Category Archives: sip a daily zine

in 2018, am setting aside time to blog a zine review and drink something delish

s(h)i(t)ck life stuff happens

content warning: self-harm ideation (body horror), mental illness (depression, premenstrual dysphoric disorder), eating disorders, health issues related to being assigned female at birth


zine: Cooking With Baggage (& Verve): Lessons From An Ex-Vegan Ex-Chef by Cher Tan (find them on Twitter here. Check out their other zines here.

drink: The Matriarch New England India Pale Ale (NE IPA) (355mL can, 6.5% ABV) by CoConspirators Brewing Co.

music: Ghost Stories For Christmas by Aidan Moffat & RM Hubbert

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This is kind of confusing because a new blog post is live on my blog, but that means a completely new one is up on my Patreon. patreon.com/posts/s-h-i-t-ck-life-29478582 ($) Anyway, latest free one: https://eatdrinkstagger.com/sick-life-happens/ Latest Patreon one is @coconspiratorsbeer ‘The Matriarch’ and @palindrome678’s zine ‘Cooking With Baggage (& Verve): Lessons From An Ex-Vegan Ex-Chef visual descriptor: 1. a green beer can with a caricature of a rich old white lady, right to a filled glass of beer, hazy orange-amber. At forefront is the black & white zine, illustrated. 2. The green beer can with caricature of old rich white lady and filled glass with beer, side by side on a wooden chest of drawers.

A post shared by Gemma E. Mahadeo (@eatdrinkstagger) on

I know I’ve been in worse situations before health-wise, but a fortnight ago (edit: mid-Aug 2019), some equally amazing professional stuff happened, and some pretty awful health and life stuff did too.

I don’t know what will happen with the life stuff and its resolution, but I need to learn to deal with that. I’m more worried about the health stuff. I’m officially in a depressive episode again (it’s been a while, so it’s okay, we’re old predictable mates), but the premenstrual dysphoric disorder treatment is just…it’s not killing me, but even when your shrink in absolute sympathy tells you it’s still a bloke’s world, what do you do? Oestrogen patches, epic nausea (again), and menstrual blood that’s not even supposed to exist. It makes me hate being assigned female at birth, why can’t I be saved from my own body?

I’ve been getting a bit more public about identifying as non-binary, and I’ve no intention of changing what I like to call the ‘sack’ I’ve come in…unless my PMDD symptoms are extreme. One recurring fantasy I have is of cutting off my breasts with an amazing Japanese culinary knife (because they’re known for their sharpness and quality, there’s no cultural misappropriation shit happening here), even though it’s the menstruation that brings on these gruesome desires.

Perhaps presumptuous, but I consider the zine author a good friend and colleague. We’re very similar in the kind of ‘Asian’ that we are…we don’t tell our immediate families everything, we’re kind of considered weirdoes by them, and Cher is also infinitely more talented than I am as a writer. Uni education can’t teach you some shit (don’t get me wrong, I’m really fucking grateful for spending my undergrad time reading books I fucking LOVED), and Cher is living proof of that. I wish the Australian writing would get over itself in terms of its love affair with academia wank and just…I dunno, adopt a rescue pet, maybe?

Cher and I also listen to a lot of music that is coded as that meant for white people. We don’t do this deliberately, we just listen to music that moves us?! Isn’t that what music is for? So yeah, they’re also in a punk/noise band, and can’t wait to see them perform in a few weeks. If you can’t already tell, I’m a pathetic fanperson for Cher.

An old joke, but I love dangerlam‘s drawing of me, Cher, and Sonia Nair here because we look like a badarse power metal trio. I was freaking terrified the first time I met Cher, and was having severe impostor syndrome about what the hell EWF was doing programming me with a critic like Son!

Sadly, upon reading Cher’s zine intro, I realise we have a lot of really shit things in common. Yeah, yeah, all Asians are supposed to love food! (sarcasm) Asian parents aren’t exactly the first to pick up on the fact that disordered eating can stem from:

  • a. it feels like the only aspect of your life you have control in (if your family unit is controlling/strict)
  • b. as an Asian child, you’re expected to be fucking perfect at fucking everything – this can bleed into the way you start to look at food; abstention from the ‘pollution’ of consumption looks like a way to emulate perfection, or reaching it?

For me, meals at my house as a child till I moved out of home were sheer hell. I can recall this even from my London childhood. Because there was no choice over what I ate or portions thereof, I somehow got really good at being a closet pseudo-anorexic: just restrictive enough to not register as having an issue. In Year 9 (when I had my first year-long major depressive episode), I got my arse kicked for hoarding sandwiches with SEVERAL layers of ham in them, rotting in my school bag. I got picked on so much for lunches I didn’t even want to eat. I was too scared to throw them out at school, and knew there was no way I could throw them out at home. I didn’t exactly have a lot of spatial freedom – till I started uni (thank god). As a teen, I also developed irritable bowel syndrome: just another way to piss off my mum because she didn’t exactly take well to the suggestion that it’s stress-related. To be honest, neither do I. I wanted to be tougher than that, so I ignored all my mental health issues because that was what strong people did. I would grow up strong.

Not that it mattered. My mother was too angry at me for x, y, z to register that I even had major psychological issues start early (anxiety, depression, possibly PMDD), and my father worked too much to notice…anything. For them as psychiatric nurses, mental illness didn’t hit people you weren’t treating. She isn’t big on empathy (she no longer calls as my health issues are worse than hers).

Also like Cher, I learnt to cook pretty late in life – maybe at 19, when I first moved out in second year uni, from Marie Claire cookbooks before Donna Hay got famous, authored by her! Yep, I’m that old. Sometimes, I’d return home to try and cook for my parents. My father once took a look at a chicken pilaf I’d made, shook his head and pursed his lips and said he wasn’t eating that. I was gutted, but not surprised. My parents are not people to pay me compliments.

Cher once cooked for me and it was fucking fantastic. Nothing fancy or major, but it was about the setting and experience: sitting on a balcony, drinking tinnies, sitting on milk crates. I scarfed down my serving of her dish.

A far cry from the human who didn’t learn to really enjoy food until I was put on an antipsychotic called quetiapine (Seroquel). In smaller doses, it’s great for chronic anxiety (which I now realised was the sort that came with PTSD) and hoo boy, did I gain weight taking that med! To the point where cholesterol levels were an issue. You will not have any control over what you crave. My main ones were rich fatty foods, meat, cheese, lots of beer. Decent cheeseburgers. Why didn’t anyone tell me food could taste this amazing?!?!

Mirtazapine, an antidepressant also great for chronic anxiety, can do the same thing. My main craving for that (which was also depression eating because I was in an abusive work environment for the first half of 2018) was matcha flavoured icecream. Hit me up with all the tubs.

I love that Cher isn’t into any of that ‘authentic’ bullshit and, like me, just embraces when something tastes damn good even if it’s not part of the recipe. Likeomg, you mean you can change or adapt recipes to your liking?! No fucking way!

I want to try making Hainanese chicken rice (no way can I pull that off, unfortunately), the palak chicken paneer on cauli mash (because I am the world’s worst South Asian Indian diaspora kid ever that actually wants to cook Indian cuisine. My brother, I’m sure, wouldn’t give a hoot about learning *wink*), and the Singaporean-Malaysian-style chicken curry because roti c(h)anai is the fucking flavour bomb.

Seriously, reading the zine, I’d forgotten about my beer, but I did make tasting notes before starting to read, so we’re all good. I constantly harp on about how I have no formal training when it comes to beer tasting because a lot of me does feel like a fraud in that respect. Having said that, I’d LOVE to take the cicerone (beer sommelier) exams now that they hold some sessions in Melb/Aus, but it’s just another dream. It’d be great to write more eloquently on something I love so much but would I stop writing in a way that communicates my love and wants to share that love with you readers (for which I am grateful – for every single one of you, don’t you dare forget it)?

Check out the above IG embed for the photo of The Matriarch and the full (!!!) beer glass next to it, mmm-hmm. I can’t move it. It’s stuck there (ie. it’s too tricky, soz!).

I love The Matriarch. It’s a beer I’ve demolished many a of tinnie of, expect to demolish more of, even on tap. It’s not going to kill your palate with bitterness so it’s a great intro to folks who say they hate beer but are willing to give something new a go because…they’re ace and not coeliac (I have a wonderful mate who is, and it breaks my heart that I can’t wax lyrical on amazeballs beers with him. Gluten-free options exist, but they’re slim). Clint aka. Pocketbeagles is an amazing designer and all-round fab human (he was once super-nice to me when I was crying in public at a Froth launch) but I don’t have the guts to suggest to him to maybe do a non-white CoCon character…I’m a coward. A burnt-out one.

*Patreon-only tasting notes appear here*

As a queer person of colour, however, there are a couple of things about the brewery that I try to ignore (seriously, this lot cannot put a foot wrong with the beer they make) or when I try to be vocal about, guess who isn’t listening? Um, only the entire cishet white beer industry. Why the fuck does no one ever talk about 2 Brothers?!?! No really, whitemansplain it to me! Is it ’cause they’re Azn bros? Their Kung Foo rice lager is a killer accompaniment to a wide variety of Asian cuisine.

Doctor’s Orders Brewing (on hiatus at present) do this thing where they don’t brew from a set, fixed location all the time and they refer to themselves as ‘cuckoo’ brewers. Cuckoos (cheeky bastards!) lay eggs in other birds’ nests!

CoConspirators Brewing Co. frequently refer to themselves as ‘gypsy’ brewers. Unfortunately, most of the Australian beer media industry doesn’t give a shit that this is considered pejorative. In parts of Europe, it’d be like saying the ‘n’ word to someone from the African diaspora, but Aussies love travelling! If they don’t see or live this, then is it really true? I had to block an Anglo-Aussie male on Twitter who got into this very discussion with me. Never mind that I was fucking born in Europe.

I’m tired of shutting up about these issues. I got emotionally flogged by various folks as a result of giving a speech at the launch of the Shifting The Balance report led by Diversity Arts Australia. This was one of the few times people were paying attention to this small feminine-presenting creative of colour and it wasn’t something to be forgotten after the event. So yeah, I know the (Anglo-)Australian beer industry don’t give a hoot for my opinion, but damn, it breaks my heart that I’ll never see a face like mine on the cute CoConspirator can labels or tap badges. I try to laugh it off, but it hurts.

I’m also going to assume you know my choosing a beer called The Matriarch isn’t unintentional. It stands for a lot of things that oppress me, in society, and culturally. My personal protest is to never become one. That’s all I can do with my brand of intersectional feminism.

The music choice? It’s because Christmas isn’t warm and fuzzy for everyone. I recently tried to explain this to a gorgeous woman I matched with on Tinder. She unmatched me when I told her that Christmas and family dynamics were stressful for me. I’m not surprised, but phwoah, it stung! White queers don’t really like me (or the ones I’ve been on first dates with like to pas-ag or neg on me).

I’m so sorry this was so long! If you got this far, thanks so much for reading (and you Patreon lot, I am bear hugging you in my mind’s eye). Corny but true: en route using a ridic expensive pool rideshare, I thought to myself “Gem, every second, minute, hour, day, week, year you survive is triumph. Try to focus on surviving second by second, then minute by minute. The rest might start to feel a bit more doable.”

P.S. oh okay, there was this one time a person of colour featured on a CoCon beer… and let’s face it: West Indian rum is pretty fucking special.

If there’s any breweries that want to make a beer called ‘The Poet’ and put my ugly yellow-brown mug on it, let me know! People of colour have dreams too, y’know.

sick life happens

The plan was to blog like a demon during the initiative known as ‘dry July’ (where people abstain from drinking alcohol to raise money, as well as for personal health reasons), and I was doing it to keep my main squeeze company.

I thought it’d be great and I’d reap health benefits immediately…but after having bronchitis for all of June, most of July was getting first one ear infected, only to have it move to the other.

It’s now August, and after a week and a half of physical wellness, I now have another ear infection in the ear where it all started. You can imagine I’m pretty pissed off, and joked to my psychiatrist that at least I was miserable about being physically ill rather than due to the usual psychological ailments!

I’ve been saving a special zine specifically to match up with tea, and now that I’m home sick and trying to keep warm and drink lots of hot drinks, it seems like a good time to read and review the following.

zine: Life Happening by dangerlam (Kim Lam, 2019)

drink: organic golden latte blend by Zee Tea 

(a super-cool Patreon-only photo appears here of my three-colour cat teapot next to the zine mentioned above)

So…my turmeric latte mix technically has gone past its best before date, which is one reason I’m trying to finish up the packet. I’m also hoping the turmeric will help with some excruciating, stabbing pain I occasionally experience in my left index finger thanks to my fluting past. Recently, the fingertip has started to go numb and the part where the pain stabs happen have become…less stabby and more lingering.

Given that turmeric has anti-inflammatory properties, I’ve been remembering to try and drink more of it. The ingredients are pretty yummy. The packet says it’s:

organic turmeric powder blended with ginger, cinnamon, liquorice and coconut

and also recommends that you make it with coconut milk, mmm! I’ve just been using a mix of half a cup of hot water, the rest full cream milk. 

Being a liquorice fiend (as gorging on it after one summer trip to Portsmouth can attest…I threw up a river of liquorice after sitting bolt upright in bed just as me and my brother were retiring for the day after being told not to eat it all or eat it too quickly!), I’m pretty partial to this particular mix, it’s slightly sweet and subtly spicy, though I flavour it with honey (again: using more of for its antibacterial properties) anyway.

The comic zine is dreamy. I’m a fan of Kim’s work, ever since she left me speechless after drawing my 2018 Emerging Writers Festival panel – I really love her linework, and enjoyed her sparse usage of colour in ‘Life Happening’. 

Scroll through my favourite panels in the comic in the IG embed above, for pretty obvious, biased reasons (hint: involves cats, and tea!). One of them, minus me having a dishwasher and kitty litter is SPOT ON.

You can view this in IG as embedded above but I’m posting it because I totally let my hipster turmeric latte get cold whilst writing this blog post, classic me shiz.

The creator invites us to contemplate what makes up ‘living’ or ‘existing’ and how fulfilling or meaningful these rituals and patterns to us. I loved it because it’s a beautiful, artful, melancholy way of expressing these preoccupations; I don’t often feel my mind dwells on these topics in a healthy manner (regular readers would by now know why that is).

It does make me fall in love with the simple little rituals that do define our life. Waking up, being able to get out of bed and make myself tea and breakfast isn’t something I take for granted, and recently it’s been easier, more natural. It sounds like such a mundane thing, but I enjoy that I can do it, that at the moment it doesn’t feel like such a trial. 

Spending time with my cat (who is purring and huddled on half of my lap as I write this post) is another one of those everyday things that grounds me, makes me feel like living isn’t too bad, or that it’s okay to take time to rest. We’re both anxious sorts, and by being physically close to each other, we kind of cancel out our mutual anxiety! For real: adopt, don’t shop.

If I had to sum up why you should get a copy of Life Happening, it’d be because it’s a limited edition print run (mine is 21/100!), it’s a gorgeously plaintive reflection that considers what’s meaningful to us as individuals in a world that tries to get us all to do the same, sometimes harmful things (work, earn money, spend that money, not consider the consequences of that spending), the illustrations are lovely, and you’d be supporting a Melbourne-based creative.

Again, and as always, I pay for the zines and beverages I review, which is why I especially love and appreciate my fantastic Patreon supporters!

My tea collection did grow substantially during Dry July so I’ll try to match up more tea to zines, and throw in an occasional tinnie to clear my fridge shelf of shame!

Will do my best to post sooner rather than later. Hope the Melb winter is not battering you as hard as it has me! Stay warm and dry!

inhabiting pubs with an in-house catfish

zine: Inhabit Journal, issue 2 (Nov 2016), curated by Kiara Lindsay

drink: The Doctor (6.5% ABV, half-pint, draft) brewed by Sawmill Brewery (Auckland, NZ)

venue: The Catfish, Fitzroy, Melbourne

So for the Emerging Writers’ Festival this year, I’m involved in a couple of events and totally not panicking at all, noooo, not me! I know it’s really uncool to admit it, but it’s always going to mean something to me to be programmed in things because…I’m uncool and grateful that way, and part of me doesn’t ever think the working my overachieving Asian arse off will ever translate into actual success.

For research, I ordered Inhabit Journal’s zines, given I’ll be writing (most likely a poem) an ekphrastic response to an exhibition as commissioned by this year’s EWF. Today, I’m working with a poet friend at the Catfish (which I might add, I have a very soft spot for, because the staff NEVER mansplain my beer choices to me, and the Sparrows Philly cheesesteaks are also fucking amazing).

Anyway, the beer: why the hell are there still so many sours around when it’s winter proper in Melbourne? Please (white cishet)mansplain this to me! I went for a dark beer first up. Given how many bloody (quite literally, given the whole premenstrual dysphoric disorder goregrind show) doctor and health specialist appointments I’ve had in the last three months, I guess it’s kind of fitting to drink a beer called ‘The Doctor’?. It tastes like subtly roasted coffee, and isn’t too alcoholic (or hides its ABV well?), and kind of feel I should’ve ordered a pint of it instead. Trying to be a responsible adult is so boring.

Now is probably not the right time to admit that ekphrastic poetry absolutely fucking terrifies me. Perhaps it’s the direct involvement with a videogame that means it’s less terrifying writing a tribute (ie. videogame ekphrastic poetry) to it, but srs visual art? Gulp.

(Patreon beer notes photo appearing here)

Anyway, about the zine. All poems that appear in this zine are inspired by or mention at least one visual artwork by Fergus Binns. Some of the poets do mention more than one of the artworks (‘Erotic Fibers’ by Pauline Rotsaert, and ‘Rescued for Friendly & Honeybird’ by Shona McCarthy).

I feel it fair to mention that the following works I’m quoting from are not necessarily the ones I thought were the ‘best’ because kind of mindset is shit when it comes to art – these are examples of the ones that moved me and made me all excited about being a poet.

Natalie Briggs’ ‘Gigantic Blue’ had some lines that stole my heart:

and we rearranged the furniture, and I’m so careful with my words now.

Hot water asking my skin to give up / what my doesn’t dare to. The hot water knows / I never fought for you.

Or Natalie Gilmartin’s ‘paint gives the appearance of being fixed’:

a clearing is not a landscape, it becomes one

(…)

from something more fluid / with a steady hand and repetition

as if it doesn’t move or change or wilt or die / or carry the scars of colonisation

(…)

to the right music, a subject can confuse / a convention

Kern Mangan-Walker’s ‘being sunburnt but that’s okay i guess’ has lots going on. You should read the whole thing if you have the chance (I liked it as someone who isn’t white who appallingly burns in Australia…where are the benefits of my extra melanin?)

everything has its freckles, scars and blotches / history, geography, institutions, nature, among others / someone once said that these make our world beautiful

Last one! James McNiece’s ‘I USED MY EXPIRED VOUCHER AT SAVERS AND STILL GOT A DISCOUNT’

I live in greyscale

(…)

when I wake up next Spring / I won’t have to colour my own drawings.

I really hope I don’t let down EWF or Inhabit Journal, or the visual artists.