All my life, I’ve had a strange relationship with food. If we’re going to be honest about it, we all have. Habits and tastes aside, in a fair, if not overly mechanical way, food can be defined as “stuff we find floating out in the natural world, jam into our largest hole, grind up, douse with acid, and then wait until what’s left falls out the other end.” Like many bodily functions, eating is vile when decontextualized. Also like many bodily functions, you don’t have much of a choice: hunger, nausea, pain, insanity, and eventual death being the result of possessing a sense of fortitude against yourself, no matter how much time and money it would save. This document is, of course, not about religion, philosophy, or even science (especially not science). When it comes to food, whether it is cooking or eating, I’ve just always just been a stranger in a strange land.
Case in point: at the tender age of two, nothing could pass my lips that hadn’t been cut into perfect cubes. Throughout elementary and middle school, I’d only eat three types of sandwiches: cheese and mustard, plain tuna, or peanut butter and jelly. During this era I also swore off most meat, eggs, spinach, leafy lettuce, and a whole world of vegetables because they were “gross.” As I entered high school I became a vegetarian, perhaps ironically, with most fruit joining vegetables in their boycott of my stomach. I existed primarily on chips, pizza, nachos, and ice cream for a number of years. When adulthood finally set in, if you can call it that, I graduated to all manner of frozen pizza objects, Taco Bell, and booze. In fact, at this stage the only time I ate anything healthy was when I had been tricked by my loins into taking a girl out. Most women seem to like to eat normal human food, so over the years I wound up having forced encounters with eggs, zucchini, and other nastiness.
Fast forward another ten years and it’s the end of the summer, 2016. I’m wandering around the Corvallis Walmart Neighborhood Market in a deep depression, $1.47 to my name. Add to that a false diagnosis of iron deficiency courtesy of the Doogie Howser of Benton County, and you get the mother of all questions: “What has more iron, carrots or Oreos?”
While those darkish times made way for a healthier palette of consumption, I have yet to figure out how to cook for myself, let alone make time for it. I’m eating Chex Mix for lunch while I write this, if that’s any indication of my progress. There’s a lot more to it, of course, but the burning question here is: what the f*ck is wrong with me? Genetics? Particularity? Broken taste buds, perhaps? A hodgepodge of mental disorders that generally make it hard to do anything at all? All of the above, probably.
It’s also entirely possible that I’m just an *sshole, but there’s scope to consider. And laziness. It’s along those lines that I can’t promise what lies in wait as you navigate deeper into this series, though I can almost guarantee disjointedness, incompetence, and general horror. You were warned.
Chapter 1: Immovable Mountains
Being a vegetarian, I don’t have to worry about slurping up oyster goosh, bull testicles, monkey brains, or haggis. There’s no blood sausage sacrilege, no duck paté puckering, no corned beef conundrum. However, I do have to worry about these other disgusting organisms, because their lack of sentience makes it difficult to rely on a moral argument to escape their grasp. These are the unflinching monoliths that have derailed my very existence. Ever order a vegetarian meal at a restaurant and have to explain to the waiter that you’d like four of the six ingredients left off? It’s how one of those freaks who orders pizza without the cheese must feel—if veganism and lactose-intolerance weren’t totally reasonable excuses.
Still, I think I make a few compelling arguments.
Mushrooms. “Sliders,” as my father would call them, have been at the top of my list of foods to avoid. Sometimes imbued with a respectable flavor, they harbor an undercarriage that my tongue, spinal cord, and brain interpret as a mixture of brettanomyces and retention pond. Perhaps they were ruined for me by a family that insisted on eating them from a can, or perhaps it’s an issue of perception. Fungus exists in biological limbo after all, like something you’d find floating in a jar down Diagon Alley, or growing out of someone’s *ss in a Hieronymous Bosch painting.
Zucchini. By all known standards, these putrid, blunted shafts can only be considered food by way of technicality. The squash’s hideous cousin, Zuchini have all the reptilian texture without any flavonoid trade-off. 100% pure bred Suliban, without any of the genetic enhancements. Even green peppers have a little something going on—a little je ne sais quoi, if you will. Zucchinis only offer a complete lack of personality buried under a violent poop-green, scratchy, and vaguely-geometric carapace. They are born of an angry plant that thrives in sh*tty soil because it hates itself almost as much as it hates you. Somewhere along the way they also developed a texture that goes full-slime when heated, because why not?
Spinach. This delicacy of Persian descent is rather duplicitous in nature. Fresh, it makes for an enticing salad that goes well with cranberries, almond, and a tangy raspberry vinaigrette. Cooked, I’m pretty sure it’s responsible for the Ninja Turtles. Sloppy, hard to chew, glows in the dark (fact), and full of stems that don’t cook all the way. I wasn’t able to eat Mexican food for the two-ish years I spent in Europe because every succulent burrito, every spicy, robust taco, every inch of mouth-watering, dense enchilada… full of green slop. And sometimes ketchup.
Eggplant. On the outside, eggplants seem bad*ss. They’re strong, purple-y, were featured prominently in NES games, and grow out of flowers that have medieval spikes surrounding them. On paper they seem like they’d make for killer Krokus album art, but in your mouth they’re a big, spongy, slab of dull, aching dumpster. I freely admit that I enjoyed eggplant once when it was sliced really thin and fried half to death in batter, but not before two glasses of plum wine and having gone almost a week without eating anything but unseasoned tomato sauce and angel hair pasta. Like shark fin soup and orphan bones, eggplant is just another one of those rich people fancy foods that look great, but taste like a sea cucumber barfed up some insulation foam.
Eggs. Pre-packaged placental goop = food enemy number one. I’d rather eat dog sh*t than an egg. I’m not joking. I would put dog sh*t in my mouth, chew it up, and swallow it if that were the only way to escape funneling an egg into my facial tube.