The Food I Wonder About.
I struggled with the subject of food for a long time before I could find an angle of attack that would allow me to write enough pages of valuable information. I also wanted to satisfy my inward need, as humanitarian, to make you, dear reader, not feel like killing yourself. Because any subject, researched, formatted, sourced, and cited, that is also in no way relevant, or valuable, or meaningful, is simply a waste of both paper and time. With that said, of the many truths I have tested and refuted over my years riding this planet, only two have surfaced as inalienable and relevant, life is short, and life is weird. But to divest you with whatever further valuable information you should consider, we must frame our work around the subject of food. For it is my personal experience with food that is the most relevant, and that which I wonder about compels and crystallizes the intangible value that goes beyond mere research.
I wonder how much ramen I ate, living in New York City? I do know that one box saved my life at the very beginning of the 21st century. Our school made everyone in our building move the day before Christmas break 1999. The old place was on 85th, "The Amsterdam Residence", and we were on our own moving uptown to 93rd, "The Greystone". Stu and I shared a room on the third story walkup on 85th, however, and the new room having a bathroom meant we could stop sharing a bathroom with complete strangers. When Stu got back from break so we could ring in Y2K at the epicenter, he had this massive box of ramen, but he hated ramen, and said I could help myself. I had no money, and at that time I walked between 20 and 30 blocks to school every day. Every night a packet of ramen would keep the pangs away for a while. I have known poverty for most of my life, but that was the first time I truly knew hunger.
I wonder about SPAM? I'm not even sure if I'm supposed to capitalize that, but I'm going to, and just assume the packaging is correct. I managed the meat department of a Wal-Mart for a time. The worst was ham season. I remember this massive man who asked in a deep southern drawl; "Where ah yo big haams at?" It was clear that I didn't want to stand between him, and his ham. He dumped 10 in the cart and wheezed off. The ham itself wasn't the problem, it was the saw. Meat saw. You have to clean the ham out of the saw, between hams, and this band saw blade is a whirling, spinning, meat and bone covered accident that you try to control. The whole department was cut so many times. The point is, one time I asked my manager if he could arrange for a tour of the Hormel facility, so I could see how SPAM was made? I would even be willing to drive myself, as the company is in Minnesota. However, they were unwilling to sponsor the visit. It was this sort of endemic apathy that made me quit that terrible place. To be fair, I did manage to test the theory of cross merchandising fish tanks and lobsters as "The Edible Pet", with the qualifier being that they're all edible. The people who toil at Wal-Mart are some of the kindest, hardest working, pressed upon workers on the planet, and their slave masters, The Walton Family, should all be ashamed of how terribly they betrayed Sam's original principles. Those 6 "Family Members" (pirates) own as much money as the lower 41% of the United States.
I wonder why "Fear Factor" went off the air, and if it was because someone died, and they just never aired that season? I ask, because they ate a whole lot weird stuff on that program. Raw animal organs and cave spiders and stuff even more terrible than that. Stuff that you just know was kicking, and biting, and stinging when it went down. Probably all of those sad people have PTSD now. All for $20,000? You know? You can win $1,000,000 for answering some questions correctly. Read a fucking book. But no, let's eat raw pig intestine. I saw one episode where they had to climb out unto the wing of a bi-plane. Totally a death related cover-up.
I wonder why people still eat lutefisk? I was going to write this whole paper on that, but human, that's going to be a paper as dry as the white fish you have to soak over the course of a few weeks, in order to prepare this terrible fish. It is obviously a culinary mistake, and people still commit to eating it, as if it were not the most terrible food on the planet. I didn't want to write a whole paper, because I have never eaten it. I have smelled it, and that is as much as I ever want to interact with that food. Lye as a cooking product. If you cure the fish wrong, your fish turns into inedible, unusable soap. If you eat it without the second soak in water, I think it kills you. It turns out that most of it is eaten in the United States. They don't even like it back in Norway and Sweden, where they prepare their fish in a way that makes it healthy and delicious. Most of it is consumed in the church basements of the US of A. So old people can travel back in time a little and remember how terrible the past was. The hope is that like bigotry, bridge, and game shows, lutefisk will die off with those who still remember polio and before television.
I wonder how we ended up eating a lot of the stuff we do? Humans, I mean. There is this whole argument over our real place on the food chain. You can still get eaten by a lion or shark. But, there are more tigers alive in captivity than the wild, and if these trophy hunters and poachers keep at it, maybe we will finally get to the top for reals. What is certain is that we will eat almost any animal. Unless it is poisonous, and even then, if it will get us high, we will lick a poisonous frog. Venomous is not poisonous, and in Thailand they will cut the still beating heart out of a cobra for you to eat, before they cook the remainder of the snake. Lobster? Who pulls this up from the ocean and thinks, yeah, let's eat this. Maybe they tried, initially, and it wasn't until the advent of boiling things, and bibs, and butter, and small wooden hammers, that lobster became something we would consume. Lobster is to insects what the whale is to us. Waterbugs with butter. Who pushes the calf out of the way and figures out we can milk this thing?
I wonder if the cow will evolve? This is something that worries me. Because along a long enough timeline, other species are going to either mutate or evolve into the big brain game. One way or another. Either you contend with this, or you ignore the billions of years of evolution that have led us to understanding it. Dolphins can communicate. A chimpanzee can speak in sign language, and you can also eat it. This is a rare and troubling juxtaposing, indeed. In theory, and I don't know if you should ever try this, you could teach an ape to understand, and then explain to it you are going to eat it, and just see what happens next? I leave that work to other scientists. You sometimes get this glimpse, behind the veil of society, at what humanity is capable of, at our most terrible, and you realize that we are all just animals covering our bodies and operating phones. The separation between ourselves and the animal kingdom is something we invented to help us sleep at night. Everything we have built around us is a careful guard between our creations and our consumptions.
I wonder if and when everyone is going to start starving? There are these predictive models, regarding climate change, and they claim that atmospheric carbon could remain for as much as 1,000 years. This makes undoing the impact of the industrial revolution, leading up to now, a damnable amount of poison in our climate system. So, there are going to be droughts, and these will get worse, and eventually the American breadbasket is going to fold, and people are not going to stop having babies, anytime soon, and we can't feed 7 billion effectively, nutritionally, or equitably. Here I am in the first world, struggling with the threat of obesity and diabetes, while other people starve. There has to be some sort of inherent guilt, there. Not original sin, but coming close. Knowing that you get to be born someplace where food is plentiful enough to kill you if you eat too much of the wrong kind, while others starve and die.
I wonder what my last meal will be? They give prisoners condemned to death whatever they want, which seems humanitarian, but in no way really is. I saw a report, and it is a lot of dead men eating steak and then walking. John Wayne Gacy got a dozen fried shrimp, a bucket of KFC original recipe fried chicken, French fries, and a pound of strawberries. Timothy McVeigh got two pints of mint chip iced cream. Why not make everyone's last meal be a root beer and a suicide pill? That would be mine. If I were given a choice. But they don't give you a lot of choices, in capital punishment, other than the meal. Some states have a few methods you can choose. If I had a second choice, suicide pill not an option, I would take the firing squad. I don't know if that makes me hardcore, or stupid, or what, but they are injecting experimental drugs into condemned people at this point in the history of our proud nation. Why let them test out a new execution formula on me? F that. In the a. No way, José. I'll take four doses of lead injected with force into the heart, please and thank you. After my root beer.
I wonder what sort of foods will go away within my lifetime? The avocado is going away, in the near future. There are seed banks, so that aliens, or cockroach people, or whatever, can grow their own human garden if they want to. I somehow doubt aliens would care about our flowers. The banana is dancing on the razors edge of extinction. The banana we consume, the Cavendish, was a replacement breed to the Gross Michelle, which is now extinct. The banana our grandparents ate during the formative stages of the industry is gone forever, and the entire banana industry is soaked in blood and misery. In 1954 the C.I.A. simulated a war against Guatemala to maintain the flow of bananas. They used native forces to overthrow the government and exile the president. One person impacted by that little operation was Che Guevara. He would go on as a symbol to live on T-Shirts and posters everywhere.
I wonder how many different animals I've eaten? Not a burger, or a hot-dog, but the animals that died to make it? How they once lived, and ate, and pooped, and dreamed as I do. Only to be killed, processed, mechanically separated, and often reconstituted. Emulsified. Probably flavored. I wonder, with all of these whacky after-life scenarios out there, if I could meet them all someday within infinity? I would say I was sorry. But that I lived without regrets. More than that, I wish that we didn't waste all of the food that we do have through inefficient use. I am also saddened by the chronic failure of our society to provide for the nutritional needs of the disadvantaged, SNAP and similar programs being a prime target of republican pig dogs who contribute to the fallacy of "The Welfare Queen". In fact, people do not like being poor. Drug test politicians, and breathalyzer them between sessions. Because it would seem to most of us drunk white men are wildly arguing over the control of the world's greatest nation, while all around it sink and burn.
I wonder if anyone will ever see the end of world hunger? Sad commercials of fly covered children tell me about the suffering of the world. I try to listen, but it is also an advertisement. So much of everything we are bombarded with every day is advertising advertising advertising. It is a socio-economic masturbation more dangerous by far than the military industrial complex, because it makes us blind, deaf, and dumb to the suffering of the world, by virtue of it's place among the daily miseries we must leverage as more or less important. Among it all, we are all of us just trying to eat, and poop, and breed in peace and quiet. Sometime to music, or while reading, or playing on our phones. My final thought is that if we could make iced cream nutritious and sustainable it could be the food to guide us into a new age of prosperity and quality living. Whoever that sick stone age person was, that milked the first cow, I send my thanks, through time. One day your reckless curiosity lead to cheese, and joy.