At exactly this moment, your body probably needs:
a) Something warm
b) Something green
c) Something bourbon
d) All of the above
You need something green because over the past 48 hours you’ve inhaled a (fully deserved) gluttonous share of things that were gooey, molten, buffalo-sauced, refried, deep fried, chocolate-dipped, iced, carbonated, crunchy, covered in neon orange film and/or Ruffles.
You need something warm because it’s that time of year when, after getting a little too confident that you’d braved the worst of winter, February happens.
February: when you’re forced to pull out your all function/no form snow boots and reacquaint yourself with the ankle soreness said boots cause after one little breakfast outing. The month when true love is tested, not by the appropriateness of Valentine’s Day gifts, but by your significant other’s ability to accept your appearance, despite your lumberjack boots and unwaveringly monochromatic wardrobe.
You need bourbon because you’re only human.
I’m no stranger to anthropomorphism. Whether it’s a projection of my own sensitivities or just a matter of upbringing, I don’t see too much wrong with casually assigning personas and feelings to certain inanimate and nonhuman objects.
To clarify, the house(s) I grew up in were filled with a few fixtures that, at the very least, had their own names. The ceramic monkey tabletop planter. The five-foot leather giraffe. And then there is the family dog, who in fact is not treated as a dog but instead as my sister and/or paternal grandmother reincarnate, among other beings.
With no pet of my own and no motivation to bestow furniture its own set of personality quirks, all of my anthropomorphic endeavors happen in the kitchen.
There was once a time when I didn’t salivate at the mental image of brie. We all have our shortcomings; I’ve since corrected this particular flaw.
Despite its indisputable status as queen of the cheese court, brie is just not the wheel you reach for everyday. (Dislike, say, mozzarella, which made up at least 3 out of every 5 weekday lunches – on a sub roll slathered with pesto, no less – during my freshman year of college.) Brie demands special treatment and special occasions (editor’s note: “special occasion” is subjective, and can easily be deemed a Friday night after a particularly long work week, in your living room, watching Chopped.)
So when my boyfriend brought up the possibility of (cue the 20something horror) staying in on New Year’s Eve, my mind immediately jumped to menu planning—and quickly got diverted by that mental image of brie.
Somewhere between Black Friday and Giving Tuesday (a.k.a. Cyber Monday), anyone with a pulse and a web domain starts curating their online holiday gift guides. Every food blog, every digital retail storefront and even the New York Times exerts every ounce of possible pre-holiday stress into crafting the right juxtaposition of low-brow/high-brow products, lavish gift box subscriptions and cheeky stocking stuffers for everyone on your wish list.
The problem with these gift guides is twofold:
1) You can never afford, and never would want to afford, a $300 coffee table book.
2) The personas that every website structures these guides around are not grounded in reality (or sanity.) Absolutely no one has a “Luxury Savant” or “Lip Balm and Ponytail Gal” in their gifting circle.
Work day lunches are shrouded in struggle.
On the days you bring food, you’re inevitably accepting the refrigerator Tetris challenge – the one where you spend 10 minutes shifting boxes of Bud Light and seven types of empty Trader Joe’s hummus packs to find room where your sandwich won’t be obliterated or “accidentally” shoved under a Lululemon tote.
But fridge Tetris is something that, with persistence and learned detachment to whether or not you just moved someone else’s half-eaten yogurt to the deli drawer, can be mastered. Finding the right meal spots on the days when you’re not slinging the ol’ lunch bag, however, never ceases to be an emotionally taxing exercise. (Or maybe just for some of us…)
Chicago, like most major metropolises east and west of it, offers a promising array of ethnic food purveyors to accommodate most whims.
There is the requisite Chinatown (recently raided by none other than the FBI), Little Italy, Greektown. There are easily reachable neighborhoods off the pink and blue L lines for when a carnitas craving hits hard. There’s plenty of Thai and Thai fusion and an excellent Vietnamese chain. If you venture to the right corners, you’ll find a decent Jewish deli and inconceivable options for Indian cuisine. There are, of course, the gluttonous Brazilian steakhouses and sushi dens tucked into inconspicuous split levels. You won’t be hard-pressed to find a few Ethiopian options.
If you’ve read through this list and are feeling disorientated and slightly offended by the absence of Cuban food, I get it.
I’m not a betting woman, but I’d lay a few bones on the probability that, by this point in October, you’ve probably:
- Shelled out at least $4 for a hot, caffeinated, pumpkin spice-laced beverage
- Kicked yourself for falling victim, yet again, to lazy marketing and spending $4 for a hot, caffeinated beverage that tastes nothing like pumpkin and everything like a stomach ache in a cup
- Gone into the office kitchen only to been greeted by a plate of homemade, chestnut-hued crumbly good
- Scoured your local grocer for the first sign of 28 oz cans of pumpkin puree
- Nodded in solemn, guilty agreement with John Oliver’s pumpkin slam
Let’s stray from the marketers’ cliche. Let’s not give in to the peer and pelvic pressure of whipped cream on top of frothed milk on top of liquid cloves.
Let’s not get stressed out after scouring no fewer than 4 department stores, 3 department store outlets and at least 5 websites for just the right mid-length down coat that doesn’t make your 5’2″ frame resemble an (albeit chicer) oompa loompa.
Pumpkin will be gone in a few months, when the world starts shoving marshmallow birds and “creme”-filled eggs down our proverbial throats. Chocolate will always be there.