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Heirloom Tomato Tart, Tomato Throwing & Why Are We Attracted to Deviant Personalities?

Updated: 5 days ago


Heirloom Tomato Tart Slideshow. Yeah, it's like a fancy pizza without the work!


As a kid living in suburban Indiana, I had a best friend named Jack, who I’d initially met in preschool. We did everything together. We watched “The Muppets” on Saturday mornings, made snow angels, went to McDonalds, watched movies, were classmates at school, and slogged through ice practice together. One day, I watched him lace his black hockey boots (a moment of realization) and put on all his gear (“Why so much?”) while I looked at my white ice skates and red skater dress and wondered why I didn’t get to wear hockey skates? “Why are mine white? Why did he have a stick he could whack things with… including me? Why did he have to put his laces through so many black and white loops? Why was I twirling around by myself in a red skater dress while he wore black and had teammates?”


One day in kindergarten, I was with my friends when one of the girls told me I couldn’t be part of their group anymore because I wasn’t wearing a bow in my hair. She pointed at me, my hairbow-less head, then an empty part of the room with a chair, and told me I had to go there because I wasn’t part of “their group.” I wore overalls that day (instead of a dress) and didn’t have a pretty bow in my hair, so I felt devastated. Jack saw what happened and told me to come play with him and the boys, so after feeling bad, I followed him and played on the monkey bars. I remember the sun shining through those monkey bars while I climbed (and fell off, hitting the tan bark) because I didn’t have the upper body strength to keep up with the boys. It was the first time I had experienced that kind of rejection, for something I had no control over.

This week, I watched the first of the Presidential Debates for our 2020 election. Like many people, I was not quite sure what was happening, but uncomfortably enjoying the spectacle of political theatre gone awry. I remembered “the hair-bow incident” from kindergarten and laughed. At what age do we realize we are different from others? Why do we gravitate towards people like us? Is it learned or is it innate?


Check out this fascinating paper. Based on the results of the first experiment, at the age of 5, children have a preference for their own gender and are already suspect to behavioral decisions based on hearsay when asked if they wanted to play with a certain child based on what was said about them. In the second experiment, they were assigned a colored t-shirt and were asked a series of questions. Kids preferred to play with their own gender, but if had to mix, they preferred to play with kids that had their same colored t-shirt and had more generous expectations of reciprocity based on that same color t-shirt. So, basically, by the time we’re in kindergarten, we’ve already established expectations of who we want to be around and cognizant of how nice or mean they are or perceived to be.


Consequences of ‘minimal’ group affiliations in children

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3513287/


Jack and I were completely different. I was the only kid that looked like me in the class (you can almost tell which part of the country I was living in based on my class pictures. We moved a lot.) He had blonde hair and one day I asked him why his hair was turning different colors and mine stayed black. (He said he didn’t know.) He had light brown eyes and also convinced me to dress up as a cowboy (like him) for Halloween. So, my exhausted mother agreed and I showed up as an Asian cowgirl complete with white cowboy hat, white fringe boots, skirt, and cute vest. Imagine a tiny Asian 80’s Dallas Cowboys cheerleader- cowgirl in kindergarten with her best friend, the blonde cowboy. (Omg. Wow, I had a weird childhood. This explains ALOT.)


Did Jack know that I was different from him or did he care? I obviously didn’t care but maybe it was because I was a sheltered kid living in suburban Indiana. I just liked it when he came over on Saturdays to watch “The Muppets.”

Here’s an article on how children can unconsciously develop implicit racial bias.

https://theconversation.com/how-young-children-can-develop-racial-biases-and-what-that-means-93150


So, we understand now it’s not that the babies are “racist”. It’s more about who or what is familiar to them, also underscoring the results of the t-shirt experiment with the kids. They associate what is familiar to them with happiness and comfort along with reciprocity. They are already primed for “ingroup” favoritism and not discussing differences about other children did nothing to help them understand why they should be inclusive or tolerate them.


“Ingroup” favoritism and the spectacle of behavioral reciprocity is the basis of any devilishly good reality show. I LOVE reality shows. Before I had my daughter, I’d be glued to any of the “Real Housewives,” botched plastic surgery shows, the Kardashians, cooking shows, basically anything on Bravo or the like, except dating and music competition shows (which both hit too close to home). It’s also partially the behavioral basis of any train wreck involving corruption, financial scams, corporate fraud, political espionage, World Wars, and genocide. So, now that we know we are inherently susceptible to picking our “ingroup” why, within that ingroup, do we follow people that are kind of crazy? You’d think we’d eventually breed it out of ourselves… but apparently, there’s an evolutionary advantage to some deviant behaviors.


Why are we fascinated with deviant behavior in relationships? Basically, men and women that are reckless have more short term partners (duh), men with high OCD secured more long lasting relationships (made more money than those with “average” personalities or maybe they were also more attentive to… ahem other things), and really neurotic women had more long term partners than those with “average” personalities (men associated neuroticism with femininity. Wow. I didn’t know that had worked in my favor.) We (unfortunately), subconsciously have an underlying belief that if someone is rebellious, impulsive, and a risk-taker, their genetic material must be of such superior quality that they can live dangerously without suffering significant harm. Real life superheros/villains. Fascinating.

https://www.scientificamerican.com/article/why-we-are-attracted-to-deviant-personalities/

So, now that we understand that some of these deviant personalities are admired within our “ingroups” what happens when we’re faced with a moral decision and a time limit? Since we’re all interdependent, no matter if we think our decision will not affect others, it certainly does. How do you make a moral decision weighing gains (your own self interest) or losses (moral principles) if a decision needs to be made in the near future or distant future? The results show that most people will alleviate their own immediate suffering for short term gain. The good thing is they would also adhere to moral principles in the long run and sacrifice monetary utility, but then make adaptive moral decisions in the short term to get to it. So, short term, usually self gain. Long term, moral behavior, sacrificing monetary rewards, with incremental decisions leading up to it. (They also looked into their heads while doing this.)


Electrophysiological Mechanisms Underlying Time-Dependent Assessments in Moral Decision-Making

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC6763758/

During the last six months, I couldn’t understand why so many decisions being made kept coming up short. So, inexplicably, inexcusably, short. Based on these inferences, we basically have leaders that have been chosen by our “ingroups”, admired for their possible impulsivity, neuroticism, or recklessness, making short term decisions under extreme pressure (which even in normal circumstances) leans toward their own self gain. In many ways, this mode of thinking is partially being expressed in the emotional volatility of the stock market in the last few months. It also helps me understand why companies have furloughed, then fired employees during a pandemic (it’s not only the stock price, but a lot of it), why countries were duped into buying fake N-95 masks (panicked, impulsive, fear of losing face), why leaders couldn’t quite understand the larger scope of the pandemic or ignored it (fear of losing short term economic gains, fear of personal reprisal), why leaders refuse to see the longterm catastrophic losses (self gain, inability, or don’t care that they’ve possibly helped create a moral catastrophe, Great Depression, anyone?), why some refused to speak out for fear of losing their jobs or reprisal (short term economic gain), or why economic and social gains that have taken decades to amass are being decimated within a few months (self interest, fear of losing face instead of what’s better for everyone morally, longterm).


This extends well beyond politics and the economy. When this all started, my husband and I talked about how it would affect everyone economically but more importantly, socially. Close friends and family have lost their jobs, lost loved ones, lost momentum in their careers, and are unable to properly take care of their financial responsibilities. In turn, I’ve seen people turn to envy, gossip, hatred, racism, moral failings, and moral cheap shots, in order to alleviate their short term emotional and financial pain (by mimicking from whatever example). I’ve watched friendships fail, marriages on the line, children trying to comprehend upheaval, irregardless of political affiliation, race, or religion. I find it inexcusable when the same social standards I uphold for my toddler are now thrown out the window because our leaders have decided no longer to lead by example, but by saving face. This pensive balance of moral decision making in the short versus the long term determines every piece of legislation, every economic decision, every political decision, every diplomatic decision and will determine the kind of value system dictated in our country (and possibly others because, “aren’t we the leaders of the free world?”) for generations to come. (Btw, I have voted for both parties in the past. Economically, I tend to be extremely conservative.) Btw, narcissists also have a tendency to blow up everything around them if things don’t go their way short term. That way, longterm, no one wins. Food for thought for veiled autocracies, dictatorships, heads of industry, and democratic leadership around the world.


So after watching our first Presidential Debate of 2020, I wished I could visually quantify how people felt. Tomato throwing! There’s a Spanish tomato throwing festival, “La Tomatina”, held in the Valencian town of Buñol, since 1945 after musicians (uh oh) and a group of boys threw the mask of a Big Head off one of the parade participants. He got so angry, he hit everything in his path, including a marketplace of vegetables, and started pelting the crowd. (Wow. Talk about short term pain alleviation.)


Here’s a “La Tomatina” video. Appalling and weirdly entertaining. It’s like Lollapalooza with tomato sauce.

20,000 People Gathered in Spain to Throw Tomatoes at Each Other | Mashable News


Unfortunately, I will not post the picture of me in kindergarten dressed up as a hybrid Dallas Cowboys cheerleader-cowgirl but I am appreciative of your time reading this post. Thank you! I hope this made you laugh, think, and possibly come up with creative short or longterm moral decision making. Have fun riffing on this tomato tart and marvel at humanity’s ridiculousness that is a tomato throwing festival on steroids!


I loved “Animal” (unbridled enthusiasm, poor impulse control, lol…) and “Rowlf” (because he played the piano but had strangely large hands.) I didn’t understand why “Rowlf” was always so calm compared to his bandmates… until I became a musician.


Bohemian Rhapsody | Muppet Music Video | The Muppets


Um, I think I shouldn’t have watched this video, but couldn’t help passing it along. That “halo” effect is imprinting everything I’m seeing. The music though, is UNTOUCHABLE.


Foreigner - Head Games (Official Music Video)


Because M.I.A. is amazing and you know you’ve made it when you have a McDonald’s meal named after you.


Travis Scott feat. Young Thug & M.I.A. - FRANCHISE (Official Music Video)


I think this is the anthem of 2020.


U2 - I Still Haven't Found What I'm Looking For


Every musician remembers the pieces they played as a child. Anyone who went through Suzuki piano remembers this… and the extremely awkward introductions and bowing we all had to do. Cheers!


Beethoven’s Sonatina in G Major


Thanks for reading! I hope this made you laugh, think, and get super creative! Xo, Melissa


Heirloom Tomato and Cheese Tarts

(loosely based on the “Tomato & Goat Cheese Tarts” from Ida Garten’s, “Barefoot Contessa, Back to Basics)

This is a great dish when you have no time, want something fancy, and can use up the odds and ends of cheese we all inevitably have in the fridge. My husband refused to eat a “tomato tart” when I told him I’d make it. Then, one late Sunday night, I made it for myself and he devoured it saying it tasted like a fancy pizza with puff pastry. Sigh. Great with wine, watching Netflix.

Ingredients

1/2 package (1 sheet) puff pastry, defrosted

Good olive oil

2 cups thinly sliced onion (or if you’re not into measuring, 1/2 a large onion)

3 large garlic cloves

the leaves from about 5 sticks of thyme (or whatever herb you have to use up)

4 deli slices of provolone (or Swiss, or Gruyere)

enough cheddar cheese (or goat cheese to sprinkle on the top)

3 heirloom tomatoes, sliced

parmesan cheese (if you have any)


Directions

  1. Unfold a sheet of puff pastry on a lightly floured surface and roll it out slightly.

  2. Prick the the inside of the square leaving about a 1 inch edge border un pricked. (So it’ll puff up and look fancy and the inside will stay flat with your toppings.)

  3. Preheat the oven to 425 degrees.

  4. Heat 3 Tablespoons of olive oil in a large skillet over a medium to low heat and add the onions, garlic, and about 1/2 the thyme. Saute for 15 to 20 minutes, stirring frequently, until the onions are limp and there is almost no moisture in the skillet. (If you don’t want to do this, I just did it until it was colored a nice golden brown because I was starving and it was a late Sunday night.)

  5. Add the onion mixture to the top of the tart, leaving the un pricked border exposed.

  6. Top with the provolone and cheddar (or whatever cheeses you’re using) then add the sliced heirloom tomatoes on top. Sprinkle the rest of the thyme and add the parmesan if using or whatever cheese you need to use up. (Use this time to make it pretty because we’re all deserving of some beauty nowadays.)

  7. Bake for 20 to 25 minutes until the pastry is a golden brown. (Chill out on the coach and RELAX.) Serve hot or warm. (Pour yourself a glass of wine, devour, and pat yourself on the back for coming up with something fancy at 10pm on a Sunday night. Cheers!!!)


Hint: This same thing is amazing with Black Forest Ham, Gruyere (or Swiss or Emmenthaler), Dijon mustard (I like coarse ground for this but improv) and two pieces of puff pastry. Basically, do the same thing for the bottom. Add the top puff pastry sheet, crimp the edges with a fork, add egg wash, make a couple of slits on the top for the steam to escape and bake. (Wow yourself or a boo, for making something fancy that takes the same time as making a sandwich, have a glass of Champagne and chill!)


Thanks for reading! Until next time, Xo Melissa


#heirloomtomatotart,@inagarten, #latomatina, #childrenstshirtexperiment,#whyareweattractedtodeviantpersonalities,#timedependentmoraldecisionmaking,#muppets,@foreigner,@travisscott&mia,@U2,#beethovengmajorsonatina



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