It’s the plight of all children of parents to constantly draw mental lines between which (good and bad) habits, (logical or baseless) prejudices and (charming or irritating) affectations you will and won’t adopt from the people who gave you life.
It’s a plight not because it’s a strenuous thought exercise, but because it’s one we all fail.
You still fall asleep on the third viewing of The Beguiled with your head back and mouth open, ready to catch flies that may or may not swarm from the muggy Virginia scene playing out on the laptop straight into your 62-degree, dry AF bedroom. You find yourself yelling unbecoming obscenities and fully, irrevocably resigned to an “L” when your football team is down by three-points at the end of…the first quarter.
The holidays, however, can be a welcome opportunity to be reminded of how you’ve successfully distanced yourself from inheriting a few choice behaviors and managed to create The Adult Life You Always Imagined.
In some nonexistent, made-for-Netflix reboot of The Newlywed Game, if asked to identify what my fiancé feels is my #1 shortcoming, a few answers would immediately come to mind.
My strict cereal policy (which bans anything outside of Crispix, Chex, Cheerios or other select khaki-colored brands because I can’t be trusted around chemically engineered fruit flavors) would be a likely contender – along with my irrepressible knack for vaulting out of bed every other night at the sound of a revving motorcycle engine, convinced that the apocalypse or some national security incident is unfolding outside.
Depending on the day, other flaws (e.g., general stubbornness, worrying about everything in the day-to-day act of living there is to worry about, unleashing misguided tantrums when too many hours have passed between meal times) might earn the top spot.
But I can say with almost complete certainty that my biggest failure as his chosen partner is that I rarely want to go out for Chinese food.
In less than two weeks I’ll be turning 25, finally ready to embrace the quarter-life crisis that has apparently plagued my psyche for the past five years.
It’s easy to look back from my postgraduate perch and laugh at the pre-legal drinking age me for fretting about things like internships, guys, GREs and whether or not the twenty-something me would have a disposable budget for pastry consumption.
The things that jolt the almost 25-year old me awake at 3 a.m. some nights include, but are not limited to: work deadlines, how and where to start planning a wedding, whether or not I’ll ever go for that MFA, and determining the perfect dessert to bake for whatever social function looms ahead.
We as individuals may evolve, but we never truly change.
Chicago knows a lot about food, but it knows very little about diners. Chicago Magazine readers recently confirmed this lingering instinct when they voted Little Goat Diner as the city’s best.
Little Goat Diner, Stephanie Izard’s colossal space on Randolph Row, may be a respite from the delicate small plates and ticket-entry restaurants the city has become known for, and it may be one of the few places within city limits where you can satisfy swine and sweet tooth cravings with one milkshake. A diner, however, it is not.
Both Little Goat Diner and even Chicago Magazine readers’ runner-up, Eleven City Diner, are true diners to the same extent as Chipotle is an authentic Mexican Grill. Like the World Showcase food stands at Epcot or the Led Zeppelin 1977 t-shirts tweens can buy at Sears, any restaurant younger than 40 years old that calls itself a diner is probably not the real thing.
With the country’s 239th birthday upon us, let’s the count some of our uniquely American blessings.
- We never ever have to make the impossible decision between ice tea, green tea or lemonade.
- In the U.S.A., even candy can be reincarnated.
- Rather than use the metric system, our fast food brands innovate with their own magic meat math.
- Thanks to the #Internet, we have the freedom of choice to go out and buy these and other commercial food items, or make them in the comfort of our own kitchens (with less fluorescent light, arguably better music and a pants/bra-optional policy.)
There are plenty of meals and tastes I’ll never fully be able to recreate at home: the salty/slick mouthfeel of Olive Garden breadsticks, the gooeyness of Eleven City’s patty melt, the palpable guilt of the Cheesecake Factory’s chocolate peanut putter cookie dough cheesecake. But Chipotle, despite being surrounded by a halo of ethical good food vibes, can easily be imitated by a commoner.
You know when people ask you what flavor of ice cream they should bring back home from the grocery store, or what you want for your birthday this year? Are you one of those people who has the emotional flexibility to answer these (a.k.a, life’s big questions) with, “I don’t care, surprise me!”
It’s not that I’m as anti-surprise as certain people. Maybe it’s a slight bias towards control freakism, or maybe it’s just that I know what I like. Why let someone “surprise” you with strawberry or another unfortunate flavor when chocolate peanut butter is readily available?
A part of me wishes I could be more carefree, less concerned about retaining a degree of authority over situations. But then again – if we’re rationalizing behaviors here – being decisive can be just as helpful to those asking the questions.
I learned my lesson one birthday a few years back (when I urged a certain someone to “surprise me” and was later presented a pretty, but pretty impractical, ceramic teapot): specificity is the real spice of life. In the years since, with this particular person, I’ve taken a more direct approach to answering questions big and small. And that is how you wind up with a life full of DVDs, immersion blenders and one engagement ring that were precisely what you wanted.
Chocolate is no longer a benign treat. It’s a proxy for global economics, shifting consumer preferences and transatlantic tension.
On an individual level, chocolate can reveal a lot about a person.
The person who “doesn’t really like sweets” is clearly someone who doesn’t really know how to accept love into their lives. The person who likes dessert, just not those of the chocolate variety, are probably painfully dull and/or compulsive liars.
People that like or, if it’s even possible, prefer white chocolate are as F. Scott Fitzgerald might say, beautiful little fools. People that turn their Roman noses up in disgust at the thought of a true blue Hershey’s milk chocolate bar are definitely Communists, steel-hearted and undeserving of your attention.