Monday, October 17, 2016

Bowled over

What is it about bowls? Specifically: Why is food in bowls a thing? Because Instagram, is the quick answer. Food - specifically, healthy food - looks nice when photographed from above, in a bowl. The only permitted flat food is, of course, avocado toast.

There are breakfast versions involving granola, milk, and berries. Those I'm OK with. It's the savory ones that I'm having trouble embracing. These bowls - at like $12 a bowl - were very much a thing in Toronto. A city that also sells sub-$12 non-bowl lunch options, so I never wound up trying one.

I'm having trouble putting my finger on what my issue is with these bowls, exactly. Part of it is that I feel shamed by their existence - all that balance, those grains and greens where I'd sooner have pasta, (fewer) greens, and cheese. (The bowl-as-trough aspect isn't the issue.) It's a sense of inferiority for not going bowl, mixed with a sense of superiority for my non-faddishness in this area. (In this one area. I did buy a jumpsuit.)

But it's also the contents of many dishes labeled "bowls," which tend to sound vaguely nutritious but... bland. Cuisine-less, and not as in fusion, or the productive mix of existing cuisines. More like a bunch of supposed-to-be-good-for-you ingredients piles on top of each other. Thai or Chinese stir-fry, salade niçoise, Japanese or Vietnamese noodles with toppings, gnocchi with pesto, these all involve bowls, but they're not bowls in the utilitarian Western 2016 sense of the term. It's some sort of puritanical asceticism where you have a "protein" with your meal. Even if the ingredients are identical, a bowl is not a salade composée.

Consider this pro-bowl Guardian article, whose author writes, "I love how gentle and nurturing it feels" to eat one of these bowls. A bowl - and the Guardian ones actually look OK! - might taste good, but it's not really supposed to. It's supposed to nourish and nothing more. Which is, I think, what puts me off.

Sunday, October 16, 2016

La femme tribecoise

There's a way I'd look if money (and time, and vanity-qualms) were no object. I suspect the same is true for most women, but what exactly the result would be varies by region, subculture, etc. But I'm thinking of things like cosmetic dermatology. Or corrective hair color that doesn't involve a Manic Panic box. Or working out properly not every few months (with bursts of being better about that) but several hours a day. Also a diet with more kale and fewer custard-filled donuts.

The no-stone-unturned version of my look (as I imagine it in my head) exists, and it's the Tribeca Woman. Throughout Tribeca, there are these women who, yes, look rich, but not Upper East Side rich, with obvious designer items and plastic surgery. Slim, but not UES-emaciated. Toned. It's this kind of understated everything's-expensive, where you just know the fact that the best-fitting pair of leggings cost $400 wouldn't have stopped a woman from purchasing and working out in those. They look modern, not preppy or fussy.

Every last one of these women has below-the-shoulder hair, thick and shiny, often tastefully highlighted. This is a zit-free land, wrinkle-free, cellulite-free, but also strangely no-nonsense. These are women who work, but who majored in something sensible in college, and are in dual-income households making I can't even imagine.

They are, in other words, in not just their looks, the result of making all the right life choices. But it all manifests itself in their looks, looks which suggest that despite the proximity of Shake Shack, they're not having a burger and fries for dinner. Choices, yes, and luck. For example: They're all six feet tall. I'm... not, and I'm thinking that's not because I failed to study economics.

Ah, but it feels like it's just about choices, somehow, when I see them in their leggings, hair shining in a way that suggests they've never had a chocolate bar for lunch. It feels, in the moment, like if I just got up at 6am to work out and added more leafy greens to my diet, that's what I'd look like in two week's time.

Thursday, October 13, 2016

My wonderful new bag, an escapist post

A little while back, I saw a handbag - the handbag - on a Japanese Instagram account. It was Hervé Chapelier, a brand popular with private school girls on Upper East Side circa 1998, and a look I'd always sort of associated with 15-year-old girls dressed like grown women, but in a preppy way. But! The bag was camouflage. Camouflage in very much the same pattern as a skirt I had, in either middle or high school, from a punk store, I think. A kilt, with a pin, but camouflage. I loved that skirt. Somehow this all came together and... perfection. Also hundreds of dollars. Also readily available in Japan (where the brand appears to still be a thing) but nowhere more convenient.

Then I had the brilliant insight that such bags exist elsewhere. And sure enough! The L.L. Bean version, with zipper, was $39 with free shipping. Technically a hunting bag, but apparently also useful for "dog training," in which case, very practical! The bag arrived today. Looking at it, and one of the other Chapelier varieties online, I'm wondering whether the high-end version wasn't inspired by the less-so. Or vice versa because clearly the $39-and-available version would win out. The lining looks identical, which suggests some influence in some direction.

At any rate, I know exactly how to style it because of this thing called Instagram. Conveniently, what it goes best with are striped shirts, jeans, and sneakers or ballet flats. Probably also white Birkenstocks. Basically everything I own. And in an unanticipated actually-practical plus, it fits my computer.

No, this is not an ad; I'm not angling for any further tote bags. This one, however, is fantastic.

Wednesday, October 05, 2016


I'm writing this from a coffee shop near my high school, and not so far from the apartment my husband and I will most likely be moving into, in a building we'd also lived in once before. (No, not in Tribeca. The other direction.) Until "most likely" becomes definitely, I'm staying with my parents, and sorting out all the usual relocation checklist items before the catching up portion begins.

New York has been a bit of an emotional whirlwind, to put it mildly. Unlike Toronto, which is still a blank slate in that regard, here, every location reminds me of something. All of Carnegie Hill puts me back at 11 years old. Downtown is more complicated. Being near my high school doesn't much make me feel like I'm in high school, because I'd lived near it for part of grad school. But it does make me think the years between mid-late grad school and now somehow didn't happen. Which... they sure did, and a lot happened during them! But, like, this iced coffee from the place that was always nice to sit in but a bit more expensive than I'd brace myself for, while a tiny bit less expensive than I'd have guessed, tastes exactly as I remember it from 2010 or so. All time is one.

And then there's the obvious. The globally obvious. I have no political agenda on this, no National Convention speech to give, but was an 18-year-old kid about to leave the city to start college on 9/11, and being right there still unnerves me. Yes, despite living next to it for two years. I'd read about the Oculus, and was near it and figured I should enter. But the mere act of walking into a building marked "World Trade Center," in that location, pretty tremendously freaked me out. I normally find malls and mall-stores and such very calming environments. (Not actually shopping, just walking around in them.) This, though, not so much. I remembered being in the mall-type area beneath the towers a couple days before 9/11, in 2001, and didn't panic, exactly, but let's say didn't stay long enough to find out whether said mall did or did not contain a Sephora.

Mainly, though, I'm just struck by the fact that New York is a hometown. It isn't often discussed as one, but it is. This is the only place where I fit in culturally without trying. Where I can immediately tell who's part of which subculture. Where I effortlessly know the rules of stranger chitchat. (A group of women told me about a free pop-up manicure. A woman with a pink poodle told me Bisou would look good blue. One woman in the Uniqlo dressing room told me not to get that size jumpsuit; another asked me about the fit of a slipdress she was trying on. Note: I do not know any of these women personally.) I know how to cross the street here. I know where to get $5 lunch. All of this is even before getting into the people aspect of this.