Questioner: What's the very first thing you feed your child?
My wife: Umm...
Questioner: That's right - baby rice. And it turns out all this time it will kill your baby.
I remember when I first became aware of the idea that "it has gone viral" and it not being a health warning was way back in the late 90s when Joe Cartoon allowed you to kill a gerbil with a microwave. Much to my surprise I was reminded of that this past Thanksgiving when someone placed a glowing-pink bowl of what looked like Mr. Blobby's love-butter on the table (aside: I can no longer hear or read the name Mr. Blobby without hearing Bob Mortimer saying this). It was Ambrosia salad and everyone knew what it was. Except me. I thought something terrible had happened. What was particularly ironic about that was that the table at large had just been warned about the inherent danger of organic food (all of it) and how it will likely kill you. There was a quick interjection to notify people of the alleged massive quantities of arsenic that "the government" put in baby rice (the reason for which wasn't clarified - and seemed to suggest some nefarious winnowing-out-the-weak project put in place). And then in earth shattering irony a thing consisting almost entirely of Cool Whip, maraschino cherries and marshmallows was plunked on the table.
I'm not one of those people at all that thinks that "American food" is a single, identifiable thing - let alone is wholly awful. And I'm perfectly well aware that there are enormous quantities of stuff that is unappealing, nutritionally devoid of anything redeeming or just downright vomit-inducing from my own culture. For example, I can imagine why nobody in their right mind would want to eat a cold sausage roll from Greggs unless they'd been groomed to believe that sort of thing is okay to allow in your mouth. Particularly when they might roll one of those solid, gristly lumps around on their tongue and wonder if it's a pig knuckle or knotted porcine foreskin that somehow made it's way into their fifty pence lunch. But that's not really what I mean. I mean the kind of pish that is arguably not even a food. It's usually stuff that you find in the candy/sweets aisle in my mind. A good example would be those weird Trolli things that look like a burger. Actually anything that you can buy in an old fashioned pick-and-mix fashion gives me the creeps. Especially anything that is banana flavored (don't know why I'm picking on this one - they're all revolting and I wouldn't touch any of it with yours). It's not even the right color yellow, so the notion it would be close in flavor is tenuous at best.
But I don't want to give the wrong impression. I eat plenty of utter crap. I genuinely think Velveeta cheese has a reason to be eaten. But again - that's not what I mean. Thanksgiving is so wonderful because it's not based around buying shit for people in the guise of expressing love and showing happiness. Of course I haven't noticed the irony of Black Friday being the day afterwards in which people trample each other near to death to buy more cack the day after giving thanks for having they need. But Thanksgiving is wonderful because it's about eating decent food. I was reminded it's about family and all that as well - but it's not. It's a holiday about and for gravy in my mind. You can't really go wrong with a roasted thing and gravy. And even though I think it's a crime to take a potato and whip it down to a slurry so smooth that you could almost drink it, it does generally get covered in gravy so I can let that pass. And with those things you get a grand variety of things from very tastily prepared root vegetables, creamed spinach, gratins and all finished off with all different kinds of pie. Deviled eggs and those weird accompaniments that US holiday meals (pickles, olives and green onions) seem to have are always present as well. Add someone makes a big bowl of punch with ice cream floating on it - which even though I wouldn't drink it (too much going on) my daughter thinks that is exciting and special. And before you even get into that there are a ton of appetizers and nibbles to plow through.
But then - somehow - someone thought it acceptable to do this -:
That is a sweet potato with marshmallows on it. The idea of which makes my stomach twitch. I can fool my daughter into eating a marshmallow at any given opportunity (my goodness that sounds suspicious) but even she wouldn't touch that. But also wobbling about on the table is this thing - which frankly looks like a can-molded cranberry dildo.
It fills me with shame that my daughter could (and would if you didn't stop her) eat that. And I mean pick it up and bite chunks out of it until it was gone. Still - neither of those things comes even remotely this monstrosity.
After being warned to protect yourselves and your children from the fatal perils of organic food it seems somewhat brazenly contrarian to then stick a bowl of entirely fake foodstuffs on a table. And again - we had just literally been warned about the almost Russian-roulette dance we'd all had by giving our children baby rice when "it turns out" that it's riddled with arsenic. Actually before I go on I should mention that I'm incredibly proud of my wife for not exploding when it was said (to nodding agreement) that the first thing that all babies eat are jars of flavored baby rice. The very notion of "baby food" hurts her brain even more so than it does mine. "It's like rice - but for babies!" To my wife this is a sales technique so bewildering that she can't fathom what internal processing goes on that leads people to ignore all the actual food in their house and the grocery store to plump for a jar of something ten times more expensive that is essentially just rice. So when she wasn't even given time to respond with just, "...food...?" in response to what was the first thing your child ate - and was met with "baby rice" as the obvious I did actually expect her to point out how deranged that answer is.
For me it also touches two other sore spots. The first being that it follows the same logic as cat treats shaped like a fish. That being my cat doesn't know what a fish is. And fish certainly isn't it's natural source of food in the wild. And yet it's been shaped like a fish for my benefit so that I'll feel warm and fuzzy when I hand one to my cat (who then pisses off uninterested). "Baby food" follows this principle somewhat as well by suggesting the meal contained is beef wellington - even going so far as to show a tiny photo of another meal that the jarred gunk in no way resembles. Secondly the name "baby rice" is so grammatically odd that it suggests that rice had a baby - which we should now feed to our own babies in some sort of odd baby-absorption ritual.
Anyway - look at that nightmare. Imagine a Moomin being stabbed. That's what it bleeds. I can feel Mark Bittman shuddering as I look at this. It looks like a cross between the meat they make those suspiciously pink battered sausages with at chip shops (the ones that look like a deep fried dog willy), stuff they treat burn wounds with and spackling. Or as a I mentioned earlier - like someone has sat on a hamster. Someone sold the idea of it to my starving daughter who - shamefully - spooned all the not-lumps of it into her mouth. Amusingly when given a present of it to bring home she was horrified ot learn that it wasn't punch (she was in a confused daze when gifted it). But she redeemed herself when asked if she doesn't like it by scrunching up her eyebrows and saying the catch-all "it tastes wrong." My son didn't even eat turkey. He vacuumed up some olives and pickles (he will eat through the glass jar if he finds them) - had a nibble on some other stuff but then ran off to look for a train to play with. He walked the house we were at desperately in search of a Thomas the Tank Engine that he was told may live there - whilst clutching two trains he had found. Even when the pies came out he showed very little interest in it.
But I had gravy so the day was a success. All the food was delightful and the company nice. In fact I had gravy yesterday as well in an entirely different meal! And - as we ate Thanksgiving at someone else's house we have no leftovers so are smart enough to be having our own Thanksgiving meal (complete with all the sides and cookery that my wife enjoys the most) today once she gets out of work. Which will mean days of gravy. Maybe even a week of gravy. By the end of which I may even be sweating gravy.
Just like Tom Jones does.