Sunday, May 06, 2007

The Food Infiltrate

Get ready. There is a rant coming on.

Food has leaked into every crevice of our daily lives. It’s everywhere. It can be a fashion statement, it can define who you are (all those who refuse to eat seafood for no particular reason, please see a therapist), it can be a hobby, a profession, a distraction, or an addiction. Now it can also, apparently, find you a mate.

I stumbled into Whole Foods late one night after yet another day of Chinese water torture at lab (you think I am being melodramatic, don’t you. Well, you’re wrong) only to walk straight into a podium encasing a well-heeled lady, asking me if I would like to sign in for Whole Foods Singles Night. Umm, no. Thanks though. I am self conscious enough in every other aspect of my life – I don’t need to think three times before putting anything in my shopping cart for fear of being judged for it. “Wow, is she really going to eat that? Who eats that??”, so on and so forth.

The place was like a club for grown ups, some yuppie, some old and bordering sad. There was datey music on, and I swear to you the lights were dimmed. There were little stations set up throughout the store offering samples, which was neat. I was forced to break up the most uncomfortable of all inter-gender conversations I have ever had the misfortune of walking into. Come on! You can’t stand in front of the olives and not expect to be interrupted, even if the topic and timbre of your conversation could put a yippie Chihuahua into a deep sleep. I grabbed what I needed and ran, did not walk, to the train. I have severe curmudgeonly tendencies.

The food weirdness continued. I had the Ikea experience this weekend. I have never been to Ikea before and did not have a good idea of its personality. The personality? Effin’ large, with a searing case of ADD. It is beyond large. It is a city. It exemplifies American excess as no other store… and it’s Swedish! There is food at Ikea. Food has infiltrated furniture. I skipped the Swedish meat balls at the weird institutional/Waco compound cafeteria to stock up on Swedish specialties at the shop. I have a tendency to buy the weirdest thing I can find, just to try it (ergo the above-mentioned shopping cart shivers). This weird thing may beat all other weird things for years to come: smoked cod roe in a squeezable metal tube, with a happy grinning Swedish-looking child pictured on the outside.

The novelty of the space-traveler tube was worth the purchase. The contents of the tube... not so much. The texture of the spread was nice, with crunchy roe suspended in a creamy paste. The taste was another story. It was painfully salty with timid hints of dill. Once the dill faded away, the bitterness came in – the over-fermented, over salted, mineral, aspirin kind of bitterness that lingers even after you try to wipe it out with rye crispbread after crispbread. You know what this spread is? It is Marmite, the sequel. Except worse. It is worse than Marmite, I kid you not. Perhaps I spread it on too thick, or maybe I am lacking some Swedish genes necessary for full enjoyment of this, umm… condiment? Medieval punishment? Polar bear toothpaste? I don’t know.

And finally, the last case of food invasion: FoodTV on the gym TVs. That is simply cruel and unusual. I would rather not stare at Paula Deen tipping a third stick of softened butter onto unsuspecting fish in her “Cooking Light” episode while I am on a treadmill, trying to keep sweat out of my eyes and my hands away from my piercings. Nor do I need to see her dropping doughnuts into a vat of grease (she doesn’t even bother calling it oil. She says grease. I appreciate her honesty) while angrily punching my age into the merciless elliptical. Does it really need to know my age? Is that truly necessary? Does it also need to look into my shopping cart and try to “figure me out”?

I love food, y’all know I do. I love food in a restaurant, in a kitchen, on a picnic blanket, on a boat in the middle of the Caribbean, or cross-legged on the floor at 3AM after too many beers. I do not love food at the gym or at the household goods store, nor do I love my food to become my dating service. That’s what I have a mother for. Sorry, Mom.


JC said...

Sorry I've been AWOL lately, the last couple of weeks have kind of sucked with busyness.

What exactly is datey music? Kenny G?

When I made my first trip to IKEA about a year and half ago, I actually did eat at the mental institution cafeteria there. I had the meatballs, and they were better than I thought they would be (is that much of an endorsement?). I really liked the sauce that was on them. I noticed you can buy bags of frozen meatballs to take home with you, but I didn't buy any. I also had the lingonberry torte because I am obsessed with lingonberries. I think because of The Big Lebowski.

Marmite should be banned. Vegemite too.

I used to hate when food commercials (usually pizza-related)came on while I was on the treadmill. So cruel.

Alicia said...

I guess running outside is not as nice of an option in Boston as it is in Florida... but probably starting to get there around now (where it is starting to get a little too hot for it here). I just blast my iPod. This one time, "Footloose" came on, and totally gave me a burst of energy to keep running. But, I do have to run past these big strawberry fields that smell like you would expect a strawberry field to smell. It makes me feel more gross than hungry, but I don't know why. I guess I automatically think what it would be like to be eating while I am running and my stomach doesn't like the idea.

At the Home Depot near my house, there is a hot dog vendor who has his cart set up out front, and it says, "Now serving breakfast!" on the banner. That always grosses me out. Who would eat a hot dog for breakfast? And who would eat it at Home Depot?

Ben Chen said...

I like eating "lunch" and "dinner" foods for breakfast. In Taiwan, there are noodles, and fried foods that I love to eat for breakfast. I love eating Popeyes before I workout and I love it when girls look at my shopping cart full of microwave dinners that have 46% of the recommended daily value of sodium.

I like when machines ask me for my age and I love over-salted paste with suspended fish roe.

Was that anti-anna enough for today? ;-) haha

atp said...

I really enjoyed this post a lot, thank you :) I hope that when (that's right, when) you get your food column you will write it with equal parts humour and rant something like this. Fabulous.

I've heard about those singles nights in supermarkets and find it completely bizarre. If you want to strike up a conversation with a stranger over a pot of hummus then surely it's just as easy/difficult to do so regardless of whether you're there as part of a singles night? Or does the dimmed lighting and datey music (please explain) reeeaally help set the mood? Hmm.

I just found out there's lesbian speed dating on tonight. It's like so many nightmares rolled into one for me, but I'm considering going anyway. I think that sometimes we need to try things that make us cringe and vomit a little bit - like eat marmite for example - It's character building. But seriously, anybody who enjoys that stuff is sick in the head and I will forever judge them.

Anna said...

JC - welcome back! I felt all abandoned for a while there :) Swedes are obsessed with lingonberries, aren't they... Everything was lingonberry-themed at the shop! I don't really know what they are. Datey music... easy listening for the thirty and over. Subtle pop with rock aspirations. I would have bolted without food if Kenny G.ross was on.

Alicia - You know, I can eat anything at any time. I don't really have set "breakfast" food. Maybe that's a Russian thing. For example, today I had a Boca burger and some olives for breakfast. I know I am odd. Not to say that I would eat a) breakfast or b) a hot dog at Home Depot. Blech.

Ben! Dude. What's with the anti-Anna sentiment? I am on your side. I am a good eater. Maybe not Popeyes good, but close. A Popeyes opened down the block from work - there have been lines literally out the door ever since. I don't get it. I am surprised your heart can take Popeyes and cardio all in the same day. Seems like it should be contraindicated.

AtP - Thank you :) I appreciate the moral support. I guess all bloggers are attention whores on some level. I am afraid you have the Jews to thank for speed dating. I think that's how it started - 8-minute dating in the Jewish community. Weirdness. I can't think of anything more horrible. It seems so stressful! So much pressure! So much smiling! I once knew a girl who actually considered dating a full blown hobby. We are no longer friends. That's sick and twisted. Good luck! I hope you find your dread-locked match :) Fingers crossed. Don't vomit. It's a turn off.

Rachael said...


atp said...

I totally chickened out. In fact, I realised that I don't actually want to date anybody right now, let alone 25 people in one night! Ludicrous. I sat watching cookery programmes all night instead. I have a handy hint for you, courtesy of Neneh Cherry (since when did she have a cooking show? Do you even know who she is? Meh) - next time you make a goat curry, try putting some grated dark chocolate in for an extra zing. So there you go!

Anna said...

I remember Neneh Cherry! She had one hit song about 15 years ago (sweet lord, I can't believe I am old enough to remember that far back). I remember a full denim jumpsuit contraption in her video. Did not know she now has a cooking show. Goat curry is fantastic. I could only imagine how fantastic it would be with some chocolate.
People say that it's good to push yourself out of your comfort zone occasionally. Speed dating seems more like jumping without a parachute into a discomfort zone. Ick. I don't blame you for chickening out.

atp said...

Gigolo, huh? Sucker!....Buffalo Stance is brilliant! I recently rediscovered it when a friend started serenading me with it at work. I have since rekindled a secret affair with it - So don't you get fresh with me!*

*These are lyrics, not instructions.

JC said...

That's weird, I was just thinking about Neneh Cherry last week because when I was perusing the celebrity birthdays for May 7th I saw Eagle Eye Cherry and I looked up Neneh to see what their relationship was. Half-siblings. I remember the Buffalo Stance video from the days when I would come home from school and turn on MTV to watch videos.

And I think it was more like 18 or 19 years ago, not 15!

Anna said...

I so didn't need to hear that. 19 years. Wow.

atp said...

I only realised it was Neneh when Eagle Eye popped round to try out the goat curry and my flatmate recognised him - his opinion was that the chocolate added great colour and richness

And yes, jc is correct, it was released in 1988.

Anonymous said...

oh man, this post had me laughing out loud! i've totally been at that exact whole foods in Brighton and seen the singles night ads. never actually had the luck to stop in on such a Wednesday. it's pretty sad really, but i totally see where they're coming from. i mean, haven't you ever wanted an excuse to talk about heirloom tomatoes with that guy with the prematurely gray hair?


Anna said...

Yes. Yes, I have. I am neither brave nor suave, so I have not actually followed through.