It's the new black.
A brief note: I wrote this during the great thesis debacle of 2011, which, ironically enough, focused on visual consumption and cultural identity.
The only way I could string together coherent thoughts was by writing about food. Here, in a nutshell, is a memoir of my final few weeks of writing, inspired by Kafka, and terribly self-indulgent. By all means, enjoy laughing at me.
My dissertation is due in two weeks, which, with rough conversion, means I’m coming to the end of a long pseudo-pregnancy. To my friends, I am irritable, immobile, anxious, irrational, and a slew of other adjectives I won’t waste here; I need to save them for all the serious work that will ensue as soon as I finish my Colin Firth marathon.
Thus you can imagine my choice of diet; an odd assortment of vending machine rubbish, wine that started out in a box and made its way into an empty bottle because I’m too lazy to use (or clean) a glass, Red Bull, and gum. Fortunately, I have kind friends and they decided to go food shopping for me while I whine and groan and do just about everything but write. They kindly ask what I want; I say “nothing” with about three extra syllables. As they shut my door, I should out random items: “Twinkie!” “Cheese!” “Milkshake!”
When they return with the fixings for a week’s worth of Peanut Butter and Jelly sandwiches, I am undemonstrative but secretly grateful for an actual meal. My friend A. seems more excited than anyone should be about groceries, winking as she says, “Check out your bread.” I’m pretty sure my return smile says, “I hate you all.” I take out my bounty one by one, until I come upon the item of which A. spoke.
It is not in loaf form, nor is it a baguette or boule or anything else that tickles my snobbish sensibilities; no, I see eight slices of goldfish-shaped flat rolls, on which one is meant to place deli meat or spread jam. They are, in fact, extra-large copies of the cheddar crackers that filled my childhood, only this time the world is telling me to indulge; after all, bread is necessary food group. With this, I am reduced to an utterly childlike state of wonder; I assume mood swings are kicking in and I go with it. As I gleefully start to examine the packaging, I almost expect A. to pop back into my room and shout, “It’s the snack that smiles back!”
(Before I go any further, I must beg the following question: Where is this Pepperidge Farms? The company is based in the transitional state of New England known as Connecticut, but I’m wondering about the location of the actual farm, the one in the picture with the snow-covered rooftop and the gristmill that looks like it was cropped out of an Alcott novel. It’s my dream house, as long as it churns out Mint Milanos everyday.)
Feeling inspired and creative—I could honestly tell my mother that yes, I did have protein this week and yes, the fish was domestic and contained little to no mercury—I start on what must have looked like the most primitive sandwich assembly ever. I treat every spread of the knife like a brushstroke and, looking at my masterpiece, I take a bite. I take a bite and it tastes like…bread. White bread. With peanut butter and jelly.
And, like an emotionally disturbed toddler, I begin to cry out of frustration, that it isn’t better, that it isn’t genius, that it isn’t complete. Colin Firth’s saying something calm and reassuring in the background, but I can’t be bothered to listen at the moment. I sit there for a moment, disgusting and foolish, and finally pick up my now very soggy sandwich. I eat it. Then I eat another. I keep going; the finished product might not be genius, it might not be what I expected when I started out, but it’ll do.
In two weeks, when I’m finally done, I’ll thank my friends, for multiple reasons. I’m also going to hunt down Farmer Pepperidge, with his working gristmill and snowy rooftops, and kiss him straight on the mouth for reducing me to childlike wonder. Then punch him for getting me fatter than my “pregnancy” ever did. White bread, apparently, is terrible for you. —Hannah