18 March 2009

What I ate today

Food is such an intrinsic part of life that virtually everyone has their own set of values and factors that influence what they will eat. Some people are vegetarians or vegans and avoid any animal products in their meals. Some people worry about what impact their diet is having on the environment. Some people eat a diet based primarily on what is healthiest, focusing on eating low fat or high in fiber or vitamins and minerals. Some people simply go by what tastes best and indulge their taste buds as desired.

My personal eating philosophy is kind of non-existent, other than trying to eat moderately healthily with very little time and money to spare. Being a college student, I think I do better than some (I don't eat Top Ramen EVERY day, though I do have it on hand), but I could certainly improve the sophistication of my diet.

Here is a typical day in the life of me. I find it impossible to separate what I ate from what I did in that day. What we consume has so much to do with our circumstances -- if we're out or at home, if we're busy or if we have the day off. Just a thought.

I rolled out of bed at 11 am yesterday. I had worked from 2 to 6 am the night before and could have slept til 1 or 2 in the afternoon if my alarm hadn't interfered. I had to get up to clean my room and then go down to the DMV to register my car. I didn't think to eat breakfast in my quasi-comatose state, but did have the strength to down a quick Five Hour Energy. I love these things.

Completely shameful. I don't know what's in these things. Supposedly it's like a shot of straight vitamins and a little bit of caffeine, but somehow I don't think I'd consider it a health food.

On my walk to the DMV I had to stop at the bank and while doing so, got a drink at the grocery store next door. It was a warm day out, I was parched, and my sleep-deprived one-track mind couldn't resist another drink that promised me increased energy.

Second drink of the day and still nothing to eat.

While I continued my walk to the DMV, I enjoyed the sunny day and sipped my Vitamin Water. I arrived at the DMV and finally registered my car. It expired in November of 2008 and it only took til March 2009 to register it! Success!

No, I didn't eat the registration tag. I was just really proud of myself for finally registering my car. Though I was getting pretty hungry by that point...

Like I said, I was getting pretty hungry by that point. My boyfriend and I felt like taking advantage of the lovely weather and decided to eat lunch outside at an adorable little place on Geary called Tony's Cable Car Restaurant (click to read my Yelp review). It's simple American comfort food, close to school and home, and has a fun outdoor seating area.

Don't know who Tony is but I love his little cable car shaped restaurant just a hop skip and jump away from USF.

At Tony's I ordered the classic hamburger and french fries. It was darn good. What I couldn't finish of my fries I fed to the lingering pigeons who were salivating over my lunch.

Time to go home. I went to put my registration tag on my car and very ironically found that I had gotten a parking ticket for expired tags! Really what are the odds.. really.

Ah cruel irony of the San Francisco Deptartment of Parking and Traffic: the day I register my car is the day you choose to spite me so?

Recovering from this tragic blow, I went up to my apartment and tried to maintain a positive attitude. I had to work on a big paper due on Thursday, so that kept me occupied for a while. I think I took a nap somewhere in there. I have no classes on Tuesday so it was a low-key afternoon.

At 8:00 I had a meeting for the Residence Hall Association, for which I am in charge of producing their newsletter called The Final Flush. Our president, Hoa, made delicious chocolate covered almonds that she chose to share with us, and which I neglected to photograph. Oops! Thanks Hoa!

9:15 and time for dinner. I trekked home and pulled out of the pantry a can of tomato soup, some bread and cheese. Voila! Grilled cheese and tomato soup.

No I'm not five years old. If you haven't eaten this since you were a kid, you should revisit it. It's quite the culinary combo I must say.

While my dinner may have lacked sophistication, it was tasty and easy. I devoured my meal happily, continued to work on my midterm paper, and fell into bed around 2 am.

And there you have it: A day in the life -- of me and my stomach.

For kicks I decided to evaluate my daily diet on a few of the different scales that the world wide web has to offer.

First I calculated the carbon impact of my diet using a calculator at EatLowCarbon.org

It's hard to read in this screen shot, but the site said I'd used 2,756 CO2e (carbon dioxide equivalent) points in my day of eating. These came almost all from the hamburger I'd had at lunch, as the production of beef is incredibly taxing to the environment. My entire day of eating contributed about 4.4 pounds of carbon into the atmosphere. Eek!

Next I decided to track the healthfulness of my diet using MyPyramid.gov. I had to sign up for an account, enter my height/weight and what I ate for a day, and then it told me how I did nutritionally.
I don't think this was entirely accurate. I'm pretty sure I consumed more than 1119 calories and from the looks of this chart I'm practically malnourished, which is hardly a reality. Still if I took the time to do this more accurately an regularly, I would probably get a good sense of my overall health.

And that's the flipside to eating... There are always repercussions to the choices we choose. Who knew that even something as simple as deciding what to have for lunch has repercussions on our body and our earth's environment?

12 March 2009

The woes of being an extremely amateur blogger

I don't know how many of you bloggers out there use StatCounter.com or a similar site, but it's really cool to check out. It's a service that shows you on a given day how many people have been on your blog, where in the world they're reading it, what page they entered on, how they found it (be it a link or google search, etc.) and even how long they stayed and what they looked at. All you have to do is sign up for a free account, embed an html code into your blog, and wait for the stats to pour in.

The stats depicted in this chart in no way reflect my own. This chart is taken from Google images from a blog or web site with over 30,000 visitors a month. I probably have around 150 visitors a month. If I'm lucky.

I have made a few interesting observations from this site, some good and some bad.
One surprising observation I made is that even when I am not blogging regularly (i.e. 99% of the time) I still get a fair amount of page views. This is pretty surprising because I really don't know who would be looking on my blog. Fortunately with StatCounter, I am able to see how and why they are finding it.

For example, one entry I wrote for my Digital Journalism class last spring is often searched on Google. It is about Makoto Hagiwara, the original landscape designer and maintainer of the Japanese Tea Garden in Golden Gate Park. Through StatCounter I learned that many people were searching Google for information about him, and found my blog entry as a result. Very cool!
Sadly, I have also learned a harsh reality that many people who find my blog soon choose to turn around and leave before they even make themselves comfortable. A whopping 61% of visitors stay on my blog for less than five seconds. LESS THAN FIVE SECONDS!?!? Is it really that bad?

Ok, ok, so I won't take it personally.

I've chosen to use the information from StatCounter as inspiration to blog more often and about a wider variety of topics. Seeing that a random topic such as the Japanese Tea Garden could generate so many page views is inspiring to write and write and write some more! Write about odd and interesting things that no one else is writing about. Then more people will randomly stumble upon my blog, and who knows... maybe if it's interesting enough, they'll want to stay for more than five seconds.

11 March 2009

The San Francisco Burrito

In food movies such as Big Night and Like Water for Chocolate, the preparation and consumption of food can symbolize everything from personal emotions to societal concerns such as class, ethnicity and gender issues. In real life, the foods consumed by a certain demographic or region can be meaningful as well. In the Mission District of San Francisco, the burrito is symbolic of the struggle of Latin American immigrants to maintain their traditional culture while fitting in to a new society and the sacrifice it takes to immigrate to a new country and work hard for a better life. Huh? Maybe a little background will help.

The San Francisco burrito is not traditional Mexican fare contrary to popular belief. Though small tortillas wrapped around meat and beans were served in Mexico as the first burrito, only in San Francisco did the burrito evolve into what most Americans recognize today. The defining features of a San Francisco burrito are an over-sized flour tortilla, stuffed with rice, beans, cheese, meat, salsa, and sometimes avocado, salsa, sour cream, onions, tomato, cilantro, etc. This basic concept has taken off in popularity and it is now standard to find a similar entree everywhere from Chipotle to Chevys.

The San Francisco burrito got its start when farmers in the Central Valley of California needed a cheap filling meal to give their immigrant workers on their lunch break. Most of these workers came from Mexico and Central America. The giant tortillas stuffed with hot, filling ingredients was just the right fuel to keep the workers going all day.

The rice and beans, are at the foundation of this. Rice and beans have long served as sustenance in the Latin American and Carribean cultures. The combination of the two are not only tasty but more importantly are incredibly dense in nutrtitional value, with fiber, vitamins, minerals, and when combined, form a perfect protein. This makes it the perfect basis for a filling and nutritious meal. When combined with meat, cheese and flavorful salsa, it is the perfect meal to fill you up and provide a tremendous amount of energy.

The burrito came to San Francisco as waves of Latin American immigrants came into the Mission District, replacing the Polish and Irish cultures that were dominant at the time with their own. The Latin American culture is still dominant today. With their taquerias and bakeries and churches and colorful murals splashed throughout the neighborhood, the Mission now has a strong Latin American influence. But stepping into the neighborhood isn't exactly like stepping off an airplane onto Mexican soil. It represents a fusion of the different cultures of Latin America all coming together in a diverse urban city. Likewise, the burrito is not a traditional dish from any one Latin American country, but it uses popular staple ingredients from the Americas, wraps them up in an all-encompassing tortilla, and serves them up to anyone and everyone.

To experience this cultural fusion, my Eating San Francisco class met in the Mission District last Wednesday at Balmy Alley, one of the premiere mural spots in the neighborhood. Murals and street art have been used in the Mission for decades to express political and social concerns of the Latin@ culture.

From there we headed to a taqueria just around the corner. I've probably been to at least 10 taquerias in the Mission, and I swear I've barely scratched the surface. This one, called Taqueria Vallarta, was new to me and I was excited!

The inside was kind of funky. There were murals all over the wall, and although done in the realistic style of Diego Rivera and other Latin American muralists, they incorporated modern imagery of local landmarks and athletes. Not exactly the kind of political message murals usually incorporate, but fun and colorful nonetheless.

The food was delicious, and they were extremely accommodating of our large group! Most of the group went with some form of burrito or chimichanga, but many also enjoyed the taco bar. I got my usual vegetarian burrito. I get this at almost every taqueria I step foot in, which may seem boring, but also gives me a standard unit of measurement for how much I enjoy each place. This one was excellent, with perfect ratios of beans, cheese and rice, all well seasoned.

After a wonderfully filling meal, the 18 of us migrated from 24th & Balmy to Mission Pie at 25th & Mission. Mission Pie is a place I had heard a lot about but never gotten around to visiting. It is a fabulous concept incorporating locally grown produce at Pie Ranch with students at Mission High who all work together to grow the food and cook the pies at Mission Pie.

Mission Pie is a cozy spot that I look forward to coming back to. Though I don't reccomend going with a group of 18 people, they managed to accomodate us and one of the Mission High students even came and told us about the ranch and the shop. Then we enjoyed our delicious pie... and mmm it was good.

All in all another successful ESF outing, full of good people, good food, and good learning.

Check out my Yelp reviews for more specific descriptions of the food and overall experience at Taqueria Vallarta and Mission Pie.