Last week, I returned to Istanbul from a trip to the Republic of Georgia, a border run of sorts that turned out to be one of the least relaxing trips ever. I self-soothed with grains and a heavy dose of sci-fi.
I succumbed to the demon of gluten
Oh boy, did I fall off the no-grains wagon this past week. Now, I don’t really believe in all that lectin-leaky-gut-inflammation nonsense. I also don’t believe that grains impart a wild amount of nutritional value, compared with alternatives like quinoa or buckwheat. Take that food pyramid, I mean MyPlate!
I do believe that the forms in which I typically ingest grains, especially the glutinous ones, are very likely to mess with my blood sugar and make me fat. Black American women are very likely to be overweight and have obesity-related diseases, so this is kind of a big deal.
But, damn, are they yummy, though—especially the glutinous ones! I ate handmade noodles made by my partner with help from Chinese Cooking Demystified. They were delish! I ate Ramazan pide—a puffy bread topped with nigella and sesame seeds sold at local bakeries at this time of year—with butter, which is, no doubt, its own form of sacrilege.
I had a breakfast burrito wrap and reveled in the sheer ease of pulling a tortilla out of a bag and using it, instead of fucking around with collard greens or chard or lettuce leaves, which are never the right size or shape to make an actual burrito no matter what Pinterest would have you believe.
Worst of all, I made chocolate chip cookies with wheat flour, telling myself it was OK because I used the Turkish equivalent of einkorn wheat and used coconut sugar instead of white sugar. Alas, I’m still choosing to enshroudle myself in layers of self-delusion: I’ve switched back to raw vegan desserts, the “healthier” option despite approximately 5,698 calories and a million grams of fat per serving.
Culture clash is my favorite part of sci-fi
I was elated to discover that “The Expanse,” which I started a few years ago, was not canceled forever but moved to Amazon Prime. Sadly, I couldn’t remember anything about the first two seasons, so I’m rewatching them, with occasional breaks for one-off “Star Trek” episodes.
“The Expanse,” based on a series of books by James S. A. Corey, is a space opera with a lot of moving parts—and occasional anachronous scenes—that you need to keep track of to have any idea of what’s going on. I thought I could do this while knitting, but found it necessary to pay attention and look at the screen. Or, look up synopses for episodes and get those sweater sleeves done, yo.
I just tried to write a TL;DR for you of the show’s premise. I failed. All I can tell you that central to the plot are the precarious geopolitical (planetopolitical?) relationships between Mars, Earth, and the working-class Belters, who eke out existence on asteroids, moons, ships, and stations. This marginalized working class mines key resources in the Belt and makes relatively privileged planet-dwellers’ lives possible.
What I love most about “The Expanse” is how it creates and explores cultural distinctions through interpersonal relationships, language, fashion, and music. I adore the culture of the Belt, expressed through punky hair, those fresh Belta beats, and Lang Belta, a creole mash-up of Earthly tongues that feels more “alive,” says reviewer Kieran Docherty, than ancient and codified fictional languages like Klingon or Elvish.
The sort of anthropological representation of culture is actually the secret sauce to a lot of the shows and books I enjoy the most, from “Star Trek: The Next Generation” to dystopian classics like “Hunger Games” and “The Handmaid’s Tale” to “Sex and the City,” which, from a 2021 perspective, feels distinctly other-worldly and may actually be dystopian.