Across the hall from me live two cute and chatty little girls. Because we live in a former factory with very long hallways, all the kids love to play in the halls, it's like their front yard. It's kind of irresistible really; sometimes I'll just go out there and race up and down too, just to let off some steam, or ride my tricycle for a few laps while I wait for my grilled cheese sandwich to be done.
The girls are very sociable, and I always stop to chat with them. I don't interact with little kids much so I find them amusing, for a few minutes at least. The other day the smaller one was out there, spinning madly with her arms out wide. I watched her as she slowed her spinning and then stumbled around like a tiny drunk and fell to the floor in a heap, and asked her if she spun just to make herself so dizzy that she'd fall down. She grinned her little gap-toothed smile and woozily nodded her curly head. I told her that I loved to do that too, when I was little, and she giggled and replied, "Can I see your apartment?" They always ask that; they love to look into other apartments on the floor. So do I, really. But I said no, not this time, and went inside and left her to her spinning.
Being only 5, she had the total lack of self-consciousness that only small kids possess, before big kids and teachers and parents and the world bash it out of you. She didn't care what she looked like as she spun and tumbled into a lump on the carpet, she just knew it was a fun, crazy thing to do with her tiny body. I totally remember that feeling. Before you were even aware of your body in a sense, and you just lived in it, comfortably. Before you were forced to think about it, before the pediatrician told you that you were getting too fat, before your older, ballerina sister made you feel self-conscious, before the external forces that created doubt and self-loathing in you ruined it all.
She just wanted to spin, to change the feeling of standing upright, of seeing straight, and alter her reality for a moment. I wonder, if kids who love to do that tend to grow up to abuse more substances? Do they get hooked on distorting their reality, changing their experiences of the world? Reshape it for a few minutes by making the hallway walls seem round and blurry, not straight and square? Or, do they instead go to work for big food companies and form chicken-esque slurry paste into little dinosaurs or corn dust, dye and sugar into pink, princess-shaped cereal? Are we all just overgrown toddlers, as I've said before, trying to recapture the delicious feeling of being dizzy and seeing the world in a blur? I can't even sit on a swing anymore without getting motion sickness, but I loved to make my world spin 40 years ago.
Maybe that's why we love to play with the natural shape of things, messing around with nature, altering the world, because we can't do it the same way we did as kids? I've been wondering about this lately. Why can't we accept the shape of things in our environments, our food, or our bodies? All formed by nature, or by nature with our help, good or bad. Having grown up with a weight issue, and struggling against my shape for four decades, I know this first hand. I feel somewhat at peace with my shape now, I decided years ago to not waste any more precious energy on negative thinking about it, and instead channeled that energy into exercise, which has conveniently changed my shape anyway.
We seek out perfection in things, whether by human nature, or because we've been programmed by our industrialized times, I don't know. Even I do it, when I shop for food, I grab the prettiest fruit, the straightest zucchini, the reddest peppers. Some of it is the primal seeking of ripeness, but a lot of it is programming, perfection-driven. It's different when I shop at farmers markets. There, nothing is so perfect looking; it all looks a lot more normal, and natural. Misshapen, bumpy, uneven coloring, bare spots, freckles -- a lot like how people look, really. Maybe we seek perfection in food to compensate for our so-called imperfections in ourselves?
Recently, I had a voiceover audition for a brand of canned soup. I know, you're immediately thinking, "how could she, the voice of no Foodiness take money from the food industry to promote canned soup?" Well, don't worry, I audition a lot, but I rarely book anything, so it's not an issue (yet).
The script was about the town where the carrots are grown for this brand of soup. And how they intentionally choose the ugliest, most misshapen carrots for their vegetable soups because those carrots have the most surface area, and therefore the best flavor? I'm not so sure about that science... but what I do know is spin when I see it. Just like my little neighbor out in the hallway, just spinning, spinning, altering reality and perceptions, conveniently changing the facts to suit their marketing needs.
Soup, Inc. buys up all the misshapen, ugly carrots for practically pennies, since they can't be sold at retail or used in other food processing, like to make so-called baby carrots, so they use 'em in their soups. And I'm totally fine with this, better they use them in soup than dump them. What do I care if the carrots in my soup (well, not mine because I make my own) aren't straight and perfect? But some people might, and the spin and marketing machine is a powerful tool for convincing them. And, food waste has been making its way, finally, into the mainstream media, so some ad agency genius put two and two together and came up with this campaign, about using the ugly misshapen carrots because they TASTE better. So not only is Soup, Inc. being environmentally responsible by using up all those reject carrots, without overtly stating that, but they use them intentionally, because they taste better. Wow. Does Don Draper work on that account?
Other than the huge carbon footprint that comes from sourcing, growing, slaughtering, harvesting, cooking, packaging, metal manufacturing, papermaking, shipping and reheating cans of soup, I'm ok with their product. I'd prefer they use organic ingredients, and slash the gratuitous salt, and ditch the BPA, but otherwise I'd rather see someone open a can of vegetable soup than eat pink-princess cereal. Choices. Make 'em right.
But, we really can't just leave stuff alone, can we? It's bad enough we waste tons of food, but do we have to alter it all too? Eff with it all the time, change its shape, color, flavor, size and smell, just to keep it new and novel? Can't we just eat the basics? I just bought a 10-pound bag of lentils. And I'm totes ok eating lentils for the next two years a few times a week. 100 years ago, I'd have had no choice, and in most of the world, there'd be no choice. Your kid in rural India wouldn't be able to choose the Dino-Nuggets today, but the Cheezee-Stars tomorrow, and then the blue monster cereal Thursday but the Choco-Bloops Friday. They'd just eat food. Whatever food was put in front of them, just like how we did it, not that long ago. Why do we need quite so many choices, and in quite so many shapes?
Lets take a simple baked item, like the croissant. Not so simple really, if you've ever baked your own you know it's two-day project, involving lots of butter and flour, endless rolling, folding, chilling and time. But that's what makes them special and delicious. I rarely eat 'em, but a perfect croissant is a beautiful thing. It's something special, to be savored and valued.
Our American croissant is the doughnut. Same thing, taken the time to make them right, they can be great when done well. And ditto the above, when they're made from real, quality ingredients and eaten occasionally.
So why the constant need to morph things all the time? I get the cronut thing, it was a gimmick, and people love a gimmick and love to line up for stuff, thinking they're in on something new. Not me. I hate lining up for stuff. But why do we have the need for constant novelty, the ever shape-changing and evolving, all the morphing? Are we like the six-year olds who need constant stimulation, spinning, and newness? Um, yeah. We are.
But do we really need the waffle-croissant? Have you seen these newest monstrosities? They're on the menu now at a national breakfast restaurant chain. Oh thank you, national breakfast chain. If it weren't for you, I'd have run out of material for new shows years ago! But you never stop, do you? In the sugary wake following the cronut, the cruffin, the cragel and all the other croissant-donut-muffin-bagel smash-ups and disasters, this outdoes them all. The waffle-croissant mash-up, is made from croissant dough, (which of course is pronounced "cruhssant", which I don't get because Americans can say lasagna, not luh-zag-nuh) pressed into a waffle iron, baked flat, then folded over lemony cream or cream cheese with fruity toppings. Careme would choke on his foie gras.
Why must we fight the natural shapes of things? Why does a marshmallow have to be molded into a chick shape, instead of just left in its naturally occurring marshmallow shape? Why aren't baby carrots actually shaped like babies? I've never seen a baby that was shaped like a carrot! Why do we mess with stuff like that? Like Renee Zellwegger's face, or a Kardashian's anything, isn't nature enough? Nope. It's not. We humans just can't seem to leave it alone. It makes me sad, and dizzy. I'm going out in the hall now to run with the six-year-olds. Call me when my grilled cheese is ready, thanks.