Am I Resistant to Umami Cravings?

I have been aware of umami (the ‘fifth taste’) for a long time, and always assumed that umami appeals to me like it does everyone else, and sometimes intentionally put umami in my cooking. After all, many of the ‘umami rich’ foods happen to be foods I like.

But I was struck by this section of “Is Umami a Secret Ingredient of Vegan Activism”:

Interestingly, some research suggests that a subset of the population may be impervious to umami. Rice and beans versus grilled chicken? It’s all the same to them. And maybe these people have an easier time going vegan (which could also mean that they have less patience with those who struggle with giving up animal foods).

Even before I was a semi-vegetarian, I would have taken the rice and beans over grilled chicken. In fact, I never felt like I wanted more grilled chicken.

Might it be simply a conincidence that I happen to like some umami-rich foods? I’ve used nutrional yeast, but I never felt like it did anything special for the flavor. And I never felt like konbu dashi (stock made from a kind of seaweed) made a dish any better than if I had used plain water.

Heck, when I transitioned to being vegan, cheese was a lot easier to give up than I expected.

When people make statements like ‘I could never give up [non-vegan] food!’ and don’t refer to a particular health or socio-economic concern, I don’t take them seriously. If they haven’t even tried, how do they know? And managed to transition both to vegetarianism and later veganism on the first attempt, so I tend to assume that everybody exaggerates the difficulty.

But, if I am umami-resistant, and umami is why so many people crave meat/cheese/etc., it really is harder for other people to make the transition to veganism if they don’t eat a lot of vegan umami.

Heck, not having umami cravings might be like not feeling sexual urges or sexual attraction. You assume you are just like everyone else, until you think about it, and realize you might not actually experience the same feelings as most people after all!

I had always figured that people (with sufficient agency) eat animals and animal secretions anyway, in spite of the unethical nature of consuming animals, because of cultural conditioning, social pressure, and ignorance of just how much harm they are doing, or misinformation about health effects (in very rare cases, they might be genuine unethical sadists or sociopaths). I myself was not raised vegan, and I can affirm that cultural conditioning, social pressure, and ignorance – particularly ignorance – were why I ate animals. But perhaps ‘umami’ is a physical factor.

When I try to persuade people to go vegan, I should keep umami in mind, and bring it into the conversation when somebody claims that they will always crave eating animals.


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Expectations in Parent-Child Relationships

This is for the November 2014 “Expectations in Friendships/Relationships Carnival of Aces.

***

I returned to North America a few days ago. I had expected my parents to pamper me a little, at least until I got over jetlag. After all, they had been asking for years when I would come back, and were always disappointed when I said ‘not this year’.

Well, that didn’t happen. Maybe it would have happened had I arrived at a different time, but right now my parents are dealing with multiple major problems, and I brought a new one – one of my fillings fell out and I don’t have dental insurance or a regular dentist. They are helping me arrange dental treatment, but that leaves them little time/energy to spoil me.

So, that was an expectation I had … but I understand why the expectation was not met, and I don’t blame them. And it was always a hope rather than something I felt that they owed me.

The word ‘expectation’ in relationships can mean a hope, a condition, or an obligation. And something which is presented as a hope but treated like an obligation is a tool for abuse.

My relationship with my parents was unchosen. They chose to have a child, but they did not choose me specifically. And I had zero choice in the matter.

My mother really, really wanted to have a child. My father could have gone either way – he agreed to be a parent, but he would have been OK with staying childfree.

Guess who placed greater ‘expectations’ on me.

As someone who really wanted to be a parent, my mother had a lot of ideas about it, including how she would relate with her child. To sum it up, she was expecting me to be a bundle of love, who would always be available to offer affection, to always be grateful for what a wonderful mother she is, who would always understand her, to have her as my confidante, etc. I was to insure that she never felt lonely or unloved ever again.

It didn’t work out that way.

One time, when my aunt and cousin were visiting, she told me I should observe their relationship, how close and loving they were, and that I should more like my cousin. Because the burden for making our relationship ‘closer’ and ‘move loving’ fell entirely on me, and I was a Bad Daughter for not always offering the affection my mother wanted. Nevermind that said cousin does not have such a great relationship with my mother (i.e. I don’t think my mother would have been any more satisfied if that cousin has been her child) and nevermind that my aunt does not have such a close and loving relationship with her other daughter (i.e. there is no guarantee that mother-daugther relationships are going to be Bundles of Endless Love).

My dad, however, had much less in the way of expecations of how things would turn out with me, and to the extent that he had expectations, they were clearly hopes, not obligations. He never made me feel like I was being a Bad Daughter just because something didn’t happen the way he had hoped for.

Ironically, it’s always been much easier to show affection to my father, and it’s always genuine because he doesn’t treat it like an obligation – I don’t have to give him affection when I don’t want to. When I show affection to my mother, it’s often a) something I feel like I have to use to appease her rather than something entirely sincere or b) even when it is sincere, it’s not the kind of affection she wants, so she doesn’t accept it. My mother is envious of how well my father and I get along, and I suspect she feels like he has something which was owed to her.

What does this have to do with asexuality? I can think of two things, but one belongs in a separate post, so I will only address the other – how being asexual fits into parents expectations of their children.

My mother never expected me to be any particular sexual orientation – i.e. she did not assume I would be heterosexual. She also does not expect me to have kids – she is OK with me having kids, but she is also OK with me not having kids.

My father, suffice to say, didn’t place these kinds of expectations on me either. He sometimes finds indirect, subconscious ways to say that he would like grandkids, but I think he does not want to *burden* me with that, and if I ever brought up the topic he would insist that I am under no obligation to have kids.

All that said, my mother most certainly did not expect me to be asexual – in fact, she expected me to eventually start experiencing sexual attraction and pursuing sex. It is because she has more expectations of my behavior that I thought it was important to come out to her. It worked out well – we haven’t talked about it since, but she no longer acts like I’m going to emerge from some cocoon as a sexual butterfly: mission accomplished. If anything, I think she’s satisfied that I confided something personal in her.

I haven’t felt the need to come out to my dad.

However, many parents do expect their children to be/do any or all of the following:

-allosexual
-heterosexual
-to have a boyfriend/girlfriend
-to marry
-to make grandkids

… and this can cause problems for ace-spectrum kids.

Again, parent-child relationships are unchosen, and thus I think this makes many kinds of expectations/obligations unfair. I think it is fair to expect/require children to care for parents who are sick/weak/disabled if they can. But I think expectations/obligations regarding sexual orientation, dating (beyond minimal ethical standards), having kids, etc. are unfair.


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Coming of Age without Sex?

‘Losing one’s virginity’ is considered an important part of coming of age in American culture, as well as in some other cultures.

Why? Should it be a part of coming of age?

For me personally, an important coming of age rite was moving out of my parents’ home for the first time when I was eighteen. This is also a very American middle-class way of coming of age (by contrast, moving out of one’s parents’ home is generally not considered a coming-of-age rite in Taiwan). Did it feel like a coming of age just because of my culture? It was a mark of becoming more independent … but that too is a reflection of American culture, since in some cultures there is little to no link between independence and maturity. I do think living away from my parents did increase my trust in myself, and proved that I could rely on myself more. Is that something which transcends culture? I do not know.

I can understand how navigating sex for the first time might also give one more trust in oneself. But I do not think sex is the only activity which can do this – for example, completing one’s first weaving project could do the same, especially in a culture which placed a high value on weaving.

American culture has been influenced by many cultures where getting married is considered a major rite of coming of age AND right after the wedding was when people were expected to have sex for the first time AND wedding/marriage was when people split from their family unit of birth and formed a new unit within a family. The formation of a new unit within a family makes a lot of sense to me as a point of coming of age (though perhaps that is because of my cultural background?) and since there is an association between that AND getting married AND having sex for the first time, some of that might have gotten attached to the ‘having sex for the first time’ bit.

Or maybe sex is simply considered a coming of rite because it is something which children cannot consent to, but adults can, thus consenting to sex means one is an adult.

That said, if I were to have sex, I doubt it would make me feel more mature or adult than I already feel. While some people get personal growth or an increased trust in oneself by having sex for the first time, I feel I have gotten that by other means, and that having sex once is unlikely to add much. I have also rejected the notion of virginity in my personal life so I do not think of the hypothetical me-after-having-had-sex-once as being significantly different from how I am now as someone who has never had sex.


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Not Even Economic Roommates?

I could say a lot about ace admiral’s recent post Living Alone vs. Being Alone, just as I could say a lot about solitary life in general, but for now I will focus on one part which initially surprised me.

For example, I’m struggling with my job right now because there’s an assumption of dual-income that make my bosses feel like the amount they pay me is peachy keen*. And it’s true; if I could find any other being with an income to live with me, then I could stretch my salary and afford rent. But, that involves the commitment of some level of cooperative living, and I don’t have anyone in my life I want to make that commitment to, or, indeed, anyone who would make that commitment to me.

The idea that nobody would want to share a living space and rent with ace admiral seems really odd to me.

Then, I remembered, I grew up in San Francisco, one of the most expensive places in the USA.

Among the people I’ve known in San Francisco, in spite of my affluent background, homelessness is more common that living in a housing unit by yourself.

When I was a young child, my family had a roommate because they paid rent. Since our home only had three bedrooms, and my parents didn’t want to share a bedroom with each other, than meant I was either sleeping in my mother’s bedroom or my father’s bedroom. Actually, one our our ‘bedrooms’ was designed to be a dining room, but most homes in my neighborhood have converted dining rooms into bedrooms because bedrooms are more needed. My father never liked having an outsider in his own home, and eventually he reached a deal with my mom to stop accepting roommates.

The first time I lived outside of my parents’ home – granted, that was not in San Francisco – I also rented a room from a married couple, and lived in their ‘single-family’ house.

Of course, a unit being split among roommates is far more common than a roommate living with a family. It is also far more common than one-person-one-unit living arrangements. I would have no trouble finding a group of people splitting an apartment who want another roommate, nor, if I were a main resident, would I have trouble finding people who want to move in and split rent (whether we would be compatible is another question).

Housing in San Francisco is so expensive that many people have problems affording rent even when they do split it with roommates. In some parts of San Francisco, it’s not unusual for 4+ people to live in a single room.

Thus, the idea that it is not possible to find even economic roommates seems strange to me.

Of course, economic roommates comes with many disadvantages. I prefer to live with my family, and I expect that is what I will be doing for at least the next few years.

Ily has discussed solitary living and asexuality a lot: I present the living situations and singlehood tags at her blog.


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The Jewish Conspiracy to Take Over the Carnival of Aces Is Victorious MUAHAHAHAHAHA!

Nobody had a clue that there was a Jewish conspiracy to take over the Carnival of Aces. In fact, our conspiracy was so brilliant that literally nobody knew, including myself and the other conspirators.

Anyhow, on a more serious note, I was struck by how the other Jewish contributors to the carnival seemed to have read my mind and put my thoughts in their blog posts:

The Dragon and the Fox “The Fox Says: Jewish Atheists and Bi Aces”:

But then I saw this nice big list of discussions on aceness and religion, and noticed a big Judaism-shaped hole in it. And I thought ‘well, someone should probably remedy that’. And also ‘but I’m a terrible Jew, I don’t even keep kosher, how the hell am I supposed to dissect what my religion/culture thinks of asexuality?’ And also, ‘yeah well someone has to do it, and no one else seems to be stepping up’.

in thoughts; not breaths “On Aceness and Judaism”:

I wasn’t going to write for this month’s Carnival, although I thought about it for a while. I don’t know enough about Judaism, I thought, but I know more than non-Jews, though, right? Whatever, I don’t have the time to do this … I thought, maybe I’ll look on the internet and see if there are any ace Jews who I could talk to about how the two work together … Of course, once I started looking, I couldn’t find anything. I tried AVEN, and saw no existing forums. I tried searches on asexuality and religion and found posts on Christianity, Islam, Buddhism, paganism, atheism, but a big, gaping, Judaism-shaped hole.

I had noticed the ‘Judaism-shaped hole’ in discussions of asexuality and religion long before this carnival, and had been a bit puzzled by it because I’d actually expects Jews to be among the first people to discuss this kind of thing. I knew there were Jews around online spaces – after all, one of the first prolific ace bloggers is Jewish – but nobody was talking about it.

Well, it turns out none of us were talking about it because we were afraid of a) being terrible Jews and, to a lesser degree b) anti-Semitism. My own submission was the first time I disclosed on this blog that I am Jewish, and one of the reasons I had never talked about it before the Carnival was because I was a little concerned. I know someone who was threatened with violence because she was Jewish … in San Francisco. I’m generally more scared of being attacked because I’m a woman than because I’m a Jew, but even so, it’s not something I reveal casually.

Furthermore, I hadn’t discussed Judaism and aceness before because I am a terrible Jew. I never had a bat mitzvah, I didn’t attend San Francisco’s Jewish high school, I don’t speak Hebrew, I don’t keep kosher (yeah, most vegan food is kosher, but sometimes it’s not, especially during Passover), and it has been years since I participated in any kind of Jewish ceremony, and I never participated very often anyway.

But, even before the Carnival, I had been thinking that since nobody was talking about it, I should probably say something about Judaism and aceness eventually, and the Carnival was the perfect excuse to do so. I did my best to speculate how asexuality would fit (or not) into orthodox Judaism, and then focused on my own experience of being asexual within my own Jewish family since, even if I am a terrible Jew, I am qualified to talk about my own experiences.

I think the next step would be to discuss this with rabbis, perhaps in something like the church email project, though if I were going to do it I’d want to first do more research on Jewish sexual ethics.


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Being Alone Is an Option

Ever since I left San Francisco, and particularly after I moved to Taoyuan, I have been living a relatively solitary life. That is not to say I lack contact with other people – I have been meeting way more people than when I was living in San Francisco – but very few of these relationships have gone much below a surface level, and none of them have the depth of some of the personal relationships I have in California.

It is not my ideal state, as I have mentioned in “Alone at Home”. I would rather have a denser set of deeper personal relationships, and this is one of the reasons I am planning to return to the USA.

But it is not a terrible existence. I have experienced a lot of happiness during these years of solitude.

And now I know I can lead a solitary life. I want to try to get a different kind of life, but if it does not work out, I know that solitary lifestyle does not have to be bad. And I might stay in a solitary lifestyle due to circumstances beyond my control.

The limitations on aces finding close relationships mean that it is quite possible that I will not form the close, long-lasting connections I would like to have. I do not want to be too specific about what I am looking for because a) I am not completely sure what I really need and b) I might make a great connection from a corner which totally surprises me, so I want to stay open-minded. At the same time, I also need some boundaries – I do not want to get into the trap of ‘I must stay in this relationship which makes me unhappy because this person might be The Only One’.

I know many people struggle to stay in close relationships which are not working out because they are afraid of solitary life, or because the status of being in a couple feels very important to them, or because there fear they will never find another person to love them again. If I were to ever risk getting into such a trap, I know that I have the solitary lifestyle as a floor. If being in close relationships makes me less happy than I was living on my own, I can withdraw again (assuming there is no dependency, such as having to care for another, or myself needing care).

And even if I do get into more long-lasting, close relationships, the fact that I know I do not absolutely need the relationships will make me more secure. My choice to stay in the relationships will be based on respect and love, not a desperate need to avoid solitude.

This post was written months before publication, incidently ace muslim recently wrote about solitary life as well.


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Buying Dairy Products from the United States Funds Sexual Assault

Content Note: 1) This post contains some graphic details, but if you are not willing to read about how most dairy cows in the USA are treated, you really should not be willing to buy dairy products from the USA 2) Most of the links in this post lead to pieces with specific and/or graphic description of sexual assault.

If someone used physical restraints on a human, then put their left hand into that human’s rectum, and then used their right hand to put a rod into their vulva, used the left hand to grab the cervix from within the rectum, inserted the rod through the cervix, then felt around with the left hand (still in the rectum) to feel the rod’s position in the cervix, and none of this was done with the restrained person’s consent, this would be a very clear case of sexual assault.

Guess what.

About 95% of dairy cows in the United States experience the procedure I just described, called artificial insemination. The cows are restrained because otherwise they might try to escape.

A woman who has had many vaginal and rectal inspections as well as surgery has some comments.

There’s a video and links to more information at Cow Artificial Insemination Procedure.

If you willingly purchase dairy products from the USA, you are probably supporting sexual assault (I focus on the USA because I know less about how dairy cows are treated in other countries – feel free to do your own research).

That said…

Buying vegan food can also support sexual assault.

There are many cases of farm owners and supervisors sexually assaulting fieldworkers.

This is absolutely horrible and should be stopped by eliminating rape culture, increasing the bargaining power of fieldworkers (which includes securing legal status for immigrants so they don’t have to be afraid of deportation), increasing support for victims, and prosecuting the perpetrators.

Nonetheless, sexual abuse of fieldworkers is not part of the business models of these farms, and does not increase their profitability. These farms would make just as much money if they had zero tolerance for sexual abuse.

Sexual assault of dairy cows is part of the business model, and is done to increase profits. To quote a pro-artificial-insemination website, the advantages include “There is no need of maintenance of breeding bull for a herd; hence the cost of maintenance of breeding bull is saved” and “It is helpful to inseminate the animals that are refuse to stands or accept the male at the time of oestrum” (i.e. it’s a way to impregnate cows who do not want sex with bulls). The practice is prevalent because it is profitable.

Food does not come with labels saying ‘This came from a farm where employers/supervisors sexually assault fieldworkers’. Since I cannot grow/collect my own food at the moment, I cannot boycott food from farms which sexually abuse workers.

With regards to boycotting the sexual assault of dairy cows? It’s simple. Don’t buy dairy products. That is labelled.


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