The Newsletter Thingy

The Grand Pivot: Bring on the Personal Essay

Trying something new at Sybarite HQ.

Adeline Dimond
Sybarite
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10 min readApr 23, 2024

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Omnia Vincit Amor or The Power of Love in Three Elements, Benjamin West, 1809 | Metropolitan Museum of Art, Open Access Collection.

Okay, fine — Sybarite is a personal essay publication now. I tried it the other way and it didn’t work. Not many people sent in work, and when they did they were inevitably demoralized by my severe editing style, or ouright offended when I would reject things out of hand.

Also, there was a huge misunderstanding. I originally described Sybarite as a place to write about luxury. Most people took this to mean “rich,” or “fancy.” Some people even wrote in to say that they didn’t have enough money to write about luxury, missing the point of luxury all together. Luxury is not necessarily expensive. Luxury could be a nap at the beach or if you’re me, Panda Express’ Kung Pao chicken. I could bathe in it.

I tried to explain it other ways too: Just anchor your writing in something tangible, something pleasurable, I’d write in post after post about submission guidelines. I’m giving you restrictions so that writing is better, I’d tap-tap-tap into newsletters. I’d complain about all the bad and meandering writing blanketing the interwebs and try to explain that if you write about your grandma’s cheesy grits, that would focus your voice, make you cut out extra words.

And if you focus your writing on cheesy grits or lipgloss or your favorite beach, the personal essay just sort of bleeds through anyway. That’s the funny little secret! It just sort of bubbles up. This story by

is a perfect example of that — yes, it’s about a restaurant built for Instagram, but it’s also about memories of New York City and what it feels like to be in your thirties, figuring it all out, afraid you never will.

But I just never explained it right. Or something. I’m not really sure. All I know is that submissions never took off, and the few times that they did they petered out almost immediately.

So, you know what? Write about whatever you want. (EXCEPT BULLSHIT SELF-HELP JESUS CHRIST). If it’s good, I’ll shoehorn it into one of the Sybarite categories and NoMinaTE iT foR BoOStIng. If it’s bad, I’ll tell you. If you aren’t already a writer for Sybarite, send me a draft at adeline.dimond@gmail.com; if you are already a writer, upload your drafts as uzsh.

Admittedly, I’m a little sad about the change, because I sort of imagined Sybarite would work like Elle or Vogue in that there would be a fluff piece (lipstick!) and then a more serious piece (reproductive rights) and your brain would be able to sort of lilypad from the hard stuff to the soft stuff back to the hard stuff. I also imagined it to be a place with real advice, like how to cook fish and not the stupid, fake advice that grifters write.

But whatevs. We’ll see how it goes.

Speaking of whatevs and also the need for real actual advice, I have some questions. Random ones that the internet doesn’t seem to know the answer to because somehow even the internet has become less human, although I don’t really know how to explain what I mean by that. It just seems that there are only one or two answers to everything now.

We always knew the robots would take over, but did we know that meant there would eventually only be two recipes explaining how to use a bag of frozen pre-cooked shrimp — with some deviation to throw you off the fact that they are all the same recipe — throughout the entire internet? Will the robots take over by making us cook the same exact thing over and over again? Remember when everyone made that viral TikTok recipe where you baked a block of feta nestled in a heap of cherry tomatoes and no one talked about the fact that the feta came out kinda rubbery and everyone just kept posting their feta tomato dishes, like some sort of proof of something?

Listen, I’m not even high. Stone cold sober in fact. I just sorta wonder if the robot takeover will come at us kinda sneakily through recipes and food and suddenly we’ll all be shoving flavorless cauliflower rice into our mouths while we all simultaneously watch the Bachelor finale and say aloud, “this is just as good as real rice,” and not even know it’s a lie.

I don’t want to be a robot, even though sometimes I think it might be easier, and so I am going to go down swinging. To that end, I figure I’ll ask the Sybarite readers some questions the Google algorithm doesn’t seem to have the answer to, in the hopes I’ll find an non-robotic answer. And even if there are no answers, that’s okay. It’s still rank engagement farming so that’s fun too.

Question 1: Shrimp

As you may have guessed, I have a bag of frozen PRECOOKED shrimp. I should not have this, but I do. Frozen precooked shrimp is a food crime because if you try to warm it (them?) up, you risk rubbery shrimp which is squarely in the top ten of the most disgusting things on earth.

So what do with it/them? I know I can simply defrost it/them and serve it/them with cocktail sauce, and while I like that idea because I love horseradish, it’s just Fish and I over here these days and I don’t think we can eat a whole bag of shrimp that way, even if we do it while bed creaturing™.

I asked for ideas in an Instagram story (under my real name, although Adeline has an Insta account too) and right on cue a mouth-breather boy from high school who has three kids he never sees wrote back and and said “um, cook it?????”

Something like that would have bugged me a few years ago; now I recognize that a deadbeat dad who can’t give up mansplaining would also never understand the risk of rubbery, overcooked shrimp. Those two facts go together like high and low tide. It’s nature.

On the other hand my sentient friends offered up two possibilities: shrimp tacos and ramen. I’m down with shrimp tacos, and I’m really down with the ramen idea because you can apparently toss a few frozen shrimp in with the broth and don’t even have to defrost it/them. Game changer. But I’m not smart enough to get the order right, so I texted my friend an embarrassing amount of times yesterday: “you mean I take the noodles out and then toss the shrimp in and bring back to a boil or…?”

“Almost,” she texted back gently, and then tried to explain that you bring the broth back to a boil first, and then toss in the shrimp. But the difference in the order of things was so minor that my brain couldn’t latch on to it. I was still confused but too embarrassed to write her back again and ask her to just fly out from New York and show me.

Anyhoo, what do you all think I should do? Go off in the comments.

Question 2: Fitbit or Apple Watch?

I’ve been working out. Not enough, but consistently. Every Tuesday and Friday I meet my trainer at the gym now and I lift heavy things. Then a few weeks ago I started going to her abs/buns/thighs class after I worked out with her. When she first suggested this I looked at her dumbfounded. “You mean work out two hours in a row?” I asked, incredulous.

Look, I’m Jewish. I was raised to believe that if you didn’t get eight hours of sleep and three meals a day, you would die. You would also die from going out in the cold with wet hair, swimming right after you ate, and eating pop rocks with soda. The idea of working out and then working out again without stopping to throw yourself on a sofa facedown seemed against the law.

But I’ve been doing it, and my trainer is proud of me, so the other day she asked if I had an Apple Watch, in a move I suspect is designed to get me to care about how much I move around every day, not just two days a week. “I don’t,” I said breathless while doing a leg press, mentally calculating whether I could afford one.

Then suddenly I heard myself yelling, “but wait I have a FitBit!!!” I do indeed have a FitBit, but it was put into a medically induced coma during the pandemic (read: stored in the back of a shelf behind the art supplies). “That works!” she said, bopping around.

So it was decided. I would pull out my FitBit. But the next day my fear of tech took hold of me. I haven’t laid eyes on that thing since 2019. Surely when I plug it in or try to sync it to my phone, something will go wildly wrong because it’s outdated or something. I don’t really know what will go wrong, but I do know that if something does — and of course it will, because tech — it will be the end of me, because I just recovered from the fact that my Roku will no longer play AppleTV. I have come to accept the fact that it will never not be so, but I don’t think I can take another blow like that so soon.

Because I am aware of my fragile state regarding tech, I am now considering just buying an Apple Watch. Something will surely go wrong with that too, but it won’t be because it’s outdated and I will be able to scream to the customer service people at Apple and they will fix it.

But do I have any business doing that, especially when I’m in such massive credit card debt? And what about Swedish Death Cleaning, which I have been doing for awhile now (will write about it someday!). How can I justify two doohickeys collecting dust? And can I really even throw out the FitBit, given the one article I read on the internet five years ago about how those things store all your personal information and surely someone will dig it out of the trash and know everything there is to know about me? Which is admittedly, not a lot: I like Reese’s peanut butter cups and dogs and that’s about it.

Anyway, the mind boggles. Would appreciate any input.

Question 3: Can AI solve the artichoke problem?

On Saturday I went to Solvang to visit my horse with my friend Nancy. We own him together (long story) and he retired a few years ago because he was just too injured from the track to be a fancy dressage horse or a jumper and a little too nuts to be a trail horse (also a long story). So now he spends his days munching on grass and sunbathing. Please enjoy this photo of him and his buddy below:

Typically after we visit him, we go to the Hitching Post (from the movie Sideways!) and have grilled artichokes and steak salads. The artichokes are always incredible: huge, roasted perfectly and covered in the Hitching Post’s very own seasoning salt.

But this Saturday they were even better than they usually are. They were the platonic ideal of artichokes, and suddenly I found myself shoving fistful of leaves into my mouth at once (as opposed to that dainty way you’re ‘sposed to do it) and pretty much swallowing the heart whole. “You okay?” Nancy asked as my eyes were rolling back in my head.

I couldn’t stop thinking about the artichoke all weekend, so last night like some sort of crack addict I ordered another roasted artichoke from a local Italian restaurant. And it was good. It didn’t give me the same orgasm that the Hitching Post artichoke did, but it was solid.

I went to bed thinking about artichokes: about how I knew only how to steam them, and how I used to do that but never got the aioli right. About how you really should grill them, but I don’t have the skill set — or a grill for that matter — and how if I were on death row I would just ask for a grilled artichokes, as many as they would give me.

All this lead to one conclusion: if a Los Angeles restaurant serves artichokes, I should go there and eat them. In other words, I should try every artichoke at every Los Angeles restaurant that serves them. (Am I explaining this right? I can’t tell). I should keep a list of all the artichokes at all the Los Angeles restaurants. I should become an gonzo restaurant critic, but super niche: just artichokes.

And after a good night’s sleep, I still think this is a fantastic idea. Heck, this lady just held a plank for four hours, thirty minutes and eleven seconds and I think the artichoke mission is just as worthy.

But here’s the glitch: how do I get a complete list of all the restaurants in Los Angeles that serve artichokes? Los Angeles is big and there are a lot of restaurants.

Can AI figure this out? If so, how do I ask AI to do it? After all, the robots should at least find me some artichokes before they take over for good. If you are on a first-name basis with the robots/AI, can you do me a favor and figure out how to ask them about this? I’ll invite you over for shrimp tacos.

Warmly and with melted butter,

Adeline,

Sybarite-in-Chief

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Did you know I also have a publication devoted to pleasure and luxury, that is looking for submissions?

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