Prison is Not the Life for Me, or How I Learned to Like Eggplant

I am marvelous at making resolutions.

Intentions, commitments, pledges, and aspirations are like the promised land to me. Rarely do I wait until New Year’s Eve to declare; throughout the year I ambitiously plan to write often and write better; to eat less and move more; listen to live musicians playing live music; to hug people I care about; take more photographs of daily life being lived around me; to actually look at the thousands of photos I already have squirreled away in an old trunk in our bedroom or on my hard drive; and always, to travel soon.

I approach these commitments with an attitude bordering on saintliness. Because, let’s face it, when we make self-improvement promises, even if only secretly to ourselves, we are pretty sure that doing so sets us next to Mother Theresa. Or maybe her third cousin (twice removed) Harry. Resolutions make us feel positive about living out the rest of our otherwise pretty ordinary lives.Handcuffed hands of a prisoner behind the bars of a prison

So I am great about making resolutions, but as it turns out, often pretty crappy about the follow-through part of the deal. I say resolutions are like the promised land because I can see them out there, shimmering on my horizon, just out of reach but tantalizing nonetheless. I am currently behind where I would like to be on a writing project that I swear is supremely important to me. But that’s not quite as important as wanting to eat less and move more. Which falls to the wayside when I am listening to some of the awesome musicians playing at StrangeBrew Lounge Side, or Saxon Pub, and other music venues here in Austin. (In fact, some of Austin’s greatest places to listen to music aren’t concert halls but taco bars. And coffee houses. Which also serve tacos, because this is Austin.)

All day long, I would happily hug the people I care about, if only I weren’t striving to be out taking more photographs. And all that striving is put on a back burner because travel trumps pretty much everything else.

Now that I’m thinking about it, I tend to hug my travel-partner husband tighter and take more photographs when we are on the road, plus I have far more ideas for writing when I am out there, so maybe if I just kept traveling I would keep my resolutions better? Such is the logic of a chronic traveler.

Even with all of the intentions declared throughout the year, the days around the New Year have a way of thrusting resolutions upon us. Maybe it’s all of the drinks and food we have all feasted on since Halloween; or the lousy way we reacted to an emotional family trigger at Christmas dinner. Whatever. We get the urge to be better people. So we resolve, we stumble, we fall, we fail.  We fail so unfailingly that New Year’s resolutions are standard fare for standup comedians. We have heard those jokes so many times that they fall flat. The comics fail at joking about our failures.

I failed at resolution follow-through more times than I care to dredge up. Which is why, for the past 10 years I have made the same two resolutions, with appreciable success:

#1 Stay out of prison


#2 Eat something I think I don’t like

#1 (Stay out of prison) is not as simple as it sounds and takes some philosophical thought. Should I try not to do stuff that could land me in the pokey? Or just take care not to get caught? This is a dilemma I wrestle with. I suspect loads of people wrestle with this one and many land on the not-getting-caught side of things. In wrestling terms, it’s like mud wrestling: slippery, dirty, and you may find your pants down around your ankles. Is it okay to commit a victimless crime if I don’t get caught? Does getting fined qualify as success if I don’t actually do time? What if I protest with the intention of getting arrested? See what I mean? Acting on my number one resolution keeps me awake when I’m trying to nap during the day while I am hard at work avoiding my writing commitments. Also, I do not look good wearing orange, even if it is the new black. I will stick with black. Prison food is another problem with being in prison. I love good food and I’m fairly certain I would not get options in prison. Which brings me to…

#2 (Eat something I think I don’t like) came out of a desire not to be a picky eater. My husband, Brian, eats everything. Anything. On one hand, he is great to have around if you are cooking because he will try tasting whatever you’ve got going. Even if you inadvertently spiced that roast duck curry so much that you weep hot spicy-chile tears every time you remember it. He’s handy to have around if you want a thumbs-up on your cooking.

On the other hand, Brian is less discerning than you might be looking for in a food critic. He’s basically happy to eat foods someone else makes and he likes people to feel good about themselves. If he had three thumbs, there would be a new standard for “good stuff, this!”

Compared to him, I am a picky eater. I prefer “shrewd”. Or “selective”. But I don’t happily eat the burnt toast, the apple slices dropped on the floor, or bottom-feeders like shrimp and oysters.

Resolution #2 also stems from an idea in an article I read years ago and which may or may not be factual. The author wrote that our taste buds die or change every seven years and that, theoretically, we might begin to enjoy eating foods we had previously rejected as awful. Also that, as we age, our taste buds dumb down and we are unable to taste things quite as intensely as we did when those buds were brand new. Either way, I figured maybe I would start to like eggplant. It was worth a shot.Eggplants isolated on white

Guess what? #2 actually has worked for me. I eat broccoli now! And while eggplant is not on my top ten list of foods I want at my last meal when I end up in prison for failing to commit to resolution #1, I can eat eggplant now without making the face of a three-year-old. When we moved to Turkey to manage a yacht 13 years ago, my ability to eat eggplant ended up being key to my enjoyment. Turns out Turks love eggplant. They even have an eggplant dish named Imam Biyaldi, which roughly translates as ‘The Imam Fainted’. That’s how good it is. I’m certain many Turks have eggplant on their lists of foods at a last meal.

So building on that resounding success, this year I am going to add a third resolution to my list.

#3 Stop saying negative stuff.

About myself, even if I don’t write as much as I resolve to, or get up off my butt and do 20 sets of stairs.

About other people, even if they are bottom feeders like the shrimp I don’t eat. Even if they drive like nincompoops. Even if they are in Congress, for crying out loud. I suspect this will be the zenith of difficult resolutions for me. Oscar Wilde has provided me with what has essentially been my mantra for decades: Other people are quite dreadful. Not you; other people. I worry though, that I use all of those dreadful other people as an excuse to be negative, so I think it is time to alter my reality.

My worry is that, because I am a champion curser, and if I am miraculously able to quit saying negative stuff, will that negatively affect my ability to throw down a good swear? Creative cursing is on my resume´. It is a skill I would like to hang on to. Saying ‘criminy’ and ‘holy moly’ can only take a girl so far, right? Maybe I will attempt to curse only about excellent, cool stuff. I could turn swearing into expressions of great joy.

Although I have not quite figured out just how to stop saying negative stuff, I will let you know how that goes over the next few months. Meanwhile, I will be enjoying my freedom outside the US prison system, where I will be busy trying to eat sushi without gagging.

Barbara Gabriel

Writer. Day Stealer. Chronic Traveler. Raised along Highway 61 in Minnesota, I ran away to sea & messed about in boats. I curse like a sailor and love travel, food, most people, and a well-fitting pair of boots. I try to combine those any chance I can.


  1. Another masterpiece, Barb. Please stay out of prison! Lol! I did not know that taste buds change every seven years. I like the idea of continuously trying new foods. By the way, egg plant can be delicious or horrid. Just depends on how bit is prepared. I prefer to make my own. I buy it fresh, slice it and dip it in eggs and flour, pan fry it lightly, so it warms, but stays firm. The worst eggplant I had was in Verona, Italy at a small family restaurant in the back streets, where it was served to me as a brown mush pile. Not appealing to look at. I am sure it was rotting eggplants that they heated in a pan.

    Although I think you have a very big heart, I absolutely love your sarcastic remarks. They are witty, funny and you make your points! Please stay who you are! 🙂

  2. Omg this is brilliant…. I am working on my own ideas for changes but damn i enjoyed your list as well….


  3. i am still,in awe of your writing Barb. I sure hope you can stay out of prison because I want to come visit you in Texas (not at the prison). I love eggplant Parmesan but only homemade. Had some bad stuff at restaurants. It’s also quite good sliced thin, dipped in Italian salad dressing and grilled. Enjoy, love and miss you ☺️

  4. Barb, I hope you can stay out of the pokey but if you do get locked up please don’t stop writing. Thoroughly enjoyed, and looking forward to more. Hope you and Brian have a wonderful 2015.

  5. Its funny that you and I both share the prison one. It has always been a fear for me and have made many decisions based solely on the desire to avoid it.
    Life is too short to eat eggplant or squash. Sushi however is one of life’s few perfect foods.
    Thanks for all your writings.

    • It doesn’t surprise me that we share the ‘Stay out of prison’ resolution. Living aboard a boat gives you at least the illusion of an independent life. As far from prison as we can get, I suspect.

  6. All I can say is, if you do wind up in prison, I will back you an Eggplant Parmesan with a file in it. We’ll take care of #1 and #2. I kinda think we were going to make Rice Krispie Treats with a file in them for Brian once.

  7. Love it! It can be a fine line to walk…staying out of prison and all!

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