Pippi Longstocking Syndrome

There is a name for my problem.

“Pippi Longstocking Syndrome: An instance or event when a peer or superior in a male-dominated field treats a young girl as supremely inferior due to her age, gender, personality or a combination of the three.”

This is, of course, entirely made up. But it has been done so with the utmost consideration. You see, yesterday I had the chance to sit down with (or, rather, work alongside) several burly men in the culinary field as we set up for the Florida Restaurant and Lodging Association’s ginormous culinary convention at the Orange County Convention Center. I was merely a volunteer, but we entered through the loading docks (super awesome, by the way) to help move and clean kitchen equipment and, essentially, set up several makeshift kitchens for various competitions.

Found on the FLRA website.

Found on the FLRA website.

“No offense,” one of them said to me, “But you do give off kind of a…hostess-y feel.”

I propped my fists on my hips. “Excuse me,” I said. “I am culinary.”

There was one other woman there, about ten years my senior but the same size as me, who piped up in my defense.

“Just because this is a male field doesn’t mean we can’t do just as well, if not better, than the men. Do I look like I can lift fifty pounds? Well, I can. And I can cook better than all of you.”

The guy who had issued the comment backed up, affronted. “I’m sorry,” he said. “It’s just the Pippi Longstocking thing you have going against you.”

Admittedly, I was in my dirty work clothes, which means I was sporting an old black t-shirt, some sneakers and a worn out pair of jeans. And the jeans may have sparkled, because I bought them on sale at Charlotte Russe for two dollars after Christmas. I’m me. I like cheap, sparkly clearance items. They are great work pants.

And, uh, my sneakers may have also sparkled.

And, if I’m continuing with this honesty streak, my hair was in two side braids a la Anna from Frozen, but only because my hair wouldn’t stay in its ponytail. (Hazards of new conditioner, you feel me?)

Anyway, the comment should have offended me, but I knew I was kind of asking for it, so I didn’t respond. Pippi Longstocking, huh?

This prompted a conversation of influential women in the kitchen, and the phrase Pippi Longstocking Syndrome found its way into our vocabulary. The chefs we were working under (American Culinary Federation bigwigs and the Banquet Chef from Universal Studios) also gave some opinions over lunch, and it was a great conversation. If I were in more of a feminist ranting mood, I’d relay it all here, but I’d rather share a bit more of the overall volunteer experience. It was awesome.

Photo Credit: jjkllc.com

Photo Credit: jjkllc.com

If you’ve never been to the Orange County Convention Center, it is a truly massive building. The first day, it was nothing but a big cement room. Gradually people began to roll in machinery,  equipment and carpet through the giant loading dock entrance. Booths began to sprout up. It’s also high security–people are paying big bucks to attend this convention, but even the setup was strict. No wristband/ID/badge, no entrance. The first day the wristbands were purple. The next day they were blue.

I was a grunt worker, thanks to my status as Cheerful Volunteer. I moved the heavy refrigerators and cleaned them all out, which was a rather unpleasant job. For one, it required me to bend at all awkward angles to get to the corners of these reach-in coolers, and they all smelled funky, sounded funky or were covered in funky residue from their last event.

“Look at this!” I said to one of my fellow volunteers. “It looks like coffee grounds.”

“Pippi,” he said (my new nickname, thanks to my braids) “That’s rust.”

The whole underside of one of the shelves had rusted and was raining down physical contaminants onto the cooler floor. After serious scrubbing, wiping and shelf replacing, the issue was fixed, and I was covered in cleaning chemicals.

All the work was worth it, though, to see the finally assembled kitchens all in a row. (One of my best friends is competing in the big event, and I’m awfully excited for it.)

The next day (today) was even better. Out of ten volunteers, only two of us showed up–me, and my fellow Pippi Longstocking. As rewards for our efforts we were given lunch and some extra products from sponsors. And, of course, we got the last laugh.

Plus, we got free lunch.



TripAdvisor keeps sending me bumper stickers.

It all started so innocently– great service prompted a request for a good review on TripAdvisor, the online travel review help site, and so I happily typed up a glowing paragraph and submitted it online.

They sent me an email, a very cheerful and grateful one– Thanks for writing such a great review! We’re glad you’re willing to share your experiences with other travelers.

That did the trick. I was tickled pink. Who cares if no one even read the review? It was out there, for the world to see! My experience was helping make educated travel experiences for others!

Write another review? It prompted me.

So I did. A restaurant review. And another.


And another.

And that’s how it happened. That’s how I got addicted to TripAdvisor. I’m no food critic, but that’s the beauty of being online in this day and age. I have a cell phone camera and a fairly large vocabulary. I can experiment with phrases like, ‘fork-tender’ and ‘dazzlingly complex’ without having the pressure of being Frank Bruni or Pete Wells. I can share my experiences with the world, and TripAdvisor will keep encouraging me with emails containing subject lines like, “Another Great Review!” and “You Wrote It. They Loved It!”

It even tells me who all has read the reviews. I’ll open up yet another email from them, exclaiming, 435 views on your review!

And the few people that have voted my reviews ‘helpful’ have only encouraged me further. I am slowly gaining TripAdvisor badges like an overeager Girl Scout on caffeine. I reached my Contributor badge in less than a week.

To make matters worse, I signed up for Yelp this morning. I just had such excellent service at a tire store, and my review-happy typing fingers just had share the knowledge.

And Yelp, like his good buddy TripAdvisor, prompted me to write another review?

And I couldn’t say no.

It’s official–I’m addict. Is there a Trip-Ad Anonymous out there? And if so, has anyone reviewed it?

If not, I volunteer.

The irony abounds.

I Love Cocoa Beach

Let me tell you where to find the best fish tacos. Ready? The Sandbar on Cocoa Beach. It’s one of those seat-yourself sand-everywhere type places that just screams, “Beer and tacos and surfing all day!”

I think I’ve hit up The Sandbar every time I’ve been in Cocoa Beach, and I love it to death. Trust me, it’s great. After a few rounds of beach volleyball, crashing on the sand and sipping ice-cold lemonade, my group stopped for lunch here and then reclaimed our spots on the beach. Between the sand and the surf and the sunset, it was absolutely gorgeous and a total blast.

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But the highlight of my Labor Day was not the perfect weather, the great friends I was lucky enough to join or even the delicious fish tacos. No, the highlight of my day was discovering ‘I Dream of Yogurt,’ the frozen yogurt shop based off of my favorite old TV show, I Dream of Jeannie.

It’s perfect, and intentionally so, because the show takes place on Cocoa Beach.

We were literally driving out of Cocoa Beach when we passed by the sign. I let out a tremendous gasp of excitement, to which the girl beside me asked, “Do you want to stop here?” (A reaction possibly due more to the fact I was freaking out than anything).

“Yes!” I exclaimed. “Yes, yes, yes!”

Inside, episodes of I Dream of Jeannie were playing on a television. Signed paraphernalia from Barbara Eden and Larry Hagman lined the walls.

You don’t understand,” I tried to explain. “I’m the biggest I Dream of Jeannie fan ever. I don’t even have words to describe my excitement!”

The froyo was great, the company was fabulous and the atmosphere was unparalleled.

This was, by far, the best Labor Day I think I have ever had. It was … (wait for it!) … just beachy.

And that is certainly not my last time in the most magical frozen yogurt shop I’ve ever encountered. I will be back faster than you can blink and say, “Yes, Master!”


Austin’s Coffee Shop and Film: A Review (Kind Of)

It was over a sweet-and-creamed ice coffee in the middle of an Orlando summer, squashed comfortably between a detached movie theater seat and a worn checkerboard table that I got to know Alex.

Austin’s Coffee Shop and Film set the stage. Both of us avid antique shoppers with a flair for the highbrow/lowbrow vibe of the Downtown Orlando scene, we wandered into Austin’s without any idea what to expect and found a hipster haven inside. I hardly knew Alex, yet over the thrumming thump of indie rock and some rockin’ coffee at prices far better than Starbucks, we became friends. (Our mutual love of vintage dresses and tea gloves may have also been helpful.)

It is impossible to describe the few hours we spent in Austin’s without using the word ‘hipster,’ or other common jargon. It was an eclectic scene—mismatched chairs and couches, movie theater cushions, and straight wooden chairs were everywhere. There was an immediate ‘anything-goes’ feel about the place. The inhabitants were of the distinct and unusual variety, nearly all of them with beards, some with braids, many with laptops. Outside of the seemingly small café, a few guys in black t-shirts with goatees and guitars blew rings of smoke into the steaming Orlando air.

The benches and chairs were filled unusual people whose stories could be anybody’s guess. At least three of them were sleeping. Others had ear buds in, or looked supremely busy playing online games. It was, to say the least, a college hangout with few rules, a distinctly ‘chill’ atmosphere.

“What can I get for you?” the girl behind the counter asked. Alex and I looked at each other, then back at the menu.

 “Can we have a minute?” Alex asked, the girl shrugged nonchalantly, telling us to holler when we were ready.

 In the back of the café, between the bathrooms covered in graffiti and song lyrics (the women’s restroom boasting a loud I AM FEMALE, HEAR ME ROAR! in silver sharpie on the towel dispenser), a dude in a ponytail casually stroked a loaded paintbrush against the wall. A mural of a forest pathway began to emerge from the brown and green paint.

A few feet away, whitewashed shelves held stacks of old board games, from yellowing Monopoly sets to Trivial Pursuit, Uno and Parcheesi. Beside those, stacks of books on random subjects and CD’s of every imaginable variety lay in wait. It looked like the contents of a garage sale left to the honor system.

We settled on the barista’s favorite drink—sweet iced coffee, served in an eco-friendly plastic cup. The ice cubes were perfectly square, clinking against each other as if in agreement—this was the best coffee to swim in. Twice the size of a Starbuck’s ‘tall,’ the coffee was half the price as twice as delicious. The atmosphere added to the enjoyment significantly.

We settled in the center of the coffee shop, Alex perching on a strightbacked wooden chair painted in rainbow colors as I tumbled into a movie-theater seat with a tendency to lean too far backwards. We carried on a conversation this way for a long time, until the ice in our drinks had melted and the Orlando sun had been replaced by rain.

We made plans to come back again, to tuck our cars away in the tiny backlot and spend a few overnight hours studying or playing board games in the relaxed, almost grungy atmosphere. A tad rebellious, even edgy, offset by the comfortable seating and disregard for any particular demographic, Austin’s felt comfortable and relaxed. The unusual slices of pie and sandwiches on mismatched glass plates, wrapped securely in plastic lay crookedly in the case, a sight that should have been off-putting and yet somehow looked appetizing.

For anyone trying to get past their millionth Starbucks here in Orlando, or just looking for a hipster place to crash and swill joe, this is the spot!

Here is their website, and their Yelp reviews are stellar.

Now you know!