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July 2019

Welcome to the latest installment of my digital perzine!
This issue contains words about meat.

“The only real stumbling block is fear of failure.
In cooking you've got to have a what-the-hell attitude.”
- Julia Child

On Cooking Danish Meatballs.

I’ve started eating meat again. With all the health/food/diets these days it’s not such a big deal, but being vegetarian had been a core part of my identity for a long time. I was the girl strolling the high school halls with a PETA t-shirt and adding the “EATING ANIMALS” stickers to our own town’s STOP signs. A few years later I was thrilled when some bloke on Tinder said, “Oh, you’re a vegetarian? All the cute ones are.” Omitting animals from my diet displayed to others that I was compassionate, empathetic, socially conscious and adorable.

But now I eat them. 

Because I don’t want to take my iron pills. 

I was first diagnosed with anemia at 21 and didn’t do anything about it. Five years later, a nurse practitioner pointed out that my anemia and major depressive disorder had the same symptoms. This was the first time I honestly considered the impact my diet was having on my life. If I wanted to manage my mental illness holistically and not take my sertraline, I needed to pump the iron. So, three times a day I swallowed 190 mg of ferrous sulfate and 500 mg of vitamin C, suitable for vegetarians and similar to digesting shrapnel. 

As of January 2019, it’d been years of my stomach feeling like gravel. I was over it. I quit the pills and after a week I was lying in bed too weak to hold a book upright. All creativity drained from my life. Before I jumped to the conclusion that my depression had resurfaced, I re-evaluated my food choices. At 29, I was far from the zealous teenager I had been. My art was more important than the animals. This sacrifice felt silly. To quote Uglúk from The Two Towers, “Looks like meat’s back on the menu, boys!”

All this is a long-winded way of explaining how I found myself at 3 p.m. on a Saturday holding a pound of raw, ground pork. 

If I was going to eat meat, I had to learn to cook it. It would be too easy to resort to pre-packaged products and allow line cooks to convert these creatures into my new sources of protein and iron. Plus, I had spent the week before listening to an audiobook about happy Danish people, and it mentioned a traditional dish, Boller i Karry, meatballs in curry. This sparked something in me; here was an unseen benefit of eating meat, a chance to explore new culinary territory.


I put the pork in the fridge and started dicing onions, my least favourite kitchen chore. As an already emotional person, having an external stimulus make me cry is frustrating. Although I attempt to view my tears as natural, the same way that laughing is natural, I can’t help that I’ve been socialized to view certain emotions as negative. Thus, weeping in the kitchen hampers my mood. To make matters worse, our kitchen knives were incredibly dull, like slicing with a credit card. After about 20 minutes, I was in a cloud so dark that tension surged through my hands and they formed themselves into fists. But after all this, I was rewarded with a haphazard pile of fingernail-sized onion chunks to be used for dinner.


Pulling the pork from the fridge, I began mixing. As I added in the other ingredients, what formed before me was something that could only be described as a “meat batter.”  It clung to the bowl, the spoon, the counter when bits of it were flung free of their vessel. There was no noticeable smell but the pink gooey texture could have easily passed as the antagonist in a bad ‘80s horror flick. In my charged mood, my face curled with concern. I didn’t have much experience with meat but no cooking show had ever portrayed something as disturbing as this. Yet, I persevered. 


I used two tablespoons to pull the plops of pork and created an army of round, soft, pink orbs. Strands of white fat crowning a few of them, pieces of onion sticking out, or posing at the bottom as little feet, a smear of flour here, a bit of egg yolk there. But, they were meat and they were balls. I sighed with relief and began following the next instruction - heating a large pot of water. I was to deploy these globs into a steady boil and there they would transform into our meal.

The fire in my chest reignited - who had ever heard of boiling meat? Maybe hot dogs? But they are pre-cooked! So with hesitation I placed a single ball into the boil. I felt the wrinkles mark my forehead as I stared into the steam and watched it’s colour change from flamingo pink to concrete gray. It held. Twirled and turned, seemed overly moist perhaps, yet edible. 


With a bit of confidence, I added more balls. 


This was a mistake. Either because of the increase in volume of water, or because they bounced against each other, my meatballs began to disintegrate. They were dissolving into floating pieces of onion and bits of pale gray ground, an oil rising to the surface and hovering there, skewing my view of the chaos below. Meat soup.


As I looked at what was to be Saturday night’s dinner, I had the opening lines from that Yeats poem in my head:


“Turning and turning in the widening gyre

The falcon cannot hear the falconer;

Things fall apart; the centre cannot hold;

Mere anarchy is loosed upon the world,”


I turned the stove off and the sobs washed over me. I had wanted to do something nice, had wanted to try something new. But the result, disastrous. By this point it was close to 5:30, and my internal pressure to have our meal on the table by 6 added to the buzzing in my head of fear and failure. I considered retreat. Pictured the chicken shop ‘round the corner that I haven’t tasted since my pre-PETA days, with it’s red and white bucket dominating the airspace and it’s smell lingering for days. 


I am lucky that I have a partner who is not one for pity nor pep talks. He stood in the doorway of our tiny kitchen and after a bit of consoling said in a calm and affirming manner, “So, just fry them.” Then returned to his perch by the computer. 


I returned to the kitchen with a cool determination, pushed the soggy swill out of my way and filled the sink with dishes. I located our largest frying pan, set about heating oil.


As I began to brown and crisp the 20 or so remaining meatballs, a new wave of calm flowed over me. This felt good, seemed familiar. My confidence in the kitchen re-emerged and I reflected on this act of stepping outside my comfort zone. I was trying something new, doing something for the very first time, using my hands to bring about a thing that hadn’t existed before - my version of Danish meatballs. 


Following a new recipe wasn’t the bravest thing I’d ever done, but it was a small act of fearlessness. That fearlessness is a keystone of my creativity. The will to just try it out and see how it goes. A willingness to fuck up. (Even though it turned out disastrous and I wound up with meat soup.) For me, being an artist means being willing to make mistakes, to look the fool. I am sure I looked like a fool as I stood blubbering about dinner in that steam box of a kitchen. 


On that note, breaking down wasn’t a sign that I couldn’t hack it, it was a part of the process. Calling oneself a “crybaby” is incredibly trendy these days, so I’ll refrain from doing it. But being tearful has always been a way that I’ve managed feeling overwhelmed. I sob, get it out, dry my eyes and get back to it. It’s not the end, I don’t have to quit.


I also realized, as I was whisking curry powder into the sauce, that the final product pictured in my mind was never going to be replicated in real life. This needs to be accepted as fact. I don’t know what I was imagining when I was daydreaming about Boller i Karry, but I am sure I hadn’t pictured myself this sweaty with red, puffy eyes. The way an idea emerges into the world is a part of the artistic process, it’s an inherent part of the art making, letting your creation take its own form depending on the circumstances it was born into. The recipe said boiled, I ended up with fried. This is how my Danish meatballs were meant to be.


Our dinner ended up being okay, it wasn’t even the worst meal I’ve ever created, and as I set about washing the mountain of dishes the next morning, all I could do was laugh.


Devours - I feel very lucky to have caught this artist at a show in early June. I loved his music so much I bought a cassette tape and took it to the beach to bop the next day. Perfect tunes for dancing in that sweaty, summer sun.
Nestlé Boycott - In the first weeks of eating meat I was quick to jump to Stouffer's Skillet Sensations as a dinner option because I'm lazy. It was only after seeing a meme on reddit that I realized that they were a part of Nestlé. Save this list to your phone for when you go grocery shopping! 

I have a collage included in the inaugural issue of Mess Hall Journal.
You can purchase a copy here.

There are 3 copies of my debut zine, Strange and Mysterious Creatures, still available for sale at Likely General on Roncesvalles, in Toronto. If you're interested in supporting my work, this is a great way to do so.

Thanks to Cosette for her continuous support.

A public acknowledgement to Adrian for stomaching my rough drafts/meals. 


EA Douglas is an artist currently living in Vancouver. She spends her days drinking lots of coffee, writing, taking pictures, making art, reading, and looking after tiny humans... in about that order.

She recently deleted all of her IG pictures to start a fresh. You can check that out here - @ea.douglas.

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