Updated: Dec 31, 2020
The Not-So-Optimal Meal
We’ve all heard of the famous mercy of the last dinner, and have asked the morbid questions that accompany it. Knowing it was your last meal, would you savor every small bite? Or would even your long-beloved foods become tasteless? And given the chance to choose (within reason), what kind of taxpayer-funded comestibles would you pick to send yourself off with? Would you indulge, as many have elected to do so, with pints of mint chocolate chip ice cream, family-size sodas, whole pizzas and stacks of fried seafood? Or would you go the way of Victor Feguer, who, after his 1963 conviction on kidnapping and murder, requested no more than a single olive, unpitted? According to the annals of urban legend, Feguer had hoped for an olive tree to spring from his grave, as a lasting sign of peace.
Although I am not a fan of the death penalty, the question of the last meal is certainly a fun way to waste an hour or two. But in thinking about best possible meals, and worst possible meals, I began to consider instead what lies in between -- the parts of my psyche that have yet gone unexplored. What would I pick for the ultimate doldrum dinner, the most mediocre meal?
To me, this experience may have significant practical value. As a seventeen-year-old ready to drink from the brimming cup of adulthood, a seasonal composer of poetry and prose, and a furtive J.Cole fan, I often like to mentally delve into the rich loam of my own identity. I’ve found that the work of introspection yields only sparingly to disciplined efforts, such as meditation, or listening to “Lush Lofi” on Spotify, or hugging your knees to your chest as you sit, dripping down minute seventeen of a hot shower in the fetal position. The looming pale horse of the Common App Personal Statement has only exacerbated this dilemma of introspection: the act of thinking becomes difficult when you make a conscious effort towards it.
From Aristotle to John McAfee, great thinkers have long extolled the value of slow movement: the boring old walk as a mode of shifting perspectives and covering new territory. Similarly, it is my opinion that it is not only in the greatest of extremes where we find our true selves. It may only be in the mundane — say, the lubrication of the joints of daily life, the middle grounds — that I can truly think of myself as existing as a whole individual, free from curation and presentation.
2825. Raw Wheat Germ & Hot Sauce
I’ve always liked spicy food, from the wild side of hot pot dinners with my family to the indulgent orange sheen of buffalo wings. Unfortunately, I’m not sure if this pairing quite constitutes “food”; texture-wise, I can imagine the two blending into a kind of porridge. For the uninformed, wheat germ constitutes one of three edible parts of a wheat kernel, and is widely regarded as the most nutritious part despite going rancid quickly due to its high saturated fat content. Although I don’t quite buy into the schemes of Big Germ (“delightfully nutty!” “the heart of the Wheat berry!”), I can see myself accepting this pairing for its thematic value. The sweet embryo of the grain, dissolving in one’s mouth; saved from the fate of betrayal by virtue of its own lushness, only to be enveloped by an unwelcome heat death.
2824. Smoked Salmon & Sour Patch Kids™
At these lower levels, the clashing of opposites becomes a major theme. We saw smoked salmon as a key player in many of the better pairings earlier on, and even abided by the presence of Sour Patch Kids when complemented by a sweet or neutral partner. Now, these two favorites pull apart like doomed French lovers, each the others undoing. It’s not meant to be, but we are spared from real disgust by the undeniable merit of each individual.
2823. Flour Tortilla & Celery
We all remember the kid from summer camp or our school lunchroom that would eat nothing but flour tortillas for their lunch. Their meager meal flapping limply over a cupped hand, they would take a bite out of their tortilla with their two front teeth, chew, then look you directly in the face. AAAA! Here, the addition of an equally bland (but nicer in texture, in my opinion) vegetable has few implications for taste, but boosts the combination up in a more utilitarian way. It can be argued that the water and vitamin content of a stick of celery, combined with the carbs of the tortilla, make for a powerhouse survival food that would make Bear Grylls proud.
2822. PB (Pinto beans) & J
This comes in a week that has seen an unusual amount of bean discourse, after the CEO of Goya Foods praised President Trump. Here’s the rub: if you’re a simple man like me and you don’t know pinto from pea (okay, one is green, I’m being facetious), the combination of savory beans with sugary grape jelly might not seem like a terrible idea. But as the ongoing cultural war has demonstrated, even the smallest of our actions may have dire, symbolic consequences. Although I wholeheartedly support the abstract ideal of fusion, I reject this intrusion of sugar into my legumes. Let beans stay beans.
2821. Hamburger Bun & English Muffin
When I was twelve, I went camping with my family. One morning, I stepped out of our blue Coleman six-man tent to go pee, came back yawning, and settled down in a different, similar tent between two white strangers. The story of my tent mix-up — not known by a single other soul until now — remains one of the most terrifying experiences I’ve ever had, and I imagine it was even more so for the poor couple I intruded upon. This uneasy combo of breaded bookends is the culinary equivalent of waking up and discovering there’s one more body in the tent than when you went to bed.
2820. Popcorn & Succotash
There is something that is horribly, succulently morbid about this combination. I think it would taste pretty good though.