Why I left yoga (and why I think a helluva lot of people are being duped)

She says what I want to say, but politely and calmly.

The Shift Has Hit The Fan

Like millions of Westerners out there, I too joined the yoga bandwagon about eight years ago after trying out my first Bikram class, moving on to Moksha and then settled at a hot yoga studio which practices all types of yoga in a hot space.

I too fell in love with how yoga made my body feel after a particularly tough workout.

I too fell into the pseudo-spiritual aspects of the practice.

And, finally I too got burned out by the practice, disillusioned and at times, even disgusted at the people who I thought should be setting an example to the rest of us but turns out that they are even more messed up than you realize and the yoga was just an effective cloak to hide their true nature and personalities.

For me, it was and always will be the health benefits of yoga which attracted me and still…

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I WIsh I Was Gay

There is this solidarity and support that I’ve seen amongst the homosexual community. The name says it all : ” homosexual COMMUNITY”.

Then  there is “black community”, “asian community”, yet I have never heard of the “female community”. Maybe it’s because heterosexual women have never been as persecuted and isolated as homosexuals and/or people of colour (which have, and still do exist as oppressed majorities) HA.

The more accurate description would be that it has not been as publicly acceptable to humiliate and demean women. Women are necessary. What else would babies hang out in during the gestation period? Exactly. 

I have been told that, way before my time, women and fags were like this * two fingers intertwined”, because they were both victims of society. Dykes and lezzers were barely tolerated (You see? Discrimination, even within the same sex). Many could spend hours elucidating this point. Go ahead. I’m interested, but that’s not the reason I’m writing this today. 

Now look. The face of poverty is still female, hair by Vidal Sassoon, wardrobe by D & G. Of course I’m para-phrasing. The poverty bit is true though. Scouts honour!

Two weekends ago, I was working at the Real Food Market at Southbank. My husband and I were launching Stage 1 of our immaculately thought out Attack to Bring Back British Charcuterie, otherwise known as Bacon &On & On. It was the day that gay marriage became legally recognised in the UK. Sandi and Debbie were renewing their vows in the RFH. It was incredibly touching, the sky was a lovely colour-pencil light blue, etc, etc. It was also Vogue Festival. So, you see, it was an ideal situation to observe the behaviour of a hetero vs homo group. They even came in easily distinguishable outfits, so much more convenient than looking at tags on the legs of white mice (guess what I did at uni). 

This is what I noticed: 

  • LGBTs in T-shirts with wedding specific slogans
  • Girls in clone costumes, as dictated by Vogue,
  • Most intriguing of all, very very little crossover of gay guys into fashion world. On Sunday, one was proud to be gay.

I’m going to skip right over the bit where Vogue girls tell me to cut the fat off their bacon, and I tell them to go buy a cucumber ..Oh wait…whoops!

Vogue girls, as a unit, were very wary of people outside of their group. A Lot of New York stares were going on (you start at shoes and mentally calculate how much what the other person is wearing is worth before you decide which smile he/she deserves when you reach the face). Even within groups, there was a lot of one-upmanship, as exhibited by being more and more demanding, dietarily.The gays, on the other hand, were just bouncing around, fizzing with happiness seeing the results of endless campaigning, marches, etc.

 

 

Damn, we can’t even function as a group! How can we be taken seriously?

 

We all know that one in three women will have breast cancer.

Most of us know that one in three women will experience abuse in her lifetime.

Did you know that one in three women in England and Wales will have an abortion before the age of 45?

I did a quick Google search for pro-choice groups, forums, etc. and was dismayed (but not shocked) to find that most of these groups do not seem to have much activity going on (Some as far back as 2008!).Maybe I’m not searching correctly. This is already a handicap. Everyone knows Stonewall. However, the first result I get when I search for “pro-choice” is “Prochoice.com” ,which is actually a pro-life website, containing lots of half-truths and obsolete data from antiquated studies, designed to scare a women already in a fragile state of mind into choosing, dare I say it, wrongly.

The WHO says that abortions are declining, mainly due to an increase in access to contraceptives. This is certainly not a basis to cut funding to abortion centres or sexual health clInics. Firstly, contraceptives can, and do, fail. Second, these centres are one of the main places that contraception is handed out to the public. Having an abortion is much more traumatic, emotionally, physically and mentally, than popping a pill or getting a jab. The sorry truth is that while there are two parties involved in baby-making, the onus lies heavily on the shoulders of the woman. Now that gay marriage is “ok”, and people can converse openly on HIV/AIDS, I’m hoping that we can break the silence on the last big taboo. ABORTION.

Abortion is still a dirty little word. It’ difficult for me to analyse objectively, because I am emotionally invested, 100%. I recently queried Kickstarter.com about the viability of setting up a fund to enable billboards and graffing around London, of images of men wearing T-shirts with the slogan “I’ve had an Abortion”. I would trade massages, bacon artwork, cocktail classes, and 8-course dinners for this.

( An aside: I was told that my project “does not fit the scope of what we do at the moment”. Yet movies about abortion are funded. I guess Activism does not equal entertainment)

One of the reasons the gay-rights campaign is so successful it that both sexes were actively involved. I can only speak from a personal point of view here, because I have only had one response from all the pro-choice groups/individuals (unfailingly female) that I have contacted.  On the pro-life side, it is common to see both men and women united,( mainly through a shared religious belief ) and they are perceived as much more approachable. They are much more vocal, and I suspect they get more done, too.The pro-choice groups are markedly silent.  It is much easier to quash a rebellion by silence, to strangle it in it’s cradle before it begins. Once the public is aware, the issue is much harder to magick away. Maybe it’s too difficult to organise women who already have so much going on in their lives: being a good daughter, wife/girlfriend, consumer, worker….and of course there is the unspoken belief that it really IS all our fault; which is the main reason I want MEN on those billboards.Women know that it takes two, but Society blames it all on one. Pregnancy is not a crime, and neither is abortion. It is a choice. 

 

 

* Disclaimer: I am fully aware that there are many interesting, thorny, issues that I have hinted at but not discussed properly. That is because I fear that the point I’m trying to get across will be lost in the complex web of facts and opinions and ideas. Is this a reflection of the reductionist view-point most of us take of the world? It’s all post-modern, baby.

 

 

 

Etiquette at the Market

So, ohmygod markets are, like, so cool!

 

Well done for recognising the value and enjoyment to be gained from street markets. It only took three generations of middle- to upper-class folk having gap “yuhs” and food-poisoning in Asia to happen. Of course, if China can make everything more cheaply, the inverse is also true- man, you guys take street food and charge cafe prices for it. How can you even begin to think this state of affairs is acceptable? Do you know how many plates of chicken rice I can buy back home with what you’re blase-ly expecting me to fork out for your sterilised, HACCPed take on jerk chicken?

 

In revolt, the punters are out for ALL they can get. For Free, obvs. From my stall I can hear you squawk about having a free lunch so you can give your pounds to a multi-chain, multi-national enterprise instead.

Screw the small people with their overpriced, rustic, earnest offerings. Instead, take selfies, holding free samples to justify existing in the first place.

 

Ah, the damned samples. The great British public can and should take a leaf from the American Book of Manners. Americans ask, Brits apologise.

 

As in, “Y’meen dat washnt urm *spraying hefty chunk of grabbed cheese over produce, small children, etc. * a shahmple? Ahm sho shorry…* turns fat tail, runs away*

 

Which brings me back to the eye-watering prices. I have been on both sides of the divides, both vendor and vendored, with an occasional bit of venting thrown in for good measure.

 

Unfortunately, there are so many vagaries and expenses that contribute to shocking overheads. While some market vendors can easily swallow the damage (think stalls appearing in multiple markets, or stalls that are the offshoot of established eateries/restaurants), most are owned by those 20-something year-olds left out in the cold by the economic crash. Many hold post-grad degrees (I spent a delightful half hour with a gentleman who read PPE at Oxford, a Masters student of Philosophy, and her boyfriend, working towards his MSc in Anthropology. All in one stall.) yet would rather work outdoors, in all conditions than sit around claiming Jobseeker’s Allowance while waiting for more genteel work to fall into their laps. These are the people expected to give customer service, FOR FREE, which the general public would not only pay for in a restaurant, but tip, as well (I have had Americans try their best to tip me when I’m on the stall. It’s very sweet.)

 

Here’s a ten minute snippet of the often ludicrous behaviour of the “foodies” that come to markets. They are all educated and wealthy, the younger ones roam in packs, searching for mates, while the older groups have their precious offspring with them.

I was on my own at the stall for a wee bit, the quiet period between late lunch and early dinner. The others had trotted over to the Feel Good Room – the loos. A Caucasian female, in her late forties from the front and late sixties from the back shambled up the the stall (she may as well have been grunting, too) and squeezed the demo dish I had made, then, with the same hand, picked up a bunch of sweet samples (uncovered, unwrapped) from the neighbouring stall, completely disregarding the toothpicks laid out for sanitary reasons. Before I could do anything (besides do a great goldfish impression), a father put his fat hand in the sample bowl and encouraged his precious son to do the same. I ran over and told the vendor what I had just seen, and he had to throw the samples away. When I turned back to my stall, the vultures had descended, grabbing whole pieces of charcuterie and gobbling them whole. I was particularly impressed by one lanky trustafarian, who managed to swallow a whole saucisson without chewing. Lucky boyfriend.

 

In my best impression of Head mistress of Cheltenham Ladies’ Boarding School voice, I clipped out, “What on earth do you think you’re doing?” and most fled. Debbie does Dallas tried to brazen it out, but only succeeded in choking.

 

Karma, asshole.

 

Can you see the expenses racking up? While you’re at it, add the unpredictability of the weather and the price paid for premium products. Then rent. Then all the little unexpected pay outs completely overlooked by overqualified, overeducated (yet under-dressed) sellers (Yes dear, we’ve all been failed by the education system. Get in line.). Commercial restaurants have a 20-27% food cost. For most vendors, it’s closer to 60%. I have yet to encounter a diner requesting free tasters. Taster menus exist. One pays for them.

 

This lack of respect and juvenile behaviour  is more often than not the norm. (I’m 26, by the way, and I want to return some of the parents I see at markets to a diapered state of being) at the weekends. Come 6 p.m. Friday, sentient beings leave manners and common sense at the desk. A desperate urge to bury one’s growing realisation of one’s lack of self-worth and the hopelessness of existence pervades  Britain like the stink of unwashed feet, a totally blanketing, thought-dampening fug of “Because I’m worth it”.

Enlighten me, educate me, if you will, as to how having a “real” job (think bonuses, brown-nosing, and bullshit) justifies behaving selfishly at the weekends? 

 

 

On the subject of education:

Dear British parents,

I am so happy for you that you want to educate  your precious Primrose/Pluto about exotic, foreign foods. It is an admirable aim, given the limitations of conventional British cuisine (Brown stew? I thought it was a joke!) and no doubt provides a source of effortless one-upmanship at those delightful PTA meetings/ Triyoga sessions ( I stopped going to Triyoga after being unable to avoid overhearing one gazillion too many of those conversations. I appreciate the challenge of focusing on my prana and finding my drishti, but sometimes I would like to use yoga blocks with creativity. And force.)  I particularly admire the efficiency of, concurrently, introducing said offspring to the class system and it’s vastly superior position in it.

You pass on your ability to disregard the effort put into living by “other people”, and the arrogance that comes with this attitude.

 

 

This wilful ignorance will end the street food revolution by individuals. The vendors, may pay in the short term, but the consumers will be left with McEthnic for just desserts.

 

 

 

A Simple Guide:

  1. ASK: Is this a sample? May I try it? 
  2. Don’t use your bare hands to handle samples when there are tasting implements laid out, e.g. toothpicks
  3. Ps and Qs, anybody? ( After all, little Lara must be set a good example, no?)
  4. Don’t take the piss. Sampling, not eating, not munching-comprende, amigo?

 

 

Challenge/ Giving up the Hustle

Today I was happy to be turned down by *****, one of the best massage centres in London.  What can I say, Groucho?  Pootled around Youtube a bit, scrolling through Boiler Room sets to listen to as the day ended, and I struck gold. Bradley Zero himself, caught in the Boiler Act. A disgustingly gorgeous 59:27 chunk of my life preserved in thick sun-honey, locked away for rainy days. This Selecta was in MY year at UCL! One day it will no longer be”..and Coldplay went to UCL…” (which should have warned me of unflagging White, Right  Mail effrontery). One day. There are four of them though.  Five, if you count Gwyneth. Looks like Zero will have to spend several lifetimes in the booth. Ole!

As usual, the bad thoughts came back once the music went. I am practically unemployed. My flat has such a severe mould infestation that I suspect it has been the culprit behind my flirtation with depression. My little sister is an honest-to-gods bank analyst in Oz.  I will never have a child..okaaaaaay that last statement is going back in the box now, to be unpacked at leisure.

I’m not used to this much leisure, or rather, such a moderate lifestyle. I used to work like a dog, and, consequently, spend money quite freely (you work 60-odd hours a week and tell me you don’t ever feel like buying yourself a ginormous beanbag). The temptation to go back to the good old, bad old days used to hit me like a truck. USED to. When I was a chef, making less than minimum, I paid for the sexy shiny tools of my trade with my own sweat. There was this unbelievable underground dance club run by two lesbians (Author’s note: I’ve vamped some details and toned down a lot of others, but it is such a wild ride anyway I doubt you’d notice the difference. Anyway. Just in case my big mouth drops someone else in it. ) that I would jet off to after shift (1 a.m.). A shower, some “vitamins”, a ton of slap…and I would dance.  WE would dance,  the six of us- beautiful, mad, satirical women and the City boys would stare and throw money like it was going out of style. This wasn’t some sanitary strip by numbers entertainment, the rules were made by the dancers, as were the punishments. The men were polite, no surprise, as we all carried some form of…protection.

Four hours of dance, three of sleep, and I’d be back for another split. Body and soul a homage to Shiva, dancing the destruction of All That Is; a perfect foil to my day job. I didn’t have to do it often, but I would yearn for it. I had to limit myself: I would choose my knife and dance for it, in every sense. Even now I can smell frankincense, whisky and talcum powder (for our hands while we were being aerial) when I unzip my bag. And, O God, the adoration. Four hours of being slavishly adulated.Four hours of complete power. Four hours of pretending to be someone else, or maybe being myself; I still don’t know.

I also still don’t know why I’m content to let  part of my life go. Maybe it’s because I’m convinced that my body can be used better to heal, not titillate. Maybe I’m ready to engage with people on a more human level. Maybe that place doesn’t exist anymore. I know a part of the answer can be found in the face I know even better than my own, in eyes that can be green as tourmaline or filled with smoke wisps, and I know those eyes hold a piece of my soul.

First Supperclub of 2014!

First Supperclub of 2014!

You have your picture. Now for the thousand words!

It’s been a while since I had time to write. In the past week I’ve consolidated my role in Cocoa Runners (CR. Because I can), celebrated CNY, invented wonderful baked beans and other sides so natural to a delicious bacon roll. The biggest event was not CNY, but Stories from Sevilla-the title of a Supperclub night that I host, along with the three other chefs that make up The Unlikely Collective (TUC henceforth).
It was definitely the hardest one so far. We’d been “away” for two months, and the system I use to spread the word works slooooowly. I’m a fan of good old-fashioned word of mouth. Most things nowadays are so very easy on the surface-that is when you realise you won’t get any depth.

“There’s an easy way. Then there’s the right way”- (I have no idea where I heard this, but it is true)

It can be incredibly frustrating at times. Staring at the short list of confirmed guests and then panicking at rising costs (Will we even break even?); I caught myself thinking of Groupon and proceeded to self-flagellate with Larousse Gastronomique. My role within TUC is primarily that of the organiser and PR. The three others all have years upon years of experience and the cockiness of male chefs. I’ve handled sections. They’ve handled restaurants.

One of the biggest kill-joys has to be dealing with “foodies”. Yeah, that is the F-word to me. I will take constructive criticism, just not from some yuppie that demands group discounts and complains that £55 for 8 courses is too dear. The final blow to his credibility was the clear enjoyment of a white Rioja that had been ordered (from the suppliers, not by him) by accident. I would just about cook with that wine. Just.

I miss holding a knife. My knives miss it too. They get hungry and bite people. I understand. They want to be used for what they were made for, they want to dance and gleam and make little staccato noises instead of living in a knife bag and coming out to play a few days a month. (Note to self: remember to consider the possibility of projecting self’s thoughts onto knives)

On the day of the Supperclub (last Sunday), I was stressed to the teeth. We were one chef down and all of us were running on at least one night of little to no sleep. Communication, patchy enough between Spanish speakers and the lone English speaker (me!me!) at the best of times, had broken down massively. Ingredients and equipment were elusive. We had to travel to prep in one place, then move the whole operation over to the restaurant. It would be the first time we cooked in the kitchen. And the first time we had a guest chef (which was my doing, and therefore my responsibility. I was so worried that Aneesh, an incredible chocolatier, would be taken aback by the chaos as he had never worked in a hot kitchen before). Plus the space we were using was owned by a honest-to-quantum sonofabitch megalomaniac Cuban.

There was this hideous feeling that everything was my fault because I had wanted so so much to set at least two of us on our/their (?) way(s?) to having their own restaurant. Unfortunately the Americans that were meant to be coming had decided patriotically in favour of the Superbowl, so all the rush to pull off an eight-course meal had been for naught. Juanpe was exhausted. We were all sniping at each other, it looked like we would be losing money and it was ALL my fault. I felt like I was losing one of the few things in life that made me feel truly alive.

That was when the magic happened.
Guests started arriving. Leo (that would be the missing chef) trotted up, fragrant as a flower, wonderfully invigorated by a fantastic slanging match with his ex-girlfriend. Furi raspberried me. We all had chocolate.
And the show began.
One of my friends took it upon himself to perform the role of maitre’d. No surprise, as he had been head waiter at The Ivy. The tension that had been brewing like a humid rainstorm in a teacup broke. We were cooking.
The menu was Strictly Southern Spain. Juanpe had grown up in Sevilla and the food was a homage to his place of birth.
A vibrant shot of gazpacho was followed by a salad of cod and orange, interspersed with guests laughing over mystery clues. Given the more reticent British nature (at social gatherings) and an ever-present urge to experiment (once a scientist blababla), I had instructed guests to prepare four sentences about themselves, which did not need to be true. Upon arrival (that was the plan), I would take payment and the four sentences in exchange for a menu and my sparkling wit. The pieces of paper, covered in lies, were randomly re-distributed and guests would take a stab at identifying the owner according to the bits of misinformation. It’s amazing what you can get people to do when they pay you money.

Mwahaha.

The third and fourth courses were received less warmly. Personally, I thought the Spanish chickpeas with fresh baby spinach and toast with cumin oil was beautiful. The puchero was indeed a bit too salty and the dish too bland in appearance, but the homemade ramen did make up for it. (Ok, full disclosure: IT LOOKED LIKE FUCKING INSTANT NOODLES! MAGGIE MEE CHICKEN FLAVOUR!)
It was disappointing that the stew was over-seasoned. Puchero, done well, is a celebration of Pig. Jamon bones and tocino are simmered together for hours before adding chickpeas, blood pudding and chorizo. You are meant to mash the fat with bread and eat it all in a great big mess, preferably at noon in summer. You then give up the week-long struggle against siestas and fall asleep, glass of wine in one hand, while your hostess offers you a bewildering assortment of objects to smell, and perhaps consume.

We found out that there was a “secret problem” when the fifth course went out. She claimed to be “allergic” (bollocks. You have an intolerance. An allergy is a full-scale reaction, normally requiring medical treatment. ) to gluten and seafood. But the cod and orange salad had been eaten, without comment. Always, always one of these specimens in the group. She was also”afraid of large amounts of food”. I despair, and pray she does not reproduce.
Meanwhile, in the kitchen, we were well into the second bottle of wine. I produced some incredible chocolate (remember the company I was talking about in the previous post? That shit is..THE SHIT) to wake us all up. I love that fish course. Sea bream in rotena sauce. Rotena sauce is made from grilled red and green peppers, blended with fish stock. The colours, smell, texture….Juanpe really got me there.

Now for the last hot dish-pig cheeks with artichoke chips and pumpkin puree. The cheeks had been cooked in a sauce of courgette, wine, and water. Nothing more. We had the devil’s own time tracking down seitan-Japanese gluten “loaf”. Not a particularly hard ingredient to locate, or even that expensive, but on a Sunday hunting is a pain. I had to phone 6 different health stores, which I will admit to enjoying. How often does one get to ask for Satan?
Satan was expensive though, £10 for two jars from Wholefoods which would have cost next-to-nothing in Chinatown. Tut.
Of course, the ungrateful vegetarians didn’t even touch it.
Plebs.

We were almost done with the night. All that remained were the two desserts, and fuckmesideways they were unbelievable. The first, by the brilliant Aneesh was an architectural display of mastery. Halved cherries, rolled in almond meal and vanilla, with zig-zags of javanese milk chocolate water ganache, essence of grapefruit, lime and orange, cheery granita and cherry coulis.
Very, very clever.
The second sweet course though..that stole my heart. Something about the sphere-ish shapes of coffee ice cream and torta de aceite mousse and their muted caramel and cream colour, after the display of the first course really brought it home-that this menu came from the heart.

That was when I KNEW that we were doing the right thing.

The rest of the night was a blur of cleaning down, packing up, plate-counting (Incidentally, we’d had to borrow 13 spoons from a pub down the road.I’m surprised I don’t have more white hairs), and hanging out with guests. Getting to know people-that’s such a big part of our supperclubs. It’s hard when people miss the point, but I think I’m getting better at, uh, showing them the point?

Was it tiring? Always. Frustrating? Definitely. Will I do it again? In a heartbeat.

PS-she the chef glaring at some Italian-looking dude. That’s me, and that’s my friend. He’s a manager, and therefore always in the way (Kitchen truths 101) I was trying t o plate.

Anticipation

Anticipation

It’s the first day of the Year of the Yang Wood Horse!

That’s right, I’m gonna say it like I’m excited and I had chocolate for breakfast. Both statements are true, to my pride and confusion.

(Seriously, being proud and confused and excited is…bewildering, to say the least)

Chinese New Year has always been a difficult time of the year for me. These fifteen days carry all the weight of a childhood filled with folk tales and superstitions and warring uncles and aunties who would declare a temporary, uneasy truce during CNY and gather at the my grandparents’ house for prodigious celebrations. I loved it. I had all my cousins to play with, a complete change from the normal serenity of the 20-room mansion with but 3 children to play within. We could shout and scream and RUN and no one could hit us or even scold us because that would be bad juju. And the sweets. The preparations would start months beforehand-buying kalamansi trees, ordering roast meats, going to dress and shoe fittings, sending out CNY cards, making decorations…

I was only allowed sweets (by my mother) at CNY. The accepted version of the tale is that I once sat next to a tray of sweets for hours, obeying my mother’s rule of “one at a time” to the letter.

Year after year, as relations between my mother’s siblings deteriorated, their love for my gentle grandmother and the silk ropes of tradition ensured the CNY celebrations were carried out with convincing camaraderie. Oh, there were slip-ups, even from this cast of consummate actors, but they were swept under the rug (Incidentally, once does not sweep one’s floor on the first day of CNY. Apparently luck is on the floor.)

Then my grandmother died.

The celebrations the next year were surreal. It was a travesty to carry on without our heart presiding over the proceedings, holding us together.

I made sure I went to college in the UK the next year.

CNY here is nothing like home. That’s ok. I personally avoid Chinatown like Nigel Farage evades political correctness. This is the day I remember my grandparents. Their strength. Their love for one another. The simple beauty of their souls. The legacy they left that tore their children apart. Money…this lie we all subscribe to that can twist and turn people into monsters. If I ever leave anything behind (HA), I want it to be something that can be divided infinitely yet never lessened in value.

It is with these thoughts and intentions that I face the new year. I’m excited about 2014 because it offers the prospect of working with two of my great loves-meat and chocolate.

My husband and I had this brilliant idea (you know, the kind you get after a glass of wine and some handstands) to introduce Brits to the burgeoning British charcuterie scene on their doorsteps by the means of bacon. Small-batch bacon from bacon pigs. I’ve been dreaming up different cures (Guinness and garlic, espresso, palm sugar and ajowan, fenugreek and sumac) and experimenting with vegan sides ( slow-cooked baked beans, balsamic and soy onions); he’s been flirting with producers and market managers, but the best bit has to be thinking up names.

The candidates are:

House of Flying Bacon (a la Museo de Jamon in Madrid)

Bacon and on and on and on (Because EatSleepRaveRepeat)

A Slice of the Cure ( for the outlet with loads of incredible vintage Berkel slicers. Yes of course we slice bacon to order)

Bringing it Home (my mother-in-law’s suggestion. YES.)

That’s Project #1.

Project #2 is writing for a website called Harbinger Daily. It encourages me to keep a more scientific record of my recipes. Shameful that I need the encouragement, but *sigh*, What is a girl to do when she’s been out of the labs for years?? (I miss you, llama antibodies). It’s a website that acts like a guide for people wanting to live ethically and consciously without skimping on taste and fun. More please.

Project #3 is CHOCOLATE

I’m going to start working for Cocoa Runners. The two founders are all about bringing artisanal chocolate bars from bean-to-bar producers to the masses. Brits have finally learned to appreciate single-origin coffee. Let’s take that to the next level.

I should explain (and stop eating chocolate) why I’m so happy about this. This chocolate is a revelation. All I’ll have to do is get it into people’s mouths and it’ll sell itself. This is the genuine article. 35g of Labooko milk chocolate (that would be the empty-looking wrapper in the photo) kept me awake for 3 hours. You see, the stimulant in chocolate is not caffeine but theobromine. They merely differ by a methyl group in structure, but this is confers a large deviation in terms of physical effects*. Essentially, theobromine is a smoother ride, increases endorphins (this could also be due to flavonols, but trust, artisan chocolate bars are overloaded with them anyway), and lasts longer (which explains my night of chocolate munchies).

Now, chocolate gourmets are meant to only like dark chocolate. Because that’s the real deal. None of this messing around with anything below 60%, we’ve got a hard-ass rep to maintain. Until recently I was a devotee of that school. There was no way any milk chocolate could carry the intensity and flavour notes of a good bean. Milk chocolate is for kids, the great unwashed, and chocoholics.

A note on chocoholics:

They are a different tribe from chocolate gourmets. They buy family-sized bars of “chocolate-like confectionery”. They chew it. We buy chocolate, and revel in the coolness of it melting in our mouths). An analogy would be comparing a wino to an oenophile.

That 35g may not have changed my life, but it was a definite Damascean epiphany. I kept eating it out of sheer disbelief. It was that good.

The Labooko dark chocolate bar was equally wonderful. So was Aksesson’s and the Original Bean. It’s CNY! Let me eat chocolate!

Further proof of conviction: I spent a fair few years being anorexic. To this day, my mood barometer is a set of scales, and yet I am happy to eat chocolate. My body fat percentage is 14%, I hit the gym and yoga around, and I truly believe the chocolate from our producers is healthy enough to outweigh the calorific value. Incidentally, artisan bars have very little sugar and milk compared to mainstream brands. You do the maths.

A part of me wonders whether some of the excitement about the new year is due to the mishaps of the old year. Whether this “excitement” is really “desperation in disguise, begging for hope”. I’ll take those odds. I learned to gamble at my sixth CNY.

*http://www.xocoatl.org/caffeine.htm

Abortionpills.com

It appears that abortion pills are being sold online.

To frightened, desperate teenage girls.

For a suitably inflated,  avaricious price.

The pills – which the Mirror has decided not to name – are flooding into the UK from Far Eastern crime gangs and being bought online by teenage girls too scared to tell their parents they are pregnant.

Niall Gooch, of anti-abortion campaign group Life, said: “It seems this is becoming more common. But it’s difficult to regulate, as these drugs are sold on the internet.”

“Because abortion has become totally normalised and routine, it is natural abortion drugs become more widely available online. It’s a huge danger.”

Hmmm.

Help, I’m drowning in bullshit.

Let me address this in order of appearance.

1.  The booming online black market of abortion pills.

Abortions are free (for teenagers) on the NHS. Why would any teenager pay (the Mirror reports £60/pill)  for something free?

Apparently it’s because they are terrified of telling their parents. Which brings us to-

2. The stigma attached to abortion- abortions are one of the most taboo subjects. They concern entertaining the thought of death/cessation of existence*  of the person’s offspring. The stigma, unsurprisingly, is mainly, if not exclusively attached to the female. The baby daddy is a total badman; baby mummy is a slut-whore. In my experience, teenage boys really cannot handle being told they have fathered a child. I have seen girls persuaded, coerced, threatened, and forced to abort the foetus.

3. Mr Gooch thinks abortions have become “normalised and routine”.

Like mowing the lawn and going to the gym. Sure honey, I’m just nipping out for a pack of fags and an abortion. Can I get you anything?

This careless use of words trivialises one of the most painful decisions a woman will ever have to make and live with. I certainly hope that this dismissive attitude towards women is not the rule among pro-lifers.

 

 

*I am not ready for a dissection of “life”, “death”, and “consciousness” right now. I have been working outdoors the whole day. It hailed.  This short post is brought to you by adrenaline and anger.

 

 

PS- To any teenager out there who needs an abortion: YOU DO NOT NEED PARENTAL CONSENT.