I broke down and used a neglected Christmas gift card to a restaurant. The restaurant in question was the one that associates itself with the only inhabited country that is also a continent, dingo’s, and boomerangs. I picked up some food as I am a loner, and finding someone else to share in this dinner would have been much too time consuming. Once home I unpacked my burger, and instinctively reached for ketchup and smothered both dish and side with the viscus liquid. My first bite reminded me why I hadn’t been back to that restaurant in years: the burger and fries wreaked and tasted like grease, but I was hungry. To cover the flavor of the nearly indigestible food I added more ketchup. Every bite of cooked cow was covered in more, each fry personally coated for maximum coverage. Only after the exposed surface of the food was colored bright red could I dive into the meal.

I can’t think of another culture that covers their food in as much of a potent condiment as us Americans do with ketchup. It is used without restraint, offered at every fast-food restaurant and a requirement for many if there is a basket of fries nearby. Its pervasiveness is disturbing to me, and my own consumption of it makes me question how I view food. I accepted that it would be of poor quality before I had even looked at the meal, and still paid more than the sum of the ingredients to eat it. I am not alone: that night while I waited the few minutes for my food I saw a dozen patrons leave this establishment, each of them with a burgeoning gut and labored to walk the fifty feet to their cars.

We accept poisons, and cover them up with condiments, and pay exorbitantly for them. On one of the very basic tenants of our existence we are resigned, willing to eat whatever slop is pushed in front of us. This makes me conclude that a few of the typical American stereotypes is founded in fact. We eat, and eat anything rolled in butter or fried in trans-fats, and if it is subpar we drizzle  drown it in ketchup. I find myself in the minority searching for flavor bereft of crisco and lard, it had been such a long time since I had chain food from a restaurant that my body rejected it later that day, and its rebellion lasted well into today.

Despite my sentiments and attitude searching and hunting for good food I find myself complacent at times, as I am sure the majority (probably you are included in this category) of us are. I shall be more vigilant- I shall hunt for good, make it if I must, and accept nothing but the beneficial. Food is a necessity to life, and if I can allow the disdainful to enter mouth and grant it passage through the rest of my body how can I think that I couldn’t do the same for more entertaining and intricate aspects of a contented existence?

So ketchup will be shelved, umami can be found in Maillard reactions and well apportioned seasoning instead of through a thickened mixture of tomato paste and vinegar. Vigilance isn’t a difficulty, but a matter of understanding. Understand that food can be easily manipulated to appease our basic human desire for fatty and salty without value (substance) and it may change your opinion on your upcoming gastronomic endeavors. Or, replace every mention of food in this short entry with another facet of continued existence and perhaps an obsequious view can change to be healthier, and happier.

Informed Compassion

I’m sorry. So terribly, terribly sorry. It has now been over a month since I have last posted. A whole month has gone by without a single letter typed on this site. I have let my namesake-dotcom sit unused for far too long. Side projects have taken all of my time away. Granted these little projects on mine are building my portfolio and github, experimentation with entirely fluid site design, and an endeavor I hope will push the boundaries of my still (I assume)fledgeling web development abilities. During all of this I have had thoughts scrambled through my brain, pushing on the confines of an imprisoning cranium yearning for a forum to be heard.

I may be extraordinarily late to express my opinion on Kony, but as I just mentioned, I have been preoccupied. The video exploded on facebook, and as it did I monitored its progress, and response. Out of my massive list of friends on facebook (I believe I may have crested the 150 mark) 32 posted the video in support, all of which gave sentiments about how it raised awareness, nearly all of them also implored me to watch it. The first week was blissful, and appreciative of the message Invisible Children was spreading, and how helpful it may be. It was obviously powerful, and viral. Nearly as quickly as the video populated the inboxes and statuses of Americans dissent began.

It began with questions, and came to hostility. The video and its parent were accosted, molested, and degraded. It was a tirade on angry sentiments about shoddy accounting, and questions as to the usefulness of the video. There was anger from both posters of the video and those who offered dissent. What nobody argued was that the exploitative use of child soldiers was beneficial, they argued on the merits of a quickly popular film. Both observances and attitudes detract from this message, and its effectiveness.

I think it can be agreed on that plight of Ugandan children, or children of many, many geographies deserve our attention and compassion. This blanket statement is obvious, what isn’t is how much information can be found about such children. How many millions starve, thousands forced into the sex trade, die of communicable diseases? I challenge you to find the answers to these questions: become informed. Making idealistic statements, and offering them to others will do nothing to benefit the less privileged. I find the more intimately you are connected with a situation, the more information you have the more proactive you are.

Fact check, and analyze. Information is entirely more powerful than unfounded compassion. One of my side projects is a very, very simple site that is pertinent, and was going to be much more involved that its current iteration, but time (and an unfortunate string of sleep-filled nights) is making a fool of my pursuits. Still, it is a basic learning tool.

Clicking the link brings you to a map of Africa. Clicking Uganda will bring you a pop-up with the viral video, and a short poll. I offer $100 to the most voted on charity by the end of this month. The goal is a lesson on Geography, click on a country and see if your knowledge is inept, and learn to benefit a cause. If you know that Uganda is a part of the whole, and not a nameless country somewhere on a continent I find that I become more connected. Informed compassion.