’t have to kneel or even bend to pick garlic, which is why for farm workers, it’s a pleasant task).  The garlic is grown locally, and is much more flavorful than the substandard shipping-grade stuff we get from China and even California in the winter in PA.  Victoria Beckham said of her arrival in Madrid that Spain smells like garlic.  And?  SO?

 
Kumato tomatoes – a nice, flavorful green and red tomato.  Great for slicing and roasting.  I’m curious to know what varieties of heirlooms Spain has…will have to find out next summer!
Acelgas – a kind of green chard.  I’ve never been a big fan of chard, but I’ve grown to like this variety, which is always available and very good in soups.

 

Pepinillos – similar to cornichons, but a little less sour, saltier, and with a slightly different, tasty flavor that I can’t describe.

 
Chufas – a tasty but elusive little tuber that looks like a dried rabbit turd and tastes sweet and nutty.  It is the key ingredient in Spain’s horchata, which I had previously assumed was made out of rice and cinnamon like it is in the good ol’ US of A.  Unfortunately, the brands of horchata I’ve tried are super-sweet.

 
Lentejas pardas  and what’s sold as just lentejas.  The former, dry, are smaller and greenish-brown, and the latter are larger and sort of a reddish-brown.  Both are delicious.  I had formerly mostly used red lentils and yellow lentils, never really tried the brown ones…different, but mighty tasty!  Lentejas are an important food in Spain, and they’re eaten in every part of the country.  And why not?  In the U.S. obesity rates are higher on the low end of the economic scale: indeed, poor people these days are fatter, because they’re living on crap processed food.  In Spain, that’s not so much the case.  Poor people, at least in the country, eat more of the cheaper traditional foods…like lentils and garbanzos.

 
Rabo, which seems to be related to a parsnip, and is very good in soups and stews.  I had my first parsnip about a year or so ago when my sister served them roasted, and they’re a real treat, although the parsnip will forever remind me of the Chappelle show Wife Swap parody where the white husband serves the black wife a mystery vegetable and she says “What’s this?” and he says, “It’s a parsnip,” and she says, “What the FUCK is a parsnip?”  That was pretty much my attitude towards a parsnip and was the same here: “What the FUCK is a rabo?” Apparently it’s also yet another nickname for a penis, or maybe that’s a nabo, but judging from the extensive selection of penis appellations, it might be both, although I can’t generally disrespected vegetable.  But once I have a place with an oven, I’ll have to see how roasting it turns out.  I imagine you could also treat it in the same manner as a daikon radish, and slice it raw or cold-pickle it in turmeric and rice vinegar.  Results to follow.

and now…

Foods I Miss from the USA (specifically Philly)


Kimchi.  Ate an entire jar of it while I was back to visit.  UPDATE: just bought a jar of kimchi in a Chinese neighborhood, after getting a haircut from a nice lady who spoke like 4 words of Spanish.  The haircut turned out great.  The kimchi was meh.  I’m glad it was in that order.

 
Good whole-wheat pita.  Made myself or purchased from Bitar’s at 10th & Federal.

 
Brown basmati rice.  The fine texture and the nutty flavor are just impossible to replace in the various legume combinations that form a staple of my diet and rice salads.

 
Okra.  I love the slimy stuff.  I think the españoles would love it too, if they were properly introduced to it with tomatoes, especially this incredible Middle Eastern recipe I made this summer…

 
Pickled tomatoes.  My favorite purchasing site used to be Lee’s Produce in Conshohocken, when I worked nearby.  Then I resorted to stopping at a deli out in Narberth on my way to and from work to get my fix.  I can’t tell you how many times I promised myself I wouldn’t reach into the bag in the car.  I really have a problem with pickled things.

 
Collard greens Spinach is fine.  Chard is good.  But nothin’ has the flavor and the substantial bite of good collard greens. (update: I found them!  They’re grown in Galicia.  Allelujah!  Can’t wait to try these out.)

 
Grape leaves (stuffed or otherwise).  I used to make stuffed grape leaves for special occasions, but I also discovered that pretty much anything stuck on a grape leave, rolled, and grilled tastes 3.3 times as good.

 
Natto.  Wonderful Japanese fermented soybeans I discovered by accident.  When the soybeans ferment, they form a substance with the consistency of semen.  OK, maybe alien semen, not that I would know, but…incredible with soy sauce, horseradish, chiles, and chopped scallions, served over brown basmati.  This was pretty rare in Philly too, but I had discovered two locations to buy it and was on the verge of ordering the cultures to make it at home when I decided to cut it out before somebody referred me to Fermenters Anonymous.

 
Sweet potatoes (they’re here, but uncommon, and different).  My mom’s chipotle mashed sweet potatoes were so great at Fakesgiving!  And I’m really sorry (no pun intended) I missed Mom, my aunt, and my sister dressed up as the wrong kind of Indian for Real Thanksgiving.

 
Kale – I’m sure it’s somewhere, beckoning with its curly fronds.  My winter favorite, caribbean sweet potato and kale soup, awaits its arrival.

 
Red beets—I found them!  Yay! As soon as it got cold, visions of borscht danced through my head.  I found canned beets, but it just wasn’t the same.  You really have to roast them or cook them in the broth.  I vote roasting.  And it can be done in a heavy pot on the stove, over very low heat.

 
Red lentils—found these too! :)  What pulse cooks in 20 minutes and doesn’t even need to be pureed?  What can you combine with just about any vegetable and spice and scoop up with warm naan?  That’s right, folks.  All hail the red lentil.
My home mint crop…ok, just in general, my garden.

 

Tomato pie.  A Norristown specialty, it makes a fantastic appetizer or late-in-the-party-and-all-the-other-food’s-gone or next-morning snack.  Serve with hot tub.  Holla!

 
Lotus Root & Peanut Soup and many saucy delights from Su Xing House, the vegetarian Chinese place on Sansom Street.  Their General Tso’s Tofu was my go-to hangover soaker-upper for years.

 
Banh Mi sandwich from Pumpkin cafe—tofu with pickled vegetables and some kind of scrumptious dressing.  Quite simply, a dripping mouthgasm.

Fresh Vietnamese summer rolls from any of several shops on Washington Ave.  They’ll make them without pork or shrimp if you ask.  The sweet-and-sour sauce is good, peanut satay even better, but I like to add chili garlic sauce to either when I get home.

And of course, to accompany.  Of all the local and regional beers I could name, I’ll just go with two good old standbys.
Yard’s Philly Pale Ale.  It’s on tap.  It costs about a dollar more than a shitty American macrobrew.  And it’s damn well worth it.
Sly Fox O’Reilly’s Stout.  A good, reliable stout, with more flavor than Guinness.

Does Pepita Understand Spanish?

The other day I was in the kitchen slicing cucumbers for dinner (No, snarky carnies, that’s not all I was having) when I dropped a slice on the floor.  This is not a rare occurrence.

“Uh-oh, se cayó algo,” I said loud enough for M in the living room to hear.  He was planted on the sofa watching fútbol and Pepita was hanging out with him.  I heard him say something like “Véte a la cocina a ver que tu madre tiene para ti,” or “Go to the kitchen and see what your mom has for you.”  A moment later, my little furry vacuum cleaner trotted into the kitchen and gobbled the cucumber off the floor.

“Damned if she doesn’t understand Spanish,” M said (roughly translated).

He maintained that he had in no way indicated, through looks or gestures, that there was a snack to be had in the kitchen.  Now, Pepita does know a few phrases in Spanish, both from the commands I taught her when she was a puppy—siéntate, arriba, habla—and a few things I’ve been saying to her here—ven acá, cállate (the latter never works in any language).  But I doubt she is capable of understanding a Spanish sentence involving a reflexive command, two prepositional phrases, and a subordinate clause.
Of course, she’d completely get it in English.

Just kidding.  This is what English sounds like to Pepita:

blah blah blah food blah blah blah snack blah blah din-dins blah blah blah blah blah Pepita blah blah blah blah bath blah blah go get Barney blah blah blah blah sweater blah blah blah blah bone blah blah blah go for a walk blah blah blah blah bring me Kong blah blah blah blah blah breakfast blah blah blah blah go potty blah blah blah blah good girl blah blah blah blah blah nuf lickin’ blah blah blah blah blah go to bed blah blah blah no! blah blah treat blah blah wanna go to Aunt Susie’s? blah blah blah blah

And in Spanish:

blaj blaj blaj blaj blaj suéter blaj blaj blaj blaj ¡no! blaj blaj blaj vamos a mear blaj blaj…

The above is pretty much what I hear when españoles get going fast, too, with a few changes in the bolded phrases.  So as much as I would love to conclude that a few short weeks of immersion have trained my little genius to be a trilingual dog, I must present the following alternate explanations:

 
a) Pepita heard the cucumber hit the floor and waited half a minute to run in.
b) M unconsciously indicated through his body language that there was food to be eaten in the kitchen.
c) I used my annoying “Pepita” tone of voice when announcing the fallen Cucurbitaceae.
d) Pepita received a signal from dog relatives living on the planet Canis, several galaxies away, instructing her to go to the kitchen and eat the cucumber.  A later instruction, of course, will trigger the canine takeover of Earth.

 
Those of you who know Pepita can easily rule out (a).  Pepita does not wait when there is food involved.  Anyone familiar with the unique state of semi-paralysis associated with football viewing, in which the subject’s body is only capable of performing violent gestures related to the players’ performance, know that (b) is physically impossible.  My memory tells me it isn’t c), so that leaves us with the only logical explanation: (d).  Either technologically advanced dog aliens are directing canine behavior on Earth, or Pepita speaks Spanish.

Courage?

I’m flattered that people are impressed that I’m moving to Spain, but let’s be honest—an educated and employable person moving from one first-world country to another where I speak the language does not require any unusual courage. I don’t have to walk across a desert for four days, hide in a shipping container (unless you count economy class) or take a job slaughtering chickens once I get there. Every move I make in this life has been eased and every fall cushioned by my upper-middle-class background. Real courage would be entering a situation where none of my education or social status can help me. I think this is why my father likes to camp in the wilderness. Lately I have the same urge.

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