These days of COVID-19 have left me strangely more optimistic than I suspect the majority of the human population feels. My childhood was an anxiety-stricken mess, while my adolescence and young adulthood were a culmination of all my social insecurities spiraling into severe depression. Thus, having overcome most of those manchild problems and screwed my head on straight since, working mostly from home as an underpaid yet satisfied graduate researcher is a pleasant “respite.” I do not and would never downplay the economic hardship and veritable health crises endured by many this year, but if I’m being honest, I don’t mind being on the sunnier side of the community for once. I’ve been told by many people in a variety of ways how the world doesn’t care about your personal problems, no matter how persistent or severe, but the flipside of that dynamic is often forgotten. Even if only by comparison to my anxious, depressed years in the past, I am satisfied as a singular, complete person at calm amidst the world’s stormy problems. The world isn’t obligated to care about my issues, nor I its.
The longwinded months of this pandemic (November 2020 as of this writing) have left me time to further lists of popular culture phenomena I like and don’t like. Things You Like that I Don’t (TYLID) are a series of contrarian essays (re: rants) meant as a fun way to vent my everyday frustrations rooted in cultural objects so many others have recommended to me over the years. So, without further ado, here is yet another TYLID list in which I impolitely decline the following recommendations from friends, family, and strangers:
- Distance Running = Oh, how many times has a Physical Education instructor, weight-loss expert, or cross-country athlete preached the benefits, both health and recreational, of running long distances? Too many for my tastes, as I was never predisposed to the activity, physically (I never cared for cardiovascular exercises, always struggled to breathe through my nose, was never skilled at running to begin with, etc.) or emotionally (I find the activity to this day extraordinarily boring). While I noticed minor improvements in my overall cardiovascular endurance in team sports (e.g. baseball, swimming, association football, gridiron football, mixed martial arts, etc.) as a function of distance running, those fitness improvements were always much less efficient than sports-specific exercises. Even cardiovascular activities I did enjoy, like hiking, didn’t translate from jogging mile after mile throughout my small-town neighborhoods.
- Much of my impatience with running was, therefore, how little use I had for it. Consistent physical exercise is difficult for most people to embrace unless they have particular affection for a specific activity (e.g. they’re naturally good at it or have fond memories of it from childhood) or they comprehend a tangible, direct benefit from it (e.g. efficient weight-loss, rapid improvements in overall health and fitness, opportunities to socialize with peers, etc.). I never got either of those from running very, very far, though that didn’t stop other people from telling me how very, very far they ran and how often they did.
- Desserts and Sweets = In my experience, most people either have a “sweet tooth,” are predisposed to most kinds of desserts, or they’re not. Count me in the latter category. Aside from a few exceptions, most of which include ice cream, deep fried foods (e.g. donuts), or Toblerone, I don’t salivate at the thought of pies, cupcakes, cakes, muffins, chocolates, hard candies, or cookies. It’s not uncommon for me to crave something relatively sweet after eating a main course for lunch or dinner, sure, but those cravings are usually satisfied by fruit or yogurt.
- My lack of saccharine tastes was a problem when I was younger, particularly during birthdays and holidays I otherwise loved, such as Halloween or Christmas. I selectively tossed or traded much of my Trick-or-Treating loot and always requested pizza, chips, hot dogs, or barbeque (the salty, savory stuff) whenever I turned a year older. I’m not sure whether these preferences are rooted in alleged sex-specific food cravings or are particular to me, but for whatever reason, I’ve invested considerable energy refusing endless sweets, candies, and desserts people expect me to like while searching for the next fried delicacy to devour. I’m not trying to avoid a heart attack, per se, I just prefer to clog my arteries with the junk food I actually like.
- Thanksgiving Food = Here’s another dietary phenomenon I don’t understand. As far as meats are concerned, turkey is at the bottom of my list, well below pork, chicken, beef, and every kind of seafood or shellfish known to man. I’m fine with deli sliced turkey on a sandwich, but oven baked turkey by itself I often find dry, tough, and flavorless. As for side dishes made of squash, pumpkin pie, cornbread, cranberries, stuffing, green beans, etc., I’ve never found a combination that worked for me. They all taste like bland renditions of meals your school cafeteria would serve or that your Great Aunt would cook because “it’s healthy for you.”
- It’s all so, so dull, which is one of the few things I won’t miss this 2020 Thanksgiving holiday. Family? I’ll definitely miss them. The food? Hell, no
Always a delight, Celtic. It has always been a lament for me how American cuisine only comes out on Thanksgiving and Christmas while the rest of the year the majority of the populace gorges on the same four options (granted I’ve never been to a BBQ). Or that authentic regional fare is beyond the beaten path or a ‘best kept secret’ sort of establishment. We’re kind of the same here with favoring convenience over delighting in culinary indulgence and the best kept secrets are usually homemade recipes and therefore intentionally secret. That sounded like a guilt trip. My apologies!
Thanks for the feedback and insight. I myself push Cajun creole, Texas BBQ, New England seafood, and Chicago Pizza on anyone who’ll listen, but yes, convenience most always wins the average consumer, including most travelers.
I’m familiar with the Mediterranean cuisines of the Mid East, but not the Arabian peninsula. What qualifies as convenient fast-food vs authenticity over there?
Authentic/peninsula cuisine is consumed for lunch or in the evening in weddings, etc. It is derived from Yemeni cooking techniques like ground pits and stone grilling (look up mandi and madhbi). It will have rice with one of (lamb, mutton, chicken, fish or even camel meat) and tons of spices from India. Ours is made in a pressure cooker and is called kabsa. There are more dishes not served outside of homes that are at risk of obsolescence but I see a resurgence/preservation/fetishization movement that may mean they won’t all die out.
Shawarma, burgers and fried chicken are widely available fast food options for dinner. No coincidence they’re also culinary imports as for decades local food was either consumed as sustenance (grains) or as part of elaborate hospitality (a full animal on a bed of rice). Also, fine dining is fairly new.
Traditionally local cuisine is for breakfast and lunch while fast food is more an option for dinner. Convenience and individual hankerings blurr the line of when each option is consumed and you can break with tradition now.
You can browse this blog for an idea. https://foodwithshayne.com/category/saudi-arabia/
This might sound like a joke, but Anthony Bourdain had an episode where they put an entire camel in a pit. 😂