Tuesday, September 23, 2014

Convenience food is the Port-a-Pot of the edible world.

As the school year kicks off, I find myself in the same boat with every other teacher in the nation.  This, sadly, is not a big Cunarder or a Compagnie-Generale-Transatlantique liner.  It is a boat filled with rocks to sleep upon, gigantic waves trying constantly to founder it, and nothing resembling edible food.

You see, no matter how carefully you may have planned during the summer, your plans won't happen.  Your administration will decide that you should teach something else instead.  The city or county or whatever system under which you are in thrall will employ some drastic new "technique" that you must obey, never mind that its software doesn't actually work.  You are going to spend the first month in a weird limbo where everything almost makes sense, but doesn't quite.

In other words, you can throw your normal life out the window. (Two codicils:  a)don't actually throw your life out the window--think of the indignity when THAT hits the Times-Dispatch. b)One thing that doesn't change is happy hour. If it weren't for the Charles Village Pub and Joe's Inn, I'd have been at the bottom of the James years ago.)

There is never enough time in this first few weeks to approach normal food for yourself.  Sure, you can eat at restaurants (you're probably already there for happy hour), but that gets rather expensive.  You have probably stocked up on real food, but then, you will do as I did last week: look at all of the real food in the fridge, waiting to be turned into something wonderful, and then say "oh, screw it" and eat a bowl of Cheeri-Os.

Thus, I offer this analysis of some basic "convenience" "foods."  Why the quotes? In the grand scheme of things, they're rarely too convenient, and even more rarely are they food.

a)Hot dogs.  I love hot dogs. Always have, always will--they're tasty and even if you nuke them, they make you think of baseball games and county fairs.  They're also nature's perfect food. Why? Because there isn't a damn thing in them that's natural, so you're saving the environment.

b)Box O' Mac-n-Cheese.  Here's where I question the "convenience" part. You know, it's not too damn hard to make actual macaroni and cheese. You boil the macaroni, add grated cheese and butter and some milk. If you want to get crazy maybe you make a white sauce and then blend the cheese in.  Get crazier, you then add some chopped onions, some bread crumbs, bake the whole mess. Still, it ends up taking maybe fifteen minutes.  But no, you want it easy, so you get the box kind.  You still have to boil the freakin' macaroni and then you add the powdered cheese stuff which, I have come to realize, is salt that has been dyed orange. The whole process still takes nearly ten minutes.  Damn, dude. Just do the real thing. (Oh, yeah--but the Box O' Crap costs 33c.)

c)Prepared sandwiches from the grocery store/S'leven.  These are invariably as dry as Cleopatra's coochie and probably have less flavor. The cheapo mayonnaise they include, if they do, doesn't help because it's not Duke's but always Bob's Tas-T Mayo or something.  Also they put lettuce on them.  Lettuce does not do well when it's been wrapped up on a sandwich for several hours; it's like a slice of pool-table felting.

d)Hot pockets.  These things are just vile.  Worse, they are incapable of being nuked evenly, so you will always have one bite that's volcanically hot followed by one that breaks your teeth because it's still frozen.

e)Lunchables.  Wow, I remember when my Mom was feeling really lazy and gave me bologna and cheese slices and crackers for lunch! Wow, Mom could be EVEN LAZIER now because the Kraft people or whoever have done the same damn thing, except that it's all encased in plastic and costs ten times as much. Seriously, y'all.  Bologna, cheese and crackers.  It is not difficult to accomplish this on your own.

f)Spaghetti-Os.  What, even, IS this shit? the tomato sauce may involve a little bit of ketchup somewhere, but as far as I can tell it's just red sugar slime.  Take out the O's, which are the consistency of recently-deceased mealworms, and you pretty much have cherry Jello that hasn't set up right.

g)School lunch. NOPE.  Nope, nope, nope.  Did that way too often as a teenager, not doing it again. I can perfectly well hold out for the free munchies during happy hour.

Thank you for tuning into this week's edition of Cranky Teacher Follies.

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