Thursday, June 06, 2013

Food busybodies

A few weeks ago I mentioned how much it annoys me when people view spicy foods as more macho but really that whole rant is also part of another problem that's really taken over.

Basically, the thing that bothers me the most is how invested people are in what other people are eating. I'm constantly getting people telling me their opinions on what I do and don't eat, and most of these people know nothing about me and why I may or may not choose to eat something. The only people who's opinions I value when it comes to food are my doctors (and even then only some of them) and a few select friends who understand the complex interplay between my health issues, my personal tastes, and everything else that's going on.

It's when you post a picture of your dinner to social media and somebody just has to pipe up and say something about your food. It's when you order at a restaurant and you ask for something to be left off and somebody gives you a speech about how it's good for you. Or you mention a particular place you went to eat, and the person just HAS to talk about the fat content of the typical meal at that place.

I read stories on websites like "Not Always Working" where even wait staff will have an opinion about what people are getting and sometimes bring them the wrong thing because they "should" want something else.

You also get those people who can't believe you don't like something they love. I was once at a catered lunch (a very informal thing) where they had some eggplant something or other. I didn't get any, and the caterer asked why, I just said I don't really like eggplant and I got the same line I've heard so many times, "that's because you haven't tried THIS eggplant!"

No, it's because I don't like eggplant. This is such a horrible thing to say to somebody, because then I felt required to try it, I didn't like it, and he came by later to ask how I liked it. What do I say, "actually I was right, it was terrible." That's impolite, and unlike those people I don't want to be rude.

Or when you go to a family dinner, and everybody is saying "did you get some of the corn pudding, you have to get some of Aunt Busybody's homemade corn pudding!" What's even worse is when you're not feeling well and you don't want to eat at all, then everybody is trying to force you to eat. "Oh, but you NEED to eat!" No, I need to let my stomach settle.

A few months ago, I made a random tumblr post mentioning different companies that support marriage equality and gay rights. Most of them were pre-packaged food companies, and I'd say a good 10% of the responses were "good for them but they still make poison" or "if their food wasn't such trash that would be great." Really? REALLY? First of all, back off Oreo's man, or we'll have to fight. Second, keep that crap to yourself. Every time there's a news story about a restaurant, somebody will pipe up with "I don't eat that junk" like it makes them superior or special. News flash: it doesn't make you special, it makes you a judgmental jerk who can't keep their mouth shut.

There's a way to express that you like a food without being a jerk about it. If somebody says, "I haven't tried a lot of Mexican food," you can reply with, "I really love the breakfast burritos at Anita's, have you ever had them?" But if somebody says, "I always get sick when I eat avocado" then you don't go "but you HAVE to try my guacamole!" If somebody mentions they're addicted to diet soda, if you know them well enough you could mention that you read an article the other day about some new studies about artificial sweeteners. But if it's a random co-worker that says they can't wait to chow down on some fast food after work, don't start talking about processing plants.

Stop trying to make people eat, stop trying to act like everybody should eat the exact same way, and stop acting like whatever food choices you've made are the only "right" ones.

Book Review: Percy Jackson and the Olympians Series

I've really been meaning to read the Percy Jackson books for years. Two years ago, I actually ended up trying to pass some time in a hotel room while I was on a business trip and the first movie happened to be on.

Now, I really didn't have any expectations for the movie, the reviews of it weren't that good and the people I knew who liked the books weren't particularly thrilled by it either. But there was nothing else on and I was rather bored and homesick, so I watched it and I actually thought it was quite pretty. It was enough to make me more certain I wanted to read the books anyway, but I still didn't get around to it.

Then they recently released the first trailers for the second film, The Sea of Monsters. And it reminded me that I wanted to read the books so I finally got it together to read them. Plus I really wanted something fun, simple, and quick. I expected to only read the first one but I ended up reading all five over one weekend.

I really enjoyed these books, even though it might have been easier to read them if I hadn't seen the first movie at all. Because it's a bit hard to remind yourself that Percy is only 12 in the first book, and not 16 like he is in the movie (I don't know what age he actually is, he looks 16). So some of his actions and behaviors are bit dumb unless you remember that he's 12.

The books take a very modern sensibility towards the mythology they include, and so don't except to get some sort of really good education on Greek myths. But it's understandable, in the story itself, how and why that is. Olympus changes as the world changes, that's part of the point, and the gods and monsters adapt to the world they live in. So I really liked the way things were done, because I enjoy the Greek myths but I feel like not a lot of people want to really take any liberties with them anymore.

But my favorite thing about these books was that all of the characters, both the good guys and the bad guys, had complex motivations. Except perhaps Kronos, even the villains were partially right about what was wrong with the world they reside in, it's just that their choices to deal with those motivations are wrong. And Percy, Annabeth, and Grover are often conflicted and confused, and sometimes they make the right choices for the wrong reasons or the wrong choices for the right reasons. In the end, the war is between two sides that both have very valid points to make and that's the kind of complexity that most young adult books don't bother with.

There are a few things that are very "middle school reader" about them, notably Percy's inability to deal with girls and how that's written into the story. But as much as I might roll my eyes at his obliviousness, he's never really maliciously stupid about anything, he's just young and written that way. Normally I'm the first to say that "he's just a 14-year-old boy" is no excuse for a character being stupid and being badly written, because a main character in any fiction shouldn't be held to the same standards as a real person, otherwise why bother reading about them? I don't forgive some of Harry Potter for this, and I hold Legend of Korra on a much lower level because of the way they handled it. But Percy never crossed over into being poorly written, just being a little bit complicated. I especially thought the way they handled the portion with Calypso was really well done.

I also liked that this was, in a sense, a series about how parents actually aren't always right. Sometimes parents are jerks, and sometimes they mean well but they still do stupid things that aren't good for their children. Sometimes they're just doing the best they can. I can see how some parents would be bothered by the idea, but I think it's good to teach kids that their parents don't always have all the answers, and they're not always right, and sometimes they're still thinking of things in the past instead of the future. But even thought family is complicated, it's family.

Overall, a very good series and I'm looking forward to the new series being finished so I can pick those up.