Saturday, September 30, 2017

I stumbled across my best friend in elementary school’s Facebook again and learned she’s going to be a teacher too. I discovered how she also suffers from anxiety and has an entrepreneurial spirit like me. It’s amazing how our lives have diverged—she’s super “conservative” while I’m super “liberal” for lack of better words—yet converge towards the same goals. This brought me back to something I wrote after the 2016 Presidential Election:

The aftermath of this election has made me realized how disconnected my privileged friends are from a large portion of the population-the rural working class. I grew up in a small town (technically a city) in Southern Virginia, while the rest of my peers grew up in suburbia, Northern Virginia, some of the richest counties in Virginia, etc. The differences in our lives can be looked at through many different lenses, but today I’m going to focus on friendships.

My first best friend was a white girl, but she’s unlike any white girl at UVA. We became friends because my dad knew her parents. Her dad and my dad both worked in the same textile company. We were also two of the smartest students in our grade—the two shortest too. We lost contact after I transferred schools. I went on to go to UVA, while she never made it to a four-year college. We reconnected on Facebook a couple years ago, and by perusing our timelines, you can see how different we are. She’s deactivated her Facebook since then, but I could definitely tell she was voting for Trump.

My next best friend was a Chinese girl. She fits in with most of the UVA demographic: pre-med, college-educated parents, etc., which in retrospect is probably why our friendship didn’t last long. I told her I used to live in a trailer, and that was probably one of the first times I was judged for my socioeconomic status.

The Chinese girl and I were also friends with a Mexican. I didn’t realize it until now, but I was actually part of a clique in 6th grade that included two other white girls. Anyways, this Mexican girl and Chinese girl connected through Spanish. The Chinese girl actually has roots in Peru, but she eventually shunned this Mexican girl too. This Mexican girl eventually got pregnant in 8th grade, like a lot of girls in my middle and high school, and moved away. I don’t know where she is now. She also never made it to college as far as I know.

After our clique dissolved (the Chinese girl started ignoring me, and the rest were assigned different 7th grade classes), I had difficulties finding friends until sophomore year of high school.

Actually, let’s go back to 9th grade for a bit. My best friend in 9th grade gym was a girl people made fun of because they thought she was a lesbian. What’s funny is a lot of people I went to school with have now come out as gay. Kids can be so mean. I always wish I had done more and stood up for those who were made fun of in school. One of the kids who was made fun of actually died from an infection stemming from cancer treatments. Everyone was super nice to her posthumously.

Back to 10th grade: in 10th grade, my crew (i.e. the people I ate lunch with) included three Mexicans and a black girl. One Mexican girl I had met earlier in middle school, but I can’t remember exactly the moment we became friends. She went on to college and majored in psychology like me, so we get each other. She even defended me recently in one of my “controversial” Facebook posts. She was raped as a child. The other Mexican girl has two kids now. I don’t remember when she got pregnant—I think it was after high school. Her sister, who also joined us for lunch sometimes, had a baby while in school though. I think the first Mexican girl’s younger sister had a baby too. The last Mexican in our group was a boy. He was a good student but didn’t take the traditional route post-graduation. I think he has his own photography business now. I wasn’t friends with any of the white boys, but I was friends with him. Last but not least, the black girl—she was one of the first people to get me to come out of my shell. She helped a lot of people but she didn’t go to college either. I recently found out she had a baby too.

Junior to senior year, I went to a magnet school for half of the school day, so the people I was surrounded by were more like the people I eventually met in college. We developed a bond over the hardships of school, but I didn’t really make any lifelong friends among this group.

Outside of school, I had a group of Vietnamese friends. We know each other because of our parents—none of whom are college educated. The majority of us have gone on to college, but one of them now lives on a chicken farm in Arkansas. She followed the father of her two children there. She had her first child when she was 16. A lot of these childhood friends moved away when the recession hit. When my sister recently visited this friend in Texas, where her family had moved, she told her my major: she didn’t know what it was.

One of these childhood friends now shares a studio with me. She is college educated as well, and like a lot of college-educated students, she was anti-Hilary but very anti-Trump, which is a shame. I’ve always been with Her, but I was too ashamed to admit it because of my roommate. Hilary honestly lost touch with the working-class voters, which she was so close to earlier in her career. My roommate’s dad voted for Trump because of Catholic values like pro-life. My dad voted for Hilary because of women’s rights. Who knew my dad would the most woke dad in Martinsville?

These were my friends before college. They’re a lot different than the friends my privileged college friends had.

Almond Milk and Agave Syrup

I've decided to be ugly because
even when I was pretty, 
you still didn't want to love me

- me trying to be Rupi Kaur

Monday, September 25, 2017

The Prophecy

*Spoiler alert for those who have never read or watched the last Harry Potter*

I feel like Harry Potter. Why? Because my life is being controlled by a prophecy. Based on my birth date in the lunar calendar, I'm supposed to be a teacher. This is according to some random Vietnamese fortune that I've never actually seen. The fortune doesn't even explicitly say "teacher!" It just says dân sư, which doesn't even have a translation in Google Translate. The closest definition I could find is for dân sự, meaning civil. Yet, I believe this shit. Why do I believe this shit? Because my mom, grandma, and oldest uncle (Voldermort) keep reinforcing it in my head. My grandma even told me a story about how when she was working as a vendor in Vietnam, she prayed no one would come because she wasn't good at selling things. The only thing she could do and liked to do was teach, which she was forced to give up as a result of the war. Except, I'm not like you, grandma: I have other passions besides teaching. I am good at and enjoy doing other things. I tell my mom I want to drop out of grad school, and she keeps insisting that she never forced me to be a teacher, but what do you call all this divination talk?! I told you what I really wanted to do, and you told me to "quit dreaming." I am a Vietnamese American, which means that while I like to think I'm an independent American, I still feel obligated to do what my elders tell me to do. My more Americanized cousin doesn't get why I feel so tied to this prophecy (easy for her to say: her prophecy says she can do whatever the fuck she wants). She thinks it's stupid, but I can't help wondering if it's true: what if I try following my dreams and fail drastically and end up getting my Master's in Teaching anyways? Why should I delay the inevitable? I honestly don't know what to do right now except pray Neville Longbottom shows up as soon as possible and puts me and all my Snapchat friends who are tired of my complaining, out of our miseries.

Edit: My dad is pushing me more than my mom right now. Mom also told me I need to take responsibility for my own actions i.e. not blame her for my current situation, but she won't let me quit?! *confused*

Saturday, September 23, 2017

Get You A Pair of Shoes That Can Do Both

Black is a good neutral color, but these sandals were silver AND gold.
I've unwillingly said goodbye to a lot of excellent pairs of shoes in the last two years including these. I got them at the kids' section (they were a Size 2 in case you're wondering) at Kmart and they lasted six years. I started wearing them after my favorite pair of silver braided sandals broke first year of college, and they have become my go-to sandals ever since. My mom yelled at me for always wearing the same raggedy shoe, but they were comfortable, stylish, and went with everything, so I wore them until they died. I also had to part ways with my navy Toms and blush flats after the New York rain destroyed them, a pair of torn white flats, and dirty cheap white sneakers I bought for $12 at H&M. Minus the white flats, those shoes went with everything.

I replaced the Toms with a new pair of floral gold ones, but I'm left with only one pair of childish black flats and a pair of uncomfortable black sandals because I sold a pair of glittery navy flats which were too big for me. I keep these around because there are no better options at the moment.

Because of the lack of dress shoes in my closet now, I'm forced to wear my nude pumps, which is a good thing, but they're so uncomfortable (I also have a pair of nude and hot pink flats, but hot pink doesn't really go well with a lot of things). As far as the other heels in my closet, I gave away the ones that weren't versatile, including a pair of navy & green pumps I started my fashion blog with. Some of them were also old, but most importantly, they weren't flexible or comfortable (I saved my wedges and a great pair of pointed low black heels because I've worn them on more than one occasion and they haven't killed me).

While it's good to give away shoes you don't wear (and not buy them in the first place), it's really sad when you're forced to throw away a pair you love because of wear and tear. Those are truly the great fashion purchases.

*Honorable mention to my tennis shoes, which I am starting to wear more because I don't care as much about how I look now*

Friday, September 22, 2017

Howl to Be Vegan Parts IV-VII

School is in full-force now so I unfortunately haven't had time to blog :( I was also working two jobs at one point, but thankfully I quit one of them (after much back & forth with myself). I'm also not sure if teaching is the career for me, but that's a different story. Even though I've been super busy, I've still maintained my vegan diet. I still eat healthy, which I can't say I did when I was an undergrad. The difference is I don't have a social life anymore so I use that time to cook. My sister has also been a big help.

I ended my last post with DC VegFest. It was okay. The variety of food at Richmond Veg Fest was better. I think you can really see a city's food culture through events like these. The DC food scene isn't great, so the vegan food scene is going to reflect that.  The DC vegan food scene consists of a lot of soul food and processed food/meat replacements, while the Richmond and Charlottesville vegan food scene consists more of ethnic whole foods. New York City also does a lot of American vegan food, but it is so much better than DC's, and I think this has a lot to do with the superiority of NYC's overall food scene.

I also don't find vegan festivals beneficial since I'm already vegan and I'm not a big socializer. My uncles love chatting people up, while my sister and I are just there for the food and free samples and. Speaking of free samples, there was a lot of vegan cheese samples, which was awesome but like I said very American and processed. I think I would get more from the experience if I was a volunteer. My sister and I also had some hot dogs and tacos, which were okay (and expensive-that's another thing to note about vegan food in DC)-should've gotten some soul food instead.

After Vegfest, we went to Loving Hut for dinner. I'm glad I ordered something instead of saving money (I would have starved later). I had the com tam bi chay (broken rice with shredded pork). I've had it before so I knew it would be good. We also tried the steak salad, which wasn't as good as the regular salad. It's funny because I really wanted to try it when I first came here with my uncle. My sister and uncles had noodle soups, which were apparently very clean and tasty. I'll have to come back to try them, especially the wonton soup my uncle got.

That same weekend, my mom visited, so she provided some much needed food. My dad's garden was thriving in bau or calabash, a gourd, so my mom brought canh bau with tofu (gourd soup) and bau kho or braised gourd with bitter melon and tofu. She also made banh hoi again because of the abundant herbs from my dad's garden. The last dish she made was stir-fry chives and bean sprouts.

After mom's food ran out, my sister made vegan clam chowder. It was pretty good. It obviously didn't taste like seafood, but it was creamy, which is something a lot of people don't think can be done with vegan food. She's been wanting to make this recipe for a while after finding it online, but we didn't have a blender.

With the leftover seaweed my sister bought to try to make the clam chowder taste more sea-like, she made sushi with cucumber, carrots, and leftover mushrooms. I'm not a huge fan of cucumber and carrot rolls, but this one wasn't bad. That same night, I made the Bow Tie dish again with tomatoes, limes, and herbs my mom left. This time, I halved the pasta knowing I didn't have enough tomatoes.

I also ate ramen with herbs-you can never go wrong with ramen when there's nothing to eat especially when you can add garnishes to it.

My sister used the rest of the herbs and bow tie to make pesto again. I think it was much better this time. We also had olive oil this time. I bought a cute little bottle from Kroger for like $3.

For snacks, I made buffalo cauliflower bites from my Thug Kitchen cookbook because cauliflower was on sale at Kroger and I was craving wings. I also made fries because I was craving them and didn't want to do my homework. They were good but too bland for me: I have a fear of over salting things.

I got finally got my salt fix from my sister's vegan Shepherd's Pie. She used leftover cauliflower stalks and celery, instead of the celery root called for in the recipe, to create the creamy mash and found the recipe online after trying to decide what to do with the beets my mom left her. It was so flavorful.

Speaking of flavor, I finally put the right amount of salt on something and flavored green beans successfully yesterday! They were on sale at Kroger so I bought them because I've always loved green beans and I rarely see them fresh in American grocery stores. I think I was helped in not having real soy sauce, which I usually use to flavor them, so I had to use a generous amount of salt, sugar, and vegetable seasoning (I also learned from past mistakes). My sister also made raspberry bars last night because the raspberries she bought weren't good so she decided to find a raspberry dessert to make with the oatmeal I had. THEY WERE SO GOOD.

As far as breakfast, I've resorted to carrying around a bag of bread and just eating it slice by slice because carbs give you energy! I've stopped eating peanut butter with the bread because it's fat, but I'll eat it on the weekends as a treat. For fruit, mom and grandma came through once again. I was disappointed in the unsweet plums my mom gave us though. Eating low quality fruit really is a bummer. My uncle spit out longan he bought from NOVA because it was not as sweet as he expected it to be. Thankfully, I have a lunch break every day so I don't starve.

Last but not least, here are the restaurant meals I ate: a Roots bowl with some new friends from a student CIO called Veggies of Virginia. I didn't expect them to be so cool, and I'm sad I haven't gotten to hang out with them more. My sister and I went to Cafe 88 last week for some fake chicken. I was hype for it, but it tasted like any old soy protein, but the vegetables on the side were on point. The curry was good too.

Here's a picture of the Roots bowl:

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I unfortunately forgot to save my Snaps of the cauliflower and fries, but here are the raspberry oatmeal squares my sister posted on her new food account! There are also pictures from the actual recipes I linked.

The moral for this week: my sister and I had no idea what we wanted to cook, but we went to the grocery store and picked out what we could buy and thought about it later using Google and the staples we had in our fridge/pantry to create some very delicious food. I also cooked on multiple week this what adulting is?

Saturday, September 2, 2017

Howl to be Vegan Part IV

Update on last week's dishes: I didn't flavor the water spinach enough so it was kind of bland. I needed the secret ingredient: sweet soy sauce. I also added tomatoes to my bitter melon to dilute its strong taste. My mom usually makes bitter melon with egg and tomatoes so I just did that without the egg.

This week, I made curry, one of the easiest and cheapest vegan dishes to make. I had already bought two cans of coconut milk on sale along with a bag of yellow curry powder (cheaper than curry pastes). All I needed to add was vegetables! Here's the recipe I used this week:

Yellow Curry good enough for a week and a half

2 cans of coconut milk ($2/can at Kroger)
2 sweet potatoes
3 russet potatoes ($2/5 lb bag)
4 carrots (still from the same bag as the spaghetti)
1 onion
3 tablespoons yellow curry powder
1 tablespoon sugar
Salt for seasoning

Peel and cut vegetables. I actually hate prepping sweet potatoes because their irregular shape make them really hard to peel, and they're really hard to cut/slice, but the flavors are worth it in the end. Because my sweet potatoes were huge, I had to add an extra potato to balance out the sweet and savory.

Heat coconut milk in pot. Add 1 tablespoon of sugar (taken directly from the instructions of Thai Kitchen's Red Curry Paste lol) and 3 tablespoons of yellow curry powder (taken from an old bottle of yellow curry powder I had). Mix well. Add sweet potatoes, potatoes, and carrots. Cover and cook until tender (15-20 minutes). Add onion and season with salt, msg, or whatever. Serve with rice or vermicelli noodles.

I've also been eating a lot of free food at various events hosted by the University and its constituents. Last Friday, I went to the 7th Annual Gazpacho In the Garden hosted by the Morven Kitchen Garden. There was such much vegan friendly food! This wasn't the case at the UVA Arts Grounds Day on Saturday. There was a veggie falafel, but I don't think the BBQ chipotle sauce was vegan (I should have gotten ketchup instead). The patty was dry, and I ate a hush puppy knowing it wasn't vegan. The veggie baked beans were meh too, so I basically ate junk in terms of taste and health. I did eat some delicious vegan BBQ with avocado slaw at the Curry Picnic though.

In addition to my curry and the free food on grounds, my sister also contributed since my last post by making pesto with the leftover herbs from our mom and the avocados our grandma gave us, flatbread pizza with the leftover pesto, and quinoa with the leftover pizza ingredients. She put mushroom, kale, and onion on the pizza and added canned beets and carrots to the leftover mushroom and kale for the quinoa bowl flavored with lime and tahini from Mezeh. She kind of went overboard with the lime though, but it tastes fine to me. I ate the pesto with my leftover penne (there was definitely a lack of tomatoes), spaghetti, and a new box of cherry tomatoes. 10/10 would recommend the pizza recipe.

Last but not least, my sister and I went out to dinner on Thursday night to celebrate my new jobs and me being done with two weeks of grad school, but really we just had a $10 coupon to Maharaja that was expiring. From left to right: 1) Vegetable Kholapuri 2) Mushroom & Pea Malai 3) Baigan (Eggplant) Burtha 4) Bhindi Masala. I don't think the top two dishes aka my sister's are vegan because they were rather creamy/buttery. You can see Maharaja's menu here: The food was on point as always.

Tata for now! I'm off to DC Vegfest, which you can read all about in my next post.

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