Sunday, October 24, 2010

What I Learned from Making Hummus

What do you get when you mix

2 - 15 oz cans of garbanzo beans
2-3 cloves of garlic
1/2 cup of tahini
One jar of roasted red peppers
2 tablespoons of olive oil
1 1/2 teaspoons of salt
1/3 cup of lemon juice


several good friends all with an appetite for a certain Mediterranean food?

You get a hummus party, of course!

Due to the sad demise of the brand of hummus I had been eating that suddenly changed its recipe, I decided to see what it would be like to make my own hummus. Everyone and their brother, and their brother's brother, told me how easy it was to make hummus. 10 minutes and you're done, they said!

Lesson One: Don't listen to other people. :)

Luckily, I had some trusty sidekicks to help me. Jeanine and Amber were my co-chefs, while Nate and Rob provided support in the eating department. :)

First, it simply took a long time to get all the numerous ingredients out of the shopping bag, on to the table and opened. Either we were particularly slow or they don't include that in the prep time. None of us had ever done this before, so we had little idea of what we were doing.

We added all the ingredients to the food proccessor, pressed on, and then were faced with a bitter truth of hummus making:

Lesson Two: They don't tell you that the hardest part of making hummus is putting up with the noise of the food processor.

Probably because "they" aren't a bunch of Aspies trying to form sustenance.

Bravely, however, we plowed on. First taste revealed a way too thin and way too lemony concoction, so we tempered that with more beans and some red peppers. After another half hour or so of tinkering and having gone nearly deaf, we pronounced it good. A little on the spicy part for me, as the garlic packed a punch, but good. Definitely edible, which is all I was really looking for in the first place. Overall, a success.

We transfered it to its resting place in the fridge and adorned it with a rosemary twig.

On to batch 2, which we decided to make basil flavored. I had fresh organic basil to use, which undoubtably improved the flavor, that is, of course, after we got finished doing the 102 adjustments that were needed before putting the basil in.

Lesson Three: Aspies can get kind of overwhelmed with making decisions. And when you make hummus, you have to make a lot of decisions.

We were dropping like flies by the time we approached the third batch, but we, or at least I, perked up a little bit when it came to adding the seasoning. A bunch of fresh rosemary. Vroom! Vroom! went the engine of doom. Off went the top as we bravely sampled the wares. Nothing. It tasted like nothing. "Okay, take that, you evil hummus monster!" I said, and grabbed the container of dried rosemary, shoving liberal amounts into the top of the hummus. "How much are you going to add?" asked Janice, who was the practical one. "A lot," I said, giving an ever so scientific and precise answer.

"Vroom! Vroom!" went the machine. Clank! Clank! went the spoons as they scooped yet another helping from its plastic insides. But alas, there was still no taste, so I dumped almost the entire conents of a package of dried lavender in and said, "Aha! Now you will taste like something!"

Lesson Four: Just because something tastes good by itself does not mean it will work in hummus.

Batch #4 was a milder and less spicy version of the red pepper.

After everyone had had a taste of all four batches, and admired how pretty they were, we gave up on the cooking thing and went to watch a movie (My Name is Kahn).

Lesson Five: Everything is more fun with friends, even something that would be tedious and completely overwhelming alone.

Lesson Six: It feels really good to have someone else enjoy something you made - maybe even better than enjoying it yourself.

Everyone left with a portion of the hummus in a nifty disposable Tupperware container provided by Rob.

The hummus still might not be as good as what I used to buy in the store, and I am still hoping the hummus I ordered from Brunswick is a decent substitute, but it was a fun and educational thing to do once. I know how to make my very own hummus if I ever get into a pinch. One can never have too many skills, especially when it comes to cooking.

Happy hummus eating!

Sunday, October 10, 2010

The Anesthetic Effect

When I was in on the coast of Oregon last summer, I had a very memorable experience (well, many, but this was one of the more memorable). I was in Yachats State Park, one of the most beautiful places ever, a long, rocky beach with amazing waves and scenery. The pure beauty of the place had a numbing effect; I was in awe. Unfortunately, I repeatedly but accidentally had my foot dunked into various bodies of water or the tide, and thus had to walk with a soaking wet foot, which is something that would normally irritate me to no end. Not only irritate me, but probably ruin the entire outing and my enjoyment of it. But, to my surprise, I was so hypnotized with the beauty of the ocean around me, I didn't even notice. I was aware it was there, but I didn't care. I called it being "anesthetized" at the time .Not anesthetized to the good , of course, just the bad. And I was amazed. It was the first time I had ever been able to not notice something that was bothering me.

And then it happened again today. And I feel this is a notable enough occurrence that I need to document it, if only to remind myself that it is possible. We went to climb Bradbury Mountain today - Nate, Rob, Janine, Amber and I- as it was a beautiful fall day and we were all in the mood to see some foliage at the top. Bradbury is a very easy mountain, it's probably a 20- 30 minute walk up, with relatively little incline, at least compared to most mountains. So nothing very difficult, although you do have to stop a few times to catch your breath (or I do).

Three quarters of the way up, all of a sudden, my knee, for some inexplicable reason, began throbbing in a way that I had never felt it do before. Ever. In fact I've never had any sort of knee problem ever. It was intense, and it was so out of character. Thankfully we are almost at the top! We reached the top, and Nate and I sprawled out on an available piece of rock overlooking what has to be one of the most beautiful vistas I've ever seen. Reds and yellows, oranges and greens dotted the landscape of about a million trees below us and out to the horizon. It has to be seen to believed. It looked like a watercolor painting. I haven't been up there in fall in many years, and I was not dissapointed. Finally, it felt like fall in Maine, something I have missed for so long!

I was hoping that after sitting for several minutes, my knee would return to normal,. but I quickly found that was not the case. However, something that was for me truly different happened. I didn't panic. (I am still working on that not panicking thing. I am afraid this immunity to it is going to dissapear shortly. But I will work on keeping it!) I was too engaged in the beautiful landscape, and in taking pictures of the beautiful landscape, to give my knee much attention, even though I was aware it hurt. I did everything I normally would have.
When I started walking down, I felt like I had no idea how I was going to get all the way down a first, but I got into a rhythm and into a conversation and was able to not think of it, and just walk. I still smiled at the blue sky and the leaves around us once in a while,.

When I got to Rob's car, my thoughts were again not on panicking about my knee - as they would have been and have been every single other time I've gotten or felt hurt in any way in basically my entire life - but on what a fun hike we had just had, and the conversations we just had. Again, remarkable.

Same thing at Whole Foods - I was able to joke about and even laugh about the situation, in the company of friends. I am aware that this is probably what a so-called "typical" person probably does on a regular basis without thinking too much about it. But it's huge for me. My usual response, and one that will probablt come out sooner rarther than later, is to as I said panic, an beg everyone around me for reassurance that it will get better. Not a response I enjoy having, but nevertheless the truth. But I was actuallt relaxed about it. Me, injury, and relaxed in the same sentence is like... well, it's never happened before. It was so weird, but so nice.

So again, I attribute it to the "anesthesia effect." I don't have a better word for it. For only about the second time in my life (and the first time for something that was relatively major, at least compared to wet socks), the beauty of a physical landscape and the feeling of connection to my friends actually my overcame my feelings about a physical sensation in my body. I was calm about it.

Man - where can I get myself some more of that? It is my hope that by detailing it I will remember it and it will be more likely to happen again. I wouldn't really bet on that, but it would be nice. This is the kind of person I WANT to be. So far though sheer willpower alone has not been enough to make me that kind of person, although I've gotten better than I used to be.

To me , it all comes down to human connection, and the feeling of being connected to others - or nature - or both. When you've got somethign that fills your heart and spirit, the bumps and bruises of life don't hurt so much. As an Aspie. feeling connected to others is something I've long struggled with. But more and more, I see why it is worth the battle.

Tomorrow, on the other hand, is another story. I can't give any guarantees that this state of mind will last. But it would be nice if it did!

Friday, October 8, 2010

Internalized Self-Hatred and "Spinning into Butter"

I watched the movie Spinning into Butter last night. It had been on my Netflix queue for a long time, but the description of it had never been sufficiently interestingly enough to pull me in and make me choose it. I did, though, on a whim last night. Not expecting much at all, I was immediately drawn into the story, and the first hour passed like it had been 10 minutes. (Usually I'm checking the clock every 20 min to see how much time has passed.) Towards the end, I kept having to put it on pause so I could think about what was being said. Few if any movies are ever that meaningful that I actually need to pause them - repeatedly - to think about what is happening!

Spinning into Butter, from its description, is a story about a "dean of students at a small liberal arts college who is embroiled in racial controversy at the start of the school year." Of course, that could mean anything. But what actually ended up happening was a pleasant surprise.

Sarah is the dean of students at a small college in Vermont. When someone leaves hateful, racist messages under a black student's door, the college is in an uproar. A "dialogue on diversity"is called, more to help with the college's PR than to actually address any racial issues. At this point, I flashed back to my days at Goucher, another small liberal arts college that had faced this very same issue - the same way, I am sure, virtually every college or university in the nation does, at some time or another. We too had "diversity dialogues" but I dare say they were run a lot better than the ones in this movie. (My memory of them is vague, however, and not entirely reliable.)
Please be advised that this review and blog may and probably will contain spoilers as to the exact nature of what happens in the movie. I think it is still worth reading, and the movie will still be good whether or not you know the plot, but if you do not want to read the plot, then stop reading here.

The incidents escalate to insults painted on the wall and even a noose. The student body is highly divided on what should be done. The one thing they can all seem to agree on is that the administration is not handling it appropriately, and only giving it lip service.

Sarah is caught in the middle; she also believes the admin. is handling it wrong, but there is not much she can do. The movie turns surprising when Sarah admits to her reporter friend that the reason she left Chicago was that she was growing afraid of some of her black students, of their "gangster mentalities" and the way they would shove her out of the way without even looking back. She admits that maybe only 2 out of 10 or 20 black kids would be like this, but they are, she says, the one she remembers. Her tearful and somewhat shocking admission gives insight into one of the myraid ways that racism is born. In a shockingly honest and enjoyable dialogue, Sarah and her friend, who is black, exchange a list of stereotypes that people often have about each race.

Cut to the end, or near end, of this movie. A student sees a kid about to throw a rock at a dorm window. He wrestles him to the ground, and everyone is shocked beyond belief to discover that the culprit of the racist incidents is no other than the victim himself. In other words, the black student who had been the victim of these crimes was the one doing them to himself.

At this point, we are all shocked, wondering why he coul have done such a thing. I certainly was. I paused the movie to try to consider his viewpoint and come up with a hypothesis for why he felt the need to do this, but was unable to come up with anything that seemed plausible.

In one of the last scenes of the movie, though, the student reveals why he did these acts.
With palpable anger, he says, "I kept waiting. I kept waiting for someone to say it [the N word], but no one did. No one did. Everyone was so nice to me. Everyone made a point to come up an say hello to me, ask me how I was doing. The professors would ignore their white students and come up and talk to me. Their hatred was so thick I couldn't breathe!"

Another shocker. You think to yourself, how could he have interpreted people being kind to him as hatred?

But then you think, the world is full of empty people covering up their true feelings with false platitudes. People who are trying to be politically correct by being nice to the black guy while thinking very unpleasant thoughts under their breath. Not all people by any means - I am not pessimistic enough to believe this - but enough. Especially the administration of that college. So perhaps he was interpreting people treating him as some sort of celebrity by going out of their way to be nice to him as a kind of racism all the same.

But what really hit me when I thought about it for long enough was the idea of internalized self hatred. His father would tell him repeatedly "Just wait for it, always be prepared for it, someday someone is going to come up to you and [use the N word]." His father told him he always needed to be prepared to fight. His father passed an unfortunate legacy of fear onto his son that kept him in chains. The messages he got about himself as a black person from other parts of society made him hate himself. In turn, he expected everyone else to hate him, too. When no one did, (at least this is the interpretation I finally settled on), he experienced a form of cognitive dissonance. His outer and inner world did not match, So he had to make it match. No one was going to call hin the N word or treat him like dirt, so he did it to himself. It was the only thing that made sense to him.

A very sad story indeed, but one that makes you think quite a bit.

I then started to think about the ways that we all have built in internalized self hatred for the various classes and groups that we belong to, or at least biases. How we often feel that we don't measure up, that we're not good enough in some way. How we often lack the confidence to go after what we want, thinking that others are more better equipped for whatever it is than we are. Is this not also a form of internalized self hatred? Are we not also punishing ourselves for being (insert whatever applies to you personally)? Too fat, too slow, lacking initiative, not pretty enough, the wrong religion, the wrong race, disabled, not "normal" enough, whatever?

His was just a more extreme version of it.

We need to look at the ways and places that internalized self hatred comes from. We need to look at the myraid of ways that our culture influences and enforces negative ideas and stereotypes about our bodies and our lives. And then we need to change those values.

We need to have genuine experience with people from other groups; people of different races, people who are disabled, and so on. That, to me, is the only real way I can think of that you can battle racism or any other of the "isms." Once you have personal experience with people from a group of people that is positive, you won't be as likely to think negatively of that group without good reason. If you do, you will not be as likely to apply those negative thoughts to a whole group of people. You need to engage with these people in a genuine and not superficial way to see their true selves. Sarah's mistake in Chicago was to only see her students superficially.

So, at the end of the movie, Sarah quits her job, tells the administration how stupid they have been, and heads back to Chicago to give it another try at being a better person. She didn't know how, she was nervous as hell, but she knew that running away or engaging with an issue on only a superficial level was not the way. She came back to learn how to be a better person.

The ending was very touching to me, and as you can see, made me a think a lot. I think this movie should be used on every college campus as a way to open up discussions of racial issues.
I think many people would have very different opinions on it, which would make it very valuable for discussion. In fact, I may recommend it to a psych teacher I used to have who did a relational psych class and often delved into topics like this.

Just wanted to share with you a snapshot from my head, and recommend a movie that may change the way you think on certain things.

Few movies ever motivate me to write a blog post on them. Actually, only two so far. But this is one of them.