by Tod Goldberg, Marty Beckerman, Ned Vizzini, Adam Finley, Jade Walker,
Brian Lewandowski, Joe Lavin, and Bob Sassone
I have a very unsophisticated palate. My tongue is not excited by food, and food is not that interested in lingering on my tongue for too long. As a sensory device, my tongue is content with hot dogs, hamburgers, french fries, and any victuals that can be deep-fried or easily thrown together by reading directions from the back of the box. On those rare occasions when something exotic passes over my lips, my tongue simply shrugs its non-existent shoulders and sighs, “Next.”
For many people, the meeting of tongue and food is a religious experience. They spend hours preparing food, their tongues moistened with saliva, anticipating the dance. When they finally lift that first moiety to their eager lips, they let the substance linger on their tongue, savoring every molecule as time and space come to a standstill. I have no time for that. I become impatient making a peanut butter and jelly sandwich, and the thing is half-eaten before I even make it to the couch. If I have to use a toaster, I bring a book to read.
My tongue is like an elderly family member indifferent to everything they receive for their birthday, but like that elderly person, my tongue can become joyfully surprised if presented with just the right gift, at just the right time. I have discovered that Sour Brite Crawlers, those grainy, sour gummi worms that would normally cause a slight backwash of vomit to shoot up my esophagus, can become The Most Exalted Of All Food Items if I am in fact really, really high. They are not, however, my favorite food, and it should be known that marijuana also causes me put Thousand Island dressing on tater tots, so it’s not a good indication of what food items I typically desire. Nor can I tout those Reese’s Peanut Butter holiday confections, which are only available during Easter (as eggs) or Christmas (as trees). Yes, I love them, but I’m not in love with them.
There is only one consumable that can send a rapturous tide of deliciousness across my taste buds no matter what my state of mind happens to be, and that is egg nog. I don’t know what it consists of, and I don’t want to know. All I know is that when Christmastime rolls around I’m making weekly trips to the grocery store to stock up on thick, delectable nog. I approach nog as I would a summer fling that I know, sadly, will not last forever. I romance the nog. I drive the nog to a clearing at the top of a hill and put my arm around it as we gaze over the city. I write sonnets about the moon and read them to the nog. I walk into bars holding the nog close to me, basking in its noggishness and grinning smugly at all those jealous eyes that follow our every move. When the bartender offers to “spice up my egg nog” with a shot of vodka I exclaim, “I shall never taint the elixir of the gods with your terrestrial libations! Now avert your eyes, for you are not fit to gaze upon the most holy of seasonal dairy products!”
I just really like egg nog, that’s all I’m saying.
Adam Finley lives and writes in St. Paul, Minnesota, and will someday own your soul.
*** Ned Vizzini
I’m eating my favorite food right now: the Hot Pocket. There ain’t nothing better. I recently had a girl–a girl who knew I was a writer and thought that maybe made me interesting or human in some way–ask me what my favorite word was. Of course I couldn’t come up with one. That’s writers for ya–we can’t think of what to say until hours later. How do you think we got this gig?
So now I’ve got it: my favorite word is “crisping sleeve” (compound words count, okay?). The crisping sleeve is the small thin cardboard sheath that coaxes your Hot Pocket (or Lean Pocket, or Crossaint Pocket, or Breakfast Hot Pocket) through its transformation in your microwave from a frozen hunk of rectangular grit to a flavor-bursting sauce-and-meat delivery packet.
There are 22 flavors, but don’t worry–every single one has cheese. (Being an Italian-American I am partial to chicken parm and pepperoni pizza.) And every single one is a miracle of science. Think about that crisping sleeve: it’s metal on the inside, but it doesn’t fry a microwave like any other metal. It’s not a wet paper towel, but it acts like one in terms of sealing in a Hot Pocket’s moisture. And it makes a microwave act like a toaster oven in terms of crispiness. Scientists worked long and hard on that crisping sleeve.
The Hot Pocket empire, launched in California by two brothers, was recently bought out by Nestle. It’s good to know Hot Pockets will be with me my entire adult life. I always liked the Jetsons. I don’t get their cars. At least I get their food.
Ned Vizzini is the author of Be More Chill and Teen Angst? Naaah…He runs the Reading Series at Barbés in Park Slope, Brooklyn, contributes to New York Press, and maintains the art project known as the squipiverse.
*** Tod Goldberg
I’m not a very religious person. In fact, I’m not religious at all. But I do believe there is a higher power responsible for some of the world’s great gifts – including Jenna Jamison, my nana’s kugel and the Beastie Boys – because the hand of man can not create the perfection that is Brown Sugar Pop Tarts.
In the last 33 years, I’d say that I’ve eaten roughly eight or nine thousand Pop Tarts, the majority of which are Brown Sugar. Oh, I’ve dabbled with Frosted Strawberry, Chocolate, S’mores and, recently, nastily, Hot Fudge Sundae and all the while I return to my secret frosted mistress. Oh, I’ll eat a bagel or an English muffin or a piece of coffee cake from one of the 17 Starbucks near my home if the desire should strike, but late at night, as I lounge in bed watching Cinemax porn, when the craving for nutrition hits, I know with certainty that a hot, sweet meal awaits me one toaster away. What I’ve learned during my long affair with toasted pastries is that not all are created equal, that freshness is the deciding factor between a soft and tasty Pop Tart and one that is hard, but no less scrumptious. So, when I got to the grocery, I’ll open up a few boxes and feel the product, searching for the perfect Pop Tart. I know that this wholesale feeling up of sealed grocery items probably violates the Patriot Act, but if the law showed up I’d willingly buy all the boxes anyway.
It hasn’t always been red roses and love songs between Pop Tarts and me. Once, in 1979, I prepared two Brown Sugar Pop Tarts for breakfast just prior to heading off to elementary school. The Tarts popped up and I, without even bothering to look, grabbed them with a bare hand. But something awful had happened: someone – I blame my sister Linda – had adjusted the settings on the toaster and my usually golden Tarts had been scorched black, hot smoke belching from them. My hand was sizzled severely, to the point that blisters rose along my palm. But I’ll say this: the Pop Tart still tasted pretty damn good.
Tod Goldberg is the author of the novels Living Dead Girl & Fake Liar Cheat and writes a weekly column for Las Vegas Mercury.
*** Jade Walker
A whispered sense of guilt assailed her
as she stared at the empty packaging.
Crumbs covered her shirt in
chocolate tan polka dots.
She closed her eyes and tried to remember
that first bite, that first cookie,
and how it had eased
the pain of her latest heartache.
But the memory was shrouded
by her loss of self-control.
Instead, her analytical side counted calories,
and pondered where the resulting weight gain would appear.
“Men,” she thought,
“…are simply accidents,
but Pepperidge Farm Chocolate Covered Milanos
will be the death of me.”
Jade Walker does not sleep. The Seattle-based freelance writer and editor has published several books, including the dark poetry collection, “Sex, Death and Other…” (2002, Metropolis Ink). She writes The Blog Of Death and freelances for The New York Times on the Web and Bookmarks magazine.
*** Brian Lewandowski
The Best Damn Meal That I Never Had
I finally found and remembered a good meal the other day. Right here in my little town. but I’d be stupider than a bunch of Republicans in the gun aisle of Wal-Mart if I told you about it.
I am not going to tell you about it because then all you celebrity stalking weasels will be following me there and trying to steal my used silverware and napkins to hawk on eBay. I guess I should be thankful I wasn’t asked to write a piece on the “Best Public Restrooms.” I’ll leave that to George Michael.
Indeed, I have had good meals in many places. Unfortunately I can’t ever seem to recall what I have eaten. I have a conspiracy theory that all restaurant food has some mind numbing chemical that makes me forget what I had. but never about the time I dipped my wicket into the Pasta Primavera at the Olive Garden. cheap Chianti. I swear. However, I do know this. I don’t think I will ever eat in Charlotte, NC again.
One time in that One Religion Town, at some place called the “Putrid Rose” (or was it the Pete Rose? Motto: “Eating here is a gamble.”), I was just about to bite into my meal when a hellacious migraine struck, sending me, mouth full of vomit, to the men’s room. where I proceeded to shit half of my body mass out. (I should be fair and say that my Mother-in-Law was visiting at the same time.. but she still has her eyesight and if she ever read this I would be out of the will.) Another time I was at the Southend Brewery having Sausage Andouille (pronounced “Angie Harmon”) when I discovered that I suffer from Acid Reflux.
On an almost good experience, at another location, by ordering a fondue dessert, I just missed being held up at gunpoint like the folks who departed the table next to us. I did however spill steaming hot chocolate on to my little wubbie.. Come to think of it, I can’t forget that time either.
I have often wondered if a meal would be memorable if I did opt for one of those all-you-can-eat buffets at a strip club. What breast size goes with the duck confit? Will someone reheat my food if it gets cold during a lap dance?
So is there anything else in my past that could possibly have been a memorable dining experience? Well I really liked this place my grandmother used to take me to in Buffalo. It was called the Swiss Chalet and it featured rotisserie chicken with this gingery-barbecue sauce that was simply amazing. It turns out the place is a chain (mostly in Canada) and it is a favorite of my wife’s family in Fort Lauderdale (sometimes filled with Canadians). The last time I was there they ordered some. but forgot the gingery-barbecue sauce. So I ate the whole family.
Now that was memorable.
Brian Lewandowski has a penchant for being opinionated, often daily, often at his site. He occasionally interviews celebrities of some sort at fiveforthefamous.com. He has a book, Slop and Swill from a Festering Mind. The rest of the time he explores his photographic and artsy side at hideedee.com. He resolves to shorten this blurb someday.
*** Joe Lavin
When I become rich and famous, I plan to buy the Tri-Sum Potato Chip Company, makers of a wonderful potato chip that no one born outside a twenty-mile radius of Leominster, Massachusetts truly appreciates. A little extra grease, a little less salt, and a family recipe dating back to 1908 have led to the single greatest potato chip I have ever had. No matter how full I may be, I am instantly hungry whenever I open a bag. Much like cocaine used to be the secret ingredient of Coca-Cola around 1908, there may well be some special narcotic in these chips too.
When I was a child, if you went to the Tri-Sum factory, they would actually sell you a giant tub of potato chips, rather than a bag. It probably wasn’t that big, but to a nine-year-old’s sense of proportion it seemed to be the most massively giant collection of potato chips ever. To my parent’s credit, they purchased this very rarely despite my constant pestering.
Here’s how much I like the chips: Only about twice a year do I allow myself to buy a bag. Otherwise, I would be eating them constantly. That’s why I plan to buy the company. If their other disciples are anything like me, the company is bound to go out of business, and then I would never be able to have another Tri-Sum potato chip ever again. That would be bad.
Honorable mention also goes to the PizzaBurger, which I used to eat regularly as a child while on vacation in Nags Head, North Carolina and whose story (“It’s like a hamburger, but it’s got pizza sauce and mozzarella cheese in the middle, and the hamburger has some spices and stuff, so it’s like a pizza too.”) is, according to my girlfriend, the single most boring story I have ever told.
Joe Lavin lives in Somerville, Massachusetts where they sadly do not sell Tri-Sum potato chips, even though he will occasionally see a red Tri-Sum truck pass through town. He’s currently featured in the book May Contain Nuts: A Very Loose Canon of American Humor.
*** Bob Sassone
I could pick pizza, since it’s something I have had for at least one meal (often two) during the week since, oh, 1990. Which probably explains my gut. But I can’t pick just one specific pizza. Delaney’s, with it’s thin crust and what’s-that-combo-of-cheeses? taste; Sebastian’s, with it’s sweet sauce; Moose McGillycuddy’s in Hawaii, though admittedly I was drunk at the time and this was 15 years ago so I’m not really sure if I’m remembering it correctly. I remember it as being really good though.
So let me go with Thanksgiving Dinner. Like most people who write for a living and are overweight, all my food memories are tied to some event in my life. Going to the corner store on Friday nights with my sister Stephanie to stock up on penny candy and Hostess Twinkies and ice cream to eat while watching The Brady Bunch and The Partridge Family; the Chinese food extravaganzas with my best friend Steve; the subs and fried foods from Berardi’s during my stay in Lowell, MA (we ate there so much that we actually sent them a Christmas card that year). But Thanksgiving Dinner, which in my house is turkey, mashed potatoes, bread stuffing, sweet potatoes, hot rolls, and an amazing array of pies, nuts, cakes, and cookies to munch on far into the night while half of the family watches football and the other half is talking over coffee, is that perfect combo of great food (mmmm…turkey and mashed potatoes) and my favorite time of year (fuck summer…the fall, with Halloween and Thanksiving and the holiday season and the crisp air is the best season). This isn’t just Favorite Food territory. This is Favorite Food, Favoite Time Of Year, Favorite Childhood Memory territory.
All the diet books say that we’re overweight because eating is too often associated with emotions and comfort. And to that I say…hell yes!
Bob Sassone invented Cirque De Soleil.
*** Marty Beckerman
I’d say my favorite thing to eat would have to be a tangy, shaved….. Nah, that would be totally witless. I’ll go with Veal instead — the suffering and torture make every little bite just that much more delicious, and anything that pisses off Vegans is fine by me.
Marty Beckerman is the author of Generation S.L.U.T., which was recently optioned by HBO. He lives in Washington, D.C..