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Charlie Hatton
Brookline, MA

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Howdy, friendly reading person!
I'm on a bit of a hiatus right now, but only to work on other projects -- one incredibly exciting example being the newly-released kids' science book series Things That Make You Go Yuck!
If you're a science and/or silliness fan, give it a gander! See you soon!

When Good Food Goes… I Said It’s FINE!

(Who has two thumbs and wrote five hundred words about Brownian motion without making a single poop joke? This guy!

I know. I can hardly believe it, either. But head over to Secondhand SCIENCE and see for yourself. For true.)

I have a theory. It’s about food. Specifically, it’s about food that may or may no longer be food, strictly speaking.

It sounds complicated. But the theory is simple. Here’s the gist:

I hate wasting food. Sometime in my youth — and my parents swear this wasn’t beaten into me — I became a permanent member of the “Clean Plate Club”. But it’s not about plates. And it’s sure as hell not about cleanliness. It’s not even about the poor starving kids in China — which my parents assure me they never held over my head with half a serving of canned peas at stake.

Rather, it’s about responsibility. If I order a burger, it should be because I want a burger. Not because I want half a burger, or a third of a burger, or just to lick one pickle and smell the bun to feel I’ve had the experience of a burger.

(Or whatever experience you might personally feel, if you’d just sniffed some buns and tongued a random pickle. Your mileage may vary, freakshow.)

The point is, if I ask for it, it’s my responsibility to chow it down. I can take it home, as a last resort — but one way or another, that food that I decided to want has to be eaten. It cannot go to waste. Other people could have had it, but I ordered first and snatched it from the realm of possibility and onto a plate. Possibly with curly fries. And now it’s my bed to lie in. And to consume. With every mealtime comes soul-crushing responsibility.

This goes double, or maybe even threeple, for food at home. Not only was that food whisked out of rotation, so others couldn’t have it, now it’s sitting in my house. I can’t even leave it or throw a napkin on top, and wait for someone to come and clear it away. If food goes to waste in my kitchen, I have to physically throw it in the garbage myself.

“Alas, poor yogurt, I hardly knew ye.”

And that’s harrowing. I feel like I’m taunting the food, dangling it over the trash can by its wilted stalk or the lip of its expired can before dropping it into the abyss forever. You could have been a sandwich, month-old bread heels! Alas, poor yogurt, I hardly knew ye. I will avenge you, cottage cheese container from the Clinton administration!

I don’t have the nerves for that. So I regularly make scavenging runs through the kitchen, seeking out vittles that are alllllllmost not good any more, to be sure to eat them before it’s too late. Often, I get to them in time.

But sometimes, I don’t. Occasionally, I’ll find something on maybe the wrong side of stale. An orange with more squish than I find comforting. Rice leftover from that Chinese takeout order from… was it Friday? Wednesday? March? Chicken defrosting in the fridge for an extra day, or two, or… hmmm.

What to do with this possibly-still-food? The stuff that looks too normal to throw away — that isn’t “wrong”, exactly, but maybe isn’t quite as right as it previously was? How to handle these things?

That’s where my theory comes in.

If you’re going to throw it out, do it quick and get it over with. Admit defeat, say a rosary to… I don’t know, Jacque Pepin or the ghost of Julia Child’s wine glass or something, donate ten bucks to a food bank and try harder next time.

But if you decide to eat it, this questionable maybe-food, preferably while no one’s looking?

Eat ALL of it. And dump more iffy stuff on top, if you find some in the pantry.

The way I look at it, you’re playing roulette with your digestive system here. And the odds of winning are, let’s face it, not that great. But attitude will get you through a lot in life. So you convince yourself this food is fine, and there’s no reason not to eat it, or to be cautious about it, and dammit, now you’re wicked hungry. So have at it.

And while you’re in the right frame of mind, grab anything else heading south in a hurry — because you really don’t want to play roulette every day. Go all in today, and if you crap out — gambling term, people, gambling term! — then you’ll only crap out once.

Though possibly explosively. (Not a gambling term any more. Ew.)

If you can convince yourself to smother everything in hot sauce — not because it would kill some of those germs you’re certain aren’t there, but because you like it! — and wash your meal down with as high-proof an alcohol as you can stand, then surely you’ll be in good shape.

And if not, well maybe you’ll get a day off work while you’re having your stomach pumped or writhing on the bathroom floor because you took terrible advice from an idiot with a website. It’s win-win, more or less.

Why do I mention this? Well, I had to do a bit of scrounging for dinner tonight, and there was that chicken in the fridge from… sometime. Plus those potatoes with the stalky things growing out of the bottom. And that corn past the date on the can, but it looked okay. It was still yellow. Mostly.

What I’m saying is, all that food was fine. And delicious, if you stretch the dictionary definition of the word a little. Who could taste it, anyway, swimming in all that sriracha? The point is, everything’s going to be just peachy.

But if not, I regret nothing. Except the chicken, and the potatoes and the corn. Avenge me, cottage cheese container!!

Permalink  |  1 Comment

One Response to “When Good Food Goes… I Said It’s FINE!”

  1. filip says:

    every time, eeeeevery tiiiime a moment of fun seasoned/dressed/cured (you pick the most fitting for the occasion) with culture. I had to look up sriracha, and crap out, not the explosive.

    Looking forward to seeing you here, when did you say you’re flying? Food on plane is like thinking of a giant tin can, where the food you get is always the one forgotten at the bottom

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