August 24th, 2012, 10:00 PM. Pondering a unwise decision, made for the sake of expediency.
I told myself not to do it again. Don't rekindle that relationship. It was a conspiracy, I tell you. Laziness, familiarity and inertia trumped my better judgement. Pride keeps me from shedding any tears. There, so close, so easy...all I had to do was open the door and remove the wrapper. Even now I cannot get the taste out of my mouth.
Seriously. It's been almost four hours, and the aftertaste won't leave my tongue. What exactly was in that "merlot" sauce sticking to the "beef" in the bowl? I don't know for certain, but it is most persistent. This has induced in me a vague shame and mild exasperation, because I know better than to do what I did. Rather, my belly knows better.
See, here's the deal: tonight I found myself alone, all bachelored-up until Sunday afternoon. the house nearly empty, the fridge in the same sad state, while I frittered away a perfectly good afternoon playing a game on the computer. My game playing activities impinged upon getting a jump on dinner, so I found myself in the dilemma of quickly scrounging at home or going out to eat. As I was alone and somewhat short on cash (and feeling incredibly lazy) I scotched the idea of eating out. I was left with the fridge, which wasn't being particularly helpful.
Did I mention I was feeling lazy? So lazy I couldn't bother myself to boil water for pasta, for cripes' sake. Jeez. That is lazy. Without that, my options were even more limited. I continued to poke around in the fridge and freezer, hoping against hope that a fine Bolognese sauce might appear, or maybe some cumin-dusted green beans and potatoes.
No such luck. That's when I saw it, sitting on the top shelf of the freezer. A frozen dinner, fresh-looking green package all aglow in the light. It was a standard meat and potato dish, small portion size and Only 220 Calories! It proclaimed itself to be Healthy! even. I stood there for a few moments, blinking dumbly at the box. I knew full well my culinary fate was sealed. I took the box out of the freezer and padded over to the microwave. BeepBoopBeep and four minutes later, voila! Melancholy makes its own sauce!
I told myself, this time it would be different. This time, the taste would match the promise. I would eat my way to the bottom of the plastic tray and lean back in satisfaction. All the while thinking "Hey, it's okay, it's all right. Not world-class cuisine, yeah, but fine."
Yet again, I was wrong. The evidence is in the back of my throat. To be fair, it was certainly edible. It did have some nutritive content. It would pass muster as wholesome, I am sure. But the evidence doesn't lie. I can't get the vague chemical aftertaste out of my mouth. It is there, this 'presence' that wants to be fine food but ends up being more 'food' than food itself.
Until tonight I had not eaten a frozen dinner of the gourmet plastique variety in months, if not a year, maybe longer. That is because each time I did, I always regretted letting convenience get in the way of goodness. Maybe it is just my own quirky palate, but I had long noticed a sameness to most of the frozen dinners I had ever eaten, a sameness that made me think of test kitchens and assembly lines, and tanks of chemicals labeled Italian Homestyle Flavor and Beef Facsimile and Real Roast Chicken Substitute. It seemed especially acute to me in anything that had a tomato sauce. No matter what the maker called it, they all smelled like the same thing: sauces that market research and focus groups had determined were Real Italian Spices in Italian Tomato Sauce Just Like Mamma Used To Make. And every single one of them left me holding my nose and wondering why they couldn't just use real oregano instead of something that made me think of persistent chemical agents. Plus, with an aftertaste like Banquo's ghost.
So I sat here feeling slightly ashamed, wondering when the "beef and merlot sauce with vegetables" would decide to leave me alone. I think I knew in my head that it just wasn't going to work out, but I let my guard down. Bad pennies and mediocre meals, they just keep showing up...and I keep picking them up because they are shiny and easy.
Next time, I promise, I'll boil that water. My sauce may not be as easy, but it will taste better and have the good manners to not accompany me to bed.