Tuesday, January 06, 2009

The Best Foods That Have Only A Tenuous Connection To The Natural World:

It's a date that's divisible by three -- so it's another SemiDaily List!

I've mentioned before that a key criterion of mine in determining whether or not I will eat something is how far away that thing appears to be from anything "natural." And I'm only half-finished with Christmas-Leftover Grandma's Mystery Candy, so my mind is doubly-occupied with not just my usual thoughts (find a way to avoid doing actual 'work') but also with other foods that aren't natural in any way, shape, or form. So here are

The Best Foods That Have Only A Tenuous Connection To The Natural World:

1. "Shamrock" Shakes. Every year, McDonald's rolls out the "Shamrock" Shake, a mint-flavored dessert beverage that seems to have been created during the brief period of time when McDonald's was trying to institute a "seasonal menu" program, a program that apparently was killed off shortly after the introduction of this shake and the "Egg Nog" and "Arctic Orange" shakes -- those being the only three seasonal shakes McDonald's traditionally has featured.

The Shamrock Shake, as delicious as it is, raises an important question: why are there so few other seasonal shakes? Why is St. Patrick's Day more important to McDonald's than, say, Independence Day (when they could have offered, say, a "Red, White & Blueberry Shake?") St. Patrick's Day is, after all, a day traditionally associated with news footage of drunk frat boys at Boston College waving their arms in a celebration of tuition-wastery. I can't answer this question, but I do know that someone thought it was important enough to not only have the shake, but also to have a green Grimace promote the shake:

The Shamrock Shake makes the list because these are Shamrocks:

Shamrocks are clovers. You know what clovers taste like? Neither do I, but I'm pretty sure it's not mint. The Shamrock Shake is named after the national symbol of Ireland but is flavored with the national symbol of whatever country uses mint:

as it's national symbol. (Probably Trinidad.) Mint has nothing to do with Ireland. Don't believe me? Try this simple experiment:

Step 1: Google "What does Mint Have to Do With Ireland?"
Step 2: Notice that the first result says something about "Linux" and wonder why computer geeks care so much about Linux, then switch to the Image Search and hope that something interesting comes up.
Step 3: Nothing did.

So the Shamrock shake is at least two levels removed from anything "natural." Three, if you count the fact that the potato is plant most associated with Ireland, and four if you count the fact that this:

Is the drink most associated with Ireland.

2. Boston Baked Beans Candy. Say what you want about America, but we have achieved marvelous things, things like machines which can automate the process of coating a peanut in a vaguely-Dr.-Pepper-flavored candy shell. Did the ancient Greeks ever come up with something that phenomenal? I think not. But I'm not sure, because I didn't pay much attention to anything in school about the Ancient Greeks other than the part about the Gods getting to make out with whoever they wanted to, which sounded like a pretty cool religion to me as a teenager. I'm not sure how Christianity ever won out against that.

The Greatness of America is not the first thing that springs to mind when considering "Boston Baked Beans Candy," unless you are me and unless you watch the "Virtual Tour" that shows how Boston Baked Beans Candy is made, which, if you do watch it, should make you think Someone, somewhere, wanted to make enough of these candies that they had to invent robots to do it because people were not capable of moving quickly enough to fulfill the demand for Boston Baked Beans Candy.

Which is remarkable first because it proves there's no limit to America's can-do spirit. Put a man on the moon? Yep. Build a transcontinental railroad without the help of machines? Done. Invent a robot to mass produce Boston Baked Beans Candy? Here you go. I think that should be our new standard for technological demands. Instead of saying If they can put a man on the moon, why can't they... we should say If they can invent a robot to speed production of Boston Baked Beans Candy, why can't they...

Except that phrase would never catch on, and it would never catch on because of the second remarkable part about the fact that they need a robot to make enough of these candies, and the second remarkable part is this: in my whole existence, I have never met another person who eats Boston Baked Beans Candy.

Never. So unless I meet someone in the next 3 days who does, I will have gone 1,261,440,000 seconds without ever meeting someone else who eats my beloved candy. And if I'm the only person in the world eating it, why do they need robots to produce it? I didn't think I ate that much.

Boston Baked Beans Candy make the list because they're obviously not beans. The center is a peanut, and the outer coating is an unidentifiable substance that, like I said, tastes like Dr. Pepper if you made Dr. Pepper into a candy, which I believe that they did. It also makes the list by virtue of choosing a name that virtually guarantees that nobody will want to eat it. "Boston Baked Beans?" For a candy name? I realize that "Zagnut" was probably already taken, but, seriously, that was the best you could do? I can come up with three better names off the top of my head... names like...

Well, okay, I'm stumped. But I'm not a professional robotic candy maker.

3. Liverwurst: Nothing that lives in the "lunchmeat" aisle at the grocery store appears to have any connection to something that lived outside the lunchmeat aisle, but of all the various packages and tubes and envelopes that can be thrown into a cart en route to the frozen foods section, liverwurst is the most bizarre.

Some lunchmeats, and meats, try to hide their origins. The makers of bologna don't admit that the "lunchmeat" is in fact an entirely synthetic substance first located in the Marianas Trench and thought to have been placed there only after it was created by the Mayans in an accidental fusion of otherworldy materials, an accidental fusion that was caused in the same Mayan ritual that also predicted that the world would end on December 21, 2012, the day the Mayan calendar ends. (I would not bother getting your Christmas shopping done early in 2012, just in case.)

Liverwurst doesn't mess around like that. It tells you right up front: I am made of liver. In fact, if you Google "how is liverwurst made," you will be led to a Wikipedia article that begins with this actual sentence:

Liverwurst, also known as Kentucky Pâté, is ...

And you will read exactly that far before saying "What? I've never heard that," and then you will Google "Kentucky Pate" and you will find exactly no articles that refer to "liverwurst" as "Kentucky Pate" and you will yet again bemoan the fact that people think Wikidiotpedia is some kind of actual reference source, and you will yet again try to remind people that just because it is on the Internet doesn't mean it is true and you will waste some time wondering if there is a way to block Wikidiotpedia from your web browser, and then you will calm yourself down by reading today's Peanuts comic strip, which is this one:

And then you will decide that it's not all that important how liverwurst is made or what it's made of, because, really, who cares about that stuff? You know who cares what goes into liverwurst? The same kid who always loudly announced that hot dogs were made of pig lips, the same kid who never got a date to the prom, and the same kid who even now is sitting in his parent's basement, on his elaborate computer setup, typing the following sentence into his web browser:

Liverwurst, also known as Kentucky Pâté, is ...

And congratulating himself on making his 155th Wikidiotpedia update this week.

Yeah, that guy.

So it doesn't matter what goes into Liverwurst; what matters is that it's both delicious and completely unidentifiable, a conglomeration of flavors and ingredients that can be easily sliced out of its little wrapping-tube, put onto a piece of bread with Swiss cheese and onion and mayonnaise, and then eaten, thereby guaranteeing you that not only will you have a delicious lunch, but also your wife will make you brush your teeth before you kiss her. Or talk to her in the same room.

4. Ramen Noodles: True fact: I have eaten Ramen noodles almost every single day of my adult life. The days that I haven't eaten Ramen noodles have mostly been because Sweetie didn't, for some reason, put them into my lunch despite the fact that I have often pointed out that lunch consists of three courses: The "sandwich" course, made up of food that can be picked up in one hand and eaten -- either because it's between pieces of bread or because it's a slice of pizza, the "chips" course, which is some form of potato chip, or, in a pinch, a "Bugle," and the "Ramen Noodle course," which is Ramen Noodles.

Sweetie periodically does not include the "Ramen Noodle course" in my lunch. Sweetie also sometimes slips some kind of dessert into the "chips course" even though I've also often pointed out to her that I am, technically, watching what I eat, and by that I mean that I will eat several pounds of potato chips and consider that to be healthier than one Little Debbie Brownie.

In all the time that I've eaten Ramen Noodles, I've never once considered what goes into a Ramen Noodle, or how they are made, or what they consist of, until the day Some Guy At Work made the obviously-false claim that Ramen Noodles are unhealthy and have a lot of MSG in them, a claim that I proved false by pointing out that I did not have any idea what "MSG" is, and also by pointing out that even if I did know what "MSG" was, it would not change my mind at all because that day, along with my Ramen Noodles, I also had a "Lasagna Sandwich" and a baggie full of "Ranch Pajedas." Health was clearly not my main concern in that lunch. (My main concern was pajeda fallout coating my fingers and getting onto my keyboard.)

But there's just nothing natural about Ramen Noodles. They're completely removed from nature, miles and miles away from whatever plant noodles grow on -- that being my understanding of how we get noodles: they grow on plants in the Orient-- and isn't it a shame that we no longer refer to China/Japan/Korea/Vietnam as "The Orient?" The world was a more lyrical place when people would say "these came from the Orient." -- and also, do you think people back then in the way olden days (before 2002) who lived in The Orient would refer to the West as "The Occident?" -- and also, don't you think The Occident would make a good title for a book, maybe a book that would be the first in a trilogy of books about a world, say, where noodles grow on Noodle Plants and are harvested by Noodle Farmers who live peacefully in The Orient until one day, a group of warriors riding triceratopses comes and burns the Noodle Fields, forcing the farmers to give up their livelihood and also forcing them to flee the Premier's forces, who have been sent to gather that year's Noodle Tribute, and who do not believe the Noodle Farmers about the Triceratops Warriors burning the noodle bushes and so are going to have the Noodle Farmers put to death, at which point the Noodle Farmers flee their simple existence, heading across the ocean into The Occident, which turns out to be America circa now, and as they arrive they realize that our world has forgotten all about The Orient and its magic and the fact that dinosaurs still exist there, and thus they, with their magical powers and knowledge of dinosaurs and all can take over us, and they do just that but they are tailed by the Premier's soldiers and the Triceratops Warriors, who want to take over the world themselves prompting a battle between the Noodle Farmers and those other groups, a battle that takes place in modern-day San Francisco, which the Noodle Farmers have used their magical powers to establish as the capital of The Occident?

Book two would be titled The Orient, and would go back home to fight the Premier, and Book Three would probably take them to the North Pole. So I guess I could have a book four, then, in my trilogy, about the South Pole, too.

All thanks to Ramen noodles.

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Ruth said...

I recently came across your blog and have been reading along. I thought I would leave my first comment. I don't know what to say except that I have enjoyed reading. Nice blog. I will keep visiting this blog very often.



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