Writer’s Block

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S1: This ad free podcast is part of your slate plus membership. Lucky you. And. Hello, and welcome back to Big Mood, Little Mood, I’m your host, Danny Lavery, and with me in the studio this week is Folu Akinkuotu, the creator of Unsnackable, a newsletter about rare and inaccessible snacks around the world. Folu Welcome to the new show you’ve been. You and I have given advice before in a previous incarnation, but this is your first time on the new show and I’m so thrilled. Not only that you’re here, but listeners. I wish you could see like the tortoiseshell glasses, the incredible blazer coat and the way you have your your phone propped up. You look like you are the 1985 consummate businesswoman just being back. Got it.

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S2: I mean that that is a goal, you know, working working girl or something of that nature. But excuse me, this is

S1: the most high powered snack reviewer in the Tri-State area. Do you know who I am?

S2: There’s always things to aspire to, so maybe Quad State Area is not a thing. It could. Let’s make it with the good.

S1: I just love the idea now of you. Like leaving a convenience store? Allow Pretty Woman just like, Oh, you don’t know. You’ve just like, wronged the greatest snack reviewer of all time. And that’s true. Yeah, yeah. It’s so great to have you here. I am so looking forward to talking about this. Have you eaten anything good today?

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S2: Oh yeah. I had some Chinese honey butter potato sticks that look like fries, but they’re crunchy. So they’re like, fancy andy caps like hot fries, but like a little sweeter and a little thicker. So yeah, they were very good everywhere

S1: that you just said sounded so good. Not least the handicapped part, because I completely use like a it’s like a dagwood thing, right? He was like originally a comics character that later became associated with a foodstuff.

S2: I mean, I am now learning that. So of course, later today, I am going to fall into a deep Googling hall and find out all about that because I did not know that.

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S1: Yeah, he was like, it was like a British comic strip that I think was later expanded or like, licensed to become like a snack icon mascot, I guess.

S2: All right. Well, it’s incredible. It’s funny that like a British snack would become such a slacker snack in the US because like any carbs, chips are like and not adult snacks. They’re like, You know what? Your worst classmate in the third period of 10th grade always had a bag of and just had some residue of it. But they taste delicious, and that’s what they are.

S1: Spiritually, residue is a really important component of snack effectiveness. I really appreciate your bringing it up. I also just want to mention because of course, I also then was looking up handicapped just now, apparently until the 1980s. He was often drawn with this a cigarette and then they they they stopped drawing the cigarette in the 1980s, which some readers blamed political correctness for.

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S2: I mean it. It robs us of so much. Like, how do you know that it’s hot if it’s he is not smoking, like there’s a correlation there?

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S1: I just love the idea of being so invested in a drawing, having a pretend cigarette with it that like when it goes away, it’s like, Oh, political correctness has gone mad. This pretend man can’t enjoy a pretend smoke.

S2: It’s like I saw myself in that smoking cartoon. And now what do I have to look at representation? It’s gone. And it’s important to so many people. But in the chip mascot community, they’re just they’re taking it all away from us.

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S1: It’s an important conversation, and I’m glad that you’re starting it here today. Yeah.

S2: Well, I just want to be on the forefront.

S1: Would you please read our first letter and we can think about what needs to be in the forefront here?

S2: All right. So the subject of our first letter is writer’s block. I have a lovely boyfriend who’s struggling, and I don’t know how to help him. I’ve known Mike for a year. We’ve been together eight months. He’s sweet, generous, smart and he adores me. I’ve never been with someone who treated me this well. We’re in our early thirties. I would love to live with him in a couple of years. He’s always been a freelance writer. But in the last three years, he’s had a hard time writing, can’t respect a single deadline, stares at the screen for hours, etc.. In 2020, his longtime partner left him and he had a breakdown, was diagnosed with depression and ADHD and started taking medication. It helped him have a life again, but not to get back to writing like he used to. Now he writes very few articles. He doesn’t make enough to make ends meet and is sad and anxious. He refuses to try to look for other jobs, like technical writing and editing. This smart, sensitive person becomes completely unreasonable on this. I used to be a journalist, too, but it was hard on my mental health, so I changed jobs four years ago. It was a great decision for me. I don’t believe people are defined by their jobs, but I just need a bit of money and some free time. I’m so anxious for him. How do I convince him to take care of himself and not ruin his life over a job?

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S1: I think these are good questions to be asking. I want to try to balance. I had a kind of immediate response to this that was slightly like protective of the letter writer and maybe wanted to fill in some of the blanks with like assumptions about how I thought this guy was handling his situation. So I think though for me, the biggest question that I had when I read this letter was he doesn’t make enough to make ends meet. And the sort of like the question that comes up for me is where she can like, is he borrowing money from this letter writer? Yeah. Like that was my that was my thought was like, does he have a nest egg from before? Does he have somebody else that he’s relying on? Did you get a sense reading this letter of whether or not that was a concern?

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S2: Yeah, I was trying to figure that out because there’s a little bit of I’m trying to pose this for my partner is like mental health and how they feel about themselves. But there is these practical concerns of does he have enough to pay his bills? And they’re not living together right now, so it feels like a hidden stumbling block of do our financial standpoints line up, which is a pretty hard thing to think about in a long term relationship of does the way that we spend and save money online? And how can you make that online to meet your goals of just even getting by? In the long run, especially when we’re going into just yet another winter of this pandemic, like it’s hard to plan right?

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S1: And I can also appreciate it’s not easy to bring up, especially with somebody that you’ve only been with for eight months, like it can feel presumptuous or prying to say, like, what’s your financial plan like? I need to know so I can appreciate why the letter writer has maybe wanted to air on the side of letting him figure it out for himself. But there’s also seem like if you want to live with this guy and you are, you know, coming up on a year together, it makes sense to at least start thinking about and being able to talk about your financial goals and problems and benefits as you see them together.

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S2: Yeah. And I think, you know, continuing on that path of just the practical consideration of rent in every major city in this country is shockingly expensive. And a lot of times the financial weight of rent is something that pulls people to move in a lot more quickly than it would on the timeline of, you know, a relationship otherwise. And to be thinking of that of, you know, is there a lease that’s ending soon? Is there? All of these are you looking into buying property like all of these things start to come up, but I don’t know. I think it’s also just hard because for all that, everyone is lost over the last couple of years or all morning, so much like we’re mourning people, we’re mourning lifestyles or mourning relationships. And I think for a lot of people, they’re mourning the way that their brain used to work and that they could accomplish tasks. I know I feel that often. I often say like, I wish I had just like a bed of Girlboss Energy, like just to get through the day. But I think, you know, especially if the letter writers boyfriend, you know, saw his identity and his job, like he’s mourning multiple things at once. And I think that kind of robs you of a little bit of logic and kind of make it impossible for someone to help you through it until you’re in the place that you can hear it like. I think there’s some of this where it’s it just needs time, and this isn’t a world that gives you time, which is terrible.

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S1: Mm-Hmm. Yeah. And it’s not always easy to see. I think when you’re on the inside and when it’s your career or was your career or might be your career, again, it’s not always easy to just say, well, this clearly is no longer paying the bills. And so it’s time to go get a different job. So I can also appreciate his reluctance on his end to say this means I can’t be a freelance writer anymore. I think for the letter writer, the hope that I would have for this letter writer is. I would scale back how do I convince him to take care of himself, because that’s boy, that’s a big. Big job, and, you know, I have yet to hear from someone who has written and said I convinced my partner to take care of themselves in the way that I thought that they should. And they adopted my values and goals as their own. And it worked out really great. So I just it can maybe feel like, well, this just seems so obvious to me. And I think his life would be so improved if he did X, Y or Z. It’s just a question of communicating it effectively enough that eventually we’re on the same page. I think that’s a very tempting fantasy, and I think that that’s a great way to potentially think a lot of time or money or energy down a bottomless pit. And I don’t mean that your boyfriend is a bottomless pit in that scenario. I mean, the the fantasy that you can convince someone you’re dating to have the exact same goals that you do about their career is the bottomless pit. So the questions I think you should instead be sort of posing to yourself are what are some points for me where I would think this is becoming a turnoff or this is becoming a deal breaker? Would it be if in a year he was still doing this exact same thing? And I felt really frustrated and, you know, wanted to reconsider this relationship? Not like, gosh, if he doesn’t make $100000 tomorrow, I’m out of here. But just like, when would this become a serious enough problem that I would reconsider our relationship? And you know, what do I want to do based on some of that information as well as, I don’t know, I think sometimes the kinder thing to do is to think like, this is really his life. This is really his career. I can offer feedback or suggestions when we’re having a conversation, but I’m not going to be able to convince him like, look, I was in a similar position. I quit my job. Now I’m better. You should just do the same thing. Yeah, I think that that’s not really. I don’t think he’s going to hear that and say, like, that’s great. I’ll do that, too. Does that feel too dismissive? I hope. I hope it’s not.

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S2: I don’t think so. I think I think you’re right in saying it’s a little bit of you have to look at your own boundaries and you have to figure out where is this? Where is the line where I that I would draw to say that this is impacting me negatively? I think it’s also a little bit of listening and then listening in a way that. Is informed by your own experiences, but isn’t guided by them, I think because the letter writer was also in a similar field that it can be hard to take that in without looking back at how you experience it yourself, even though you don’t have the exact same experience as well, you know, taking some time to listen because sometimes it really is just the venting. And I think a lot of times if people vent enough and they feel supportive, hopefully it’s a situation that they start to hear what they’re saying and what’s going on. It doesn’t always happen. But you know, that’s why you also have to do the work of where my boundaries in this.

S1: Yeah, I think the reason that I feel so sort of anxious on the letter writers behalf on that front was I feel like there’s something going on between the lines of I’ve never been with someone who treated me this well, and then this smart, sensitive person becomes completely unreasonable on this subject because my fear there is that the letter writer will think, you know, Mike is a one in a million guy. I am never going to find somebody else who who is this sweet, generous, smart and who likes me this much. So Mike, is it? And if other things in our relationship are going really badly, or if I feel like she’s closed off to a conversation that I want to have or he’s flailing, then I just need to find a way to fix it and understand him better because this is my one chance at like a good guy. And again, I might be adding too much there. I just I want to say letter writer. I think it’s wonderful that Mike is sweet and generous and smart and adores you. And I also hope that you can think of those as qualities that are not totally unique to Mike. And I don’t say that to say like great, generous smart guys who adore you grow on trees or that those aren’t valuable or important. Just that having had a couple of other worst boyfriends in the past, it does not necessarily mean that this is the guy, the perfect guy, and that if you feel like actually he’s been pretty unreasonable on a pretty important issue for, you know, now three months now, six months now, eight months, it’s starting to outweigh all the other nice things, and that might be a time to start thinking about. We had a really nice eight months together and I wish him the best, but some of our like values and goals are just super, super incompatible.

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S2: Yeah, I I definitely agree with that.

S1: So all of this is to say letter writer. I would say that the way forward would be do less. You know, he’s already made it pretty clear that he’s not really interested in getting advice from you on this front. And that might feel really frustrating, especially when you’re like, but I have the answer. But like, the answer is not going to be something he refuses to do. That can’t be the answer. So I think you need to scale back on some of your compassion here. Not to say like being patient and compassion is bad, but just like you are not going to be the one who solves this problem for him. I think limit how much advice you try to give him if he expresses something that’s frustrating to him, I think to go with, I’m really sorry. I hope that you can figure that out and leave it to him and then just assess whether or not this is something long term that you’re interested in dealing with in your partner and man. Beyond that, I would encourage you not to lend him money, not because I think that it’s wrong to lend a partner money, but because it sounds like he’s currently kind of hostile to the idea of having difficult conversations about finances and work. And that’s usually a sign that lending somebody money is going to lead to more tension and hostility. And because it doesn’t seem like he has any sort of a plan yet for changing his his jobs, and I say that that like, by the way, like, Oh, of course, if you wanted to, he could just go get a job tomorrow, like those easily available jobs that everyone can get.

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S2: Yeah, I mean, especially in journalism and freelance jobs and freelance jobs that pay more than pennies. I think that’s that’s also a thing. And I wonder if that’s part of the challenge, too, to see that the amount that he can get paid even if he was performing at his full volume might still make it hard to pay the bills. So, you know, to have a full existential meltdown while you know that even if you were at your best, it still might not make things easier is a much bigger thing to grapple with.

S1: Mm hmm. And none of this is to say that like you should approach your romantic relationships with a totally like mercenary attitude or just like if you can’t come up with the amount of money that we would need to live together in two years right now, like I’m out. Just that, you know, you should, at the very least, I think, be able to have like a conversation about these things and your. Goals without somebody else retreating into I don’t want to talk about it or I’m just going to keep doing this thing that’s not working forever and I refuse to have I refuse to even brook the possibility of like a backup plan. And that might feel kind of sad or dispiriting, but I think it is actually going to save you energy and time in the long run and just be on that if you have already lent him money. I would really encourage you to share that with at least one other person in your life, so it doesn’t feel like an embarrassing secret and to consider that money probably gone. Sorry, this sounds like very bleak. I just I think whether that happened or not. I think that would be bad, and that would go a long way towards making you feel like, well, I’ve already given him money. I should keep trying. I should keep making this work rather than like, good luck figuring this out.

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S2: Yeah, yeah. And you know, a partnership. Is it always 50 50, but you should. Be with someone who you feel like you’re getting things back from, and not just when things are perfect. So, you know, sunk costs is terrifying and it’s something that we all encounter, but I don’t know. I think in relationships it can be different. You can have wonderful enriching memories with someone, but you could just be in different places. And it is incredibly hard to ever realize that or think about that, especially when those memories are so great when things are at their best. But being able to look at that before, you know the bad memories start to outweigh the good ones is also a good skill to have.

S1: Yeah, I think kind of my last thought here is also like I realize I’ve been focusing a little bit on the potentially like quite bad outcomes of the situation. But I also want to leave some room for, you know, he’s also like, you know, he’s been going through a difficult time. He’s been making improvements. He’s been talking to his doctor, taking medication. He may just be slowly building back and he may continue to change the way that he either approaches this work or decides to take on additional work elsewhere. In which case, again, like he can handle figuring that out like, I understand why you want to help, but he has at least now made it clear he doesn’t really want to talk about it with you. And so, you know, that’s also, I think, a possibility, which is just that, you know, he will figure that out because he has to just as you had to figure your situation out a few years ago. And then in that case, again, it will just really help to think of yourself as like the most I can do is occasionally provide, you know, a listening ear unless it gets to be too much, at which point, you know, I can honestly communicate that I need a break. That’s the most I can do. I am not going to be the person who changes his life singlehandedly. And if you can remove some of that pressure from yourself, then you can be like, Yeah, this is a big problem. I don’t know how he’s going to solve it. That’s scary. I can’t control it. Love to control people as they know what’s best for them. That’s one of my favorite hobbies.

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S2: Oh yeah. I mean, it’s it’s nice to think about parenting, parenting someone who is your partner. It would be so easy if you could. No one should, though absolutely no one should.

S1: I just want what’s best for you. And it’s like, that’s often the case. And yet it’s not always especially useful. So with that sort of bleak pen, I will take us into our next letter. The subject is supporting everybody. What’s the best way to be an ally to people who are fat when you’re thin? People at the office talk about fad diets or how they quote should lose weight. And I don’t want to affirm any fatphobia, but I’m not in a position to tell them how to feel, either. I don’t want to lecture someone about their own experience, but I’ve also heard from many people who have dealt with eating disorders that getting positive reinforcement or weight loss can sometimes feed into obsessive thoughts. So I don’t really just want to offer a polite good for you, either. I try to keep my casual responses to something about how they’re looking happy or feeling healthy. But I can tell they’re kind of taken aback by this. I also know people often equate health and thinness, so I’m not sure this is any better. A friend of mine who’s recovering from an eating disorder has suggested changing the subject, but it seems awkward to respond to. I’ve lost 10 pounds by cutting out all liquids besides flat tummy tea with Oh, have you seen anything good on TV lately? Coming back to in-person work after quarantine seems to have ramped up the way and body talk to the majority of our conversation. How do I redirect or challenge in a way that’s helpful as someone who’s never experienced fatphobia?

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S2: Boy, it’s quite quite a question.

S1: Yeah, I feel like I need like a machete and some gardening shears to like try to wave my way into this one.

S2: Yeah, there’s a lot of levels in this. I don’t know. I feel like the letter writer is kind of living in this mindset about, you know, fatphobia and body positivity, that it’s all about these interpersonal interactions instead of thinking about it, of what it was at its roots, which was, you know, these big structural challenges that fat people face of things like health care and hiring and housing and just the way that society treats them. And it’s so hard to look at this without acknowledging that,

S1: yeah, for me, I think the key is that this is at work. So there’s a real necessary, I think, an important limit to how useful you can be to anyone when it comes to thinking about things like fatphobia. And I think really it will help you just to dial back to like, we’re at work, we’re not having like a one on one conversation as close friends. Sometimes people bring up diets in a way that like, is pretty uncomfortable. But I also want to be, you know, compassionate towards whatever they’re experiencing, all which is great, but like it really just does boil down to. People are talking a lot about diets at work, including it sounds like sometimes potentially risky dieting choices that you don’t really want to discuss. And so far, you have slightly deflected by saying like, it seems like you look happy, which I think is like, OK, you know, like that. There’s not a lot of great responses to somebody talking about flat tummy. Yeah. And I think it’s actually fine. If you say, like, I’m glad you’re having a good time if they look a little taken aback. That’s fine. That’s not a problem. That’s not something you need to solve. I can understand why it might feel a little bit odd or kind of feel like that can’t be the right end, right? But you are attempting to opt out and redirect this conversation. That’s a pretty sensible response. I also think just beyond that, it is fine to just say I’m not comfortable talking about diets at work. Can we talk about something else?

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S2: Yeah, I think, you know, oversharing at work in any form is something that is a little bit inescapable, but really redirecting or drawing a boundary and a clear but courteous way of saying I’m not comfortable talking about this is the best thing you can do. It might feel weird. People might react weirdly, but if they react in a way, you can’t really control how they react, if they react in a way that is especially terrible. I mean, that’s something that you could. Work with other people in the office or management or any other apparatus that is available to you. And sometimes there aren’t any, but it’s really something that you can’t really do much about it other than trying to redirect.

S1: Yeah. And I think to kind of like with our first letter where I wanted to encourage that letter writer to do a little bit less, I also want to relieve this letter writer of some of the maybe like unnecessary responsibility they’ve given themselves as like, Well, if I’m doing this and I’m offended, then I need to do some extra work or be more helpful or like try to get somebody to see something from a different perspective that is not on you. Like your problem is people are talking about diets at work in a way that is difficult to know how to respond to. Possibly sometimes risky. Certainly not anything that you can really have, like a useful conversation around in this work context, and you need to just be able to say, I don’t like to talk about diets at work. Can we discuss something else like, that’s the thing. I think that you should be focusing rather than like, can I say that if I’m thin and somebody else isn’t?

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S2: Yeah. And I think in this case, the, you know, air quotes, allyship. I think some of that comes from being the person who stands up and says, you know, maybe let’s not talk about that because if there is someone who is fat and they’re there and people might react differently to them changing the conversation or to them not wanting to talk about it. And you know, if you’re thinking about ways that you can have an impact, sometimes it’s as small as that because you’ve really only asked about one situation, those other things that can happen. There’s always other things that can happen. But in this exact situation, just redirects. You know, no one really wants to talk about flat tummy. It just makes you. Go to the bathroom a lot. One wants to hear about that.

S1: And, you know, I mean, I can really appreciate why that feels like. At the bare minimum, uncomfortable for this letter writer. But I mean, again, just to focus on this is where you are at work. You are always going to be on the right side if you say like in a friendly but firm tone to a co-worker. I’d really rather not talk about this at work. Can we get back to something else like you are on firm ground when you do that? Like that is an indicator that, like you are not asking for anything unreasonable or inappropriate. And I just I think that, you know, it doesn’t sound like these are necessarily really close work friends either. Like you don’t say letter writer like some of my closest work, friends are like, we spent a lot of time together outside of the office. So again, to me, that’s that’s an indicator that, like a more in-depth conversation here, is not called for much as you might want. Too much is like if this were a friend of yours, you might love to say, Look, I’m worried when you tell me that you’re taking this tea and like, I’m concerned about like some of the negative health effects that it might have, as well as just like how it can contribute to, like, sometimes a painful mindset. How you doing? But that’s not the context here at work.

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S2: Yeah. And also just that. Diets just apply that to what people are eating, how much they’re eating, when they’re eating, just treat it all the same because people love to talk about their diets. People also love to say, Oh, that’s what you’re having like it is the same thing. And, you know, commenting on what people are eating or how their eating has the same impact. So just just steer it, just steer it away.

S1: Yeah. And so I get that it feels awkward to say, Oh, have you seen anything good on TV lately? So I would just replace that with I’d actually rather not discuss diets at work. Have you seen anything good on TV lately? That’s that’s that’s the right redirect. I think it might not feel great, but that’s not because you have failed to come up with the perfect transition. That is because someone you work with has shared something kind of intense with you. And so that’s that’s not on that’s you didn’t create that awkwardness. You are not perpetuating it or making it worse. And you do not need to come up with something like more healing to say as a sort of apology for not dealing with that phobia yourself like. You don’t have to. You don’t have to carry that backpack around with you of just like, I’m sorry, like nobody needs that from you. You don’t need that from yourself. And I’m just sorry to, you know, I’m aware, like it seems to be taking up the majority of, I assume, non-work related conversation after quarantine, when everyone’s like newly angry with their bodies are trying to manage their bodies or just like sharing a lot of like intimate feelings about their bodies at work. And it can just kind of feel like I feel for everybody here. But also like this is really unpleasant and overwhelming. I I’m really sorry. That sounds really difficult.

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S2: Yeah, I agree. It’s just. People see it as a bonding mechanism, and I think. By redirecting, you can kind of tell them that, you know, this is not one for me, but if you’re giving something else that you want to talk about, you’re not fully shutting them off.

S1: Right, right. You’re not. It’s not cruel. It’s not dismissive. It’s not like a fuck you. It’s just redirecting in a way that I think is useful, and I think that’s about it. I think, generally speaking, it’s great to be able to re refocus. A question is open ended potentially is like, how can I be an ally in the best way into like, what can I do in this context at work around these conversations? Like that’s much easier to address than just like, Ooh, how can I be an ally?

S2: Because, yeah, and I mean, as far as the other things that you can do in just it’s more listening. It’s more. Talking to people, it’s more just knowing what’s going on in their lives instead of looking for this open ended chest. Here’s the thing I do to combat systemic issue. It’s you can only do so much in certain situations, but you don’t do it by talking over having an answer.

S1: As you know, I love your work. I love the work that you do in writing about food and taking pictures of food and talking about snacks and rareness and baking, and it is has been a real, real source of vicarious joy for me. As long as you have been posting in that one thread of like being forced into writing a cookbook. And yeah, I would just love to know either. Have you been making anything that’s really especially pleasing lately? Especially beautiful, especially delicious.

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S2: I feel like I’ve had like a brick wall with cooking. I don’t know during quarantine, during like the depths of quarantine when I would like. Wake up and feel like there is no meaning to anything in life. I think that I did a lot of cooking to just have a task that had a beginning and end and gave me something that would make me feel good and would help me relieve stress. And then now that I have other things going on, I can like go outside and see people. It feels much harder to think in that sequential way to cook because I think I cook a lot in my head like I read recipes and I watch food, TV shows and do all these things. But I really just like, let it sit in my head in that I kind of make things out, and I just I feel like that. That brain space is a little cloudy, so I haven’t really cooked a ton lately.

S1: I did see, though, that you were toying with the idea of recreating the fennel salad from a succession. Yes.

S2: Yes, I. Oh my goodness. I was actually earlier this week and I went to the store and I was searching for fennel and I was already in a state of disappointment because I had. It was a day after Halloween and I was so excited to get some discount candy. And there is absolutely none. There is no discount candy. They had Christmas candy out already. So I was like, I don’t like, What do I do with it if I’m not ready to buy candy canes? So I was like, All right. We were in low brow, despicable. Let’s go to high brow, really and make a fennel salad. And then there was no fad. I don’t know if other people are just like man can do, right? Salads have been great and they’ve got all the fennel or. If it’s just not late enough in the season for Folu, I don’t know. It was very this. We’re really exposing

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S1: the limits of my awareness of when the final season is.

S2: I think it’s just when it’s cold, but I also just I eat fun all year round. I think I don’t know, it just wasn’t there. I expected it to be. And despite all of the issues of the supply chain, there are still some things that I would like. I will always have access to at all, even though that’s I don’t know if that’s a real thing to expect from the world. But I do know.

S1: I mean, I also don’t if anyone does know anything about the growing season of Fennel, please. As always, I invite you to write in and let us know. But this is, you know, this is not a problem that you and I need to solve. You just need to be able to make, you know, TV inspired food.

S2: It’s true. It’s all I need from life.

S1: I have, you know, serious attachments to fictional food as I think many of us do. Like, I still hang on to different moments in movies where I feel very strongly that a character should have finished eating something that they started to eat. And I can’t let it go when I’m like, I need you to finish eating that. I actually need us to go back and reshoot that scene where you finish eating it. This is very important to me, and I don’t know why.

S2: Yeah, it’s just sometimes they make a food look so good or it’s such a big part of the storyline and then it just sits there. TV is especially bad about this, where they will show the food and they’ll talk about the food, and then just no one will ever eat it. It just sits there. And you know that half the time that stage food is fake food, it’s like ice cream is mashed potatoes and all these other things to get the shot exactly right. But emotionally, I just I want them to be fulfilled. I want the people on my stories to have a good meal.

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S1: No, and I can appreciate, like if you are shooting a scene multiple times and the many difficulties of like, I don’t want to eat the same bite of something. 19 times in a row as it gets colder and colder or warmer and warmer, as the case may be, and I can appreciate that. But just on a very basic level, there’s a part of my brain that’s like, you start at this, finish it.

S2: And I think that’s a lot of a lot of things in life. I view that way. So I think we’re similar in that regard.

S1: Appreciate that. How long at this point, by the way, have you been writing Unsnackable? It is a snack specific newsletter that you are the proprietor of, and I, for anyone who may not already be familiar, I would love it if you could share a little bit about what that project has been like. Yeah.

S2: So I started Unsnackable about a year ago, so I think the first one I sent out was September 13th. I think that’s a real date. Maybe it’s fake. I’m just going to say that was a date. Sure. So September 2020, that’s where Clare and I started it because I wanted to get more comfortable writing about food because I mostly cooked a lot. And I would put it on Instagram and Twitter and all these other places. But I had never really written about food outside of tweets or an Instagram caption. So I was like, Well, maybe it will be slightly less emotionally complicated to write about snacks, which I love, but I’m not making them myself. And I was also like it was during quarantine. So it was when I couldn’t go to the store for more than, like exactly what was on my list or whatever else. I panic thought when things were out of stock. So I really miss browsing. So I got into the habit of just looking at more international snacks. So I was like, Well, I’m going to write about all of these snacks that I will literally never have. So most of the things in the newsletter are snacks that I have never tried, and that would either be too expensive to acquire and try myself, or they just like wouldn’t be able to travel because they’re like ice cream or fast food. So I split everything in the newsletter up into four categories. There are sweet snacks, savoury snacks, thirsty snacks, which are drinks and then boozy snacks, which are alcoholic or things relating to alcohol. So sometimes they’re not actually alcohol just like things that are branded by liquor brands or something like that. And I send that all out and I and I, you know, bring the things together and write about in any form that I can based on my research from browsing international grocery stores or watching YouTubers and languages that I don’t understand and seeing how well the YouTube Auto Translate captions work, which is often not very well, but it is funny to see how YouTuber Voice is international. It goes across languages, so everyone has the same intonations. That is remarkable. Yeah, it’s amazing. I’ll be watching something and it’s like in Croatia, and they will still post the exact same way. But like a 19 year old from Poughkeepsie would post it, I was like, That’s incredible. It’s incredible.

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S1: Yeah. And I love that too, because I think that makes so much sense to me. You’re kind of shift back and forth between the type of food that you’re like. I’m either making this for myself. It’s incredibly immediate. It’s incredibly personal. And then if I don’t have the time or the energy to do it, it’s not going to get photographed. And I’m not going to write about it to food that can almost take on the role of like the theoretical, which is just like snacks that I will not be able to acquire any time in the immediate future. And so I’m speculating. I’m speculating about flavor. Speculating about possibility. And yeah, I think there’s something to that too. Like there is, I don’t know. Do you feel like you’ve come across anything like a coherent international culture of snacking that feels maybe kind of like YouTube? Voice travels through a variety of different locations and cultures, but retains some element that’s like unique to YouTube voice that feels true also of like mass packaged snacking.

S2: I think. Chips are maybe one of the only things that I see a very true translation of just and there’s lots of types of chips and pretty much everywhere in the world and they take. Local flavor is, I think, like the most interesting chips take like something that’s very local almost would be polarizing to other people in other parts of the world, and they take that flavor and they translate it into a chip like I remember I found like black pudding flavored chip and I was like, Black pudding is so is like something that’s so controversial to other people around the world. It’s a fully normal food, but it elicits such strong reactions, and I think something like that would translate so well into a chip because it’s not just like salty, it’s like there’s a certain type of umami and flavor and seasonings and herbs and all these things that go into it. So if you were to make that a chip, you can take just like the high notes of that, and you could recognize that as compared to, you know, everywhere it has salt chips everywhere I have like. I think sour cream seems to be in a lot of places. So I think that’s one of the things you can find everywhere. I’ve picked the categories of what I would have, the types of snacks fit into a little bit randomly, and I think it’s it’s worked out and that I can kind of find things in any country that fit into those four categories.

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S1: I love that too. Because now you’ve made me realize that like chips, perhaps unique among the snack foods has a sort of like ship of Theseus problem, which is like, there’s both the thing that a chip tastes like or is meant to taste like, which is a fried piece of potato. But then, you know, unlike you can get like a snack cake at a store and it’ll be like its chocolate cake, not chocolate cake flavored cake. Whereas like chips often come not only with a flavoring, but also like a form for you to compare it to mentally. Like if you gave me a bag of flavored chips and like covered up the label and I had to guess, my instinct is that I would not be great at guessing which flavor like I might be able to pick out barbecue from like sour cream and onion. But beyond that, I imagine a lot of them. I feel like it’s savory. It tastes like there’s garlic powder somewhere. I couldn’t tell you what this is, but like, you’re also being set like a bit of a mental puzzle or like a sense of like what elements of black pudding that are not themselves black pudding make something else seem like it. And that seems like a good question for, I don’t know, a philosophy professor. So don’t try to get you back with one in the studio one of these days and

S2: figure out what it is. We can talk about the philosophy of snack. The philosophy of how you experience flavor vs. what your, you know what your inputs are going into it. Yes.

S1: Folu Thank you so much for taking some time to talk food and human relationships with us today, and thank you even more for wearing such a sumptuous coat. I’m truly sorry that the rest of you don’t get to see it. You are. I’m just sorry for you.

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S2: Well, I’m happy to share my thoughts and snacks and this code with you and with all the rest. There is not the coat, everything else.

S1: Thank you so, so much and have a fabulous rest your day.

S2: It’s you too.

S1: Thank you for joining us on big mood, a little mood with me. Danny Lavery, our producer, is Phil Surkis, who also composed our theme music. Don’t miss an episode of the show. Head to Slate.com slash mood to sign up to subscribe or hit the Subscribe button on whatever platform you’re using right now. Thanks. Also, if you can, please leave us a review on Apple Podcasts. We’d love to know what you think. If you want more big mood, little mood, you should join Slate Plus Slate’s membership program members get an extra episode of Big Mood A Little Mood every Friday, and you’ll get to hear more advice and conversations with the guest. And as a Slate Plus member, you’ll also be supporting the show. Go to Slate.com Forward Slash Mood Plus to sign up. It’s just $1 for your first month. If you’d like me to read your letter on the show, maybe need a little advice. Maybe some big advice? Head to Slate.com slash mood to find our big mood, a little mood listener question form or find a link in the description on the platform you’re using right now. Thanks for listening! And here’s a preview of our Slate Plus episode coming this Friday. It’s one thing to say I value commitments and when I make a commitment to be in a relationship with someone, I take it really seriously. That’s great. But if the implication is he values commitment and therefore by virtue of him simply telling me that he had feelings for me and the two of us saying, like, let’s talk about it and see whether or not we might want a date when I get back at some point in the future is not itself an act of commitment to listen to the rest of that conversation. Join Slate Plus now at Slate.com forward slash mood.