Wednesday, April 17, 2013

Food memories, fat presents, DIY accountability

I have to say the conference was good, the library presentations were pretty swell and, it's not just the punk-boy geek fan in me, but Henry Rollins gave the best keynote at a library conference I have ever seen and I've been going to these for over 20 years.

ACRL 2013 Poster

Al Gore came close some years back, but Rollins was engaging, timely, non-pandering and gave an obviously prepared piece in an almost improvisatory style.It made me feel good about myself, my professional choices and my theories on information. I do hope someone posts a video or a transcript of his talk. His tales of going to the National Archives with Ian MacKaye are particularly memorable.

(Sorry, dietitians, I think we won this round!)

But now I'm back home and trying to not get totally knocked out, health-wise, from the hermetically sealed hotel room, convention center and airport settings, along with a drop in temperature from 75 to 32 in one day. And a set of days where I ate as unhealthy as in my Retro Ska Librarian days. Not for lack of trying to be healthy, but DANG! Is everything cooked like this in Indiana's downtown area? Even my order of "plain green beans" came out salted and buttered and doused in some smoky tangy creamy sauce. My side salads were swimming in stuff. Now, granted, I was in the tourist area and didn't always have time to do some hard traveling for top-notch cuisine, but it was a very greasy kind of week. A tasty week (they did a lovely duck and cherry sandwich at one place and the chilis and daikon in a porkburger were spot on) but not so healthy.

However, even as I'm sitting here at home munching on kale and tuna after a huge core workout, some of those conference meals brought back memories. It was the kind of food I'd first set out to make for my friends and I. Things I would find in cookbooks and then expand upon. Homey, hearty and full of love and sharing, if not health.

And, by coincidence those thoughts came back as I just picked up the latest graphic novel by Lucy Knisley, Relish: My Life in the Kitchen. I was only familiar with one of her earlier works, French Milk, which, to be very honest, didn't really connect for me. But now looking at her website and reading this, I'm really enjoying her work.

Relish is an autobiographical tale of growing up with her chef/foodservice mom and her foodie dad. It's filled with vignettes and recipes. But there are some interesting  pieces that really stood out for me.

One was her connection to eating junk food, even though her parents were gourmet cooks. The illicit foreignness of these foods when your parents eat like gourmets, the fact that they just taste good, and the point that gourmet foods aren't entirely healthy. (p. 40-41)

Another is a tale of her friend who tries to learn how to cook by just searching the internet and ends up with very sad results such as "lemonade chicken" (p. 150-151).

Both of these remind me of how universal my mixed feelings of food and enjoyment and myself really are. Some of my best memories revolve around dinner parties or food events. Some of my less positive emotional ones also revolve around those.

And this makes me realize that I can't always use that as a crutch for what happened to me and my physique. Just as I dismiss folks who say that it somehow must have been easier for me to lose weight, I can't just say it was easier for me to gain it because of my upbringing or childhood menu. 

A recent study in the New England Journal of Medicine shows that even folks on medication for clinical depression or mental illness where weight gain is a supposed side effect, actually lost weight when adding more exercise to their life. This is especially interesting as the group of subjects are part of a large at-risk population for obesity and related problems and yet it's often considered a forgone conclusion that these people will stay obese, due to their mental health and/or the medication they take to treat it. 

Now, I am certainly not saying that we can now blame those who suffer from mental illness for their obesity because they are lazy. Nor do I imagine that everyone can easily begin a weight loss program when faced with these difficulties.

But I think it's important to show that we can't just dismiss large groups of people simply because they fall into certain demographics. Lucy Knisley and I had very similar upbringings (albeit about a decade and a half apart), but she didn't struggle with her weight. One person's life is not a universal basis of fact.

One of Henry Rollins comments at this conference was that even when confronted with seemingly mean or bad people, he cautioned that they are more likely not getting good information. And I think that's part of why I do this blog. I want to share that what we sometimes perceive about ourselves and those around us in regards to eating, weight and exercise (as well as librarians) may not carry all the information we need to make the right choice.

Part of that, as I've said many times before, is our own accountability. It's up to us to find the answers. But we often don't know what we don't know, and so may not look for more information.   

If nothing else, I hope I at least make everyone desire to learn more. if not from me or the endless references I post, then from anywhere outside their usual comfort zone.

[Insert pithy comment about punk rock and chicken tetrazzini here].


Daumit, G. L., Dickerson, F. B., Wang, N.-Y., Dalcin, A., Jerome, G. J., Anderson, C. A. M., … Appel, L. J. (n.d.). A Behavioral Weight-Loss Intervention in Persons with Serious Mental Illness. New England Journal of Medicine, 0(0). doi:10.1056/NEJMoa1214530

Relish | Lucy Knisley | Macmillan. (n.d.). Macmillan. Retrieved April 17, 2013, from

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