22 July 2006

36. Feminism

Dear feminism,

I have a lot to say to you, but the idea that got me to writing this particular letter, its point, is a pet peeve of mine: the incredibly stupid way in which people talk about you as if you're just one thing. For those parts of you with a bit of a background in linguistics or grammar-wonkery, I'll put it this way: feminism is a mass noun. There is no singular feminism, just like there's no singular weather. Just like there's lots of kinds of weather, changing day by day, place by place, just like there are lots of schools of thought but not so much just one thought, there are lots of different flavors of feminism. Duh.

You know this and I know this. And I wish to hell I had a clue-bat big enough and powerful enough to beat this idea into all the heads that need to learn it. Especially the idiots who talk about postfeminism without meaning it as an abbreviation of postmodern feminism, the latter phrase being shorthand for a cloud of ideas I actually often kind of dig (ooh, this weather analogy is useful!) Post-feminism. Hah. Post what feminism? Usually it's about the aftermath of the so-called second wave feminism of the 1960s and 1970s, wherein relatively privileged mostly upper and middle class white women decided they wanted the same privileges as upper and middle class white men instead of staying home as mom-bots. Never mind that the job of mom-bot was a relatively recent invention, historically speaking, and one that wasn't really a readily available option for minority women like the ones whose families couldn't afford to have a full-time mom-bot staying home, many of whom also happened to be not white. But I digress. I think if the second wave refers to that particular sociopolitical storm (and look at me again cleverly tying things back to that awesome weather analogy!) then suffragettes and suchforth were the first wave, but from when and where I'm sitting in the third wave or whatever, I have to say this numbering system is pretty stupid since I'm pretty sure as long as men and women have been different, people have generally been making more of a big deal about those differences than is really entirely necessary, and some people (some of them even the same people making the aforementioned big deal) have been complaining about it (in case it wasn't obvious, I'm personally of the "really not such a big deal" school of thought, but not all of the complainers, not even all the ones who describe themselves with the word "feminist" in some way, agree with me). All of which is to say, albeit run-on-sentence-style, that postfeminism, even just in the sense of whatever comes after feminism, has been around since, oh, maybe about a second after the first feminist thought was expressed. Again, duh.

I have a lot more to say to you and about you, feminism, but that idea, and in particular the clever mass noun phrasing/framing thereof, and also the weather metaphor I'm digging on so deeply, was suddenly so loud and clear in my brain that I had to write it down before I could forget it. But hey, we're always in touch, even if I don't always have time to write, so I hope we're cool. As always, sweet sisterhood to the fantabulous bell hooks.


Started and published 22 July 2006; last updated 9 September 2006. Title abridged 1 December 2011.

21 July 2006

35. Green Beans

Dear green beans,

I love you. According to my mom, I always have — when I was a little kid, our garden never seemed to produce you, but I always seemed to make happy little crunching noises when I came back from picking you only to report that I hadn't found anything. Now that I have a garden of my very own, I can't seem to plant enough of you to bring in more than a handful at a time, but I still make those happy little crunching noises, so it's all good.

When I do manage to bring you inside, sometimes I cook you like my mom did, and my grandmother (although I usually make you a little crunchy for Oma's taste) — simple boiling or steaming. I'm also a big fan of garlicky green beans, sautéed in olive oil or butter, and often a splash of balsamic vinegar as well, which is what led me to the preparation I can't seem to stop snacking on tonight.

To start, we got 1 1/2 pounds of you in our CSA box this week --- oh darn. After much snacking, I think we had a pound left when I got around to cooking this afternoon, and because I was feeling lazy I skipped the boiling/steaming step in favor of a mix of sautéing and steaming, like so:

After I got the beans and garlic cleaned, I heated a few tablespoons of oil over medium-high heat in a pan big enough to hold all the beans. I added the garlic and cooked that until it foamed and the smell reminded me why garlic, like David Bowie and purring cats, is proof that the universe can't be all bad. Next I added a splash of water and the green beans, lowering the heat as soon as I saw the water boil. I let everything cook for a total of maybe four minutes, stirring occasionally and testing the beans frequently for doneness (by eating them, of course; quality control is Job One!) At the end of this arduous task, the beans were bright green, and I added a splash (a few tablespoons) of balsamic vinegar which dulled their color somewhat but the deliciousness gained more than justified the sacrifice in appearance. I let everything cook for another minute, so the beans could absorb a bit of the vinegar, then lifted them out of the pan into a bowl, only to discover that quite a bit of watery, garlicky vinegar was left in the pan. It seemed a shame to let it go to waste, so I did a trick that makes mediocre balsamic taste much better, and left it cooking on the stove while I pondered how to turn it into a sauce, which I eventually did by adding maybe two tablespoons of honey and a little more water and letting the whole mess boil and thicken into a stickily delicious glaze. The glaze was done after another minute or two, after which I returned the beans to the pan, where a quick toss coated them nicely (and got the pan pretty clean, too, although I still hurried it over to the sink to soak after I finished putting the beans back in their serving bowl).

I call this latest incarnation of you Garlicky Green Beans in Balsamic-Honey Glaze, and I'm thinking of eating it with a garnish of toasted nuts, perhaps on a bed of salad greens, maybe even as part of a salade Niçoise if I'm feeling fancy later. I'm also thinking it might be time for me to plant more of you in my garden, because making happy little crunching noises while I pull weeds and tie up tomatoes ranks right up there with David Bowie.

Thanks for everything, green beans. You're great.


Published 21 July 2006; last edited 9 September 2006. Title abridged 1 December 2011.