It has been a very long time since blogging, or even pulling pictures from the phones. Some of that is that we’ve basically just been staying home, where nothing is really newsworthy. Another part of that is getting settled into San Ramon, including everything from unpacking to getting the yard tilled and planted.
A Season of Shifts
How are you?
It’s been a minute!
We’re still here, in the Year of Our Lord Twenty-Twenty-two. We’ve missed sharing a few details, these last few months:
A Stanford specialist for T, a quasi diagnosis from said specialist, a new editor for T, and an abrupt departure to a new house. (Workwise, things have remained fairly constant for D, for which he’s no doubt thankful, but there’s always the possibility for changes there, too.) We’re still standing, though, with much to be grateful for, and no more than the usual aches, aggravations, and inconveniences. How about you?
On hearing that we were moving house, one of our Scottish friends said, “AGAIN!?” Since in the fourteen years since we’ve known her, she’s been safely ensconced in the selfsame house whilst we’ve been in … four now, since our return from the UK…we can appreciate her incredulity. We keep thinking that we’re going to settle in and just be, get to figuring out where we actually want to settle and buy something, and then it all seems like too much effort, and then the economy has another hiccough, and says “nope” once again. Aided by our rent rising by two hundred dollars last year, and finding that the house next door sold and was being entirely gutted and remodeled hastened our exodus. You’ll never believe how much your concentration shatters until you have a jackhammer going next door. Finding a larger place at four hundred dollars less a month immediately available made the inconvenience of a rapid uprooting and packing a little easier to bear.
We’ve moved into a neighborhood with neighbors that bring over pumpkin bread and wave on the street, which is heartening, and D’s beloved voice coach is three blocks away. Our Presbyterian choir is the same distance away timewise, but via a more direct highway, so we’re tentatively rejoining them for their holiday choral pieces, T fully and miserably masked, which remains a trial, but a trial she can live with in favor of leaving the house periodically. D continues to work with metal, wood, and experiment with other mediums, most recently clay, while T continues her slow progress with German, Dutch, Spanish, embroidery, and ukulele (when her hands cooperate), and pretending she knows how to decoupage. Mostly staying home continues to give us delusions of artistry.
The new house is 1960’s weird, and the unpacking is taking longer than usual, as our episode of Keep, Donate, Toss continues. There is a lot of discussion and bittersweet realizations about the things that have changed in our lives… For example, prior to now we could dream (READ: pretend) that someday we’d be the rustic hiking sort, and really use tent we bought at the early years of our marriage. We imagined family trips, weekends away, … a lot of things that never came to fruition, and, in the Pandemysterious Present, with T’s wonky immune system remaining compromised, will not come to fruition (although outdoor gear is still a great way to hang out for us now). We should probably get rid of the tent, but it’s hard letting go of the We Who Weren’t, and never will be. Not every decision is agonizing, but as the donate pile in the corner of the front room ebbs and flows, we know it’s time to be realistic. We move more than most people (NINETEEN moves in our married lives. NINE.TEEN). We aren’t able to interact with either people or food the same way we used to, so all the entertaining and meals are probably not going to happen in the same way. Additionally, we likely won’t retire in this house. We need to move more lightly through this world so it’s easier to get where we’re going…wherever that is.
Which – ugh – means a bit more winnowing.
Meanwhile, as the autumn deepens, the season of changes has hit T.’s work as well. She discovered that she is unexpectedly losing her editor, Katherine, while still under contract with the eponymous Katherine Tegen Books (an imprint of HarperCollins Children’s Books). It’s a little unnerving changing horses midstream (or swapping barrels going over Niagra, or whatever folksy aphorism you might supply) but fortunately, she’s already met her new editor, and holds out hope that all will be well come December. Her next book comes out in January, and she’s currently working with the new editor on a cover concept for the 2024 novel under contract. Hopefully after that more contracts with this company will materialize, but we’ll see…
The Autoimmune Thing has not improved, and for varied and boring reasons, T endured the nearly six months wait time to see a doctor at Stanford University Medical Center. We could launch into a rant about the length of time it takes to see a specialist, kvetch about the general cruddiness of insurance companies and out-of-plan doctors, but we would grow old before we finished being ragey, and who has the time? Suffice it to say it has been, thus far … a total bust.
This shouldn’t have been a shock. Americans, with our bias towards worshiping the intellect, tend to imbue doctors with godlike qualities. Add to that a big-named research hospital, and just gaining entrance to the hallowed corridors makes some feel as if they ought to genuflect. All that know-how! All those smarts! All that expectation built up in patients that there will be The Answer. Unfortunately, that hasn’t been the case for us.
The rheumatologist did due diligence with blood work, but test after test after test (SO. MUCH. LABWORK.) couldn’t bring him the definitive answer which he was after. There was no satisfying “Aha!” and no big reveal which pointed to dramatically to…anything. He repeatedly admitted that the blood work showed “something,” but not “enough.” The “not enough” became problematic. Every visit, the doctor asked a series of questions, the same questions, and T repeatedly answered them… and round and round that went. Since it’s impossible to “perform” illness on cue, this began to feel… awkward. We did the best we could in documenting the problem, sending photographs of rashes, blotches, and writing essays to describe pain and sleeplessness, rating joint disability on numerical scales. Eventually, the doctor did what he called a “push test,” told T. to stop eating red meat and do some yoga, and that she likely had fibromyalgia… and that he couldn’t help with that, as there was no real cure.
D, who attended the visits, was incensed. T was…bemused, especially since she’s been a vegetarian since she cut teeth. This has been an expensive, frustrating exercise, but it has taught us something… We’re just not sure what yet. While working on being grateful for the experience, we’re mostly focusing on the discovery of all the things we now know this autoimmune thingy is …not.
It’s like Formula 409, right? Nobody remembers the 408 things that didn’t work. Something will break with this, and that will indeed be something to celebrate. Meanwhile, T’s focusing as hard as she can on gratitude. She is deeply grateful for all the friends who keep in touch, we are both grateful for the fantastic rain, and the opportunities outdoors in the cold, for the days when work is interesting, and T, for days her body feels good enough to take a walk. (As not necessarily one of nature’s natural bluebirds of happiness, T’s just trying not to turn into a permanent grump. It’s relatively simple to become self-pityingly Grinch-y with chronic illness.) Thank you, friends, who have asked when we were next going to “say something” on our blogs. We’re still here. We’ll be here…
Meanwhile, while we miss the garden from the last house with its multiple fruit trees and big songbird population, but D. is looking forward to the next few months of rebuilding a yard which has just had the lawns removed. The landlord indicated that he was in the process of putting in a bit of green and some xeriscape, which D. enthusiastically embraced. Already we’ve heard an owl at night, seen a striking little kestrel casually perched on the back fence, and met the neighborhood crows and a pair of nesting mockingbirds, not to mention the ten thousand dun-colored sparrows, black phoebe and hummingbirds fighting cutthroat battles for feeder space. T. continues to quietly hope that all the birds we’re inviting to the yard will tip the balance on the earwig population (eeeugh).
Hope springs eternal.
The “Burn It All Down” Rant
First off – before we get going – Happy Summer! ’tis the season for salads, as the world continues to be tucked-in-the-devil’s-armpit temperatures. This is a really great savory salad addition. Enjoy!
Now for the rant – no, not that one. This is a new one:
We don’t often talk about accommodation in our family. Our sister JC uses a wheelchair, and when she got her first chair, T’s father ripped up all the carpet in the downstairs of the house, and tiled it. The pantry is no longer a narrow closet under the stairs but a wide space next to the fridge, with sliding barn doors. Things are at varied heights, and our sister’s closet in her bedroom has been rebuilt lower. None of this is an out-of-the-box solution T’s parents bought at The Disabled Store (if there’s any such thing, it’s ridiculously, prohibitively, SUPER expensive – like her wheelchairs). They just figured out some things, and made them work. It’s an evolving process.
We have learned, living with our sister, that casual ableism – subtle discrimination in favor of able-bodied people – is A Thing, an insidious thing, that exists. At her private, Christian elementary school she was carried around like a piece of furniture – or, more realistically, like a fondly disregarded cat or a rag doll, even though she was a child too old to be carried – and honestly, how safe was it for the school to allow other children to carry her? When she was older, she had to go up long inclines to even get to the wheelchair ramp. Our church was recently updated and modernized – and still lacks some basic ADA accommodation, including a ramp to the platform. Wheelchair users aren’t expected to actually, you know, be among the people giving the sermons or prayers, apparently. The family noted this, and basically accepted it in silence… because, what could we do? We’d asked a few questions to a few people, and gotten chagrined or blank-faced non-answers. Disabled people weren’t in the plans, and the plans would go forward as they were… because casual ableism Is A Thing. (NB: Some people feel we should have made more noise earlier. Probably. It’s hard to overcome conditioning when you’re in the minority, though.)
We almost expect organizations to fail JC, because they do it so often. When she went to beauty school, they put off her enrollment for a solid month because they were
working on getting her a special cart at her height, a special chair for her clients, and specialized seating in her classroom basically panicking, honestly. She did get to go to Disneyland, and she got to go first on all the rides, which was A Really Good Experience, but even though they had time and means to prepare, she had to buy her own specialized equipment. Her beauty school sent people to wash her client’s hair for her… because they couldn’t figure out how to make the world work for a disabled stylist, regardless of what they promised when she enrolled.
Being diagnosed with an autoimmune disease in 2018 gave T more understanding and compassion about casual ableism than she’d previously had. When some days your hands don’t work to open jars in the kitchen, or carry heavy platters or a cast iron skillet… you have to make adjustments. When you can’t sit comfortably in every chair… you sit in your cushy chairs at home. You wear your mask everywhere, even though you hate it and would like to burn it with the heat of a thousand suns. You re-learn your life in a way that makes you hate yourself less for your shortcomings, you make allowances for the people who make assumptions, and who don’t understand… but you resent it with the heat of those same thousand suns, and those suns go nuclear over your baby sister.
So, when JC texted us six months ago, excited about attending her first concert at the Shoreline Amphitheater, we wished her eardrums luck, and didn’t think much of it… until she posted on Instagram that the venue was awful. “What happened?” asked. First, no one knew where the disabled parking lot was, and when they finally found it, they wouldn’t let her friends park there, even though they had a placard and a clear need. The parking lot was unpaved and difficult to navigate in a wheelchair. When they finally got in, finally found someone who knew where the ADA accommodating seats were, they discovered they had to go down a flight of eight stairs.
The woman on staff asked, “Can’t you walk down eight stairs?” and rolled her eyes when JC said she could not. And told her friends to “be quiet” when they protested this.
We aren’t the nice people in the family; that’s reserved for …somebody else, maybe T’s parents. What we’d like to do is focus the light of those thousand suns at the Shoreline with a giant magnifying glass… but we’re just offering advice as asked, and quietly seething and ranting on our blogs instead.
Some people just don’t get a break. They miss most of their senior year in high school because of surgery. They miss out on doing “normal” things with friends because they have to have friends whose cars are big enough for a wheelchair or who don’t mind breaking it down and putting it back together to get it in and out of a vehicle. They end up back on a kidney transplant list less than ten years after the first time. They’re in their twenties before they’re comfortable and confident enough to go to their first concert. It’s not fair, and while howling that into the stratosphere and a quarter won’t even get you a cup of coffee, we just had to say it out loud. With EVERYTHING ELSE horribly wrong in this country and this state and this world this week, this is icing-on-the-top of a bitter casual-ableism muffin of Not Fair, and we are going to do something about it.
Yeah, yeah, something without the sun and a magnifying glass. Probably.
x-posted@fiction, instead of lies
Leaving the Homely House
It is a truth universally acknowledged that as soon as you say “nothing much is going on here,” life happens:
The move you’d intended to make last year suddenly seems possible,
The weed that you meant to pull turns out to be four feet tall, and flowers,
And you find yourself held hostage by a very tiny, very loud white-crowned sparrows, who decided the perfect place to build a nest in a burner in the camp stove in the backyard that you were just getting ready to use to roast some peppers for salsa. The sparrows are not amused by your presumption.
Things happen on a very small scale these days, but things are happening nonetheless – mainly Spring, and its corresponding encouragements that the Earth endures, and that we will, too.
How do you find yourself, here in the year of our Lord 2022, Phase Four of the Endless Pandemic? We hope you are well. We are… still here. Still playing with metal, fumbling with embroidery, failing at gardening, and signing new contracts for work, thank God. Still managing school visits and business meetings in this strange, Zoom-centric existence. You?
Last summer when the State reopened for travel, many people eagerly grabbed suitcases and scheduled flights. We were still getting second shots in June, so were hesitant to take off – and were deeply disappointed when travel restrictions were reintroduced as Delta variant cases in California skyrocketed. We We’ll do something next summer, we comforted ourselves. Surely by next year we’ll find a little bit of time to go somewhere everything is safe.
Nope. “Everything” is never safe. That’s probably the truth writ largest and most clearly: we never were safe before a pandemic, and now we’re reminded at every turn that nothing is permanent and nothing can be counted on. In 2019, we had two big trips planned with dear friends to celebrate an anniversary that we put off… and we’ve now had to put that trip off repeatedly. Nothing we planned looks the same anymore, and our friends have a new family member, and all the conferences we’d thought to go to have long since been moved to Zoom. As there are likely to be more challenges ahead, we finally went ahead and took one the trips we’d put off for so long. We went to Iceland.
We chose Iceland because of its convenient location (just a little longer than a flight to New York), low COVID numbers and their robust vaccination response. Nearly their entire population received the two-shot vaccination and they seem to be boosted in the 70% range, country-wide. They no longer require any Covid Information was splashed all over to tell us how frequently all of the air in the plane was sucked through the HEPA filters (every three minutes) and the statistical probability of getting COVID germs on a flight if you’re wearing a properly fitted mask (one in forty-three thousand) but it was still difficult. Due to T’s worsening autoimmune issues, we really have heeded medical advice to cut our risks and stay home. Getting on a plane when we rarely even get into the car seemed very odd, and wearing masks for eight hours straight was… not something to leave one in the frame of mind to whimsically enjoy air travel again. We were reminded that people are loud and generally chaotic, and the whole thing was a bit stressful. We were quite ready to deplane when the time came.
Still, the inconveniences of the trip faded with the delight of meeting our friends at their air terminal and greeting our newest, drooliest member of the gang. (And then we spent forty-five minutes trying to figure out how to put his car seat into the rental car, which was a little reality check from all the rose-tinted happy of being together again.)
Traveling with a five month old and two women with autoimmune disorders meant we were neither going very far or very fast, but we so enjoyed every geyser, every glacier, every waterfall, lake, pond, and lichen-shrouded boulder that just riding in a minivan was a treat. It was wonderful to have a baby to squeeze, and he was every bit as charmed by us, as we were by him – it really does get boring drooling on all the same people all the time. It was delightful to engage in wide-ranging conversations that didn’t require a good Zoom connection, and cooking and eating together – even the simplest foods, because none of us were energetic enough for anything gourmet, was just a shared happiness. (The taste tests of Random Icelandic Flavors were amusing as well.) Iceland has a very, very low speed limit (90 kph – about 55 – on a two-lane highway 112 – 69 on a four-lane freeway) and permafrost, sand, -and-volcano ash roughened roads, so we drove slower than we wanted to, and more than we wanted to (which was a difficulty for our friends who drive on the other side of the road in the UK) and we were all tired, and it was windy and very cold sometimes and some of us were carsick, but we made it work. Traveling with people means you really love them – because honestly, traveling with another family shows ALL the cracks we normally like to hide, no? Five days was short for our usual length of trips – we prefer to go somewhere and sit for a minimum of fifteen days – but the five days seemed a reasonable amount of time for a first foray back into the world of Man.
Had we realized the risk, we might not have done it. We hadn’t remembered that a new (since January) requirement for reentry to the U.S. is a clean COVID test. We then understood how risky it is to engage in any kind of traveling if you don’t work solely on your computer — we’ve had asymptomatic friends who tested positive wand were obliged to stay where they were overseas for an additional five days until they tested clear which seems to be …strange, since no one tests people on the way OUT of the U.S…? We were grateful not to miss our flight or be required to come up with a week’s worth of new lodgings. That’s an expensive new wrinkle in travel, isn’t it? At any rate – everyone arrived home Covid-free, exhausted, and grateful.
We took our trip just before the newest sub-variant of Omicron sent cases skyrocketing again, just like last summer. We’re probably not going anywhere for another six months at least (well, nowhere out of the country, anyway – we’re past time to move to a new town, since the landlord raised the rent so much last year, but stay tuned on that), but we cherish the memory of every waterfall, every giant, honking gull dragging something flopping from the surf, every sulfur-scented spring, and every puddle of drool.
Hello, glad you’re still here, have some pictures
We looked up and realized that the world here is the same, while the world internationally (Russia, Ukraine) has gone insane. We’ve not pulled pictures from the phones for … months. And we’ve generally stopped blogging here.
In the spirit of at least saying “hello,” here are a handful of photos of a chime set going through the process. The final row is the finished chimes, held in different light.
We hope you’re well. I hope to write more frequently, but … well, we’ll see.
The World Has Stalled
Life has been basically the same for several years now. Yesterday I pulled pictures off of the phones & had to decide if I wanted those year-old pictures of flowers, etc.
And then this holiday, where I basically stopped work at Thanksgiving & haven’t really resumed yet: before the year-end, corporate budgets either run out or don’t have time for services; beginning of the year, they may not have finalized budgets for the new year. So, I did a bunch of singing, some working on chimes, and that’s about it, really. Ordinary things: walks, going to eyeglasses appointments. Oh – and learning how to program in Unity, which doesn’t really feel like programming.
We keep saying we’re going to take off for Scotland & The Netherlands, or maybe Spain. We keep saying that, but then I guess it’s about risk & Covid & planes. It’s not about cost, really. I mean, if we go for a month, this is at most what we’re looking at:
|Food:||(cheaper than in the US)|
It’s not a huge expense (and is inflated), but … I think that we just don’t feel safe, and are unwilling to risk. I think we need to get over that, though, because this is the new normal: hide, mask, test.
May you all find a way to add some passing of time to your lives. Some awareness that the world outside is indeed moving, that you’re part of that movement.
So, back at you with more windchime things. These ones are about figuring out what to do with the anodizer vs with torch. It’s about figuring out when to use Rubylith vs polishing the oxide layer away vs grinding it away with a heavier grit.
The image above has some pretty bare chimes. I got the gradient by running from about 85V up to 125V, spinning the dial as fast as I could & simultaneously withdrawing the chimes from the bath. I figure that gives me a gradient of probably 90V through 120V. It’s kind of … well, hit or miss.
After I’ve played with them for a bit, they’re quite a bit different. I think this is maybe 6 different voltages added after the higher voltage dip, each one progressively lower voltage. Basically, the recipe for these was to give them a good, high-voltage dip, and then to come back and polish away rings & repeatedly put the chimes into a lower and lower voltage bath. So, a sequence would look like this:
- Degrease with acetone
- Wash in deionized water
- Etch using Multi-Etch (doesn’t contain hydrofluoric acid, yay!)
- Wash in deionized water
- Connect everything up
- Place in electrolytic solution (soapy water)
- Power up
- Dial in your voltage until you’re happy
- Power down
Another example above. I’m trying to figure out a more reliable method of polishing away the oxide, to make the rings. Not sure, but am trying out rotary tool sanding disks at the moment.
One here, playing with a diagonal with the lithography masking tape. I think I like this, but the tape tends to drift – you end up with a progressively tighter spiral, or a looser, etc. Also, burnishing the edges of the tape is a lot harder, as when it’s in a circle you can easily run your fingernail over the edge of the tape.
And above is a wee video, including some slow motion. I like it anyway.
I’d love to say I’ll post more … but it’s a bit of a hard thing. Once the engagement stops, there it went.
Singing and Playing With Metal
I’ve been working on titanium, mostly in windchimes. Here’s a video of me talking (slowly, for some reason) about an experimental piece where I’m playing with flame anodization, electric anodization, sanding belt textures, etc.https://youtu.be/qdLQZWlx5tg
https://vimeo.com/628398537 has me doing a couple solos, a few weeks back. 5:20 and 27:00 are my pieces (the rest is a church service).
I just uploaded a recital from this past weekend https://youtu.be/VAiQViaru-k . I’m the first 3 pieces and the last piece (25:38). https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=VAiQViaru-k&t=25m38s is a link to that last piece.
Entertainment During Corona
It has been a very long time since I’ve written here. Some of that’s getting out of the habit. A larger part of that is that … well, there’s just nothing happening. I’ve been singing and working on windchimes, pretty much. But I realize that I’m not even sharing about the windchimes. So, here’s a story about windchimes and how I make them.
I’ve had a windchime calculator for quite some time, but just never really got to it. I found impetus to move to titanium from brass because of this video. His chopsticks look beautiful, and onlinemetals.com would ship me some titanium… and so we began. General process:
- Find yourself a decent chord at https://www.onemotion.com/chord-player/
- Look up the lengths (chime length & length of the hang point)
- Cut chimes to lengths
- Drill them
- Polish the bejeezus out of them
- Spin them up on a high-speed drill, while heating them with a torch
- Use a polishing belt to strategically remove stripes (yes, while everything’s still running)
- Hang them up (after they’ve cooled)
Above is what one looks like while in progress. That silver titanium will quickly oxidize to a “gold straw” color, because the metal’s already hot.
The least fun in this hobby is the sheer number of drill bits I’ve broken. I bought a drill press, which should help a little bit at least, just by keeping the drill bit straight. We’ll see. It’s definitely the bottleneck in the process.
Next up as not fun is that I really ought to get a band saw. I’ve got a jigsaw (pro tip: a “fine metal” blade on the end-grain wood setting is what you want, for titanium – just chomps the metal out beautifully). It works well enough, actually. The band saw would be a luxury upgrade, when I still haven’t solved the drill issue.
It’s the blowtorch stuff that’s the most fun, of course. Developing new techniques, seeing what works and doesn’t. Using a large torch to get a base color = a consistent heat platform to build on, whereas just hitting it with the small torch will give much more variation in color.
Making little decorations to go along with the chimes (I’ll work with brass when I’m frustrated with titanium – brass is like butter, in comparison) is also quite peaceful.
At some point I’m going to buy an SMT Micro Anodizer (have a look at some of the examples there), so I can lay down straight-lined patterns, one-color patterns, or can hook it to a paintbrush and paint with electrolyte.
That’s kinda what things have been like around here. Finish work, sing a while if it’s hot, make some chimes if it’s cool. Rinse and repeat.
Once Upon A Time When We Were Social…
What? Needing to turn in a minimum thousand-word essay and opening the blog program instead instead isn’t normal? But, isn’t that the BEST TIME to blog???
How are you?
It’s been a minute, hasn’t it?
We had no idea that we had not, in fact, come through the initial impact of the pandemic with no consequences. (We don’t say “survived the pandemic” – it’s not over.) We are, in fact, natural-born Hobbits, and as such, we live like those mythical creatures. Hobbits are happiest at home. We potter around the garden. We fix enormous and impractical meals. We read a great many, many, many books, and do a great many crafts which include glitter, paint, a lot of muttering under our breath, the occasional swear, or a lot of cutting oil. Staying home 24/7? Avoiding people? That’s playing our song.
While one of us is merely introvert adjacent, the other of us is a full-time introvert who requires at least twenty-one business days to recover from any social outing. Pandemic isolation was supposed to be the crowning achievement of an introvert’s life.
Standing on the edges of a crowd, watching people enjoying themselves is filling the social well. Sitting at a table alone in a cafe, watching people enjoying themselves is filling the social well. Lurking in library stacks, watching mothers try to read while their offspring play around their feet is filling the social well. A meal at a restaurant, a concert, air travel, random conversations with strangers – all of these things with their attendant displeasures and delights give something to us. Normal life – with its reflected light from the sunshine of other people’s lives – fills the social well, and the lack of said all but drains us of our contentment, and worse, our creativity.
(Yeah. That essay. The coding. And the novel that’s due. The technical writing that has to be updated, the PR materials that need to be written. And… And… And…)
It was mostly unnoticeable – and overlapped with T’s autoimmune illness peaking, but the isolation was something which caused both of our brains to atrophy. We realized that we were… too quiet. We usually talk to each other constantly – interrupt each other, exchange ideas with the frenetic energy of sparks on electric wires. Some days we barely exchanged ten sentences between getting up and “pass the salt” at dinner. When we realized that “the worst” was over, and then… it wasn’t, the disappointment was more resignation – we knew this wouldn’t be tidy, but hope is a thing with invasive roots. Now that we know that we need… something to help fix our brains and fill our social wells, we’re in the process of rethinking how we can return to the world in a way that’s safe – considering our weekly outdoor church attendance (more for social interaction than spiritual edification just now) and a socially distanced return to our chamber group, and more activities outdoors, as T’s new meds seem to have pulled her back from brain fog and acute disability. As always, we’re a work in progress… And you?
How are you?
We used to throw tea parties, tasting plate parties and Wine & Cheese (or grape juice and cultured soy milk) parties with the Wees when they were quite small, as a means of introducing them to new foods or just hanging out with the good dishes, and our family in a meaningful way. The last one we had, Elf was eight. Since he’s just turned thirteen this year (!!!!), it’s been a minute. While we aren’t sure whether Elf and Little Man, who are far too cool for our company, would like to come, we’ve been planning a little Taste & See party for a while now. We thought we’d pre-taste one of the offerings, though, just to be on the safe side (and have since decided against having this as part of our taste test). It’s a product we’ve seen everywhere, even a smoked mushroom varietal at our local farmer’s market – vegan jerky.
Having not grown up gnawing on pieces of dried meat at all times, we didn’t at first see the point of this being veganized. But! People who hike and want to pack a quick source of energy swear by these, so we tried four easily available from the supermarket: Pleather in Black Pepper, Louisville Vegan Jerky in Maple Bacon, Gardein in Original, and Noble Jerky in Sweet BBQ.
Our first mistake was buying something called Pleather. Just… no. Both Merriam-Webster and the Oxford Dictionary of Language defines Pleather as a plastic, faux leather substitute, not foodstuff. Our second mistake was getting black-pepper flavored anything: another no. We expected the Louisville to be better, but the maple was sickly sweet, and the bacon flavor was an overdose of liquid smoke. Of the four taste-tested, those two were utterly unspeakable, as in, We Spat Out And Would Not Share With Dogs. The Gardein we thought would be at least okay, because we’ve used Gardein products before, and it was… meh. It’s too moist and has an odd texture. The Noble Jerky is also sweet, but …we immediately wanted to upend the entire bag into a pot of white beans. It’s the exact taste of Boston Baked Beans somehow! Not something you’d want to eat in large amounts without the beans, but …workable. We’re going to cook with both the edible ones and see if they can be redeemed. (We’re not going to try for “elevated,” that’s just asking for the moon.)
So, no winners there, really, but it made us happy to think about doing something as normal as trying weird food and making fun of it.
Small steps, friends. Small steps.