Your bliss might be out there if you can just learn to lean into the rot.

Eat Me!

What food expiration dates mean to many people: EXTREME DANGER!! LETHAL if consumed after [insert date].

What food expiration dates mean to me: EXTREMELY DELICIOUS!! if consumed before [insert date]. If consumed after [insert date], DEVOUR IT AS QUICKLY AS YOU CAN BEFORE IT BECOMES MORE EXPIRED! STILL DELICIOUS, THOUGH! NO REGRETS! 100% PURE ADRENALINE!

Full disclosure: I’ve been trying to write this post for about a month but haven’t been able to get anything going. It’s felt too preachy. So from here on, I’m’a trim everything nonessential (-ish) and try to just toss out a few thoughts and a couple of links. Let’s call it … 43% preachy. Which’ll be a more impressive number once you’ve seen the director’s cut.

Now, I haven’t always been the Chew-sader™, and when I have been a snack maverick it’s been because I really love to eat. Sure, my parents taught me to remove moldy crusts to save the innocent bread beneath and all that, but that’s just a convenient way to maximize my gluten consumption. And, yes, I’ve always teared up when Charlie Brown rescues that bedraggled Christmas sapling—I’m not a monster—but I’ve also always scoffed at all the dimpled, pathetic, can’t-throw-an-overhand-pitch rejects I’ve had to rummage through to get to that perfectly appled Gala. Yet over the last couple of years, I think I’ve metamorphosed, and for reasons that have nothing to do with the Fleming Standard Bleu-to-Cheese Ratio.

According to a recent article in National Geographic Magazine, “How ‘Ugly’ Fruits and Vegetables Can Help Solve World Hunger,” about 1/3 of our annual global food production goes to waste. For perspective, that’s 2.9 trillion pounds of food, which is enough to feed more than two billion people, or roughly seventeen adult beagles.

That’s some Norma Desmond–level crazy right there.

(The article gets bonus points for using the word ensorcelled so early in its narrative, by the way.)

Of course, it makes sense that there is some waste in the food chain. A lot of waste even. Nature’s not always efficient. But that’s where we can step in. Because we can do things the rest of nature can’t/refuses to do. We created saltwater taffy that tastes like bacon, and we created Kim Kardashian’s fame … so there really are no logical rules governing our existence. And that being the case, why can’t we get all that wasted food to people who need/want it? Or at least eat our leftover cassoulet?

Developing nations often lack the infrastructure to be able to store or transport much of what is produced. But developed nations are better equipped to ship and store food, though tons of it, literally, still doesn’t make it far from where it’s grown or produced. Much of it’s thrown out by retailers or consumers because it has “expired” or will soon. Or even worse, because it’s unsightly. So basically, the infrastructure is there, but the desire/commitment isn’t. Our food mentality needs some zesting.

I heard this story on NPR several months ago, about a couple of filmmakers who decided to only eat food that had been thrown out. The TL;DR of it is, American dumpsters are a smörgåsbord of hummus, gourmet chocolate, and broken promises. I’m sure FDA quality standards are a big part of the cause of that waste, and those standards probably exist for many reasons—I definitely wouldn’t recommend gorging yourself on tubs of funky hummus—but some food is just dumped for the sake of convenience or cost-effectivenss. None of which will change until we’re willing to be a little inconvenienced now and then; to pay a little more now and then.

So, quoth the Once-ler: “Unless someone like you cares a whole awful lot, nothing is going to get better. It’s not.”

And that, my good brothers and sisters, is it. Food sermon over.

No, Doc, nothing was wrong with the earth’s gravitational pull. Our diets were just a tad too O’Boisterous.

Does anyone else miss Starburst Fruit Twists? Or Reese’s Crunchy Cookie Cups Miniatures? Or Sprite Remix? Or the early ’90s when diabetes hadn’t been discovered yet? And on the not-so-sweet (read that: Atlantic-level-salty) side of that coin are dreams of Keebler O’Boisies and Munch ’ems.

I have wonderfully sour-cream-and-oniony memories of car trips as a child. I don’t remember where we went. I just remember the Munch ’ems. And I remember that my mom shared with me, even though I knew she didn’t want to. No one would have. But she’s one o’ the great’ns, my mom.

Mickey’s Parade Ice Pops. PB Max. Crispy M&M’s. Oh, and Shark Bites. The great whites were well worth my dentist’s disappointed-in-you-Tim sighs.

What am I missing?

You Ain’t Got No Alibi

Yeah. For starters, I have to apologize to my reader. I’m so sorry, Manjeet! I should’ve warned you before I took a few months off to become gainfully employed and get married. It was totally inconsiderate, and I feel terrible that your Dr. Quinn Medicine Woman prequel screenplay didn’t pan out. But I’m back now, and [fill in the blank] than ever!

And now that I’m back, it’s as good a time as any to tell you that I’m not a huge fan of the word carbuncle. I know–I can hear your indignant gasps. It’s not because I’ve had any experience with a precious carbuncle to call my own, and not because I’m in general opposed to the extended family of any saccharide. [pause for rim shot]

It’s because it’s an ugly freaking word. There, I said it.

And so is bequeath. [SPOILER ALERT] I used it in my last post, and afterward thought, Gross. And when a friend of mine used it again today and my bowels suddenly started talking like Billy Bob in Sling Blade, I knew it needed to be added to the Ugo List (or Las Palabras Más Feas as it’s affectionately known in Paraguay).

The thing about bequeath is, it’s not one of those words that’s ugly by association. It’s not a crotchety, a tampon, a canker, or a moist. It’s attached to a decent enough meaning. I wouldn’t mind if someone bequeathed something to me. As long as they did so in other words because bequeath still offends my ear spirits.

Here’re some more fugly words.

Nugget
Crusty
Unctuous
Ointment
Lipid
Clean
Grind
Anklet
Paunch
Chafe
Hoary
Juggle
Noisome
Gist
Graduate

Feel free to add to this list. Just don’t try to add the word oatmeal. You might think it sounds ugly. But it doesn’t.

French-fried p’taters, all!

A genuinely German experience without all the black turtlenecks and disconcerting cinema.

A few nights ago my fiancé and I were talking about the places we’d happily live if we ever left Utah (assuming any happiness can exist outside of Utah—I saw an enormous mustachioed trucker once proudly wearing a hat that spoke quite vehemently against that possibility). After being unable to compromise on Yukon vs. Anguilla, Mississippi, we both quickly settled on (in?) Europe. She spent two years in the UK, and Germany is always at the top of my list. Partially because it alphabetically comes before Vladivostok, but probably more importantly because during the spring and summer connecting my junior and senior years of college, I spent a semester studying at the University of Bayreuth in northern Bavaria. I fell in love with the countryside, the people, the history, the accessible leather clothing . . . but I think what I loved most was the food. And the leather clothing.

It seems like all of my memories are carried in scents and tastes, especially the memories of places I’ve been. (Memories of my grade school trip to our city’s waste repurposing plant are doubly unpleasant. In my defense, that package of Pop Tarts looked like it was still sealed.) So, when I think of Boston, the insides of my eyes fog up with the steam of sausage and peppers being cooked around Downtown Crossing, and the earthy smell of Dunkin’ Donuts coffee clings to everything. And before I remember the smell of glacial ice rolling down into the high valleys of the Wind Rivers, I taste fresh trout, beef jerky, rehydrated rice, and iodized Crystal Light. It’s hard to grow to love a food and then go where you can’t get it at all, or at least without difficulty. While I was in Germany, the only thing I ever really craved from home that I couldn’t find some European approximation of was tacos from Taco Time. I’m from the Southwest. Tex-Mex is in my blood. Literally. I guess that’s how blood works. I don’t know. Ask your blood doctor.

Anyway . . . Currywurst.

currywurst

I had never heard of this before I went to Germany. I guess I didn’t watch the Travel Channel enough. A fried Bratwurst or Bockwurst topped with a curried ketchup and served on top of French fries. It’s like the street food of Berlin, but since I never made it to Berlin, it was just my go-to bar food. Some of my favorite time in Bayreuth was spent at the little pub across the way from my apartment, eating their Currywurst and watching The World Cup.

So, in summation:
Fried meat? Good.
The unexpectedly attractive lovechild of curry and ketchup? Good.
French fries? Good.

Let’s see you beat that, Yukon!