Fish Out Of Water
by Taylor Combs & Taylor Dickinson
The crowd roared. All eyes were directed towards the track just beyond the net. We looked up to see a young woman in colorful spandex and roller skates being shoved onto the hard track ground; the crowd around us could not have been more pleased. This marked the beginning of a brutal night, where the Charm City Chasers took on the Chicago Night Terrors.
Roller Derby is a sport, though an uncommon one in Maryland, where young women dress in typically small clothing and skate around a track. One player on each team is designated a special position. Their goals are to pass the other teams players and to circle the track as many times as possible. Every other teammate is a defensemen, blocking the other team from passing by knocking their opponents off track, clearing a path for the designated player. A point is scored each time the designated player from each team crosses the finish line.
To protect themselves from hard falls and scrapes, the women wear helmets and some pads; however, it is custom to wear very tight and skimp clothing, increasing the probability that players will scrape themselves while falling to the ground.
While driving to the event, we continuously asked each other if we knew what we were walking into. We arrived at the door; there was no turning back. When we walked through the door, the arena looked like a track, with two huge screens that had the scores of the match that was just ending. We nervously took our seats, looked at our program, and tried to get a feel on how the sport played out.
After the first event, we realized we had absolutely no idea what was going on. We kept looking at each other wondering if we were ever going to understand. Deciding to stick it out, we watched a few more matches, and slowly we started to understand the game. Soon enough we were cheering along with the crowd, who were yelling just like fans at a football game.
The crowd responded differently to every action in the game. If someone got knocked down, the crown would cheer loudly, loving the action. After we saw one girl deck another to the ground for the first time, we were both shocked and surprised; we had no idea women could play such a violent sport.
With all of the factors of the considerably adult concepts of the sport, the most surprising part of this experience for us was the amount of families gathered in the arena. In fact, families dominated the population at the event. One would think rowdy teenagers would enjoy the violence and skimpy outfits, but the children were just as into the game as all other fans.
Most people see rough sports such as football and ice hockey to be known for boys, but roller derby proved that girls could play rough too. We encourage everyone to go out and watch this sport, even if it is only one match! We promise that once you get the hang of the sport, you will be hooked and not want to leave.
by Matt Kim & Audi Vitagliano
The meringue taunted us. Sweat dripped from our brows, stinging our bloodshot eyes as the veins on our wrists bulged, straining like horses reined to a mountain. We were beginning to lose hope. It was too hard. We took turns as our weary arms continued to beat down on the frothy mixture of egg whites and sugar, but no matter how long or hard we whisked, the meringue would not rise. The goal was in sight — to bake a chocolate raspberry liqueur soufflé, but every stroke of the metallic wire cylinder stripped away at our spirits until our emaciated consciences gasped for life. We regretted being born, we regretted the concept of existence, and most of all, we regretted choosing to cook.
Every tragedy has a beginning, and ours lay in the center of the journalism lab with shiny computers, where we sat and wondered what we were going to write about for our fish out of water story. It was a difficult choice, as we’re both well rounded individuals with a variety of skills and hobbies- it seemed as if anything I didn’t do, she did, and vice versa. It was not until I thought about my friend’s acceptance to culinary school that the idea surfaced: “Hey, like, oh my gosh, we should, like, totally cook!” It was the perfect idea, because neither of us cooked. Ever. Still, we both looked at each other with a confident grin, convinced that we’d be able to handle it. It’ll be easy, we said. It’ll be fun, we said. It’ll be yummy, we said, but little did we know the hell we were signing up for.
We had decided to prepare one entrée, one side and one dessert. The first, veal marsala, would be a classic simmered veal cutlet dish with marsala butter sauce and mushrooms. On the side would be asparagus rolantina, or baked asparagus wrapped in prosciutto and topped with bread crumbs and cheeses. We would not stop there however, and decided to go all out for dessert- only chocolate raspberry liqueur soufflés would suffice.
With our recipes all printed out and ingredients purchased, we met at Audi’s house on a cloudy Sunday afternoon. The clouds in the sky perched expectantly to watch our probable failure, turning the slightly tense atmosphere to the gloomy side as I stepped into her kitchen, holding up the grocery bags in mock triumph. We had run into issues concerning ramekins, first of what they were, and second, of how to obtain them. It was the first hitch, but was quickly solved when Audi found them in her cupboards. We would need them for the soufflé.
We got right to work on the veal. I pounded the cutlets with a meat tenderizer, as Audi prepared the coating. Audi was not especially inclined to handling raw meat, so I hammered away jubilantly. When all the meat was tenderized and coated with bread crumbs, we placed them onto the pan coated with melted butter, watching as the veal sizzled vibrantly. Everything seemed to be going well, and we found ourselves enjoying it. It seemed easy- just follow the directions and watch the magic happen.
As the veal was simmering, we washed and trimmed the asparagus, wrapped it up in thin slices of prosciutto and swiss cheese, and held the pretty package in place with a toothpick. Sticking it into the oven, we flipped the veal over, and sat back as both dishes cooked. We felt rather competent, cooking two dishes at once.
There was a bit of down time while the veal made sizzle noises and heat emanated from the oven, so we looked through the recipe for the soufflé. It seemed like another follow-the-directions sort of deal, so we got together the ingredients, and had them ready to go by the time the oven beeped and the veal was cooked.
By this time, Audi’s boyfriend came over to dine and dash, and waited patiently at the dining table. We figured that we might as well be a bit fancy, and laid out the veal in a pretty layered display, next to the tastefully arranged asparagus, taking photos all the while. (See figure 1A and 1B) After we had sat and stared in awe for a while, we gave ourselves one final pat on the back and served the food. Taking the first bites, we were greatly surprised, amazed even- It tasted like real, good food. It was satisfying, being able to take raw ingredients and watch them come alive, dancing on the heat to metamorphose into a beautiful creation. We sat back and admired the beauty of cooking, feeling sentimental and mushy.
But fantasy time was over. Now came the real deal. Sitting on the counter were the eggs, flour sugar, chocolate liqueur- the components of the soufflé waited for us on the counter top. But suddenly it hit me: if a manufacturer produces countertops, does that make them counter productive? I quickly ditched the lame pun, as the first thing to do was make the roux, or flour and butter mixture.
It was soon found that flour and butter do not play nice, mix, mingle, or enter into relationships easily. It was a bit forced, mashing the thick butter with the powdery flower, turning them into clumps that just wouldn’t break apart, then finally making a thick sort of paste. It was a stressful marriage to orchestrate, but it seemed as if the couple would last. The roux was mixed with milk, butter, and egg yolks, and heated to make a sort of custard. Pushing the custard aside, we continued onto the meringue.
To be fair, neither of us knew that baking a soufflé required whipping a meringue. We mostly picked the soufflé because it sounded fancy. The stage was set however, and we got down to business, cracking the eggs, and separating the yolk and egg whites. Putting the egg whites into a bowl, we mixed in all of the sugar, and started whisking.
We were told that a meringue would be ready after 15-20 minutes of whisking, but 30 minutes later, the egg whites were still watery. By this time, the whisking motion was beginning to take its toll on our inexperienced wrists, and we checked the recipe to see what we had done wrong. Apparently, the sugar had acted as a thinning agent, and wasn’t supposed to be added until the end. Since we had already gotten that far, however, we could only trudge forward, cursed by our negligence. Cooking was not fun. It was hell.
It was a long and hard road, and it took nearly an hour until the meringue was at the proper consistency. With an aggravated sigh of dejection, we mixed the meringue with the custard and poured the mixture into ramekins, sliding them weakly into the oven, and wondering what else could go wrong. The worst was over by then, but cooking was no longer as easy as we thought it would be. It took enough hard work and ingenuity to be an art form itself. As we took the soufflés out of the oven and covered them with raspberries and chocolate sauce, an unspoken truth wafted up, mixed in with the comforting scent of warm chocolate. Cooking was a masterwork, a life’s calling of a higher purpose. Here was a human achievement of such necessity, yet such grace, that it touched the hearts of all human beings around the world. We ate the soufflés in solemn contemplation, stricken dumb by the weight of what we had just done. They were delicious.
With a new found respect for anyone who prepared food, we concluded our little adventure, humbled and awed at what we could not fully comprehend. The most pressing among the questions we asked was, “What kind of person would randomly decide to take egg whites and beat them until they discovered that they became frothy and fluffy?”
At ten in the morning I emerged from a two-hour state of lucid dreaming about, I kid you not, blogging. Much like my conscious mind, apparently, my subconscious dreaded my 48-hour abstinence from electronics. This prohibition banned all electronics, excluding the absolutely inescapable presence of indoor lighting and the necessity of a functioning refrigerator. To a person with a genuinely unhealthy Internet addiction (otherwise known as “me”), two days without these commodities is more like two lifetimes.
The first day passed as it would have if I had been genuinely ill. Nothing useful was accomplished, largely because I could not muster the motivation to sit up, let alone to actually leave my bed. The indignant toddler in me wanted to prove that no one would benefit from the confiscation of my primary distraction from everything of consequence. This is the same toddler who insists on staying awake until sunrise, despite a suppressed desire to get a healthy amount of rest, and on playing barefoot in the snow. Even this tedium could not shake my resolve to accomplish absolutely nothing.
For most of the day I occupied myself with only the objects I could reach without having to stand. The morning’s triumph was the reorganization of my bizarre collection of receipts, business cards, frequent shopper cards, completed crosswords, the wrappers of tea bags, et cetera.
When I finally surfaced from my warm cocoon of blankets at 4:30 PM, I despaired over the lack of sustenance I could prepare without electricity (how is anyone supposed to be able to eat without the ability to order Chinese food? I’m sure you’ll be just as relieved as I was to discover that we already had pizza. Sweet salvation, hallelujah!).
In my voyage downstairs I learned that it is not, in fact, an all-that-excellent plan to slide down the banister Mary Poppins style when you don’t really have a banister. Minutes later, I learned that it is also a rather bad idea to slide down the stairs penguin style, and faced the facts that I had to actually walk (on my feet! Can you believe it?) in order to retrieve the ice pack I then needed. Worth it.
In my infantile effort to avoid doing anything even remotely productive, I wasted several hours sinking in and out of sleep, wasted several more hours doing even less than that, and wasted several gallons of water in my two showers and one bath.
The following day offered experiences far more foreign to me. You see, I have this game I like to play. It requires only one player, and the goal of the game is to see how long you can avoid voluntary human interaction. My attempts to achieve the top score were foiled when I made plans to see a friend. Like, in person. In the “real world.” I had no idea that this real world thing had such high-quality graphics.
Not only did I overcome my terror of actually using my voice and facial expressions to communicate, I also stepped into the final frontier: sunlight. At roughly nine in the morning my mother cruelly abandoned my companion and me on the UMCP campus to roam aimlessly for seven or eight hours.
Apparently there are legitimate reasons that I should never set foot out of the house, because the first notable event of the day involved my submission to the forceful salesmanship of a Hare Krishna monk, and subsequently my purchase of three books (in which I have no interest) for “free with a twenty dollar donation.”
The campus lost its novelty after a few hours, especially because of its uniform color scheme of red brick and off-white paint. After Natalie and I spent some time being completely lost (another side effect of every building being identical), and spent much more time laughing at particularly expressive squirrels, we wandered vaguely towards the fraternity houses and then across the street.
As we walked along that stretch of businesses we counted at least six examples of boys sharing motorcycles, none of whom felt it necessary to wear helmets. We did see one young man wearing a skateboarding helmet (which, by the way, will do nothing to protect your cranium in a motorcycle accident even if worn correctly) with the clasp undone and the straps flapping in the wind. But hey, it’s the thought that counts.
For an alarmingly long time, we amused ourselves by walking through drug stores and outlet clothing joints, laughing hysterically at some of the more absurd products available there. We then found ourselves in a lovely little comic book shop (ahh, it felt so good to be back in my element), where I spent another twenty dollars, this time on a book that actually appeals to me.
In waiting for my mother to pick us up, we lingered just long enough for me to be guilt-tripped into donating to other individuals claiming to represent various worthy causes. It should be mentioned that, after this day, I made a genuine plea to many friends, begging them to keep me from ever opening my own wallet.
Later, my mother, Natalie, and I spent nearly three hours in IKEA, and briefly stopped in a thrift store. If you have ever been to an IKEA with a friend, you understand the childlike fascination and hilarity of peeking in on the fake homes of fake people, and the temptation of taking a tiny pencil at each of the stops supplying customers with helpful shopping materials. Rebels without a cause that we are, we abducted 21, with no intention of actually using them.
Because I am affable with other members of Natalie’s family, when we took her home I felt obligated to step inside for a moment and politely acknowledge them. As I stood in the kitchen and spoke with her twin and visiting friend, my eyes involuntarily flickered towards the clock on the microwave. It was only upon the realization that I was so genuinely enthusiastic and anxious to again bask in the loving blue glow of a computer screen in a dark room that I began to consider weaning myself from this infatuation with technology. Of course, when midnight rolled around I eagerly tossed those musings out the window.
Needless to say, my heartfelt reunion with my computer occupied me until sunrise.