San Francisco Native Plants Spring Salad

So this week, I decided to make a salad only using plants native to San Francisco. And this is what it looks like:

In a bowl, there is a pile of dark green leaves with three, large circular leaves on the outside, covering half of the salad.  The large circular leaves each have a flower stem in the center, with tiny white flowers at the top.  Between the large circular leaves are lines formed by small strawberries

The ingredients are:

– Quailbush (Atriplex breweri)
– Miner’s Lettuce (Claytonia perfoliata)
– Woodland Strawberry (Fragaria vesca)
– Yerba Buena (Clinopodium douglasii, AKA Satureja douglasii, Micromeria douglasii)

All of these plants are native to San Francisco. If you were in what is now San Francisco in the spring of 1000 AD, you would have been able to have found all of these plants growing. I’ve heard that strawberries were particularly common in what is now the Outer Richmond.

RECIPE:

1. First, I got an entire bag full of quailbush leaves. Then I boiled them for about 1-2 minutes (quailbush is edible raw, but I prefer lightly cooked) and then I put them into cold water to cool them quickly, After that, I squeezed water out from the leaves.

2. I took the leaves from an entire bunch of miner’s lettuce, washed them, and mixed them with the cooked quailbush leaves. I set aside three particularly large leaves for decoration.

A bunch of Miner's lettuce

A bunch of Miner’s lettuce

3. I took two sprigs of yerba buena, stripped off the leaves, and mixed with the salad. Yerba buena is often compared to mint, and functions as an herb adding flavor to the salad.

4. I put on the three decorative miner’s lettuce leaves, and put the woodland strawberries on top.

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HOW MAKING A NATIVE PLANT SALAD IS DIFFERENT

None of these ingredients are available in supermarkets, though I occasionally see miner’s lettuce in farmer’s markets. Therefore, I can’t just go to the store and buy some. I had to harvest all of these ingredients myself. All of these plants grow in my backyard, but when I made the salad, I could only harvest the yerba buena in my yard, so I had to harvest the other ingredients elsewhere.

This is a ‘spring’ salad because this is the only time of year you can use all of these ingredients. Sure, it’s trendy to eat ‘foods in season’, but when dealing with ingredients which aren’t for sale using plants in season is your only choice. Quailbush and yerba buena are evergreen, and thus can be eaten at any time of year, but miner’s lettuce is only in season for a few months, and woodland strawberry is also only in season for a few months, and the overlap between the two seasons is not long.

Also, you are limited by whether you can actually find the plants (or get them to grow in a garden). This is particularly a problem for woodland strawberry – I am very lucky to know of a very productive strawberry patch which everybody else ignores.

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HOW I REALLY EAT

This salad is a stunt, just to prove I could make a salad just with plants native to San Francisco.

I like quailbush, and that’s one reason why it’s a main ingredient.

Some people really like miner’s lettuce. I don’t. I think it’s one of the blandest vegetables ever, and I do not care for the texture. I only put it in the salad because it is one of the easiest ingredients for a ‘native plant’ salad. If I weren’t pulling off a stunt, I’d leave it out.

I do like woodland strawberries, and I did like them mixed with the salad. However, I will probably just eat them separately in the future.

I did like the yerba buena in the salad. Perhaps I should put yerba buena in my salads more often.

And finally, I think most salads are improved by adding vinegar, and even though I tried to eat this salad without vinegar, I eventually lost my resolve and added a bit of vinegar anyway.

Sometime, I’d like to fix a ‘San Francisco forager’s salad’ – a salad made of non-native plants which often grow wild in San Francisco…

Guo Jing as Demisexual

Huang Rong (left) and Guo Jing (right), as depicted in the 1994 television adaptation of The Eagle-Shooting Heroes

Huang Rong (left) and Guo Jing (right), as depicted in the 1994 television adaptation of The Eagle-Shooting Heroes

For those of you who are unaware of Chinese popular literature / culture, Guo Jing is the protagonist of The Eagle-Shooting Heroes (Shè​ Diāo​ Yīng​xióng​ Zhuàn​), which is one of the most popular Chinese novels ever, and thus one of the most widely read novels of the 20th century. It is more popular in the Chinese-speaking world than Harry Potter is in the English-speaking world, and it has been that way since it was first published in the 1950s.

I’ve mentioned in a previous post that Guo Jing may be demisexual. Now, I headcanon him as being demisexual.

And … it’s pretty darn close to being canon that he is demisexual. The novel is very specific about him not being sexually attracted to Huang Rong until they’ve become emotionally close to each other, and it is heavily implied that he is never sexually attracted to anybody else for his entire life. After thinking it through, it’s hard for me to think of him as ~not~ being demisexual.

In the Asexual Agenda’s interview with Robin from Taiwan, Robin says “Also, the Chinese culture considers everyone to be demisexual, so it is supposed to be normal not to have sexual desires outside of marriage.” On the one hand, I disagree with his assessment of ‘Chinese’ culture – I have encountered many examples in Chinese-language media of people expressing sexual interest in strangers. On the other hand, I see his point. I have noticed way more characters who could be interpreted as demisexual in Chinese popular literature than in English popular literature. Furthermore, being plausibly-demisexual is idealized, and showing too much sexual interest in strangers is considered a character flaw.

I do not want this to be construed as meaning that being allosexual (as opposed to demisexual) is stigmatized in Chinese culture. I am really not a good person to judge this for quite a few reasons, but my (possibly incorrect) understanding is that, in real life as opposed to fictional dramas, Chinese cultures regard being sexually attracted to strangers as annoying/unfortunate, but it can’t be helped and doesn’t reflect badly on one’s character.

As that post in the Asexual Agenda brought up, “Chinese culture doesn’t like to talk about sex”, which is my experience is very true. It took me years to even learn what the Mandarin word for ‘sex’ is since it’s hardly ever used, and even now I have difficulty using the word correctly because I almost never encounter native speakers using it, and thus can’t get an intuitive sense of it. English speakers have a tendency to use the word ‘sexy’ to mean ‘good’ or ‘appealing’ even in non-sexual contexts … suffice to say, Chinese speakers do NOT have that tendency.

This is no doubt a relief for people who prefer not to have sex constantly brought up in conversation. The flipside is that it is harder to know how other Chinese speakers experience their sexuality. Even in the English speaking world, plenty of asexuals assume everyone is asexual until they one day realize that other people really do experience sexual attraction/feelings. I imagine this is even more intense in the Chinese-speaking world, possibly to the point that even allosexuals may think that many people are really like demisexual Guo Jing.

Yes, lets get back to fictional wuxia characters.

Even though there are plenty of wuxia characters who might be demisexual, I think Guo Jing is the only one I can think of (I might think of others if I really prodded my memory) who fits ‘demisexual’ much better than ‘allosexual’. Characters who have as much evidence of being demisexual as Guo Jing are actually not that common at all, if only because the kind of details which would really shift the odds from ‘allosexual’ to ‘demisexual’ are often not included because of a generally tendency not to talk so much about sex.

Just to do a quick comparison with other Jin Yong protagonists (because they are easy for me to review in my mind quickly)…

Chen Jialuo – probably heterosexual
Yuan Chengzhi – probably heterosexual
Yang Guo – I’ve discussed this plenty already
Zhang Wuji – almost certainly heterosexual
Hu Fei – almost certainly heterosexual
Di Yun – possibly heterosexual, possibly demisexual
Duan Yu – almost certainly heterosexual
Qiao Feng – not much evidence in any direction
Xu Zhu – probably heterosexual
Shi Potian – I don’t remember
Linghu Chong – definitely heterosexual
Wei Xiaobao – definitely heterosexual

Not many characters who I can headcanon as demisexual. Jin Yong characters tend to notice pretty quickly when a certain person is really pretty and special, and it’s plausible (and in some cases, confirmed) that this interest has a sexual component from the start. It’s only in Guo Jing’s case that it’s spelled out that the sexual component to his feelings for Huang Rong doesn’t come until he’s been close to her for months. Of course, it’s obvious that Yang Guo was close to Xiaolongnü for years without any sexual feelings for her, but since it’s never demonstrated ever that he has sexual (as opposed to romantic) feelings for her, I interpret it as those sexual feelings never existing.

Finally, I personally like to headcanon Guo Jing as demisexual, Yang Guo as monoamorous asexual, and Zhang Wuji as polyamorous heterosexual because they are each protagonists of a single part of the Shooting Eagles trilogy. I like how they complement each other in quite a few ways – for example, their approaches to vengeance – and show different faces of the human experience. Think of them as demisexual – asexual – heterosexual adds yet another layer of contrast.


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The Emergence of Asexual Culture

This is for the April 2015 Canival of Aces: An Asexual Culture?

I think asexual culture is still very amorphous, and it will take more time for it to emerge into a distinctive form.

I presume that AVEN has its own culture, but I don’t think AVEN culture = asexual culture, since as an asexual who has never been a member of AVEN, I am one of the last people who would assume that anything representative of AVEN is representative of aces in general.

Ditto for Tumblr.

If aces hardly ever interacted with other aces, would it be possible for an asexual culture to emerge. I’m not an anthropologist, but my guess is no.

I think what it will really take to further the development of an asexual culture is for … aces to spend more time with each other. That could be online – aces devoting hours every day interacting with each other, or it could be offline. I don’t think it would require a majority of aces – just enough to establish a critical mass.

There are the little in-jokes about cake, and the black rings, and Sherlock (none of which I participate in, by the way) but I think these are only the most superficial signs of a culture.

The one thing I can point to which I think reveals something deeper about asexual culture, or rather what it might become, is in this post by Stormy O’Brink

So entering an asexual space for the first time was a refreshing kind of subculture shock. I didn’t have to worry about gay boys touching my chest, or women trying to cop a feel, or being expected to hug a stranger who smells bad. I could just exist and actually own my body. I heard stories from other people who felt the same way. One man in the group told me that aces in Chicago have cuddle parties so people can embrace touch without the threat of it turning into sex. Others told me stories of relationships in which all touch was subjected to affirmative consent. I felt euphoria when I heard these stories- it meant there was hope for my life. I wanted a place where I didn’t have to worry about the hypersexualized and unwanted touching I’d grown so used to.

I think requiring consent for touch – and openness about touch aversions – may become part of asexual culture, especially as more and more ace activities happen offline. And this is / will be a good thing.

I could make some other guesses, but I think they would be too much of a long-shot. I don’t think the queer people in San Francisco in the 1920s would have been able to imagine what queer culture in San Francisco would be like in the 1970s, but they also probably already had tendencies which latter got embedded in 1970s queer culture. So I’m going to sit back, and hope that I enjoy this ride into the future.

Hey! What reason do you have to NOT climb up a tree at 1 AM? (Part 4)

Content Note: Reference to sexual assault, but no specifics

The moral of the story in the previous post is that people tend to confuse compulsory with necessary.

There were other students at my high school who found ways to work around compulsory classes, but we were a minority. Most students only made limited attempts to challenge any compulsory classes which were giving them problems.

This extends into life, in which most people accept the pre-existing patterns they observe and don’t want to change them without a very compelling reason. For example, in my first story, my aunt observed that no ordinary person seems to ever get through to those bureaucrats, and thus gave up on trying to reach them before she even tried.

The tendency to accept the status quo is not necessarily bad. It probably plays an important role in maintaining social stability. Unfortunately, once something harmful gets fossilized into status quo, the tendency to support the status quo entrenches the harmful habit.

So I ask again … what reason do you have to NOT climb up a tree at 1 AM?

I’m guessing the reason is it’s simply not a habit for you (though you might have other reasons).

However, some things which has been fossilized into the social status quo is that “everybody” has sex, “everybody” everyone is going to be in a “committed relationship”, and “everybody” in “committed relationships” have sex with each other.

This is harmful to asexuals (as wells as plenty of other people).

Because it’s been fossilized into the status quo, people who don’t want sex look for reasons to not have it, instead of people getting reasons to have sex before having sex, and not feeling any inclination to have sex before there are compelling reasons. As I said it in this surprisingly popular post, having sex has become something people have to opt out of not, not something which people opt into in the first place.

Sometimes people force another person to have sex against their will. Sometimes people (unintentionally or intentionally) put another person into such a position that it becomes difficult for them to refuse sex they don’t want, even if said person thinks compulsory sexuality is bullshit. And, based on reading a lot of writing by ace-spectrum people, quite a few people who don’t want sex internalize the idea that they are going to have sex anyway because that’s what “everyone” does.

The victims of the first and second scenarios shouldn’t have to – and probably can’t – save themselves. It’s the perpetrators who ought to change, not the victims.

However, the people in the third scenario – the ones who have internalized compulsory sexuality – can get out of this themselves. For those people – as well as people who might become perpetrators in scenario 1 or 2 for that matter – I offer this…

If you don’t need a reason to justify not climbing up a tree at 1 AM, why should people need a reason to justify not having sex?

***

And yes, I did climb a tree at 1 AM in the morning when I was 15 years old. Sleep deprivation impairs my judgement, and sometimes makes me giddy as well. Somebody else had already climbed up the tree, and invited me to join them, and I thought it was a swell idea. I stayed up there for about an hour.

Hey! What reason do you have to NOT climb up a tree at 1 AM? (Part 3)

Most people would have just figured I was stuck with the bad math teacher and the bad French teacher. My mother did not make this assumption, and she thought I had no business being a class which was neither useful nor enjoyable.

Given that switching to another teacher was not an option because a) no other math teacher taught a class which fit my schedule and b) there was only one French teacher in the school, my mother asked the question: do I really need to take these classes?

It turns out I could test out of these classes. I took the final exam for the math class, got a C, and thus got into the next level of math class … which landed me with the same bad math teacher again. However, it was an improvement, since I was with a different student group who managed to make the class mildly entertaining with their sense of humor.

I actually didn’t mind the first year of French so much, since I started not knowing French at all, and through my own efforts to study on my own (at first with the textbook, and later with resources such as French in Action. The teacher mostly let me ignore the class and do my own studying in a corner, as long as was studying French. However, by the second year, I was tired of this.

Well, it turns out that I only needed to take 1 year of a foreign language to get a high school diploma, and I already had that. The school only told us we should study a foreign language for 2-3 years because universities required that for admission (at my high school it was assumed most students would go to university after high school graduation). But there was a way around this – I could take the SAT Subject Test in a language such as French instead, and if I got a high score, the universities wouldn’t mind that I only took one year of French in high school. And the SAT French test I took only tests reading – and it’s multiple choice.

Thus I got out of second year French, and since I didn’t put any other class in that slot in the schedule, I got to come to school at 9:20 AM instead of 8 AM on Tuesdays and Thursdays. Sleeping in for the win!

All of these experiences no doubt contributed to my cynicism towards formal education. At the same time, I also appreciate that my high school was set up in such as way – partially by accident, partially by design – to push students to shape their own education to some degree, rather than acting like passive receptacles of knowledge.

Storytime is over. In the next post, I’ll get back to the topic of compulsory sexuality.

What Surprised Me about Blogging about Asexuality

This is for the March Carnival of Aces, which is themed as ‘Writing About Asexuality’.

I decided to name this blog ‘the notes which do not fit’ so it could be a place where I could put writing which I want to be public, but which I can’t place somewhere else. At the time I started this blog, asexuality was the topic which I most wanted to write about publicly for which I didn’t have some other forum, but this blog is first a Whatever Sara Wants to Write About Blog, and only an ‘asexuality’ blog in a secondary sense. That is why there is no ‘aseuxality’ or ‘ace’ or any reference to such in the title.

One reason there is such a high concentration of writing about asexuality (and aromanticism) on this blog is that, when I want to write a lot about something else, I tend to find another place to do it. For example, I wrote the ‘It Came from the Sinosphere’ column at Manga Bookshelf, and right now I have my own blog about travelling in South Korea (and if I ever decide to do a significant bit of writing about my travels elsewhere in East Asia I will probably not do it here at ‘the notes which do not fit’).

All of this implies that asexuality/aromanticism is something I care about which is harder to fit in elsewhere.

Now, once I started blogging on a regular basis, I assumed that the ‘notes’ I wrote would only get a few readers, but I still wanted to write it. For example, I expected ‘”Going to College” and the Old Neighborhood’ to get very few readers – a prediction which so far is totally true, by the way. And I assumed that asexuality-themed posts would be likewise not-very-much-read.

Probably my most-read blog post ever “A language learner’s guide to reading comics in Chinese”, and my other guest posts at Hacking Chinese are pretty widely read relative to most things I’ve written. This is partially because Hacking Chinese is an excellent blog which has a large readership, and deserves even more.

My second-most read blog posts on the internet? My asexuality/aromanticism blogging, particularly if I am also talking about fiction, though “Why Are Sex-Indifferent Aces Assumed to be Open to Sex” also seems to have touched a nerve.

I’m surprised by this result. Something which I expected to be read by about, say, three strangers on the internet, is being read by a lot more than three people. And it’s asexuality of all things.

I think it’s because there is a rather large group of people who really really want to read about asexuality and easiest place to find in-depth writing about asexuality is ace blogs. I remember back in late 2009/early 2010 reading and reading and reading ace blogs (and you can probably guess which blogs those were, since there weren’t so many ace blogs back then). Even though only a small fraction of those people on ace-blog reading binges ever find their way here, apparently some of them do.

All of this means I’m doing the right thing by writing about asexuality and aromanticism. We need more of it.


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Hey! What reason do you have to NOT climb up a tree at 1 AM? (Part 2)

I started telling this story in Part 1.

My mother reasoned that these Untouchable Bureaucrats are in fact mortal, and that they have offices somewhere which she can physically visit. Having once worked as a journalist, she has practical experience with getting interviews with people who are hard to find.

She did in fact find these bureaucrats, and she even got them to make a decision favorable to my grandmother, which everyone told her would be impossible. It was a horrible process – I think my mother said she broke down in tears once (note: I have never, ever seen my mother break down in tears, which demonstrates just how rare that is) but she did it.

So what does this story have to do with the concept of ‘compulsory’? Mainly, I needed to establish my mother as a character for my next story…

***

ANOTHER TRUE STORY

High schools, in California and much of the world, have ‘compulsory subjects’ – classes you must pass in order to get a high school diploma.

I went to a small high school. This could cause scheduling problems. For example, when I took Physics in my junior year, that was the only physics class offered the entire year. Yep, just one physics class. The class had sophomores, juniors, and seniors because … well, to make a long story short, this was practically the last chance we had to take a high school physics class, even for the sophomores.

Of course, that was nothing compared to the drama around Physical Education (P.E.) credits. I think, starting my sophomore or junior year, my high school actually started offering two P.E. classes for 30 students each. Considering that California law requires 2 years of P.E. for a high school diploma, this was a bit of a problem. About 30% of the students (myself included) didn’t need to worry about P.E. credits (we were automatically enrolled in dance classes which counted as P.E. classes), but the rest of the students were scrambling to get recognized P.E. credits.

The advantage of this system is that, because the school administrators knew this was a problem, they were much more open input and creative solutions offered by students, which encouraged us to actively shape our education rather than be passive recipients. One student (who, like myself, didn’t need to worry about P.E. credit, but I think he just loved bikes) started a bike-to-school club and made arrangements with the school administration to allow students to get P.E. credit for bicycling to/from school.

One of the biggest disadvantages was, if you got a bad teacher … you could get pretty stuck, since that might be the only teacher teaching that particular class, and even if there was a second teacher, you might not be able to arrange your schedule to get that teacher (especially since everyone else probably wants that better teacher too).

This is how I ended up with a terrible math teacher and a terrible French teacher. Which forced me and my mother to explore just how ‘compulsory’ these classes actually are…

TO BE CONTINUED


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