Thursday, February 28, 2013

good food, bad food

Last month, I announced I was TA-ing for an undergraduate course, Food and Communications. It's going exceptionally well :). So, despite the fact that I'm swamped with midterm assignments at the moment, I want to talk about our most recent topic: nutrition.
You may or may not know this, but our nutrition-based approach to eating is very much American. How'd it come about? In Quantifying the American Eater: USDA nutrition guidance and a language of numbers, Jessica Mudry explains: "In order to better 'assimilate' these new Americans, Progressive reformers, under the aegis of both public and privately funded organizations, attempted to teach Americans how to live, dress, be tasteful consumers, and eat," (235). Yep. Calories, a unit of measurement for energy + vitamins, organic chemical compounds obtained from the diet + all this scientific discourse was developed in order to promote citizenship and invent a "standard American diet."
What's the problem? Well, "the eater becomes a fictional aggregate of numbers and statistics," (Mudry 250). And when what we eat is based on hunger, availability, price, and desire, including the desire to 'be good' and 'eat well'... things get complicated. "On the one hand, our advice about the health benefits of diets based largely on food plants--fruits, vegetables and grains--has not changed in more than 50 years and is consistently supported by ongoing research. On the other hand, people seem increasingly confused about what they are supposed to eat to stay healthy," (Food Politics: How the Food Industry Influences Nutrition and Health, Nestle).
Most alarming is the fact that, "at the level of everyday experience, nutritionism has given rise to and promoted the nutritional gaze--a way of looking at and encountering food as being composed as nutrients, which overwhelms other ways of encountering and sensually experiencing food," (On the Ideology of Nutritionism, Scrunis 46). Why does it matter? Because in addition to confusing us, this 'nutritional gaze' also exceptionally distorts our relationship with food. As Carole M. Counihan pointed out in her book, The Anthropology of Food and Body: Gender, Meaning, and Power: "Personal expression of willpower and release of control only under certain culturally sanctioned conditions are the key issues in their relationship to food an in their overall ideology of life," (118).
"In fact, women are much more likely than men to be the targets of judgement comments made by both women and men on all topics related to eating. The acceptance of this fact and its constant reproduction by women as well as men reinforces the subordinate position of women, who are judged, relative to men, who do the judging. Given the importance of being attractive to men in the college 'culture of romance' (Holland and Eisenhart 1990), it is no wonder that my female informants devote a great deal of time and energy worrying about their weight and food consumption," (Counihan 125).

The fourth photo above is from last year's Thanksgiving dinner in Paris. The first three were taken the day before I left New York. On January 10th, my mom declared that neither she, myself, nor my sister had been able to enjoy it at home, so we should belatedly celebrate. Gosh do I love my mom. I may have figured out another reason I love Thanksgiving, too. It's one of the few days of the year I don't consider nutrition. No matter how much I've been inspired by alternative approaches, I suppose I'll always be American in this way. Maybe I'm okay with that though. 'Good' food can have a place in my diet... just as long as I leave room for other 'good food', too. With National Eating Disorders Awareness (NEDA) Week in mind, I sincerely hope you're able to do the same.

Tuesday, February 26, 2013

how to enjoy mexican in paris

Tomorrow morning, my beau leaves for the United States. San Francisco, to be exact. I can't even tell you how jealous I am. So what if he's going for work and I have midterms next week? I'm the one who's American...
In all seriousness, aside from the primary fact that I would l-o-v-e to visit friends, I'd also love to have a burrito. I miss Mexican food here in Paris. The U.S. must have spoiled me with its proximity to this fantastic cuisine. For instance: "Long week at the office? Let's meet for tequila cocktails and whatever Mexican dishes we're in the mood for."Or, "tough hike on Runyon Canyon this morning? No worries, I know a stand that serves the best tacos." No matter how much I enjoy the multitude of North African culinary delight here (Lebanese is my favorite), I can't help but need more guacamole in my life. It must truly be in my blood.
Thankfully, I do know one place to go: Anahuacalli. This inviting restaurant accented with Mexican decor serves the real deal. Their guacamole was chunky (as I prefer it), accompanied by two complimentary salsa (one was quite spicy, a rarity in France) and housemade chips. Alongside a perfect margarita, I had diy tortillas of sorts with an assortment of flavorful fillings including chicken in a tomatillo sauce, refried beans with queso fresco, and fajita-style beef. My date enjoyed a plato fuerte of prawns in a mildy picante sauce over rice, with a Corona. The only thing I regret is not remembering the names of our dishes.

I couldn't afford to go there all the time though. And that's where the more casual and economical option #2 comes in: El Guacamole. It's not surprising they're owned by the same people. This simple taqueria serves deliciously filled and wonderfully garnished tacos. I devoured three, plus a margarita, for only 17 euros. Other menus at 14 (3 tacos, 1 cerveza) and 10 (3 tacos, soda/agua fresca) are also available.

Recently, I also had the opportunity to try the much buzzed about Candelaria. I was disappointed. It wasn't just the small, crowded space that got to me; my tacos carne asada were dry and over-priced, and the butternut squash tacos (which could've been an exciting innovation) were just alright. The only thing that'll keep me going back is the unmarked bar in the back. The Guapo--made with crema mezcal, chipotle, red pepper, agave, lemon, and tequila--is just spectacular. Speaking of drinks :) I'm so looking forward to belatedly celebrating National Margarita Day with Anna at happy hour tomorrow. Think cinnamon.

Monday, February 25, 2013

online social networks

Bonjour! This post is going to be a little different. I'm currently studying "how online social networks have transformed the dynamics of personal interaction, organizational behavior, marketing, branding, social mobilization, and civic action" in a class of mine. Part of the coursework involves blogging about the articles we read and discussions we have. Below, you'll find just that. Feel free to contribute your thoughts, too.
It's been nearly three years since I took my "relationship status" off Facebook. In that time, I've mostly spent my time "single", but at times I could've been classified as in a "complicated" state. It's only recently actually that I've been "in a relationship" again. And yet, Facebook doesn't know that... not formally, at least.
What I haven't been so conscious about are "my friends".
I spent far too long yesterday going through my list of 1,000+ friends. Being in Paris, I see very few daily, but I still consider a couple of them close friends. In other words, most are not. There are those friends from childhood who I touch base with every now and again, those friends from high school or college that I like to check up on because I still care about them despite not having talked in a while, and then there are those friends from outside my educational networks--like those I met studying abroad, or while traveling, or through blogging. Honestly, I like (for lack of a better word) having these people as my "friends". I'd be genuinely happy to catch up with any of them. And when one randomly "likes" a post or photo of mine, I like to think they feel the same.
According to Psychology Today, a friend can be defined as:
  • A person attached to another by feelings of affection or personal regard.
  • A person whom one knows, likes, and trusts.
  • Someone with whom you share mutual knowledge, esteem, affection, and respect, along with a degree of rendering service to in times of need or crisis.
  • Desiring what is best for the other person.
  • Being able to express sympathy and empathy and being honest with each other.
But then there are those "friends" who are anything but: the one who was in my freshman seminar and then passed me without recognition on SU's campus a couple years later, the one who I supposed to have met at a party through my ex-boyfriend's family's friend, the one who I did a summer program with at the age of 15 and haven't thought about since. And that's not accounting for the handful of "friends" who I've, oddly enough, never met, nor those I honestly don't like very much (yes, unfortunately there are a couple). We probably became "friends" at a time when crossing paths elicited a friend request.
Yesterday, I began de-friending these people; not as an act of malace but with attention to the art of deletion. Let's face it, if I could care less about Facebook-stalking or sharing timeline updates with these people, there's a good chance they feel the same way about me. Facebook, however useful while abroad, can get annoying.
Not to mention the fact that there are other ways to connect. Case in point, this blog! Very few readers know this, but I didn't tell any friends or family about this little cyber corner of mine until 6 months or so into it. I wasn't using danielle abroad as a way to keep in touch with those I knew but rather utilizing it as a platform to engage with those I didn't. The same could be said for Twitter, in that sense. Both are public.
And like most other social media users, I tend to not worry about that as much as... perhaps, I should?

P.S. While we're on the topic :) though I do encourage you to "like" with discretion, you'll find more photos from my visit to the Au-delà du street-art exhibition at the Musée de la Poste on my Facebook page.

Friday, February 22, 2013

le pain quotidien

At the top of the to-do list? Clean my apartment. I've been meaning to ever since we got back from Rome, and yet between ~200 pages of reading, a midterm essay, TA-ing duties, and a semiotic analysis presentation, I still have not. I nearly laughed when Rebecca and her family asked me what my day-to-day life was like here last night. It's certainly not "a moveable feast", I thought! And then I looked through recent iPhone photos:
{Late night at the AUP library}
{Crispy (and cheap) gyoza and Japanese beer with my beau}
{The Superbowl at The Long Hop, a bar my friend is now working at}
{Angelina's famous hot chocolate with Edna and Carin}
{Brooklyn Brewery Launch Party at the new Le Mary Celeste}
{Vietnamese craving satisfied at a fantastic local find}

{Signs of spring in Parc Monceau}
So, yeah. I'm busy, I work hard, and I tend to only take photos of those exceptional, in between bits... but still. I do love living in Paris. If for nothing else, then for having sweet friends like Rebecca invite me to dine with her family at Terroir Parisien while they're visiting. In other news, now that I've bought today's demi-baguette and blogged, it's time to actually get to all that cleaning. Happy weekend to you!

Tuesday, February 19, 2013

un día en roma

I used to be jealous of Italian-Americans. It just wasn't fair; their heritage was "cool" at a time when mine wasn't. Then I grew up. I took a trip to Florence. I realized I couldn't help but love Italian culture, especially with their love of celebrations and socializing with family and friends, most often around the table. Not to mention that that table included olive oil, bread, wine, pizza, pasta, etc. ;) Spending this past weekend in Rome, the Eternal City and one which I've "always" known about, further solidified my appreciation.
Marcus and I stayed in a cozy apartment in Trastevere, one of many timeless neighborhood characterized by narrow streets and medieval buildings. We arrived late on Friday night and left late Sunday afternoon. As such, Saturday was our only full day in Rome. His must-see: the Colosseum. My must-do: Roman cuisine. We quite successfully satisfied both of our wish lists and lots more (~9 miles in 12 hours, in fact), including stumbling upon the Roman Pantheon and wandering into Villa Borghese
{Roman breakfast: a bakery cornetti (a denser croissant-like Italian pastry) and bar cappuccino}
{Roman lunch: vino della casa, ciabatta bread, prosciutto & mozzarella di bufala appetizer, pesce del giorno (fish of the day: sea bass) over arugula with potato entrée, espresso}
{one part gelato alla cannella, one part gelato alla cioccolato in a sugar cone}
{Roman dinner: antipasto, hot and cold, fresh ricotta, focaccia bread, vino della casa...} 
{...frutti di mare orzo and fennel salad for me, bistecca and housemade chips for him...}
{... the best tiramisu I've ever had in my entire life, shared}
As you can see, the weather was absolutely beautiful for us. It allowed us to cover lots of ground and make the most of our Italian surroundings. Being in Rome was also quite literally a breath of fresh air. For as much as I adore French culture, it isn't nearly as laid back, warm, or expressive as that of the Italians. And I didn't simply observe this either. My level of Spanish comprehension must've actually improved because, much to my surprise, I found I could generally understand Italian. Now that's what I call a bon week-end!