County Fair, Bookstores, Cookbooks, and Being a Road Hazard

I don’t know how these long post-less periods occur. I’m always thinking about my next post. I sign in. I check up on my account. I read other blogs I follow. I think about things I would like to talk about. It just somehow doesn’t happen. I think part of it is because the next entry, ideally would be a Fiction Update, but I haven’t made any progress, so there’s no point to that. Instead, I’ll blather on about random stuff.

Went to the Alameda County Fair on the Fourth of July.

I love the fair, even though I hate amusement parks (and one of the biggest draws of the fair for some people is all the carnival rides). I love seeing the diversity of the visitors (well, at least out here), the interesting booths, the warm weather, the live music (county fair karaoke FTW!), it’s all just wonderful. Not a huge fan of the farm animal displays, but…

On to today. I have a like-hate relationship with big chain mega bookstores like Borders and Barnes and Noble. For one, I love privately owned independent bookstores and like to support small business owners like that. You find really interesting things on the shelves of an indie bookstore– at Borders, all you’ve got are the big bestsellers. No niche genres, no out-of-print books, no obscure, hard-to-find titles, no local or small-time authors. Mega bookstores are just kind of soulless. If I had more of a choice, I wouldn’t shop at Borders for everything. Maybe just periodicals. Unfortunately, the nearest private bookstore had an owner who was just… hrm. Let me explain.

It was a hole in the wall. Dark, cool. A bookstore that could fit in the palm of the main library’s hand, so to speak. The labyrinthine rows of shelves reached for the ceiling. The whole place smelled like the public library, but older and dustier– if that’s possible. It was perfect. I visited twice, back in the days when I lived with my sister and walked home from campus. The first time, the bookstore owner, a tall, thin woman brown-haired woman, didn’t greet me when I walked in smiling.

She stared. She eyed me as I browsed. She never verbally acknowledged me in any way, not when I walked in, not when I left. Yet she engaged heartily in casual banter with other patrons, at least a few of whom I assumed were regulars. Still, that’s no reason for iciness towards a newcomer. I’m not someone who takes bringing race into matters lightly, but I honestly think she had negative perceptions of me because of that. I had two options. 1) Continue frequenting the small store, braving her coldness in order to disprove all her negative assumptions about me, and have a nice bookstore to frequent. 2) Stop attending a store at which I am not welcome. I chose the latter, obviously. Why give her any money?

The second reason the whenever I walk into a bookstore, the nearest Borders in my case, I always… always… walk out with something. I don’t understand it. I can’t restrain myself. A trip to Borders almost always means spending money I shouldn’t necessarily be spending. Take for example my latest find: The Ultimate Book Of Vegan Cooking.

I’m almost positive that this book doesn’t contain any information I don’t already know. I’ve been vegan for a little while now, and was veg before that. But how could I resist? Look at that thing. It seduces you with its huge, full-color photos and cheapest-vegan-cookbook-EVAR price of six dollars. Veganomicon is thirty dollars off the shelf– thus, why I don’t own a copy of Veganomicon (yet). The book I bought today isn’t as thick, and probably not as useful, but full color photos, for six dollars? Okay!

That’s Borders for you. They have a huge “Bargain Books” section filled with relatively cheap stuff. Four bucks, five bucks, six bucks. It’s typically full of how-to books, inexpensive coffee-table books, cheap kits (like a sushi kit that comes with a bamboo rolling mat, chopsticks, etc.), and imports like this one. I don’t quite get how that works, because usually stuff from other countries is more expensive, but I never claimed to be an economic wonder kid. I assume these books are Borders exclusive, in this country anyway.

This new book, printed by Hermes House publishing, is from London. I will admit, that’s part of the draw for me. I love books from the UK for some reason. Something about the clean design, the use of Helvetica or Arial font, the slightly different language (e.g. “sultanas” rather than “golden raisins”), and the different measurement units. My first vegetarian cookbook ever was a tiny spiral-bound thing called Cookshelf Vegetarian, and it served me quite well. I bought it out of pure, desperate need; I was new to cooking for myself regularly in general, and didn’t know what recipes other than my mom’s to begin with. The recipes were simple but helpful, and the pictures were gorgeous. I’ll be honest, I regularly sit down with cookbooks and just look at the pictures.

After Cookshelf, I bought another cookbook from the bargain section at Stonestown Borders, purely on a whim. It’s called Vegetarian Cooking and Vegetable Classics.

Interestingly, it was published by Hermes House as well. Unfortunately, it’s not exactly as stellar an example of vegetarian cookbooks; it has a chapter called “Virtually Vegetarian”, which includes recipes with fish and other seafood.

I kid you not.


The intro below says, “For all those demi-vegetarians who just cannot resist fish and seafood, here is a selection of starter and main-course dishes that combine unusual vegetables and herbs with fish in nutritious and flavoursome ways.”

Seriously? “Cannot resist”? Really? And yeah, that’s a fish filet in the photo behind the box.

Whose idea was it to publish a vegetarian cookbook with an entire chapter on fish and seafood? I understand that they’re trying to appeal to pescatarians. That’s fine, but that’s not vegetarianism. It has no place in a vegetarian cookbook, especially considering the fact that many if not most vegetarians are so for ethical reasons, and so the idea of not “resisting” is out of the question. If pescatarians want to learn recipes with fish in them, there are countless omni-centric cookbooks for them to choose from. Why pick a vegetarian cookbook for such an outlet? It defeats the purpose of the book. One picks up a vegetarian cookbook to get away from flesh. By that logic, I guess the vegan book I picked up has a chapter on eggs and dairy called “Pseudo Vegan”– because some vegans “cannot resist” omelettes and cheese. Makes no sense. Nice work there Hermes House, -1 for you. Now I’ve learned to look through a book thoroughly before purchasing.

Something scary happened to me on my way back home. I was at a red light, and I was turning right. I paused, and prepared to make a right turn on red, which is legal after a stop, right? Right. So I look to my right. Three lanes, all clear. Left? Three lanes, all clear. I also assumed that the light would change soon, and that the people heading straight (in the direction I was coming from) would soon have a green light, thus making my turn completely clear and care-free.

Then I made an error in judgment. There were no cars coming from the direction that had the right of way, so I assumed I’d have enough time to cross all three lanes of traffic during my right turn, and wind up in the far left lane.


All of a sudden I see a Honda Accord off behind me and to my left in my peripheral vision, just clearing the intersection. It was careening towards me, and technically, it had the right of way.

Oh crap. Oh crap, oh crap, oh crap, I thought midway through my turn, still in the middle of the three lane road. I gunned it and accelerated so fast I thought I’d hit the concrete road divider I was heading toward.

I’ve gotten too lax behind the wheel, and I think part of it is because breaking rules is part of what I deem “aggressive/defensive driving”. I know there’s no logic behind that, but it’s true. In person, I’m not a confrontational person. I don’t speak loudly, (though that’s partly a physical thing– I just have a soft voice) and I always try to maintain a certain degree of calm courtesy with others. So I think people don’t always take people like me seriously when they first meet me, or actively try to take advantage of people like me. I feel like behind the wheel, I can’t afford to be the person who’s not driving defensively and/or aggressively.

But I’m beginning to see advantage to the paranoid driver I was when I first started. Being constantly on-edge means I’m less likely to put myself in a situation where I could get knocked around by some other car, like I did today. That is all. No more shortcut-driving, or whatever I’ll call my current state. Just plain, simple careful driving.

That’s all, I guess, for this massive beast of a post. Good day all.

P.S. Yeah, I know about the bad Paint job on those pics, esp. the first one. I’m working on a PC today, so *shrug*.


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