Tuesday, January 27, 2009

Foods That Annoy Me

When you invite someone over for dinner, one universal question must be asked: “Is there anything you don’t eat?” There are allergies, but there are also certain foods that you vow to never digest because of a bad experience or because of general fear and disgust. Some can’t stand bananas. Some can’t fathom eating tuna fish. And an odd group of people, I believe they are called vegetarians, don’t even eat meat.

My two worst food fears are mushrooms and eggs. The mushroom omelette is my arch nemesis. But there are other foods that really bother me too. I’ll eat them, but I often want to complain about their presence. I’ve decided to end the silence and finally make the list of foods (and food-related items) that annoy me.

NOTE: These are everyday foods—not the snack treats you might see on Fear Factor (a show I used to work on by the way.)

1) Mushrooms

When I was a little kid, I ate mushrooms on my pizza all the time. Then I went on that fateful 1st grade field trip.

We were walking through the woods, and I noticed disgusting growths on the ground and on dead trees. I innocently asked what they were. The response: “Those are mushrooms; like what you eat on your pizza.” I was repulsed. My fellow students got word that I had a new fear and took advantage of it. Soon after, David Rubenstein picked up a giant mushroom and threw it at my head. The fungal remnant missed me by an inch, but I was never the same again.

I haven’t touched one since. Even the word “mushroom” gives me the creeps. There’s a reason why mushrooms are the bad guys in Super Mario Brothers. They are evil.

2) Eggs

I used to eat eggs as a kid. Then I went to overnight summer camp.

I have many great memories at Camp Tel Noar, but this is not one of them. It was my first summer, and I was 8 years old. We were all in the dining hall waiting for breakfast. All was good until the kitchen doors opened. A giant vat of scrambled eggs, made for hundreds of people, was being stirred. I got a whiff and gagged immediately.

I was a little overdramatic; I covered my face with my shirt so I could breathe. I eventually ran to the bathroom so I could inhale again. When I returned, the wrongful smell worsened. My camp counselor, Steve F, thought I was being overemotional and decided to prove that I was faking. He tapped me on the shoulder, and when I turned to him, he shoved a dish of scrambled eggs towards my face. On cue, I vomited on one of the Gopin twins. I was definitely not faking.

From that day forward, eggs were banned from my table, (people would eat at other tables and then come back to mine) and I never had them again. I’ll eat them in non-egg form (cakes, brownies, etc.), but never alone.

I just don’t understand how people can rave about eggs when they smell so foul. If there is an awful odor in the air, people often say: “Gross, it smells like eggs.” So why would you want to eat them?

3) Raisins

For the most part, raisins aren’t that bad. I enjoy two scoops in my Raisin Bran, occasionally sprinkled on a salad, and especially in my Mother’s homemade banana bread. But raisins bug me when they pretend to be something else.

For example, you bite into what you think is a chocolate chip cookie. You’re expecting a warm, seductive milk chocolate morsel, and instead it’s a hard, chewy raisin. What the hell! These raisins should be ashamed of themselves.

Raisins: If you’re gonna be in a cookie, don’t pretend to be a gooey chocolate chip. Know your role!

4) Grape Jelly

If you’re not jelly specific, grape is spread on your bagel, toast, or PB&J. Grape has somehow become the representative of jelly even though it's the least enjoyable. How the hell did this happen? Was there a vote? Nobody told me about it. I mean you got strawberry, raspberry, blackberry, blueberry, peach, marmalade. And don’t forget jam and preserves—I have no idea how they’re different then jelly, but they sound delightful. So let’s re-vote and get grape jelly out of there.

5) Hydrox

Hydrox are mostly annoying because they attempt to knock off arguably the best cookie of all time, the Oreo. Is there a difference in taste? Absolutely! I mean has anyone ever ordered a Hydrox milk shake? Of course not. So last week, when my friend offered me Oreos, and then presented me with a box of Hydrox, I looked at him with disgust. (That’s like getting a Gobot instead of a Transformer.) Sure, I ate the cookies, but I was still annoyed.

6) Bones

You bite into a piece of fish, and your mouth is filled with taste. Then, as you chew, you realize there are tiny, little, iddy-biddy bones. You have to focus hard so you can chew on one side and somehow push over the bones to the other. Then, when no one is looking, you have to spit the bones and mushed food into a napkin. My question is this: why are there bones if they can be removed? Does anyone prefer this? And if there are bones, why didn’t anyone tell me? Very annoying.

7) Seeds

You bite into a grape and there’s a burst of flavor. The moment is short lived when your teeth rip into a seed. The taste is now ruined with bitterness. That’s when you realize—this is one of those grapes with seeds. Why are they still making those? Why do they even exist? The same goes for seed-filled oranges and watermelons. Sure, seeds are fun to spit at people, but the cons heavily outweigh the pros. Let’s get rid of seeds once and for all.

8) Gum

On first examination, I thought gum was pretty cool. It tastes good, freshens your breath, and you can even play with it (blow bubbles, make popping sounds.) But as I thought about it more, gum is really annoying.

It tastes great at first, but after 15 minutes, it’s disgusting. Your stomach is now confused because it expects a full meal and you have nothing to offer it. You could swallow the gum, but that does nothing. Plus, it stays in your stomach forever. (This isn’t true, but every time you’re thinking of swallowing a piece of gum, this definitely runs through your mind.)

Gum is a huge tease. It’s like going to a strip club. At first, it’s fun and exciting, but after a while it gets stale and boring. And in the end, you’re not gonna really get any, so you usually leave frustrated.

Gum is also annoying because of irresponsible chewers. Just this morning, I saw a kid casually toss his piece onto the sidewalk. Guess who’s gonna step on that? ME! Tickets should be given out for people like that. Getting gum off your shoe is a terrible way to spend your day.

After doing some research, I learned gum has existed for 5000 years. I also learned it is banned in Singapore. Maybe I should move there.

9) Sweet Pickles

Who do these pickles think they are?

Normal, sour pickles could possibly be my favorite food of all time. Many a day in summer camp, I would fill a glass with pickle juice and chug on command. Sure, it’s a little weird, but I thought it was delicious.

What kills me about sweet pickles is that they are impostors. They look the same. They feel the same. But they sure don’t taste the same. Sweet pickles are, in fact, disgusting. Fancy restaurants like to put them with a salad, and some crazy places put sweet pickles on the burger.
I salivate for that sour pickle. So when I bite into it, and it’s sweet, I almost gag. The only acceptable sweet pickle is relish because it’s upfront about its identity. But sweet pickles try to blend in and trick you. They sit in the same jar, and unless you examine the spices carefully, they look nearly identical to delicious kosher dill. Sweet pickles should be eliminated from the market place.

10) Spicy Food

There are simple rules to being a man. Never get a pink drink, never admit that you’re lost, and never ask for mild food. Although I consider myself to be manly, I have trouble following these guidelines. I like girly drinks, I have no sense of directions, and I hate spicy food.

When ordering buffalo wings, you must decide between such temperatures as: mild, medium, hot, atomic, and ulcer-inducing. The guy that orders ulcer-inducing becomes a cult hero. He receives honor, envy, and pats on the back. The guys that orders mild, ME, receives looks of embarrassment. Unless you come up with a quick “guy” excuse, (“I’m so hung over—can’t take spicy right now.”) you’re condemned by the table.

The worst is when you complain that something is too hot, and the table overrules you. They try your food and announce that it’s not spicy, like there’s something wrong with your taste buds.

And it’s especially unmanly when women at the table get spicy dishes and you have to say “not spicy” or “mild.”

But I’m not gonna feel embarrassed any longer. I don’t like my lips burning. I don’t like chugging water every five seconds. And I don’t like sitting on the toilet for 45 minutes after the meal. From now on, I am proudly saying “NO” to spicy food.

11) Breakfast

Everyone says that breakfast is the most important meal of the day. But who the hell started this rumor…the cereal companies? I sleep through breakfast all the time, and I’m perfectly fine. But if I sleep through lunch or dinner, I’m cranky and irritable. More research needs to be done as soon as possible. I don’t even like breakfast. In fact, I think breakfast is stuck up, pretentious, choosy, and exclusive.

Here is why:

a) If you take eggs out of the equation, breakfast is mainly made up of sugar (fruit, cereal, jelly, syrup, sugar, whipped cream) and bread (muffins, scones, toast, bagels, pancakes, french toast, waffles.) But if I ordered fried dough topped with a bowl of ice cream and a candy bar, I’d be considered crazy. But really, what’s the difference?

b) Breakfast offers a healthy selection of meat too: bacon, sausage, ham; you can even get steak n’ eggs. It’s all part of your balanced breakfast. But if I ordered a hamburger or chicken sandwich, I’d be crazy.

c) I can get hash browns, but I can’t get French fries.

d) Breakfast is even exclusive about orange juice. Don’t try to order OJ during dinner because you’ll get the dirty look from breakfast lovers: “Orange juice for dinner? That’s a breakfast drink. Everyone knows that.” (The only time you have an excuse is if you’re coming down with something.)

e) Breakfast is so power hungry that it invades other meals. It has merged itself with lunch to create the ever so popular brunch. Is dinner next? I sure hope not.

Breakfast wouldn’t be so bad if it wasn’t so stuck up. Just admit that you’re not the most important meal and that you’re made up of mostly sugar and I’ll get off your back. Until then, breakfast is on my annoying list.

(For Little Things That Annoy Me, click on: http://thecorner33.blogspot.com/2008/09/little-things-that-annoy-me.html)

(For Little Things That I Think Are Cool, click on: http://thecorner33.blogspot.com/2008/10/little-things-that-i-think-are-cool.html)

Thursday, January 15, 2009

Slumdog Millionaire

Every once in a while, a movie comes out that everyone loves. It’s so great that even the slightest diss gets you a dirty look. How could you not love it? Seinfeld captures this with perfection in The English Patient episode. Everyone adores The English Patient except for Elaine. When she complains about the movie, people act as if she’s crazy. She doesn’t like The English Patient so nobody likes her.

Slumdog Millionaire is The English Patient of 2009. I left the theater confused; not about the story line, but instead, about what I would say to friends who asked me for my review. I feared being honest, and thus being hated just like Elaine.

I discovered that the best way to avoid the conflict was to focus on specific details. For example, when I was asked for my opinion about Slumdog, I stated how much I liked the music. The other party assumed that I loved the movie and left me alone. The truth is that I did like the music, but the movie didn’t really do it for me.

Yes, I enjoyed the love story since I’m a hopeless romantic. And the movie was told in a clever and unique way (each question on the game show reveals a new portion of the main character’s life.) But overall, I thought Slumdog was only OK. But I don’t blame the movie. I blame the people around me for irresponsible reviewing.

Irresponsible Reviewing

Definition #1: The reviewer bases his/her review from only one source

People always react when they hear a movie title: “I heard this was great” or “This is supposed to be terrible.” When that person is asked for a source, he/she reveals that they overheard it from someone at the bus stop, their pizza delivery guy, or they read one article in a newspaper. Why would that one suggestion make such an impact? Is the pizza guy really that smart? It makes even less sense when there are hundreds of other professional reviews accessible on sites like rottentomatoes.com. This is just plain irresponsible.

Definition #2: When someone recommends a movie, but is extremely vague with their description

For example, someone could say that The Matrix is a great movie. But in order to be a responsible reviewer, they need to include details like “It’s a cool sci-fi movie with awesome action scenes.” Now I know—if I like action/sci-fi movies, I will really enjoy this. There are lots of great movies: Schindler’s List, Annie Hall, Back to the Future, Big, Naked Gun, Wayne’s World, Sneakers---but the key point is that they’re all very different. If you go into the theater with the wrong mindset, your viewing might not be so enjoyable.

Definition #3: Overhyping

I was once introduced to a girl as “the funniest person of ALL TIME.” She looked at me, and I didn’t know what to do. Should I tell a joke? Make a face? Juggle? There was way too much pressure. Instead, I froze and shrugged my shoulders uncomfortably. She must’ve thought: “He’s not so funny.” So when countless people hype up a movie, you will always be disappointed.

Slumdog Millionaire

So with Slumdog Millionaire, all I heard was that this was the greatest movie ever (irresponsible reviewing definition #3) and that was it. Was it funny? Was it cute? Was it powerful? I didn’t know because no further details were ever given to me (irresponsible reviewing definition #2.) And the plotline, a kid on a game show, didn’t give much away. All I heard from numerous sources was: “Just see it and you’ll love it!” (#2 and #3) In retrospect, I wish I had known a lot more.

Slumdog Millionaire tackles topics like: torture, murder, suicide, poverty, child torture, corruption, rape, prostitution, child prostitution, and did I mention torture. The next time someone says that Slumdog is a great movie, the responsible reviewer must follow with something like: “It’s very intense,” “It’s very dark.” or “It’s very powerful.” And they should never say: “It’s the best movie ever!”

To me, it felt like I was watching the news or a war movie. At some points, I felt uncomfortable in my seat and had to turn away. This doesn’t mean that Slumdog was a bad movie. It just meant I wasn’t prepared for the somber story line.

So I didn’t love Slumdog Millionaire. You guys can hate me, call me crazy, and when it wins the Oscar for best picture, tell me I’m the worst. All I ask is that you do so responsibly.