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Rhetorical Analysis: Tom Waits’ ‘We’re All Made Here’

Reading this back, I really don’t enjoy the style of writing the instructor had us use. It feels like a forced (and cringy) opinion on the song and being that it’s a paper written for a class there was a need to make obvious statements in my analysis, which just reads weird to me. I wrote it about 2 years ago so maybe I’m too far detached from what the purpose and goals of the assignment were, but reading it now, I almost don’t want to post this. If anyone even takes the time to read this, just know that if I were to write about this today, it would be vastly different, but it’s sort of “fun” to read?

Just don’t take it too seriously.

“Rhetorical Analysis” written for Honors Writing at Oregon State University and submitted December 3, 2017.

Tom Waits’ album Alice was originally created as part of an experimental opera in 1992 for Hamburg’s Thalia Theater (Alice, 2002). The album drew inspiration from author Lewis Carroll and his obsession with Alice Liddell, the young girl who inspired Carroll to write Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland. In the book, during Alice’s encounter with the Cheshire cat, it tells her “we’re all mad here. I’m mad. You’re mad” (Carrol 82). One song from the album is titled “We’re All Mad Here” and repeats the title throughout the song, giving the impression the point of view may be from the Cheshire cat. This particular song takes on a rather somber mood depicting death and sin, but there are subtleties in the text that hint at deeper meanings beyond what is directly stated, which is why more analysis into the context surrounding this song is necessary to understanding it fully.

This analysis will ignore the musical aspects of the song “We’re All Mad Here” and focus on the meaning behind the text and the context surrounding the song. Although the musical choices made by Waits do add to the mood of the song, this analysis will ignore that aspect of the piece and focus on digging out the meanings behind each line to bring clarity to why he made the language choices he did while writing it. There are subtle hints dispersed throughout the song that indicate Waits was trying to persuade his audience that author Lewis Carroll was a pedophile. The methods Waits utilizes quite a bit are the Aristotelian Appeals of pathos and logos. He especially uses pathos with words like Devil, mud, dead, and decomposing, which all have some eerie and negative connotations. Waits’ use of logos with words and phrases such as “We’re all Mad Here,” heart-shaped, rose, and Mrs. Carroll all reference different aspects of Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland. Much of Waits’ lyrics seem to be a series of nonsensical lines so, his effectiveness in clearly stating his claim, which is being deduced as his implication that Carroll was a pedophile, is not totally effective. However, if his goal is to make his audience as confused as Alice was while falling down the rabbit hole, then he does so quite effectively.

Another important factor that will be analyzed is the mental state of Waits himself. It has been rumored among his fans that he has Asperger’s Syndrome and Waits even mentioned in interviews that as a child he thought he might have a developmental disorder because of the way certain sounds affected him (O’Hagan). Although the lyrics of this song paint a vivid picture, this analysis will try to decipher the meanings behind some of the phrases, and investigate the man behind the text to hopefully bring that picture into focus.

In a 2006 interview with Sean O’Hagan, Waits recalled the sound his sheets would make as he was heading to bed at night as a child: “It wasn’t a cool thing. It was a frightening thing. I mean, I thought I was mentally ill, that maybe I was retarded. I’d put my hand on a sheet like this [rubbing his shirt] and it’d sound like sandpaper. Or a plane going by” (O’Hagan).  He was also described by O’Hagan to be rocking back and forth in his seat while recalling the memory. According to the American Psychiatric Association’s Diagnostic and Statistical Manuel of Mental Disorders, three common signs of Asperger’s Syndrome are: Avoiding eye contact or staring at others; projecting unusual facial expressions or postures; lacking social reciprocity; and having heightened sensitivity to loud noises, lights, or strong tastes or textures (APA). There are of course other symptoms of the disorder, but a person does not need to exhibit all symptoms in order to be diagnosed. These three, however, seem to fit Waits quite well. In interviews and performances available online, Waits has a distinct slinky, slouched, posture about him. If Waits does have a developmental disorder, such as Asperger’s Syndrome, it would likely have contributed to the nonsensical, scattered nature of the song.

There are performances and interviews that show Waits acting in peculiar ways, demonstrating his unusual stance and performance style. One example where this is particularly evident is from his 1999 performance on the Late Show with David Letterman where Waits performed his song, “Chocolate Jesus.” He is seen slinking around on a sawdust-covered platform in an almost cat-like manner (AquaticBigfoot). Another example is from his 1979 interview with Don Lane where he is often seen fidgeting or failing to maintain eye contact throughout the whole conversation; Waits comes on stage sort of reluctantly, chain-smokes the entire time, is almost constantly slouched over and shifting in his chair, often rubs his face and neck, and mumbles some of his responses (JensdePens). It is apparent through interviews such as this, that Waits is highly intelligent, but the way he sees the world is not necessarily the same as the average person. Although none of these examples definitively proves Waits has Asperger’s Syndrome or is even on the Autism Spectrum, but it provides some context into Waits as a person and as a performer. It also shows that his way of thinking is a little off-beat, which could be contributing to his language choices and style of writing in “We’re All Mad Here.”

The first line from “We’re All Mad Here,” is “Hang me in a bottle like a cat,” which not only alludes to the Cheshire cat, but is also similar to a line from William Shakespeare’s play, Much Ado About Nothing. In the play, Benedick says to Don Pedro, “If I do, hang me in a bottle like a cat, and shoot at me. . .” (Shakespeare 100). The hanging of a cat from a tree was a sport in olden days where bowmen would use the cat for target practice (Brewer 147). Right off the bat, the song begins with a bit of morbid imagery, setting the tone for the rest of the piece with clear usage of pathos and logos.

The next line, “let the crows pick me clean but for my hat” continues the story from the first line: The speaker wants to be hung up, shot, and now left to be picked at by crows until all that is left is his hat. The next three lines of the verse are:

Where the wailing of a baby

Meets the footsteps of the dead

We’re all mad here   (Waits)

This whole section seems to imply the hanging is taking place in a cemetery or perhaps the last place their dead loved ones have walked – the children of those who have died (babies) wail and mourn the dead where they once walked. Another potential meaning behind the second and third lines of the first verse are in reference to the Queen of Hearts, who seems to be constantly wailing and screaming like an irreverent child, always yelling for her underlings to chop off the heads of those who contradict, disobey, or simply annoy her (Carroll). This is an example of Waits use of logos to try to tie in references to Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland.

“As the Devil sticks his flag into the mud starts out the next verse and it’s reasonable to assume that the mention of the Devil would imply some sort of sin is being referenced. When someone sticks a flag into the ground, it is usually a mark for staking claim on something (think Iwo Jima or the Moon landing). The fact that the flag is being stuck into mud implies there is some sort of mess involved. It has been speculated that Carroll (age 30) asked to marry Alice Liddell (age 11) and this proposal understandably upset her parents, thus terminating the Liddell-Carroll friendship; others believe it was a matter of misunderstanding where the Liddells confronted Carroll about his friendship with their daughter and being embarrassed by the inquiry, Carroll parted ways with the family (Fitzgerald). It is said that many of the pages from Carroll’s diary from this period are now missing so, we may never truly know whether he had pedophiliac tendencies or if he was truly a child at heart who enjoyed the company of children (Gray). The logos and pathos in this verse supports the idea that Waits believed, and was trying to imply that Carroll made some inappropriate action toward Alice Liddell.

The second line of the second verse, “Mrs. Carroll has run off with Reverend Judd,” may at first seem like arbitrary names. However, the coincidence of the name Mrs. Carroll shouldn’t be overlooked. Lewis Carroll was never married and his real name was Rev. Charles Lutwidge Dodgson (Woolf). If the rumors about a botched, ill-received marriage proposal are true, or even if they are not, its possible Waits was making a statement about what he believed the truth was. It can come across as confusing because the previous line mentions the Devil, implying sin, but to give, presumably Alice Liddell, the name of Mrs. Carroll could be taken as Waits’ approval for the marriage. Or even still, it could be indicating Waits believed there was some delusion in Carroll for ever believing he would be able to make Alice his wife. The name “Reverend Judd” does not come up in any stories or references to Alice Liddell, however Alice’s father was a Reverend, as was Carroll (Woolf). It is possible Waits chose the name Judd simply for musical purposes, to rhyme with mud. This section proves to be a bit unclear, which as stated earlier, could be due to Waits’ choice of writing style to make the listener as confused as Alice was in Wonderland.

The remaining portion of the second verse further implies a sin (or sins) have been committed and because of those sins, the person whom Waits is referring to will wind up lonely in Hell. This, once again, alludes to the rumored relationship between Lewis Carroll and Alice Liddell:

Hell is such a lonely place

And your big expensive face

Will never last   (Waits)

The third verse picks up where the second verse left off and is clearly talking about death and decay, with clear examples of logos that tie in more aspects of Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland:

And you’ll die with the rose still on your lips

And in the time the heart-shaped bone

That was your hips

And all the worms they will climb

The rugged ladder of your spine

We’re all mad here   (Waits)

The language Waits uses here further portrays Wonderland, such as his use of the words rose, lips, and heart, which elicit imagery of the Queen of Hearts and her garden. Stepping back to the previous verse where Waits says, “And your big expensive face

Will never last” does not seem to correlate to either Alice Liddell, or Lewis Carroll, but could be referencing the Queen of Hearts as well by referring to her wealth.

The final verse uses more logos to take us back to the Cheshire cat; when the cat lurks in the darkness and all that is visible are his big glowing eyes, and grin while perched high up on a tree limb:

And my eyeballs roll this terrible terrain

We’re all inside a decomposing train

And your eyes will die like fish

And the shore of your face will turn to bone   (Waits)

As to where the decomposing train, eyes dying like fish or the face turning to bone comes from, there is not a clear correlation to Alice Liddell or Carroll’s book, but its evident Waits is hinting, once again, at death. The decomposing train could be him creating imagery on how our bodies are slowly breaking down as we move, non-stop, through life like a train traveling onward toward the horizon. Waits’ description of the eyes elicits images of eyes drying out like a fish that’s washed up on a bank. He continues that washed-up-fish imagery on the final line in the verse where he mentions the word “shore.” This entire verse builds on the idea of drying out, aging, and dying. This verse lacks a bit of clarity, which brings to question the effectiveness of getting his point across to the listener, but it does paint an intense, albeit nonsensical, dreamy (nightmare-y) picture of dying.

The whole song takes on a rather somber mood, which is fitting when considering the story behind author, Lewis Carroll and the girl he was rumored to be infatuated with, Alice Liddell. Tom Waits has proven through his musical career that he is an eccentric character. Regardless of whether his antics are a result of Asperger’s Syndrome, some other disorder, or simply his own quirkiness, after uncovering some potential meanings behind the lyrics of “We’re All Mad Here,” this demonstrates he digs for deeper meanings in his music. He seems to put a lot of effort into carefully choosing language to elicit imagery, references notable individuals such as Shakespeare and Lewis Carroll, and draws on emotion through his use of this language. Waits effectively creates a confusing lyrical piece in “We’re All Mad Here” using obscure phrases, yet still provides enough hints to persuade one to believe Lewis Carroll was a pedophile.

Annotated Bibliography

American Psychiatric Association (APA). Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental

Disorders : DSM-5. 5th ed. Washington, D.C.: American Psychiatric Association, 2013. Print. 15 Oct. 2015.

The DSM 5 is a credible source used by professionals in the field of psychology. It is good to get some background on Asperger’s Syndrome and how it is diagnosed in order to get an idea of whether the syndrome is applicable to Tom Waits or not.

AquaticBigfoot. “Tom Waits – Chocolate Jesus – 1999.” Online Video

Clip. YouTube.com. YouTube, 3 Nov. 2006. Web. 21 Oct. 2015.

This clip is of Tom Waits performing “Chocolate Jesus” on the Late Show with David Letterman in 1999 and shows Waits’ eccentric performance style, which is essential to understanding what type singer/song-writer he is. This clip also shows a brief interview with Waits by Letterman, which further displays Waits’ character, but in non-performance setting.

Brewer, Ebenezer Cobham. A Dictionary of Phrase and Fable. 17th Ed. Rev and

Corrected. ed. London: Cassell, 1880. Print. Pg 147.

Brewer’s book provides an organized list of phrase and fable from the time, in 1880. The phrases are dated and not all of them necessarily correlate to modern day phrases, but due to the references in the examined document, “We’re All Mad Here,” it is key to understanding outdated phrases. There are not many references or sources online that clearly explain the phrase, “hang me in a bottle like a cat,” like Brewer’s book does.

Carroll, Lewis, and Peake, Mervyn. Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland. 1st U.S. ed. New

York: Bloomsbury, 2000. Print. Pg 82.

Carroll’s book is a fairytale about a young girl named Alice who tumbles down a rabbit hole where she discovers fascinating characters and nonsensical wonder. It is important to study the original text that the wording of “We’re All Mad Here” has been based on so as to be able to pick up on some of the subtleties in the verses.

Fitzgerald, Ian. “Death of Lewis Carroll.” History Today 48.1 (1998): 36+. Academic

OneFile. Web. 14 Oct. 2015.

This is a peer-reviewed article that talks about the life and death of Lewis Carroll and goes into some detail about the Carroll-Liddell friendship to bring some perspective to the uncertainty behind what ended the friendship. This article is helpful because it leaves the answer sort of ambiguous while still providing some context to the story, which is kind of what Waits does with his song.

Gray, Margaret. “Review: Exploring what happened between the real Alice and Lewis

Carroll.” latimes.com. Los Angeles Times (5 Feb. 2015). Web. 14 Oct. 2015.

This article talks of a play that was performed, which depicts the relationship between the Liddells and Lewis Carroll. This is one of many examples that show there is very little known about the truth to what ended the friendship between them, but the obvious desire to assume there is truth to the allegations that Lewis Carroll made inappropriate advances toward Alice Liddell.

JensdePens. “Tom Waits interview by Don Lane, Australia 1979 with Paradise Alley

clip!” Online Video Clip. YouTube.com. YouTube, 11 Nov. 2011. Web. 21 Oct. 2015.

This interview shows a young Tom Waits being interviewed by Don Lane back in 1979. This clip in particular shows the awkwardness of Waits, his mannerisms, and body language during a social interaction. He could simply be nervous, but it is a good example of how he acts when not performing.

O’Hagan, Sean. “Off Beat.” theguardian.com. The Guardian (28 Oct. 2006). Web. 14

Oct. 2015.

This interview is a candid look into Tom Waits’ life with some first-hand accounts of his childhood. It clearly shows Waits has questioned his own mental state at times, which shows there is a possibility Waits may have a developmental disorder.

Shakespeare, William, and Cox, John F. Much Ado about Nothing. Cambridge, U.K. ;

New York: Cambridge UP, 1997. Print. Shakespeare, William, 1564-1616. Shakespeare in Production. Pg 100.

Much Ado About Nothing is riddled with drama, love, betrayal, argument, and celebration. Shakespeare being a world-renowned writer, and the context behind much of his works involving love and torment, helps allow a deeper level of understanding of “We’re All Mad Here.” The particular reference to being hung in a bottle like a cat, said by Benedick, as well as some of misunderstandings in Much Ado About Nothing, increase the likelihood Waits is referencing the botched relationship between Lewis Carroll and Alice Liddell.

Waits, Tom. “We’re All Mad Here,” Alice. tomwaits.com. Tom Waits (2002). Web. 19

Oct. 2015.

Tom Waits has a very gravely voice that makes it easy to mishear his lyrics, which is why it is particularly helpful to utilize his website. He has lyrics to all his songs as well as album descriptions to read more about the compilation of songs as a whole. This was especially helpful in learning that the album Alice was created for a play and his explanation of the songs provides insight into some of the meanings.

Woolf, Jenny. “Lewis Carroll’s Shifting Reputation.”  smithsonian.com. Smithsonian

Magazine (April 2010). Web. 14 Oct. 2015.

This document gives Lewis Carroll’s real full name, Charles Lutwidge Dodgson, and provides further insights and analysis into the relationship between Lewis Carroll and the Liddell family. It also gives detailed background on Dodgson such as the fact that he was never married.

Is red meat bad for me?

This is a student paper and not meant to be taken as health advice. If you are looking for actual health and diet advice please speak to your healthcare team.

“Consumer Paper” written for Communications in Dietetics at Oregon State University and submitted June 12, 2017.

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Do you eat red meat or ever wonder how healthy it is to eat?

We live in a health-crazed society and want to know as much as we can about our foods. We also expect exact answers from scientists and we want them now, though sometimes that’s just not possible. Even though we have a desire to be informed, we sometimes ignore advice from health professionals. We just do what makes us happy even if we know it may be bad for us.

Many of us enjoy red meat because of how it tastes and it may have been a big part of meals we grew up eating. It’s important to at least know if there’s harm in eating too much, too little, or if eating any amount of red meat is bad for us. Red meat does provide some benefits, such as being a good source for protein, vitamins, and minerals.1 However, the bad side of eating red meat is it makes you more likely to have heart disease and long-term liver disease. It also encourages the growth of some cancers, and can increase your chances of dying.2,3

So. . . should we eat it or not?

It really boils down to what you want from your relationship with red meat. If you decide you don’t want to eat red meat at all and you can live without it, there are other meat and non-meat options. If you can’t or don’t want to remove red meat from your diet, there are things you can do to lessen the likelihood of having health problems:

  • Avoid processed meats
  • Avoid overcooking your meat (this doesn’t mean undercook it!)
  • Trim and drain excess fat
  • Eat red meat in moderation

Which meats are red, which are white, and which are processed?

It’s important to know which are red meats so you can decide if you want to or need to make changes to the way you eat. Red meats include beef, lamb, and bison. Pork is usually included in the “red meats” category as well.

White meats include chicken, salmon, eggs, shrimp, and other seafood, just to name a few.

Processed meats include foods like hotdogs, sausage, jerky, bacon, sliced deli/sandwich meats, and pepperoni. Processed red meats can be the most likely types of red meat to cause health problems.4 So, if you’re willing to cut out any red meats from your diet, processed red meats would be a good place to start.

Why does the way I cook it matter?

Before even starting to cook, it’s a good idea to look for lean meats at the grocery store. Red meat can be high in unhealthy fats so buying leaner varieties can cut down on how much of these fats we eat. Also, trimming the extra fat off steaks before cooking, for example, can also help reduce the amount of unhealthy fat.

Cooking meat at very high temperatures or for long periods of time can cause the meat to change and become harmful.5 Overcooking can change the meat and turn some of it into material that helps cancer grow.6

Cooking methods to avoid include:

  • Grilling or barbecuing
  • Cooking in a smoker
  • Broiling
  • Pan-frying

Better options for cooking meat are:

  • Cook the meat at a lower temperature
  • Use moist-heat to cook (such as simmering, stewing, or pot roasting)
  • Avoid over-browning, and don’t cook to well- or very-well-done levels

Dark brown and black charring on the outsides of the meat is what we should be avoiding.

How much red meat is a “moderate” amount?

The best option we have, if we choose to eat red meat at all, is to eat it in moderation. Most people should be ok with consuming red meat in moderation, but what is moderation? A moderate amount is about 2-3 servings of red meat a week.7 A serving is 3 ounces, which many people will compare to a deck of cards or about the size of the palm of your hand, though you can certainly eat less than 3 ounces if you like.

If you choose to not eat any red meats, there are lots of other options out there. You can try eating more white meats in place of red meats. White meat can actually have the opposite effect on our health red meat does. Another option would be to include more non-animal sources of protein like beans, lentils, tofu, nuts, and grains in our diet as substitutions for meat.

Go forth and be healthy!

Health problems can become exaggerated when we add many unhealthy habits to our lives. Eating red meat along with doing things like smoking and eating an imbalanced diet can increase your risk of having health problems.5 The important things to remember are to eat in moderation, know what moderation is, eat a variety of foods, and maintain a balanced diet while staying active. Too much red meat can be harmful to our health so it’s important to keep track of what we’re putting in our bodies.

What should we do?

  • If you’re going to eat red meat:
    • Eat it less frequently
    • Buy lean meats
    • Don’t overcook it
    • Trim off and drain excess fats
    • Avoid processed red meats
  • Choose lean protein sources such as fish, poultry, nuts, beans, etc.
  • Eat lots of fruits, vegetables, and whole grains.

References

  1. Freedman ND, Cross AJ, McGlynn KA, et al. Association of meat and fat intake with liver disease and hepatocellular carcinoma in the NIH-AARP cohort. J Natl Cancer Inst. 2010;102(17):1354-1365. doi:10.1093/jnci/djq301. PMID: 20729477
  2. Sinha R, Cross AJ, Graubard BI, Leitzmann MF, Schatzkin A. Meat Intake and Mortality: A Prospective Study of Over Half a Million People. Arch Intern Med. 2009;169(6):562-571. doi:10.1001/archinternmed.2009.6. PMID: 19307518
  3. Pan A, Sun Q, Bernstein AM, et al. Red Meat Consumption and Mortality: Results from Two Prospective Cohort Studies. Archives of internal medicine. 2012;172(7):555. doi:10.1001/archinternmed.2011.2287. PMID: 22412075
  4. Li F, An S, Hou L, Chen P, Lei C, Tan W. Red and processed meat intake and risk of bladder cancer: a meta-analysis. International Journal of Clinical and Experimental Medicine. 2014;7(8):2100. PMID: 25232394
  5. Tasevska N, Sinha R, Kipnis V, et al. A prospective study of meat, cooking methods, meat mutagens, heme iron, and lung cancer risks. The American Journal of Clinical Nutrition. 2009;89(6):1884. doi:10.3945/ajcn.2008.27272. PMID: 19369370
  6. John, Esther M. et al. “Meat Consumption, Cooking Practices, Meat Mutagens and Risk of Prostate Cancer.” Nutrition and cancer 63.4 (2011): 525–537. PubMed Central. Web. PMID: 21526454
  7. Kappeler R, Eichholzer M, Rohrmann S. Meat consumption and diet quality and mortality in NHANES III. Eur J Clin Nutr. 2013;67(6):598-606. doi:10.1038/ejcn.2013.59. PMID: 23486512

This is a student paper and not meant to be taken as health advice. If you are looking for actual health and diet advice please speak to your healthcare team.

Hunger Action Month 2018

This is just a quick note that September is Hunger Action Month and although we’re already about halfway through the month, there’s still time to get out there and do something. I suggest checking out FeedingAmerica.org to find a local food bank or doing a google search for opportunities near you to volunteer some of your time.

My experience with food banks has been with the Beaverton location of the Oregon Food Bank. This location receives donations from around the state, sorts donations, repacks bulk food into family-sized portions, labels canned food donations, then sends the donations to partner agencies across Oregon and parts of SW Washington where the food is then distributed to families.

The staff is super friendly, and the other volunteers are interesting people to talk to. Often times work groups come with highly motivated (competitive) attitudes to pack more food than other groups, which brings a lot of energy to the shifts. There are a few different types of volunteer shifts you can sign up for and shifts are about 2-3 hours long. If you’re located in Oregon and would like to volunteer at one of the OFB’s locations, check out how to here, www.oregonfoodbank.org/get-involved/volunteer/.

 

The shift I enjoy most is the perishable repack shift, which involves bagging and boxing lots of different donations such as frozen green beans, fresh potatoes, frozen carrots, frozen corn on the cob, flour, and frozen snap peas. They also have “Fresh Alliance” shifts, which involve sorting through refrigerated donations that, I believe, were donated by grocery stores. Volunteers check expiration dates, and inspect for quality, freshness, and package condition.

Pallets of a bulk potato donation.

 

family sized bags of potatoes
Potatoes bagged by volunteers into family sized portions.

 

The Beaverton food bank also holds shifts at the Westside Learning Garden where volunteers help maintain the garden and harvest produce that gets distributed to local organizations as well.

 

Take a moment this weekend to find a local food bank and sign up for a shift this month. If your employer offers VTO, utilize some of that time, or donate food or make a monetary donation – take action this month!

 

My garden produced way more potatoes this year than I can eat so I donated about 15 pounds of my harvest to the Oregon Food Bank.

Impression of My First ‘Imperfect Produce’ Box

I was not sponsored by Imperfect Produce. My opinions and experiences expressed here are my own and I am not affiliated with Imperfect Produce.


Imperfect Produce is subscription-based service that delivers produce to your doorstep that would otherwise be wasted due to either irregularities that don’t meet grocery store standards (size, color, asymmetry, scarring), surplus, or the lack of a consumer market for something.

From Imperfect Produce’s website:

“Imperfect fights food waste by finding a home for ‘ugly’ produce. We source it directly from farms and deliver it to customers’ doors for 30-50% less than grocery store prices. Our subscription produce box is affordable, convenient, customizable, healthy, and delicious.”

Read more detail about Imperfect Produce on their “About Us” page as well as on their FAQs page.

 

How Imperfect Produce Works

4 box types for Imperfect Produce
2018 Imperfect Produce Signup page box types.

You can check their Sign Up page to see if you’re in an area they deliver to (currently only a handful of cities). You can choose from four different box types: Organic, Mixed Fruits & Veggies, All Fruit, or All Veggies. Once you select the box type you want, you can choose from the array of sizes and the frequency you’d like to receive your box, which is either weekly or every other week.

A few days before your delivery date you get an email saying you can log in to customize your box. You have a relatively short window to do this – about 32 hours. Our boxes were delivered on a Monday and I was able to edit it the previous Thursday starting at 3:00pm until 11:00pm on Friday. Once the customization window closes, what you had selected is what you’re getting (supply permitting). Then just wait for it to show up. Well, I mean don’t JUST sit there and wait – live your life and all that.

A few convenient things you can do once you’re signed up is you can easily choose to skip a week, edit your box size, and still choose from the different types of boxes. You’re not stuck with the box type you chose at sign up – you can change it up.

On my delivery day they sent me a text letting me know my box was getting close with a link to track the truck. . . at the same time, I received a text saying it had been delivered. So, by “getting close” they meant the front door. 🙂

Imperfect Produce Delivery Truck Tracker

 

My First Imperfect Produce box

Monday August 20, 2018
Portland, Oregon metro area

My delivery window was between 3:00pm – 11:00pm and the boxes were delivered at 6:00pm, which was actually pretty convenient. It was hot that day (mid to upper 90’s) so it’s possible the produce would have gotten a little “sad” had it been delivered any earlier or had I not been home at the time. I ordered the Mixed Fruits and Veggies box, size medium and below is the side-by-side of what I order and what I received.

 

Ordered:

Received:

1 lb of potatoes
3 red bell peppers
3 green bell peppers
1 organic celery heart
2 cucumbers
5 carrots
1 bunch of kale
1 cauliflower
1 lb of beets
1 lb of onions
1 lb of peaches
1 lb of plums
1 lb of apples
1 lb of pears
1 lb of nectarines
3 naval oranges
0.5lbs of Medjool Dates
6 Limes
5 Kiwis
2 lbs California Organic Mill Grade Brown Rice    
Alter Eco Dark Mint Truffles (10ct)
A recipe card for a blueberry smoothie
A welcome kit (information sheet)

3 potatoes
3 red bell peppers
3 green bell peppers
1 organic celery heart
1 large cucumber
8 carrots
1 bunch of purple kale
1 cauliflower
2 beets (no greens)
5 onions
4 peaches
4 plums
3 apples
4 pears
4 nectarines
3 naval oranges
~10 Medjool Dates
6 limes
6 kiwis
2 lb bag California Organic Mill Grade Brown Rice
Alter Eco Dark Mint Truffles (10ct)
A recipe card for a blueberry smoothie
A welcome kit (information sheet)

The Produce, etc.

A couple of the items were not as fresh as they could have been – several of the carrots were rubbery (they’ll be fine in soup), one of the limes needed to be tossed within two days, and the peaches got wrinkly quick. I had to toss a peach that got moldy fairly soon after we got it too, but at least the things that went bad had a home in my compost bin.

Some of the fruit didn’t have delicious, sweet flavor, but most was amazing. I ate one of the naval oranges while writing this and had to stop to just eat the whole thing. A couple of the nectarines had an off-texture that was almost spongy. I give this a pass though because even some of the “pretty” produce I get at the grocery store is hit or miss as far as flavor and texture goes. Can’t always know until you eat it. It’s worth mentioning again that the weather was warm the week we got our box so I’m not surprised some of our fruit went bad quickly.

The vegetables have been great. The bell peppers are almost gone, ate the cauliflower last night, 2 of the onions are gone, the kale is half gone, and the rest will keep for a while.

It’s interesting that they sometimes have non-produce items available as well. We got the brown rice and mint truffles, both of which were good. No complaints there other than I wish there were more truffles.

I thought it was helpful of them to include their storage guide because I think a lot of people (myself included) refrigerate more than we need to or keep fruits together that cause faster ripening. This sort of information is great for reducing food waste at home.

All told, our first box delivery cost us $35.03. This included the $4.99 delivery fee, and minus the $2.99 cost of the brown rice (they thought we hadn’t received it).

Downsides

I don’t like that I can’t see how much I paid for each item in my order history; all I can see is the total cost for that week’s box. Maybe I’m alone on this, but I like to see how the costs of things are changing over time. I’d have to remember to take a screen shot during the customization period in order to track that.

They deliver the produce in cardboard boxes and although I know they can’t reuse them for food safety reasons, it’s still an item that’s more often than not, just being recycled after one use. I did find a use for mine in the garage so the first two will live on, but as time goes on and more produce is delivered, I don’t know that I’ll be able to find a use for all of them and off to the recycling center they will go. One thing each and every box will be used for is ferret-play-time because new smells = amazing to ferrets snouts.

Ferrets playing in Imperfect Produce Box

Other Oddities

My selections indicated I’d get 2 cucumbers, but I received 1 – it was a very large cucumber though so I’m not complaining. I think that’s fair, but other people may not think so, which is why I’m mentioning it. I also received an extra kiwi, a few extra carrots, and I got reimbursed for the rice because they thought I didn’t receive it in my box (I emailed them and let them know I did, but their customer service rep told me to enjoy the rice on them). *thumbs-up*

One thing I found odd about the customization process was that I signed up for a “medium” box, but by adding and removing things to my box, I had no idea if my box was “full”. My produce ended up coming in 2 boxes so I guess based on how much I paid, I ended up purchasing an “extra-large” box simply because I kept adding things. I was pleased by the care they took with not stuffing my box full, but instead splitting it into two boxes so the produce at the bottom didn’t get crushed. Big *thumbs-up*

Imperfect Produce Delivery 1 Box 1 Imperfect Produce Delivery 1 Box 2

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Final Thoughts

Imperfect Produce - #cookingugly - Brown Rice, Red and Green Bell Peppers, Onion, and Celery

My first impression of my first box is, I wasn’t blown away by it, but I’m not disappointed either. I was annoyingly excited about receiving it and I’m still hyped about the company and the work they’re doing, but there is room for improvement. I typically buy groceries from Winco and they already have amazingly low prices on produce, so next time I’m there I’ll compare prices on these items to see how much my box of produce would have cost there. Let me know in the comments if you’d like to see a price comparison between my Imperfect Produce selections and my local grocery store. I get the feeling the prices will be comparable, but what this did save me was time driving to and from the grocery store, putzing around the store, dodging annoying people, and waiting in the checkout line. As a millennial who embraces introversion, I call this first experience a win 😉 Aside from convenience and potential cost savings, I support this company primarily because I hate food waste. I think they are doing something worthwhile and I’d love to dive deeper in another post about their impacts on food waste.

 

Imperfect Produce - #cookingugly - Cooked Red and Green Bell Peppers, Onion, and CeleryImperfect Produce may not necessarily be the best option for everyone. For example, people who tend to not cook at home much or find themselves throwing out produce because it goes bad before they get a chance to eat it may not see the full benefit of buying Imperfect. There are positive aspects for the consumer such as saving time, and helping alleviate a global problem (food waste), but if you find yourself throwing out produce at home, the food is still getting wasted. I get why it’s appealing to people in this busy world to have fresh produce delivered, but there are other grocery delivery options other than Imperfect Produce that may better suit your lifestyle, such as Instacart. That being said, I don’t want to deter people from trying it. I still recommend giving it a chance because you may be inspired to cook at home more and use the produce before it goes bad as well as eat healthier. There will always be some food that goes bad – we have our busy days, weeks, months – so make the best of it – compost what you can, freeze fruits that are starting to ripen too quickly, put your wilted greens in some water, or make a big batch of something and freeze the rest for a hectic night. 

Imperfect Produce - #cookingugly - Brown Rice, Red and Green Bell Peppers, Onion, and Celery, and Tofu

I just customized my second box and as of right now, I plan on continuing my subscription. I’m looking forward to cutting down on shopping trips, especially once the school term starts up in a few weeks, and continuing to support a company working to reduce food waste. Please share your experiences buying and eating Imperfect! I’d love to know how it’s working for other subscribers.

Leave me a comment or *like* this post if you’d be interested in hearing my perspectives on the impact Imperfect Produce is having on food waste and on the communities within the cities they deliver. I’ve come across some articles talking about possible negative impacts of Imperfect Produce on donations to food banks, and I think it would make an interesting discussion.

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Check here to see if Imperfect Produce delivers in your area. If they do, find out if any of your friends are signed up and get a referral code from them so you get a credit on your first box – they’ll get a credit as well! If you don’t know anyone currently signed up, you can always use mine – just ask.

I almost dropped out

Fall term was rough. I had a close friend run into some troubles and I was spending a lot of time making sure their life stays on track. I also had a death in the family during the first week of the term, which was somewhat expected, but none-the-less heartbreaking. On top of that, I was commuting about 5 hours a day, 5 days a week. After 10 weeks and almost 8,500 miles, I needed a break and the plan was to take a year off.

Thanks to the wonderful world of financial-aid-fuckery, I couldn’t take a break. That would mean my six-month grace period would kick in and I’d have to start making payments on my loans. This wouldn’t be a huge deal since the plan was to get a full-time job. However, after I do finish my final year I’d have to start making payments again immediately after graduation since the grace period will have already been used up. This is an issue because my path to becoming a Registered Dietitian involves applying and paying for an internship in order to get the RD credential. Basically, I’d be in an unpaid internship for a year post graduation AND I’d have to be paying off my school loans. There may be deferment options in this situation, but I don’t want to run the risk or deal with the paperwork, phone calls, etc. I decided to reduce my credit hours to half-time so I’m still making progress on my degree and I can put off student loan payments a little while longer.

It’s currently 3 weeks into Winter term and things are going well. I’m really glad to be taking the term at a slower pace. All that craziness of last term and all the nonsense of figuring out credit-hour requirements aside, I’m glad I didn’t take a full-on break. Being able to take fewer classes and spend more time on the material with less stress and anxiety means I’m able to retain more information and maintain my sanity. I’ve always been the type of person that needs to take my time and digest information slowly and I don’t see that changing any time soon.

I think it’s really important for people to take things at a pace that challenges them, but it should also work well for them. I can’t speak for anyone else or tell you all how you should run your lives, so I’ll just say from my experience, mental health, physical health, and sleep are worth more than finishing a degree in four years (among other things).

#itsnotarace

Curbing Food Waste Little by Little

I was happy to see an article in the Journal of the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics’ August issue about food waste in the United States. The article is brief, but it talks about some ways Dietitians can try to get involved in this global issue. I whole-heartedly agree that food waste is an issue dietitians can be involved in! As someone working toward a degree in nutrition with the hopes of becoming a Registered Dietitian, I’m happy to see the profession is conscious of the roll they can play in teaching people how to not waste nutrients, while also teaching how to consume nutrients.

Here Lies Cucumber | Sara Kerr | 08.24.2017

I try to reduce food waste in my house as much as possible, but often, it really can’t be helped. I think a lot of us just have such busy work/school/recreational lives that concerning ourselves with saving every scrap of food just isn’t a priority. What does motivate me is saving money. I’m currently a full-time student and I don’t like the idea of wasting perfectly good food. However, sometimes I just cannot eat all the bananas fast enough before they become over-ripe, and there’s only so much banana bread I can tolerate. Or sometimes I’ll forget there’s a half-used cucumber in the bottom of the vegetable drawer and by the time I re-discover it, it’s slimy and gross. R-I-P cucumber.

I don’t want to bore you with stats and numbers about how much food is wasted globally – there are a fair number of documentaries, blogs and videos available online that will try to persuade/guilt you into changing. It certainly frustrates me knowing how much food is wasted, especially on the production side of our food system, but getting worked up or frustrated about something I can’t change is wasted energy. Instead, I want to share with you two things I do around my house to limit food waste.

Edible Vegetable Scraps for Stock

Frozen Vegetable Scraps | Sara Kerr | 08.24.2017This is obvious and nothing new, but I think a lot of people think they don’t have the time for it, but making vegetable stock is a great way to save money and reduce waste. I keep a plastic bag in my freezer and whenever I have a piece of vegetable scrap I decide whether it’s worthy of making stock from it or whether it should go into the compost. I realize it’s hard fitting something new into your routine especially when it’s easy and familiar to toss scraps into the trash. Initially, it can be difficult to remember there’s a plastic bag in the freezer for scraps, however, I encourage you to give it a try.

I do want to reason with you for a second if you feel making vegetable stock is something you can’t do or don’t want to: you’re going to throw those scraps out anyway, so instead of throwing them in a garbage bag, throw them in the freezer bag. They can keep for a fairly long time and when you want to take a stab at making stock, all you have to do is throw them into a pot with some water, let them simmer on the stove and then strain out and save the liquid. It’s really simple and not as intimidating or as daunting as you may think, plus it saves you money by making stock from stuff you would have just thrown out. If you already know how to do this, great! Help a friend do it!

Compost

Composted Eggshells | Sara_Kerr | 08.24.2017Again, this is probably a very obvious thing, but it’s worth mentioning composting. I realize not everyone has a backyard, but there are ways to compost on your balcony or even on your countertop. When I lived in an apartment I utilized two 5 gallon buckets stacked one inside the other with holes drilled in the bottom of the upper bucket to allow drainage.

Currently, I have a small bin on my counter where I put vegetable scraps and once a week (ish) I take it outside to my compost pile, now that I’m living in a house. During the winter I keep a small compost bin outside our back door on the deck (the one I has used on our apartment balcony) so I can dump our indoor bin into that one and then once the one on the deck gets full, I take that one over to the main compost pile. This is just so I don’t have to step out into the rain or snow every time. I don’t know if “lazy” or “wuss” is more accurate, but it’s what works for me, so don’t judge! 🙂

Every couple weeks I take a pitchfork and turn the compost so that the air can get to some of the stuff underneath and so the stuff on top gets covered where the microbes can get to it. I also compost other things, but I can talk more about my composting in another article.

Compost Pile | Sara Kerr | 08.24.2017

Well those are two of the ways I try to cut down on wasted food in my house! I think an important thing to note is that even if food has gone bad, that doesn’t mean it has gone to waste! Composting is a good way to make use of those food scraps. Let us know what ways you cut down on food waste in your house in the comments below. Also, let me know if you’d like to see a video “tour” of my compost or how to make vegetable broth or something similar on my YouTube channel. Thanks for reading!

The Heart is Fascinating

Photo I took of a prepared slide showing the layers of cells of the esophagus.

I took 3 terms of anatomy this past school year and enjoyed the hell out of it. There were so many things I learned that I felt stupid for not knowing already. It’s seems weird to me that we all have this stuff in us, but not all of us are taught much about it. I think it also comes down to being taught when you’re in a mindset to receive the information – a lot of students do poorly in subjects because they really don’t find them interesting and can’t stay focussed. For example, it wasn’t until the 5th grade that I actually started to like science; I hated it before that. I remember getting a 29 on an exam in 4th grade – I saw the grade through the back of the test and was excited because my little brain got confused and thought it was a 92. Man was I shocked when we were allowed to flip it over and review what we missed.

I like science now though. My only complaint is we have to cram so much material into 10 weeks that I don’t feel like I get the opportunity to absorb as much as I could if I was given more time. But that’s the way school is (at least where I attend). I would like to spend extra time reviewing what I’ve learned, but I don’t want to set a plan in stone of what I have in mind – I’ve announced my plans before and it just makes me seem like a flake if I end up not really being into it and decide not to follow through. All I’ll establish is this – I want to review what I’ve learned and I may post about it; I may not, but today I am. No expectations!

You likely read the title already so you know I want to talk about the heart. In the labs we were able to dissect a pig pluck, which for those of you who don’t know, it’s the esophagus, trachea, heart, and lungs of a pig. I believe they are removed and set aside when pigs are butchered so they can be sent to anatomy labs like mine. Waste not! I’d be curious to know if any high schools provide pig plucks for dissection. The best things my school got were frogs.

At any rate, in my university’s anatomy class we were able to dissect the heart and lungs and examine the other parts of the pig pluck in a very non-structured, explore-at-your-own-pace sort of way. The most interesting part was when we cut the heart open to see the atria, ventricles, valves, and muscular walls. I wish I had taken pictures of it, but plucks are pretty bloody. They come from a butcher and aren’t drained and preserved like the cadavers. (I wish we could have taken pictures of the cadavers! Unfortunately, that would get us into a lot of trouble.)

I’ve been practicing drawing the heart and this is a (slightly distorted) line drawing I did while referencing a handout from class. It’s just to get my eye used to the shapes and how all the arteries and veins tangle around. I think that’s all I’ll share for now!

 

Hey! If you aren’t already – follow me on twitter @The_Kerrminator and tweet me fun and interesting sci-art stuff!

 

Workout Bunnies T-Shirt Giveaway!

crossfit-bunnies-workout-bunnies-5843As I mentioned in a post from a couple days ago, Workout Bunnies is a new social-networking site designed around finding workout partners in your area. The site and apps are still in early development so bear with us as we work out the kinks! You can download the Workout Bunnies Android App here, and the iPhone App will be coming along soon!

We’re launching a t-shirt line along with the site, which we designed to have a friendly and approachable look so when you see someone on the street wearing one of our t-shirts you know exactly why they’re wearing it and you instantly have a reason to strike up a conversation. We all want to live long, healthy lives and learning about how others are getting healthy can be incentive enough to dust off those dumbbells, paddles, or sneakers and start training. . .

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What we need right now is PEOPLE! So let me ask you this:

Have you ever thought about working out or doing some sort of physical activity and didn’t have anyone to go with or the people you asked turned you down so you just didn’t go?

Do you ever feel unmotivated to make time for exercise?

Are you a parent and need more parents to hang out with and do kid-activities with?

Are there new activities you want to try out, but don’t have someone to go with?

Have you been gaining weight and could benefit from having a partner to help keep you going?

I could ask at least a hundred more questions, but I think you get the point. We all have excuses about why we don’t exercise. Workout Bunnies is your answer to finding new people to workout with. You can search for a jogging bunnie in your town, find new a gym bunnie, or maybe you have an elderly relative who you want to encourage to go for walks and socialize – wouldn’t it be nice to get them a bunnie to go with?

yoga-bunnie-workout-bunnies-5840

It all starts with signing up! Workout Bunnies is free and you can even download the Android App. We want you to join our Bunnie Nation to start getting healthy, maintain your health, and encouraging others to do the same. We’re going to start by giving away some Bunnie gear! There are several ways to enter the giveaway and there will be multiple winners! We’re giving away 5 t-shirts 5 lucky Bunnies!

Workout Bunnies T-Shirts

The winners will receive their choice of Bunnie shirt in the color, style, and size (s-xxl) of their liking and we’ll even throw in a wristband and lanyard. Enter the giveaway using the widget below!

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Happy winning and get your booties moving!

a Rafflecopter giveaway

#strongfitunited

Giveaway Terms and Conditions:

-Winners must reside in one of the 48 contiguous states
-Must be 18 years or older to enter
-No PO Boxes for Shipping. If address is undeliverable or prize is unclaimed and sent back, winner is responsible for re-shipping charges.
-Prizes will be shipped within 30 days of giveaway end
-All entries will be verified
-Winner has 48 hours to reply to email notification or another winner will be selected

Oregon State: Nutrition Major Year One

I’ve waited far too long to post an update! Three terms went by and I’m halfway through the summer term. I had the intentions of leaving some remarks along the way, but it’s hard enough keeping up on school, let alone my blog and even drawing. Not to mention having a wedding to plan. Meh. Too much stuff.

Excuses aside, I’m here now. The first year at Oregon State was great! I think I only had one professor I didn’t particularly care for. Most of my professor-related issues are with a some staff members at the local community college that I’ve been taking a few core classes at. I’m intending to go full time at the university and say ‘sayonara’ to the community college, come Fall.

I was pleased with a class I took and OSU with Neilann Horner because she incorporated a bit of illustration with her assignments. I think teachers who integrate creativity with the sciences understand what it means to have a well-rounded education and that it’s not all about niche-learning. These diagrams were for two assignments from last term.

Digestive SystemKrebs Cycle

Unfortunately, I have only dabbled in a couple of the true nutrition-related classes so I can’t share a whole lot of information yet, but it’s my plan to start shifting this blog to more health/nutrition related topics. I have a chemistry term-project that I have to get rolling on and I’m recruiting you! There is a link to a brief survey at the end of this article that I would love for you to fill out. There will be at least one more (possibly two) surveys after this. I’ll explain more below.

In the mean time I want to break the news about my part in a local start-up company called Workout Bunnies. I was hired as an illustrator to design t-shirts for the company and have since taken a more active role in promotion and marketing. It was back when I had applied and got accepted to OSU for Nutrition and I couldn’t help but feel the timing was kismet. I’m very excited about the potential of this company because it falls right into place with my career and I feel I can grow right along with it.

In a nutshell, Workout Bunnies is a social-networking site designed around finding workout partners in your area. We (myself and company founder, Samuel Brackeen, IV) would like to take the company in more directions than just that, but for now we’re working on establishing ourselves as a workout-partner-finder as well as selling t-shirts. I’ll be posting about a Workout Bunnies t-shirt giveaway in the next few days so stay tuned (aka subscribe so you don’t miss it or follow me on facebook or twitter 😉 ). Also, if you have an android phone, download the Workout Bunnies app and leave a review – it will help greatly with further development. Iphone users – your app is coming soon so hang in there! You can still use the main site for now.

Workout Bunnies Hiker Bunnie T-Shirt Design

Now for this chemistry project survey. First off, you will be doing me a great favor by completing this survey series so please please please take a couple minutes to fill this first one out and if you’re feeling extra generous, please spam your friends with the link (below) as well. My project idea is basically research-based. I want to choose a vitamin or mineral that you, my readers, know little to nothing about and I will research it, write an article with information about what the vitamin does for you and in what foods you can find it, etc. There will be another survey at the end asking you what you know now and to see if it helps you with food choices.

Click this link to the survey (it’s only 3 questions):
https://docs.google.com/forms/d/1VrzadAEHpwn9BYuscVgdt6_qwlhe-TY15Nhtav2UdbI/viewform

Thank you! 🙂