Break the Silence: My Story

In light of a recent news story (http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2014/09/03/emma-sulkowicz-mattress-rape-columbia-university_n_5755612.html) that’s been circulating on social media, I feel compelled to share a story of my own. 

While pro-women’s rights and feminist articles and statements are prevalent online, sexual assault and rape happen everyday regardless of background and circumstance. On one hand, women are encouraged to speak out and support each other while on the other hand denial and victim-blame are still the harsh reality. Emma Sulkowicz, the Columbia University student in the linked article is a rarity in that she was brave enough to actually report the atrocity that happened to her. 

It is nearly impossible to know how many rapes and assaults occur because most go unreported. Why? For a variety of reasons. I have been assaulted and raped, and by more than one man. Have I reported anything? Never. Being assaulted eats at you from the inside out. Personally, I went into shock after the incidents, told no one and then inadvertently, thoughts of what happened went away. Even though thoughts of what happened went away, I was an oscillating mess of depression, anxiety and panic attacks. Many months after, I had nightmares and thoughts of what happened would hit me out of the blue. After revealing what happened to a close friend, I decided I needed to go to therapy.

My therapist helped me sort through what happened in a way that worked for me and I do think I’ve recovered. I have only told my whole story to three people and live my life happily yet still feel as if there is a chunk out of my heart. Support groups for rape victims have proved impossible to find, at least in my little corner of the world. What helps me most is writing poems and talking out my thoughts on issues relating to assault in our society. 

Back to a question I posed earlier. Why do assaults go unreported? These reasons are hard to explain and differ based on the individual. After a year and a half, I feel more able to sort out my reasons which include the following: 

  • Because I didn’t think they’d believe me.
  • Because I didn’t think they’d take it seriously.
  • Because he was my boyfriend.
  • Because I thought they’d blame me.
  • Because they’d say I had it coming. Had it coming because I enjoy sex and have a open attitude about it.
  • Because I was scared.
  • Because I felt ashamed.
  • Because, in part, I blamed myself.
  • Because I was afraid of what would happen to him.
  • Because I didn’t want our mutual friends to know. 
  • Because I made excuses for his actions.
  • Because I felt bad for him.
  • Because I felt lost.

Even if you don’t report what happened to you, tell someone you trust. Someone who will keep your confidence. Don’t hold it in. Let yourself have as healthy a release as possible. Don’t let what happened to you make you feel permanently broken and unwanted. Let yourself heal. Even though it may feel like a chunk is missing, you are still wholey and entirely yourself. 

Raise awareness. Offer support. Find your strength. 

Emma, you’re a hero in my book. Fight on. 

Speak out. End this pervasive cycle.

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Gaulart & Maliclet Fast & French

I have to brag on my favorite little place to grab a bite in downtown Charleston, Fast & French. Mon favorit petit café is now 30 years old. It’s a bit of a hole in the wall and yet well-known enough to be packed every time I go. I would eat there every day if I could and with their prices, it wouldn’t be unreasonable if I lived or worked downtown. One of the great things about it is the crowd. College of Charleston students, lawyers, businessmen/women, locals, Europeans, any person imaginable. They can all be found here.

Panoramic

My poor attempt at a panoramic shot.

Don’t go expecting the average American dining experience. This is a quintessential European nook on Broad Street. The seating is communal and servers are not there to be your buddy but are still plenty cordial. Go to enjoy some simple yet delicious café food. The lunch special is always to die for and comes with a glass of house wine (or other beverage). When available, I highly recommend a bowlful of their vichyssoise but all of the soups are delightful. I used to hate mushrooms with a raging passion but this place helped change my mind with their earthy pâté.

While the overwhelming majority of reviews are raving, I’ve read some of people complaining that the food is bland and poorly prepared – I couldn’t disagree more. They use fresh herbs and ingredients and offer flavorful simplicity. Not to mention the outstanding prices. On my most recent visit, my bill was ~$23 for a soup & sandwich, lunch special with wine and a dessert. Pas mal, n’est-ce pas?

Lunch Special

Lunch Special 8-16-14 : Seafood Creole with aioli, melon, cheese, baguette.

Wine

The house white wine – crisp, dry sauvignon blanc.

 

Peach Almond Tart

Dessert. Peach Almond Tart. This was orgasmic and had the best crust I’ve ever had on pie or tart.

What’s In My Fridge

Aside from the basic butter, milk, eggs that are given kitchen necessities, there are a few things that I keep in my refrigerator and pantry at all times. If these things aren’t there, I’m like a lost puppy trying to get meals together. No matter what I find myself fixing, these things help me to ensure the plates I serve are full of flavor. They might seem like no brainers but its taken me a few years to really figure out what my refrigerator necessities are – aside from the actual poultry, seafood, meat, grains, fruit and vegetables.

Heavy Cream
Heavy Cream
“If you’re afraid of butter, use cream.” – Julia Child

While not the healthiest thing in my refrigerator, heavy cream has many uses. A splash of cream will add depth and richness to any dish or sauce. It’s not that you should drench your food in cream but a little goes a long way. You’ll find that I use a splash of cream in many of my recipes. Not enough to take away from healthful qualities of what is being served but just enough to add that extra little bit of something.

Stock 

Kitchen Basics Chicken Stock

Kitchen Basics is my preferred brand. It’s easy to find low-sodium stock but unsalted can be more difficult at times. This one is a keeper.

Whether it be chicken, vegetable, mushroom, beef or seafood stock, stock will give you a flavorful basis for any soup or sauce. It also gives you a flavorful alternative to water for preparing rice, couscous, pasta, etc. The key is to find sodium-free stock so as not to unnecessarily increase your sodium intake. Oh and don’t use bouillon instead. Just don’t.

Lemon Juice
Lemon Juice

Nothing beats freshly squeezed juice but a large bottle of lemon juice can help you out in just about any situation. As with heavy cream, I usually just add a splash to what I’m serving. Typically, I’ll add a little bit of lemon juice to vegetables. I use very little salt in my cooking and the bitterness of lemon juice provides great balance, especially when accompanied with fresh herbs. 

Fresh Herbs

Fresh Herbs

My favorites to keep on hand are mint, basil, cilantro, dill, lavender and lemongrass.

An otherwise bland meal is automatically elevated by adding fresh herbs; they add life, flavor and brightness without any unhealthy additives. A dish can be taken from Latin to Italian to Southeast Asian to French to Middle Eastern, all depending on the herbs one uses. If fresh herbs are too difficult to keep up with, I’ve found that Gourmet Garden herb and spice pastes offer a great alternative to 100% fresh herbs and can be a money saver if you find a large quantity of your herbs going to waste. 
Gourmet-Garden-Herb-Blend-Mediterranean-Paste

Guilty Pleasure Foods – The Things I’m Ashamed To Like

The past two weeks have been a whirlwind. I can’t seem to separate my days and though I’ve been cooked every night except for a few, I feel as though I’ve hit a roadblock. Although I am only cooking for two people, you’d think I was cooking for a family of six – that’s just how I was taught to cook. Therefore, we have lots of leftovers in my house, meaning that at least two nights a week, dinner is just a smorgasbord of my creations. I grew up loving leftovers; food can taste so much better the next day. If I’m not in a mood to cook, which is rare, I’ll either finish off yesterday’s remainders or I’ll throw together a plate of fruit and raw veggies with a nice little side of cheese, usually brie or Camembert. However, sometimes you’ve just got to have those terrible for you, but oh so good things that you try keep out of your pantry. 

As I self-describe foodie, I’m embarrassed to say these low-grade, sodium-packed ‘foods’ are things I crave. I have a number of guilty pleasure foods, some from fast-food and some not. I suppose they speak to my upbringing in some way and why I like them is hard to explain but here are a few of the nasty things I like to sneak a bite of on occasion. 

Spam
Spam Nigiri

Okay. Yes. This is a picture of Spam musubi. Yes, I would indeed eat this. Much like Koreans, Japanese, Hawaiians, Filipinos and any Southerner with a background stamped with struggling to get by, I happen to LOVE Spam. Spam, Armor Treat, doesn’t matter. This weird canned meat can be so versatile. You do just about anything under the sun with it. It makes great sandwiches, kind of like a fried bologna sandwich. It goes works fabulously in a stir fry and goes great with eggs for breakfast. I like Spam. Sue me. 

Filet O’ Fish
Filet O' Fish

This is probably the thing I’m most ashamed to enjoy. I’ll get it may two or three times in a year, usually during a certain time of the month, which is when I tend to crave the bad stuff. Being from South Carolina’s Lowcountry, home of some of the most amazing fresh seafood in the country, it’s a wonder I’ll even put this thing in my mouth. The fish is questionable, it has the most insipid excuse for tartar sauce you could think of and a salty American single finishes it off. Nothing about the Filet O’ Fish is actually good. Despite all this nastiness, something about it tastes so bad it’s good. I even have a particular way I order it: typically, there is only half a slice of cheese so I order a Filet O’ Fish with extra, extra, extra cheese and light tartar sauce. 

Thin Mints
Thin Mints
Actually, I’m not one bit ashamed to like thin mints. And to be quite honest, I am completely obsessed with them. When Girl Scout cookie season rolls around, I turn into a thin-mint-seeking monster. I buy as many boxes as possible and I then hoard them. I never binge on any of my guilty pleasure foods and thin mints are no exception. My favorite way to enjoy these delights is dipping them in nice glass of ice cold water. Water, never milk. Milk gives me tummy aches and makes me gag. But the minty-ness with the water is oh so refreshing. Call me strange for it, most folks do. I’m so obsessed with thin mints I once skipped a three hour long class in college just to try and make a homemade version because my craving was so strong. They were good and it was worth it. 

Crab Rangoon
Crab Rangoon

Don’t lie. I know you have your favorite greasy thing to get from Chinese take-out place nearest your residence. Crab rangoons happen to be mine. Apparently if you pair questionable, crappy seafood with cheese and/or anything creamy, I’m hooked. They’re crunchy and creamy and have so much of that unami goodness. Give me three of these and I’ll be good for months.

A Little About Me Part I

Personal story time. My mother was raised by people who cooked up calorie-rich and cholesterol-heavy meals on a daily basis. Pork chops with a side of grease? Sure thing. Lasagna? Of course, except forget ricotta and fresh vegetables. This lasagna consisted of cottage cheese, overcooked pasta, ground beef and American cheese singles. Yes. They considered that lasagna. When she was married at age 18 and whisked off by my father as he completed nuclear power school in the Navy, she had little knowledge of all world that is offered by food. It’s hard to believe that she grew up on what she did and has branched out so much. With all that said, I grew up in a household where meat was always overcooked and vegetables were often canned. This is where my abhorrence for canned foods developed. Sure, there are some canned products out there which are very useful and I definitely use them. But on the whole, they’re pretty nasty excuses for food. This has typically included the cloyingly sweet jams produced by such brands as Smuckers. These burned my throat because they were so sugar-packed.

My affair with culinary exploration began with my mom’s quest to shed baby weight from myself and my younger brother. She has always loved good, colorful cookbooks and I would pour over them with her and give my child’s input on the meal menus she would plan. I was always keen to be mommy’s little helper and my reward for being good while grocery shopping would be to pick one item that wasn’t on the list. I’d push my little buggy and reach all the things down low. Grocery shopping was just as exciting to me then, just as it is now. I couldn’t wait to find something new to try.

This desire to try new things extended to eating out. While we did not eat out infrequently, I was always thrilled by sitting in a restaurant and reading the menu. (This is coming from the person who as a child would sit outside reading the dictionary for fun.) I was continually dissatisfied with the options on the kid’s menu. Everywhere you go, it’s the same boring thing. I wanted to eat what the grown-ups got to eat; there was so much more flavor.

So it begins..

To sum it all up, I’m obsessed with food. The growing of it, harvesting, selecting, preparing, eating, the nourishment it provides, everything.

It all started with my little two-year-old self wandering downstairs at midnight and telling my mommy that I couldn’t sleep and was hungry. Being the wonderful mommy she is, she fixed me up some fried potatoes and onions. BOOM. My first truly discernible memory was born. Why it’s this that I remember more than anything else, I’m not quite sure but I do know that ever since then, my most vivid memories are of food. I think it’s because all the senses are involved: you smell it, you see it, you touch it, you taste it. Food is an experience. It’s the transmittal of nutrients, culture, love and so much more in one sitting.

I LOVE food. Everything about it fascinates me. The question of what is my favorite food is possibly one of the most difficult questions for me to answer. In general, I have trouble picking one favorite of anything. When it comes to food, this is doubly true. I can’t even tell you my favorite type of food to eat or make. What I can tell you is that although I’ve never even been on an airplane, I travel through my food. I read about its origins, its traditions and how it came to be used in a certain manner. I’ve been a lover of history my whole life, so its only natural that I approach food with this perspective.

While I could go on and on about my love for food in one post, I’ll refrain from doing so. The purpose of this blog is for me to organize my thoughts including but not limited to: discoveries, , recipes, meals, frustations, ramblings, etc.

For now, I’ll conclude with a little free-verse poetry from yours truly.


From A Foodie

A pan, a pot.
An ingredient put to knife.
Still the endless working, commuting.
Thinking, so much thinking.
To make, to create.
The nourishment of our bodies
created by my hands.
Combining, crafting
To dance upon your palette,
To fill your stomach
and feed your soul.
Give you health, strengthen
muscle and bone.
Energy, comfort.
A time to relax and enjoy.
The goodness from the ground,
that walks the earth, flies the sky
or swims the sea.
All the history, stories, culture.
Ideas of those who came before
an amalgam with the here and now.
Amazing..
This sustaining of life.