..all I can say is at least I had pants on when this all happened.
earlier this week, I set the fire alarm off in my building. I'm not talking just in my room from a bit of smoke, I'm talking about building clearing fire alarm.
I was going to make what we decided to call ghetto ass tacos for dinner. This meant taking that quarter pound of ground beef, the one boneles chicken breast, a few pieces of roast beef and a can of beanless chili, cutting it all up, mixing it together and seasoning the hell out of it. So, that part of the meal was done and all we needed to do was heat up the taco shells that we found in our apt.
Our oven takes way too long to heat up, so in a moment of idiocy i thought putting them in the microwave for a few seconds would work too.
Now, these taco shells were old. And had a slightly oily feel to them when i took them out of the package. There were so many preservatives in this thing that my mind should've kicked itself in the nuts for even attempting to eat these things. Anyway.
Smoke starts pouring out of the microwave. Like, pouring. Billowing, blowing, you get the point. Shit, was all I could say. Our building was shoddily built and the fire alarms go off for steam from showers, that's how bad the system is. So it was only a matter of time until it started blaring.
RG and I go outside and start waiting around. For 6 at night, there weren't that many people there. We waited. The fire dept is all of 3 blocks away and it still took like 7-10 minutes for them to get there. When they do, we see them go into our room (easy to do, we're on the first floor).
Our HA is making fun of me at this point. So is RG. Fuckers.
The one fireman puts a fan in our window to clear out the smoke. We stand around. We stand around some more. There was not THAT much smoke in there. We wait still. Finally after around a half hour they let us back in.
"You boys never took home ec didya?" was all the fire chief said to me.
The shells were burnt through in spots, they actually caught fire in the microwave.
The best food in the world is messy food. I am talking about dirty hands, dirty lips, dirty everything. Food that drives you to the point where you're unaware of that bit of spit dribbling down your chin and leaves your hands shaking just a little afterward.
Now, a lot of people are probably thinking, what about those fancy meals--those meals that are 400 bucks for a tasting menu that takes 6 hours to get through and in that time you experience every sort of flavor in your mouth? Well, they're good, yeah. Well, no, they're not good, they're extraordinary examples of what a brilliant mind and skilled hands can create. I do not mean in any way to take away from all those chefs out there that will forever be better than me at just about everything. They are amazing. They do things that ordinary people could never even dream of, but will slobber over. When you sit down at a place that you need reservations for at least a few months in advance, you know you're in for something fantastic. You may drink the best wine and eat the best, freshest ingredients of your life, but I still think the best food is messy food.
Case in Point: Buffalo Wings.
I think I've talked about buffalo wings before, if I haven't well, they are my all time favorite food. They encompass not only comfort food but favorite going out food. What better way to celebrate a good night than with hot wings, cold bleu cheese, and an ice cold beer. I don't think there is anything better then being smeared, at least a little bit, with buffalo sauce. There is something primal about eating buffalo wings-- two hands, some teeth and its game time. It is simple. It is fun.
Okay, so buffalo wings have a slight advantage in this category. not only are they amazing fun to eat, but there's some chemical reactions going on, too. Capsaicin is the stuff in hot sauce that makes hot sauce hot. Capsaicin is a skin irritant. When it interacts with mucous membranes (ie, your mouth), the irritant causes a burning sensation (buffalo wings being hot). Also, in high enough concentrations, it not only affects the mucous membranes but whatever it comes into contact with. This causes the brain to go, 'holy shit, pain pain pain, we need to deal with this." The brain then releases endorphins. Endorphins are like your body's own version of crack. It makes your feel good, in the simplest terms. So you know when your nose clears out, and your eyes are watering, but you feel just...good...yeah, that is the endorphins.
You're messy, you're full, and you're feeling good. How could life get any better than that?
Case in Point 2: one big fucking burger.
Ever had a burger you couldn't fit your mouth around? I have, and it was awesome. Three or four patties of meat, some crisp lettuce, a nice thick slice of tomato, well just listen to "Cheeseburger in Paradise" by Jimmy Buffet, basically. Then take that burger and just make it bigger. Then try and bite it. The mustard, ketchup or mayo, whatever, it all squeezes between your lips and the burger and down your chin. The burger juice pools in the bottom of your mouth as you try to chew. Again, there is something barbaric about the act of eating this, but in that barbarism there is sheer beauty. If you finish the burger you feel accomplished (and maybe a little sick). If you finish the burger without use of a fork or knife, you feel godly. You can look down at the napkin like it is your victory trophy and trace with your fingers the smudges of ketchup or the bits of pickle as you try and work up the energy or gravity to stand up.
You can't get that kind of satisfied feeling after eating a really expensive meal. Well, you can, but you'll be poor after.
So, I did this before with another essay, it is in the format of a recipe, recipessay, if you will. Anyway, this one gets workshopped on tuesday, the last creative writing workshop of my college career.. so yeah, here we go another new essay.... what do y'all think?
Recipe for An Upcoming Chef
Before you begin, think about the first creation you can remember making. You were left alone in the kitchen, so you did what you could. You took pepperoni, peanut butter, a hard roll, and garlic powder and put them all together in a sandwich, then ate it. Remember that you thought that since you ate all of the segments of that sandwich separately, that they would taste fine together. Try to remember the taste. Think about the oily, slightly spicy taste of the pepperoni and the thick, slow taste of the peanut butter as you chew and swallow it. Consider you were only four and were still in preschool. What was your parents’ state of mind to allow you alone in the kitchen. There are knives there, and other sharp objects. Was your dad at work? Where was your mother? Crocheting? Doing Girl Scouts stuff? Whatever. Next, put three cups of water to boil. Salt the boiling water.
Simmer a good amount of that “international” cooking course you took when you were eleven. Recall that it was in the home economics room of the local high school. Think about how, just because your mother said you could cook, the teacher—your mother’s friend—thought you were the next Emeril. Let the ideas that you were a good cook at eleven bubble. Laugh at how wrong they were at that age, but concede that they were probably doing the right thing for your ego. Think about how you just threw things together and hoped for the best and got lucky that your mother and father ate whatever you cooked. Try and remember the look on your father’s face as he ate those meatballs, or those ribs, and what it seemed like he was thinking. Was he forcing it down? Did he not like the taste? Or was he genuinely impressed? Try not to think about it too much, though, because the water is already boiling. Add chicken bouillon mix to boiling water, as well as chopped carrots, asparagus and potatoes. Lower heat to low and cover for fifteen minutes. Don’t forget to make sure that the asparagus cooks thoroughly so that the arsenic found it raw asparagus is cooked out. The last thing you want is a dead relative by your hand.
While the vegetables boil, chop 2 lb. boneless, skinless chicken. Sauté in extra virgin olive oil, diced onions and minced garlic for six minutes or until light brown on both sides. While it sizzles, listen to the popping of the hot oil, the crackling of raw chicken meat. Commit to memory the fact that you’ve probably wasted countless pounds of meat trying tons of different spice combinations. Salt-Pepper-Paprika. Pepper-Allspice-Garlic. Allspice-Cinnamon- Worcestershire. How were you supposed to know that certain spices were only used for baking? Those were not the kinds of things that were said flat-out on the cooking network or in the few cookbooks that you attempted to read. There were no directions in the basics of cooking, just lists of ingredients and recipes. Remove the chicken from heat and cover. Now check the vegetables, if you can poke a fork into a potato and have it come out cleanly, they are done. If so stir in cornstarch and butter mixture slowly. Continue pouring and stirring until the consistency is stew-like, viscous. Add the chicken and turn heat to low and simmer for forty-five minutes, stirring occasionally.
Preheat oven to 250 degrees. Combine flour, water, salt and eggs in a bowl. Feel free to add any other ingredients that you want to the dough. Dried fennel, perhaps, or rosemary. Mix into a dough, then cut into one-inch squares. Place on oiled baking sheet to rest. While you wait for the stew and biscuits, flip through the first cookbook that was ever given to you, Emeril’s TV Dinners. Look at the different recipes—hare, mango salad—and try, really try to imagine how you felt when you were eight reading those recipes. They are complicated and wordy and involve ingredients you’ve never heard of still at twenty-one. Feel the frustration in your fingertips as you turn each page, the thick stock paper swooshing in your lap. Think about how you wanted to cook from it so much, how fervent you were to try a recipe by Emeril, but simply couldn’t. No matter how hard you tried to understand, you knew in the back of your head that you would screw it up. You weren’t at the point where you could play off an error as a streak of creative genius yet.
After forty-five minutes, check the chicken. If it pulls apart fairly easily, then it is nearly done. Remove from heat. Pour stew into a square baking pan and place biscuit squares on top. Be creative, make a star pattern, or get really creative and compose a replica Eiffel Tower. Place the pan in oven and bake for 15-20 minutes, or until dough is golden brown and the stew bubbles slightly underneath it. Now, look for your favorite cookbook, that Hawaiian one. Open to the dog-eared pages—the braised honey ginger chicken and the grilled Portobello salad and that dessert with caramel and chocolate that you call the Hawaii bomb. You can remember exactly what pots and pans you used for those first dishes—the big Dutch oven to braise the chicken and the widest pan your mother owns to cook the rice and honey mixture together. You see the placement at the dinner table, how your mother sat to your left, your father to your right and right across from you was a long-estranged family friend, a priest. It was his birthday, or your birthday. It was a birthday and you got to cook. All of that pressure and yet amazingly the food was edible, you didn’t crack. The priest even said it was good and he’s a man of God, he wouldn’t lie. Would he? Remember that confidence booster
After 15 minutes, check on the dish. Take out of the oven and dust with fresh, grated Parmesan. Spoon into bowls and serve. Dust your repertoire with more Hawaiian dishes—poi and mahi mahi and pineapple. Lots of pineapple dishes. Forget that you aren’t Hawaiian in the least and laugh it off when people question this, as if you weren’t allowed to like something just because you weren’t of that race.
So I am going to try something a little classier than drunk and high adventures for once.... this is a book review I had written about Anthony Bourdain's book A Cook's Tour. Please read it, its awesome and travel-y and food-y. If I get any sort of feedback I'll do more book reviews.
When one thinks of a Culinary Institute of America-trained chef, the word author is not usually paired with it. Anthony Bourdain, however, accomplishes this easily by showing not only an in-depth knowledge of the culinary world but he also sucker punches the reader with the emotional and psychological weight the book carries. It is even less often that the same chef-turned-author can produce a second book that makes the first book look as unappetizing as a burnt grilled cheese sandwich. Executive chef of Brasserie Les Halles in New York City Anthony Bourdain has done this, though, with his second nonfiction book A Cook’s Tour: Global Adventures in Extreme Cuisine (Ecco 2002, $14.95). Tour continues the adventures of his first book, Kitchen Confidential, but this time Bourdain is followed around the world by a Food Network television crew while looking for the perfect meal—the adventures that depicted in the show A Cook’s Tour.
The book follows Bourdain through a number of different countries: Japan, Cambodia, Mexico, France, and England, just to name a few. In each he meets up with various people he already knows or contacts that have been provided for him by Food Network in order to gorge himself on local (and sometimes incredibly bizarre by American standards) cuisine. Bourdain is presented everything from haggis (sheep’s stomach stuffed with various intestines, oatmeal, onions and spices all mixed together) to the still-beating heart of a cobra, killed right in front of him. Like the gourmand, or “foodie” as he calls them, that Bourdain is, he dutifully eats what he is given, no matter what it is (for visual evidence of this watch his Travel Channel show No Reservations, where Bourdain has eaten just about everything, including a pig rectum).
The book is not just about searching for the perfect meal, though. While out and about in the various countries Bourdain also takes time(whether he would choose to on his own, without the television crew behind him, is up in the air, but I think he would) to join in on local customs and practices. While in France, Bourdain and his brother, Chris, revisit the town they frequented as children with during the summer with their family. Much had changed since the last time they had been there and, after trying desperately to recapture the magic that had once entranced Bourdain and gotten him obsessed with food in the first place (doing everything from lighting fireworks on the beach to eating the same breads and oysters), he leaves with a bittersweet taste on his palate. The realization that nothing would be the same hits him hard, especially because the real reason why it wouldn’t be the same—his father isn’t there. These are the type of moments in the book that leave the reader unsure of whether to be amazed at the ease that he relays his emotions, or sad at the fact that, in this example, his father is the main reason he experienced so many things and he is gone, leaving Bourdain standing on a windy, freezing French shore.
Bon Appetit did not name Bourdain Food Writer of the Year for no reason. Compared to his first book, Bourdain seems to have gone from being a twelve-year-old to a forty-year-old. The language and flow of his prose, offset by the crudeness he exhibits at times, draws the reader in from the first page—a heart wrenching letter written to his wife Nancy from Pailin, Cambodia that expresses, without him actually saying it, that’s he’s scared. The language, for much of the book retains this subtle power, like an alligator hiding just under the surface ready to pounce and when it finally does, it tears everything apart. Whole passages strike with the force as Bourdain details hostility hanging in the air in Cambodia or his near death experience hurtling down Highway 1 in Vietnam, coming within inches of other speeding cars.
Whatever Kitchen Confidential didn’t do, Tour works to further separate Bourdain from the rest of the travel writing world. He is not necessarily that far ahead of other writers—okay, he is not blazing new trails far ahead at all. Now with three nonfiction books under his belt, some might still snub their nose at him for still being a rookie. But, as evidenced by his writing, I feel certain saying that does not bother Bourdain. While others are racing ahead, trying to overcome each other in terms of sales or popularity, Bourdain is standing on the sidelines, smoking a cigarette and sneaking sips of something potent from a flask. Behind Bourdain, looking down on the competition are statues of some of the most well-known travel writers. Men like Paul Theroux and Peter Mayle who made modern travel writing what it is.
In his first book he mentions his former drug use as well as heavy drinking. In this, the drinking continues, and Bourdain is unafraid to say it. He does not seem to care that he gets drunk while taping a show. While in Russia, they had to re-shoot the opening sequence as Bourdain and a friend walked into a restaurant. Everything would have been fine, had they both not been drinking vodka all night long. Looking back, Bourdain reflects on the fact he is more thankful that he got the lines right than sorry for having to do so. The unapologetic feel stops his writing from harboring any preconceived notions that he is better than anyone else because he is getting paid to travel the world and eat and write. He loves it, undoubtedly, but is not going about trying to shove it in anyone’s face.
The attitude of the piece is not the only reason this book excels, however. Bourdain is not just one of the television, family-friendly chefs he pokes fun at from time to time. He paid attention during his years at the CIA, as well as throughout over twenty years experience in a number of kitchens all over the country. Bourdain shows his knowledge often, breaking down various dishes into their parts or relating them to other dishes, often using the French terms that hearken back not only to his training but also to his childhood summers in France. His knowledge also extends to being able to explain the foods he has never tried before. He is able to compare them to other, more common foods or tastes. He uses this to prod his hosts and friends for more information, forever in search of newer foods and tastes and knowledge.
With a television crew always at hand, things were probably made easier for Bourdain, especially in politically hostile countries, like Cambodia. The network helped him out by setting up contacts; though the rest was up to him. While in the countries, Bourdain needed to be able to talk with these people, in order to find out about the food and culture. The things Bourdain does in Tour are the types that many people might never be able to experience. He gives the reader the things they might miss, helping to complete a mental picture of a given country or city. It is up to him to relay the sensations, to give the thick description that will serve as a mental image for his readers. Bourdain also does a good job of not involving the television crew where they do not need to be, unless the anecdotes specifically involve the crew. He lets the audience feel like they are the only ones traveling along with him, side-by-side adventuring.
Bourdain’s book is not just about food. It isn’t only about his globetrotting adventures around the world. It isn’t a personal memoir. Bourdain combines all of these things, revealing his true emotions and his pure love for food while at the same time analyzing the cultures he finds himself waist deep in. He finds ways to connect to everything and everyone, whether it be going back to France or visiting the town that many of the people in Brasserie Les Halles come from. He is the everyman of travel writing. He travels and writes and eats because he loves it, no other reason. His tastes are not highfalutin—he is as comfortable eating food from a street vendor as he is eating in a three star restaurant. His books show this, and because of that, I envy him.
(I realize I have some information that concerns a time span after this, work with me here. Also, all of these posts will probably be wrong, I urge you to read anyway.)
[Sidebar: In an attempt to prove me wrong, a friend pointed out that not all meat came on bones. For example, KFC's Boneless Buffalo Whatever. I should have something witty to say here, about how I deftly pointed out that the meat originally came off of a bone--I hope--but no. I just told her she was wrong, reasserting that I am not the King of Quick Thinking.)
Criminals on death row don't have it this bad. At least after they get their last meal they don't have to worry about food anymore. Sizzle sizzle and off they go into sweet, sweet oblivion. Or hell. Or wherever they think they are off too. Sure, they die, but I mean, they shouldn't have gone on a twenty-day murder and rape spree that spanned the Greater (insert large city name) area.Ya win some, ya lose some and right now I'm on the losing end. I will not go down without a fight though. I will have my hands curled around something that was once alive until 11:59PM ET. Only then will I let go, probably crying hysterically, and try to move on. Like a baby's favorite toy, I can see it being pulled from my fingers by someone who I can only identify by his or her boots (think Nanny from Muppet Babies).
I decided to make my last supper last as long as possible. I would start in the morning, eat small meals throughout the day and culminate at 11:59. It would would be a smorgasbord of bovine, ovine, swinish, avian and piscine delight. And who knows, if I had a hot dog or Chinese food, there could be meats I had never though to eat before in there, too.(Raccoon anyone? A little bit of Moo Goo Gai Kitty, anyone?) I'm glad I won't know either, the only other words I can think of to describe animals would be feline and canine, after that, I'm lost. Raccoonine just doesn't sound right.
I started out at a New Jersey staple, the diner, for a nice big, cholesterol-shocked breakfast. I managed to have not just (pork?) sausage, but a couple of bacon strips and a few slices of taylor ham along with my eggs. Knowing I wouldn't be eating these things for a while made them more flavorful then ever before. It is like that last scoop of iced cream you get from your favorite place before it closes for the winter. As it melts in your mouth you finally take the time, after having mindlessly swallowed the treat all summer, to swish the cream around, feel the sugar as it coats your molars, realize the chunks of still partially-frozen fudge there as they knock against the roof of your mouth. You do this, eyes closed, perhaps, until you hear the plastic spoon scraping the bottom of the paper cup. The muted shh, shh, shh of your last bit of good iced cream for eight months. That was what it was like, but with ground up meat forced into intestinal casing. I was thinking in cliches while I ate, of Babe, of Wilbur from Charlotte'ss Web, of SpiderPig, even, while I ate.
Living in North Carolina, the home of some of the best Barbeque out there, giving up pig would be tough. Not being able to eat the tender, moist flesh roasted for hours in its own juices and specialy made sauce, then delicately pulled from its bone home, irked me. I hadn't been a real fan of barbeque at first--I grew up in New Jersey, a "barbeque" for us was Dad grilling hot dogs or maybe steaks during the summer, letting the smoke fill our porch and sting my eyes as I sat there, waiting for the occasional flare-up from below the food as a globule of fat would fall onto the charcoal and flames.
I learned, though. I learned fast that wasn't barbeque. Barbeque was taking a pig, forcefully pushing a hard metal pole through it end to end, and roasting that sucker till the flesh was the same color of a tomato and you could pick at it and get maximum return for little effort. Chopped or pulled, it doesn't matter now, just scoop some onto a plate and let me go at it. That thought, was one I had pondered long before finally deciding on doing this for the month. Living in NC and not eating the 'Cue would be like living on a houseboat and not eating fish. So abundant, yet so out of reach. I was beginning to see how horses in cartoons felt when people held carrots on strings in front of the horses' eyes. Those cruel, cruel bastards.
The bacon and taylor ham were equally more succulent than ever before. The eggs and potatoes and toast that came with it I could have cared less about. This wasn't about them, right now. This was mano-a(e?)-meato. My mother, looking at the pile of pink flesh in front of me just shook her head.
"You're your father's son, that's for sure," she said. It stopped me for a moment. Despite the carnal mouth orgy I was planning on participating fully in today, I didn't, and couldn't do it every day. I had meat, yeah, but not piles of it at every meal. I treated it like other food. I had it in moderation. I know my dad is a meat and potatoes guy. Always was and will be until the day he dies, but I hoped that, in my absence, he would not do this regularly. All these meats together created a flatline waiting to happen. How could anyone eat this much unhealthy meat often. People did, I'm sure--just took platefuls of greasy, limp bacon at all you can eat buffets everyday, everywhere--but I just had to hope it wasn't my father. If it was, I thought, I'd have to start finding ways to sabotage the company we got our meat from. I'd prefer the breadwinner of my family alive for as long as possible--he was paying for part of my college, after all.
Having packed away enough for two heart attacks in one meal, I took a break. I was far from done, but I didn't want to get sick. Throwing up would just be a waste of time at this point. It was crunch time, overtime, sudden death.
I neglected to have a real meal for lunch. I was banking on having a nice steak at a fancy steakhouse for dinner. I'd take a full cow or a full pig, but living in the suburbs restricts the amount of livestock I see on a daily basis to, well, none. Instead, I'd order a large prime rib, pinkish-red in the middle, still able to bleed when press lightly with a fork. I could see myself looking at the baked potato in its foil cocoon and slapping it aside. I didn't need a baked potato, that was just room that could be devoted to meat. I wondered if they'd let me top the steak with another steak, like a garnish. Parsley? Hah. Parsley is for people who don't go to the dinner table and mean business. I meant business. To fill time before dinner, I coached my stomach, prepping it for the night ahead. Though the steak would be the main course, I had other food I needed to eat, too.
"You can do this, you've had big steaks before," I said repeatedly. My stomach remained silent. I figured it was just taking it all in, being stoic before the fight.
"You're a starved lion, take the meat for all its worth. Ingest and dissolve with your crazy acids, and then ingest some more." Silence again. This was good, my stomach was a good listener/learner.
"Just remember, steak is round one. The hardest round, yes, but still only round one. There are other animals out there too. Chickens. Fish. We need to conquer them all also."
It was around six and my father and I were on our way to TGI Fridays. It wasn't the elegant steak dinner I was envisioning--low light, dark wood tables, a large hunk of dead cow--but it would have to do.
"You know," he began, turning down the Doobie Brothers just enough to be heard. "I almost wish you wouldn't do this."
"Okay," I said. What was I supposed to say to that? Sure, Dad, I'll stop right now. He exercises control over me to a point. In the food world, a man who cannot keep up with his son in the eating department, one that won't even try, is not worthy of food-oriented respect. I was on a mission, here, and he wouldn't stop me.
"It isn't going to change how or what I eat."
There is was. The there-is-some-plot-against-my-diet-type line I had heard before. When I am home and I cook dinner, I have to be careful. I can't be creative, I can't add flare or even a little spice. Granted, my dad's stomach is weak and can't take heat, but he isn't willing to try things that aren't simple either. He thought I was doing this to try and change him. If I wanted to change him, I would just harass him into doing it. It wouldn't work, because he is stubborn and way on his way to being a crotchety old man, but that is how I would go about it. Clearly, he missed out on the part of my childhood and teenage years where I developed the same stubbornness that he has, the same ability to be a dick, basically (which was fostered not only by my father but the fact I went to an all guy's school, where it was learn to be a dick or drown in dick-related jokes and the shame of not knowing how to bully someone lesser than you around at any given time.)
"I'm not trying to change you, I know you won't," I said.
"Good." And that was that for mindless car chatter.
Even though I was hoping for a grand last meal, in a way Friday's was a comforting end. The food, while okay, isn't the best. It is at the same quality level of every chain restaurant out there. Good for mass appeal, but falling short on anything that can be considered gourmet. By going here instead of another place, I'd have my steak, but it wouldn't be a steak that I would dream about. I wouldn't see myself happily running through a field with it, dancing and partying with it. I'd eat it and that would be it. And, when the New York Strip I ordered came out, I could tell right away that was the kind of meal it was going to be. As my dad dug into his the baby back ribs he ordered, I scraped off the "Argentinean Rub" that came on the steak. Last time I checked, pesto with an additive to make it spicier was not Argentinean. I had no idea what all was in it, but it looked like ground up baby vomit, a brutal mix the color of a fresh asparagus and tar smoothie.
Despite ordering medium-rare, it came out closer to well done, sidewalk gray on the inside and tough between my teeth. This is not how I wanted to go out. I wanted blood to seep, meat to give like muscles getting a Swedish massage. This was chewing old Playdough. Coupled with instant mashed potatoes, the meal was fantastically plain. Being served in a cast iron skillet to "preserve the flavor" did nothing. All it translated to was that the steak was served on a black plate and not a white one.
Having eaten meal number one, I had crossed off two meats from my list--I had consumed beef and pork already, leaving chicken and fish left for the rest of the night. I had four hours left before midnight and Zero hour.
I didn't have time to rest after dinner. I was running out of time. I decided my next stop would be sushi. The place in town I normally went to, a small shop seated amid a thai, chinese, and Asian "specialty" restaurant, as well as a number of other stores, had closed and reopened under another name, so I had wanted to check it out anyway. The place was empty when I walked in and I was greeted immediately by the hostess. Were they desperate for business or just very friendly? I couldn't tell. I ordered my sushi, surprising them, I think, with my use of the Japanese names for the fish instead of the English words printed on the menu.
Eel and Tuna, two of my favorites. I would've the individual pieces with fish on top, sashimi (I believe) but I was after quantity here, not quality or variety, and rolls with six pieces each were providing me with the quantity I needed. To complete the sushi portion of my last supper, they gave me some miso soup to accompany the fish. The sushi was okay, not the best but certainly not the worst (you need to go further inland for that. Being only a half hour from a port is good, compared to my school--three or so hours to the nearest beach area). The rice, still a little warm, heated the fish a little too much for my taste, but it was not a terrible detriment to the meal. On my way home, I almost passed completely by the McDonald's parking lot before abruptly flicking the turn signal, cutting in front of a fast approaching SUV and queuing up in the drive-thru lane. To complete my last supper, I needed fast food.
I don't care who says fast food is bad for you or that it is disgusting. Those are mostly the same people who point to Supersize Me and point as if that is the gospel on the subject. I calmly remind them he chose to do that. That he ate it three times every day. (In a way, I thought, I was like him, but better looking and less dumb. Slightly less dumb, at least...I wouldn't become obese no matter how hard I tried) If anyone did that willingly, they'd just be, for lack of any word to express the true idiocy of that, a fucking moron. As a treat though, or an occasional meal, no one can go wrong with a hot, cheap fast food meal.
There is absolutely nothing like a cheeseburger from McDonald's. Everything is so fake, so processed, that no amount of trying at home could ever recreate it. The one word that comes to mind is smooth. Almost everything about the standard cheeseburger is smooth. The pickles, sliced so thin they are translucent in the center are as smooth as a calm lake. The only change in texture is when the tongue goes from the main portion to the rind of the pickle, but even then, it goes from smooth to a more waxy smooth giving only slightly less then the inside. The cheese, probably the most process portion of the burger, barely melts on the burger. Again, a perfect surface for ice skating on, no chinks, no errors in production, every slice the same. Tasting of the same yellow American goodness. It envelopes our nation in its little 3 by 3 area--tons of products all put together to get one, generalized being. The ketchup and mustard provide the real flavor on the burger. The ketchup an artificial sweetener of sorts and the mustard giving a tiny little kick. The final part of the concoction, the most important part is the meat. Slightly bumpy and grilled and pressed into a circle the thickness of a matchbook, it comes nowhere close to resembling the animal it once came from. And I love that. I love the institutional floor color of the meat, somewhere between dirty and cloudy sky gray.
When asked a previous time about burgers and after having given my description, someone asked why I loved them.
"I just do." is what I came up with. The burger is so uniform with every other, so unchanging that it offers a spot of comfort.
"What about disease, or dirt, or rat feces?"
"Who cares," I respond. And who does? If you think about it, sure, it could be bad. Just don't think about it. Anthony Bourdain says in his book Kitchen Confidential that our bodies aren't temples. They are amusement parks and we need to have fun with them.
To round out my night, I finished with what I can remember as my first fast food, the almighty Chicken McNugget (Now all white meat!). Those little brown packages of (now) white meat and their crispy tan outsides are the first thing I remember about McDonalds. Sitting with my grandmother, she'd take the box of four out of my Happy Meal bag for me and let me dig in. I'd go for the toy first, of course, but soon after I would be delivered into a little dreamworld for a few minutes as I ate.
Everything, despite mixing sushi with fast food, when down like honey. I waited for repercussions--a quick run to the bathroom to deposit my last meats into the toilet--but no. Thank God it didn't happen. I still had an hour. One more hour of meat. And I couldn't do it. I couldn't eat any more. I was disappointed in myself. I had one more hour for meat and I couldn't force myself to ingest anything, not even a cheap hot dog or something from behind the counter at 7-11. As I stared at the little turning cylinders of meat, whatever kind it was, I frowned. This was it and I wasn't going out with a bang. I was running from the final charge. Was it a sign? Would it make it easier through the month?
Apparently not. I was just full. Five minutes after midnight, after a few deep belches and some pounding on my chest to get tiny burps out, I was hungry again and damnit, I wanted meat.