Boss Up with Bevin Your dream life is at the end of your comfort zone

2012-02-10

Guest Post: How I Learned to Eat Greens by Blyth

Filed under: Fat Femme Foodie,Guest Post — Tags: , , , , , , , — Bevin @ 11:55 am

One of the benefits of living with a good friend is that sometimes I come home from work and through no effort of my own my pals are hanging around in my kitchen. Wednesday night I had the most amazing experience with Heather, where she popped out a pile of bok choy and we sauteed it up. I have never eaten bok choy (or cooked it) to my knowledge and she taught me how to make it. It was amazing! Great food for wild ponies like us.

The experience of learning how to make the bok choy from one of my close friends reminded me of an amazing piece I had read just that very day. I related to it from a very deep level–raised by a single mom just barely above poverty level and often relying on fast and instant foods for lack of time, and growing up in a fat body. It is so honest, so beautiful and I am so grateful to Blyth for allowing me to share it with you below. I think food justice and healing our relationships with food starts when we are very honest about our her/his/theirstories and come together to discuss them. And when we share our resources and knowledge base to enjoy new and different ways of eating.

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This is the spread made by queer hands for Heather’s birthday party. The drink we called the “Punani Sunrise” which somehow had to do with my tendency to date/sleep with people from California. It is champagne, vodka, grapefruit juice, a squeeze of lime and some mint. Quite refreshing. Those pigs in a blanket were hand rolled by me and cooked in bacon fat.

How I Learned to Eat Greens
by Blyth

Most of my time in my mother’s house was spent eating something quickly over the sink, changing my clothes or maybe sleeping. From age 11 on I made it a point to be in a house with my mother as little as possible. To say I left home would imply that home was something steady. When the truth is that home had always been in transition, so it was not a place I could leave, it was something that traveled with me. Most nights I stayed with a friend or alone at my Grandparents. Andrea’s mother fed me more frequently then my own. Most of the time food was not expected anyway.

When I was in college I went home with my freshman year roommate for a holiday and embarrassed myself by starting to eat the lavish meal her mother prepared for us while I leaned against their kitchen cupboard. She looked at me with confusion, and maybe a little sadness, and said, “Would you like to sit at the table?”. It was the first time I noticed my inclination to eat standing. It ensured that there was little room for feigned intimacy and my ability to walk away was always close at hand.

Nobody taught me to eat. Nobody told me that people should share a table or chew slowly. Not that vegetables could come from somewhere besides a can or that bread could be made fresh. I was 15 when I walked into a friends kitchen and saw a pot of potatoes boiling on the stove. I asked her what she was making and her response shocked me, mashed potatoes. It never occurred to me that mashed potatoes could be made from anything besides pale flakes in a brown box. I remember the surprise registering in every limb of me and the humiliation of not thinking of that sooner.

I grew up working class. We went to pick up our welfare check and food stamps on the first of each month. Food stamps back when they still came in small booklets of play money. Some booklets were worth $10, some $20, some maybe even $50. And each booklet had an assortment of $5 or $1 ‘bills’ inside it. Though really I only remember the $1 bills. The ones that always tore too noisily from the binding at the end of the month when you were searching desolated packets for just 10 measly slips of paper. There was no way to be quiet or quick about it. And you weren’t allowed to rip them out ahead of time because they wanted to make sure you weren’t selling them or giving them away. They had to be torn from the packet in front of the cashier, which also meant in front of everybody else in your small Ohio town.

Shame and eating for a poor fat girl is a layered thing. There was the shame of being hungry, of feeling watched every time I put something to my mouth. And there was also the shame that had to be endured just to get the food in the first place. People make a lot of assumptions about poor folks on welfare. Like we’re all just taking a vacation on the system. Somehow my large body seemed to prove that point. So all of a sudden I was not just deciding on food for my ten year old self, I was also trying to guess at what would please every tax payer around me so that they wouldn’t think I was ungrateful. So I could earn the right to eat at all.

My eating and access to food seemed to always be negated by my weight. Even though I ate much less than anyone I knew and much less frequently. In reality we rarely if ever had the food we needed throughout the month. Most of the times because the food stamps ran out, but some of the times because neither my mother or I could face going to the grocery store to buy any.

When we did have food we ate Hamburger Helper, Tuna Helper if it was a special occasion, shit-on-a-shingle (which is ground beef, salt, and flour over a slice of white bread), pasta with Prego sauce, discount cereal and whatever my Mom happened to bring home from the deli counter she worked at. Vegetables were canned corn or green beans. Every now and then someone would decide that we should eat healthier and frozen broccoli would get thrown into the mix for a while. Of course these meals always changed depending on where we were in the month and whether we could actually buy food at all.

After lots of work/saving/borrowing/ass-kissing, I left for college when I was 17. And when I got there I found I could camouflage my broke roots with politics. All of a sudden I wasn’t poor, I was anti-capitalist. I learned where to dumpster dive for food and got most of my toiletries from the trash at the CVS where I worked. Any extra food I got was from the $1 store or purchased for me by a friend with too many points on their college meal plan. And I didn’t stand out because my friends (who I was shocked to learn weren’t actually broke) were digging for dumpstered donuts right along side me. All of a sudden this was a value system. It was something to be proud of.

In my junior year of college I started dating a woman. It was my first queer relationship and I was so into her I could hardly stand it. She was sexy and nerdy and political. She grew up in Connecticut with parents who were still together, who loved her dearly, and who had taught her the importance of balanced meals. In an effort to woo her I invited her over to my place for dinner. Angel hair pasta from the dollar store, flavored with a dash of vegetable oil and a heavy pour of Adobo seasoning. It was classy. Nothing came from a trash can, it was angel hair pasta instead of regular old spaghetti, and I might have even stolen some of my housemates olive oil to use instead of vegetable. She wasn’t impressed, though she never told me that. She asked me later if I ate like that all the time. I told her no, sometimes it’s not so fancy. I remember that not being the answer she expected. We talked in length about food. Where we got it, what we learned about it, what we liked about it. She told me she wanted to be a farmer and was fascinated by nutrition. And I don’t remember feeling ashamed. Which is really a credit to her and how she framed things.

She was good at slipping things underneath the radar. She once asked if she could make me my lunch, since she was concerned that I didn’t eat frequently enough. I told her she was sweet to worry but I could feed myself. She tried to argue the point but my pride ballooned bigger and bigger. However, over the next few months it happened more and more frequently that her quest to try and cook a new vegetable left her with way too much food. And of course she needed my help eating it cause her fridge was too small for storage and she didn’t want it to go to waste. So I would cross the campus from class and sit down to a lunch of brown rice, sweet potatoes and kale. Had I not been so deeply infatuated with her I probably would have never put any of it in my mouth. As it was, I smothered nearly everything in ketchup until she banned it all together. She told me I could only put it on potato products like french fries or tater tots and she rolled her eyes at me when I pointed out that sweet potatoes were actually in the potato family.

These lunches were her way of feeding me, nourishing me, and side stepping my ego which was wrapped in a desperate need to fend for myself. She taught me how to boil rice and what vinegars tasted good. She introduced me to leafy greens and showed me how to let a vegetables flavor shine through instead of being smashed by seasoning. She sauteed chard, reminded me to drink water and managed to make squash a dessert. She would casually comment about how inexpensive rice and beans were and how kale was only 79cents a bunch. She set a table for us and I ate those meals seated, plates spread out on a small dorm room table. Of course I knew what she was doing, though my pride and perhaps my shock wouldn’t let me say anything at the time. But she was teaching me how to eat. How to receive love. She was showing me what it was like to be cared for. It was overwhelming. And so desperately simple.

Now, years later, I live in San Francisco and find myself among many others who have the privilege of choosing their food. At the moment I’m a lapsed vegan who does her best to avoid the gluten and cheese that wreak havoc on her body. I eat remarkably slowly. It is something friends and lovers comment on, though I hardly notice it. The perfect bite has become a prayer, a gesture of gratitude. It is a reminder to separate shame and sustenance. It is a reminder to appreciate not only the food on my fork but also the space and safety required to enjoy it.

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Blyth is a babe. Read her blog!

2010-02-27

Femme Heartshare Brunch

We came up with the idea of having a Femme Heartshare Brunch for Femme Family last summer, and finally had our first one in early January. It was electrifying, emotional and left me with a ton to think about. Our topic that time was Femme Competition/Femme Mutual Aid and was facilitated by me and Damien as Co-Head Madams with assistance from Sophie, Madam of Strategy.

The format we took was to have a pot luck brunch, a no latecomers policy, and opened it to Self-identified Femmes and Femme Questioning folks. I highly recommend doing this in your town! We got some new people who hadn’t been to a Femme Family event before and it was really a heartwarming and great way to meet people and learn about ourselves and our identities.

Last weekend I had the good fortune to return to Minneapolis for the first time in a few years. My Brooklynite friend Lissa lives there now for an internship (she’s going to be a queer femme pastor!) and plotted to gather some of the rad Twin Cities Femmes together for a brunch at her place.

I am working on an episode of FemmeCast about Femmes and Body Hair so I suggested a roundtable discussion.

What resulted was this amazing spread of food and some of the greatest conversation and heartsharing I’ve had in awhile.

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Lissa, my hostess!

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As Jna walked in she said “Don’t judge me for the size of this bottle.” From a size queen, the only judgment about this bottle can be a good judgment.

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Femmes don’t fuck around about brunch!!

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Femmes also don’t fuck around about shoes.

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I had such a blast! After our discussion and food and copious coffee, I felt energized, enlightened, and had a deeper understanding of myself. Femme Heartshare brunches are my favorite way to do Femme community building.

Thanks Twin Cities Femme Mafia for your amazing hospitality, magic and warmth!!

At some point soon I’ll post links to the questions I used for Body Hair, and I know I have the outline for the Femme Competition/Femme Mutual Aid brunch in the bottom of an old purse but I can’t find it. I’ll share it on the Femme Family website when it surfaces!

2009-12-07

No Bacon Left Behind

On October 11, 2009, I competed for the title of Miss Lez 2009. The pageant, founded by the legendary Murray Hill, is “a wildly provocative, insane, jaw-dropping alternative beauty pageant for queer womyn that blows the lid off of ‘gender representation’ and shines the spotlight on New York’s underground queer scene.” It was an honor to represent my favorite clothing store as Miss Re/Dress NYC. It was also really fun to use my art and my extensive wardrobe (I didn’t buy a single new outfit for the pageant) to express myself in this unusual performance art format.

Since the contest I have received numerous accolades for my performance and requests for the written version of my pageant platform. I don’t like to disappoint, and thus I present unto you, gentle readers, my pageant entry.

PLATFORM:

Each contestant was asked to come out on stage and deliver a short platform after showing off their outfit to the audience. My platform was well-rehearsed and proceeded as follows:

“My name is Bevin Branlandingham. My platform is No Bacon Left Behind. Bacon, like queers, comes in a myriad of forms. You have your standard pork bacon, middle of the road turkey bacon, and bacon from that magical Vegan paradise known as Morningstar Farms. Bacon is the symbol of our national queer meal, which is brunch, where we come together to nurse our hangovers as a community. If selected as Miss Lez 2009, I will ensure that No Bacon is Left Behind.”

It was my intention to be campy and to express my value for creating inclusive community.

I wore a satin Marilyn Monroe Dress with a bacon applique and a small bacon hair bling.

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(Last photo by Syd London)

SWIMSUIT

Swimsuit was the most nerve wracking part of the competition for me and Contestant #2 (we discussed this backstage), Becca Blackwell. I was coached by World Famous *BOB*, who gave me her official endorsement for Miss Lez. Having a schtick made it much easier to be on stage in a bathing suit.

I came out in a red cover up with sparkly eyelash fur that looks great under stage lights. During the first pass I took it off to reveal my swimsuit, a black with white polka dots one piece halter with red piping.
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First photo by Syd London

*BOB* said I should make sure I have matching cunty heels and purse. I chose a black patent leather clutch with black and white polka dot lip detailing from the Beth Ditto collection. I rolled deep in the Queer Fat Femme culture for my entry as Miss Re/Dress.

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As a seasoned burlesque performer, *BOB* told me that she believes that every woman on stage in a swimsuit should eat something. To tie everything into my platform, I reached into my clutch and pulled out a piece of very crispy (and very tasty) bacon, and ate it on stage. The crowd went wild.

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INTERVIEW

Backstage before the pageant I was practicing questions with my team of pageant moms, the Baconettes. I began every answer with “I’m glad you asked me that question, [insert name here]”. I learned a lot of good pageant tricks from watching Toddlers & Tiaras and Drop Dead Gorgeous. I changed again, this time into a red cotton wrap dress. I figured if I flubbed my question at least my cleavage would be a distraction.

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Photo by Syd London

Linda Simpson was the judge who gave me my question. She asked me if selected Miss Lez, if I would pose nude. I was genuinely glad she asked me that question!

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I answered that I was already planning to pose nude for Fat Bottom Boudoir and that I was using those images for my forthcoming Fat and Queer Erotica Anthology. The working title is “Better than Cupcakes: Queer Fat Femmes Kiss and Tell” and that the idea was born because I was tired of not seeing any genuine body or gender diversity on the covers of all of the standard Lesbian erotica anthologies.

I’ll also have you know that I have completed my promise and posed nude for the very first time in front of Molly’s camera. Whether I’ll publish the finished work will be determined when I see the proofs.

TALENT

I had an interesting time determining what my talent should be. I do a lot of performance, comedy, humorious essays, burlesque, drag kinging… However, I am most excited about Femmeceeing. So I did a short game show on stage. I narrated it by telling the audience that I was multi-talented, and my first talent was Femmeceeing. I then introduced my Baconettes.

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Photo by Syd London

My outfit was a red wiggle dress and my very favorite boots in the whole world, red patent leather with white leather gussets. (I had them custom made from a pair of boots I got on ebay, total cost was about $60 for the shoemaker and the boots together.)

I then told the audience that a talent of mine was being surrounded by hot femmes, which is true.

The Baconettes were Black Amethyst, Lola Dean and AfroTitty. All fresh bottoms on the burlesque scene. I really couldn’t have held it together as well as I did backstage without their femmetourage support!

Each held a box with a number on it. I had a bacon spinner in my hands made by my drag dad Johnny Kingpin, who also made the bacon pieces worn in my hair, on my clothes and on each of the Baconettes.

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I invited up an audience member to spin the wheel to tell their fortune.

It landed on Box 2 and the corresponding Baconette (Lola Dean) approached with the box. She opened it to reveal to the audience a box full of red velvet cupcakes with cream cheese icing. I made those from scratch (another talent).

I then took one of the cupcakes and put it in my cleavage for Anne (I mean, my totally random audience member) to eat. The crowd went wild!

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Photo by Syd London

I sent Anne back into the audience with a box of cupcakes for her to share with her section of the crowd.

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Photo by Syd London

Murray Hill had told us before the pageant that there were no rules and we were allowed to bribe the judges. I sent the remaining two Baconettes over to give them some cupcakes and cleavage.

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I also bribed Murray with a polyester tie (one of his passions) from Re/Dress.
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EVENING WEAR

The last section was evening wear. I went with another red dress, this one a floor length lingerie dress with a sheer back for the reveal aspect. I also upgraded my bacon hair bling to a bigger hairpiece.

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Photo by Syd London

The majority of my evening was spent backstage. It is a really fast paced show and we had 5 outfit changes. Since I was contestant #1, I never got to go outside the stage door to see what the other contestants did, but I hear everyone was absolutely fabulous. It was really fun to get to know the other performers and hang out backstage.
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Fw:The lineup
L-R: Miss Butch Mamas: KS Stevens, Miss This is Burlesque: Helen Pontani, Miss Choice Cunts: Sarah Jenny, Mx. That’s My Jam: Becca Blackwell, and me, Miss Re/Dress: Bevin Branlandingham.

After a long intermission, the judges’ results were announced.
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I was second runner up. That means if Miss Lez (Miss Butch Mamas) or the first runner up are unable or unwilling to fulfill their duties as Miss Lez, I will totally step in. My goal for competing was not to win, though, it was to be unforgettable. Considering all of the press for the show mentioned my platform, I think I did just that.

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Photo by Syd London

I was consoled by the fact that everyone performed really well, and apparently all of the contestants’ scores were apart by just one point.

Brian, my interview coach and Gay Boy BFF has charged me with becoming the Clay Aiken of Miss Lez.

My whole No Bacon Left Behind platform is really all about inclusivity and creating space in the queer community for the myriad of forms that queer comes in–just like bacon manifests in all different forms on our brunch tables. Undeterred by my loss, I will carry on my mission as Miss Re/Dress NYC. I styled a photo booth at a Brooklyn queer dance party (That’s My Jam), encouraging people to get flamboyant and do a little hipster cross-dressing. And this week I am producing Maxi Craft, a free community craft fair, giving many queer vendors the opportunity to sell their stuff. I’ll continue to do more community building using the title of Miss Re/Dress, and expressing my love for bacon every chance I get.

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In the That’s My Jam Photobooth by Bloodhound Photography

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