#356: The Peanut Butter

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Peanut butter is fantastic. It’s gooey and tasty and has all the right types of flavors in it. It makes a great companion in smoothies, for example in the AB&J smoothie that Alex makes from time to time, and it complements the other flavors in it so well. I love all the types of peanut butter RX bars that we get, whether it’s just the basic peanut butter bar, the peanut butter and berries bar, the peanut butter and chocolate bar, or more. There’s so much peanut butter out there to appreciate.

For lunch every day, I eat apples with peanut butter on them. It’s a nice bit of protein with some fruit in the middle of the day to get me energized again, and it’s dependable. It has a low chance of being unable to wow me. Even though it’s pretty basic and it’s always there, I still love eating it, is what I mean. Sometimes it’s hard to find a dependable staple like that.

I sometimes wonder what life would have been like if I went to lunch with everyone in the same lunch room and talked with them normally about things. Off-topic, I know, but the thoughts just entered my mind. Would I have stayed at my old teaching job?

As you can tell, I’m continuing my trend of talking about small things at large, by devoting whole blog posts to their discussion. Today, I feel especially motivated to churn out as many blogs as possible about small things, as a way of filling up my backlog so I don’t have to worry about writing them as much during the hectic and ridiculous week I have planned ahead. Perhaps I’ll share more about that on the next blog post. (Spoiler alert: I did, it’s a two-parter and it’s going up on Thursday and Friday to end the week with.)

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#345: The Lunch

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For the past year, I’ve had a sandwich, pretzels, and apples with peanut butter for lunch. It’s proven to be a reliable staple, and I don’t deviate from it, pretty much ever. I’m the kind of person who likes to stick to one plan with some basic expectations that it will be staying the same throughout time, without having to worry about finding a new meal the next day. I like keeping things the same, and I like when things stay the same for me.

Lunch fills that void for me, although sometimes I go out for lunch to some local places because I don’t really feel like my lunch is fulfilling enough. That’s a contradiction, isn’t it? That I love when my lunch stays the same, but I don’t love having to deal with the same lunch over and over again. I like change and diversity of options, but also, I don’t like when I have too many options. That limits the amount of freedom I feel over a given situation. It’s the paradox of having too many options, where it feels suffocating. As a teacher, we learn about this paradox when giving students options for projects or essays. If you inundate students with options to the point where they feel like they can’t choose from what they’ve been given, then you run the risk of them feeling overwhelmed by it all and eventually choosing nothing. That runs counter to everything you wanted from them in the first place. You end up having to give the student an option they probably don’t want, which defeats the purpose of what you were doing by giving them options.

In short, this is basically what it’s like when I eat lunch. Sometimes I like varied lunches, sometimes I don’t. It all depends.

#342: The Zam

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Zzaam, as I think it’s called, is a Korean BBQ place in Hamden that is absolutely fantastic. It’s like Subway or Chipotle but for Korean BBQ, and the options are plentiful and tasty. I usually get the Korean tacos while I’m there, filled with spicy chicken, pork, and beef. Alex got a kimchi burrito last time, even though it goes against her diet, because we just love zzaam so much and don’t get the chance to eat there often. It’s one of the few downsides to living in Stamford. There are some great Korean BBQ places around us, it’s just they don’t have the same ease of access and convenience that this one has. Nothing else around us has the same Chipote-like fast convenience and affordability.

One time, Alex and I went to a Korean BBQ place around us and it was super fancy. Even though we both weren’t exactly dressed for the occasion, it still was a great experience. I think back to it whenever we get Korean. There’s also the place we went to whose name I can’t remember. It was in the same town as the massage place we used to go to more regularly, when it was in its first location. I think back to that whenever we go to get a massage, how great the food was right nearby. When your back is totally aligned and perfected, and you get to sit down with some spicy beef. What’s a better experience than that?

Hopefully, by writing this blog post, I’ve convinced Alex (who reads this blog) to go to Korean BBQ again with me. It would be excellent, and I know she won’t take too much convincing because she loves it too. It’s just a matter of time, but hopefully it’s coming sooner than later.

#335: The Pepper

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Sometimes I like to eat peppers. Not like, raw peppers but some green peppers on my sandwich can go a really long way towards improving the flavor profile. (Did I just use the term flavor profile unironically? I’ve never done that before…) Peppers are a fantastic addition to a sandwich, along with jalapenos, to boost its spicy, crunchy taste. Realistically, I don’t eat peppers that often, and the last time I had one was probably the last time I went to Subway or the last time I ate stuffed peppers for dinner, whichever comes first. My taste in peppers comes mostly from my taste in spicy foods in general. I just love anything that has a buffalo scent to it. It’s how I’ve been introduced to a lot of foods for the first time, through buffalo or hot variants of them. For a long time, I’ve been kind of a picky eater, so to try a hamburger for the first time in years, for example, was huge. I remember my cousins bought hot sauce from their local Trader Joe’s for me because they knew I loved it. It was very sweet of them.

I love peppers mostly for the heat they bring to a meal, but in reality I do also enjoy the other aspects of them. The crunch when you bite in, how natural and juicy it tastes. It’s unlike the other fruits in that I wouldn’t eat it alone, but I’m fine eating it with other things as an addition, as I talked about earlier in this. Peppers allow for interesting combinations of flavors in foods that might need the addition.

Did I make you hungry all of a sudden? Sorry about that, that wasn’t exactly my intent in writing this. I just wanted to discuss a topic I’ve never really talked much about before!

#299: The Kombucha

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I love Kevita’s Master Brew Kombucha. I could drink it pretty much every day. The flavor is fizzy and tart, sometimes bitter, but more often than not it tastes great. It depends on which brand you buy from and which flavor you buy from that brand, but I think I’ve found the jackpot with Kevita. Unfortunately, their kombuchas have added sugars, so they’re not great for when I’m dieting, but right now, I feel great drinking these.

When I used to be a full-time teacher, I would take bottles of the kombucha into work with me and sometimes leave them around my desk. Students would ask me about them and say how they love kombucha as well, though I never asked what kind they drank. I probably could’ve solicited great feedback from them if I tried to. I still have memories of drinking it during class, while students were writing their midterm exams, and enjoying the energizing feeling. I’ve been bringing it to work more frequently, too, as a way of keeping me energized during lunchtime. I need that extra kick to get my day moving, when coffee isn’t enough to do the trick on its own.

Kombucha, and all of its fizzy probiotics inside, is fantastic at helping my stomach digest food. Sometimes I have trouble digesting, for whatever reason, and I need something to fill up the acidic waste that is my stomach. Kombucha fills that void well.

Of course, kombucha is technically fermented. One of my friends and I have been really interested in this new brew called Kombrewcha. Though I’m not much of a drinker, I still love this one. It’s tangy, tasty, and all kinds of good. I might need to pick some more up this weekend to make sure we don’t run out any time soon.

#233: The Jerky

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Here’s a chicken. You know what this is about.

Time to discuss one of my absolute favorite snacks, one that I’m currently munching on while I type: jerky. Whether it’s beef jerky, turkey jerky, salmon jerky, whatever is out there, I’ll probably eat it. Preferably without much sugar used, though I know that’s asking a lot sometimes. My biggest pet peeve when it comes to jerky is the amount of sucralose or excess, unneeded sugars sprinkled all over the dried meat to give it a sweeter taste. It doesn’t need that! It tastes perfectly great on its own, I’ll have you know! Seriously, I could just eat dried meat without any added shit whenever and wherever. It’s not difficult to imagine what that would be like, bringing some jerky to school with me or on the way to work. It’s a great morning, afternoon, and evening snack; no matter the time of the day, chow down on some tasty jerky without regret. That’s how I do it.

When it comes to memories of jerky, I have a distinct memory of driving to Trader Joe’s with Alex while we were still in Boston, picking up some salmon jerky, and leaving it in my backpack for months after we got back from there. I still had the salmon jerky in my backpack when I went to work one day, and after feeling especially busy and tired and famished, I ate it. It didn’t taste bad at all. In fact, I think it tasted good enough that I would recommend having it again. It was just that good.

Jerky, no matter what shape or size it comes in, is always special to me. So much protein, so much tasty goodness. Nothing really more to say about it than what I’ve already mentioned, I guess.

#214: The Fish Tale

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Lenny & Joe’s Fish Tale, especially the specific restaurant in New Haven, has a special place in my heart. It’s special for resembling a spot where my family goes to enjoy cheap seafood, but it’s also special for being a spot where my grandfather liked to go to before he passed away. The restaurant wasn’t open for long before he passed away, but we managed to go a few times before then, and every time we went, he would ask to go back. It became kind of an expected part of the day; when he had an idea to go somewhere for lunch together, it was usually Lenny & Joe’s. I would order the fish and chips or the fried clam strips, and I forget what he typically ordered but I’m sure it was good.

When I think back to those years of my life, images of the restaurant as it used to look, the tables we used to sit at, the fried calamari appetizers we ordered and ate together, I feel happy and a bit sad at the same time. Sad because it’s passed and won’t be coming back, but happy that I was able to share a few memorable moments with someone I love before he passed away. I know it feels morbid to mention death on here, but I think it’s necessary to fully understand the gravity of this emotional place for us. I know it’s a chain restaurant, with multiple copies of it across Connecticut, but it’s still recognizable to my family for this reason.

Recently, I went back to Lenny & Joe’s with my mom, grandma, sister, and girlfriend. We had a good dinner together, I ordered lobster mac n cheese and Alex ordered the lobster roll. It was a lobster-palooza. The mac n cheese wasn’t as good as it is at Chowder Pot, so that was a small disappointment, but it was still delicious and worth getting. Just didn’t compare to another restaurant’s offering of the same dish. We sat a few tables away from the table we sat at the last time we took my grandpa to this place, and my mom pointed it out for us. Instantly, I remembered sitting there, where I sat, what chair I sat in, everything. I mean, times have definitely changed in the years since then; it’s highly possible they got new chairs or tables, and rearranged everything in ways that make it completely unrecognizable from what it looked like five or six years ago, but to us, it’s still the same restaurant it was then. It’s special to us.

#175: The Grocery Store

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Today, I’m going to talk about one of my favorite grocery stores in the world, and perhaps one of the best and most consistently good spots in Stamford in general.

When Alex and I first started exploring the Boston-Quincy area a few years ago, one of the first places we went to was a Trader Joe’s, about 20 minutes away from her apartment. You had to cross a long bridge to get there, and the parking lot was vast and open, unlike the lot for Stamford’s Trader Joe’s store. There also wasn’t usually a line to get in. On the other hand, though, there wasn’t a Robek’s next door to this one. We would pick up turkey bacon and ghost pepper chips and dried mango slices to take home with us, and we started to expect those things like they were normal, everyday items. Even now, when we go to Trader Joe’s in Stamford, we still pick up the same items that we did when we were in Boston, except for the mango slices. We don’t eat those any more, at least not as much. Nowadays, we make occasional trips to Trader Joe’s to pick up whatever items we missed from Fairway. Trader Joe’s has the best name-brand items around, so it’s worth shopping there just to pick up the stuff you wish they had elsewhere.

Sometimes, small things like that stick with you, and the small things begin to resemble larger ideas. I remember when my grandma, sister, and I spent a week in California with our extended family, and during a grocery trip to Trader Joe’s, they bought me a buffalo chicken wrap. I ate it cold. Their house didn’t have much in terms of good food, so I was desperately hungry for something to sink my teeth into.

#172: The Smoothie Place

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Today, I’m going to discuss Robek’s smoothies, one of my favorite spots in all of Stamford. It’s truly inspired a lot for Alex and I, and without it, I’m not sure what our dinners would look like nowadays. They’d certainly be different from the usual.

Have I already talked about this place before? I feel like I have… a part of me is convinced that this is a repeat blog post, but Alex insists it isn’t. Oh well, time to talk about it any way.

Robek’s is a great smoothie place in Stamford, centered around the Bed Bath & Beyond/Staples plaza over on Summer Street. There’s ample parking all over the place, and it’s right next to the place where Alex got her eyebrows done once. It’s also next to a Gamestop, where I can get Magic: the Gathering cards. The options are limitless here!

Robek’s has inspired our smoothie fascination. When Alex got a smoothie blender, we immediately knew we had to try and recreate as many good Robek’s smoothies as we could. And for the most part, we’ve been able to successfully replicate them. The Mango Turmeric Madness, my personal favorite, has been recreated successfully in our own kitchen, and being able to have it for dinner or around dinner every night has aided in my healthy eating habits.

One time, while coming home from Robek’s smoothies, Alex and I were standing in the elevator going up to floor six when another guy walked in, saw our smoothies, and immediately knew they were from Robek’s. He commented on them and smiled. It was a nice moment that I still remember, considering it solidified to me that Robek’s isn’t just a random place that we discovered; it’s a real hot spot in Stamford that lots of people know about and enjoy.

#128: The Contigo

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Speaking of the simple joys of life, I’d like to talk a little bit about Contigo, the brand that’s single-handedly saved my coffee-drinking habit and made me a coffee-drinking addict instead.

Contigo is wonderful, known primarily for its steel canteens and water bottles that hold liquids for incredible lengths of time without getting too lukewarm. It literally lasts for about 8 hours, which helps make sure it stays completely hot and worthwhile for drinking. The Contigo that I’m currently drinking out of is almost a foot tall, and it carries enough coffee to keep me hydrated (or, technically, not hydrated) throughout the work day. I can sip on my coffee throughout the morning and not have to worry about running out until the afternoon, when I pop in one of my Keurig cups and refill my coffee to the top.

Speaking of Keurig, it’s been an absolute joy to have the Keurig cups with me at work. It means that I don’t have to worry about ever, ever running out of coffee throughout the day; I am a machine powered exclusively by hyper-caffeinated energy and adrenaline during the day.

And guess what? I’m not exaggerating even a little bit. Not a half-hour goes by without my lips touching some caffeinated beverage. I have completely transformed from a coffee noob to an absolute coffee fiend. Work is incomplete without my Contigo coffee mug. I need it in order to survive the day, and sometimes it’s the only thing keeping me, let’s say, grounded.

Shout outs to Alex who regularly prepares coffee for me in the morning, knowing fully well that she has an exhausting day of work ahead but still does it for me. She’s a wonderful, amazing person, and I can already picture the smile on her face as she’s reading this!